Enoch Powell's family links and childhood memories of Shropshire

Enoch Powell was one of Britain’s most controversial political figures of the 20th century – but what were his family links to Newport?

Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell

The Tory MP revealed his local roots when he came to a meeting of Wrekin Conservative Association on January 8, 1969. The Wolverhampton South West MP said that his forebears came from Newport, and one of his earliest boyhood memories was of climbing Lilleshall Hill.

The meeting was held at the Palace Ballroom in Station Road, Albrighton, and the occasion was reported in the contemporary Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser, which said that his local connections had hitherto been unknown.

“In his hour-long speech Mr Powell attacked Government prices and incomes policy, and public spending,” the paper reported. “There were none of the demonstrations outside the building which have become a hallmark of Mr Powell’s recent speaking engagements.”

At the end, the MP received a standing ovation. The vote of thanks was proposed by Dr Tony Trafford, the prospective parliamentary candidate for the Wrekin constituency.

Enoch Powell’s reference to his local roots was presumably a passing one, as the newspaper report gives no further details. He was actually born in Birmingham in 1912.

However, we can fill in some details thanks to an interview with him after he addressed the annual dinner of the Telford and Shropshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry held at the Park House Hotel, Shifnal, on December 3, 1982.

A report in the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser of Friday, January 10, 1969, revealing the controversial politician's local links.

“Sitting on the mantelpiece in the dining room of Enoch Powell’s London home are mementoes of Newport,” our reporter’s front page account began. “They are pewter pots, once used by customers at the town’s former pub, The Crown and Cushion, which his great-grandparents kept. And it was to the 8 Avenue Road home of Jean and Sarah Anne Breese that Enoch Powell spent many happy hours during holiday times as a youngster.”

If our reporter really meant to type Jean, perhaps one of those at Avenue Road was a great aunt. The account continued, quoting Enoch Powell as saying: “I’ve got some lovely memories of Newport.”

His mother, it said, was brought up by the Breeses, going to the Wellington Road National School before going to Merevale College, which became Castle House School.

“She wanted to go to Girton, said Mr Powell, but money was scarce, so she qualified as a teacher at Derby Diocesan Training College. She was later employed by the Birmingham Education Authority where, in Mr Powell’s own words, she met a ‘very, very wise man,’ whose name happened to be Albert Enoch Powell.

“They were married at Newport Parish Church in 1909, and came back three years later with their young son, Enoch, who was baptised by Rev W Budgen.”

Enoch Powell's parents were married in Newport in 1909, as this notice in the local paper shows.

A dip into the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser for July 31, 1909, reveals a brief mention: “POWELL-BREESE – At the Newport Parish Church, on the 24th inst., Albert Enoch Powell, of Acocks Green, Birmingham, to Ellen Mary, daughter of Henry Breese, of Seacombe, Liverpool, and granddaughter of John Breese, of Newport, Salop.”

The article went on: “His roots with Newport are now remote, of course, although 30 years ago he financed the repair and reorganising of the graves of his great-grandparents and great aunt in Newport cemetery.

“His affection for this area was reflected in his words to his audience of industrialists. ‘It’s a great pleasure,’ he said, ‘to return for a few hours to my own country, to the two counties with which I have special links. There is no part of the county of Salop which to me is not supported by happy memories.’

“Describing himself as 50 per cent Salopian, 50 per cent Staffordshire, he added: ‘It’s been a homecoming to me, to my own people, to my own country.’”

Another family link came through daughter Susan who worked on a farm near Whitchurch in the 1970s.

The MP stood down from his Wolverhampton seat before becoming an Official Unionist MP for South Down in 1974. He lost his seat in 1987 and died in 1998.

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