Tuesday 24 April 2007

Dorset NALU 1872

Early reports on the activities of the National Agricultural Labourers Union in Dorset

A Mr G. Ellington from Dorset was elected onto the National Agricultural Labourers Union first executive, at the May 1872 conference in Leamington

20th April 1872 Buckinghamshire Advertiser

Dorset Agricultural labourers are agitating for an increase of wages.

The first move (By the union) came in the Village of Compton, 50 men returned to work
( ? after agreement)

Similar situation at Dorchester

At Fontmell Magna nr Blandford the men are demanding 12s a week

4th May 1872 Buckinghamshire Advertiser

Reports strike at Milbourne St Andrews (8 miles from Blandford) Dorset demanding 12 shillings a week presently on 9 shillings a week

27th July 1872 Buckinghamshire Advertiser

19 agricultural labourers in Dorchester charged with leaving their work (Striking) contray to their agreement

The Court was thronged during the hearing

The Bench compromised ?

NOTE Re Milbourne St Andrews Strike April/May 1872

At Winterbourne Kingston, Arch held a meeting at a spot still called " Arch's corner " by the older villagers. Bert Wellstead, for thirty years a union member, and a leading figure in the Dorset Labour movement, recalls his father's membership of Arch's union. His father was a woodman in the winter and worked on the farms in the summer. " Wages were nine shillings a week when Arch came, and hundreds joined his union; When he came to Kingston the farmers turned up in force and pelted him with rotten eggs, but he was soon in a position to deal with them all right and wages went up from nine to twelve shillings a week. And there," adds Bert Wellstead, " they stood till 1916." The rises were not got without strikes and threats of strikes.

There was a strike of twenty-five men led by one Alfred Martin at Melborne St. Andrew, in the Blandford
area, and other strikes were only prevented in April over the whole of the district between Shaftesbury and Blandford by the farmers conceding rises of 2s. or 3s a week.

It would appear, Bert Wellstead recalled, " that Arch had a man named Mitchell to assist him and the farmers spread all sorts of tales about this man, and told their men what fools they were to keep this man in a soft job. . . ."

Additional Note

According to Reg Groves History of the NUAW, agricultuural labourers had faded copies of photos of the Dorset evictions on the walls for generations to come