Kettle, Rupert Alfred (DNB01)
KETTLE, Sir RUPERT ALFRED (1817–1891), advocate of arbitration in trade disputes, born at Birmingham on 9 Jan. 1817, was the fifth son of Thomas F. Kettle of Suffolk Street, Birmingham, a glass-stainer, fancy button and military ornament maker, and gilder. The family was descended from Henri Quitel, a Huguenot of Milhaud or Millau in Languedoc, who emigrated to Birmingham on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and practised there the trade of glass-stainer. Rupert left Birmingham early in life and was articled to Richard Fryer, a Wolverhampton attorney. Resolving to qualify as a barrister, he entered the Middle Temple on 2 June 1842, was called to the bar on 6 June 1845, and soon obtained a large practice on the Oxford circuit. In 1859 he was appointed judge of the Worcestershire county courts, and subsequently he acted as chairman of the standing committee for framing the rules for county courts. Kettle took the deepest interest in industrial matters, and was frequently called upon to arbitrate in disputes in the iron and coal trades. He was the first president of the Midland iron trade wages board, and used the influence which this office gave him to persuade masters and men to accept arbitration in their disputes. In 1864, after a strike in the building trade at Wolverhampton had lasted seventeen weeks, Kettle, on invitation from both sides, succeeded in arranging a settlement and ultimately in establishing at Wolverhampton a legally organised system of arbitration. The essential principle of the new system was that if the delegates of the contending parties could not agree, an independent umpire should have power to make a final and legally binding award between them. The scheme proved so satisfactory that it was rapidly extended to other towns, eventually including a large part of the English building trade. Kettle formed similar boards in the coal trade, the potteries, the Nottingham lace trade, the handmade paper trade, the ironstone trade, and other staple trades of the country. He was commonly styled the 'Prince of Arbitrators,' and on 1 Dec. 1880 he was knighted 'for his public services in establishing a system of arbitration between employers and employed.' In 1890 the postmaster-general, Henry Cecil Raikes [q. v.], consulted Kettle during the strike of the post-office employes.
On 24 Nov. 1882 Kettle was elected a bencher of the Middle Temple. He was one of the senior magistrates and a deputy-lieutenant of Staffordshire, and he was assistant chairman of quarter sessions from 1866 to 1891. He was an artist of some ability, and several of his pictures were publicly exhibited. In 1892 he resigned his office of county court judge, finding that his labours in connection with arbitration occupied the greater part of his time. He died at his residence, Merridale, Wolverhampton, on 6 Oct. 1894, and was buried on 9 Oct. in the Wolverhampton cemetery. On 18 Dec. 1851 he married Mary (d. 13 July 1884), only child and heiress of William Cooke of Merridale. By her he left issue.
Kettle was the author of: 1. 'A Note on Rating to the Poor ... for Unproductive Land,' London, 1856, 8vo. 2. 'Strikes and Arbitrations,' London, 1866, 8vo. 3. 'School Board Powers and School Board Duties,' 1871. 4. 'Masters and Men,' London, 1871, 8vo. 5. 'Boards of Conciliation and Arbitration between Employers and Employed,' 1871. 6. 'Suggestions for diminishing the Number of Imprisonments,' 1875. 7. 'The Church in relation to Trades Unions,' 1877.[Wolverhampton Chronicle, 10 Oct. 1894; Burke's Landed Gentry. 1894; Simms's Bibliotheca Stafford. 1894; Poster's Men at the Bar, 1885; Biograph, 1880, iv. 487-8; Men and Women of the Time, 1898; Jeans's Conciliation and Arbitration in Labour Disputes, 1894, p. 93.]