The National Freehold Land Society movement was founded by James Taylor in Birmingham in 1847, with the principal aim of enabling the common man to buy land to enable him to vote. The voting criteria was such that it only permitted men who owned a freehold property with a minimum value of forty shillings.
Taylor travelled hundreds of miles to explain to others the political potential of land societies. Within months, word spread across the county with societies formed in Coventry, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Stourbridge. In 1849 Taylor travelled to Ipswich. Following his visit our ancestors, the Ipswich and Suffolk Freehold Land Society, was formed in October – there were some 21 other societies set up in the same year.
Just before the end of the year, on Saturday 1 December 1849, a notice was placed in the Suffolk Chronicle advertising the Ipswich’s first public meeting to be held at the Temperance Hall which stood at the junction of High Street and Crown Street until it was demolished in 1964.
This notice explained that the Society was to “improve the social position and promote the moral elevation of the unenfranchised population of this country”.
Anyone who was interested would be able to invest their savings in the Society, and the money used to buy areas of freehold land which was then divided into plots of sufficient size to confer its owner the right to vote and offered at cost price.
Today we remember the founder of the national Freehold Land Society movement, James Taylor, with a commemorative medal that we still have in our possession.