During the first half of the 19th Century, the emergence of the Trade Union movement gave many working class people a greater opportunity to fight back against the mass exploitation they were subjected to by unscrupulous employers. Workers could now, under the banner of Trade Unionism, use their collective strength to improve their lives. Not only could Trade Unions fight for higher wages and better working conditions, they were also a formidable force in campaigning for legislation designed to improve the quality of life for all working people.
The rapidly expanding towns and cities in Lancashire were at the forefront of Trade Union activity with the cotton workers the most organised. Most of the early Trade Unionists from the North West area of Lancashire belonged to the cotton unions, with many of the struggles they took part in becoming legendary. The Preston area was recognised as a hotbed for Trade Union activity and many of those who committed themselves to this cause suffered greatly for their beliefs. Victimisation, harassment and the blacklisting of these activists was commonplace, as was the undoubted courage of those who withstood such treatment. The cause of early Trade Unionism would never have survived the attacks directed against it without the total and dedicated support and encouragement of the womenfolk who shared the exact same principles and idealism. Some of those individuals who pioneered the collective values of Trade Unionism are listed here.
Edward Swinglehurst 1792-1862
Born in the old county of Westmoreland in 1792, Edward Swinglehurst became a Linen weaver in the Yorkshire village of Bentham. At sometime around 1827 he settled in Kendal where he became active in the Trade Union and Cooperative movements. A Teetotaller, Swinglehurst joined the Chartist movement in its early days in Kendal and continued this association after moving to Preston with his family around 1840. In the following year of 1841 he was elected President of the Preston Chartist Association and was also chosen as delegate to the Manchester conference at the time the National Charter Association underwent a rules revision. (NS May 9th 1840 & August 21st 1841)
While earning his living at Robert Gardner’s Cotton mill in Marsh Lane as a power loom weaver, Swinglehurst became known for his Socialist views and was an ardent follower of the great radical thinker and Socialist Robert Owen. He was also a committed republican and a fine public speaker who quickly Involved himself in many local causes and campaigns. (PG June 18th 1870)
At a public meeting held in 1844 it was Swinglehurst who proposed a resolution calling for a petition to be initiated against the proposed Masters and Servants Bill going before Parliament. Referring to this legislation as “unjust and tyrannical”, Swinglehurst along with his friend and fellow radical Richard Marsden organised the petition to be entrusted to local MP George Strickland who also opposed the Bill. In 1847 he chaired a large meeting of factory operatives at which a prominent speaker from the National United Trades Association urged the operatives to consider joining this national union. (PC April 27th 1844 & March 20th 1847)
It was a long held belief among radicals like Swinglehurst that only national trade unions could muster the strength to force employers to negotiate on even terms. Later in 1848, a Preston millowner Mr Threlfall provoked a strike among his workforce by announcing wage reductions. At a hastily arranged meeting Swinglehurst urged the operatives not to return to work, even in the event of a settlement, until the employer abandoned his plans to dismiss the alleged organisers of the strike. Towards the end of the 1840’s Swinglehurst left his employment as a weaver and his home in Gradwell St, to become a news vendor and bookseller at a shop in Bridge Lane (now named Marsh Lane), Preston. His radical views and activism however, remained undiminished. Throughout the 1840’s he continued to support the chartist cause and regularly attended local meetings. (PC January 22nd 1848 & January 17th 1846).
Swinglehurst vehemently opposed the New Poor Law and the proposed construction of a new workhouse in Preston and was a principle speaker at a public meeting held on the issue. He told those present,
“Tyranny and oppression must have an end. Let them use the working class as they ought and not send them to a Bastille. Tell the Poor Law Guardians to alleviate distress where poverty really exists. But to confine a man to a Bastille where he could not walk when he pleased was infamous” (PC June 21st 1851)
In the early 1850’s Swinglehurst, without a Socialist party or candidate to support at election time campaigned for a Liberal reformer George Strickland who believed in extending the franchise. However it was the events of 1853 that overshadowed everything else in Edward Swinglehurt’s life at that time, and which would propel him to national prominence. As the great struggle for the ten per cent wage increase unfolded in Preston, Swinglehurst was to play a hugely significant role, along with the legendary Union leader George Cowell, in what became the greatest industrial dispute of its kind in Victorian Britain. (PC May 8th 1852. PG August 6th, 20th, 27th,1853. October 1st, 15th, 22nd, 1853. November 5th 1853. February 18th 1854. March 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th, 1854. April 29th 1854.)
At almost every meeting of the striking Preston operatives, some of them huge in numbers, Swinglehurst would take to the platform and deliver the most passionate inspiring speeches imaginable in support of the workers cause. However towards the end of November 1853 he fell ill and was confined to his bed for some time, as a letter to the Preston Chronicle indicates quite well. He was probably suffering from Asthma, but may also have been affected by stress. (PC November 26th 1853)
He emerged again in late February 1854 with renewed vigour to continue his work on behalf of the operatives. Following the end of the dispute in May 1854, Edward Swinglehurst, now aged 62 and probably suffering from ill health, disappears from the public stage. As with George Cowell and a number of other Preston men who played such a pivotal role in the 1853/54 lock out, he may have been victimised or harassed sufficiently enough for him to leave the town. He eventually went to live with his son Henry at his home, Hincaster House near Milnthorpe, Westmoreland. He died there on December 21st 1862 aged 70. (PC December 27th 1862)
Many years later in 1892 on the 50th anniversary of the shooting dead of the four cotton workers in Lune St, Preston in 1842, Henry Swinglehurst, the son of Edward Swinglehurst and still of Hincaster House near Milnthorpe, wrote a letter to the Preston Guardian newspaper (August 20th 1892). He recalled how like his father he had become a member of the Chartist movement in Preston. He also told of how he had been an eyewitness to the tragic events as they occurred in Lune St in 1842. Henry insisted that many of the soldiers that fateful day deliberately fired above the heads of the rioters, thus avoiding considerably more casualties.
John Sergeant 1806-1888
A native of Preston and born about 1806, John Sergeant became a cotton spinner. We know he commenced working at Mr Robert Gardner’s cotton mill in Marsh Lane, Preston about 1836 and would have taken part in the bitter three month spinner’s strike of that year. (PC April 26th 1845)
During the 1830’s and 1840’s a long campaign to reduce the horrendously long working hours in factories and cotton mills, was undertaken by a group of notable philanthropic Members of Parliament. Many trade unionists, including John Sergeant, also embraced this campaign in what became widely known as The Short Time , or Ten Hour Movement.
In response to this Mr Robert Gardner of Marsh Lane mill who was a more enlightened millowner and the employer of John Sergeant, unilaterally reduced the working hours at his mill , for all employees from 12 to 11 each day. Mr Gardner maintained that by doing this his workers would be more healthier and as a result, more productive.
At a function held to celebrate the first anniversary of the reduction in hours at Mr Gardner’s mill in 1845, John Sergeant spoke with mixed emotions. While praising his employers decision to shorten the working day by one hour. without being forced to do so, he appeared regretful that the Ten Hour Day campaign had failed up to that time, saying,
“I have worked at Mr Gardner’s for nearly nine years. With respect to eleven hours I am much better in health and strength than I have ever been for a number of years. I can do the same amount of work in eleven hours that I formerly did in twelve. I have often heard my wife say she wished that the steam engines would stop at 6.00 pm in the evening so that we could all sit down to the table together. I should prefer working ten hours per day even if my wages should be somewhat reduced and will never be satisfied until a good and efficient Ten Hour Bill becomes law” (PC April 26th 1845)
John Sergeant remained a mainstay of the Short Time Committee in the Preston area until 1848, when the Factory Act of that year legislated that young people between the ages of 13 to 18, along with women, could work no more than 58 hours per week, or 10 hours per day. For the ten years between 1841 and 1851 Sergeant lived near to his place of work in Marsh Lane, having lived in Poplar St and later in nearby Croft St. (PC LCRO 1841 & 1851 census)
He remained fully committed to Trade Unionism and would often be called upon to explain the union position in detail at various meetings or by letters to the local newspapers. During the great Preston strike and lock out of 1853/54 he supported the struggle of his fellow men and women, yet like most working men, John Sergeant believed strikes were a last resort when all else failed. He said,
“If the masters will not give to their workpeople their just rights, they must be compelled to do it. If we are compelled to come out, I would have twenty per cent before I went back in again” (PC October 29th & November 5th 1853)
In the latter stages of the conflict John Sergeant was part of a deputation from Preston who managed to secure a meeting with Lord Palmerston the Home Secretary. Unfortunately any attempt to broker an amicable settlement proved fruitless and the dispute dragged on. Sometime after the great Preston lock out ended John, possibly as a result of blacklisting, left millwork altogether. Nevertheless his passion for political reform remained undiminished. He spoke in favour of the reforming Liberal Sir George Strickland at an election rally in 1857 and two years later in 1859 he challenged the Liberal candidate Grenfell to support household suffrage, to which he agreed. At this same meeting he lambasted a number of local men who were calling themselves the “Catholic body” and who were attempting to influence voting on religious grounds. He said,
“Let every man have the same right which they claimed, that of voting conscientiously and not to resort to exclusive dealing. Asking freedom of opinion for themselves, let them give it to other people” (PG March 28th 1857 & April 23rd 1859)
John Sergeant was described as a house agent in later years before retiring at his home in Croft St. He died aged 81 in 1888
Giles Howarth 1807-1885
Originally from Darwen near Blackburn, Giles Howarth was born in 1807 and became a cotton spinner before marrying and settling in Chorley with his young family, After a spell in Bolton he arrived in Preston sometime between 1847 and 1851, living at Lodge St near Marsh Lane. As with John Sergeant he was employed at Mr Gardner’s cotton mill nearby. A strict Teetotaller since his days in Bolton, Howarth formed a Sickness Club among Gardner’s workforce but refused after a while to hold club meetings in public houses as was usually the case. Such was his commitment to the Temperance movement that all further club meetings were held on strict Teetotal principles and the society soon boasted over 300 members. (PG April 22nd 1885)
A self taught man and a leading Trade Union activist during the Preston Lock Out of 1853/54, Giles Howarth often took to the stage to address meetings of the operatives. On one occasion he branded the manufacturers of Preston as “Infamous for having driven people to levels of desperation” He recalled how,
“There is suffering in the town of Preston and such suffering as few have any idea of, who are not familiar with the homes and haunts of misery. I myself know a family who have visited a slaughterhouse regularly and procured blood and used it without anything like oats or bread to mix with it. There is also another who has been without food until he has been seen picking the bits out from the wash that was intended for the pigs” (PC/PG December 24th 1853)
As Howarth explained, these were not random statements but the result of observations. He remained active in the Preston Operative Cotton Spinners Association well after the 1853 dispute. He would later, in 1866, petition the Home Secretary following an incident at Mr Seed’s Ribbleton mill when a portion of the building collapsed killing a worker. Howarth successfully sought reassurances that a Factory Inspector would be appointed to investigate this tragedy. (PC April 7th 1866).
In the late 1860’s he left his job as a cotton spinner to establish himself as a Carter, probably dealing in coal and in April 1885, died at his home in Maudland Bank aged 78.
Robert Latus 1808?-????
His birthplace unknown, Robert Latus was probably born about 1808. He was to achieve notoriety in Preston in the year 1824 following an incident with a strikebreaker, or “knobstick” as they were termed, during a strike involving the town’s cotton spinners. (LG March 19th 1825)
At Mr Caton’s strike bound cotton mill in Great Shaw St, Preston on December 28th 1824, a cotton spinner named Thomas Hesketh was offered employment there. News of this strikebreaking, or “knobsticking” soon spread among Caton’s remaining workforce who had supported the strike, causing a huge amount of anger. Two days later on December 30th a serious incident occurred as Hesketh made his way along Great Shaw St. As he passed by Holy Trinity church two men were seen to approach. One of them ,Robert Latus asked Hesketh what it was like to “Be a knobbing” and after passing him by, produced a pistol and fired it. Hesketh ran but the pistol ball had penetrated his clothing and lodged in his breast. Latus was identified by witnesses and arrested
At his trial at the Lancaster Assizes in March 1825 Latus was charged with having shot at Thomas Hesketh with intent to murder. After listening to the evidence the jury found him guilty of a lesser charge of shooting with intent to do some grievous bodily harm. The judge sentenced Robert Latus to be transported for life to Van Diemens land (Australia) and on December 1st 1825, he left these shores along with 150 other convicts on board the ship “Woodman” destined for the colonies.(www.convictrecords.com)
Following the death of Thomas Banks, the legendary former Secretary of the Preston Operative Cotton Spinners Association in 1896, a newspaper article recalled some reminiscences he had made a number of years previous. Banks claimed he well remembered the Robert Latus incident of 1824 and went on to say how once in Australia he eventually went on to prosper before becoming a substantial landowner. (PG January 25th 1896)
Thomas Banks 1814-1896
Probably the most respected Preston Trade Unionist of his generation Thomas Banks was born in the town in 1814, the son of a handloom weaver and former sailor. He attained the position of Secretary of the Preston Operative Cotton Spinners Association in 1854 and remained in the role for over 36 years until his retirement in 1890. After spending the first few years of his childhood at Singleton Row, off Lancaster Rd his family moved to Willow St in the Avenham area where they ran four handlooms. At the very young age of six Thomas commenced work at the Stanley St mill of Mr Vose as a “fluker and sweeper”. This was an extremely dangerous job for children which entailed scrambling underneath and cleaning the machinery whilst it was in motion. His working week was a staggering 70 hours long for which he received the paltry sum of 2 shillings and one penny (10 pence). Many years later he recalled how a whip was regularly used by the Overlookers on the very small children. (PG January 25th 1896. PC June 4th 1892)
In 1824 aged 10 he moved to Mr Swainson’s Water St mill in Avenham as a “piecer” but shortly afterwards found work at Birley’s “big factory” near London Rd. In 1835 Thomas again transferred to Mr Riley’s mill and the following year as a 22 year old , took part in the Preston cotton spinners strike of 1836. This was a bitter and protracted struggle which revolved around Trade Union recognition for the Preston men, along with the equalisation of wages with the Bolton spinners. The Preston spinners were eventually starved back to work after almost three months on strike.
Undaunted Thomas Banks returned to Riley’s mill where he remained for some time as a spinner. He had joined the Preston Spinners and Winders Society just prior to the 1836 dispute and became actively involved with the Union. A campaign to reduce the working week evolved nationally during the late 1830’s and early 1840’s and Thomas soon aligned himself with the Preston Short Time Committee as it became known. This agitation ultimately led to the introduction of the Ten Hour Act of 1847 which limited the working week for women and young people between 13 and 18 to 63 hours, followed by a further reduction to 58 hours, or ten hours per day, in 1848. However many mill owners in Preston sought to flout the Act by introducing a “shift and relay” system, which circumvented the law by staggering the hours of work without reducing them. (PC February 3rd 1849)
An angry Banks threw himself into the fight against these unscrupulous employers, which included a lengthy letter to a local newspaper outlining his opposition. Gradually his enthusiasm, commitment and organisational skills were recognised sufficiently enough for him to be given the task of assisting with the Union’s secretarial work. However it was the scandal and subsequent departure of the Preston Operative Spinners existing secretary Michael Gallagher, that elevated Thomas Banks to this important position within the Union. (PC June 1st 1850 & April 22nd 1854)
Banks promotion to Secretary of the Preston Operative Cotton Spinnersand Winders Association came at a critical time for the union. The great Preston lock out which had brought the town to a virtual standstill for over nine months was nearing its conclusion. With eleven Preston Trade Union delegates and activists facing conspiracy charges over their supposed conduct during the strike, Banks decided to intervene. He successfully petitioned the Preston Masters Association to withdraw the charges against those accused of conspiracy and set about consolidating the Spinners Association following the termination of the strike.
At the time of his appointment in 1854 there was no list of piecework prices to govern the spinning department. So if a spinner changed from one type of fibre production to another as often happened, the secretary had to obtain the prices paid for work produced within other mills carrying out similar work, then calculate an average and then fix a price accordingly for both employer and operative spinner to agree on. Finally in 1859 Banks succeeded in establishing a Standard Preston List for spinning on self actor spinning mules. It was the first list of its kind in Preston but was still far from satisfactory to all concerned. Banks fervently believed that the Preston operatives were the worst paid and worse treated throughout Lancashire and had been for many years. He would constantly repeat the conversations held with veteran union men who had participated in the disputes of 1810, 1812 and 1836, the pioneers of the Trade Union movement in Preston, many of whom had suffered greatly for their beliefs. He would also remind the membership during meetings of the necessity of agitating for fairer wages, as well as an equalisation of rates paid in other districts. (PC August 25th 1860)
The onset of the American Civil War in 1861 was to have a devastating impact on the Preston area as well as Lancashire in general. As the supply of raw cotton virtually ceased altogether, mass unemployment shrouded the town. The poverty and suffering was so acute that many decent folk were reduced to applying for charitable relief. Banks wrote years later of the horrors he witnessed in Preston during what became known as the “Cotton Famine” saying,
“The conduct of some of the Board of Guardians who were administering relief will live in the minds of many factory operatives while memory holds a seat. Many a high souled and would be independent operative, who at last was forced to yield, after having used up the last shilling of the little hoard of many years savings and besides selling the hard earned furniture, personal Sunday clothing and bed covering. This I know has been done before the parties could bring themselves to submit to such a degradation, as they considered it, to appeal to a set of men who had rendered themselves so obnoxious to the factory workers by treating with severity and harshness many deserving cases” (HRL Thomas Banks, a Short Sketch)
Following the end of the American Civil War Thomas Banks began organising a petition calling for amendments to the Masters and Workmen Act. It was a source of great contention at the time, whereby a breach of contract by an employee was punished disproportionately compared to a similar breach by an employer. (PG May 6th 1865)
In 1866 he again set about renegotiating with the employers a revised list of prices within the scope of the Preston Standard List. However later that year Banks was to suffer a terrible personal tragedy when his 15 year old daughter Margaret was killed at the Deepdale Railway station after falling beneath a train. (PC December 22nd 1866).
In 1869 another slump in trade resulted in enforced wage reductions. Banks responded by organising a public meeting which called for the abolition of tariffs on manufactured goods entering India. Ever conscious of the effects of the American Civil War, he also called for the cultivation of more raw cotton throughout the Indian continent. Because of his Trade Union beliefs Thomas Banks was often the subject of editorial attacks, sometimes quite personal in nature from the local newspapers. These attacks usually brought about a dignified response from Thomas, who often suggested these attacks were written at the behest of the mill masters in order to discredit the Trade Unions., (PC June 12th & September 11th 1869, February 19th & March 5th 1870)
On one occasion he directed his comments at one particular newspaper saying,
“Judging of the future by the past, my impression is that Trade Unions will become stronger than ever they were before and put upon more sold bases and still be in existence, when the Preston Chronicle had become defunct and only remembered as a thing of the past”(PC February 19th 1870)
A further letter by Banks in response to aspersions regarding his position as paid Secretary to the Preston Spinners Association, appeared to have been directed towards the Editor. Banks wrote,
“As to me being paid Secretary, I am paid for my services as you were in your reporting days and whilst they who pay me are satisfied with the way I serve them and shall continue to serve them, I can afford to treat with indifference your effusions”(PC March 5th 1870)
Despite his own and indeed Preston’s problems Thomas Banks still found time and motivation to organise a meeting to raise contributions for the sick and wounded of the Franco Prussian war.(PC September 10th 1870)
In late 1870 Banks resumed the campaign in Preston to reduce the working week for men in the cotton trade from 60 to 58 hours. This he insisted would bring the industry in line with other trades, while reducing the constant problem of over production. This action also coincided with the agitation in 1871 to raise wage rates in Preston by as much as 10%, so as to make good the reductions imposed in 1869. The relentless drive to reduce working hours for the most vulnerable was once again launched by Banks in 1872. He initiated a series of meetings to gauge opinion on campaigning for a reduction in hours from 58 to 54 per week for women and young people aged between 13 and 18. (PC November 5th 1870, March 11th 1871, November 9th 1872)
On the political scene Banks became a severe critic of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and was a principle speaker on this issue at a public meeting in Blackburn in 1873. Many Trade Unionists believed the Act would be used to harass and restrict Trade Union activity. He was also successful in securing the nomination of an individual named Thomas Mottershead who belonged to a small political grouping with left wing views known as “Working Men’s Candidates. Mottershead was chosen to represent the working class voters of Preston in the general election of 1874, in preference to a Tory or Liberal. (PC August 30th 1873 & January 31st 1874)
When Banks was not engaged in fending off editorial slurs against his personal integrity, he would often be called upon to defend the reputation of ordinary Preston workers. Through local newspapers he would consistently refute lurid accusations from anonymous correspondents who insisted Preston workers were lazy and uncompetitive. This he did with remarkable clarity and attention to detail. Two letters in particular which were written by Banks in July 1875 contained exceptional detail that helped to explain why Preston’s staple industry was believed to be in decline. (PC October 10th, 17th & 31st 1874. July 3rd & 17th 1875)
He was also keen to rubbish the notion that Preston cotton spinners were in receipt of high wages. With incredible clarity he set about compiling a list of wages paid to spinner in every cotton mill in Preston. He then meticulously listed them in order before calculating an average for the town, which could then be compared with similar lists elsewhere. (PC December 11th 1875)
Forever keen on exploring the possibilities of opening up new markets for Lancashire manufactured cotton goods, in 1879 Banks and others organised a meeting to discuss trading opportunities with the African continent. The abolition of the Indian tariffs which the Preston spinners had urged the government to pursue for many years was also called for again. (PC January 4th 1879).
It was also in 1879 that Thomas received a special presentation in recognition of his 25 years of dedication and loyalty in his position as Secretary of the Preston Operative Cotton Spinner Association. An extremely compassionate man, he proposed and then organised a special fund at the onset of the 1882 Preston Guild celebrations to be distributed among the town’s poorest individuals during the festivities. Finally in 1890 after 36 years exemplary service as Secretary of the Preston spinners, he announced his resignation and retirement at the age of 76. (PG November 8th 1879. PC August 19th 1882 & May 24th 1890)
Thomas Banks died peacefully on 22nd January 1896 at his home in Edgar St, where he had lived for 47 years. He was 81 years old. On the day of his funeral a large crowd of friends and sympathisers gathered around the vicinity of his home as the cortege prepared to transfer him to his final resting place. A large number of operative spinners also accompanied him on the final journey, walking solemnly along the route to Preston cemetery. Such was the esteem that he was held in that Preston householders drew their blinds as a mark of respect. Thomas Banks was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the cemetery on January 25th 1896. (PH January 29th 1896)
An inscription at the foot of the headstone reads,
Secretary of the Preston Spinners for 36 years.
James Brown 1817-1875
Apart from his considerable involvement with the Chartist movement James Brown was also a passionate Trade Unionist. Along with John Sergeant and others in Preston he was heavily involved with the Short Time Movement which had developed at great pace in the manufacturing districts during the 1840’s. Brown was also fortunate in that as with his colleague Sergeant, he was employed by Mr Robert Gardner, who was the first millowner in Preston to reduce working hours from 12 to 11 each day for all employees in 1844.
The reduced hours initiated by Robert Gardner had made him the target for a great deal of harsh criticism from other cotton employers in the neighbourhood. In an attempt to reinforce the progressive stance adopted by Gardner and to encourage other millowners to do the same, James Brown chaired a meeting in 1845. This meeting was aimed at dispelling the myths circulating around Preston, which suggested workers at Gardner’s mill being forced to work considerably harder during the allotted time.(PC March 15th 1845)
Several weeks later during celebrations held to commemorate the first anniversary of the reduction in hours at Gardner’s Marsh Lane mill, James Brown was once again called upon the chair the event. He took the opportunity to read out a statement highlighting this important breakthrough in the short time campaign in Preston saying,
“I have worked for Mr Gardner since the summer of 1843. I consider that I get as much work done in 11 hours as when we were working 12 hours a day. I feel more pleasure now and attend with better spirits to my work than I did when we were working 12 hours a day. I have always had an inclination to acquire useful information and improve my mind upon any subjects that came within my notice, but have always been retarded by want of time and being harassed when I left work at night.
But since we commenced working 11 hours, I have felt a greater inclination and I find myself better able to reflect upon and study serious subjects than previously and have during the last twelve months, commenced and made much progress in studying grammar, phonographs and many other agreeable subjects that I formerly considered myself dry, but now find to be pleasant and instructive.”
Brown finished his speech by reiterating the ultimate objective for the Short Time Movement remained the ten hour day. He said,
“I should not be working for Mr Gardner at the present time, but that I like the 11 hours system and am personally acquainted with others who remain at Mr Gardner’s for the sake of running short time. I consider it would be a great blessing to myself and the whole factory population if the labour of factory workers was reduced to 10 hours a day, even if it should cause a little pecuniary loss. If Mr Gardner should wish to return to the 12 hour system, I should, and I am certain that the whole of his hands would feel it their duty to use every reasonable means in their power to induce him to continue working his mill 11 hours a day”(PC April 26th 1845)
Following the huge campaign orchestrated by the Trade Unions through the Short Time Movement and sympathetic politicians, the Ten Hour Act was passed in 1847. This legislation limited the hours of work for women and young people between 13 and 18 to no more than 10 a day. However, the millowners discovered a loophole in the legislation which they used to further the exploitation of workers and completely disregard the spirit of the Act.
This loophole, known as the “Shift and Relay System” basically allowed unscrupulous employers to impose whatever hours of work they wished, by using the tactic of staggering hours through the day. This blatant disregard for human decency absolutely incensed Trade Union activists such as James Brown. At a public meeting held in Preston to discuss these developments in March 1850, he moved a resolution stating,
“That the recent decision of the Court of Exchequer having ruled that the “Shift and Relay System” is not illegal under the terms of the Ten Hour Act, it is the opinion of this meeting that another appeal to Parliament is necessary for the passing of a Bill enacting and declaring that the hours of labour of women and young persons in factories shall be ten continuous hours and no more, the usual meal times expected”(PC March 16th 1850)
Following the announcement of this resolution Brown called upon the packed audience to remember the long struggles they had endured for better factory legislation directed towards these reforms. He recalled how,
“I remembered very often seeing parties some years ago who appeared like the last remnants of a degenerate race, of operatives who were trained in their infancy under that system when they used to take apprentices. There were some present on that occasion who were trained under that system and at fifty of sixty years of age, they were decrepit, careworn and deformed”
It was clear that James Brown and other Trade Unionists like him would do all in their power to prevent unscrupulous employers from undermining hard won factory legislation. Eventually the outrageous practice of “Shift and Relay System” would be outlawed.
During the 1850’s Brown was instrumental in establishing Working Men’s Clubs and Associations in Preston after legislation was introduced allowing such institutions. He was also successful in petitioning his local Member of Parliament to support this initiative prior to its inception. (PC April 3rd 1852)
James Brown eventually left Preston in 1856 to live in Blackburn where he became steward of the Reform Club. He later became a director of the Greenbank Cooperative Cotton Mill Company and invested every penny he had in this venture. Tragically he lost everything when the secretary of this Cooperative embezzled a considerable amount of money entrusted to him. A devout Roman Catholic, James Brown died in 1875 aged 57. (PC March 13th 1875 & BS April 26th 1865)
In 1870 the Preston Guardian newspaper ran a short article describing his role within working class politics in the North West
“Mr Brown was of humble origin with little opportunity for acquiring even those branches of elementary instruction which are the only tools of education. Quick witted and thoughtful, he contrived to equip himself with remarkable efficiency for the battle of life. At an early period of Chartist history he attached himself to the movement and by his council and pecuniary means he contributed to the maintenance of the organisation to the close. He was indeed a fine model of a politician drawn from the ranks of labour and he and similar men may very properly be styled the salt of their order” (PG June 18th 1870)
Pryce Humphreys 1816-1873
The son of a handloom weaver, Pryce Humphreys was a native of Montgomeryshire in Wales having been born there in 1816. He came to Preston sometime during the 1840’s, following a spell in Manchester and settled in St Thomas St near Moor Lane. In 1846 he spoke at a public meeting in support of weavers in Chorley who were striking over wage reductions. Humphreys, a weaver and Trade Unionist himself, spoke movingly. He described the privations being suffered and the cruelty and injustice of the “Truck System”, in which workers were paid in tokens, which could only be exchanged for goods in shops owned by employers at very inflated prices. He highlighted instances where the operatives were not only compelled to live in cottages owned by the masters at exorbitant rents, but had to purchase provisions under the same terms. (PG February 28th 1846)
In 1852 Humphreys found himself giving evidence at a Liverpool Court case in support of a Preston weaver and Trade Union activist, over an issue of disputed wage reductions. Even though the amount of money involved was described as trivial, the outcome of the trial was considered pivotal by both parties. Cotton workers regularly suffered fines for alleged faulty work, often caused by factors beyond their control and many similar and future cases depended on the outcome of this particular case. It also appeared the Preston Operative Cotton Weavers Association was reluctant to bring this case before the local Magistrate or Borough Courts, fearing bias against them. Instead this vital matter was pursued in the Liverpool Assize Court. Despite the evidence supplied by Pryce Humphreys and the best efforts of the Preston Weavers Association, the case was lost. (PC March 27th 1852)
A fervent Chartist, Humphreys was a subscriber to the Feargus O’ Connor National Land Plan, while in 1854 he was selected as a Preston delegate along with George Cowell and Jonathan Westray to the hugely important Labour Parliament held in Manchester. (www.chartist.net)
During the great Preston lock out of 1853/54, Humphreys was to play a key activist role and would often address huge meetings of the operatives. In April 1854 as the dispute was entering its final phase, Humphreys poured scorn on the Preston employers saying,
“Never in the history of this country had a body of working people been more trampled upon than the operatives of Preston. I have been among the factory operatives for 27 years and during that time have witnessed nineteen strikes, with this one being the twentieth. I know that there was never much good came from them, but when we cannot get what we deserve by argument or reason, then we are obliged to take another course”. (PG April 8th 1854)
As more and more strikebreakers were being recruited by the Preston employers in a bid to undermine the resolve of the Trade Unions, Pryce Humphreys was despatched to Manchester, to both observe this development and possibly to deter those people from coming to Preston. A revealing letter he wrote to the Preston Guardian newspaper gives an insight into the desperate condition of some of the individuals Humphreys discovered were being recruited He wrote,
“Having occasion to visit Manchester I saw an old woman and two girls at Victoria railway station sitting on some beds in the station yard. On enquiry I found they were engaged by one of the agents in the employ of the Preston cotton masters for the intention of strikebreaking. They had been sitting all Monday night in the yard until the agent came on Tuesday evening when they were sent off. The porters on coming to lift the beds in the luggage van found them in such a filthy state that they were obliged to find a horse box” (PG April 8th 1854)
In 1861 Humphreys was still living at his home in St Thomas St, Preston but later left the town to live in Oswaldtwistle, East Lancashire. He was to die there aged 56 in 1873.
George Cowell 1815-1880
Born in the village of Mellor in 1815 and the son of a handloom weaver, George Cowell, as with the well known Chartist Richard Marsden, was to achieve national prominence for his role in working class activism in Preston. After marrying his first wife Amy in the 1830’s , he settled in nearby Balderstone but later moved to live in Higford St, off New Hall Lane in Preston following the birth of his first child in 1836. A weaver by occupation and a Methodist and staunch Teetotaller, George would rise to become the recognised leader of the Preston cotton operatives during the great struggle of 1853/54 known as the Preston lock out.
As with many working class activists Cowell joined the Short Time Movement during the 1840’s, which at the time was engaged in a protracted and vigorous campaign to reduce working hours. He was also elected as the Preston delegate to a conference held in Manchester to discuss the abuses known as the “Shift and Relay System”, which had arisen from the introduction of the Ten Hour Act of 1847. At this conference Cowell and the other delegates proposed to establish a fund for those workers who were sacked for refusing to work past the maximum 58 per week permitted by law (PC August 25th 1849)
As well as his commitment to the Preston Short Time Committee, George Cowell was also very active in the Chartist movement.. He was chosen to chair the Lancashire Chartist camp meeting held at Brindle, which attracted several thousand people in 1848. (PC April 22nd 1848)
During the general election campaign of 1852 a meeting was organised in the Marsh Lane area of Preston, for the working men of the town who were not entitled to vote. With his usual passion Cowell took the opportunity to address the audience and after praising the efforts of the Liberal candidate, Sir George Strickland, who agreed in extending the franchise, delivered a fine speech concerning the right to vote. Referring to Mr Parker, the Conservative candidate, who was not keen at all in expanding the franchise to working men, Cowell said,
“The vote is an undeniable right and we ought to be put in possession of it without delay. But if Parker is sent to Parliament his text would be that we should never have such a right. They wish that working men should forever be the slaves of the aristocracy, mere machinery in their hands. After the bees have produced the wealth of the nation, they appropriated it to themselves, which will ever be the case so long as we are misrepresented in Parliament” (PC July 3rd 1852)
In 1853 Preston became gripped with the ten per cent agitation which had spread throughout Lancashire. After a series of victories for the Trade Unions for higher wages, most notably in Stockport, the cotton operatives of Preston now sought similar increases. Cowell was at the forefront of this campaign and set about organising the town’s weavers as the Preston Operative Spinners had already done. Having been recognised by the employers as a committed Trade Union activist, false allegations were made against him in the local newspapers which described him as, “Living in idleness upon the funds drawn from the industrious operatives” and being a “Paid agitator”. (PC August 27th 1853 & October 22nd 1853)
As more and more Preston cotton workers rallied to the battle cry of Ten Per Cent and No Surrender and joined the strike, the town’s employers retaliated by enforcing a total lock out, believing it would smash the resolve of the Trade Unions. However George Cowell’s powerful speeches at huge open air meetings where he systematically laid out the justice and merits of the struggle reinforced the determination of the workers. One such meeting in October 1853 attracted between 25,000 to 30,000 people.
With the need for funding becoming increasingly more critical, Cowell and other activists toured the manufacturing districts appealing to fellow working people for financial assistance. In the twelve months beginning in May 1853, as well as speaking at ninety one mass meetings in Preston along with other delegates, he toured Crewe, the Potteries, Birmingham, Glasgow, Carlisle and London on several occasions. (PC November 26th 1853)
As the lock out extended into 1854 a state of siege existed between the Preston mill masters and employees. At a meeting of the weavers held at the “orchard” in the town, Cowell again sought to contradict the slurs being levelled at the Preston operatives in general. Refuting suggestions that the working classes would never alleviate themselves, Cowell retorted,
“Under the present system ninety nine out of every hundred of the operatives would be hewers of wood and drawers of water to the end of their lives. In a factory some might get up in the world. An overlooker might come to be a manager and from that to something else, but those instances could only be very few and taking an overlooker for instance who got from 24 to 30 shillings a week. What could that man save with three or four children?”
Cowell then went on to criticise a number of the Board of Guardians whose job it was to alleviate the very poorest in the community. He had, said Cowell, attacked those men to their faces for allegedly failing to carry out their legal duties. Naming and shaming these individuals publicly Cowell recalled,
There was a case where a married man with seven children had applied to the Board of Guardians for three or four days labouring work on the Preston Moor project. When asked if he had a daughter who was a weaver, and on replying he had, the Guardian informed him his daughter must go to work at Mr Hollins mill or he would receive no work at the Moor”.(PC January 28th 1854)
Then in March 1854 a dramatic turn of events led to the arrest of George Cowell as he was about to board a train to Manchester. He was among eleven Trade Union activists involved in the Preston dispute who were apprehended on serious charges of Conspiracy. (PC March 25th 1854)
These charges related to alleged incidents surrounding a number of strikebreakers who had been persuaded to leave Preston and return home. Despite being bailed until the trial date, the arresting of eleven prominent Union activists on such serious charges was a huge blow for the Preston operatives. It came on top of a series of rumours sweeping the manufacturing districts, allegedly spread by agents of the Preston employers, that the Preston strikers were about to return to work. As a result the all important funding from these districts for the Preston cause virtually ceased overnight.
George Cowell hastily returned to Blackburn, the town where a considerable proportion of subscriptions for the Preston struggle came from. He was cheered loudly as he prepared to speak to those who had assembled at the Masons Arms in Penny St. Acknowledging that due to the circumstances the Preston weavers had all but conceded the strike, Cowell outlined the devastating chain of events that had overtaken the Preston movement. He also explained how the Preston spinners remained united and defiant and wished to continue the dispute. He lambasted the employers for refusing all attempts at arbitration and attacked the rumour mongers who had done so much to undermine the operatives struggle. In an emotional speech, Cowell said,
“The Preston people have now gained for themselves laurels and a name that will be handed down to posterity. I look on Cooperation as the only efficient leverage that can raise you in this or any other country. Look at the splendid mansions that are erected around us and at the humble dwellings accorded to us. Who have raised these mansions and produced all this wealth? You who have risen every morning to toil since you were ten years old, up to the meridian of life. You have done this and yet how few of you can say you even have a small cottage of your own”.
On March 6th 1854 George Cowell and two other Preston Trade Union activists, Jonathan Westray and Pryce Humphreys represented Preston at the Peoples Parliament in Manchester. This parliament was first instigated by former Chartist Ernest Jones with the hope of building a mass movement that would unite the workers on immediate demands, as a stage in the mobilisation of the workers for the struggle of power. Some 50 to 60 delegates attended, mainly from the textile unions. Karl Marx who was a good friend of Ernest Jones was keen to attend himself. He made it clear the event was considered by him as one of considerable significance in working class history. Unfortunately for Marx he was unable to attend and sent his apologies at the last minute.
Finally in May 1854, to prevent any more suffering, the Preston spinners reluctantly returned to work, bringing to an end the longest industrial dispute of its kind in Britain. The termination of the Preston lock out was also quickly followed by the dropping of all charges against Cowell and his fellow Trade Union activists. However for George Cowell another threat to his liberty emerged. Following the general return to work a writ was served against Cowell and two other men, for the recovery of £164 in outstanding printing bills incurred by the strike committee. So critical was the situation that Cowell found himself incarcerated in the debtor’s prison at Lancaster castle and in mid November 1854, he issued a personal plea for financial assistance to pay off the prevailing debt. Despite the obvious hardship, street collections were held in Preston and elsewhere until the debt was paid and Cowell was freed. (PC September 30th & October 7th 1854)
Following his release Cowell continued to fight on behalf of the working class whenever they became engaged in a particular struggle or dispute. When the Blackburn mechanics embarked on strike action in February 1855, he was a principal speaker at a meeting arranged to consider financial support for the men. The following year of 1856 also saw George Cowell active in campaigning alongside other weavers throughout Lancashire for a considerable wage rise (PC February 17th 1855 & May 19th 1856)
Cowell’s last known involvement in Trade Union activities was in 1861 when he unsuccessfully attempted to influence proceedings during a weavers strike at Clitheroe. It was shortly after this event however that he was to leave Preston for a new life in Salford. Following the ending of the great Preston lockout of 1853/54, Cowell suffered the wrath of the millowners of Preston by becoming a victim of blacklisting. To earn a living he operated as a tea dealer in the Ribbleton Lane area of the town (H I Dutton & J E King. Ten Per Cent and No Surrender)
He married his third wife in Salford in July 1863 and found work as a cloth inspector, or “cutlooker” in a local mill. On June 12th 1880 after attending a Temperance meeting George Cowell proceeded to Manchester Victoria railway station and while walking along the platform he collapsed. He was taken to the Infirmary but never regained consciousness and died there aged 64. An obituary appeared in the Preston Guardian newspaper for George Cowell on Wednesday 16th June 1880 under the heading Death of an old Townsman, It read,
The deceased when in Preston was a weaver and he was well known for having taken a prominent part in the memorable lock out of 1853-54. Through his efforts on behalf of his fellow workers, he was compelled to leave town and from here he went to Manchester
A contempory account of the life of George Cowell was written by the Preston historian Charles Hardwick some months after the termination of the lock out of 1853/54, in which Cowell played such a pivotal role. Hardwick wrote,
“George Cowell is rather below the middle height. His forehead is ample and expression of his countenance thoughtful and benevolent. He is a man of limited scholastic education but he appears to possess calm, steady, resolution coupled with a powerful and somewhat active brain. With early cultivation he would doubtless have distinguished himself in a more respectable arena than the one generally occupied by the “stump” orator.
Cowell was generally calm and logical in his style of address. After all, he appealed more to the intellect and judgement of his audience such as it was, than to their passions. His very manner and conduct bore the impress of sincerity. I have conversed with men opposed to him in opinion upon this subject, who have cheerfully acknowledged their belief in his general integrity of purpose”
James Waddington 1821-1881
The younger brother of fellow Trade Unionist John, James Waddington was born in Ribchester in 1821. After undertaking the craft of weaving, possibly at the handloom as his father had done, by 1841 James was still residing in the vicinity of his birth. A decade later however in 1851 he was living in Preston as a married man in Dawson St near North Rd. James had progressed sufficiently enough at work to achieve the position of cotton loom overlooker, who would repair and keep the weaving looms working and supervise the work room. (LCRO 1851 census)
James was also by now a fully committed Trade Unionist who was at the forefront during the agitation in Preston which led to the great lock out of 1853/54. After George Cowell and Edward Swinglehurst he was probably the next most prominent Preston based Trade Union activist throughout the entire bitter dispute and certainly a character in his own right. During the huge open air meetings of the operatives, which were a regular feature throughout the lock out, James Waddington was frequently called on to chair these events and would open the debates by commenting on the latest developments. He would continue to do this until the dispute terminated. (PC December 3rd & 24th 1853. January 7th, 21st & 28th .. February 4th, 11th & 25th . March 11th & 25th . April 1st 1854)
A string willed man who was never afraid to speak his mind publicly, Waddington could be particularly hostile towards the Preston cotton masters. In February 1854 he condemned the very powerful millowner and townsmen Mr Thomas Miller, for apparently threatening to sack all the adults who worked for him prior to the dispute, who then refused to send their children into his mills to work. He also urged the reporters present to inform the Manchester Gazette of these facts and to publish what he described as.
“Miller’s real nature towards Preston people”
A strong critic of the clergy also, Waddington accused a number of them of endeavouring to induce some young women to abandon the strike, who he said,
“Should instead hold out the right hand of fellowship towards the operative classes”
As the great Preston lock out dragged on into 1854 the number of forced house evictions resulting from rent arrears escalated alarmingly. Commenting on this development ,Waddington remarked upon the condition of some houses he had witnessed furniture being removed from, one particular morning following an eviction. He told the meeting,
“I could find shippons and stables not a hundred yards from where I speak now that are palaces compared to those houses. Just go and look at Cotton Court” (PC February 18th 1854)
He then denounced the system of forced tenancies favoured by many of the mill masters, in which a condition of employment was the requirement to rent a property owned by the employer,
“Was it right”,Said Waddington, “That one man must come to another and say, thou must take this key and pay three shillings a week for the house whether thou lives in it or not”
In late February and early March 1854 the Preston millowners made one last push to break the resolve of the operatives by recruiting strikebreakers from Ireland and elsewhere. Upon learning of this ominous news the operatives strike committee sent union activists to Fleetwood, among them James Waddington, with the intention of persuading a substantial group of Irish strikebreakers to return home. At a meeting of the striking Preston operatives Waddington informed the crowd of his time in Fleetwood. (PC March 11th 1854)
He described how the Irish strikebreakers were in the most destitute of condition, with many of them barefoot and bareheaded and after speaking to these pitiful individuals, managed to dissuade many of them from continuing to Preston. Unfortunately said Waddington, the Preston Union men were not carrying enough funds to finance everyone’s return sea journey, so as a consequence they remained in the custody of the millowners recruiting agents. Waddington implored Prestonians to keep the peace as the Irish and other strikebreakers began to arrive in the town and in a remarkable display of compassion, offered the hand of friendship. Quoting the good book, he said,
“Go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in. We hold out our hand of sympathy, for our object is to feed and clothe the naked as far as lies in our power”
With tension rising in Preston following the arrival of the strikebreakers James Waddington and a number of other leading Trade Union activists were arrested on serious charges of conspiracy and intimidation. Despite the gravity of the situation he maintained his wicked sense of humour. While referring to his preliminary trial at Liverpool, he told a mass meeting of over 10,000 operatives held at a field near the Withy Trees pub in Fulwood,
“I’ve just returned from a cheap trip to Liverpool”. As the packed audience laughed, he continued with a follow up remark in reference to the trial judge’s verdict expected in August, saying, “And I hope there will be another one next August”. Finally, on a much more serious note, he described how on his return from Liverpool, he felt, “As firm a mind as ever and as determined as ever to pursue the same course as hitherto done till we have gained the object we had turned out for, namely, Ten Per Cent and no surrender”(PC March 25th & April 1st 1854)
In May 1854 the Preston strike ended in defeat for the Preston operatives and the Trade Unions involved, who had fought so hard for such a noble cause. The great Preston lock out as it became known passed into working class and Trade Union folklore and with it any future reference to further Trade Union activity by James Waddington.
In August 1854 at Liverpool Assizes, James Waddington and ten other Trade Unionists who had played such a prominent role in the Preston lock out, were released after the prosecution chose not to press charges. Acutely aware now that many Trade Union activists, along with the leaders of the Preston operatives would most certainly face the vindictiveness of the employers, it would appear that James Waddington was already preparing for his future. At the time of his trial in August 1854 he is described in the Preston Guardian newspaper as a Draper, indicating he was likely to have been blacklisted from his trade as a mill overlooker. (PC August 12th 1854)
A number of Preston Trade Directories from 1853 onwards also indicate this, although the 1861 and subsequent censuses describe James Waddington as a Weaver. It may be the case he was recording his original trade while working as a Draper. His Brother John also operated a Drapery shop in Preston, however unlike John who remained an active Trade Unionist following the lock out, James Waddington drifted into obscurity. The last we hear of him is from the pen of Mr Charles Hardwick, a local historian who wrote a short account of the Preston strike leaders, with the title “Lancashire Stump Oratory and Reminiscences of the Labour Battle”. Hardwick wrote.
“James Waddington, a Preston weaver performed the duties of chairman. The chair itself was a myth or rather a polite fiction, as Mr Waddington simply stood among the other occupants of the cart undistinguished by either insignia or position”
Hardwick described Waddington’s strong Lancashire dialect and witty humour and even recreated one of Waddington’s many orations which he wrote down in the traditional dialect. Translated it reads as,
“Well friends what do you think the press make of us delicate “stump” orators. They say we go about mounting the “stump” and making speeches and we do it for the brass that you give us. Well it’s a terrible deal you give us to be sure (loud laughter). They say we are lazy fellows and too idle to work (laughter). I should think I know what work is as well as some of them and I will tell you what, It’s the first time I ever went out a “stumping” it and it’s the hardest work I ever did in my life before. It will never do for lazy chaps I can tell you (loud laughter). I don’t care, I will soon give it over and when we’ve settled this you won’t catch me going out on the “stump” again so soon I know”(PC September 16th 1854, Eliza Cooks Journal)
True to his word, never again would James Waddington feature in the local news columns as a fiery “stump orator”. Like many families at that time , he suffered tragedy with the death of two of his children, John in 1855 and William in 1864 and James lived at various locations about the town throughout the remaining years of his life. In 1871, some 17 years after the Preston lock out he appears at Clarks Yard which was situated off Church St. The Preston Operative Weavers Trade Union Institute was also located in Clarks Yard and it may have been the case that James had fallen on hard times and was given a roof over his head within the Institute. The weavers institute closed in 1875 as new premises were found and by 1881 he was living in Young St, off Ribbleton Lane. It was here that James Waddington died in the same year aged 60. He was later buried in a pauper’s grave at Preston cemetery.
John Waddington 1819-1895
The eldest of four sons, John Waddington, born in 1819 at Ribchester was the older brother of James Waddington, who played such a prominent role in the great lock out of 1853/54. He left his birthplace in the decade between 1841 and 1851, married and settled in Higginson St, Preston with his family. A power loom weaver, John Waddington, as with his more illustrious brother James, became active in the Trade Union movement. His contribution in the great lock out of 1853/54 is unclear, however by 1857, possibly as a direct result of being a victim of blacklisting, John was no longer weaving but operating a linen drapery shop in Lancaster Rd (HRL Directory of Preston 1867)
John had followed his brother Edward into the Drapery trade as did his other militant brother James and by 1861 was continuing with this occupation in a shop situated in Adelphi St. By 1871 however, John had returned to weaving at a time of renewed activism within the Trade Union movement. In 1872 John Waddington along with other well known Union activists held a great meeting at the Corn Exchange. It was arranged for the purpose of supporting the campaign to reduce working hours for women and children to 54 per week, or 9 hours each day. Many women attended this meeting and a large number were unable to obtain seats, such was the level of support. (PC May 11th 1872)
Two years later John had attained the position of President of the Preston Weavers Association. It was in this capacity he challenged in an open letter, what he described as “scurrilous, false and libellous remarks”directed against Preston weavers, made by anonymous correspondents who sought to challenge what they had said about conditions in weaving sheds. (PC October 31st 1874).
John continued to work as a weaver and died in November 1895 aged 76 at his home in Brook St Preston. As with his younger brother James he was laid to rest in a pauper’s grave.
Robert Baxendale 1822-1878
Probably born in 1822 in a rural district of Lincolnshire, Robert Baxendale and his family had, by 1841, moved to Preston and were living in Chandler St near Marsh Lane. In all likelihood Robert would have known George Sowerbutts who also lived in Chandler St, and was one of the four young men shot dead in Lune St in the 1842 demonstrations. Both Robert and George were of a similar age and may even have been friends . A weaver by trade Robert was probably active in the fledgling Preston Weavers Association, first founded in 1846 and by 1852 was most certainly politically active in Preston. At a meeting of men not entitled to vote in 1852 he urged everyone present to show support for the Liberal Sir George Strickland, who he claimed was the only candidate actively campaigning to extend the franchise. ( PC July 3rd 1852)
Even prior to the great Preston lock out of 1853/54 Robert Baxendale was busy speaking at meetings held to raise awareness for the Stockport cotton workers strike. He not only supported the Stockport cause but passionately encouraged the Preston cotton workers to follow their example in fighting for better wages. As Preston cotton workers moved ever increasingly towards confrontation with the town’s millowners, Baxendale was also instrumental in moving a motion calling for a full ten per cent increase in wages. (PC July 18th & August 20th 1853)
As one of the leading activists throughout the bitter, almost year long dispute, Robert would quite often travel to other towns addressing meetings, gathering support and raising much needed funds for the striking Preston workers. He would also publicly attack the intransigence of the Preston mill masters, when in March 1854, a local millowner who was prepared to negotiate an amicable settlement with his workforce, was threatened with reprisals by the Preston Mill Masters Association. (PC December 17th, 24th, 31st 1853. January 7th & March 25th 1854)
It was also in March 1854 that eleven leading Preston Trade Union activists were arrested for alleged conspiracy and intimidation offences. A defence fund was hurriedly established in which Baxendale publicly pleaded for donations among the operatives and townsfolk. Later, following the termination of the dispute he was among a deputation of men who called on Mr Thomas Miller, the powerful and influential millowner, to reconsider the decision to press charges against their compatriots. (June 10th 1854)
Despite the failure of the Preston strike and ten per cent agitation, Robert Baxendale remained active in politics. In April 1859 he chaired an election meeting in the town, in which he took the opportunity to encourage Preston voters to return the two Liberal candidates rather than the Tories. Equally, in the local elections he would often harangue the prospective candidates on the issues of the day during public meetings. (PC April 16th 1859 & November 3rd 1860)
By 1871 Robert was another who had abandoned the weaving trade to become, like the Waddington brothers, a Draper in Adelphi St. He was still carrying out that occupation at the time of his death in 1878, though by that time was living in Plungington Rd. He passed away aged 56.
Jonathan Westray 1823-1880
Born at Workington in 1823, the son of a Shoemaker, Jonathan Westray first came to Preston with his parents prior to 1841 and also took up the trade of Boot and Shoemaker. After living in Crooked Lane in the centre of Preston with his parents, Jonathan married and set up home in Saul St. Active in the boot and shoemakers union, which was officially known as the Amalgamated Cordwainers Association, Westray was respected enough to be called to the Chair at the annual dinner held by the membership of the boot and shoemakers Preston branch in 1851. (PC November 1st 1851)
In what became a militant and organised Trade Union during the 1850’s, the Amalgamated Cordwainers Association sought to agitate for better wages and conditions. In the Preston Branch of the Cordwainers Jonathan Westray was often at the forefront of promoting resolutions during meetings. At one public meeting held in 1853, he called for support in their fight for better working conditions.
Like many boot and shoemakers Westray was very antagonistic towards the majority of employers who operated a system known as “hanging”. This entailed the practice of waiting days on end for work and then working unsocial hours round the clock to get the work completed. Most shoemakers working this system earned no more than 8 of 9 shillings a week. The enforced use of prisoners at the House of Correction engaged in boot and shoemaking work, was also a huge source of tension and the undermining of wages within the trade in Preston. (PC July 16th 1853)
A member of the Chartist movement in Preston, Westray was chosen in 1854 along with George Cowell and Pryce Humphreys, to represent Preston as delegates to the Labour Parliament in Manchester which ran from the 6th to 18th of March 1854. By 1861 Jonathan Westray had abandoned his trade of shoemaking to become an Innkeeper at the Sun Inn, Main Sprit Weind, Preston. He would later become the licensee of the Port Admiral Hotel in Lancaster Rd and by 1868 had become secretary of the Preston Licensed Victuallers Association. (PC February 1st 1868)
Jonathan Westray died aged 57 in Preston in1880
John Bowman 1823?-1887
John Bowman was originally from Blackburn having been born there about 1823. He arrived in Preston prior to 1841 to find work as a cotton weaver in the town’s mills. A strike by weavers at Threlfalls mill over substantial wage reductions in 1848 found John speaking in support of those striking workers at a public meeting. He challenged the millowner Mr Threlfall to examine his conscience and urged the operatives to fight the wage reductions that were being implemented in many mills within Preston, saying,
“If the condition of the factory operatives is to be amended it must be done by your own efforts and by you alone, for the higher classes will never do anything for you” (PC January 22nd 1848)
John Bowman was in 1848, an active member of the nascent Preston Weavers Association which had been relaunched in 1846 after a failed attempt in 1842. By 1849 he was also Secretary of the Preston Short Time Committee which was part of the wider Short Time Movement. This movement was very active throughout the textile manufacturing districts of Lancashire and beyond in campaigning for a 10 hour day.
Following the passing of the 1847 Ten Hour Act which limited the hours of work for women and young persons to 63 per week initially, then 58 hours in 1848, the systematic abuse of the Act by unscrupulous employers, incensed activists such as John Bowman. As employers discovered they could avoid the law by using women and young people in shift relays, the hours of these workers was in fact extended, not reduced as the Act intended. John Bowman was often to be seen addressing large meetings of operatives who wished to petition Parliament to end this outrageous scandal. By enlisting the help of sympathetic MP’s including Preston MP Sir George Strickland, Bowman and other Lancashire Trade Unionists were eventually able by 1850 to have the dreaded “Shift and Relay” system legislated against. (PC March 16th 1850)
A very committed man, Bowman once unsuccessfully attempted to sue the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Company. A blocked sewage culvert on the rail company land had flooded the Leighton St mill where he worked, stopping the machinery and resulting in loss of earnings. Unfortunately for John his claim was dismissed. (PC October 20th & November 3rd 1849)
Active right throughout the great Preston lock out of 1853/54, he was selected to be part of the deputation who travelled to London to lobby the Home Secretary Lord Palmerston. The Preston men hoped an intervention by such a high status politician could help broker an amicable settlement between the Trade Unions and millowners of Preston. Despite listening to their grievances, Palmerston rejected any notion of arbitrating in the dispute and the strike collapsed shortly afterwards.
At some time after 1858, John left Preston as a number of other prominent Trade Union men who were active in the lock out also did. He settled in Fleetwood, where he was engaged in dairy work. Later, by 1871 John Bowman and his family had moved to Barrow in Furness, where he was earning a living as a labourer and later as a hydraulic crane driver. He probably died there in 1887 while aged in his mid 60’s. (1861 & 1871 census)
James Holden 1828-1884
Originally from Liverpool and born in 1828 the son of a Miller, James Holden came to live in Preston as a young man. In 1851 he had taken lodgings at a house in St Mary’s St in the town and was employed as a cotton weaver. (LCRO 1851 census )
He was considerably active in the great Preston lock out of 1853/54 and as a weavers activist and delegate he toured the country, speaking at meetings with the purpose of raising money for the striking Preston operatives and their families.(PG March 15th 1884)
In the years that followed the lock out Holden became an overlooker, or “tackler” as they were often known. It was a job that required considerable skill in repairing and maintaining weaving looms. For a while he left the cotton trade to take up a managerial position within the emerging Preston Cooperative movement but later returned to his former employment as an overlooker.
In 1875 James Holden was one of the principal figures who helped to form the Preston Power Loom Overlookers Assistance Association and held the position of President for a number of years. In early 1884 he became sick and was unable to attend work any longer and in March of that year died aged 55 at his home in Arkwright Rd. His funeral was quite an elaborate affair with many local Trade Unionists attending. (PG March 19th 1884)
Alfred W Bailey 1829-1886
A native of Wales and the son of a Shoemaker, Alfred Bailey was born in the border town of Welshpool in 1829. By the age of 12 he was living with his family in Nottingham before arriving in Preston during the 1840’s. Now earning his living as a Tailor, Alfred had married and was living in Lancaster Rd. (www.ancestry.com 1841 & 51 census).
He first appears as a political activist during the dark days of the “cotton famine”, when the shortage of raw cotton from the USA from 1861 to 1865, led to mass unemployment across Lancashire. So acute was the suffering in Preston that Bailey chaired a public meeting at the Preston Spinners Institute. This meeting called for an emigration scheme to assist the distressed operatives in escaping the dreadful poverty. Soon after he received a reply from the emigration Commissioners Office indicating that New Zealand was willing to finance a quota of emigrations from the distressed areas. There was however a strict condition that only the most fittest and strongest would be considered for selection. Later on in 1863, Alfred Bailey would chair the weekly meetings of the Preston Working Men’s Political Associations. (PC February 14th, March 7th & August 22nd 1863)
Following the end of the cotton famine many Trade Unionists in the industrial districts perceived the advantages of forming what became known as Trade Union Councils. Preston was no exception , with Alf Bailey presiding over the very first meetings of these “Councils”, in which delegates from different trade bodies met to formulate and offer support for one another.(PC July 21st 1866)
Such was the high esteem held for Bailey that in 1867 he was elected vice President of the newly formed Amalgamated Society of Journeymen Tailors. Later the same year he was arrested along with other leaders of the Union, on a charge of conspiracy to impoverish business owners during a strike. He was found guilty and bound over to keep the peace. Soon afterwards he was elected President of the tailors society. Bailey was also chosen as a delegate along with two other Preston men to attend a conference in Sheffield, where the representatives from the various Trade Councils first met to form a constitution. By 1868 Preston Trade Union Council with Alfred Bailey still President, initiated a campaign to appoint a working man’s candidate at the next general election in Preston, in the hope of securing Parliamentary representation. (PC May 30th 1868)
He was also an Internationalist and as the Franco Prussian war raged across Europe in 1870 creating thousands of sick and wounded, Bailey was among a deputation of like minded men who petitioned the Mayor of Preston. They urged the mayor to call a public meeting in order to raise funds for those suffering as a result of the conflict. (PC September 21st 1870)
Another contentious issue he devoted his time to was the strengthening of the Truck Acts, which were designed to prevent an employer paying wages wholly, or in part, in goods rather than coin of the realm. Many Trade Unionists believed the Truck Acts did not go far enough. At a Trades Council meeting in 1872, Alfred read out a letter from the local Preston MP Mr Herman reassuring the delegates that all concerns raised would be given due consideration under the new Wages Bill.(PC May 11th 1872)
His concern for the welfare of the working class in general involved Alfred being involved in all sorts of campaigns. In 1878 he chaired a meeting of the Amalgamated Railway Servants at the Spinners Institute, where the callous injustice of the “Trip” system was discussed. This was a grossly archaic and unjust system in which men had wages deducted if the train they worked on was delayed for any reason. (PC September 21st 1878)
He was also a representative on the Trade Union Congress Parliamentary Committee and served as its chairman in 1874 and 1883.
In September 1886 Alfred William Bailey of 179 North Rd died aged 57
Abel Kenyon 1830?-1879
Born in the village of Billington near Blackburn about 1830, Abel Kenyon probably lost both parents while he was quite young and was more than likely brought up by his grandfather in the Blackburn area. By the age of ten young Abel was already working as a Calico weaver and at some stage left the Blackburn area to settle in Preston. As a young man he became a Trade Union activist and in 1860 chaired an open air meeting of Preston operatives at the “orchard”, held in order to raise money for weavers on strike in the Bolton and Colne areas. (LCRO 1841 census & PC June 30th 1860)
This weavers dispute turned into a very lengthy affair with the Colne strikers staying out for over fifty weeks. The money required to sustain these striking weavers and their families and to prevent them from being starved back to work was enormous. Weekly subscriptions for the Colne strikers came from throughout Lancashire, with the Trade Unionists of Preston playing a substantial role. At a further meeting in July 1860, again chaired by Kenyon, it was agreed to levy one and a half pence per loom throughout the weaving sheds of Preston, for the Bolton and Colne strikers. (PC July 28th 1860)
Kenyon was also active in the Preston Operative Friendly Burial Society and in 1878 chaired the annual meeting of this benevolent organisation at the Spinners Institute. A prominent activist in the Preston Operative Weavers Warpers and Winders Trade Union since it was reformed in 1858; he was eventually elected to the position of President about 1875. Ever keen in safeguarding and promoting full employment in the textile mills, he gave enthusiastic support at a meeting held in the town for the purpose of exporting Lancashire made cotton goods to the African continent. (PC January 26th 1878 & January 4th 1879)
In October 1879 while suffering from inflammation of the lungs, Abel Kenyon died suddenly at his home in Essex St, Preston aged just 50. He left a wife and seven children and was buried in an unmarked paupers grave. (PC October 25th & November 1st 1879)
John Huntington 1832-1893
The son of a schoolmaster, John Huntington was born in Preston in 1832 at a long since demolished terraced street in the centre of town named Everton Gardens. His life story is quite extraordinary to say the least, as from his humble beginnings in Preston, he was to become one of the most wealthiest and charitable men of his time in the United States of America.
From his birthplace in Everton Gardens, John aged 19 in 1851, rented a room at a house in Milton St, off Adelphi St and was employed as a grinder at Mr Seed’s Ribbleton Lane mill. He would marry a weaver named Jane Beck in 1852, little realising that in the following year of 1853, both himself and his wife would be involved in what became known as the great Preston lock out of 1853/54. John became a leading Trade Union activist during the dispute and was often seen speaking at the huge open air meetings of Preston operatives, which was such a feature of the Preston lock out.( LCRO 1841 & 51 census)
At the end of the year long strike John Huntington, like so many others in Preston, fell victim to the vindictive nature of the Preston Mill Masters Association. In a revengeful move designed to purge known Trade Union activists in the town, John joined the list of those men who were “blacklisted”. Unable to resume work at his former mill or any other mill in the Preston area for that matter, John decided in August 1854 to look for a new life elsewhere by emigrating to America. His voyage would be financed by a special fund established by Preston Trade Unionists specifically for those among them who had suffered victimisation at the hands of the millowners. Aged just 22, his intention was to send for his wife and young child at a later date, when he had established himself overseas.
From this moment on, an incredible chain of events would occur that would transform the life of John Huntington forever. Upon reaching Liverpool he found a ship willing to take him to America, however some urgent repairs to the vessel meant that the sailing would have to be delayed for over a week. With not enough spare money to finance a week in Liverpool John returned to Preston for his family. Upon returning to Liverpool they were horrified to learn that the ship had already sailed without them. Another ship was eventually found and after finally arriving in New York, they learned the incredible news that the ship they had previously missed had never arrived and had been lost at sea with all hands.
Completely penniless the Huntington family headed for Cleveland, Ohio, where John met another Englishman originally from Bolton, who kindly gave them shelter. John soon found work and won a contract to construct a timber built school and by 1857 had established himself as a competent contractor.
One day in 1859 while out walking with two friends, they noticed a peculiar smell which they believed to be oil. After purchasing the land they discovered it was rich in “black gold” and this enterprise became the Standard Oil Company. It was enough to make John Huntington a millionaire
Never forgetting his humble beginnings John returned to Preston for a visit in 1868. He donated £1,000 to St Paul’s church, his former place of worship, which was used for a new baptistery with font. In January 1893 while at Southampton after touring Europe, John Huntington developed pneumonia and died. He was 60 years old.
It was his intention to return to America in his lavish newly built yacht after first sailing up the River Ribble into the new dock of his native town, but it was not to be. His remains were shipped back to the USA. Prior to his death he founded a Trust Fund in Cleveland for the benefit of charitable institutions and set aside £40,000. It was also revealed that the gifts he made in his lifetime totalled almost £500.000 (LCRO –W. Pilkington, Then & Now, The Illustrated Study of Preston’s Progress for 70 Years 1841-1911)
William Airey 1833-1912
A native of Kendal in the former county of Westmoreland and the son of a farm labourer, William came to live in Preston where he became a power loom weaver. By 1861 he had progressed to the better paid and more skilful occupation as a cotton spinner. It was during the next decade that William Airey is recognised as a prominent member of the Preston Operative Cotton Spinners Association, having been elected as Chairman. Similarly, for a period of years he also held the position of President of Preston Trades Union Council. (LCRO 1841, 51 & 61 censuses)
In his role with the Trades Council, William was pivotal in organising resistance to the Preston millowners proposed ten per cent wage reductions in 1869. (PC March 20th 1869)
Thomas Banks, the long standing Secretary of the Preston Operative Spinners Union recalled those events saying,
“Airey was indefatigable in his exertions on their behalf in negotiations with the masters and conducted business with considerable tact and discretion”
Banks also indicated that the compromise solution Airey painstakingly negotiated was disgracefully reneged upon by the employers at a later date. In 1871 following the tenure of his position of Chairman of the Preston Operative Spinners Association, a dinner was held in recognition of the service William had given to the Union. He was presented with a splendid set of drawers which bore the inscription,
Presented to William Airey by the members of the Preston Operative Cotton Spinners and Minders Association During the time he Held the Position of Chairman.(PC October 28th 1871)
By the year 1891 William had left the cotton trade and is recorded on the census of that year as a Barman. However, ten years later in 1901, now aged 68, his occupation is given as a cotton overlooker and he is living in lodgings at a terraced house, with 38 other persons, in High St, Preston. William Airey died aged 78 in October 1912, while residing in Elliot St in the town. (PC LCRO 1891 & 1901 census)
William Hubbersty 1835-1917
Born at Whittingham near Preston in 1835 William Hubbersty, lost his father at an early age and together with his brother James was brought up by his widowed mother, who was a weaver. During the 1840’s his family moved to Preston where William would also become a weaver, before marrying and living in Frank St, off Moor Lane. (LCRO 1851 & 61 census)
Many years later William recalled in a newspaper article how he first became a member of The Preston Operative Power Loom Weavers Society in 1849. This Trade Union had originally been formed in 1846 following a failed attempt in 1842, but would itself struggle before finally collapsing following the 1853 Preston lock out. It was not until 1857 that the Preston Operative Power Loom Weavers Association was once again established and officially constituted a year later in 1858.
William was one of a committee of six men who in those early days of the Preston Weavers Trade Union compiled a list of piece work prices for most types of cloths worked in the town. This Standard List of prices became the reference point that all weavers could call upon to calculate piece work wage rates and more importantly, could be used to compare wages with similar lists in other towns. William himself described the compiling of this Standard List as, “A stupendous achievement”.It was certainly a huge step forward.
As well as being a subscription collector along with his brother James for the emerging Preston Weavers Trade Union, which in itself demanded a great deal of commitment after work in all weathers, William was also the Treasurer of the organisation. By 1868 he had become a member of the Preston Working Men’s Political Reform Association, which had been formed in 1866 and held the position of Secretary. This organisation would almost certainly have been at the forefront of the Trade Union inspired campaign of the early 1870’s, to reduce working hours for women and young persons to 54 each week(PG August 1st 1866. PC December 12th 1868 & May 11th 1872)
In 1874, Hubbersty along with others, secured the nomination through Preston Trades Union Council of Mr Thomas Mottershead to fight the Preston seat and who aligned himself under the banner of a “Working Man’s Candidate”, for the forthcoming general election of 1874. Mottershead, a former silk weaver and chartist from London addressed a meeting of over 6,000 people at the Corn Exchange, where he delivered quite a radical left wing speech. Unfortunately for William Hubbersty and the other political reformers, Thomas Mottershead lost the election. (PC & PG January 31st 1874. PC February 7th 1874)
Another 32 years would pass before the dreams of William Hubbersty and like minded Trade Unionists would be realised, when the first “working man’s candidate” would be elected in Preston under the banner of the Labour Partyin 1906. Though connected with the Preston Power Loom Weavers Warpers and Winders Association as it later became known ,in some capacity throughout his life, William Hubbersty left the textile trade sometime in the 1870’s. In later years he carried out a number of different occupations including being a turner, a grocer and building worker. He died in September 1917 aged 82 in Preston.
Luke Park 1840-1921
Originally from Kirkham where he was born in 1840, Luke Park, the son of a weaver left his home town when his parents appeared to have separated for some reason. In 1851 he was living with his mother at a place called Friday St in Preston, which was among a cluster of streets well known for its squalor and levels of poverty. This area was inhabited by a large proportion of Irish immigrants and was at the time centred around the current Adelphi St roundabout and University buildings. (PC LCRO 1841 & 51 census)
He received some education at Fox St Catholic school but at a young age began work as a handloom weaver. Later he made the decision to return to Kirkham to live with his father, but abandoned the handloom to find employment at Whitworth & Barretts cotton mill at Wesham. Working as a power loom weaver Luke Park would work a 72 hour week, with overtime sometimes on top, but finding it difficult to settle in Kirkham and aged in his early twenties, he again returned to Preston. (LCRO 1861 census. PG October 1st 1921)
In 1871 aged 30, he was again living with his mother at Salter St, off North Rd and had left the weaving trade only to find himself as an unemployed brickmaker. Consequently, it was not long before Luke returned to weaving and in October 1875 was elected Secretary of the Preston Operative Power Loom Weavers Association. With a salary of 25 shillings (£1.25) per week, Luke Park eagerly set about his job however there was much to do. The 1870’s was a time of repeated downturns in the cotton industry which often led to wages and conditions coming under serious threat.
The Preston Weavers Association at this time was a struggling organisation, with the last two previous Secretaries having resigned in the space of twelve months. By sheer hard work and determination Park restructured the weavers society by initiating procedures more suitable to mutual bargaining between the employers and the union. With a depression in trade however in 1878, the Lancashire cotton districts including Preston, were plunged into deep crisis.
A series of wage reductions provoked strikes throughout the weaving districts and at Preston a mass meeting of weaving operatives was arranged to discuss the issue. Luke Park warned the operatives of the employers intentions in Preston to reduce wages by ten per cent and set out good reasons why he believed this move to be unnecessary. After a lengthy passionate debate the Preston weavers present at the meeting agreed to accept no more than a five per cent wage reduction. However it would be events elsewhere that would dictate proceedings. In early May 1878 the Lancashire Cotton Employers Association announced that all cotton mills within the County would cease work, until the 10% wage reductions were agreed to throughout all the cotton manufacturing districts. It was in fact the announcement of a County wide lock out.(PC April 20th & May 8th 1878)
Within days of declaring a general lock out serious rioting occurred at various cotton districts, with sporadic outbreaks of violence erupting in the London Rd and New Hall Lane of Preston. As the 17th Lancers were mobilised to restore order, Luke Park and other weaver’s delegates hastily assembled in Manchester to formulate a response. Despite fierce resistance from weavers within Preston and throughout Lancashire for over six weeks , the lock out ended on June 19th with the full 10% wage cuts imposed.(PC May 18th 1878)
Less than a year later in 1879 Luke Park was to receive yet more devastating news when the Preston millowners announced their intention to abolish the Preston Standard List of piece work prices and revert instead to the Blackburn Standard List. In effect this move, claimed Park, would result in a further ten per cent wage reduction for Preston weavers, in addition to a similar reduction suffered less than twelve months previous. (PC March 22nd 1879)
Park poured scorn on the employers fresh demands to reduce wages even further but against the backdrop of a major recession, the operative weavers grudgingly rejected a confrontation. The switch to the Blackburn Standard List by the Preston millowners did in fact result in another overall 5% cut, meaning the Preston operative weavers had suffered a devastating 15% reduction in wages in less than twelve months.
At the first signs of an upturn in trade at the beginning of 1880, the Preston Power Loom Weavers Association, eager to restore earlier wage cuts, petitioned the employers for a similar 10 % increase recently secured by the spinners. Yet it would be in nearby Blackburn that the main agitation would be focused, when the leaders of the local Power Loom Weavers Associations decided on a strategy of selective town strikes. Luke Park argued the case at a meeting of Preston weavers held to support the Blackburn operatives saying,
“Enough is enough, if Blackburn fails, Preston fails.(PC May 8th 1880)
Unfortunately it would be several years before the operative weavers of Lancashire and Preston were to see wage levels rise to pre recession levels. In 1884 Luke Park became a leading figure in the Northern Counties Weavers Amalgamation on its foundation and served on its central committee until 1919. The amalgamation itself was the successor of a wages committee comprised of the leaders of the various weavers associations from North and East Lancashire. A further deterioration in trade in the early 1890’s resulted in a proposition being forwarded by Park to alleviate growing unemployment. At a mass meeting of Preston weavers he spelled out the case to,
“Reduce the hours of work to eight each day, which will preserve jobs and prevent the overstocking of markets and the reduction in wages which usually follows”(PG August 13th 1892)
A passionate Socialist, Luke Park was elected the first ever chair of the Preston Branch of the Independent Labour Party, which was formed in March 1893, just two months after the ILP was formed nationally. He also diligently continued with his work on the committee of the Preston Power Loom Weavers Association. (PG April 1st 1893)
On November 18th 1916 the General Council of the Weavers Amalgamation appointed Luke Park as an honorary member of the Central Committee in appreciation of his service. The following resolution was adopted,
“That this council hereby express their approval and appreciation of the good service rendered to this amalgamation by Mr Luke Park and approve the recommendation to make him an extra member of the central committee, without the necessity of the annual election, so long as he continues his connection with the Preston district association”
Finally on September 20th 1919 after 44 years of unbroken service as secretary of the Preston Power Loom Weavers Association and aged 79, Luke Park announced his retirement. Two years after retiring, Luke Park passed away in September 1921 at his home in Maudland Bank aged 81. The Preston Guardian newspaper published a short obituary to Luke Park on the day of his funeral which read,
From humble beginnings Luke Park led a remarkable life of service and dedication to the Trade Union and weavers movement and would be remembered in the town long after his death. (PG October 1st 1921