Conisbrough & Denaby Main
Heritage Group

The Bag Muck Strike 1902/3

What was it all about?  Basically it was a dispute between the miners and the Management regarding what they got paid to remove waste material on the coal face.

The Barnsley Seam had several different qualities of coal in distinct layers within the seam.  Separating these layers was a layer of marl that had to be removed to get to those above.  

The miners went on strike and the owners retaliated by evicting them from their houses when they were unable to pay the rent that they owed.  The miners lived in tied houses and the rent for them was deducted from their wages.

​Newspaper Articles of the Time

Denaby Colliery - Bag Muck Strike
24th November 1902
The struggle between Masters and men at Denaby and Cadeby Main is still prolonged and the prospects of an amicable agreement get more and more remote. Many families have left the district in the past few days and the Colliery company are going to take firm steps as over seven hundred Ejectment Orders are to be applied for at the Doncaster Police Court on Saturday.  These it is anticipated will be put into force shortly before Christmas and the acute distress which will result in the event of this extreme course being pursued can really be imagined.  

5th December 1902
A telegram from Mexbro' says that great distress prevails at Denaby Main Colliery owing to the stoppage of strike pay from the Union funds.  The result of the conference at Sheffield with the managing directors is eagerly awaited by four thousand miners who left work 20 weeks ago.   Only small financial help can be given in the district because of trade depression.

6th December 1902
The Denaby Main unemployed miners today received a double grant of £1 from their Union because of Christmas.

24th December 1902
The Denaby Main unemployed miners today received £1 per man and 1s 6d per child from the Yorkshire Miners Association, being double pay on account of Christmas. A wholesale firm has promised boots for all of the children. There is no sign of a settlement before the evictions from the cottages of the Colliery Company takes place.

6th January 1903
Gloucester Citizen
Evictions at the mining village of Denaby Main commenced at nine o clock on Tuesday morning.  At the time of telegraphing there was no sign of disturbance. Two hundred policemen were present.  In many cases men and women had been downstairs all night packing furniture for removal.  The police had little trouble most of the articles being ready to place out of doors.   All of the officers worked with as little roughness as possible and the goods were taken by unemployed miners on drays to tents erected at Conisbrough and Mexborough where families who cannot get lodgings will stay.  The police passed some cottages, those occupied by men who had signed to go back to work at the old rate of pay. Mounted police are patrolling the streets and children are assisting their parents in the removal of household effects.  Tents are being erected but slowly and it is believed that many men will be walking the streets tonight.  

9th January 1903
Denaby Main Evictions
Today was expected to witness the conclusion to the evictions in the mining village of Denaby Main.  There was a heavy fall of snow during the night and the morning opened foggy and damp.  The police turned out at nine o clock and the evictions were carried out in an orderly manner.  The later telegram states that all the evictions were carried out by noon and that soon afterwards many of the police left the village.

27th January 1903
Two hundred and fifty women and children who were evicted from Denaby were further evicted yesterday by order of the local authority to leave their temporary accommodation in the Mexborough Primitive Methodist Chapel.  Some of the families went to the Primitive Methodist Chapel in  Goldthorpe and others were found lodgings in the district.   A child which died in the Baptist Chapel, Denaby, could not be placed in the Vestry as that was being used by another family.  

27th February 1903
There were no further developments in connection with the Denaby and Cadeby Main yesterday.  The strikers again demonstrated but there was no attempt at rioting or anything of the kind.  Extra police were drafted into the village to escort the men who are working back to their homes but there were no scenes.  The number of men 'signing on' increases day by day.

12th March 1903
As the days go by it becomes more and more apparent that the strikers will not have an opportunity to return to work at Denaby and Cadeby unless they soon come to a decision to discontinue the struggle.   As it is several will never find a way back to the pits again for the simple reason that the colliery company have filled their places with new workmen who are signing on more rapidly than ever.  Indeed it is stated on good authority that over six hundred men are now engaged in the two pits and this large augmentation of labour is giving the strikers considerable food for serious thought.  Naturally with more men working the output of coal at the pits is day by day reaching larger proportions and if the present rate of signing on is maintained both pits should be in full working swing within a few weeks at the most.   On Tuesday about sixty men including several old hands signed on and yesterday the morning trains to Conisbrough brought several more from a distance.  The significance of strikers going back is not lost on those who still hold aloof and those who have already broken away justify their action by pointing out the uselessness of continuing a hopeless struggle now that the Yorkshire Miners Association have officially pronounced against it.

17th March 1903
Last week end it will be remembered the strikers held another mass meeting and passed the usual old resolution to 'play on' notwithstanding the knowledge that such a game was likely to cost the dear.  The fact that several old  hands had signed on for the colliery company filled the local leaders with amazement and one of the speakers suggested that those men who had broken away and whom the colliery company had refused again to employ should not be allowed and further help in the way of 'nipsey' money so it seems that a small section of the strikers as a result of nearly forty weeks fighting have now been rendered practically penniless.    The blame does not lie with the Colliery Company who are not now prepared to take back the whole of the strikers  but rather with those who have been responsible for influencing the men to continue useless struggle.  And the situation is not improved from the local leaders standpoint now that there are unmistakeable signs that the men are beginning to follow the dictates  of common sense, for the company have already accepted a lot of penitent and wiser old hands although they do not intend to turn out the strangers that came in the hour of need.  
Both old and new hand are coming in quite as quickly as the Colliery Company are prepared to take them and it is a matter for wonderment to those of average intellect that the erstwhile miners of Denaby and Cadeby cannot see that they are fighting a losing battle.
The men now working at the pits are more than satisfied with the price list and many when urged to leave the neighbourhood have replied - in effect Not likely when I can earn such good money'.  And they are earning good money £3 a week being carried home by scores of newcomers who for the life of them cannot understand what the old hands had to grumble about.   The frequency of the mass meetings demonstrates that the men take a lot of keeping together and it would occasion no surprise if the strikers surrendered and returned en masse any day.  Yesterday a mass meeting was held in the Croft adjoining the Station Hotel and incredible as it may seem the strikers again expressed themselves as being willing to 'play on' a decision that suggests that few have a real thought for their future welfare to say nothing of those who are dependent on them for the necessaries of life.   One striker following the example of others on previous recent occasions proposed that they should return to work and was so disgusted at his lack of support that he pushed his way through the crowd saying he was sick of it all and intended there and then to go and sign on for the Company.
Everything points to a speedy termination of what has been a badly organised and badly fought strike.  As a strike it died when the Yorkshire Miners Association cried 'Enough' and the present attitude of the old Denaby and Cadeby men can only be described as the last convulsions of a beaten side.

21st March 1903
As has been previously stated the struggle is now practically over but shouting and it is an open secret that neither the leaders nor the tent dwellers who have appealed to public sentiment by setting up an encampment adjoining the highway between Mexborough and Denaby will be allowed to work at the pits again so to them and a great many others the strike has spelt disaster.  The unaccountable decision on Tuesday of a section of the men to continue to  'play on' can only be put down to bravado for they know full well the game is up and many no doubt will be following their more sensible comrades example by making application for work ere it be too late.   We understand there are 900 men working at Cadeby and 200 at Denaby whilst practically another thousand are waiting till the pits are ready for them.   It seems that room will not be found for all the remaining strikers standing aloof.  It is therefore a case of first come first served.  Yesterday a checkweighman was elected at Cadeby and the best positions are rapidly being taken up.
The men attended at their Lodges yesterday.  The greatly decreased number of strikers enabled the committee to dole out 13s 6d per head, the same amount as last week though it is understood that great efforts had to be made to get the necessary money.

The Tatler - 21st January 1903
The Denaby Evictions  
Evictions such as those which have been taking place in the mining village of Denaby in Yorkshire are fortunately rare in this country.  The Police were present in strong force and in many cases the goods of the evicted tenants were removed by Constables instead of Bailiffs.   Lodgings are exceedingly difficult to obtain in the district owing to overcrowding in the miners houses and to add to the pitiableness of the scene the rain fell in icy torrents during most of the time the evictions were being carried out and women and little children drenched to the skin could be seen huddled together at the roadside unable to find any shelter. The scenes are more familiar in Ireland than in England.

Bag Muck Strike

7th January 1903
The evictions at the mining village of Denaby Main were resumed this morning.  Every assistance is being rendered to the miners to remove their effects but it is thought that much damage has been caused by rain to furniture turned into the streets.  Women and children are soaked to the skin.  Shelter is being placed at their disposal at Menbry and Conisbrough and last night they slept in schoolrooms being supplied this morning with food by sympathisers.

(We think Menbry was meant to be Mexbrough but the above text was transcribed directly from The Tatler publication.)

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