Museum remembers Spiritualist MP

Kay Hunter begins her news coverage with a story about a Yorkshire museum, a teddy bear and a man who changed British Spiritualism for ever.

Inspired by the British Museum’s exhibition, History of the World in 100 Objects, Pontefract Museum in West Yorkshire has delved into the district’s past for an ambitious new exhibition of its own.

The area is rich in history dating back to Medieval times, but the show does not only look to the distant past for its exhibits. Pieces of 2,000-year-old Roman Samian pottery are on display together with everyday artefacts of more recent origin.

Pontefract Museum in West Yorkshire

There is a liquorice spade on view which once belonged to Ernest Carter, one of the last liquorice growers to work in the region, and a teddy bear once owned by Thomas Judson Brooks, a local coal miner and Labour MP who played a key role in devising the rebuilding of the House of Commons after the Second World War.

Tom Brooks MBE, was also a dedicated Spiritualist, acknowledged by Eric Hatton in his recent book, Taking Up the Challenge.

Brooks was a member of a deputation of ten, led by Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, and including other prominent Spiritualists of the day, which approached the Home Office in 1943, presenting their case for the removal of various provisions of the Vagrancy Act.

They were unsuccessful, as the Home Office stated that during time of war it would be difficult to introduce legislation to amend Section 4 of the Act.

Eric Hatton recalls: “By 1951 the tide had turned, and we Spiritualists were ecstatic at the passing into law of the Fraudulent Mediums Act, together with the repeal of a number of sections of the Vagrancy and Witchcraft Acts, parts of which had until then most unjustly pertained to matters of mediumship. As a result of the passing of the new Act, we Spiritualists could now worship, and our mediums demonstrate their gift of communication with the next world, without fear of prosecution.”

This came about through Walter Munslow MP, a practising Methodist and friend of Tom Brooks. Munslow gave up his right to present a Private Member’s Bill, instead dedicating himself to assisting his friend Tom in the preparation of the Bill which became the Fraudulent Mediums Act.

Eric Hatton writes, “I was fortunate enough to shake the hand of both these gentlemen at a later celebration rally.”

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