Agnes Lois Bulley (1901 – 1995)

Stella Young

Photograph courtesy of University of Liverpool Library

Agnes Lois Bulley was born on 2nd December 1901 in Ness. Her preferred name was her second name, Lois, but to many Neston residents she is remembered simply as ‘Miss Bulley’, born as she was in more formal times. The house in which she was born, Mickwell Brow, was built for her parents Arthur Kilpin Bulley and his wife Harriet Agnes Bulley, nee Whishaw. She had a younger brother, Alfred Whishaw Bulley, born in 1905.

Although her mother was an Anglican her father was, despite his family’s Congregational background, agnostic and both children were brought up as agnostic so that they could make up their minds when they were adult. Both parents enjoyed foreign travel and wanted their children to be proficient in foreign languages, so they engaged a German and later a French governess to teach them. This is most probably the reason for the (mistaken) idea, amongst some local residents, that the Bulley family were originally from Germany. According to the writer of her obituary (Brinson, P., 1996, The Independent) her childhood was a lonely one and she and her brother had few opportunities to mix with other children despite the fact they had a large extended family.

When they were older Lois and her brother were sent to Bedales School in Street, Hampshire. It was a liberal, non-denominational, progressive school, founded in 1893 by John Haden Badley.  Unusually for the time, it was, from 1898,  co-educational; from 1918 it also had a Student Council. Badley’s wife, Amy Garrett, was a suffragette and was able to persuade her husband that girls had the same right to education as boys.  Lois left Bedales in 1920 and trained as a nurse and midwife, qualifying in 1925 at Queen Mary Maternity Hospital in Hampstead. For two or three years after this she worked as a district midwife in the East End of London.

A Political Career…

A political career was no easy matter for a woman at that time. It was only as recently as 1918 that women could enter Parliament and that some women (those aged 30 or over) were able to vote. It wasn’t until 1928 that women had the same right (i.e. anyone over the age of 21) to vote in Parliamentary elections as men.

By 1930 she had returned to Neston and had joined the Labour Party. In Neston, as in other parts of the country, there was much that needed to be done to improve housing conditions and the provision of new houses to replace those condemned as slums and to reduce overcrowding was urgently needed. She was on the Management Committee of the Neston and Parkgate Housing Society established in 1927 under the chairmanship of Mr J. Larden Williams in order build the much needed new houses which could be rented to families on low incomes. By 1934 the Society had built 123 cottages, including 16 Homecroft style houses which had sufficient land for tenants to keep poultry and grow produce.

Neston Urban District Council Election, 1933

In 1933, aged 32, she stood as Little Neston candidate in the Neston Urban District Council Election. Little Neston had only one vacancy up for election and it was hotly contested. Standing against her were Malcolm Alexander Dillon, solicitor of The Old Farm, Little Neston, and William Henry Mealor, insurance agent, of Elmfield, Burton Road, Little Neston. When the votes were returned she had received 178 votes but this was not enough for her to be elected, Malcolm Dillon receiving 184 votes and William Mealor 167.

Cheshire County Council Election,1934

In March 1934 she stood as Labour candidate in the election for Cheshire County Council’s Ellesmere Port and Neston district which covered, Ellesmere Port, Neston and District, Willaston, Great Sutton and Little Sutton. There were at that time only two women councillors on the County Council.

The policies she set out in her election publicity included proposals to improve access to health care, welfare benefits and education. She wanted to reduce fees at Clatterbridge Hospital and provide free milk and other food to expectant mothers. In order to improve the health of school children she proposed increasing the provision of milk and school meals in local schools and providing a school for delicate children. She advocated an increase in the number of secondary schools and more free places. She also proposed that local construction work on roads and bridges, the responsibility of the County Council, she be given to local men, a policy which would benefit not only those employed but also shops and businesses.

While the Unemployment Act had removed much of the responsibility for welfare from local government responsibility for welfare support for the elderly and infirm remained with local councils.  While the County Council did have the power to remove the Means Test she suggested that it could reduce the severity of its impact by ensuring that payments such as war pensions and free school meals were not included in the calculation of income.

Her stand was successful, and she was returned as councillor for Neston and Ellesmere Port.

Neston Urban District Council Election, 1934

In November of that year she was also successful in standing for the Neston Urban District Council as Little Neston councillor. Her opponent on this occasion was William Harris Pemberton, solicitor. This time she was elected, receiving 280 votes against William Pemberton’s 239.

As a Neston UDC councillor she served on the Housing Committee, established to deal with the Council’s slum clearance obligations under the Housing Act of 1930 and she was also on Water, Cemetery and Roads. In the next few years she was on  committees dealing with Health, Building Plans, Town Planning and Playing Fields.

Chester, General Election 1935

In 1935 she stood as Labour candidate for Chester in the General Election of 1935, against Sir Charles Cayzer, Conservative, who had held the seat since 1922. It was the first time that Chester had been contested by a woman candidate of any political party.

At the first meeting of her campaign, held at the People’s Hall in Delamere Street in Chester, she attacked the Conservative Party’s lack of coherent policies and the secrecy of their decision making process, ‘behind closed doors at the Carlton Club’ compared to Labour’s openness and willingness to ‘take the electorate into its confidence’. Recognising the critical situation in the coal industry and describing the job of a miner as the ‘most dangerous’ in the country she advocated nationalisation as the only way to secure the future of the industry and to provide mine workers with the additional 2 shillings a day that they needed. She also attacked the governments delay in raising the school leaving age to 15, Labour Party policy being to raise it to 15 instantly and to 16 when buildings became available. Labour’s other key policy at the time concerned pensions; they should be payable at age 60 and increased eventually to £1 per week.

Slum clearance and improvements in housing she considered essential to improve the health and lives of working people. At another campaign meeting she referred to Sir Charles’ voting record, noting that he had voted against a Labour amendment to the Overcrowding Bill. The Bill allowed living room accommodation to be taken into account as a possible bedroom when determining if a property could be deemed as overcrowded and the Labour amendment proposed that only bedroom accommodation should be taken into account. She called attention to the fact that despite Chester’s picturesque ‘black and white stuff’ there were slums in Chester ‘that even Glasgow would have a job to rival.’

Despite her best efforts Sir Charles Cayzer was again elected, receiving 16882 votes, the Liberal candidate, Garner Evans 10183 and Miss Agnes Lois Bulley, 6450.

She joined the Communist Party in 1936, although she remained a member of the Labour party, as she felt that they were the only party with an acceptable response to the conflict in Spain; the British government and the Labour Party having a policy of non intervention.

1937 – a disappointing year

(Photograph courtesy of University of Liverpool Library)

In March 1937 when her term on Cheshire County Council came to an end she stood for re-election as Labour candidate for the newly constituted Neston division of Cheshire County Council. Three quarters of Neston rates paid by Neston residents were spent by Cheshire County Council who controlled expenditure on Education and Roads and was also responsible for Welfare provision.

As part of her campaign she highlighted the need for a Senior School in Neston, for more nursery education and more playing fields. She acknowledged areas were improvements had been achieved but identified areas which still needed to be addressed: free school milk was now available but they had yet to obtain free school meals, a system of schools’ clothing grants was about to start but there was still a need for more free scholarships and, although there had been an increase in the wages of Council road men, there was still a need for a further increase.

However she failed to win the seat on the County Council. There was further disappointment to follow. In April she  stood for re-election as Councillor for  Little Neston Ward of Neston UDC, once again  against William Harris Pemberton. On this occasion she secured only 276 votes to Pemberton’s 307. 1937 saw her lose her seat on both Neston UDC and Cheshire County Council.

Cheshire Council Elections 1939

Two years later, in 1939, she stood  again as Labour candidate in the Cheshire County Council elections, this time for Bebington. Her opponent was Mrs Amy Gertrude Lyon, Conservative, and a former Bebington Town Councillor. She received 1091 votes and Mrs Lyon 749 so was able to taker her place on the County Council, one of only two Labour and of only five women councillors. She divided her time between a flat in Stanley Road, Bebington and the house in Ness.

She had been nominated as the Labour candidate for the general election which was due to take place in 1939 but the war intervened, and the election was postponed for the duration.

During the time she was a Cheshire County Councillor she spoke out on a number of issues but with limited success. In February 1939, commenting on the minutes of the Public Health Committee which referred to the appointment of a medical superintendent at the new West Park Hospital in Macclesfield, she suggested that the appointment be open to women as well as men. There was little support for her suggestion, Cllr Hardman, although maintaining he was not an ‘anti-feminist’ felt that as it was a new hospital they could not afford ‘friction’ amongst the staff ‘which might occur between a female head and other staff members’.

Neither did she have any more success when, in June 1940, she argued against the Education Committee’s proposal to allow children, for the time being, to leave school as soon as they reached their fourteenth birthday.. The proposal was made by the Agricultural Committee as a means of supplying labour for the harvest. Most members were in favour of the proposal as they considered there was a also a need for  labour in mining and munitions work. Miss Bulley criticised the proposal, arguing that it was using children as cheap labour and that the leaving age had in any case already been reduced to 14 ½. She received some support from one or two other councillors; Councillor Douthwaite pointed out that there were a number of unemployed people able to do the work while Councillor Dewes feared that children leaving at various points during the year would cause chaos in schools and the final year would be wasted. The proposal was however carried by 17 votes to 7.

She supported Cllr Douthwaite’s unsuccessful opposition to the County Council’s decision to dismiss any members of staff who were conscientious objectors. The Council also rejected the compromise proposals of keeping them in post but paying them at the same rate as the armed forces or sacking them but reinstating them after the war.

She was more successful in in 1942, proposing that the County Council should protest against the Home Office’s decision not to support the provision of additional Remand Homes in the area.

As well as serving on the County Council her contribution to the war effort included  driving ambulances.  She was the Council’s representative  on the Committee of Chester and District Blind Welfare Scoiety, as vice-chair and Hon Secretary and, with her father, was a member of Wirral Footpaths and Open Spaces Preservation Society.

Wirral, General Election 1945

In the first general election after the war in 1945 she stood as Labour candidate for Wirral against Conservative candidate, John Selwyn Brooke Lloyd and Liberal candidate, Eric Dornan Smith.

Certainly the Liverpool Echo thought she stood a chance of being elected given the increase in the Labour vote in the election before the war and the fact that the anti-Socialist vote would be split. The only party likely to split the Socialist vote, the Common Wealth Party, decided not to put up a candidate and advised their members to vote for Lois Bulley.

Nationalisation was a key Labour policy at the time and she supported it as the only to improve conditions for all.

‘…I stand for my party’s policy – houses, work and a rising standard of life and wealth. We are prepared to face the nationalisation of the industries of iron and steel, fuel and power, and of the Bank of England, in order to achieve it. I am a Socialist. I believe that we can reach no final solution of many questions without national ownership of the land, but I support this first instalment so that people may see for themselves before being asked to go further…’ (Liverpool Daily Post – Monday 02 July 1945)

Both in the newspapers and in her election publicity she made a direct appeal to women voters, highlighting policies which were relevant to them: these included equal pay and improved housing equipped with modern labour-saving devices.

‘…Women played a great part in winning the war – I stand for equal pay for equal work as the only solution to wage rates. Industrial medicine and welfare have improved greatly during the war- these advances must be held and extended.
I stand for the rights of the house-wife, that hard-worked member of the community, expected to be expert cook, laundress, sempstress, household manager, child nurse, and kindergarten teacher all in one, whose care and work have kept the nation’s health and morale in such good shape.

We want labour-saving devices in our new houses, proper building standards, good design, and space to move about in both in and out of doors. Children should be able to play as well as learn, and yet people of modest income should be able to enjoy the quiet without cramping the children…’ (Liverpool Daily Post – Monday 02 July 1945)

However, Selwyn Lloyd won the election with a substantial majority winning 42,544 votes. However she polled more votes, at 25515, than the Liberal candidate, Eric Dorman-Smith who came third with 14302.

Cheshire County Council Election 1946

Local elections were not held during the war, so Lois Bulley, like other incumbent councillors remained as Bebington councillor on Cheshire County Council until 1946 when local elections were resumed. She was not re-elected, though this did not mean the end of her political career.

Neston Urban District Council – Co-option

She was co-opted onto the Neston Urban District Council in 1945. The Urban District Council wanted to add three co-opted members to the Housing Committee and received five nominations for co-option including Miss Bulley’s. When the Committee voted there were two clear winners, Mrs Annie Elizabeth Smith, Bridge Street, and Mrs Gladys Plimpton, Willaston but there was a tie for the third nomination between Lois Bulley and Miss Joyce Barber of Vizcachani, Hinderton Road both of whom received five votes. Councillor Gray cast the deciding vote in favour of Miss Bulley.

Faced with the post war housing shortage the Council embarked on housebuilding programmes at Burton Road and Mellock Lane in Little Neston and at Clayhill. When the Burton Road scheme (see Rose Gardens) was being built the council authorised three ladies on the committee, Mrs Halewood Thomlinson and co-opted members Miss Bulley and Mrs Smith, to consult with the architect to consider what improvements might be made in the domestic arrangements in the new houses. However, only one of their recommendations was considered practicable given the shortage of materials and that was the provision of a moveable drainboard.

With the start of the National Health Service, in 1948, she served on the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board and was on the management committee of two local hospitals, eventually becoming Chairman.

Neston Urban Council – 1957 to 1960

In 1957 Lois Bulley was the Labour nomination for Neston East Ward in the local elections. It was important election for the Labour Party, offering an opportunity to gain control of the Council for the first time. At the time of the election the composition of the Council was 9 Conservatives, 8 Labour and 1 Independent. The Independent councillor for Neston East, Albert Tilley announced that he would not be standing. Opposing her for the Conservative Party was Christopher John Cunliffe, a barrister, living at Fairlea in Hinderton Road. In three wards, Little Neston (Lab), Leighton and Parkgate (Cons) and Willaston (Cons) the incumbent Councillors stood without opposition. In Neston West the retiring Councillor, William Edward Crimes (Lab) was opposed by the Conservative nominee, Eric William Askew. The other contested Ward was Burton and Ness. The Labour candidate was Harold Edgar Green. He had lost his seat, after serving on the Council for sixteen years, two years previously. Both he and the Conservative candidate had polled exactly the same number of votes and result was decided by drawing lots: the winning candidate being the one to draw the paper marked with an ‘X’ from a hat. Mr Green lost. After the vote on 11th May Mr Green regained his seat with a decisive win, polling 437 votes against the Conservative candidates 337. History repeated itself though when  Miss Bulley and her Conservative opponent  each received the same number of votes – 448. The decision was again made by drawing lots and Miss Bulley drew the winning ‘X’ leaving the Council with a Labour majority for the first time, the 2 Labour gains leaving the Council with 10 Labour Councillors and 8 Conservative.

In 1960 Miss Bulley announced that she would not standing for re-election, leaving her to spend more time on the charity she had recently set up in East Africa.

Ness Gardens

Lois’ father died in 1942 and in 1948 she bought her brother’s share of the house and estate in Ness and she donated the house, cottages, gardens and farmland to Liverpool University together with an endowment of £75,000. The conditions of the donation included provision for her mother to have private use of the house and the area immediately around it during her life time and they required that the property be maintained as a fitting memorial to her father and that the gardens be open to the public. The Gardens are now owned by The University of Liverpool under the terms of the Agnes Lois Bulley Trust (Registered Charity no. 505721).

She continued to live in Ness, in a house, Birch Hey in Ness Holt, that she shared with Ellen Norman, sister of local builders Frank and Thomas Norman.


In 1954 she experienced what she described as ‘an unexpected conversion to Christianity’, becoming a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Letter to Marij Van Helmond, 1988) . Quakerism seemed to accord with her egalitarian beliefs and preference for simplicity. She attended meetings in Heswall and contributed to the effort to provide a permanent meeting house which resulted in the opening of a purpose built hall in 1963.

Motormart Charitable Trust

Worldwide the largest concentration of Quakers was, and is, in East Africa and there were a number of well established mission centres there. Lois Bulley derived some of her income from shares which she had inherited in Motor Mart and Exchange Limited, East Africa whose headquarters were in Nairobi. After her mother’s death in 1955, which released more family money, she decided to use the Motor Mart shares to benefit the people of East Africa.

The Trust was established in 1956 when the Motor Mart shares were transferred to the Trust and a Board of Trustees was  appointed to manage it. They held their first meeting in Nairobi on 29 March 1957.

The purpose of the Trust was ‘to increase the opportunities for Africans, whether children or adults to develop their spiritual, mental and physical welfare and to develop their ability to cooperate on equal terms and in an atmosphere of mutual respect with other races in the territories in which they reside.’

One of the Board’s trustees was Dr L. S. B. Leakey, the palaeontologist and archaeologist. Although she did make a number of visits to Kenya during the period that the Trust was active, Lois Bulley was unable to attend Board meetings in Nairobi regularly so a substitute, Mrs Mary Ridley, was appointed to represent her: Mrs Ridley was a Quaker and formerly a Domestic Science teacher and was married to Robert Ridley of the Standard Bank of Africa.

From the beginning, Miss Bulley was anxious that Africans were represented on the Board of Trustees. Present at the first meeting was Benjamin Shidzugane Ngaira, Administrative Secretary of the Yearly Meeting of Friends in East Africa, Kakamega. Later, Nathan Luvai, Warden of the Society of Friends Centre in Ofafa in Nairobi was nominated by Ngaira and added to the Board. He was a qualified teacher and had previously held the position of Supervisor of Schools for Friends Africa Mission Schools.

In 1959 she urged the Board to consider appointing an African woman as one of the Trustees but this proved more difficult achieve. The Board considered that it would be more appropriate to appoint an African woman as advisor rather than Trustee as they felt that it would be impossible to find an African woman with enough experience of the administration of trust funds. The Board then failed to agree on a  suitable African woman as advisor. When Miss Bulley visited Kenya in 1961 she proposed that one way forward would be to appoint a committee of advisors composed of women from different parts of the country and from different communities.

The Trust made contributions to schools and colleges including Kenya Poltytechnic in Nairobi, now the Technical University of Kenya, when it opened in 1961. It also made donations to support Girl Guides and Boy Scouts activities. On one of her visits to Kenya she visited Kaimosi for the opening of the Kaimosi Practice School and also went to Butere Girls High School for the opening of the new Domestic Science building, two projects supported by the Trust.

She visited Kenya again in 1971, accompanied by a friend, Mrs Nancy Kershaw, who was Warden of the Heswall Meeting House. When a vacancy occurred on the Board Mary Ridley became a Trustee in her own right and her husband, Robert Ridley replaced her as Miss Bulley’s alternative.

In 1973 Lois decided that the Trust should be wound up and the capital and shares divided to support a small number of projects directly.

They were divided between :-

Kaimosi water and sewerage scheme which would improve the water supply to the Kaimosi Teachers College, the Kaimosi Girls’ High School, the Kaimosi Bible College, the Friends College, Kaimosi, the Kaimosi Hospital and two primary schools

National Christian Council of Kenya (NCCK) to enable them to continue their Social Service organisation originally started in 1957 to which the Trust had since contributed an annual grant. The Council had five Christian Community Centres in Nairobi and the donation was used to pay social workers’ salaries. It was used also to help unemployed people to set up small business. The support was extended to other parts of the country to enable people to establish industries using local materials such as banana fibres and maridadi fabrics.

Christian Churches’ Educational Association(CCEA) to continue the bursaries scheme for girls’ secondary education under the title of the Lois Bulley Bursary Scheme, started by the Trust in April 1963. The dividends from the shares enabled girls to complete their secondary education and to undertake vocational training to qualify them for work as teachers, nurses, social workers and secretaries. Some went on to university in Kenya and overseas.

Other beneficiaries included the Jacaranda School (for children with special needs) and Gertrude’s Garden Hospital.
The official handing over of the share certificates took place at the NCCE offices, Church House, Government Road, Nairobi at 12 noon on Wednesday 7th May 1975.

It’s doubtful whether Lois Bulley ever retired fully but in later life she did enjoy more leisure time. With her friend, Mrs Kershaw, she took a small flat in London  where they enjoyed the theatres, concerts and galleries; she was particularly fond of the ballet.

They bought a campervan and travelled around the country visiting also France, Scotland, Spain and Germany. They lived for a time in Chester before finally moving to Tarvin where Mrs Kershaw had bought a bungalow.  It was while they were living there that Agnes Lois Bulley died on 27th December 1995 at the age of 94.

Family Influences

Lois Bulley’s belief that education should be available to all regardless of class or financial means, in the importance of adequate housing, food and leisure facilities, in fair wages for all and in equal opportunities for women were a product of her own principles and convictions but there is in her family background evidence of similar attitudes and there were in her family women who, despite the difficulties and challenges women faced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, managed to achieve a great deal.


Her father, Arthur Kilpin Bulley (1861 – 1942) was born in Montpelier Lodge, Montpelier Crescent, New Brighton the son of Samuel Marshall Bulley, a cotton broker and his wife Mary, nee Raffles. His life is well documented (see McLean, Brenda, A Pioneering Plantsman: A. K. Bulley and the Plant Hunters, 1997, Stationery Office Books, London and Hulme, J.K. Ness Gardens: Bulley’s Beginnings to the Present Day, 1987). He went to Mostyn House School in Parkgate, then to Marlborough College, before going into the family cotton business. In 1890 he married Harriet Agnes Whishaw (known as Agnes) and after their marriage they lived for a short time in West Kirby in Riversdale Road. In 1898 he bought 60 acres of land in Ness where he built a house, Mickwell Brow, and gradually transformed the surrounding fields into ornamental gardens. A keen plant collector, he introduced many foreign species of plant brought from China, South America and Africa. He established a seed and plant nursery, Bees Ltd, in 1908 at Ness and later moving to larger premises in Chester. He was an agnostic, a member of the Fabian Society, the Independent Labour Party and of the Social Democratic Party. In the General Election of 1910 he stood (unsuccessfully) as Women’s Suffrage candidate in Rossendale, nominated by the Lancashire and Cheshire Women’s Textile and other Workers Representation Committee. In November of the same year he stood as the Labour candidate in the Liverpool Municipal elections for Kensington Ward. His opponent was the mayor elect of Liverpool, Samuel Mason Hutchinson. Mrs Bulley attended meetings in support of her husband, assuring prospective voters that he ‘would look after their interests when they clashed with those of the capitalist system’. Visitors were welcome free of charge to the gardens and grounds of the house at Ness which became known locally as Bulley’s Gardens. Residents in the area were accustomed to entering the gardens and using the facilities there which eventually included bowling greens and tennis courts. He and his wife supported or initiated a number of organisations and projects to improve conditions in the area.

(Photograph courtesy of University of Liverpool Library)

Lois’ mother, Harriet Agnes nee Whishaw (1860 – 1955), known as Agnes, was the daughter of Alexander Whishaw (1823 -1882) and Agnes Louisa Benvenuta Smith (1830 – 1862). Agnes Bulley, unlike her husband, was a practicing Christian, a member of the Church of England. She was active in the community and was on the committee of the Neston and Parkgate Council for Social Services and was a member of Neston Female Friendly Society. During the miners’ strike of 1926, when employees at Wirral Colliery in Neston were out on strike, she supported local affected by providing vouchers for food which could be redeemed in local shops and regularly visited the nearby Ness Holt School with soup for the pupils there. The Council for Social Services established the Unemployment Relief Charitable Trust Fund in 1926, funded by public subscription, to co-ordinate a number of charities trying to support those who were affected by the closure of the colliery. It affected not only the men who and lost their jobs and their families but also local shopkeepers and tradesmen. Mrs Bulley was one of the members of the committee. The Council also started  the Neston and Parkgate Housing Society in 1927, committee of which Lois Bulley was later a member.

However, one thing neither she nor or husband would tolerate was drunkenness, both were teetotallers, firm supporters of the Temperance movement and gave preference to tradesmen and workers who had ‘signed the pledge’.


Lois’s maternal grandfather, Reverend Alexander Whishaw (1823 – 1882) was born in St Petersburg in 1823, the son of Bernhard Whishaw (1779 – 1868), one of a number of British merchants trading in Russia at that time. The family eventually returned to England and settled in Cheltenham. After his ordination the Reverend Whishaw was vicar at Chipping Norton where he also ran a private school. Amongst the pupils that he taught there was the Irish nationalist, Charles Stewart Parnell. After the death of Agnes’ mother in 1866 Reverend Whishaw moved to Liverpool where he was chaplain of St Mary’s School for the Blind in Hardman Street. In 1866 he married for the third time. His new wife was Katherine Bulley (1842 – 1902), older sister of Arthur Kilpin Bulley.

Preston Herald – Wednesday 10 April 1907

Lois Bulley’s maternal aunt was Constance Mary Whishaw (1858 – 1942). Towards the end of her life she lived with Mrs Bulley at Mickwell Brow. Constance Whishaw was regarded as a pioneer of organised adoptions and is credited with making a major contribution to the eventual passing of the Adoption of Children Act in 1926 which was the first attempt to regulate the process. With a Miss Lambert she started St Barnabas Home for Girls in Montpellier Crescent, New Brighton. In 1898 they handed the home to the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society (now The Children’s Society). She went on to found an orphanage, Sunnybank, in Arnside near Carnforth and arranged hundreds of adoptions from there, advertising for adoptive parents in local newspapers. She continued this work from the Childrens’ Branch of the Hostel of Hope in Bedford Street, Liverpool.

The oldest of Rev. Whishaw’s children and Mrs Bulley’s half- brother was Bernhard Whishaw (1857 – 1914). He was Secretary of the National Education Association and of the Education Reform League. He married Ellen Mary Abdy Williams (1857–1937), a journalist and already the author of four novels; she continued writing after their marriage and was the editor of a literary magazine Time. The couple moved to Spain where they wrote a book together on the art and culture of Arabic Spain.


Arthur Kilpin Bulley’s father, Samuel Marshall Bulley (1811 – 1880) was the son of Thomas Bulley (1780 – 1853), one of the first Liverpool Alderman. Samuel Marshall Bulley married Mary Rachel Raffles 1817 – 1887) in 1838. She was the daughter of the Dr Thomas Raffles(1788 – 1863), a prominent Liverpool Congregational minister. Dr Raffles was one of the founders of the Blackburn Academy for the education of independent ministers which opened in 1816. Until 1862 he was minister at the Congregational Church in Great George Street Chapel (now the Black-E Community Arts Centre) in Liverpool. He wrote a number of hymns and was a noted preacher and public speaker. Unusually perhaps for the time, he was tolerant of other religious faiths and although not politically active his views were reputedly liberal.

Samuel Marshall Bulley and his wife Mary moved to Montpelier Crescent in New Brighton around 1840. The had fourteen children altogether, ten daughters and four sons, all of whom survived to adulthood. Arthur Kilpin Bulley was the second youngest of the fourteen and the youngest son of the four.

It was evidently a household in which the girls’ education was encouraged. Three of Lois’ aunts, Ella, Amy and Caroline, were amongst the first women to be educated at Newnham, Cambridge: the first principal, Ann Jemima Clough, was a family friend.

Ella Sophia Bulley (1841 -1931) was one of the original five students at Newnham when it was first established in 1871 and in 1874 she became the college’s first research student. She married Professor Elkanah Armitage, a Congregational minister, in 1874 but continued to work after her marriage. She taught history at what was to become the Women’s Department of Owen’s College, Manchester and published a number of books on history and archaeology including A Key to English Antiquities: With Special Reference to Sheffield & Rotherham Districts, Richard 1 and Edward 1, The Childhood of the English Nation or the Beginning of English History. She is most remembered for her contribution to the debate on motte and bailey castles when she argued that they were not constructed until after the Norman Conquest in 1066 and not, as was then accepted, Anglo Saxon in origin: her book on the subject, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles, is still in print.

In 1887 she became the first woman on the school board at Rotherham, later serving on the Bradford School Board, and she was also elected on to the West Riding Education Committee. In 1894 she was appointed assistant commissioner to James Bryce on the Royal Commission on Secondary Education to investigate girls’ education in Devon. She was critical of the standards in many of the private schools she visited and of the snobbishness of both teachers and parents which held back the progress of secondary education for women. Parents often believed that private education was necessary to protect their daughters’ health and that ‘girls should be kept from any contamination with people who drop their H’s or earn their salt’. She helped her husband with his parish work, brought up two children, was a proficient linguist and musician and, like her grandfather, she wrote hymns. An admirer of Robert Browning’s poetry, she wrote to him to ask his permission to publish a selection of his poems for the ‘working man’ at a price within their reach, although there is no evidence that such a work was published.

Agnes Amy Bulley 1852–1939 went to Girton and later Newnham College, Cambridge where she was one of the first two women to take the

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Tuesday 07 October 1879

Moral Sciences Tripos in 1897. Like her sisters and other women at that time she could not be awarded a degree although she had passed the required examinations. She taught at Manchester High School for Girls and was secretary of the Manchester and Salford College for Women in Brunswick Street (later Women’s Department of Owen’s College) when it was established in 1877 and where her sister, Ella taught.

In 1881 she won the Gold Medal and a prize of 10 guineas in a competition set by Trinity College, London for the best essay on the subject of Middle Class Education: It’s Influence on Commercial Pursuits. She left the High School in 1885 to work as a journalist and contributed articles to a number of publications including the Manchester Guardian. With Margaret Whitley she published a book, Women’s Work, in 1894 which examined the type of work available for women, their employment conditions and the rise of women’s trade unions. From 1897 to 1906 she was Chair of the Manchester, Salford and District Women’s Trades Union Council. Although she supported the struggle for women’s suffrage, in 1904 she voted against associating the Council with the cause, which led to the resignation of two of the Council’s Organising Secretaries, Eva Gore-Booth and Sarah Dickenson. She argued for equal pay for women and a fair wage for both sexes but it seems that she considered that ideally men should be paid enough to allow their wives to stay at home and care for the family. She criticised the capitalist system of competition and the application of the laws of supply and demand to the labour market which forced wages down and women into competition with men. She does not appear to have had any religious affiliation and although she shared her sister’s musical ability the songs that she had published were secular and rather than hymns.

She lived for many years with her sister Mary Raffles Bulley (1839 – 1906), the oldest of the Bulley children, and Mary’s husband, Joseph Brooke, a cotton broker. Mary died in 1906 and in the following year Amy, then aged 55, and Joseph married. After her marriage she withdrew from public work although in 1910 she published, The Eucharist, a book on anthropology. Following her husband’s death, in 1912, she moved to Bushey in Hertfordshire. She was appointed Justice of the Peace, sitting on the Watford bench from 1920 to 1937, one of the first women to be appointed after the Sex Disqualification Removal Act of 1919. She was a member of the Labour Party and for three successive years stood, unsuccessfully, as Labour candidate in the local elections for Bushey Urban District Council.

Caroline Octavia Bulley (1853–1912), like her sisters Ella and Amy, studied at Newnham, Cambridge where she met her future husband, John Cox, whom she married in 1879. He was warden of Cavendish College, near Cambridge from 1877 – 1887. It was established in 1877 and, initially at least, was intended to provide a way into university education for boys from poorer backgrounds; Cox himself was the son of a cooper. One of the students at Cavendish in 1881 was Reginald Robert Whishaw, Mrs Bulley’s brother, who later qualified as a doctor and eventually emigrated to Australia.  Financial difficulties forced its closure in 1892. Cox, however, was a better physicist than he was financial administrator and in 1896 was offered the chair in experimental physics at the newly established centre at McGill University in Canada. He worked on developing the medical use of x-ray images and later with Ernest Rutherford.

Thomas Raffles Bulley (1849 – 1921) and his brothers, Samuel Marshall (1850 – 1908) and Arthur Kilpin continued the cotton trading business established by their father. Thomas also pursued a successful, at least locally, political career and was a Justice of the Peace.

He was a Cheshire County Councillor and served as Chairman of the Public Health and Housing Committee. In May 1916 he challenged a County Council decision to allow children aged between 13 and 14 to leave school, before the reaching the official school leaving age of 14 in order to provide much needed labour in agriculture, local mills and munitions factories (Chester Chronicle, Saturday 13th May 1916). He argued very persuasively, pointing out that it was short sighted to deny children the education that would equip them with the skills that the country would need to compete internationally when the war was over, in what was likely to be a fiercely competitive environment and that much of the work was now being done, and done well, by women. He also pointed out that it was unfair to agree to something for the children of the poor which they would not accept for their own children. He succeeded in convincing some of his fellow councillors, but his resolution opposing the decision was defeated.

Lois Bulley’s socialist political views and philanthropy are perhaps unsurprising considering the family into which she was born. But, although most of her family leaned to Liberalism or Socialism politically, the family wealth was based on the Capitalist system she condemned. She resolved the tensions inherent in benefitting from that wealth whilst rejecting the system by giving most of it away and spent her life trying to ensure that the advantages in education and good housing that she had enjoyed could be extended to everyone as a right.


Bulley, Agnes Lois, Personal letter to Marij Van Helmund, 19th November 1990, in Motor Mart Trust documents held at University of Liverpool, Special Collections and Archives, Reference D693/6

Counihan, Joan. “Mrs Ella Armitage, John Horace Round, G. T. Clark and Early Norman Castles” in Anglo Norman Studies VIII, Proceedings of the Battle Conference, 1985, edited by Allen Brown. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1986

Counihan, Joan. “Armitage , Ella Sophia (1841–1931).” Joan Counihan Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. David Cannadine. Jan. 2010. 23 Apr. 2017 <>.

Counihan, Joan. “Mrs Ella Armitage and Irish Archaeology” in Proceedings of the Battle Conference, Dublin, 1997 edited by Christopher Harper-Bill.

Brenda McLean, ‘Bulley, Arthur Kilpin (1861–1942)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2008; online edn, Jan 2010 [, accessed 23 April 2017]

Dyhouse, Carol. Girls growing up in Late Victorian England, Routledge, 2012

McDermid, Jane, The Schooling of Girls in Great Britain and Ireland, 1800 – 1900; Routledge, 2013

Papers of Councillor Reg Chrimes held at Cheshire Record Office, Reference D8434

Walker, Linda. “Bulley [married name Brooke], (Agnes) Amy (1852–1939), promoter of women’s education and women’s trade unionism.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004-09-23. Oxford University Press. Date of access 1 Dec. 2017,
Motor Mart Trust (charitable trust established by Miss Bulley in Nairobi, Kenya in 1957): minutes of meetings of the trustees, balance sheets and accounts, trust deed, plans, correspondence and related papers (including copy of Annual Report 1986 of Motor Mart Group Ltd.) (1957-80, 1990-91),Reference D693/6 in University of Liverpool, Special Collections and Archives.