The social contract

Trouble at mill? From the Lichfield Mercury, Friday, 26th June 1914. Click for a larger version.

There has been some discussion here recently between regulars David Evans and Peter Cutler about miners working at Walsall Wood Colliery on day to day contracts. As a consequence, Peter found the following article in the Lichfield Mercury of Friday, 26th June 1914.

This article gives a remarkable insight into the pernicious hold the still landed gentry of the time had over tiny communities like Walsall Wood, and says much about Bristish social and industrial history. It’s worth bearing in mind that only one month later the Great War would commence, and by the following December most of Europe would be aflame, creating a social change that would see the likes of his Lordship losing their hold forever. Remember that Bradford just owned this land, and didn’t work it. He was merely making money from the lease – nice work if you can come by it.

This really is the cusp of history, just before it all changed. Imagine a public meeting in Walsall Wood, debating the concern over the employment of more than a thousand working men and boys; the atmosphere would have been very charged, and presiding over it all, the most respected, educated man in the village, the Vicar. I note the local Doctor was nominated as communicator, one of the few other extensively educated people in Walsall Wood at the time.

You’ll notice two names here that gave their names to local roads – Peake and Wolverson – but not Bradford. Bradford Road was named after Doctor Robert Bradford, general practitioner and successor to Dr. John Coombe Maddaver as Medical Officer to Brownhills Urban District Council. I featured Dr. Maddaver’s report into the health of Brownhills and Walsall Wood from 1910 here last week.


Lord Bradtord’s Reply to Resolutions.


The trouble at Walsall Wood Collieiry, where 1,200 men have been working on contracts liable to be terminated at a day’s notice, has now been settled. The trouble arose owing to the difficulty the Colliery Company had experienced in arranging terms with Lord Bradford for a new lease, which had become necessary through the original workings having been exhausted, and the failure to secure which would, it was feared, necessitate the closing of the colliery.

It was decided at a public meeting at Walsall Wood, presided over by the Vicar (the Rev. W. W. Boulton) to ask Lord Bradford to receive a deputation on the subject, in view of the calamitous consequences to the district which a stoppage of the colliery would bring about. Dr. Wolverson, who communicatecl this request, recewed the following letter from his lordship:

Weston-Shifnal, June 20, 1914.

Dear Sir,- I waited [I suspect that’s a typo for ‘wanted’ – Bob] to acknowledge and reply to your letter, received yesterday, containing resolutions by the inhabitalits of Walsall Wood, as I hoped I might be able to relieve the anxiety which is felt in the neighbourhood as to the position of the colliery. You may safely feel that I, on my part, am doing everything I can to ensure that the employment there should continue as in the past; and under these circumstances it is unnecessary for the deputation to wait upon me as suggested.

Yours faithfully,


Lord Bradford is one of the company’s principal lessors. Owing to the most profitable seams of coal having been exhausted, the company are umlerstood to have found it necessary to ask for a reduction in the amount of royality paid per ton of coal raised, as othenrwise it would be impossible to continue operations without incurring a serious loss. Apparently no adequate concession could be obtained, as recently the whole of the workpeople employed by the company, numbering some 1,200, received notice to terminate their engagements. These notices expired on Saturday, and the men, as stated above, weire at work on day to day contracts.

A private confernce took place on Monday, and it was generally understood that a settlement had been arrived at. The workmen at the colliery believed that the question had been settled, and that work would continue as usual. Mr. Peake, jun., seen by a Press representative, said that the impression which had got abroad that a settlement had been arrived at had some foundation, but a further meetiug was to be held in consequence of  something else which had arisen.

Lord Bradford’s letter, quoted above, made it clear that his lordship was as anxious as anyone that the interests of the district should not be prejudicially affected, and the settlement which has now been arrived at will be received with rejoicing.

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4 Responses to The social contract

  1. Pedro says:

    Bob notes…

    “and presiding over it all, the most respected, educated man in the village, the Vicar.”

    The subject of the relationship between Religion and the Miners was touched upon here under the post Union and Chapel…

    Back in 1872 we had the Rev Poole of Burntwood addressing a rally of miners and promoting the status quo…

    “in that happy time the masters would occupy their due position and men would be paid according to their merit and not en masse.”

    Later in 1910 the Vicar of Wall was reported to have heckled the parliamentary candidate for Lichfield, Courtney Warner (Liberal) as he addressed a meeting.

  2. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    a big thankyou to Pedro, please.

  3. Pedro says:

    In 1894 the Address from the tenants of the Walsall estate to the Earl and Countess of Bradford on their golden wedding anniversary can be seen here at Stafforshire Past-Track…

    Click on the transcription below the picture to read…

    …And we assure you that your Lord Ships reputation as a good landlord is not excelled in the county..

  4. Pingback: Walsall Wood 1911, before and beyond | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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