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Henry Byron Reed

HENRY BYRON REED 1855 – 1896

Henry Byron Reed

Henry Byron Reed was born in 1855, the eldest son of Henry Draper Reed and his wife, Ann Susannah Reed.

He was baptized on 30th May 1855 at Holy Trinity Church, Sheerness in Kent.

In 1861 the family were living at 21, Catford Hill, Lewisham, London.

He was privately educated in Sydenham

By 1871 the family had moved to Upperthorpe Road, Hallam in Yorkshire. Henry now had four younger siblings.

On 8th November 1873 he married Mary Hannah Atkin, in London, at St Saviour’s Church in Chelsea. She was from Dronfield in Derbyshire. She was a few years older than Henry and had been baptised at Chapel – en – le Frith on 30th September 1848. She was the daughter of Matthew Atkin.

It was at about this time that Mr Reed first entered public life. He was involved with the Church Defence Association, spreading among the working men of London a greater knowledge of the issues between the friends and the opponents of the established church. He was to gain a good reputation as an able and eloquent advocate of the English Church. He undertook a tour of South Wales and even though it was a stronghold of Liberalism and Nonconformity, Mr Reed and his party were met with a gratifying reception.

Mr Reed opposed any attempt to disestablish the Church of England. He was a leading member of the Church Defence institute. He was appointed a special lecturer to the Church Defence Institution and he was honorary secretary of its Parliamentary Committee. When the Church Defence Union was formed in Darlington he came from London, where he was then living, to lecture on behalf of the new union.

Over many years he attended meetings across the country.

For example, on 29th April 1878 the Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported that a meeting of the Brethren of the St Luke’s Loyal Orange Lodge was held in the Schoolroom in Garden Street to present Brother Henry Byron Reed with an illuminated address to acknowledge his work in connection with Church Defence.

On 1st April 1893 the Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser advertised a public meeting being held by the Church Defence Society on 7th April at the Town Hall in Maidstone. The meeting would be addressed by Henry Byron Reed, Lietenant Colonel Warde MP and a deputation from the Church Defence Institute.

Henry Potter Reed, the elder son of Henry and Mary was born in Fulham in 1876.

At some point, due to Mr Reed’s literary inclinations, between 1876 and 1879 the family moved to Darlington.

A second son, Hugh Atkin Reed was born there in 1879. He was baptized on 28th December 1879 at Holliscroft in Yorkshire

At the time of the 1881 census, Henry Byron Reed was away from the family home. Living at 6, Victoria Road, Darlington, were Mary, who described herself as a journalist’s wife, and their two children: Henry aged 4 and Hugh aged 1. Henry Byron Reed cannot be found

Henry Byron Reed went to Darlington as editor of the Northern Independent, a Conservative weekly newspaper, owned by WA Wooler who late decided to discontinue publication of the Independent. Mr Byron Reed led the demand to establish the Northern Counties Constitutional Newspaper Company and so was practically the founder of the newspaper, the North Star, with which was incorporated the old Independent. It was a daily half penny paper. It was published in Darlington and proved very popular. Mr Reed was offered the editorship but he refused as he had many other commitments.

Mr Byron Reed was a vigorous and effective platform speaker and lecturer. He took a leading role in Conservative matters almost at the outset of his connection with Darlington. He had a talent for organization and helped reorganize the Conservative forces in the County division for which he was at that time registration agent.

It was thought due to him that a Conservative Conference was held in Newcastle in October 1881.

In 1880 he was elected member of the Darlington School Board, being the fourth on the list with 270 votes. In 1883 he was again elected, and appointed Chairman of the Finance Committees of the Board.

On Thursday 26th July 1883, in the 47th year of the reign of Victoria, Henry Byron Reed was made a freeman of the City of London.

Reed first stood for Parliament as a Conservative in the 1885 General Election. He was the unsuccessful candidate in the new Western division of Bradford. Despite a vigorous battle he lost to Alfred Illingworth, being defeated by 4,688 votes to 3,406. All three of Bradford’s parliamentary seats were won by the Liberals.

In February 1886 Mr Reed was approved as one of the Justices of the Peace for the Borough. ( Northern Echo 5th February )

At the 1886 General Election, held in July, he stood for the Eastern Division which he won with a small majority. He defeated Angus Holden, the liberal candidate, by 296 votes.

1885–1918: The Municipal Borough of Bradford, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, was divided into three single-member constituencies from the 1885 general election. Bradford East was the eastern third of Bradford and was approximately rectangular in shape. It consisted of the wards of Bradford Moor, East, East Bowling, South, and West Bowling. It bordered Pudsey to the east, Elland in the south, Bradford Central to the west and Shipley in the north.

Soon after his success, he relinquished his place on the School Board.

A rather nasty article appeared in the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail on 4th January 1887 concerning him leaving Darlington. It told of how Mr Reed had been presented with a silver centre piece and a cheque “ for a substantial amount “ The journalist speculated there was a worry that if Mr Reed were praised too much by those he was to leave, it might be decided his loss would be too great for them to bear and he should remain in Darlington. Thus the unknown amount had been calculated to ensure it was sufficient to cover the cost of a single first class rail fare to London including enough for refreshments at York or Peterborough.

In 1891 the Reed family were at 4, Collingham Place in London Henry Byron Reed, by now 36, listed his occupations as:

JP in Darlington
MP in Bradford

The 1892 Election saw Reed defeated by William Sproston Caine, the Liberal candidate after a very vigorous campaign. Mr Reed received 5,373 votes and Mr Caine 5, 575. Apparently it was thought that, from what Mr Reed had said, after the declaration of the poll, that he would not contest the division again. Reed, however though, regained the seat, from the Liberals, in 1895. He ousted Mr Caine by 5,843 votes to 5,139

He was a member of the Carlton and St Stephen’s Clubs, London and of the Bradford and Leeds Conservative Clubs.

Not long before his death, Henry Byron Reed left England by the Steamer Tantallion Castle for a lengthy visit to South Africa. The report of his journey, in the Western Morning News for 21st September 1895, failed to record the reason for his trip. Apparently he visited the Transvaal.

In summer 1896 Mr Reed was returning home in a cab one morning. He was about to alight at his home when the cab suddenly stopped and he was thrown forward on to the pavement and rendered unconscious. He had, it turned out, suffered a severe cut on his left temple.

A fortnight before his death on 5th October 1896, he had made several appearances in Bradford, including a meeting at St George’s Hall to protest against the Turkish atrocities. He received a hearty reception from the vast audience.

Then, at the beginning of October, Mr Reed arrived in Bradford on the Thursday morning. He spoke on the occasion of the opening by Lord Cross of the extension to the Boys’ Higher Grade School in Belle Vue. He then visited the East Ward Conservative Club bazaar which was being opened by Lord Cross and said a few words. On Friday he had a long chat about political matters with his agent, Mr Henry Hull. Having completed his constituency visit he set off for the Isle of Wight where he and his family had been living for sometime at Woodcliff, St Lawrence, near Ventnor.

On the afternoon of Saturday 3rd October 1896 Mr Reed was met at Ventnor Railway Station by a lad called Arthur Jupe with a two wheeled pony carriage. Mr Reed was driving into Ventnor and then home. A few hundred yards from Woodcliff the pony suddenly turned to the right and and ran up to the entrance to Pelham Woods. Mr Reed was righting the pony when a wheel got over the lower back and the trap capsized. Jupe was pitched over Mr Reed and the pony ran off. Dazed, Mr Reed was assisted to a cottage and from there to home. He was visited by Dr Williamson who found Mr Reed in bed, recovering from concussion, with a bruised and cut face.

The following morning he was quite himself again. He came down to lunch and wrote some letters. Indeed he felt sufficiently well to later send a letter to his uncle, Sir Edward Reed, the MP for Cardiff, to come and stay and made no mention of the accident.

Later that day, however, Mr Reed’s condition worsened. He was sick with a headache and became worse during the night.

On Monday morning he was found unconscious and in convulsions, with all the signs of a sudden and serious haemorrhage. He died at twenty minutes past nine.

News of his death was sent by telegram to Sir Edward who, having received an earlier telegram about his nephew’s condition, had been about to seek the services of Mr Victor Horsley, an eminent surgeon. It was reported that Sir Edward left London immediately to help the stricken widow and her two children.

According to the Huddersfield Chronicle, the first intimation of the sad news, sent by telegram, was received by Mr Milton Sharpe, of Cleckheaton, a personal friend of Mr Reed.

To Mr Milton Sharpe, Heckmondwike, Father died this morning after a short illness, following carriage accident.


The Bradford Borough Court was in progress when Mr Sharpe and Mr Henry Leggott brought the telegram into court. It was handed to the Stipendiary, Mr Skidmore, an intimate friend of Mr Reed. Mr Sharpe, who had known Mr Reed for over twenty years, and Mr Leggott were both deeply affected.

Mr Skidmore then announced that Mr Reed had died that morning after a short illness following a carriage accident.

He gave a personal tribute to his friend.

It is very sad news for Bradford and very sad news for those who are personal friends, and I claim to have had that privilege and that honour. I have known Mr Reed myself for more than twenty years – we were fellow townsmen at Darlington, and I saw the great work he had done for the Church. I say nothing of his politics from this bench. I know how sincere he was, how hard-working, and what an industrious man he was. Those who knew him first loved him most. It was an honour to be one of his friends. You in Bradford know him as your representative in Parliament. Whenever a public man dies it is our custom to take notice of it from this bench. He has died in the prime of life, almost entering upon a vigorous manhood, and entering with every prospect of a long life before him. Those also who had the pleasure of knowing Mrs Reed must know what an amiable lady she was and how manfully she has supported Mr Reed in his efforts. We knew he had two boys, and this sad telegram is from the eldest boy. It is a terrible trouble to have fallen upon a family, and it is a distinct loss to this town. Whatever a man’s politics may be, we have this to remember, that he was a member for the borough, and whatever side he represented we may be sure that he did his best for the welfare of the town irrespective of party or creed, and I sincerely believe that that had been Byron Reed’s position. He was a noble generous hearted man, who had no narrow views, but was the soul of generosity and candour, and I feel that this Court would have been remiss in its duty not to have expressed its grief at this terrible loss. Personally it is a very great blow to me, and I can scarcely think that, after he was with us here last week opening the church bazaar, that he is gone. I know the great work he did for the Church, to which he was warmly attached. I know also the political work he has done, but I refrain from saying that from this bench. I know that Mr Reed had the welfare of the church at heart. It is a deep trouble, and I am perfectly certain that this court and the press and the people of Bradford, of all stations and all degrees, apart from politics, apart from religion, and on the grounds of personal friendship only, and on the ground that everything he did thoroughly and well from the highest conscientious motives, I am perfectly certain that our deepest sympathy will go out to his surviving wife and family. He was impelled by conscientious motives. The people of Bradford and this bench will deeply regret that so good a man has been called so quickly to his last account”

Initially the news was greeted with disbelief by the Town Hall authorities. It seemed incredible that he had died when he had been in his usual health on the Friday evening.

The Conservative agent, Mr Bull, first heard of the tragedy from the journalists who contacted him for confirmation of the news. It was a while before he received an official telegram. He then wired Sir John Cass in Scarborough, and those other party leaders who were not in Bradford.

No bells were rung nor flags lowered in Bradford until confirmation came in telegrams to the newspapers. Flags were then hoisted at half mast from the Central Conservative Club and other Conservative Clubs in the area soon followed suit.

The Assistant Town Clerk of Bradford, Mr F Stevens, wired to Ventnor to ask for confirmation of the death. The reply from one of Mr Reed’s sons said simply “ Much regret only too true “

Consequently the Mayor gave orders for the minute bell of the Town Hall to be tolled at 3.30pm.

Monday was market day in Bradford and the death of Mr Reed was much discussed and regret expressed at the “ premature close of a useful career “

The Bradford Daily telegraph said that Mr Reed was probably the most popular of Bradford’s MPs. He was the ablest of the three representatives at platform oratory. He was well liked by those with whom he associated in local politics and his death would be a great blow to the Tories. He had cultivated the constituency for many years and his personal popularity had as much to do with his election as his politics.

An Inquest was held into his death on 6th October at Woodcliffe, St Lawrence. Evidence was given of the accident. Although he had appeared to sustain only trifling injures they had proved fatal. Death was deemed to be due to concussion and bleeding of the bruised vessels of the brain. The jury returned a verdict of “ Accidental death “

Mrs Reed and her family agreed to her husband being buried in Bradford and his funeral took place there just a week after his death.
It was reported in great detail by the Illustrated Weekly Telegraph on Saturday October 17th.

The funeral took place on Saturday 10th October. It was, according to the journalist, an imposing ceremony with widespread manifestations of sorrow and regret.

It must have been a memorable day for the crowds who had come to bid farewell to the MP. His remains had been brought by a special train from the Isle of Wight the previous day, accompanied by Mrs Reed and her sons. They arrived in Bradford just before midnight. when they were greeted by those who had had a connection with her husband. A large crowd had gathered at the station to witness the arrival of the funeral party. The family were taken to the Midland Hotel whilst the coffin was taken, by hearse, to the Parish Church. There, Henry rested on a bier in the chancel.

The next morning the wreaths and floral crosses which had been sent by the family were arranged on and around the coffin.

The Bishop of Ripon was engaged elsewhere so the service, which began at half past eleven, was conducted by the Rev H Granville of the Church Defence Society, the Rev J S Addison, Vicar of Holy Trinity in Bradford, and other clergy and ended with The Dead March from Saul.

The burial, however, did not take place until the afternoon. It had been decided that the procession would go from the Midland Hotel at two o’ clock. People began to congregate and by the time the procession set off, thousands of people had gathered around Forster Square and all along the route which was taken: Well Street, Leeds Road, East Parade and Otley Road. So deep were the crowds that the footpaths were occasionally almost impassable. Tokens of mourning were displayed along the way to the cemetery, shops were closed, blinds were drawn, doors were closed and flags flew at half mast. In the centre of Bradford the minute bell at the Town Hall was solemnly tolled.

The arrangements for the procession had been made by the Chief Constable, Mr Paul, Superintendents Byng and Blenkinsop and Mr Henry Hull, the Conservative Agent. Despite the enormity of the task and the length of the procession, not a single error was made. Later, Mr Paul was warmly complimented by Col Sir Howard Vincent MP for the excellent way in which everything had been carried out

The procession was led by the mounted police, the general public, and many and varied representatives of the institutions and associations who had known the deceased. There were many there with political links such as the Bradford Liberal Club and the Bradford and County Conservative Club. There were those representing religious organizations including the Bradford Church Institute and the Tennyson Place Primitive Methodist Chapel. After the organizations came the personal friends, the Mayor and Corporation, the County and Borough Magistrates, Members of Parliament and the Clergy and Ministers.

These were followed by the hearse drawn by a pair of Flemish horses. The remains were enclosed in a coffin of panelled oak with brass furnishings.

This was followed by the carriage containing the principal mourners led by his widow, Mrs Byron Reed, his sons, Henry and Hugh, and his uncle, Sir Edward Reed. In the second carriage were his brother and sister, Mr and Miss Reed.

This imposing cortège concluded with four carriages for the wreaths and a large number of private carriages and hired carriages containing a great many people.

The Illustrated Weekly Telegraph’s report of the funeral listed all those in the procession, either on foot or in the carriages, representing organizations or there in a personal capacity, and it also described the inscriptions on all the many wreaths.

As the procession reached St Augustine’s Church on Otley Road it was augmented and headed by a large choir, dressed in surplices, from various churches, who led the way to the graveside.

There the police formed a rectangular cordon around the burial site. Those carriages at the front of the procession now lined the drive way between the entrance to the cemetery and the grave. The hearse and the chief mourners passed between them, followed by the four landaus containing the many magnificent wreaths.

The service, at the graveside, was conducted by the Rev Grenville Dickinson and the Rev J S Addison.

The choir sang an impressive rendition of “ To thee, O Lord “ after which the hymn “ Rock of Ages “ was sung, concluding the service.

Some time later that day, Sir E J Reed MP visited the Bradford and County Conservative Club and met the members of the funeral committee. He thanked them on behalf of Mrs Reed and the family for the unique public funeral they had given his nephew.

Sir Edward spoke at some length, talking of his nephew’s excellent qualities. He said that although they had sat on different sides of the House of Commons there had been many things on which they had thought alike, particularly the relations of capital and labour.

Mr F Ripley replied briefly on behalf of the committee.

The following day a memorial service was held at St Luke’s Church in Sheffield. Mr Reed had been a member there for seven years. The service was taken by the Rev Dr Hillier who said that at the age of sixteen Mr Reed had made such a brilliant speech that the meeting was the means of forming a Church Defence association in the city. Later, with other church members, Mr Reed took an active role in opposing the libertarian views in the area. He was described as a generous, energetic and zealous defender of the Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England. A deputation of Orangemen later thanked the vicar for his sermon.

In his will, Henry Byron Reed of 4 Collingham Place South Kensington Middlesex who died 5th October 1896 at Woodcliff St Laurence Ventor Isle of Wight, left his entire estate to his wife.. Probate was granted in London on 23rd November to Mary Hannah Reed widow

Effects £3293 0s 6d

The Spen Valley Conservative Association held a meeting at which the hope was expressed that Mr Reed’s service as chief secretary and organizer of the National Church Defence League would receive some sort of national recognition. Apparently this had been mooted some time ago, soon after Mr Reed had resigned his position which he felt he had to do as a result of moving the Benefices Bill. An executive committee had been formed.

Following his death, Mr Fred Ellis, of Dewsbury, had telegraphed those who had promised their support, asking if they approved a scheme to benefit Mrs Reed and her sons. His suggestion was met with warm app-roval.

Lord Zetland sent a telegram accepting the chairmanship of the committee and it was thought that Mr Beckett Faber would probably be treasurer.


On 18th April 1899 the Bradford Daily Telegraph reported that the Byron Reed Memorial had been erected in Undercliffe. There was no public ceremony of unveiling as that would be contrary to the regulations but on Primrose Day the admirers of the late Member for East Bradford were invited to lay wreaths of the party flower as tributes to his memory.

The inscription on the memorial is as follows:



Member of Parliament for East Bradford who died 5th October 1896
Aged 41 years

This memorial was erected by nearly three thousand of his constituents and friends in grateful recognition of a life devoted to the service of the people whom he was proud to represent.

In 1901 Mary and her sons were living in Park Grove, Bradford.

She was living on her own means.

Henry Potter Reed was 24 and a Transfer Clerk

Hugh Atkin Reed was 21 and a Telephone Inspector

Mary Hannah Reed died in Bradford on 2nd May 1906

Her demise was reported in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle 4th May 1906 – that Mrs H Byron Reed, widow of the late Mr H Byron Reed, a one time Conservative Member for East Bradford, has died at Bradford. Mr and Mrs Reed had been well known in the Newcastle district, where Mr Reed was a frequent speaker.

At the time of her death, Mary Hannah Reed was living at 63 Pollard Lane Bradford. She did not leave a Will and a Grant of Administration was made in Wakefield 8th June to Henry Potter Reed law student and Hugh Atkin Reed electrician.

Effects £502 7s 10d

One wonders where the bulk of the money which had been left to her by her husband only a few years ago, had gone.

It appears that both Henry’s sons, Henry Potter Reed and Hugh Atkin Reed emigrated to Canada.

In 1909 Hugh Atkin Reed arrived at Ellis island, en route from Jamaica. He was on a round the world tour. He gave his home town as Manchester, his occupation that of telephone engineer, and the address he gave in England was that of his uncle, John Howard Reed. Hugh’s final destination was to be Vancouver, British Columbia. He may, however, have ended up in Winnipeg City, Manitoba. At the time of the 1921 census He was married to Claire.

He died in early 1942 ( assuming there is no confusion with a Hugh Arthur Reed )

Henry Potter Reed, who gave his occupation as lawyer, was living in Russell, Manitoba, Canada at the time of the 1921 census. He died there on 25th August 1937. He and his wife, Gladys M Reed (1890 – 1974 ) are buried in the Russell Memorial Gardens.

Research by Helen Clappison

13th February 2021

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