Open main menu


KAY, JOSEPH (1821–1878), economist, son of Robert Kay and a descendant of an old Lancashire yeoman family, was born at Ordsall Cottage, Salford, Lancashire, on 27 Feb. 1821. He was educated at a private school near Salford, then by private tutors in the south of England, and finally at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he had a successful career, and before graduating (B.A. in 1845, M.A. in 1849) was appointed in 1845 by the senate of the university as travelling bachelor of the university. The next four years he spent in France, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, and Austria, examining into and reporting upon the social condition of the poorer classes in those countries. The result of his observations is contained in his works on

  1. ‘The Education of the Poor in England and Europe,’ London, 1846.
  2. ‘The Social Condition of the People in England and Europe,’ London, 1850, 2 vols.
  3. ‘The Condition and Education of Poor Children in English and in German Towns,’ Manchester, 1853.

When the first English training college for teachers was established at Battersea by his brother, Sir J. P. Kay-Shuttleworth [q. v.], and Mr. Tufnell, he had for a time great opportunities for observing its management. In addition to studying national education he had, while abroad, investigated the results of free trade in land and the subdivision of estates, and upon that subject wrote many articles in the ‘Manchester Examiner.’ At the time of his death he was engaged on a work which was subsequently published with the title of ‘Free Trade in Land,’ 1879. The volume was edited by his widow, and contains a preface by John Bright, M.P. It went through several editions.

He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple on 5 May 1848. In 1869 he was made a queen's counsel, and about the same time was elected a bencher of the Inner Temple. In 1862 he was appointed judge of the Salford Hundred Court of Record, an office which he retained until his death. His only professional publication was a treatise on ‘The Law relating to Shipmasters and Seamen, &c.,’ London, 1875, 2 vols.

He twice unsuccessfully contested the borough of Salford in the liberal interest, first in 1874 and secondly in 1877, and in the first contest he proved himself an admirable public speaker. He was unable to appear personally at the 1877 election through illness. He died at Fredley, near Dorking, Surrey, on 9 Oct. 1878, aged 57.

He married, in 1863, Mary Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Thomas Drummond [q. v.], under-secretary of state for Ireland from 1835 to 1840.

[Memoir prefixed to his Free Trade in Land, 1879; Manchester newspapers, 11 Oct. 1878;}} Graduati Cantabr.; O'Brien's Life of Drummond, p. 376; letter from Mr. Kay to the present writer, 1876.]

C. W. S.