Professor F W Newman was president of the Vegetarian Society, based in
Manchester and founded in 1847, from 1873-84. He was a controversial character,
influencing the Society to accept associate members and refusing to accept
that anything else should be associated with vegetarianism. Until then,
many had combined vegetarianism with a campaign against alcohol and smoking.
London in 1875 a Dietetic Reform Society was formed, this appears to have
been based from the outset in the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street which
was also opened in 1875 (photo right from 1930). Members abstained
from alcohol and tobacco as well as being vegetarian. This was followed
by the London Food Reform Society in 1877. A young doctor named T R Allinson
(now immortalised on a popular brand of wholemeal bread) was a member
of the Society.
Later, the Society dropped the word "London" from its title
and became the National Food Reform Society. This led to some antagonism
with the Vegetarian Society, but the National Food Reform Society merged
with the Vegetarian Society in 1885, and it then became the London branch
of the Vegetarian Society.
problems followed, and in 1888 the London branch broke away from the Vegetarian
Society and formed the London Vegetarian Society, which soon flourished
as a second national society. The President was Mr
Arnold Hills (1857-1927 photo right) - he was probably President
of the various Food Reform Societies and appears to have been connected
with the Memorial Hall which was owned by the Congregationalist Church.
A magazine known as The Vegetarian was brought out in 1889 by Mr
Hills as an independent publication to run alongside the LVS.
On October 1, 1889, the LVS initiated the Vegetarian
Federal Union based in the same offices in Farringdon Street and with
the same personnel.
Between 1888 and 1891, Mohandas K. Gandhi
was an unknown law student in London. His autobiography, written in 1925,
gives the following recollections:
... During these wanderings I once hit on a vegetarian restaurant in
Farringdon Street ... [He goes on to explain how excited he felt
and how he found a copy of Henry Salt's 'Plea for Vegetarianism' which
persuaded him that vegetarianism was important from a moral perspective,
not just because of his Hindu traditions.]
... I went in for all the books available on vegetarianism and read
them ... Dr Allinson's writings on health and hygeine were likewise
very helpful. He advocated a curative system based on the regulation
of the dietary of patients. Himself a vegetarian, he prescribed also
for his patients a strictly vegetarian diet ....
... There was a Vegetarian Society in England with a weekly journal
of its own. I subscribed to the weekly, joined the Society and very
shortly found myself on the Executive Committee ... [Louis Fischer
in his 1950 biography 'The Life of Mahatma Ghandi' says that Gandhi
was on the Executive Committee of the 'Vegetarian Society of England',
but no such society has ever existed. The above is clearly a reference
to the LVS as will be seen below. ]
... Full of the neophyte's zeal for vegetarianism I decided to start
a vegetarian club in my locality, Bayswater. I invited Sir Edwin Arnold,
who lived there, to be Vice-President. Dr. Oldfield who was Editor of
The Vegetarian became President. I myself became the Secretary.
The Club went for a while, but came to an end in the course of a few
The young Gandhi (front centre-right) at the VFU Conference in Portsmouth,
May 6, 1891,
next to him in the light suit is his friend Dr. Josiah Oldfield.
(this copy of the photo is copyright © gandhiserve.org
though they have the attribution wrong,
suggesting that he was with the LVS committee in 1890)
... I was elected to the Executive Committee of the [London]
Vegetarian Society, and made it a point to attend every one of its meetings,
but I always felt tongue tied ... Meantime a serious question came up
for discussion. I thought it wrong to be absent and felt it cowardice
to register a silent vote. The discussion arose somewhat in this wise.
The President of the Society was Mr Hills, proprietor of the Thames
Iron Works. He was a puritan. It may be said that the existence of the
Society depended practically on his financial assistance. Many members
of the Committee were more or less his protégés. Dr Allinson
of vegetarian fame was also a member of the Committee. He was an advocate
of the then new birth control movement, and preached its methods among
the working classes. Mr Hills regarded these methods as cutting at the
roots of morals. He thought that the Vegetarian Society had for its
object not only dietetic but also moral reform, and that a man of Dr
Allinson's anti-puritanical views should not be allowed to remain in
the society. A motion was therefore brought for his removal. The question
deeply interested me, I considered Dr Allinson's views regarding artificial
methods of birth control as dangerous, and I believed that Mr Hills
was entitled as a puritan to oppose him. I had also a high regard for
Mr Hills and his generosity. But I thought that it was quite improper
to exclude a man from a vegetarian society simply because he refused
to regard puritan morals as as one of the objects of the society. Mr
Hills' view regarding the exclusion of anti-puritans from the Society
was peculiar to himself, and it had nothing to do with the declared
object of the Society, which was simply the promotion of vegetarianism
and not of any system of morality. I therefore held that any vegetarian
could be a member of the Society irrespective of his views on other
[Gandhi goes on to explain how he found it difficult to explain
his views so he wrote them down and someone else read them] ...
Dr Allinson lost the day ... I have a faint recollection that, after
this incident, I resigned from the committee.
Gandhi was in London from 1888, when he was 18, to 1891, when he was
21 - so the wise views above were formed when he was only about 20. His
account of this incident on the Committee throws further light on the
'problems' between the Manchester based Society and the group in London.
The following extract is by James Henry Cook, quoted by his daughter
Kathleen Keleny in her book: The First Century of Health Foods
Mr Hills was an inspiring speaker and the next time he visited Birmingham
called together a group of business men and said: "I would like to see
a first-class vegetarian Restaurant in Birmingham and if you will start
it I will subscribe ten per cent of the cost". In 1896, it so happened
that a new building was being erected in Corporation Street, Birmingham.
After much deliberation, the consortium of business men rented the whole
of the basement and ground floor to use as a Vegetarian restaurant.
As I was very keen on the whole idea, I was appointed manager. Then
the landlord asked us if we would take the whole of the seven storey
building and convert the upper five storeys into an hotel. In the summer
of 1898 the first Vegetarian hotel in England, called 'The Pitman Vegetarian
Hotel', was opened and I was made manager of that too.
The hotel was named after Sir
Isaac Pitman, inventor of Pitman Short-hand, who had been a Vegetarian
for 60 years, and at the time was the best known vegetarian in England.
- from A
Reason for Celebration: 90 Healthy Vegetarian Years (EVU)
In 1908 the Secretary of the LVS was planning to attend the first
IVU Congress in Dresden, Germany, she was unable to attend but sent
a letter of support.
The 1909 IVU Congress was held in Manchester, England, and the London
Society was actively involved. Some notes from the reports:
Miss Nicholson [LVS Secretary] spoke of her excellent work in London,
especially that connected with the feeding of poor children. Her heroic
effort in this department has gained her public recognition from the
Education Committee of the London County Council. Now that she had got
her foot in, she said she did not meant to take it out, and she owed
it all to vegetarianism. Her energy is amazing and she speaks well for
The following resolution was passed and sent by telegraph:- "The
International Vegetarian Congress now in session at Manchester, sends
Mr. A. F. Hills a grateful message of sympathy and appreciation for
his many services to the cause of a humane diet. - William E.A. Axon,
Chairman. - Oct. 15th 1909. [Mr Hills was 'on his back in an invalid
chair' at this time]
the 1910 Congress, in Brussels,
Arnold Hills was named as a Membre d'honneur of the Congress Committee,
he does not appear to have made the journey in person. A report from Miss
Nicholson was read by a delegate from the Manchester Society. The reports
from the 1913 Congress make no direct mention of LVS.
The photo on the right shows a pin produced by the London Society
in 1915. (from Jan Stastny, Prague).
The LVA magazine became the Vegetarian News in 1921.
the Congress in 1923, in Stockholm, LVS was represented by Charles W.
Forward (photo right) who had been a prominent member of the society
for many years, his position at this time was not clear. He presented
a paper on "Vegetarianism and its Basis of Scientific Truth".
Frank Wyatt, the LVS Secretary gave a "Report for London Vegetarian
6th World Vegetarian Congress
- 1926 London, England - organised jointly by the LVS and
the Vegetarian Society, Manchester. This report includes a lot of details,
and photos, of London in that year. The LVS President
in 1926 was Dr. Bertrand P. Allinson, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. - presumably
the same Dr Allinson that the young Gandhi had tried to keep on the committee
36 years earlier.
The 1929 Congress was held
in Steinschönau, Czechoslovakia. The report for the Vegetarian
Messenger (the Manchester magazine) was written by Franck Wyatt, the
London Secretary, showing an increasing co-operation between the two Societies.
The Editor of the Messenger commented:
The British Societies were represented by four delegates and it is
worthy of note that each delegate is a member of both the Vegetarian
Society and the London Vegetarian Society. It is also gratifying to
place on record that the two Societies joined in one national report,
presented by Mr. James Hough, and co-operated throughout the Congress
in the many events in whch the British representatives were asked to
Frank Wyatt made a similar point in his report:
The Vegetarian Society and the London Vegetarian Society each sent
two delegates, the former being represented by Dr. Walter Walsh and
Mr. James Hough, and the latter by Mrs. Harold Goddard and Mr. Frank
Wyatt. It was at least a source of satisfaction to the British delegates
themselves that all four were actually members of both societies.
Gandhi with the LVS in 1931, seated to his right (left as we look) are
Henry and Catherine Salt
(Catherine was Henry Salt's 2nd wife, his first wife Kate having died
some years earlier)
(this photo is copyright © West Sussex Wildlife Protection.
Courtesy of Simon Wild from Jon Wynne Tyson's collection.)
The 1932 IVU Congress was
held in Berlin and Hamburg, Germany. Frank Wyatt, the LVS Secretary was
the chairman of one of the sessions and was later elected to the IVU Committee.
By the 1930s it is clear that the London and Manchester based Societies
were working as one group during the IVU Congresses. See The
Vegetarian Society (UK) and IVU, 1930s for further details.
Some notes from VSUK:
World War II was a difficult time for vegetarians. The Committee of
Vegetarian Interests was formed, with representatives from the two Vegetarian
Societies, health food manufacturers and health food retailers to liaise
with the Ministry of Food and win concessions. Vegetarians were allowed
an extra ration of cheese and the committee was very concerned about
ensuring the preferential distribution of nuts to vegetarians. As the
number of registered vegetarians increased sharply during the years
of rationing, it was suspected some non-vegetarians were signing up
to claim the extra nuts and cheese! This resulted in considerable discussion
about the definition of vegetarian and methods of ensuring that only
bona fide vegetarians could draw the extra rations.
picture on the right is from a publication called This Other Eden, a vegetarian
starter kit from the 1940s. (Sent by Jan Stastny, Prague).
From the reports of the 1947 IVU Congress in Stonehouse, England:
... Before extending a welcome to those present, the President, ...
referred to the passing (during the war) of ... Mr. Frank Wyatt, the
late Secretary of the London Vegetarian Society. The delegates stood
in silence before continuing the proceedings. ...
... Mr. S. A. Hurren (London) and Mr. Roy Walker (Secretary of the
London Vegetarian Society), also spoke as well as Mr. Peter Freeman,
M.P., who had made a special journey to Stonehouse from the House of
Commons, and had to return the following morning. ...
... VEGETARIANISM IN MATERNITY WORK. Chairman: Mrs. Mary WYATT (London)
Dr. CYRIL V. PINK (London) of the Stonefield Maternity Home, gave his
experiences of the twenty-five years during which a vegetarian diet,
consisting largely of raw food, had been advised to their patients.
(full text see: http://www.ivu.org/congress/wvc47/
... Final Assembly in London.
Leaving Stonehouse on the morning of Tuesday, the 5th August, a representative
gathering of I.V.U. delegates met during the afternoon, at the Attic
Club, as the guests of the Committee and Officers of the London Vegetarian
Society and were entertained to tea. With many of the overseas delegates
returning via London, the meeting was most appropriate and Mr. S. A.
HURREN (Chairman of the Committee of the London Vegetarian Society),
in a few words, charmingly expressed the pleasure it gave them of welcoming
the delegates to London. ...
Reports from the 1950 IVU Congress, in the Netherlands, mentions representatives
from London including a joint resolution from Roy Walker (London Sec.)
and the Manchester secretary.
From VSUK again:
The Committee of Vegetarian Interests continued for many years after
the war, including representatives of vegetarian restaurateurs, the
Vegetarian Catering Association and the Plantmilk Society. As rationing
ended, they turned their attention to such things as the introduction
of a vegetarian class in the Salon Culinaire competition, the production
of cheese with non-animal rennet, standards in vegetarian catering and
the establishment of soya milk manufacturing in this country.
The Vegetarian Messenger [the magazine of the Vegetarian Society
GB] was renamed The Vegetarian in 1953. During the 1950s and 60s,
the Societies increasingly began to work together, and after 1958 combined
to replace their magazines with a joint publication, the Vegetarian
News and The Vegetarian were replaced by The British Vegetarian,
which continued as a bi-monthly magazine until 1971.
In 1969, the two societies amalgamated to form one society again, this
is the organisation we have today, The
Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Ltd.