Digging Long Bredy

Long BredyA glimpse through the lens of time

By Lawrence Hansen

This year Long Bredy added a new ingredient to its traditional summer fete: a pop-up archaeological dig. Over the weekend of July 25-26, Dr Peter Northover recruited residents to dig metre-square pits in parts of the village he had selected by electromagnetic survey. It seems that the houses and roadways have changed positions in the past 1000 years and he is making it his business to find out where and how. One tiny village – Kingston Russell – has disappeared from sight altogether.

Dr Northover’s study has the benefit of historical records. However, beyond this study is a history of unrecorded human occupation as evidenced by the area’s extensive earthworks – the tumuli, barrows and strip linchets interrupting the natural curves of the downs which enfold the village. A delegate from this period dropped in for the weekend: the skeleton of a man from the 1st Century AD found in Long Bredy’s Baglake Farm a few years ago. He was brought along by the forensic archaeologist Barry Fitzgerald who checked him out of the County Museum and laid him out on a table in the village hall.

Also on display was a large collection of coins dating from Roman times found at another local farm. Just last year three skeletons dating from 800 BC were found at Bottle Knapp Cottage when a hole was being dug for a septic tank. In this old part of England the past is all around us, but especially in Long Bredy.

By |July 28th, 2015|History, Lawrence Hansen|0 Comments

Wildcats Strike Again

Bridport Wildcats

Saturday 14 February, as a group of Bridport women re-enacted the 1912 wildcat strike.

“We’re the Bridport Wildcats, singing for our rights – we won’t be exploited, we’ll put up a fight!”
Songs of protest resounded throughout Bucky Doo Square on Saturday 14 February, as a group of Bridport women re-enacted the 1912 wildcat strike of the workers of Gundry’s net-making factory, who were protesting against changes to their pay and conditions.

Bridport Wildcats

The strikers outside the entrance to Gundry’s factory, West Street. Photo by Clarence Austin. © Bridport Museum Trust

In 1912, the women strikers marched through Bridport singing the Suffragette anthem Shoulder to Shoulder. A collection to help the women raised nearly £10 (about £650 in today’s money). The Wildcats of 2015, in Edwardian costume, also sang Shoulder to Shoulder as well as other songs written for the occasion. They marched down West Street, waving protest banners and singing all the way, to the site of the old Gundry’s factory (now Amsafe).

There will be a reprise of the Wildcats singing for International Women’s Day on 7 March.

By |February 17th, 2015|History|0 Comments

Shoulder To Shoulder

The stirring story of the Bridport Wildcats

By Nick Pitt

Bridport Wildcats

The strikers outside the entrance to Gundry’s factory, West Street.
Photo by Clarence Austin. © Bridport Museum Trust

On 9 February 1912, the women networkers of Gundry’s factory in West Street arrived at work to discover that their scale of wages had been altered without consultation or notice. Forty women walked out on strike.

For a week, the Bridport Wildcats paraded around town, held meetings and sang suffragette anthems. They joined a union, negotiated a settlement and returned to work a week later with their heads held high.

To mark this poignant episode in Bridport’s history, a reconstruction is to be staged this Saturday, 14 February, from 10am to 1pm in Edwardian costume. The anthems that the Wildcats sang will resound once again in Buckydoo Square and a recreation of the photograph (above) will take place in West Street.

Gundry’s claimed they were merely attempting to make their scale of wages fairer by giving the lower-paid women more money, but that was at the expense of those on a higher rate. It is noteworthy that those who walked out were from both groups.

One striker, who unfortunately was not named, told the Bridport News: “Now I’ll show you how this alteration would affect me. At my work I can make 14s 6d a week, but under this new scale it would reduce me by at least 4½d a day, and at the same time a girl who had been making 7s a week would be paid more so as to make her wages a bit higher. It simply comes to this: I am to lose 2s 3d so that it can be put on to somebody else that’s not getting so much as me. Do you call that fair? Let the firm increase the lower-paid girls and not take it off me.”

The women strikers paraded with a banner reading ‘We Want Our Rights’ and sang songs including We Won’t Give In and Shoulder to Shoulder, the suffragette anthem.

A suggestion by Gundry’s that the local MP, Colonel Williams, should arbitrate was rejected and the Wildcats sent by telegram for Ada Newton, a full-time organiser of the National Federation of Women Workers. Newton arrived on Wednesday 14 February. She met the strikers in the afternoon and addressed a meeting of the women employees that evening in the large club room of the Hope and Anchor Inn on St Michael’s Lane. Seventy women signed up as union members.

The following morning, Newton had a meeting with Mr MacDonald, the factory manager, at which Gundry’s agreed to reinstate the old rates of pay and to give four weeks’ notice of any alteration in pay, such notice not to be given before 31 May. The women returned to work at 6am on 16 February.

The Bridport branch of the NFWW had a chequered history. The Federation’s annual report noted it that it was dissolved later in 1912 because matters had gone smoothly since the dispute and members did not think it worth keeping up their membership. That was common among low-paid workers. However, the branch was revived in 1914 and “two very successful socials” were held and attended by another Federation organiser, Helena Flowers.

• With thanks to Dr Cathy Hunt. Her book, The National Federation of Women Workers, 1906-21, is published by Palgrave Macmillan.

• For further information on the Bridport Wildcats event visit www.facebook.com/Bridportwildcats

By |February 9th, 2015|History|0 Comments