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Richard Burton Archives: Industrial Disputes and Strikes

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Sources for the History of Industrial Disputes and Strikes

Large group of people with protest signs.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:

  • Official minutes and financial papers of the National Union of Mineworkers (and other related Union organisations)
  • Personal collections
  • Photographs 
  • News cuttings

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)

1926 General Strike

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.  

Group of men, women and children with two pots and an urn.

Staff of Duffryn Canteen Committee staff during 1926 General Strike (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/44)

Minute Books

  • Lodge material such as minute books or financial records, e.g. Cambrian Lodge cash book detailing strike pay and register of men fed at relief canteens and members entitled to food vouchers (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/L/20)
  • Welfare Association minutes, e.g. Abergorki Workmen’s Hall and Institute minutes (Ref. SWCC/MNB/I/3) and Maesteg Distress Fund (Ref. SWCC/MNA/I/21)

Personal Collections

  • Bryn Williams (Cwm): includes Cwm Llantwit Lodge minutes chiefly relating to strike-picketing and his Miners' Eisteddfod competition essay, ‘My experiences at the picket line’ (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/126)
  • D.J. Williams: includes General Strike bulletins issued by the Scottish Trade Union Congress and the Dunfermline Trades and Labour Council (Ref. SWCC/MNB/PP/60)
  • Edgar Evans: material relating to the Bedlinog Council of Action including a minute book and member's card, 1926-1929 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/24)
  • H.D. Williams: draft letter to ‘The Miner’ on the 1926 strike (Ref. SWCC/MNB/PP/63/13)

Other Material

  • Maes yr Haf Educational Settlement records: founded in 1927 in response to the problems of unemployment and poverty in Rhondda during and following the General Strike. Contains annual reports, articles, leaflets and pamphlets (Ref. SWCC/MNA/I/24
  • National Union of Mineworkers’ (South Wales Area) papers including South Wales Miner's Federation Relief Fund Account (Ref. SWCC/MNB/NUM/2/15)
  • Political newspapers: strike editions of the Mid-Sussex Times and The British Gazette, 8 May 1926 (Ref. 2013/23)

Gallery - 1926 General Strike

Large group of police standing and seated by pit head.

Members of Brighton, Dorset and Glamorgan Police forces who served in various districts during the 1926 strike (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/50)

Group of men, women and children with two pots and an urn.

Staff of Duffryn Canteen Committee during the 1926 strike (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/44)

Group of men with boot repair equipment, and some children..

Striking miners at Nantyffyllon boot-repairing depot in the 1926 lock-out (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/46)

Group of people, mostly made up of men.

Neath Soup Kitchen Committee during the 1926 strike (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/48)

Hunger Marches

Poster advertising a demonstration.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: 

  • Letter from W. Morgan of ‘A’ Company, Monmouth Marchers at Camberwell, describing the London Demonstration, 10 November 1936 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/67/5)
  • Marcher’s official credential card, W E Jones of Pontypool, 1936 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/67/9)
  • Notebook containing notes about the march and a 'Report and Diary of March to London', 25-29 October 1936 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/67/9)

 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: 

  • Balance sheet of the National Hunger March Central Fund, 1932 (Ref. SWCC/MNB/PP/64/D/1) 
  • Report of the Merthyr Borough Marchers Council; including South Wales Hunger March accounts, 1934 (Ref. SWCC/MNB/64/D/2)

Collection description: J.S. Williams (Dowlais) (Ref. SWCC/MNB/PP/64)

Tinplate Industrial Disputes

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. 

Handwritten declaration.

Declaration by Amos James, 9 September 1899 (Ref. LAC/87/D/8)

1984-1985 Miners' Strike

Group of people holding a large red banner.

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)

  • Correspondence, minutes, receipts and other papers relating to support during the strike, including Abergwynfi and Blaengwynfi Women's Support Group; Ammanford Strike Committe; Gwent Food Fund; Neath and District Miners' Support Group; and Wales Congress in Support of Mining Communities (Ref. SWCC/MND/25/1)
  • David Sutton personal papers: includes material relating to the Rhymey Valley Miners' Support Group which raised many thousands of pounds in cash and food for the families of striking miners (Ref. SWCC/MNC/PP/28)
  • Newsletters, leaflets etc. relating to the 1984-5 Miners' Strike (Ref. SWCC/MND/8/1)
  • Lodge material such as minute books or financial records covering the strike period e.g. Oakdale Navigation Lodge (Ref. SWCC/MNC/NUM/l/25) and Penallta Lodge (Ref. SWCC/MNC/NUM/L/27)
  • National Union of Mineworkers’ (South Wales Area) papers including a pamphlet concerning benefits and entitlements of the striking miners (Ref. SWCC/MNC/NUM/3/19) and minutes of National Executive Committee meeting and report of the Special Delegate Conference, November-December 1984 (Ref. SWCC/MNC/NUM/373)

Four women wearing aprons and a child walking forward.

'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 

Photographic collections

  • Martin Shakeshaft Collection: the photographs of Martin Shakeshaft, a photojournalist who covered the 1984-1985 strike, are available to view online, including the Strike84 photo gallery and retrospective Look Back in Anger exhibition. Photographs in the collection include:
    • scenes of demonstrations in which women, children and miners are involved
    • Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative Party Conference
    • Arthur Scargill at the miners' rally in Treorchy and at the TUC Conference in Brighton
    • scenes of violence at Orgreave Coking plant
    • pickets at Port Talbot Steel Works and at Marine Colliery
    • striking miners picking coal from the tips
    • miners wives preparing food packages. (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)
  • Strike photographs from the personal collection of Kim Howells: over 150 images showing demonstrations, meetings, picket duty and food distribution for striking miners. Photographs also include covers of newsletters and programmes of events arranged in order to raise funds and support for striking miners. (Ref. SWCC/PHO/PC/9/3)
  • Photograph album presented to South Wales Miners by Southampton Supporters (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/107)
  • Photographs taken by Dutch professional photographer Rob Huibers, in the Rhondda showing valley landscapes and settlements, collieries and coal miners, children, women's groups marching against pit closures and in support of striking miners etc. The communities photographed include Maerdy, Blaenllechau and Ferndale (Ref. SC/713)
  • Raissa Page Collection: the collection includes images taken during the strike (Ref. DC3/6), where documentary photographer Raissa tracked marches and demonstrations across Britain. They include many images of women during the strike as she spent time with miners' wives groups, and also includes some shots taken in and around pits and pit villages in the immediate aftermath (c.1985-1987). The collection also includes a series of images of political demonstrations, industrial disputes and Trade Union activity in the UK (Ref. DC3/24)

Gallery - Martin Shakeshaft, 1984-1985 Miners' Strike

Empty chairs outside a colliery with a sign with a skull and crossbones on it.

Copyright: Martin Shakeshaft (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)

Two men with sacks of potatoes and tins behind them.

Copyright: Martin Shakeshaft (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)

Four people wearing mining helmets with a sign that says ‘coal for Britain not dole for miners’.

Copyright: Martin Shakeshaft (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)

Outside of a coal mine.

Copyright: Martin Shakeshaft (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)

Group of women holding a sign that says ‘The Maerdy Womens Support Group, your fight is our fight’.

Copyright: Martin Shakeshaft (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)

Other coalfield disputes

Miners' disputes of 1910-11, including Tonypandy

  • Copies of newspaper articles from c.1960 looking back at William Henry Knipe's experiences as a police officer on strike duty during the Tonypandy Riots (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/70)
  • Photographs of strikers, police guards etc. (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/2-28)

1972 and 1974 Miners' Strikes

  • Photographs of demonstrations (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/87-93)
  • Newspaper cuttings covering 1972 strike (Ref. SC/65)
  • Bryn Williams' papers on the 1972 strike (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/126)
  • Brynlliw Lodge Strike Committee correspondence and papers, 1971-1972 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/L/17)
  • Miscellaneous papers re 1974 Miners' Strike (SC/67)
  • National Union of Mineworkers minutes and other material covering 1972 and 1974 strike periods (various references)

Gallery - Women and Protest

Group of people with some holding protest signs.

Demonstration at Bedlinog against the Scab Union, 1936 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/74)

Group of people holding protest banners.

Photograph of demonstration in the Rhondda of men, women and children carrying banners, April 1937 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/77)

Group of women sitting holding protest signs with policemen in the background.

Photograph of women protesting against Margaret Thatcher during the 1984/5 strike. Copyright Martin Shakeshaft ( (Ref. SWCC/DIS/106/39)

Group of women with their arms in the air.

‘Here we go for the women of the working class’, Miners' wives at the 1st National Conference of Women Against Pit Closures, Sheffield, 17 August 1985 (Ref. DC3/6/1/29)

Image by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives

Other material at Swansea University

  • South Wales Miners' Library- pamphlets, oral history recordings, videos and posters from the South Wales Coalfield Collection, relating to strikes and disputes 

Material held elsewhere