High Hopes and Small Beginnings, 1825–60

  • Henry Pelling


THE evidence given to the Select Committees of 1824 and 1825 provides us with some idea of the general character of combinations early in the nineteenth century. A few of them were very elaborate in their structure. The West Riding Fancy Union, for instance, recruited textile workers in a wide area of Yorkshire, and had a hierarchy of committees leading up to a General Council, which alone could authorise a strike by any of the local branches. In London, the Tailors had several thousand members and an organisation described by Francis Place as ‘martial’, linking together the local groups at the ‘houses of call’ or public houses where masters could contact journeymen. But most combinations were of a much smaller and more localised type. There were innumerable clubs, each with usually not more than a few dozen members, yet each pursuing an existence which was either completely independent or only very loosely linked to other clubs in the same trade. Among the journeymen brushmakers, to take one example, the so-called United Society was in fact a network of autonomous clubs up and down the country, sharing no more than a mutual undertaking to provide hospitality for a day or two to any club member who might be ‘on tramp’.


Trade Union Trade Society High Hope Building Trade Friendly Society 
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© Henry Pelling 1976

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  • Henry Pelling

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