Tyne and Wear HER(14927): Birtley, Sheddon's Hill, site of miners meeting - Details
Birtley, Sheddon's Hill, site of miners meeting
Sheddon's Hill played a pivotal role in the Great Miners Strike of 1844. Tthe first Great Strike was in 1831 when a union of Northumberland and Durham miners had been formed under Thomas Hepburn. This first strike ended in victory for the miners with their hours shortened and their wages paid in money (rather than as 'credit' to spend in shops linked to the colliery). In 1832 Thomas Hepburn brought the miners out on strike again. Coal owners had decided that no miners who were members of the union would be 'bound' (miners were bound to their employer for a year at a time and the signed document included the terms of employment). The strike was not a success. No union member was re-employed and the union was dissolved. Some miners then formed the Miners' Association of Great Britain and Ireland, which started making progress in 1842-3. On 2nd March 1844 a meeting of miners took place on Sheddon's (Shadon's) Hill. An estimated 20,000 pimen attended. The principal grievances were the monthly (rather than annual) bond which had been introduced to break the Association, the frequency of explosions, a request for regular safety inspections, for accurate weighing machines and for weekly pay. The Mining Association of Great Britain and Ireland sent a letter to the coal owners requesting 'amicable adjustments' to miners' contracts, to avoid a strike, but the letter was not acknowledged. So on 5th April 1844, the miners of Northumberland and Durham terminated their 1843-44 contract with their employers. They would not enter into a new contract until their grievances had been met. A second mass meeting was held at Sheddon's Hill. Up to 40,000 miners attended along with music bands and banners. A genreal meeting was held on Newcastle Town Moor on 30th July. After 20 weeks, during which time miners families were evicted from their tied cottages and blackleg labour had been brought in from the rest of the country, the strike was over. The miners had been starved into surrender. The monthly bond was forgotten but the miners had to return on the owners terms.
Derrik Scott, date unknown, Great Strike of the Northumberland and Durham Coalfield in 1844, Durham In Time Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Durham County Council; R Arnot, 1949, The Miners; A Burton, 1976, The Miners; D Douglass, 1972, Pit Life in County Durham; R Fynes, 1923, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham; R Challinor and B Ripley, 1990, The Miners Association - A Trade Union in the Age of Chartists; M Kirkup (ed), 1999, The Great Northern Coalfield; M Pollard, 1984, The Hardest Work Under Heaven - The Life and Death of the British Coal Miner