Miners strike Featherstone 1893 antique print. Original front page from ‘The Illustrated London News’ dated 16th. September, 1893.
On this day September 16th. in 1893, ‘The Illustrated London News’ published our image above the caption “The Colliery Strikes – Distress in a Colliery Village: Distributing Soup.”
The summer of 1893 saw a significant fall in the price of coal and a demand by the pit owners that coal miners accept a 25% cut in their wages. For their part, the miners, represented by the Miners’ Federation, demanded a “living wage.”
The result was an industrial dispute described as a either a ‘lock-out’ or a ‘strike.’
Although a national dispute, its effect was most severely felt in Featherstone, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where Ackton Hall Colliery was located.
The mine was owned by Samuel Cunliffe Lister, Lord Masham.
On September 7th a crowd assembled at the pit head trying to stop coal being transported to Lord Masham’s textile works in Bradford.
Troops were sent to help the mine manager (three years earlier troops had been called out when Lord Masham had reduced the wages of his mostly female workers in Manningham Silk Mill, Bradford.)
Following the reading of the Riot Act by a local magistrate, and the failure of the crowd to disperse, the troops were ordered to open fire.
Sixteen people were struck by bullets of whom two died from their injuries.
The first inquest, held in Wakefield, into the death of James Arthur Duggan, returned a verdict of justifiable homicide, within ten minutes.
The second inquest, into the death of James Gibbs, was held in Featherstone. Here, refusing to be brow-beaten by the coroner, the jury returned an open verdict.
In their verdict, the jury stated, “James Gibbs was killed by a bullet wound inflicted by soldiers firing into a crowd … and since James Gibbs was a peaceable man and took no part in any riotous proceedings the jury record their sympathy with the deceased’s relatives and friends.”
The 1893 strike/lock-out was finally settled by the first-ever government intervention in an industrial dispute.
Miners returned to work in November on their existing wage, guaranteed until February 1894.
A Conciliation Board was created, made up of an equal number of miners and mine-owners, chaired by a civil servant.
In July 1894 the miners agreed to a 10% reduction to be reviewed by January 1896.
A further 10% reduction was demanded by the mine owners in January 1896 and the Conciliation Board collapsed.