Wednesday, 22 January 2020

‘OLD STUFF WILL OUTLAST THE NEW’ THREKELD QUARRY AND MINING MUSEUM, THREKELD

‘OLD STUFF WILL OUTLAST THE NEW’

THREKELD QUARRY AND MINING MUSEUM, THREKELD 

“We keep alive the dark side of the Lake District,” explains assistant engineer Dicken Chaplin-Brice. (photographed) “Without heavy industry, mines and quarries there would have been no local railway network that subsequently helped develop the tourism industry such that today millions visit the area to witness its Natural Beauty.”

Run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum lies five miles east of Keswick, the major centre for tourism in the northern Lake District. The Museum is home to the Vintage Excavator Trust, whose 200-strong membership chairman is quarry owner Ian Hartland, which closed in 1982. 

“It was a shame as I knew a lot of people who remembered it pre-war. There were numerous stories connected to the place. I did not want them to be forgotten as they are just as important as the tales of how beautiful the Lake District is. ” 

Having bought other quarries, Hartland, purchased Threlkeld as he wanted to “keep bits of things going. Old stuff will outlast the new. You can’t beat something that the driver is in charge of. We must preserve historical skills as it means we can mend things.” 

A Trust was established in 1992 to develop an onsite museum and its members worked hard repairing buildings and reconstructing the site. The railway was brought back to life. It’s one of Chaplin-Brice’s many tasks to keep it functioning. “I enjoy very much working in the original locomotive shed,” he said. 

In 1995 the Trust was wound up with the Museum handed over to the Museum Company, which now runs the site and had in July over 2,000 visitors. 

Callers can enjoy the two substantial indoor display rooms that highlight the links between geology, quarrying and the 400 year history of local metal ore, including lead mining. The displays feature many photographs of quarrymen. “We get many school children visiting as learning about rocks is part of the school curriculum. We also run a special minerals panning stream that is very popular with younger people,” said educational co- ordinator Jane Dickins. 

Visiting for the first time, Jim Fox felt Threlkeld fulfilled an “important role as what is often forgotten is that this area was a working one long before it became a tourist region or a place where people buy second homes. Keeping the old machines running means that the workers’ contributions to the development of the Lake District is recognised. “ 


Hopefully more people will visit in 2020 when the museum, which is entirely self- supporting from the amount it collects through the door, will reopen at Easter time and run until the end of the October half term.




This is the unedited article on the Museum. 

“We keep alive the dark side of the Lake District,” explains assistant engineer Dicken Chaplin-Brice. “Without heavy industry, mines and quarries there would have been no local railway network that subsequently helped develop the tourism industry such that today millions visit the area to witness its Natural Beauty.” 

Run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum lies 5 miles east of Keswick, the major centre for tourism in the northern Lake District. The granite quarry was opened in the 1860s to supply railway ballast to the Penrith-Keswick line and its stone was later used for the Thirlmere 96 mile-long water works aqueduct scheme that still supplies water to the Manchester area. 

Fuelled by demands for concrete flagstones, used in many Northern towns, road stone and kerbing saw production rise to 80,000 tons annually by 1894 and following which more quarry faces were opened. At the start of the twentieth century around 200 men, including some from Aberdeen and the Midlands, specially imported to improve local people’s skills in an area best known for slate, worked on site. Some stayed in specially constructed primitive houses and a local shop, pub and reading room were opened. 

As granite is massive, hard, and tough then digging it out is a problem. “The quarrymen used a long metal pole which was driven into the rock and the subsequent hole was then filled with a mixture of fertiliser and oil to make a powerful explosive. Accidents would have been common,” explained Martin Sams, a local volunteer from Keswick. 

Getting the granite off site to market was undertaken at first by horse and cart before a narrow gauge railway was constructed, running at the time down to the adjoining Threlkeld railway station, with a train hauling capacity of 22 tons a time. The 1 in 20 gradient on site railway still works today and visitors can enjoy a five to six minute half mile journey up to the quarry rock face. Extending the trip by another 550 yards will take place in 2020. On special days the train is hauled by a steam locomotive. “I love acting as a guard on those days,” smiled Sams. 

When steam diggers/excavators were introduced into Threlkeld this helped raise production levels to a peak of 150,000 tons annually. 

The quarry was though closed in 1937 but following WWII demand for granite rose considerably and it was re-opened in 1949 after undergoing compete modernisation. 

New products included tarmac. Dumper trucks and diesel diggers were introduced and today the latter form an important part of the visiting attraction as there are eighty on site. The vast majority are working thanks to the huge efforts played by volunteers such as Motherwell’s George Chambers, who travels south each month to repair the machines. “As a boy I grew up with these magnificent machines and playing a role in bringing them back to life is a real thrill.” 

The Museum is home to the Vintage Excavator Trust, whose 200 strong membership chairman is Ian Hartland, who owns the quarry, which closed in 1982.  “I felt it was a shame as I knew a lot of people who remembered it pre war. There were numerous stories connected to the place. I did not want them to be forgotten as they are just as important as the tales of how beautiful the Lake District is. ” 

Having bought other quarries, Hartland, whose a character, purchased Threlkeld as he wanted to “keep bits of things going. Old stuff will outlast the new. You can’t beat something that the driver is in charge of. We must preserve historical skills as it  means we can mend things.”

A Trust was established in 1992 to develop an onsite museum and its members worked hard repairing buildings and reconstructing the site. The railway was brought back to life. It is one of Chaplin-Brice’s many tasks to keep it functioning. “I enjoy very much working in the original locomotive shed.” Brice is one of small number who are employed full-time. 

In 1995 the Trust was wound up with the Museum handed over to the Museum Company, which now runs the site and had in July over 2,000 visitors. 

Callers can enjoy the two substantial indoor display rooms that highlight the links between geology, quarrying and the 400 year history of local metal ore, including lead mining. The displays feature many photographs of quarrymen. “We get many school children visiting as learning about rocks is part of the school curriculum. We also run a special minerals panning stream that is very popular with younger people,” said educational co-ordinator Jane Dickins. 

Within a mile of the quarry, lead and zinc was mined between 1661 and 1928 and it was backbreaking work. A forty-five minute guided tour through a reconstructed lead/copper mine can be enjoyed. 

Visiting for the first time, Jim Fox felt that Threlkeld fulfilled an “important role as what is often forgotten is that this area was a working one long before it became a tourist region or a place where people buy second homes. Keeping the old machines running means that the workers’ contributions to the development of the Lake District is recognised. “

As a worker in the Keswick tourist information service, Fox felt he could now speak fondly to anyone who asks him about Threlkeld. Hopefully more people will visit in 2020 when the museum, which is entirely self supporting from the amount it collects through the door, will reopen at Easter time and run until the end of the October half term. 

















Anti-hunt activists are still having to cry ‘Hounds Off’ our wildlife

CRUEL AND UNNECESSARY 

Anti-hunt activists are still having to cry ‘Hounds Off’ our wildlife

Landworker magazine, Winter 2019/2020 


While Scottish animal welfare campaigners are stepping up their efforts to block loopholes in fox hunting legislation their English and Welsh colleagues are reaching out to help farmers, landowners and rural residents being badly affected by hunt trespasses.

Foxhunting with dogs was outlawed by Scotland’s parliament in 2002. Hundreds of hours of parliamentary debate took place before England and Wales followed suit in 2005 when the Labour government was forced to use the Parliament Act after Tory peers in the Lords repeatedly rejected the legislation.

In 2006, legal attempts by hunters to reverse the ban on grounds that it breached human rights were dismissed by the High Court. Hunters also predicted that the law would be unenforceable and threatened defiance.

There were few early prosecutions but the figures have steadily increased each year.

Nevertheless, animal welfare campaigners have assembled overwhelming evidence that hunts are exploiting legal loopholes to still hunt in a manner which is very similar to pre- ban traditional hunting. A person will be deemed to be hunting by participating in the pursuit of a wild mammal where one or more dogs are employed in that pursuit.

Hunts across the UK can though exploit an exemption called “flushing to guns” that means letting hounds chase foxes out from cover such as woods into the open, to be shot by a marksman.

The League Against Cruel Sports (LACs) monitors hunts. According to its Scottish Field Investigator “we have filmed hounds running across open countryside in pursuit of foxes, hunts entering their dogs into cover when there is clearly no intention to shoot any foxes that may be flushed...”

The Investigator said fox hunters were organising on a need to know basis, making it difficult to collect evidence that can stand up in court. LACs field research officers have been on the sharp end of considerable harassment and intimidation by those who engaging in a cruel and unnecessary practice that has little effect on reducing fox numbers.

LACs and other Scottish animal welfare activists have organised a high profile campaign to strengthen the law. After a lengthy process led by Lord Bonomy the SNP government promised a Bill to outline steps to close loopholes in the 2002 legislation.

Time limits for prosecutions were to be extended, a code of practice introduced and independent hunt monitors were to be considered.

The SNP has now failed to keep its pledge by dropping the bill from its 2020 programme for government. A letter has since emerged from the SNP rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing to a hunt sympathiser. Ewing backs “current exemptions which have enabled pest control to be carried out using dogs.” He states there was “no intention to ban that activity.”

LACs Scottish director, Robbie Marsland has expressed his “deep disappointment” at the SNP’s inaction. LACs will now support a fox and hare bill by the Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone “to close loopholes in the current legislation and really ban hunting in Scotland.”

In England and Wales the voluntary group Hounds Off (HO), established in 2010 after the then Conservative opposition leader David Cameron had promised if elected to repeal the Hunting Act, seeks to create hunt-free zones.

Cameron was unable to repeal the Act, which according to HO founder Joe Hashman, “HO seeks to complement by getting farmers, landowners and rural residents to declare their homesteads as hunt free zones. We want to unite a compassionate uprising in support of the Hunting Act and against killing for sport.

‘We have built a nationwide network, including livestock farmers, tenants and estate managers, of people who are shocked and infuriated by the arrogance and lawfulness of hunts and their followers...who are fed up with disruption caused by dogs and hunters going wherever they like as it they own the place – which often they don’t.”

The advice provided by HO has been drawn up by legal professionals. It includes getting to know your property rights, warning off the local hunt and erecting no hunting signs. The group, which also backs the work of organisations such as LACs, has helped many people prevent attacks on their animals, the killing of foxes on their land and general harassment by hunters.

JC, who lives in Kent, praised the “wonderful support and advice of Hounds Off. We repeatedly suffer from the arrogant and bullying behaviour of our local hunt. We plan to use all available means to put an end to this harassment.”

Whilst Hashman, who hopes a future Labour Government would strengthen the law on fox hunting, is “buoyed by these successes” he also wants to develop new forms of hunting that do not involve killing wild animals. He cites drag hunting and Dry Booting that involves using “a small pack of bloodhounds to hunt human runners by their scent along...... which if developed could create a whole gamut of rural recreational possibilities and business opportunities.”


Hounds Off has no regular income and so the group seeks to raise its profile message via social media and word of mouth. Hashman, who is a regular annual visitor to the Toldpuddle Martyrs Festival, would welcome trade union support. He is especially keen to see trade unionists in the railway sector speak out as “hunt trespass is a common occurrence and it’s a danger to railway workers and passengers. It needs to be stopped.”



Gaspar freed

Turkmen journalist Gaspar Matalaev (pictured) has been released after three years of wrongful imprisonment for having exposed forced labour conditions in the cotton fields of Turkmenistan, a Central Asian Republic (CAR) where trade unions are not allowed to function freely. 
Turkmenistan is a former Soviet bloc country ruled by the Democratic Party (DP), which simply changed its name from the Communist Party in the 1990s. At the Presidential election in Turkmenistan in 2016, DP leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was re- elected with a claimed 98 per cent of the vote. 
By shining a light on the forced labour problem in Turkmenistan, Gaspar sought to bring the practice to an end and create a momentum towards free trade unions with the right to bargain collectively. 
The campaign to force his freedom resulted in over 100,000 people globally 
adding their names to a petition calling on the government of Turkmenistan to release him. 
Thanks to this campaign, in which the International Federation of Journalists and the International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers (IUF) were prominent, Gaspar knew he was never alone. His first message upon his release from prison on 
September 6, 2019 was a big thank you to everyone who has supported him over the past three years. 

Nevertheless the torture he received and the terrible prison conditions he was forced to endure have left him badly affected. Unite members who can help aid Gaspar’s recovery can donate at:- https://gaspar.funraise.org 


Manufacturing towns in China –The Governance of Rural Migrant Workers

Trapped without trade unions 
Manufacturing towns in China –The Governance of Rural Migrant Workers 
by Yue Gong, Palgrave Macmillan, £52.42 
The numbers of Chinese rural workers migrating, for varying time periods, to work in urban areas is huge and consists of around 20 per cent of China’s 1.38bn population. Most work in manufacturing, which absorbs three in 10 of the migrants with the construction industry employing one in five. 
Migrants, who to obtain work must be young, healthy and passive, enter towns and cities seeking to improve their economic circumstances but are often restricted from receiving basic local welfare services such as public housing and education. 
Although in recent years a number of migrant workers are able to obtain highly skilled jobs the majority remain lowly paid and must work long hours on low-skilled repetitive processes. Independent trade union organisation is not permitted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party and would not be welcomed anyway by the major multinational companies that form 
the backbone of the manufacturing industry in the Chinese Republic. This has not stopped workers from taking strike action and engaging in riots on certain occasions such as in 2014 when thousands of workers at the Yue Yuen shoe factory in China, which supplies brands including Nike and Adidas, stopped work over social security payments. 
Outside of work the authorities are also keen to retain control of migrants. The author lived alongside migrant workers, interviewing many of them while also observing their activities as they struggled to make sense and improve their dramatically new circumstances. 
There is two main forces exerting governance over migrants outside the factory. These are the government and local landowners organised within village committees. The latter has been content to build specially constructed cheap housing for migrant workers that is gated well away from the much better living 
38 uniteLANDWORKER Winter 2019/2020 
quarters of the indigenous population. This and other constraints physically marginalise migrants and prevent them playing a role in local affairs. 
Meanwhile in their desire to recruit rural migrants, who are unable to make a living at home and who are critically required by the manufacturing companies, there is the deliberate targeting of workers as soon as they enter the main street of the manufacturing town. These become labour markets and the newcomers are persuaded to undertake work at the earliest opportunity without necessarily understanding what they’ve signed up for or even meeting more experienced workers who might be able to offer valuable advice on pay and conditions across industries. 

All of this helps to keep labour as cheap as possible as each worker sees themselves as individuals rather than part of a great body of workers who need to get collectively organised if they are to enjoy some of the fruits of their hard work. 


All aboard - Love and Labour on London buses in the early twentieth century

Love and Labour
Red Button Years: Volume 1 
Ken Fuller 

Ken Fuller’s book on London bus workers, Radical Aristocrats (*) , was published in 1985. In this he drew upon his work as a bus driver within the TGWU, who he subsequently became an officer for. 

In his attempt to build on his earlier book, Ken has written the first volume in a series of novels. Love and Labour covers  developments within the London and Provincial Union of Licensed Vehicle Workers (LPU), known as the red-button union, in the period from 1913-1919. 

The book is very well written and is centred around two fictional characters and lovers, Mickey Rice, a working class tram driver from Reading, and Dorothy Bridgeman, a socialist from wealthy stock. Unfortunately, I was unsure why Bridgeman, like many real characters from similar backgrounds, was fascinated by socialism. Readers must make their own minds on that one. 

Ken does a very good job in explaining how some of the LPU leaders such as George Sanders helped develop the trade union and political consciousness of such as Rice ensuring that they took on leadership roles within their depots and the working class generally. In doing so these industrial and political militants attracted enemies across the capitalist class, the state and public authorities, as well as those within the labour movement who were content with the status quo. LPU officials were elected by the membership. This rank and file control ensured its officials were required to understand the needs of those they represented and sought to satisfy them. 

Mickey’s bravery, his graft at work alongside his workmates, allied to a willingness to watch and learn from more skilled union negotiators lies behind his increasing credibility within the LPU membership. This enables him to win workers into taking action to defend and extend their pay and conditions. 

It is an interesting story. 

As is the descriptions of strikes, why they took place and the organisation needed by transport workers to win when forced to oppose not only their employers, but also the Government and State that is set up to ensure that, unlike events in Russia in 1917, which are well explained in the book, there is no serious threat to the ruling class. 

In conclusion this is a very decent attempt by the author to explain the class struggle as it arose during the period surrounding WWI and I’d recommend it with the proviso that it will take quite a bit of time to read as it is 220,000 words long.  I feel that with some editing, cutting some of the descriptions of meetings particularly, it should have been possible to reduce the word count of as I think the  more people would read it. I would also like to have had the opportunities to find out more about the characteristics, warts and all, of the bus drivers and conductors themselves. Having previously described them as Radical Aristocrats then who were these workers,  what were their attitudes, where did they spring from?



  • Radical Aristocrats: London Busworkers from the 1880s to  the 1980s