The Cock Road Gang

Cock Road was, in the 18th Century, a tiny hamlet on the outskirts of Bristol, within the lawless Kingswood Forest. Though a small area, the exploits of the inhabitants brought it to the attention of the authorities of Bristol, Gloucestershire and Somerset. It was claimed that a criminal gang, unmatched in notoriety, came from Cock Road. In reality, anyone committing a criminal act who lived in the forest was tarnished as a member of the gang. They were engaged in horse stealing, burglary, […]

Bristol and the Labour Unrest of 1910-14

Bristol and the Labour Unrest Front Cover
1910 saw a renewed outbreak of industrial strife as significant sections of the trade union rank-and-file began to express their frustration at the lack of progress made in their struggle for better working conditions and a new social order. Strikes reached levels not seen since the ‘new unionism’ upsurge of 1889-92. Worker unrest combined with clashes over Home Rule for Ireland and the militant tactics of suffrage campaigners added to the problems of the ruling class who, confronted by these […]

Bliss Tweed Mill Strike, 1913–14

Causes, Conduct and Consequences

Bliss Mill Front Cover
Eighteenth of December 2013 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the commencement of the Bliss Tweed Mill strike in Chipping Norton. The years 1910 to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 witnessed an upsurge in strike activity in Great Britain and Ireland involving many thousands of workers. By the summer of 1914, strikes, in the coal, cotton, transport, metal, engineering, shipbuilding and building industries, were viewed by the government as a crisis of severe proportions. This […]

Walter Virgo and the Blakeney Gang

The struggle against enclosure in the Forest of Dean in the latter part of the nineteenth century

Walter Virgo and the Blakeney Gang Front
These are some of the headlines which started appearing in the Gloucester Citizen and Western Daily Press in the 1890s. This pamphlet will try and get behind the headlines and reveal what was really going on in the Blakeney area of the Forest of Dean at the time. THE BLAKENEY OUTRAGES “WORSE THAN IRELAND” - THE VICAR ASKS FOR EXCEPTIONAL LAW A REIGN OF TERROR - SPEECH BY MINERS AGENT ASSAULT ON THE POLICE IN BLAKENEY - THE RECENT OUTRAGES MORE LAWLESSNESS AT BLAKENEY - RESIDENTS ARMED ALLEGED […]

The Origins and an Account of Black Friday – 23rd December 1892

Black Friday Front Cover
Autumn 1892 in Bristol saw a violent class war between employers, strike-breaking labour and police on one side and strikers and their mass of working-class supporters on the other; picketing, mass marches and public meetings of thousands of ‘new’ industrial unionists were common. The strike-wave culminated in the use of military and police by the local state to break up a pre-Christmas parade which had been organised to collect money for strikers and their families. This event, which popularly […]

Pirates to Proletarians

The Experience of the Pilots and Watermen of Crockerne Pill in the Nineteenth Century

Pirates To Proletarians Front Cover
From the earliest days of recorded history river pilots have navigated ships through the dangerous waters of the Bristol Channel and up the river Avon, with its twisting bends, shifting sand banks and strong currents. In the early nineteenth century, Bristol was granted rights to compulsory pilotage over the whole of the Channel. The Society of Merchant Venturers managed and regulated licenced pilots on behalf of Bristol Corporation. However, pilots were self-employed and operated in competition […]

The Bristol Strike Wave of 1889-1890

Socialists, New Unionists and New Women - Part 2: Days of Doubt

Bristol Strike Wave Pt 1 Front Cover
Following on from part one, this pamphlet traces the period of industrial unrest in Bristol between January and August 1890. The lockout of boot and shoe workers that began in December 1889, and continued for the first few weeks of January 1890, provided the opportunity for combining the forces of skilled organised workers with the unskilled and unorganised, in the drive to improve working conditions. It also encouraged forms of social unionism, with links to the wider community. Employers […]

The Bristol Strike Wave of 1889-1890

Socialists, New Unionists and New Women - Part 1: Days of Hope

Bristol Strike Wave Pt 1 Front Cover
During 1889-1890, a strike wave swept across Britain hitting many major towns and cities. Bristol was not immune. The scale and intensity of industrial unrest in the city reached a level never experienced before. The city’s labour historian Samuel Bryher depicted Bristol at this time as ‘a seething centre of revolt’. This experience set in train a qualitative change in the organisation of workers; and salutary lessons emerged for consideration for those politically active in the newly formed […]

Ben Tillett

Ben Tillet Front Cover
This booklet concerns the life of a working-class Bristolian who, though tireless and outspoken in his early days in addressing the inequalities of society, nevertheless moved more and more towards a position of contempt for both the members of his own trade unions and the working people who voted for him as an MP. A study of Ben Tillett’s life contains, I think, lessons that will enable readers to deepen their understanding of the historical roots of ‘New Labour’ with its duplicity and […]

Bread Or Batons?

Unemployed Workers' Struggles in 1930s Bristol

Bread Or Batons? Font Cover
The banking crisis of 2008 and the following deep recession experienced by the world economy have led to mass unemployment and poverty in the U.K. Massive public sector cuts along with huge financial bonuses for the wealthy have exacerbated the systemic divisions between ‘rich and poor’ which lie at the heart of the neo-liberal economy. For many commentators the spectre of economic depression has raised its ugly head once again. It thus seems apt to look back at Bristol in the period of the last […]