A new community group has been set up to commemorate a historic episode in the life of Stockton-on-Tees. The Battle of Stockton Campaign (BoS) aims to immortalise the events of September 10th 1933 in the imagination of the town. On this day, local people repelled the infamous British Union of Fascists (BUF). Their foot soldiers, known as ‘blackshirts’ marched on the town in a bid to recruit new members.
BoS Chair, Sharon Bailey explains; “Stockton was an ideal town for the BUF to target as it was hit particularly hard by the 1930’s Great Depression. In Germany, similar towns had fallen under the sway of the Nazis so the BUF expected to be met with a warm welcome.
Instead, they were met with resistance. More than two thousand local people were waiting by the Market Cross for the BUF activists – who had been bussed in from around the country. Fighting between the BUF and the people of Stockton ensued. The blackshirts were forced down Silver Street before being ordered by Police to leave the town. They fled to their buses across the river and never returned.”
Stockton was by no means unique in attracting the attention of fascist activists during the pre-war years. However, the significance of the “Battle of Stockton” was largely forgotten, unlike the now legendary “Battle of Cable Street” in London which took place 3 years later and is regularly commemorated by residents.
The Battle of Stockton Campaign has been set up as a social history project and aims to have physical memorials of the event placed around the town – such as a mural and a plaque. Plans to host a yearly event on the memorial of the battle with performances, local bands and speakers are already taking shape. An educational outreach is also planned, it aims to disseminate knowledge of the BoS to students and the wider community.
Sharon continues; “The Battle of Stockton is an almost forgotten part of our towns history that local people today can feel proud of. We’ve already been contacted by a number of residents telling stories of how their older relatives took part on the day.
“Everyone knows what impact fascism had on Europe during the 30’s and 40’s – and how our country stood up to it. This project will show how Stockton-on-Tees was at the forefront of Britain’s resistance.”
Campaigners have been making considerable progress towards their goals. Text for a plaque has been finalised and artists for a mural are currently being spoken to. Educational activities about the Battle of Stockton will be presented at the Schools History National Conference this year. Public meetings continue to be held and there are even plans to brew a special ‘Battle of Stockton’ ale by the local Three Brothers Brewery to be sold in local pubs.
Anyone wanting to attend a meeting or join in with the campaign can do so by emailing email@example.com and more details of the campaign can be found on the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thebattleofstocktoncampaign
The Battle of Stockton Campaign committee can be reached at:
Get an introduction to the hidden history, culture and people of the North East of England.
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For those few of you who didn’t make it Professor David Saunders’ terrific Jubilee talk on 7 November 2017 about Matvei Fischer and his son Rudolf Abel (he of “Bridge of Spies” fame), here is a link to David’s 2004 paper about Matvei Fischer.
Harry Barnes was Labour M.P. North East Derbyshire 1987-2005. He has been building a blog since 2006 and one of its threads is about Easington and Easington Colliery. There is also a mass of other thoughts and reports which are worth exploring from the Easington link.
A new Gallery of Mining Art has opened at Aukland Castle in Co Durham, giving a permanent home for the renowned Gemini Collection of Mining Art, which includes more than 420 works by prominent local artists such as Tom McGuinness and Norman Cornish.
The site will help visitors to understand what it felt like to work in the coalmines and shed light on why some miners felt it necessary to paint the dark, clamorous, claustrophobic and arcane world, otherwise denied to the gaze of those above ground.
As well as preserving a vital aspect of coalfield heritage for future study and appreciation, the Mining Art Gallery will also offer a wide range of opportunities to explore the history of mining and the impact it had, not just on those who worked there, but on the County Durham community as a whole.
The Auckland Project is currently developing a programme of educational activities and community events to help the region’s residents engage with this heritage and have offered a number of volunteering opportunities within the gallery when it opens on 21 October.
NELH usually focus on North East events and history, but Grunwick was a key moment in British Labour History. In 1976, six workers walked out of Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory in Willesden and ignited an historic two-year dispute which united thousands to demand better rights for poorly treated workers.
Two murals to commemorate the event have been unveiled in Willisden, the site of the dispute.
More information on the Grunwick Strike at the Grunwick 40 site.
Keith Armstrong has made a five minute video, ‘Thomas Spence in London’ (1750 -1814) which includes renditions of two of his polemics, ‘The Hive of Liberty’ and ‘Pigs Meat’, the latter including the delightful lines, ‘Pigs meat, pigs meat / We piss on the elite’.
- Fifty Years of the North East Labour History Society
- Picketing, Photography and Memory: Easington 1984-85
- Jack Trevena: WEA District Secretary and Conscientious Objector
- The Bagnalls of Ouseburn: Watermen, Publican, and Sporting Hero
- Trade Unionism and Methodism
- Rose Lumsden, a Sunderland Nurse in the Great War
- Gender and Social Transformation in the 1970s Community Development Projects
- Commemorative Plaques and Monuments, some recent examples
- Davey Hopper 1943 – 2016. A Personal Appreciation
Leanne Smith has been awarded the annual Sid Chaplin Memorial Prize for the best undergraduate dissertation on North East history. Leanne, who graduated from the University of Sunderland this summer with a First Class degree, chose as her subject a little known, almost forgotten aspect of social history.
Leanne’s dissertation, ‘The Struggle over Female Labour in the Durham Coalfield, 1914-1918’, has unearthed original research into how the Durham Mining Association (DMA) resisted pressure from colliery owners and the government to accept the introduction of female labour during the First World War.
“At the time it was claimed that the DMA’s refusal to employ women miners was based on concerns over the undercutting of wages,” say Leanne. “But in contrast two of the country’s largest labour concerns, The Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Clyde Workers Committee, reacted very differently. They negotiated to protect men’s position and wages within their industry. They accepted women into their very traditional industry.”
“My research shows that the Durham Mining Association resisted reforms, because they believed it was necessary to continue the status quo. The DMA were a very conservative body, who believed that a sexual division of labour was essential to coal mining communities such as the Durham coalfield.”
“Women contributed not just domestically. It was women who built the Durham mining community, who held together the family unit and brought stability that made it possible for the coal mining industry to exist – and made equality impossible in the minds of the Durham Mining Association.”
The North East Labour History Society is pleased to announce that it has published transcripts of the personal memories of sixty people from the North East. You can find these on our website at: http://nelh.net/oral-history/
Do take a look and tell us what you think. If you have transcripts or notes from interviews with people who have been involved in the labour movement in the North East we would be delighted to provide space for them on our site ().