Leeds MPs

WILSON, Sir Charles Henry (1859–1930) Conservative. Accountant.

In 1890 he stood successfully for the council as the Conservative Party candidate for North Ward and won. Becoming leader of the party in 1904, he was raised to the aldermanic bench in 1906. The following year he found himself leader of the council, a position he would hold virtually for the next twenty years, albeit with the support of the Liberal Party. He bitterly resented the emerging power of the Socialists in Leeds and led the council to victory in the Municipal Workers’ Strike of 1913–1914. The coming of World War I saw him play an active part in the formation of the Leeds Pals. Ever wary of public expenditure, he nevertheless chaired the Finance committee of the council which negotiated the purchase of Temple Newsam. He was first and foremost a municipal imperialist pursuing the vision of extending Leeds from the Pennines to the sea. Extend the city he certainly did, when from 1912–1927 Adel, Cross Gates, Eccup, Middleton, Roundhay, Seacroft, Shadwell, Temple Newsam, and part of Austhorpe were absorbed into the city. Not surprisingly he was known as the ‘Sultan of Leeds’. He was knighted in 1923, the same year he was victorious in the by-election for Leeds Central. He held onto the seat successfully until 1929 but died the following year. He is best remembered for the remark he made during the Leeds & Bradford Extension Bill in 1921. When challenged, he responded, ‘I am Leeds.’ For further reading see Yorkshire Evening Post, 30 December 1930; W. R. Meyer ‘Charles Henry Wilson: the Man who was Leeds’, Publications of the Thoresby Society, Second Series 8 (Leeds, 1998).