James Morris

James Morris

James Morris was born in 1838. After his marriage be lived at Wellington House, 65 Lingfield Road where he opened a newsagents in 1866. A post-office was added in 1887. James had three children, Victor, Mary and Joanna.

James had strong puritanical beliefs had campaigned strongly against the visit of a circus and the proposals to build a theatre in the town. A member of the Liberal Party, he served on the East Grinstead Urban Council between March 1903 and his death in October 1906.

After James Morris' death, the shop was run by Victor, Mary and Joanna. Victor was a talented photographer and won several prizes for his work. Victor, like his father, was a Liberal and Nonconformist. During the First World War Victor Morris was a conscientious objector.

Primary Sources

(1) East Grinstead Observer (10th September, 1904)

James Morris objected to the Circus coming to East Grinstead. Morris claimed that "a pavilion of varieties would not benefit the moral character of the young people in in the town."

(2) East Grinstead Observer (2nd November, 1904)

James Morris strongly objected to the proposal to allow Taylor's Travelling Theatre to take place in East Grinstead. James Morris contended that the theatre was taking money from those who could least afford it and from some of those who, before the winter was over, would be asking the ratepayers for assistance. He contended that the Council was the custodian of the town's morals.

Mr. Gallard said: "The theatre was a place that brought many people into the town from surrounding villages and they all spent something before they went back. There might be a few things they ought to shut their eyes to, but on the whole people could learn things for their own good in such a place."

(3) East Grinstead Observer (5th April, 1904)

Rev. James Campbell and Victor Morris gave an illustrated lecture on 'Passive Resistance: Past and Present' at the Wesleyan Chapel on Wednesday. The lecture included pictures of John Wycliffe, Oliver Cromwell, John Bunyan and George Fox. Slides were shown by Victor Morris and the descriptions read by Rev. James Campbell.

(4) Victor Morris, a 38 year old shopkeeper, appeared before a Military Tribunal on 28th October, 1916. Victor Morris told the Tribunal that he was refusing to join the army because he was a pacifist. Morris was cross-examined by Alexander Johnson, a tailor, and Wallace Hills, editor of the local newspaper.

Victor Morris: I believe that God alone has the right to take life and that under no circumstances whatever has a man the right to kill another person. I believe that war is immoral.

Wallace Hills: You object to taking life; do you not think it is your duty to do all can to prevent our enemies from taking our lives?

Victor Morris: Not by organised murder, for that is what war is.

Alexander Johnson: Do you mean to say that my son, who has gone out to fight for such as you, is a murderer? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Wallace Hills: Do you say force is un-Christian? Do you object to force being applied to criminals.

Victor Morris: When a policeman goes to arrest a man he does not first knock him down with his truncheon.

Alexander Johnson: I always looked upon you as a particular pugnacious individual and one who I should not like to upset.

Victor Morris: That is a very false estimate of my character.

Wallace Hills: Was that not a little pugnacity about you when you publicly lectured that scoutmaster on Littlehampton Railway Station because of his "sin" of training boys in military work?

Victor Morris: Well it required some moral courage.

Wallace Hills: Application for exemption is refused.