The Richard Burton Archives is a great source for the study of industrial disputes and strikes, particularly in the mining industry. The South Wales Coalfield collections covers most of the major and smaller disputes from the worker perspective through its trade union material. This includes:
The Archives also holds business collections which often record such events and the impact on the company.
Copyright: Martin Shakeshaft (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)
In 1926 a Royal Commission concluded that the British coal industry was in need of re-organisation. Pit owners planned to cut miners' pay and lengthen working hours, whilst the Miners' Federation of Great Britain fought these proposals on the slogan ‘Not an hour on the day. Not a penny off the pay’. On 30 April 1926, the miners who refused the cuts were locked out and Britain’s coalfields came to a stop.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) called all trade unionists to strike, and, between 3 and 12 May, most of the British workforce came out on strike to support the miners. On 12 May, the other unions returned to work as the TUC agreed terms with the Government. The proposals were rejected by the Miners' Federation and the miners continued with a six month-long lock-out until starvation sent them back to work.
Staff of Duffryn Canteen Committee staff during 1926 General Strike (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/44)
Between 1921 and 1936, 241 mines in south Wales closed and the number of miners fell from 270,000 to 130,000. The impact of the depression decimated every facet of life in the coalfield, resulting in three hunger marches from South Wales to London in 1927, 1934 and 1936. A nationwide Hunger March set off to London in October 1932; 2,500 marchers from all over Britain took part, including 375 from South Wales.
The last and most representative Hunger March to leave south Wales took place in October 1936 with 504 marchers. The march had the official backing of the South Wakes Miners' Federation and Labour Party, with religious and civic bodies also showing support.
Poster advertising 'Red Sunday in Rhondda Valley' demonstration on 18 September 1927 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/ED/2/32)
W. Eddie Jones (Cwmbran)
Collection of material related to the 1936 Hunger March and unemployment in the 1930s. It includes:
Collection description: E. Eddie Jones (Cwmbran) (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/67)
J.S. Williams (Dowlais)
J S Williams served on the South Wales District of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and was a member of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement and the Workers' Educational Movement. His personal papers contain material relating to Hunger Marches in 1931, 1934 and 1936, all of which he was actively involved in. It includes:
Collection description: J.S. Williams (Dowlais) (Ref. SWCC/MNB/PP/64)
Old Castle Tinplate Company Limited
Directors' reports, minute books and wage records detail industrial action and union disputes from the company perspective, including lock-outs in 1874, 1894 and 1895.
On a smaller scale, the collection also holds material relating to a strike by a group of cold roll boys in 1899. Amos James walked out after being overlooked for a promotion (apparently due to his incompetence). Some of the other cold roll boys joined him in support. Records in the collection include a day-to-day account of the dispute, the boys agreement to return to work and a signed apology by Amos James. The boys were required to pay for the loss in profit of the Old Castle Tinplate Company and for court proceedings.
Declaration by Amos James, 9 September 1899 (Ref. LAC/87/D/8)
The Miners' Strike of 1984-1985 was one of the most bitter industrial disputes Britain has ever seen. The catalyst was the announcement by the National Coal Board (NCB) on 6 March 1984 that it intended to cut national capacity by 4 million tonnes and close 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs. The year-long strike involved hardship and violence as pit communities from South Wales to Scotland fought to retain their local collieries.
Fernhill Lodge contingent and banner at a demonstration in London during the 1984-1985 Miners' Strike, 24 February 1985. Copyright Norman Burns (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/105)
'We made them ourselves' Windhill and Woolley Edge Souper women, members of Barnsley Miners Wives Action Group during 84-85 strike.[Ref. DC3/6/1/120]
Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives
Miners' disputes of 1910-11, including Tonypandy