The Brunel Engine House - the Miner's Life Exhibition



The Strike - May the 1st, 1827

There are two explanations of the origins of the strike; the first, that the Company was attempting to reduce the men's wages, and the second that the men demanded an increase due to the life-threatening and literally sickening conditions under which they worked. Discontent had been rumbling since the beginning of the year; the bricklayers struck for an increase in pay on January the 1st, but after the leading strikers were dismissed, the rest returned to work. However, a more generalised strike was to follow.

William Gravatt's report for April the 6th - 'Nothing was done yesterday at the night shift; all the bricklayers came in sober, but not one-eight part of the miners made their appearance, and upon sending round to the public houses the others were found drunk. Circumstanced as we are now are we cannot turn out these men, because a stoppage would be very injurious, if not fatal; but we shall endeavour to prepare substitutes from among the runners.'

During the week of the 20th of April progress was very slow due to many of the miners refusing to work unless they had an increase in their pay. On May the 1st the miners and bricklayers simultaneously struck

' declaring that they would not work without an increase in their pay; and having become exceedingly riotous and disorderly, a reward of £10 was offered for the conviction of the ringleader.'

The Brunels sacked all those who instigated the strike but others who joined them were later reinstated. The strike lasted for a few days amidst 'scenes of riot and confusion'. Conditions in the already lethal tunnel deteriorated during the strike, and there were several inundations in the next months leading to a major tragedy in 1828.



Email the Museum. Page Last Updated on 20 April 2002. Designed by Kevin Flude of Cultural Heritage Resouces