Oldham Historical Research Group

'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.'
from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen


Arthur Winterbottom

Arthur Winterbottom was born in Oldham on January 31st 1890 son of William Winterbottom, a salesman for textile machinists, and his wife Elizabeth. Arthur and his younger sister Elsie grew up at 192 Frederick Street, Oldham they both attended Werneth Board School and later Hulme Grammar School.

Two months before his second birthday Arthur fell off a chair he had been standing on and broke his arm above the elbow, this may be the injury which caused him problems later on.

On October 6th 1915 Arthur married Alice Taylor of Pitt Street Oldham at Union Street Congregational Church. The minister was Rev Michael Philip Davies who was already well known in the town for his outspoken stand against conscription and later for his practical support at tribunals for men who were claiming conscientious objection. The Winterbottom family were members of the church, William was Church Treasurer and Arthur was secretary of the Men’s Class. Rev Davies’ stand led eventually to a split in the church, he resigned on the last Sunday in December 1917. Some members left with him, others remained, William resigned from his position as treasurer.

Arthur first appeared at the Oldham Tribunal on July 3rd 1916. By this time he was living with his new wife on Chamber Road, he was a bank clerk and his sister Elsie was Oldham Branch Secretary of the Women’s International League. He claimed absolute exemption from military service because he believed all war to be wrong and contrary to the highest religious and moral instincts of humanity. He told the Tribunal that war was entirely opposed to the spirit and teaching of Christ and was against the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Force was no remedy for evil. The Tribunal exempted him from combatant service only.

His next appearance was at the Manchester Appeals Tribunal on July 26th when it was noted that he had been examined and declared fit by his own doctor but had not appeared before an army medical board. He said he did not want to do this, clearly he wanted exemption on grounds of conscience and not because he was unfit, perhaps the problem was a weakness in his arm from the childhood injury. His case was adjourned and reopened in Manchester on August 11th, by now he had been before an army medical board and declared unfit for hard physical work. He was told to seek work of national importance and he found work on the land. There is no record of where this was, it could have been at a local farm or on tracts of land in one of Oldham’s parks or even in one of the municipal cemeteries where spare space was pressed into use for growing vegetables.

Arthur was therefore in Oldham, able to take part in local peace activities. His sister Elsie and wife Alice were also active.

In August 1917 a week’s peace meetings were planned by the Independent Labour Party starting with a rally in Oldham Market Place on Monday the 6th. A large crowd attended, not all sympathetic to the cause, words were exchanged but things took a turn for the worse when a group of members of the New Zealand Field Artillery, who were based in Chadderton Park, started to get aggressive. The crowd turned on four men who were organising the meeting, the police managed to rescue three of them and took them into the police station to tend to their injuries. Arthur and “female friends” - likely to have been Alice and Elsie - hurriedly set off for home but were accosted by the mob. No serious harm was done to the women but Arthur was badly beaten until he was battered and bloody and calling out for mercy. The Oldham Chronicle said he was in much the worst condition of the four pacifists. The police rescued him too and took him to the police station. After this the meetings for the rest of the week were cancelled.

After the war Arthur and Alice, together with his sister and parents, left Oldham and moved to Cheshire, where Arthur set up as a market gardener at Lower Daisy Bank, Congleton. He and Alice had a son, Keith, born in 1920.

Arthur died on November 2nd 1960 aged 70 years.

Contributed by Dorothy Bintley


Image links

Arthur Winterbottom
Arthur Winterbottom
circa 1920


Arthur with Alice,
Arthur with Alice,
and sister Elsie in the background

1911 census return for
1911 census return for
Winterbottom family


Arthur with Alice, their son Keith,
Arthur with Alice, their son Keith,
and sister Elsie

Marriage Certificate of
Marriage Certificate of
Arthur & Alice Taylor


Reports of Tribunals in which
Arthur appealed for exemption


Link to account of riot in Oldham in 1917
1917 - The Peace Crusade
Meetings stopped by riioting :
What happened,
Newspaper Reports and Letters


Photos contributed by Sue Winterbottom

Return to Local Conscientious Objectors

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