Several of the slogans emblazoned on the Burradon Union Lodge banner of the 1950s refer to the newly-won state provision of welfare created by the post war Labour Government. These are: family allowances, social security, health and more loosely happiness, peace and prosperity.
We can see several examples of this gradual progression and better provision of welfare from the late 19th century onwards. This was provided by a number of different organisations: religious groups, with the Methodist denominations being dominant in the coalfield communities, unions, the Co-operative Society, one-off charity events to benefit a single cause and friendly or mutual societies. Sometimes these organisations overlapped in the activities they undertook. In fact, you can often see the same residents' names appearing as leading activists in more than one organisation. Moving through the timeline of the twentieth century some of these leading activists are also listed as councillors for the local authority.
Probably the beginnings of self help in Burradon can be traced to the mining disaster of 1860 where seventy-six workers were killed by an explosion in the pit. The mineworkers had lobbied the coalowners for a mutual provident insurance scheme to pay compensation in the event of accidents or deaths in the pit. The coalowners did not back the scheme at that time, but the campaign for a change in attitude towards fairer conditions for mineworkers was to gain momentum. Although miners' cottages often came with a garden in which to grow vegetables and allotments were often provided, the conditions for the colliery workers, in the mid-19th century, was often squalid and there was not much regard for health and safety in the pit.
The co-operative movement followed closely behind the mining disaster. Great Britain's co-operative societies were born through the efforts of poor people to help themselves and one another in years of hardship. In 1844, when wages were low in England and food expensive, a group of weavers in Rochdale saved a few pence every week until they had £28 and acquired a small shop. There they sold food at the same price as other grocers, but the profits were divided and given back to the customers in proportion to the money each had spent in the shop. The scheme was so successful that the idea quickly spread. The Cramlington and District Co-operative Society founded a retail branch in Burradon, in 1872. The Cramlington and District Co-operative Society had been founded, in Cramlington, in 1861. The workers of Cramlington pooled their resources and sent a couple of the men off to Newcastle to buy provisions. The local traders thought the scheme would flop, but it was a huge success, selling out in no time at all. The scheme continued to grow and in 1894 a large premises was built on Burradon Road. It was still flourishing in the 1950s.
|Morpeth Herald 1894|
|Morpeth Herald 1903|
Miners’ welfare originated in an Act of Parliament in 1911, dealing generally with conditions within the coalmining industry, but which touched, somewhat tentatively, one aspect of welfare, namely the provision of pithead baths. Following the reports of the Sankey Commission in 1920, and the Samuel Commission in 1926, two more mining industry Acts were more directly concerned with welfare. These established a fund and an administrative framework for the purpose of welfare for workers in and about coal mines.Pit head baths were soon after established at some collieries. The capital cost was met by the colliery owners but use of the facilities had to be paid for by the miners themselves. It was not until 1951 that Burradon Colliery were to build a large pit baths and canteen, although a small canteen had been established in the pit manager's house on 25th August 1941, Mrs Saint being the manager. On 5th November 1937 the colliery started to pay its workforce every Friday instead of fortnightly, as had been the long-standing custom. The week without pay had been known as baff week. In 1938 miner's were allowed three days paid holiday per year. This was extended to one week's paid holiday the following year.
When viewed as a complete series, these and subsequent Acts present a picture unique in the industrial history of Great Britain, viz. : comprehensive welfare founded on legislation but effected, in the main, by voluntary and co-operative methods. The approach to actual welfare problems was, at first, tentative and experimental. But as soon as experiments began to show results, and it became clear that the spirit of organised welfare could flourish notwithstanding difficult and complications within the industry, its scope was enlarged or strengthened. Hence we find today, welfare firmly planted in the mining industry and, although it was not always so, its importance as an integral part of the industry widely recognised. In 25 years it has developed from small and tentative beginnings into a great organisation for the benefit of the miner and his dependants, with capital assets in the region of 24 millions sterling and with an annual income, in normal times, of £1,000,000.
These were the beginnings of a involvement and funding by the state and colliery owners in the welfare of the workforce. After nationalisation and the creation of the welfare state the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation was created to fulfil the role of the previous mentioned organisations. The website of the CISWO states:
CISWO was established as a limited company prior to the Miners’ Welfare Act 1952. It was a partnership between the National Coal Board and the Mining Unions, to address the welfare of employees and their dependants “beyond the colliery gate.” It succeeded the Miners’ Welfare Commission, very much a social experiment between 1920 and 1952, which developed community facilities for the benefit of mineworkers and their dependants. The work of CISWO as an Organisation until 1995, was funded by British Coal on the basis of a levy on the tonnage of saleable coal.The organisation comprehensively was, and still is, involved in many aspects of a miner's welfare: recreation, health and education.