|Description||The papers primarily consist of the records of the Chainmakers' and Strikers' Association, from its establishment in 1889 to its dissolution in 1977, but also contain records of several associated and superseded bodies, including the Chainmakers' Providential Association, the Block Chainmakers' Association, and the Amalgamated Society of Anchorsmiths, Shackle & Shipping Tackle Makers, dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. |
The records of the Chainmakers' and Strikers' Association include minute books and associated papers; financial and administrative records including contribution records for membership and benefits available to members; printed material including price lists and papers relating to the history of the Association. The records of associated and superseded bodies consist largely of price lists and rule books, including a price list for the Chain and Trace Makers' Association dating from 1857, but also include reports and balance sheets of the Amalgamated Society of Anchorsmiths, Shackle & Shipping Tackle Makers, and minute books of the Chainmakers' Providential Association and the Block Chainmakers Association.
The papers document the functions and activities of the Association, and is a rich source of information for the study of the Chain trade in the West Midlands area from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s.
|Administrative History||The United Chain Makers' & Chain Strikers' Association, Saltney, Pontypridd & Staffordshire was founded in Chester on 6 July 1889 by Thomas Sitch (1852-1923), then working at Saltney for Messrs H. Wood & Co. Its name was changed to the Chainmakers' & Strikers Association in 1899. Thomas Sitch was the first Secretary of the Association until his death in 1923. All founder members of the Association worked for Messrs. H. Wood & Co., but the union grew to include factories and outworkers in the main chain manufacturing centres of Cradley Heath, Pontypridd, Shifnal, Crewe, St Helens and Tipton. Thomas Sitch was instrumental in the incorporation of other trade unions for different branches of the chainmaking trade within his Association; these included the Chainmakers' Providential Association, the Block Chainmakers' Association and the Amalgamated Society of Anchorsmiths, Shackle and Shipping Tackle Makers. |
The Chainmakers' Providential Association appears to have been the name given to the Cradley Heath branch of the Cable Chainmakers' Association. It was active in 1891, and joined the National Amalgamation of Chainmakers and Chainstrikers Association that year. It was also affiliated to the Midland Counties Trades Federation. It seems to have ceased activity by 1894, probably having been superseded by the Chainmakers' and Strikers' Association.
The Block Chain Makers' Association was established on 9 July 1888. Its members comprised outworkers who made small block and other qualities of chain. The union was effectively a branch of the Chain Makers' and Strikers' Association, and both its President and Secretary were members and officials of the larger body. The growth of the Factory system and the decline of out-work in connection with the making of the higher qualities of small chain gradually reduced the membership, and the Association was dissolved on 27 December 1917.
The Amalgamated Society of Anchorsmiths, Shackle & Shipping Tackle Makers was established on 2 July 1898. In 1905, the official offices of the union were removed to 'Unity Villa', where the Chain Makers' & Strikers' Association was based. It was dissolved on 31 December 1923.
There is evidence in the records of Thomas Sitch's Association that there were other Chainmakers' and Stikers' trade unions in existence during this period, but that they were short-lived, and their members transferred allegiance to the Chainmakers' and Strikers' Association.
The object of the Chainmakers' and Strikers' Association was to raise funds by means of contributions to provide support for workers in the chain manufacturing trade. This included securing prices and wages legally bargained for by members; regulating working hours and general relations between employers and employees; providing allowances for members who were locked-out, on strike or out of work, and raising funds for the provision of benefits for members and their families in the instance of accidents or death.
The Association was responsible for significant progress in the conditions of employment in the chain trade. Issues tackled included Government contracts, specifically the insertion of a clause whereby all government contractors for chain were required to pay the same rate of wages. The chain trade was one of the first trades to secure such an advantage. The Association also addressed the problem of 'bogus certificates', which falsely certified the testing of chains; the prevention of re-sale as sound of condemned Government chain, and secured the addition of the 'Particulars Clause' to the Factory Act, concerning the rate of pay and how this was calculated.
The Association was governed by an Executive Council, elected at a Special General Meeting. The Executive Council met monthly for much of the time that the Association was active; meetings were more infrequent in earlier years. General meetings of the Association were half-yearly, and a statement of accounts was drawn up at the end of June and December each year. The factory secretaries also held regular half-yearly meetings, and kept records of members contributions, in addition to those held centrally by the Association.
Thomas Sitch was succeeded as Secretary by his son, Charles Sitch, until 1933 when he resigned and was tried on charges of forgery and falsification of the accounts of the Association. Albert Head then served as General Secretary from 1933 until his death in 1978. The offices of the Association were at 'Unity Villa', Cradley Heath. The Association became defunct in 1967,and was dissolved in 1977.
|Custodial History||The records of the Chainmakers' and Strikers' Association were stored by the remaining members of the Executive after the Association became defunct, probably at the Workers Institute, Cradley Heath. The records appear to have been sorted and numbered by union officials, and by Sidney Allen, in the course of research for a thesis he wrote on the Association in 1981. A receipt list containing numbered items was included when the records were deposited with the University of Birmingham in 1983, and this was used as the basis for an interim finding aid for researchers.|