John Barnes, Historian

Percy Gates (1863 - 1940)

When he was chosen to fight Kensington North in October 1922, The Times noted that few men were better known in the borough[1]. He had enjoyed a long and distinguished career in local government, serving for thirty eight years on the Kensington vestry and council, latterly as an Alderman. He had been a founding member of the borough council, and had served on the London County Council from 1911 to 1919. His business interest lay in brewing, but he had earlier practised as a solicitor and parliamentary agent. He held the Kensington North seat from November 1922 until defeated in a three corner fight in May 1929.

Percy George Gates was born in London on 9 June 1863. His father, Philip Chasemore Gates KC (1824-1914), was a County Court Judge and Recorder of Brighton. His mother was born Anna Maria Harbin (1840-1934). Gates was educated at Wellington College and from 1886 until 1908 was in practice as a solicitor and parliamentary agent. He was solicitor to the Westminster vestry but active also in the affairs of the licensed victuallers of the City of Westminster and in the Licensed Victuallers Central Protection Society. As the representative of Kensington on the Central Unemployed Fund, he was one of those opposed to the Balfour Government’s Unemployed Workman’s Bill in the form in which it was introduced. However he was active in the West London charity that sought to help the mentally and physically disabled into work, a supporter of the London Diocesan Church Lads Brigade and active in the local branch of the Charity Organisation Society. He also chaired the Kensington Health Society, taking some pride in their efforts to reduce infant mortality within the borough. He was also a staunch supporter of the Infant Welfare Centre and Day Nursery in Lancaster Road, which was amongst the first in the country to be created when it was set up with a grant from the borough council in 1910, and of the creation of the Princess Louise Kensington Hospital for Children.. The hospital was opened by the King and Queen in May 1928 and both Gates and his wife were amongst those presented to the Royal couple on that occasion.

On 6 December 1888 he married Mabel, daughter of the Reverend G.D.W..Dickson, Vicar of St James the Less, Westminster. The wedding was held in St James the Less. There were two sons and two daughters of their marriage. His eldest son, Captain Eric Chasemore Gates, was killed in action on 14 March 1915. Lionel survived to marry Lorna Attree in July 1918. The eldest daughter, Evelyn, married Major Basil Jones of the Indian Army in 1919, while Beryl married Major Harry Goodeve in Ottawa in February 1921.

He succeeded to an interest in the Westminster Brewery in 1906 and became chairman of the New Westminster Brewery Company, retaining his interest until the brewery was amalgamated with the Lion Brewery in 1914. He was a director of a number of other breweries and chaired the Brewers Society 1920-21.In 1923-4 he served as Master of the Brewers Company and subsequently he became President of the Institute of Brewing.

He was Mayor of Kensington 1904-05 and in 1912 represented the borough at the memorial service to Miss Octavia Hill. Gates first contested a seat for the London County Council as a Moderate under the auspices of the London Municipal Society (although identifiably a Unionist) in 1895. He was unsurprisingly defeated in Newington (Walworth), In April 1911 he was chosen to fight a by-election for the Westminster seat on the London County Council and served from 1911 until 1919. He remained a Kensington Alderman after his election to Parliament. He was also for some years a Commissioner for Taxes.

He was elected for North Kensington in November 1922 by more than 6,000 votes, but held the seat in the 1923 General Election in the face of strong challenge from both Labour and Liberal free traders with a majority of only 583. He had campaigned as a strong tariff reformer, although his speeches were frequently disrupted by an organised claque of Communist hecklers. In the 1924 General Election he increased his majority to 1,854. That was a straight fight with Labour and it looks as if it was the intervention of a Liberal candidate that caused him to go down to defeat in May 1929 by 4,190 votes.

He made his first speech seeking a grant for cadet camps was made on 15 March 1923 (it does not seem to have been realised that it was a maiden speech) and successfully moved an amendment to the Finance Bill to benefit British films on 2 July 1923.He spoke against ‘Poplarism’ in 1924 and later in the year in favour of protection for British films (the McKenna duties were to be abolished).He spoke rarely, but when he did, it was usually to advance the interests of the London County Council or those engaged in the film industry. However he spoke with particular authority on Rating and Valuation welcomed reform of the Poor Law and took a particular interest in the Landlord and Tenant Bill 1927. He was particularly active in resisting Government interference with leaseholds and, as a staunch defender of the interests of property, spoke at the annual dinner of the National Federation of Property Owners and ratepayers in 1927. Unsurprisingly he was among the 42 rebels on the 1928 Finance Bill who sought to amend the law on surtax to ensure that in no circumstances should anyone have to pay both super tax and surtax on a year’s income[2]. He had been one of the sponsors of the clauses put down by Sir Henry Buckingham, which the Chancellor refused to accept. He also voted against the racecourse Betting Bill. Gates chaired the Select Committee on Publications 1928-29. A late campaign but one pursued strongly was on behalf of ex servicemen who had been given temporary posts in the Civil Service. He wanted them to be made permanent, writing to The Times on the subject on 28 August 1928 and again, with specific reference to the conditions of P class of ex service civil servants, on 6 April 1929.

In April 1931 he was elected to the Corporation of London for the ward of Cripplegate Without. He chaired the past Overseers Society in the Silver Jubilee year of 1935.

He was a director of Hoare and Company Ltd and helped facilitate its merger with Charrington and Company, serving on the Board of the latter for seven years. Although in poor health towards the end, he had worked in his office at the Company only a few days before his death.

For some years he chaired the South Kensington Conservative Club.

He listed his recreations as golf and shooting.

He died on 31 March 1940 at 104 Coleherne Court, London SW5 and a cursory obituary appeared in The Times of 1 April 1931. The funeral service was held at St Jude’s on 4 April 1940 and the burial was in Brompton cemetery.

1 The Times 6 November 1922 p.14

2 The Times 5 July 1928 p.16