site of working class history in north east england
Fourteen Past Issues of the Society’s Journal Now Available on this Website
You can now download the whole of issue 1 (1967) and issues 36 (2005) though to 48 (2017) from our Journal pages. This is the first fruit of a decision by the Society to make as many past issues of the Journal available. To access these downloads go to http://nelh.net/the-societys-journal/previous-issues/ and click on the image of the Journal you wish to read.
Joel Wootten presented with the 2018 Sid Chaplin prize by Sid’s grandson, Grahame Chaplin
Grahame Chaplin presents the Sid Chaplin trophy to Joel Wootten
Joel Wootten, whose essay on Chartism in Gateshead won this year’s Sid Chaplin Prize was presented with the trophy by Grahame Chaplin, Sid’s grandson at this year’s NELH Annual General Meeting.
There are a number of important works on Chartism in the North East. However, these studies have focused almost exclusively on Newcastle and as a result, the significance of the movement in Gateshead is downplayed. Those works that do mention Gateshead only refer to it in passing as a useful anecdote of ‘physical force’ Chartism. Joel’s dissertation seeks to redress this significant gap in North-East labour studies.
Despite previous assumptions that Gateshead Chartism was inherently weak, what we find on closer inspection is that the strength of the town’s movement matched and occasionally surpassed that of its neighbours. This is evident when we look at Gateshead’s activity during the movement’s ‘doldrum years’.
London Socialist Historians Newsletter, Spring 2018
Excellent atricles in the latest edition of the LSH Newsletter. Link to it here.
The Battle of Stockton: Campaign Commemorates Town’s Historic Refusal of Fascism
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
Matvei Fischer, a Newcastle Old Bolshevik – Paper by David Saunders
Willie Fischer (Rudolf Abel) and his father Matvei Fischer
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’ Easington Blog
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.
Mining Art Gallery opens at Aukland Castle
Setting A Prop by Bob Olley
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.
Murals Commemorating the 1976 Grunwick Strike
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.