The Chainmakers Strike 1910
This was a local history project. The consultant was Professor Carl Chinn. We worked with groups of young people at George Dixon Academy, Eden Academy, Calthorpe Academy, Kates Hill Primary School, and Holly Lodge High School.
The groups based at Calthorpe Academy, Kates Hill School, and Holly Lodge High School created drama pieces based on the story of the Chainmakers Strike. We were set to hold an event at the Black Country Living Museum in May 2020, when project groups would have shared the work they had been doing. But then, the covid-19 pandemic closed all schools; and our event had to be cancelled. This webpage was created by young people from George Dixon Academy.
The Black Country
It’s said that the Black Country gained its name in the 19th century from the smoke from the many thousands of working foundries and factories. Other theories mention the abundance of coal in the region.
Day by day,
Chain by chain
The workers work their lives away
Heavy to medium chains were made by men in factories. However, smaller chains were often hand-worked by women or children in small cramped forges in outbuildings next to the home. The work was hot, physically demanding and poorly paid. It was an example of a "sweated" trade.
We work round the clock.
When will it stop?
The Chainmakers Strike
In 1910, the women chainmakers of the Black Country laid down their tools to strike for a living wage. The strike focused the world’s attention on the plight of Britain’s low-paid women workers. It lasted 10 weeks and ended in victory!
Rouse, Ye Women
A song was written about the strike, called Rouse, Ye Women (to the tune of Men of Harlech).
The song attacks the system of sweated labour, and calls for united action through the trade union:
Rouse, ye women, long-enduring,
Beat no iron, blow no bellows,
Till ye win the fight, ensuring
Pay that is your due.
Patience Round was the oldest chainmaker to take part in the 1910 strike
Her life was wrapped up in the making of chains.
She was small in stature but had the heart of a lion.
There once was a lady named Patience Round
She worked many hours to make just a pound
Patience was just 12 when she started chainmaking. She relied on the work, whether she liked it or not. It was the only way she could earn money to live. She would earn as little as five shillings a week (25p).
Her life was hard and she worked long hours. In the winter, the fire of the forge kept her warm, and she loved the colour of the sparks that flew in the air. They looked especially beautiful at night; and this made her love her job.
In 1910, she had been working for 67 years and had never been on strike before. In fact she had never even been outside Cradley Heath!
You can see Patience in this photo - on the front row, third from the right.
The project was funded by a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund