Arch, Joseph, MP

Trade unionist, born in Barford, Warwicks on 10 November 1826, he received a minimal grounding in the three Rs. Leaving school at 9, he became a bird-scarer, then ploughboy and, in later years commanded a good wage as a contract hedge-cutter, and also a roofer and carpenter. In 1872 he met the need for the co-ordination of local agricultural trade unions in southern counties by organizing the National Agricultural Labourers' Union. By 1874 it had 1,000 branches and 86,214 members. Arch continued as President until its collapse in 1896. Though he failed to be elected at Wilton in 1880, he was Liberal MP for North West Norfolk 1885-86 and 1892-1900 and served on the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor 1893-94. He was an eloquent speaker and in his younger days had been an enthusiastic PM local preacher. He took the lead in building the Barford PM chapel in 1849 and was one of the trustees.But his links with Methodism gradually diminished. His autobiography, edited by his friend and patron, the Countess of Warwick, was published in 1898. Both his second marriage and his funeral were held in Barford parish church. He died at Barford on 12 February 1919. Since 1980 he has been commemorated at an annual celebration in Barford.


'Despite the fact that his son-in-law, John Leuty, was still a Primitive Methoist minister and that he himself had been such an enthusiastic local preacher once upon a time, his connection with the Barford Primitive Methodist Chapel had become seriously weakened during the last years of the nineteenth century. In March, 1890, his name was also removed from the list of Trustees of the Wesleyan Chapel in the village, and when he married for the second time it was the local parish Church that he chose for the ceremony, rather than a Methodist Chapel. After his retirement the Barford rectors and their curates paid regular visits to him and he seems to have become quite friendly with at least one of the curates, the Rev. Douglas Long, who was at Barford from 1899 to 1901. Mr. Long had assisted at Arch's wedding in 1899 and called to see him quite frequently thereafter... It is significant that when Arch died in 1919, the Superintendent Minister of the Leamington Circuit noted that he had not been identified with the Primitive Methodist Church "for many years".'

(Pamela Horne, pp.211-12)

  • Reginald Groves, Sharpen the Sickle (1949)
  • Pamela Horn, Joseph Arch, the Farm Worker's Leader (Kineton, 1971)
  • Oxford DNB

See also

Entry written by: NADS
Category: Person
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