Support for the St Albans bootmakers on strike

On the afternoon of Saturday 1 September 1894, a parade and mass meeting was held in support of the men on strike at Messrs. Freshwater and Co.’s boot factory, Lower Dagnall Street, St Albans. Headed by the St. Albans City Brass Band, who gave their services gratuitously, and the banner of the Metropolitan Branch of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Overatives, about a hundred men paraded the principal streets of the city and collections were made on behalf of the funds, starting from the Market square at five o’clock.

The strike was largely about pay, but matters were not helped by blackleg operators being brought in from Colchester. The men were paid 28s a week for which they had to work 54 hours, making the rate about 6½d per hour, when unskilled labourers were paid 6d per hour. At slack times, Bank Holidays and stocktaking, the men did not work, so the average wage was actually less than 28s per week. The female operatives at the firm, not being organised in a trade union, were not on strike with their male colleagues. The dispute was eventually resolved in October 1894 through arbitration.

This photo shows the St Albans City Band, resting after the parade, taking advantage of refreshments which had been supplied by the striking bootmakers and their supporters.

This dispute, however, was the first of several over the next few years involving the boot & shoe industry in Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire in particular.

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