Records of Charles George Ammon MP and Lady Ada Ammon
- Admin History:
Lord Charles George Ammon was born on 22 April 1873 in Southwark, South London, the son of Charles George Ammon and Mary Kempley. His father was a toolmaker who died of tuberculosis when Charles Ammon was only in his teens, by which stage the boy had already worked part-time in a bottle factory before joining the Post Office as a telegraph messenger. He supplemented a basic public elementary education with private study. He joined the Independent Labour Party in 1893, in the same year he joined the sorters' trade union (Fawcett Association), becoming secretary of the local south-eastern branch and fighting for better conditions for sorters in the Post Office. He edited The Post and later became chairman of the Association. In 1898 he married Ada Ellen May and they had one son, who died in 1909, and two daughters (Bellamy & Saville, Dictionary of Labour Biography, i, pp.21-2).
Charles Ammon was a grass roots activist, earning for himself the title 'Charlie of the Old Kent Road' for his street oratory. He combined preaching socialism with preaching Methodism from 1902 and was a committed pacifist during the first world war. In 1908 he helped to form the Bermondsey branch of the Independent Labour Party. In 1916 he was forced to resign from the Post Office and had a succession of trade union posts which included a spell as general and organising secretary of the Port of London Docks and Wharves Staff Association. Between 1918 and 1919 he became a county councillor for North Camberwell and a member of the executive council of the Union of Democratic Control. In 1920 he moved to the Union of Post Office Workers on its formation and became organising secretary, a post he held until 1928. He slowly moved away from the Independent Labour Party in the 1920s and served on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party between 1921 and 1926 (Bellamy & Saville, Dictionary of Labour Biography, i, pp.22-3).
In 1922 Ammon entered parliament as MP for Camberwell and he held the seat until the landslide election of 1931. He was parliamentary whip in 1923 and parliamentary secretary to the Admiralty in the two Macdonald governments in 1924 and 1929 to 1931. In 1935 he was returned to the seat of North Camberwell again and he represented the constituency until he became a peer in 1944. During his parliamentary career he went on several goodwill parliamentary missions, the papers for which can be found in the collection (Bellamy & Saville, Dictionary of Labour Biography, i, pp.22-3).
In 1944 Ammon became chairman of the National Dock Labour Board and he accepted a peerage, moving to the House of Lords. When the Labour Party won the election of 1945 he became a Privy Councillor and was appointed Captain of the Gentlemen-at Arms, government chief whip in the Lords and Deputy Speaker of the House. He resigned these government positions after his controversial role in the dock strike of 1949 and was replaced as chairman of the Dock Labour Board in 1950 (Bellamy & Saville, Dictionary of Labour Biography, i, pp.22-3).
Ammon kept up his local political activity throughout this time. In 1934 he was re-elected to the London County Council, he was chairman 1941 to 1942 and left in 1946. He was mayor of Camberwell in 1951. He retired as alderman in 1953 (Bellamy & Saville, Dictionary of Labour Biography, i, pp.22-3).
Ammon was a man whose socialism was born very much out of a working class Christian dissenting background. He was a teetotaler and was at one time president of the Band of Hope Union. He was a member of the Brotherhood movement and went to America on one of its missions. He was tireless in his political and community involvement being, at various times, vice-president of the Metropolitan Association of Building Societies, director of Municipal Mutual Insurance and the Atlas Building Society, governor of Dulwich College and also the London School of Economics and vice-president of the Royal National Lifeboat Association. He was also a justice of the peace, a member of the Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society and president of the National Arbitration League. For forty years he was also a member of the Surrey Cricket Club. He wrote several articles on Christian socialism and pacifism and his unpublished autobiography is in the collection. His wife died in 1958 and he died in 1960 (Bellamy & Saville, Dictionary of Labour Biography, I, pp.23-4).
The collection contains rich correspondence (1886-1964), which includes letters of condolence on the deaths of his mother (d.1900) and his only son in 1909 (the latter includes a letter from Philip Snowden), letters about his applications to become a Methodist minister, letters from relatives in New Zealand, letters about his election to the seat of North Camberwell in 1935, letters from Clement Atlee 1943-1953, letters congratulating him on his peerage in 1944, letters during and just after the second world war which include those from his time as Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, two from Winston Churchill and several with the Home Office and Lord Salisbury, letters about the dock strike of 1949 including one from Clement Atlee, letters about his personal affairs such as his golden wedding anniversary and his illness in the 1950s and miscellaneous correspondence including letters from Benno Elkan, J Keir Hardie, Ramsay Macdonald, Sir Robert Bruce, G D H Cole, Herbert Samuel, Sydney Webb, Walter Runciman, Henry Oliver, Stanley Baldwin, Lord Reith, Randolph Churchill, William Temple, Lloyd George, Anothony Eden, J S Amery, Ernest Bevin and Herbert Morrison. There are also a few family letters and postcards and 200 letters of condolence to the Honourable Ada Ammon about his death.
The collection also contains diaries and journals (1920-1956) which comprise desk diaries and travel journals for trips to America, Germany and Belgium, Newfoundland and Jamaica; press cuttings (1920-1958) most of which are pasted into diaries including cuttings about his 1942 trip to Newfoundland and his 1943 trip to China; a section of papers on docks (1941-1956) which includes speeches, printed material and extracts from Hansard; papers relating to the parliamentary mission to Newfoundland (c.1920-1945) including historical printed material, reports, correspondence and press cuttings; photographs and drawings (1890-1971) including personal photographs and family photographs, photographs of Lord Ammon with Benno Elkan, Ernest Bevin and others, an album mostly of the West African Commission 1938 and a drawing of R H Tawney; programmes and invitations (1935-1953) largely relating to royal events; papers relating to the West African Commission (1933-1939) including maps and publications; writings (1924-1957) being articles written by Lord Ammon, his autobiography written circa 1957 and three short family anecdotes by Ada Ammon; miscellaneous material (1886-1960) including family material, funeral cards, a passport, menus, a manuscript poem about the first world war, some election material for North Camberwell, some programmes and badges.