Document ReferenceFW
TitlePersonal and political papers of Fred Westacott (1916-2001), communist and political activist; 1920-1995
Date Of Creation1920-1995
Extent194 boxes
AbstractThe collection comprises papers of Fred Westacott (1916-2001) relating to his political activities and work as a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and various other political bodies and unions. The papers include records for the East Midlands district of the CP, along with photographs, speeches, personal papers, tape recordings, correspondence, and socialist and communist printed material. Also present are papers of his wife, Kathleen Westacott.
LevelFonds
Access ConditionsAccess restricted pending full listing and processing; prospective researchers should contact us for advice concerning available series.
Admin HistoryFred Westacott was born in the South Wales mining town of Tredegar on 19 September 1916. He was the sixth of eight children of George Henry Westacott, a bricklayer, and Sarah Ann his wife (née Gunter). Westacott was educated at Dukestown County School until 1931 when he reached 14. Around this time, he became interested in politics and with some friends formed a youth socialist society in Tredegar that later became a branch of the Labour League of Youth. Unable to find work, he left Tredegar in 1936 for Bristol where he learnt his trade as a metalworker at a government training centre and joined the Bristol East Labour League of Youth. Turning down an opportunity to study at an Adult Education College in Wales, he left for Southampton under the 'Juvenile Transference Scheme' to work as a fitter and a toolmaker in the aircraft industry. After a period of being Secretary of the local branch of the Labour Party and a member of the General Council of the Winchester Labour Party, Westacott joined the Communist Party in December 1936. He became a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in 1937 and was soon a branch chairman and a district committee delegate.

During the Second World War, Fred Westacott worked on Spitfire production until his factory was bombed and he was transferred in 1940 to South Wales to undertake other engineering duties. He became secretary of the Caerphilly Branch of the Communist Party and of the Welsh Committee of the Shop Stewards Movement. He was also Secretary for the East Glamorgan Sub-District of the Communist Party, and for a period, full-time organiser in the Industrial Department of the District Communist Party office. His refusal to return to industrial work led to army conscription on 1 April 1943 and he was drafted into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Old Dalby near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. While stationed at here, Westacott met Kath Powell , who was from Melton Mowbray. He established a branch of the Communist Party in Melton Mowbray. He was sent to Italy to join the Chemical and Metallurgical Laboratory of the Central Mediterranean Forces near Naples, continuing his interest in politics, editing the army unit's weekly paper, and qualifying as an Army Bureau of Current Affairs instructor. He was transferred to Trieste in 1945-6, but stood for election in the Tredegar Urban District Council election of April 1946 as Communist Candidate for the Sirhowy Ward.

He was demobilised with the rank of corporal in 1947 and married Kath in the same year. He returned to work, first for the British Shoe Machinery Company, then for Imperial Typewriters, and finally for BTH. He became a member of the East Midlands District Committee and Secretariat in 1947, becoming the first secretary of the newly formed Leicester Borough Committee of the Communist Party and in 1948, the East Midlands District Organiser. In the 1948 Leicester City Council by-election he stood as Communist candidate for the Braunstone Ward and in the 1950 General Election, stood as candidate for the North East Leicester parliamentary district.

The Westacotts moved to Nottingham in 1949, where they remained until 1958, when he became Coalfield Area Organiser of the Communist Party and moved with his family to Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He stood as Communist Party candidate for the Mansfield (Nottinghamshire) constituency on four occasions; 1966, 1970, February 1974 and November 1974. In 1971 he was made Secretary of the Party's East Midlands District, which had been formed in 1940. Westacott retired from full-time work with the Communist Party in April 1982 but remained for some time a member of the District Committee and its Secretariat.

Communism first found its national voice in Great Britain at the Communist Unity Convention (also called the First Congress) in London, 31 July-1 August 1920. The Communist Party of Great Britain first sought parliamentary representation at Caerphilly in August 1921. The party was divided into districts and within them into branches. The Nottingham branch, for example, was formed in 1928. The Communist Party of Great Britain begun to break up in 1977 over debate about the British Road to Socialism, with membership falling drastically from 1984 as different factions emerged (Euro-Communist/revisionists, 'tankies', etc.). Westacott was involved in convening the first District Congress of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), which was formed, following the 1988 National Congress, by those wanting to re-establish the Party along Marxist Leninist lines. The Communist Party of Great Britain continued with the revisionist, central leadership members, until it was finally disbanded in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The CPB continues today.

Westacott was also a member of the executive committee of the Chesterfield Trades Council, a delegate to the Derbyshire County Association of Trades Councils and the Trades Union Congress, and a member of the branch committee of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. He was proud of his role in the establishment of Chesterfield's May Day gala, and in retirement, worked to ensure that Tony Benn was selected as Labour candidate for Chesterfield. He was also Chairperson of the Chesterfield and North-East Derbyshire Pensioners' Action Association. He died in May 2001.

Kath Powell, born 1920, was the daughter of a Welsh mines electrician and of a schoolteacher and active suffragette. She studied Economics and History at Manchester University, and was a lecturer at Newport Technical College and secretary of the Newport branch of the Communist Party when she met Westacott in 1944. She gave up teaching for a time to work as a machinist in a hosiery factory, joining the National Union of Hosiery Workers in order to develop the Communist Party's work in the industry. Kath remained an active Party member and continued her career in teaching whilst raising a family. She was secretary for the Nottingham branch of the British Peace Committee and a campaigner for the rights of women. She transferred from secondary to primary school teaching in later life, developing her own system for the teaching of reading, and taking an active interest in discussions on methods of learning. With another Communist Party member she started up a popular Chesterfield Woodcraft Folk group, the children's organisation of the Co-operative Movement, and she was a member of the Education Committee of the Chesterfield Co-operative Society for some years. She was also Secretary of the Chesterfield Branch of the Communist Party, and stood as the Party candidate for the Old Whittington Ward in the Chesterfield Borough Council election of May 1971. She died shortly after taking early retirement, in 1975. The East Midlands District of the Communist Party set up an annual public memorial lecture in her honour, which ran for 21 years.
Custodial HistoryFred Westacott began work on preliminary sorting and arrangement of his substantial personal archive during his final years and wrote an autobiography which was published posthumously in 2002. He was generous in allowing access to researchers. The collection was acquired by the University of Nottingham's Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections in July 2001.
DescriptionThe bulk of this extensive collection comprises papers of Fred Westacott, recording in considerable detail his political activities throughout his life, and particularly his involvement with the Communist Party of Great Britain. The papers include minutes, circulars and congress files for the East Midlands district of the party.

The collection also contains notes and tape recordings of talks and speeches, correspondence, photographs and private journals and papers.

There is a substantial quantity of socialist and communist pamphlet literature and ephemera relating to local and international events, causes and campaigns, reflecting his activities as a self-titled "professional revolutionary". Topics include racism, facism, mining, friendship with communist countries, women's rights, pensioner's rights, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Poll Tax protests, etc.

Also present are the papers of Kathleen Westacott, including notebooks, minutes from meetings, lecture notes, TV scripts, and her article on proportional representation.
MgtGroupPolitical and diplomatic papers
Personal papers
MgtSubGroupPolitical Parties
Private papers
ArrangementWork is continuing on the arrangement of the collection.
LanguageEnglish
TermGreat Britain - Politics and government - 20th century
Socialism & England
Communism & England
FindingAidsThis description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright on the description belongs to The University of Nottingham.
ReprodnNoteReprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.
ConditionGood
Related MaterialOther collections relating to the Communist Party of Great Britain and other organisations with which Fred Westacott was involved are recorded on The National Archives Discovery catalogue
Manchester University, Labour History Archive and Study Centre: Reports, membership papers, correspondence and minutes of the East Midlands district of the Communist Party of Great Britain, 1960-1975. Reference: CP/CENT/ORG/4/2
Publication NoteBiographies of many of the individuals who feature in the collection have been compiled and written by Graham Stevenson, and are available online at: http://www.grahamstevenson.me.uk/
'Shaking the chains: a personal and political history' by Fred Westacott. Chesterfield: J. Clark, 2002

Click the links below to view related name indexes

Click the links below to view related place indexes

Persons
CodePersonNameDates of Existence
NA293Communist Party of Great Britain; East Midlands District
NA294Westacott; Fred (1916-2001); Communist1916-2001
NA295Westacott; Kathleen (1920-1975); née Powell teacher1920-1975
NA293Communist Party of Great Britain; East Midlands District
NA296Chesterfield and District Trade Union Council
NA294Westacott; Fred (1916-2001); Communist1916-2001
NA295Westacott; Kathleen (1920-1975); née Powell teacher1920-1975
Places
CodePlace name
PL20/Leicestershire/England
PL6/Derbyshire/England
PL3/Nottinghamshire/England
PL206/Wales
PL20/Leicestershire/England
PL6/Derbyshire/England
PL3/Nottinghamshire/England
PL21/Lincolnshire/England
PL206/Wales
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