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.'
' 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