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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry Solly (17 November 1813 – 27 February 1903) was an English social reformer.[1] William Beveridge said of him: "He was a restless, inventive, constructive spirit, part author of at least three large living movements; charity organisation, working men's clubs, and garden cities".[2]

He was the son of Isaac Solly, a merchant in the Baltic trade. He became a Chartist.[1] He supported many Radical causes, such as universal suffrage, free education, repeal of the Corn Laws, co-operatives, anti-slavery, and early closing for shops and Sunday opening for museums.[1] In the early 1860s he took a leading part in founding working men's clubs, though as a teetotaller he did not want them to sell alcohol.[1]

In June 1868 Solly's paper, titled ‘How to deal with the Unemployed Poor of London and with its “Roughs” and Criminal Classes’ was read at a meeting of the Society of Arts, chaired by the Bishop of London, A. C. Tait.[3] This led to plans for the Charity Organization Society.[1]

In 1884 Solly founded the Society for the Promotion of Industrial Villages. Although this was a failure, it led to Sir Ebenezer Howard's Garden City movement.[1]

Solly died of a brain haemorrhage in 1903. B. T. Hall, the secretary of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union, wrote a year later: "If the work that the Clubs do, if their influence on personal character and their contribution to the sum total of human happiness be correctly appreciated...then shall the investigator reckon Henry Solly amongst the constructive statesmen of our time".[4]

He spent the first half of his adult life as a Unitarian minister, and after he left the profession, continued to worship at Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel. He had four daughters, one of whom married Philip Wicksteed, and one son,[5] who wrote the biography of Henry Morley. One of his students, Anna Evans, who stayed with his family later achieved fame under the pen name "Allen Raine".[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Alan Ruston, ‘Solly,  Henry  (1813–1903)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 , accessed 18 April 2010.
  2. ^ William Beveridge, Voluntary Action. A Report on the Methods of Social Advance (George Allen & Unwin, 1948), p. 170.
  3. ^ Charles Loch Mowat, The Charity Organisation Society. 1869–1913 (Methuen, 1961), p. 15.
  4. ^ J. H. Wicksteed, Working Men's Social Clubs (1904), p. 214.
  5. ^ "Henry Solly".
  6. ^ "Puddicombe [née Evans], Anne Adalisa [pseud. Allen Raine] (1836–1908), novelist | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35628. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Further reading

  • Henry Solly, ‘These Eighty Years’, Or, The Story of an Unfinished Life. In Two Volumes (1893).
  • A. Ruston, ‘H. Solly, the omnibus radical: Rev. Henry Solly (1813–1903)’, Transactions of Unitarian Historical Society, 19/2 (1987–90), pp. 78–91.
  • T. Williams, ‘Solly, the practical dreamer’, The Inquirer (14 Feb 1987), 4
  • K. Woodroofe, ‘The irascible Rev. Henry Solly’, Social Science Review, 40 (March 1975).
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This page was last edited on 14 August 2020, at 13:08
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