Sunday 10 July 2011

The Other Chipping Norton Set - "Chippy" Comrades

The "Other" Chipping Norton Set

Much has been made in the national media recently of the so called "Chipping Norton Set" which include among others Tory Millionaire Prime Minister David Cameron and former News of the World Editor, Rebekah Brooks.

But Chipping Norton or "Chippy" as it is known by locals also has a long radical history.

Bliss Tweed Mill Strike 1913

In November 1913 workers from Bliss Tweed Mill, Chipping Norton members of the "Workers Union" came out on strike for improved wages and union recognition.

Julia Varley

The mainly female workforce was led by Miss Julia Varley, Workers Union Organiser. Varley was a former Bradford mill worker. At sixteen she joined the Weavers’ and Textile Workers’ Union and became branch secretary at just 16. Her first experience of industrial conflict came during the Manningham Mills strike in 1890/91. Later she helped to organise the historic strike of women chain-makers at Cradley
Heath (near Halesowen) in 1910 . She became a Workers union organiser in 1913. (picture below of Julia Varley as a Suffregette prisoner).

During the Bliss Tweed Mill strike the women met at the Fox Hotel.

The workers organised a number of marches, the banner at the front of this strikers march in Chipping Norton (picture above) reads "We fight for Liberty, Down with oppression.

The seven month strike at Bliss Tweed Mill was particularly bitter, with the majority of the town supporting the striking women, while a minority (mainly upper class residents) supported the strike breakers.

A number of members of the strike committee were jailed at Oxford and included at least one women.

A trade union branch at the Mill was finally established in 1945.

The Bliss Tweed Mill closed in 1980.

Even today. Chipping Norton has a strong radical thread, illustrated by the re election of Labour's Eve Coles at the head of the poll at the recent Council and District election's

Additional info and photo Charlie Pottins