Strikes and Riots

I wondered what the relations had been like between Lord Crawford and the New Springs miners at the time NSHS began.  In his book, The Making of Wigan (Wharncliffe Books, 2005) Mike Fletcher describes a pretty turbulent picture during the second half of the nineteenth century.  In 1853 there was a miners` strike in Wigan for an 8% pay increase.  When the strikers heard that the owners were going to turn down their demands a march was arranged to show the solidarity of the strikers which turned into a riot.  The strikers attacked the hotel, where the owners were meeting, looted shops, and broke into private homes.  The police were summoned, but were attacked by the rioters and had to barricade themselves in the police station.  The Manchester Yeomanry were called, but by the time they arrived most of the trouble was over.  Further rioting broke out when the striking miners from Lord Crawford`s mines heard that he had arranged to employ “blackleg” miners from Wales to break the strike. The strikers tried to prevent the Welsh miners from working by occupying the pits and attacking The Sawmills at Haigh, where they were billeted and they had to be protected by the troops.  This account was substantiated by reports in the Spectator and the Monmouthshire Merlin. The Welsh paper was definitely on the side of the Welshmen reporting that they had as much right to work as the others had to abstain from working and the strikers exercised intolerable tyranny by forcing the Welshmen from earning their bread.

According to Fletcher working relations between miners and their employers in Wigan continued to be awkward. He writes that there was another strike in 1866 when wages were reduced by 15%, which the owners again tried to break with imported labour.  The Lindsay Pit was attacked and occupied, the “blacklegs” evicted and again the military had to be summoned to restore order.  Fletcher explains that The Haigh Collieries had been through times of boom and bust and in 1880 they were in decline.  In 1881 (the year the allotments were made), there was another strike in Wigan, which was so severe that it led to almost complete closure of the South Lancashire Coalfield.  The striking miners went from pit to pit, attacking any workers and causing as much damage as possible.

So it sounds like industrial relations needed improving, and maybe they did think that providing allotments might help, but the question has to be – did any miners actually rent an allotment??

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