Hall, W.K (1855- no later than 1912)- first names William Knight

W K Hall

A very short biography of WK Hall who moved from parliamentary socialism to an anarchist position

William Knight (W. K.) Hall was born in 1855 the son of an agricultural labourer in the village of Stewkley, Buckinghamshire. He was made to work as a straw plaiter at the age of nine, then as a farm labourer. Later still he was a foundry worker in Glasgow and then worked in coal mines in North Staffordshire and then Pendleton, Lancashire. He also worked as a navvy, trolley worker, tram guard and canal boat loader. He is described as having an "ascetic appearance and a cool, argumentative speaking style”". Whilst working in the Scottish foundry he taught himself Latin and French, reading Louis Blanc in the latter language. After having read a copy of the Social Democratic Federation paper Justice, he contacted it and joined. Together with William Horrocks and George Tabbron he developed the local branch of the gas workers union, which won the eight hour day and increases in wages. He delivered a lecture on Trade Unionism and Socialism to the Manchester and District Fabian Society in 1891.

He ran as an SDF candidate in South Salford in 1892, gaining 553 votes. He watered down his revolutionary ideas because he was seen as an unacceptable candidate, in practice running as an advanced Liberal. Shortly afterwards the Manchester Independent Labour Party was formed as a reaction to all this at the initiative mainly of the SDF and Hall was involved in this move. According to A.R. Orage he passed through "the illusions of his class with the rapidity of genius" and adopted anti-parliamentary positions and his The Farce of the Ballot Box was published in Glasgow in 1896.

In the same year he was one of the speakers at the protest meeting in London when anarchist delegates were excluded from the International Socialist Congress there, being described by Max Nettlau as a “Scottish anarchist”. He spoke on the anarchist platform on May Day 1898 in Glasgow, alongside John Blair Smith, John Murray, and Peter Martin and is described in a newspaper account of the event as then residing in Edinburgh. He appears to have been dead by 1912 because A R Orage in his magazine New Age which republished The Farce of the Ballot Box in January 1913 refers to him as the "late WK Hall".

Nick Heath

Sources : Crick , M. (1994) The history of the Social-Democratic Federation
Manchester Courier, 25th June 1892

Posted By

Mar 15 2011 15:45


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Jun 6 2013 12:20

I have updated this biography with new information, which should be visible soon.

Jun 6 2013 14:00

Always interesting stuff these bios....cause ideas and movements are really nothing without individuals. And I personally find the individuals to be of great interest. Who where they, their interests, their perosnalities, temperaments and so forth. Well,look forward to the never ending stream of these

Jun 6 2013 17:25
Battlescarred wrote:
I have updated this biography with new information, which should be visible soon.

hi, now you are actually able to approve your own changes. Above the article click "view list of revisions" then click "revert" to the latest version. I will leave you to give this a go but if you need assistance drop me a line or ask in the comments

Jun 6 2013 19:04

Ta- will do and finally get round to revising the Charles Mowbray bio!

Jun 6 2013 19:05


Jun 6 2013 19:28

Great, thanks!

Oct 21 2020 13:53

Added name of village where he was born