Tuesday 9 June 2009

Denham Agricultural Workers 1872

Denham Branch
National Agricultural Labourers Union 1872

"When at Denham the winter before last I found 18 adults out of the small population, destitute of employment and poor rates higher than they have ever been"
John Bedford Leno May 1872

Average Weekly Wages of Ordinary Agricultural Labourer in Buckinghamshire
1850 8 shillings 6d pence
1872 - (approx 15s)
1898 13s6d
1910 14s8d
1914 16s
1919 36s 6s
1924 27s
1934 30s for 50 hours (new Agricultural Wages Act)
1938 35s 6d
1947 90s

Denham, Buckinghamshire
Local Newspaper Report

At 6pm on Friday 12th April 1872 two to three hundred agricultural labourers assembled at the quiet village of Denham, Buckinghamshire to discuss their grievances and adopted measures for an increase of wages and shorten the hours of labour.

Poverty as a passing peer inside the cottages evidence that poverty of the direst was prevalent.

The place of meeting was alongside a wall that bounds one side of the highway, a large table to do the duty as a platform

The men had come to hear the union organiser Robert Clay
for the National Agricultural Labourers Union.

At the meeting reference is made to the plight of John Smith of Stretton on Dunsmore (near Rugby), who was rebuked for living extravagantly in supporting his family on 11s a week, when a loaf of bread cost 8d.

It was reported at a following meeting of the union in May 1872 that the Denham union branch had fourty members and had sent delegates to the April conference in London (Willis Room,King Street, St James, London now Almack House).

Joseph Arch leader of the union states that at Denham they joined in their hundreds

Auberon Herbert, Liberal Member of Parliament for Nottingham had stated that

"the trade societies (unions) were barriers between us and revolution"

Apart from John Bedford Leno, Lieutenant Whellams was a key organiser of the agricultural workers locally.

One Farmer a Mr King of Denham agreed to advance the wages 2 shillings, he had not been asked to do so but it was a voluntary offer. Meanwhile Major Gaskell JP was sympathetic to better labourers and cottages but "depreciated unionism generally as a selfish principle"

One local report states that a union speaker stated "That the social waggon was deep in the mire but they had got in the thin edge of the wedge and he hoped that they would come forward and help the Denham and Chalfont st Peters men drive it right home"

An elderly man named Robinson spoke at Denham, stating he had followed the plough for thirty five years and once earn't 35s a week and could compete with any man in Bedfordshire.

One of our poets stated
A blessed prospect,

"To toil while there is strength, in age the workhouse, A parish shell at last, and the village bell tolled hastily for the pauper's funeral"

Robert Southey's lines:—

"Jem Pizzey" also spoke

Lieutenant Craesey Whellams the local union organiser stated in May 1872 that

"It was wrong that women should be compelled to work in the field at all, and considered that every Englishmen ought to earn sufficient to provide for his family and keep the women in the household. so far as single women were considered he actually believed that it was the for runner of a great deal of immorality

speaking at a National Union of Agricultural Labourers meeting on the evening of Friday 24th May 1872 at Chalfont St Peters Buckinghamshire stated "With respect to single women who earn from 3s - 4s a week that they did not get the wages of a general servant in London or £10 per year anywhere he mentioned that women labourers were a bad principle and if young women obtained respectable situations they would not wear out their clothes as they did in the fields"

Burnham National Agricultural Labourers Union It was reported that 60 men had joined the union at Burnham, it was reported that the cottages and sanitation at Burnham was very poor

The men of Wooburn had attended a large meeting (400-500) and joined the union. Whellams being meet at the station and proceeded by the town band to the meeting

The Chalfont St Peters branch of the National Agricultural labourers Union was established in May 1872
handbills had been circulated in the area and on Monday 20th May 1872

The agricultural labourers rushed to the station to meet Whellams the union organiser he replied "how do you do boys"

The meeting took place in front of the Greyhound Public House, where a table and chairs were arranged for the speakers

150 to 200 were present and they started the proceedings by singing the unions anthem with the chorus "Come and join the union...there's nothing like the union"

at the conclusion of the song there was a "hearty hurrahas as can very seldom heard in the village"

A picture of Joseph Arch the leader of the union was then shown to the meeting,

It should be remembered that Joseph Arch the union President was considered "agitator, an apostle of arson, who was setting class against class

a popular song of the time sung by the labourers had a chorus of

"Joe Arch he raised his voice,
'twas for the working men,
Then let us all rejoice and say
We'll all be union men"

Whellams reported that one agricultural labourer had been horse whipped for daring to join the union.

He stated that agricultural labourers in Canada were earning 28s a week

Whellams also stated that it was his view that they needed their own Members of Parliament
"Until they were able to send men to the legislative who spoke on their behalf they would never be justice done to them"

Union organisation in Buckinghamshire goes back before Joseph Arch's union in 1872. In 1867 some agricultural labourers at Gawcott near Buckingham went on strike for a rise in wages from 9s to 12s a week, but though the movement spread into Hertfordshire, it died away, largely it seems because the agricultural labourers could get no outside help even from prominent Liberals in the area. Later there was more agitation around Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, and a schoolmaster at Dinton is said to have gone around addressing the agricultural labourers and urging them to combine, this could be Edward Richardson who emerges in 1872 as founder of the Bucks Labourer's union/ Buckinghamshire Farm Labourers Union

The local newspaper (15th June 1872) reports that

Edward Richardson a School teacher of Dinton, Buckinghamshire had been for over two months organising the Buckinghamshire Farm labourers Union

However it was reported by Richardson that
"it appears that a union calling itself by the name was then in existence in Denham this fact was totally unknown to myself otherwise we should have adopted another name"

"I hold to be the founder and organiser of those unions already formed or bring formed in the immediate neighborhood of Haddenham, Long Crendon , Stone, Aylesbury Cuddington,. (Richardson) "having been the only speaker upon the subject in these parishes at present, having defrayed the whole expenses of thirty open air meetings out of my own private purse."

George Howell, a bricklayer and active trade unionist fought Aylesbury as a Labour candidate in 1868 and again in 1874, a startling and daring innovation for those days. He got much support in the villages, and when threatened by Tory roughs was able to muster a bodyguard of labourers carrying sticks from surrounding villages. The labourers of Haddenham, long a stronghold of radicalism and later on of the union, were prominent in support of Howell

Manitoba Historical Society Site

Creasey J. Whellams (1842-1918)

Immigration promoter.

Born in St. Ives, Huntingtonshire, England on 8 January 1842, he was educated in private schools in Cambridge. In 1866 he moved to Liverpool and entered business as an insurance and shipping agent.

He first visited Canada in 1872 and was successful in obtaining governmental support for agricultural immigrants. In 1876 he was commissioned to visit Manitoba and make a report on its potential for immigration. He travelled west from Winnipeg by ox-cart and was so impressed with the agricultural possibilities that he made application, and obtained for colonization, six townships on the Little Saskatchewan River just west of the old Manitoba boundary line. On this land he founded the present town of Rapid City.

On 14 January 1886, he married Charlotte Emily Sudlow of Liverpool and had seven children. In 1892 he went to St. Paul, Minnesota but returned to Winnipeg in 1910 to become business secretary of the Millions for Manitoba League. He was later secretary of the Western Canada Development Bureau. He wrote many articles for the newspapers and periodicals of the day, in which he extolled the advantages of settlement in Manitoba.

Whellams died in Winnipeg. The funeral was from St. Martin’s Mission with interment in St. John’s Cemetery.


The banner at the top of the page "United we Stand - Devided we Fall" is allegedly the banner of the National Agricultural Labour
ers Union (NALU) lead by Joseph Arch and was discoverd in Oxfordshire

The banner was left to Nuffield College, Oxford . A 1961 letter in the associated documentation for this banner states:
‘Although the banner is probably the only one in existence belonging to the unique period of Joseph Arch’s great union, it was not… the most unique feature of the collection. Pride of place must go to the minute book of the Oxford branch which [the donor] left to Nuffield College. This showed conclusively that a branch was in existence in the Wychwood area of Oxfordshire before the date of Arch’s meeting under the Wellesbourne chestnut tree. // More important… was the evidence it provided to support [the] theory that one of the chief causes of the failure of the National Agricultural labourers Union was local autonomy. Any of the individual branches based on hamlet or village were at liberty to give strike notice so long as the committee based on Oxford agreed.’

Photo Museum of English Rural Life, Reading