John Alfred Langford (1823 - 1903)

John Alfred Langford was born in Birmingham on 12th September 1823

His father started a business in 1828 as a chair maker.

He owed his early education to his invalid mother, Harriet Eaton, he finished his education in a private school.

After finishing his education he joined his fathers firm at the age of 10 and was apprenticed when he was 13. At the age of 19 while still an apprentice he married Ann Swinton, they had 4 children only a daughter survived. His wife died in 1847. He married his second wife Mary Anne (a daughter of F. Pine a printer) in 1849 they had 6 children.

In August 1847 he joined the new Unitarian Church of the Saviour (founded by George Dawson originator of the doctrine of the Civic Gospel).

1848 he became one of a group of friends who met regularly at one anothers houses to discuss philosophical, political and social matters. They called themselves “The Inner Circle”. In 1850 three members, Langford, William Harris and Henry Latham published a volume of poems that had emerged from these sessions.

 In the winter of 1850-51 he started teaching in the schools of Dawson Church, although he was originally a chair maker by trade, he was a lover of books and literature. He gave up chair making and opened a small news vendors and booksellers shop. From 1852-1855 he carried on a printing business printing his own works and those of his friends. Amongst the books he wrote were “Modern Birmingham and its Institutions:1841 to 1871” (published 1873) and “Birmingham: A handbook for Residents & Visitors” (published 1881)

In 1855 he became sub-editor of newly founded radical Birmingham Daily Press which was well received but was a commercial failure. It merged with Birmingham Mercury in 1857, ceased publishing entirely in 1858. From 1862 to 1868 he was closely associated with the Birmingham Daily Gazette, a liberal-conservative daily paper, from which he withdrew due to his radical views. He was honorary secretary of a Birmingham branch of “Friends of Italy” formed in 1851, aided in the organisation of the Liberal Party when its headquarters were in Birmingham and joined Dawson in running the Birmingham Morning News, an advanced liberal paper, (2nd January 1871 to 27th May 1876). After the split of the liberal party in 1886 he allied himself with Gladstone Liberals. But then gradually dropped out of political work.

In 1858 He helped with the acquisition for the public of Aston Hall and Park and served as manager with a residence at the hall until the purchase of the property by the corporation in 1864

1868-1874 He was a teacher at the Birmingham and Midland Institute and promoted the public libraries of the day, publishing an account of them and the Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum in 1871.

He was a member of the Birmingham School Board (1874-75 and 1886-91). In 1875 he made a tour round the world with his friend Richard Tangye.

He died on 24th January 1903 in Birmingham and is buried in Key Hill cemetery.