Braunston Strike & the 'H' Numbers

Picturing the Past: NarrowBoat, Spring 2012

Richard Thomas

Through an extensive series of postcards, many only recently rediscovered, Richard Thomas investigates the 1923 boatmen's strike and the man who photographed it

The biggest dispute in canal history concerning only boatmen was the strike of 1923. Organised by the Transport & General Workers Union, it broke out on 13th August 1923 and lasted 14 weeks. It involved 684 men working mainly for Fellows, Morton & Clayton, but the Chester & Liverpool Lighterage Co and Midlands & Coast Canal Carrying Co also became involved. The dispute arose when FMC proposed a reduction in boatmen’s rates of pay averaging 6.47%. The resulting strike brought to a halt virtually all long-distance traffic on the canals between London, the Midlands and north-east England. Eventually, the dispute was taken to arbitration, and the Industrial Court imposed an adjusted reduction of 5% to take effect in two equal instalments on 19th November and 18th December 1923. The union claimed this as a victory since it had succeeded in sustaining a lengthy strike involving a significant number of men by canal boat standards, and it had won recognition, arbitratio…

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