Wrenthorpe Colliery 6: the 1919 lockout

Even during the First World War, industrial relations at the pit did not run smoothly.

Leeds Mercury
Friday 26 October 1917

WAKEFIELD STRIKE SETTLED

The strike at the Wrenthorpe Colliery, Wakefield, which has been in progress for the past seven weeks, has now been settled, and the men and boys, to the number of about 1,800, will resume work next week.

The dispute arose owing to the demand of the bye-workers to be supplied with coal at the same price as the, miners, the latter receiving their coal six shillings per load, whilst the bye-workers had to pay eight shillings.

The management have now acceded the bye-workers’ request.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Tuesday 23 April 1918

MINERS’ COUNCIL MEETING

A meeting of the Council of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association was held at Barnsley yesterday, Mr H Smith (president) being in the chair…

The Council decided to grant lock-out pay to members at the Wrenthorpe Colliery, near Wakefield, in consequence of the engine winders refusing to lower men, and also decided to deal with the question at a future Council meeting, with a view to taking action to avoid similar stoppages.

And as demobilised men returned to work at the pit they were dogged by a dispute caused by a rival trade union.

Leeds Mercury
Monday 21 April 1919

LOCKOUT PAY
THE STOPPAGE AT WRENTHORPE COLLIERY

A special meeting of the Council of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association at Barnsley on Saturday considered the dispute at Wrenthorpe Collieries, near Wakefield, and decided to grant lock-out pay to members who have been out work about a week.

Mr Smith (president) said the dispute had been forced upon the Association by another organisation, and was not the fault of the men at the colliery. He pointed out that over 700 men at this colliery enlisted, and eighty-one were killed. There was an understanding between the owners and that Association that men who were recently set should be dismissed in order to make room for men returning from the Army. Under this agreement 146 members of the Association had left. A blacksmith belonging to another Association received notice, but when that expired the remaining pick sharpeners, seven or eight, left, and the miners were told that they could not continue working because there were no sharpened tools. The Association would have to consider whether they would work any longer with a few members belonging to another Society, as this showed that it was necessary that the whole industry should be organised in one body.

“The effect of the action of a small section,” added Mr Smith, “is that we have to pay lock-out pay to 1,800 men and boys.”

Wrenthorpe Colliery 5: summer of strikes and enlisting

The colliery closed in 1900 but reopened seven years later, trading as part of the Low Laithes Colliery Company Limited.

Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War the mine was called which lasted for much of the summer. It’s traced in the Yorkshire newspapers.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 6 June 1914

STRIKE AT A WAKEFIELD PIT

The employees, numbering between 1,200 and 1,300 at Wrenthorpe Colliery, Wakefield (Low Laithes Colliery Company), have now been out strike over week, and the pit ponies have been drawn out. The sudden cessation of work arose through the men at the coal face being requested to hew coal to the depth of one yard six inches instead of one yard ten and a half or eleven inches, as before. This, the men contended, was contrary to the existing agreement. The management, on the other hand, confess that they are somewhat a loss to understand the attitude of the men below ground. It is understood that a deputation of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association will interview the management on Monday with the view of arriving at a settlement of the trouble.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Saturday 13 June 1914

STRIKE WRENTHORPE PIT

At an adjourned meeting, yesterday, of the employees of the Wrenthorpe Colliery, Wakefield, who have been strike about a fortnight, the question of returning to work on the old conditions in accordance with the offer of the management was further considered. In the course of the meeting, however, it was stated that the deputies had gone on strike for an increase in wages, and this practically broke up the meeting. Deputies’ pickets were afterwards put out in the neighbourhood of the pit. It would thus appear that the settlement of the trouble is now as remote as ever.

Leeds Mercury
Thursday 18 June 1914

WAKEFIELD MINERS’ STRIKE

The strike at Wrenthorpe Colliery, near Wakefield, still continues. Yesterday pickets of the miners met the surfacemen on their way to work and endeavoured to persuade them to stay away and throw in their lot with the strikers. In some cases they were successful. Out of the sixty-one top men who went to work Monday, fewer than a score remain.

By mid-June the colliery’s owners came up with a tactic to break the strike. They issued summons to about half the pit’s workers, suing them for breach of contract, as they left work without giving 14 days’ notice.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 22 June 1914

THE COLLIERY STRIKE: NEARLY 600 SUMMONSES

Arising out the strike at the Wrenthorpe Colliery of the Low Laithes Colliery Company, several weeks ago, through which between 1,200 and 1,300 men and boys have been rendered idle, summonses have been served 583 of the employees for breach of contract, and these are returnable before the county magistrates to-day.

Our Wakefield correspondent learns that as the strikers allege the management have been guilty of a breach of agreement requesting the men hew six inches less coal than formerly (thus throwing wrong the prices list agreed upon), it is the intension of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association to make it a test case for the whole the county.

The Yorkshire Evening Post describes the scenes as the miners marched from the Colliery Newton Bar to the Court in Wood Street. And the union’s trump card – to file a counter claim.

Yorkshire Evening Post
Monday 22 June 1914

MINERS’ PROCESSION TO POLICE COURT
WRENTHORPE STRIKE SEQUEL
OVER 500 COLLIERS SUMMONED AT WAKEFIELD

Strange scenes were witnessed at Wakefield to-day in connection with the prosecution of 583 miners, employees at the Wrenthorpe Colliery, where a strike progress. As early as eight o’clock the summoned miners, with their womenfolk and children, and other sympathisers, gathered the gates the Wrenthorpe Pit, which is owned by the Low Laithes Colliery Company (Limited).

Two hours later several thousand people had assembled. The men passed the time by cheering and enthusiastically greeting various prominent “deputies” and leaders as they arrived on the spot, and subsequently a brass band attended, and a procession was formed, and headed by the band and the branch banners of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association marched into the town via Northgate.

Interested crowds of people lined the route, and when the procession reached Wood Street there was soon a crowd of many thousands outside the West Riding Court House. A large force of police officers was in the vicinity, but there was no disorder. The miners cheered lustily, and then the procession broke up, the summoned men filing into the Court House in an orderly manner.

By the time the defendants were accommodated the court was crowded. Mr Percy Tew, the Deputy-Lieutenant of the County, presided on the Bench, and among those present the well of the court was Major Atcherley, Chief Constable of the West Riding.

Mr G E Blakeley, solicitor, of Dewsbury, prosecuted; and Mr A W Willey, of Leeds, appeared for the defence.

Mr Blakeley said the summonses had been issued under the Employer and Workman Act of 1875 against 583 workmen, and the claim in respect of each was a sum of £3 for damages sustained by the company in consequence the breach of contract by the various defendants leaving work without giving the necessary fourteen days’ notice.

OBJECTIONS TO THE SUMMONSES

Mr Arthur Willey submitted that the summons and the claims were bad, because they were deficient, not giving the date of the alleged breach of contract. It was true, he was informed, the contract was broken by notice not having been given; but some of the men had worked at the colliery for fifteen or twenty years.

How could he file a counter-claim on behalf of any one of those men? Any counter-claim filed two days before the hearing the case, and it was impossible to do it on particulars which he had not got.

“I am,” he added, “acting for nearly 600 men in regard to a dispute which has been going since May 21. People who bring 500 people here indiscriminately ought to let me have full particulars. These men work in different shifts. Thirty of them have prodded me with medical certificates to prove their inability work on certain dates, but how can I produce them when I do not know the date on which they are accused of breaking the contract?”

QUESTION OF COUNTER-CLAIM

The claim was too general, he added, and was entitled particulars and an adjournment to give him an opportunity of counter-claiming.

“With regard to the men having broken a contract,” he observed, “the plaintiffs have broken theirs, but I cannot yet frame my counter-claim, etc. As a matter of fact, one man who is summoned has not worked at this pit for two years. (Laughter.) Another man has never worked there in his life.” (Loud laughter.)

The gist of the claim, Mr Willey also said, was for damages. The plaintiffs were asking for fifteen or sixteen hundred pounds’ damages, and these would have to be proved because the magistrates could not give them “moral and intellectual” damages. (Laughter).

Mr Blakeley said one knew better than the defendants, the date on which they deliberately “threw down”, and that it was the unvariable rule and law to give 14 days’ notice, and when the notice was not given that it was open for the colliery company to sue for damages. The defendants also knew that the damages meant 5s. a day for twelve days following May 26th, the date on which they struck work. There was no reason at all why, if they had any, the defendants should not have put in counter-claims, without single date.

AN ADJOUBNMENT GRANTED

Mr Willey said he expected the date to have been June 8, because there was a week of negotiations after May 26. There was also a settlement after that, but other circumstances arose and the negotiations came to nothing.

The Chairman said the magistrates did not think the summonses were legally bad. The Court could amend them and give leave to the defendants to put counter-claims, but, under the circumstances, they thought it would seem fairer to allow an adjournment.

Mr Willey: It is extremely probable I shall have 500 counter-claims to file and that means good deal of clerical work and time.

After a consultation between the solicitors the case was adjourned until Thursday, July 2nd.

A further adjournment was agreed in court in early July and by the 10th of that month, it was reported that the miners had gone back to work.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Friday 10 July 1914

RETURN TO WORK

The miners at the Wrenthorpe colliery, Wakefield, who have been on strike for about six weeks are to resume work. They complain of the very little financial support they have received from miners in other districts.

After a consultation between the solicitors the case was adjourned until Thursday, July 2nd.

Less than four weeks later Britain was at war and Wrenthorpe Colliery miners were keen to enlist.

Leeds Mercury
Tuesday 8 September 1914

MINERS TO THE FORE

Eighty-four miners from Wrenthorpe Colliery, near Wakefield, have joined the colours, and about 100 have gone from Park Hill Colliery.

Wrenthorpe Colliery War Memorial unveiled

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Monday 4 April 1921

WAR MEMORIAL TO WAKEFIELD MINERS

A memorial to men of the Wrenthorpe Colliery who fell in the Great War, erected in St John’s Churchyard, Wakefield, was unveiled on Saturday by Lieutenant-Colonel H S Kaye, Officer Commanding the 4th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. There was a large gathering of workers from the colliery, and relatives.

Previous to the unveiling ceremony a service was held in the church, and the Bishop of Wakefield (Dr G R Eden) delivered an address. The memorial, which has been erected by the owners and workpeople of the colliery, is in the form of an octagon pillar in granite, surmounted by a Geneva cross. It bears the names of nearly 100 men from the Wrenthorpe Colliery who fell.

Soldier who stepped off moving train

The sad case of a First World War soldier who stepped off a moving train in the East Riding. His possessions contained a Wrenthorpe address.

Yorkshire Evening Post
Saturday 20 November 1915

TRAGIC AFFAIR NEAR GOOLE.
SILENT MAN’S FAREWELL TO TWO WOMEN AT WAKEFIELD

There was tragic occurrence the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway line near Goole, last night, a private soldier, William Westwood, 17291, B Company, 3rd Batt K0YLI, stationed Hull, stepping out of a moving train and being instantly killed.

According to a statement made to the police by Ernest Barton, a goods porter, of Goole, who travelled in the same compartment, the deceased joined the 8.10 p.m. train at Wakefield, and before leaving was in conversation with two women on the platform, both whom he kissed and bade “good night”.

When the train moved off he immediately sat in a corner of the compartment, where he remained with his head between his hands, practically throughout the journey. He did not speak to Burton. When the train was about a mile from Goole and travelling at top speed Westwood suddenly stood up, and without a moment’s hesitation, opened the carriage door and disappeared.

Barton, who had had no time to stop him, at once pulled the communication chain, and when the train was stopped and a search made, Westwood was found dead on the metals, bleeding from a long and deep wound on the head.

Among his possessions the address “Wheel Hill, Bragg Lane End, near Wrenthorpe”, and a return ticket from Wakefield Hull.

According later particulars obtained from Goole, this afternoon, the tragic occurrence happened as the train was near the engine shed at Airmyn. Westwood, it was stated, had asleep, and, suddenly waking up, he jumped from his seat, opened the carriage door, and walked straight out. The whole thing happened so quickly that the other occupants of the carriage had no time to interfere.

It may be, of course, that the man, on suddenly awakening, jumped to the conclusion that he had reached his destination, and, without further thought, got out, believing he would step on to the station platform.

Westwood’s battalion is stationed at Newlands, Hull. His home is at Eastmoor, Wakefield. He was a married man.

The body was taken to Goole to await an inquest.

An inquest at Goole on 22 November returned a verdict of accidental death. He is buried at Wakefield Cemetery.

 

Melbourne House and the WW1 war effort

Yorkshire Evening Post
Tuesday 14 November 1916

“PROPHET WROE’S MANSION”
To the Editor of The Yorkshire Evening Post

Sir,– Rather more than two miles from the city Wakefield, on the main road to Bradford, stands Melbourne House, perhaps better known locally as “Prophet Wroe’s Mansion”.

This palatial residence, situated on one the finest sites in the district, has now been unoccupied for many years.

In view of the fact that all available accommodation is required at such time this for providing convalescent homes and hospitals for our wounded heroes, I am surprised that this most suitable mansion has not before now been commandeered by the authorities in power.

There have been times during this war when education has had to stand on one side in order to provide accommodation for troops. Then, why allow this charming dwelling to remain empty?

No doubt some local gentlemen with more influence than I have, will take up the matter, now that it has been brought to their notice. – Yours, etc.,

A SOLDIER,
Wakefield, November 13th, 1916.

Yorkshire Evening Post
Thursday 16 November 1916

PROPHET WROE’S MANSION
To the Editor of The Yorkshire Evening Post

Sir, – My attention having been drawn to a letter your paper of yesterday’s date, headed “Prophet Wroe’s Mansion”, and signed “Soldier”, beg to direct your attention to an important misstatement contained therein.

It is not the case that the house has not been occupied for several years; such has never been the case any time. It is at present occupied, and, moreover, is regularly used, by the office bearers of the Christian Israelite Church as their headquarters for the transaction of necessary Church business. – Yours, etc.,

ONE OF THE OFFICE BEARERS,
Leeds, November 16th, 1916.