Mary Quaile, the TUC and Easton Lodge, 1926

  Margaret Bondfield, Countess of Warwick and Mary Quaile in grounds of Easton Lodge

Margaret Bondfield, Countess of Warwick and Mary Quaile in grounds of Easton Lodge

Guest post from the Mary Quaile Club
History, activism and discussion in the Greater Manchester area @MaryQuaileClub

In 1924 Mary Quaile was elected onto the General Council of the TUC, and with Julia Varley attended the National Conference of Labour Women, a conference of International Women Trade Unionists in Vienna and the Third International Trade Union Congress.

At home she now took part in delegations to lobby government ministers on issues including the Labour Government’s unemployment policy. In 1925 Mary was again elected onto the General Council. In 1926 Mary did not stand again for the General Council, but she continued to attend Congress as a delegate from the TGWU until 1931.

Recently we have come across pictures of Mary at the official handover of Easton Lodge to the trade union movement as a working class college. Ironically, a house maybe not that different from where she got her first job as a domestic.

Easton Lodge was owned by Countess Warwick (1861-1938) who, by 1926, had been a member of the socialist movement for over 25 years. It was an era in which a Countess standing as a prospective Labour candidate was not seen as bizarre!

TUC General Council with Mary Quaile on the right  on the right

TUC General Council with Mary Quaile on the right on the right

In 1926 Countess Warwick handed over the historic building and sumptuous park and grounds to the General Council of the TUC who paid a visit. It was dubbed “Labour’s Chequers.”

(Photos from the TUC Library Collections)


Material on wages in the TUC Library Collections

A selection of boxes on the subject of wages, from 1893 to the present.

The New Year has seen a number of news stories about wages in the UK – from the High Pay Centre’s statistics that by 4th January 2017 CEO’s had already amassed the same wages as the average Briton’s salary for the whole year, to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a maximum wage cap.

The TUC Library contains collections on Britain’s wage rates since the late 19th century, as can be seen in the photo above which shows just one of our many shelves on the topic.

We also have contemporary material from the High Pay Centre, the Low Pay Commission, the Incomes Data Service and a broad range of think tanks, charities, government departments, academic studies, and of course from the TUC and unions.

A small selection of recent publications on wages

To find out more about what the library contains on this or any other topic, or to arrange an appointment to visit, get in touch.


TUC Library Christmas opening hours

The December 1930 issue of the General & Municipal Workers’ Union journal.

The TUC Library will be closed from midday on Friday 23rd December 2016 and will re-open at 9am on Tuesday 3rd January 2017.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our users and supporters.


Workers’ representation and industrial democracy

A selection from the book shelves on industrial democracy

Following on from our previous post that mentioned the recent debate about workers on company boards, we thought we would turn the spotlight on the material in the TUC Library on the subject of industrial democracy.

From the period of the establishment of the TUC in the late 19th century, the issue of workers’ representation and control over their work process has been a central demand of the labour movement. The developments of “new unionism“, anarcho-syndicalism, workers’ cooperatives, and guild socialism, were all hotly debated in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Following the Second World War the TUC attempted to influence the economic reconstruction and industrial relations environment by lobbying for more workplace democracy, planning and co-determination (as can be seen in this document here), a structure that became the model in Continental economies such as Germany.

By the 1960s and 1970s this model was coming under strain in the UK, exemplified by the document In Place of Strife issued by the Wilson Government and the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations (known as the Donovan Commission) in 1968. Continued industrial strife in the 1970s led to the 1977 Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Industrial Democracy, chaired by Lord Bullock, a report that recommended radical reforms to company board structures to embed employee representation. The recommendations were never enacted, however. The TUC Library contains not only the Report itself but a wide variety of publications and commentary from the period. The TUC continued to lobby for increased workplace democracy into the 1980s and 1990s.

The TUC Library copy of the Bullock Report.

A selection of TUC publicaions on industrial democracy from the 1970s and 80s

The TUC continues to produce material on the subject and published a number of reports in recent years, prior to the government of Theresa May putting the issue back on the public agenda. You can view online versions of the publications shown below here, here, here and here.

TUC publications on the subject of workplace democracy (2013 – 2016).

For more information about this topic, or any of the items featured, get in touch.



Spotlight on the Tavistock Institute archive project

A pamphlet box from the TUC Library, containing material published by the Tavistock Institute.

Following our recent participation in the Senate House Libraries & Research History Day, we discovered a fascinating project by the library of the Wellcome Trust to catalogue the archives of the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations.

The Tavistock Institute was founded in 1946 and studies organisational behaviour, workplace relations and management psychology. Their archive collections therefore share a great deal in common with those of the TUC Library.

You can follow the progress of the project at

The TUC Library holds a number of publications from the Tavistock Institute, including some of their annual reports and a run of their journal Human Relations.

There are also one-off publications such as this statement of the Institute’s aims and organization.

There are also publications with a more topical relevance, such as this report from 1970 into the issue of workers’ participation on management boards (from a case study of British Rail employees):

“Worker participation in management” report by the Tavistock Institute, 1970.

For more information about what the TUC Library holds from the Tavistock Institute, or any of the wider subjects such as workplace relations and psychology, get in touch.


We’ve moved! – TUC Library moves to new home in Aldgate

The TUC Library has completed its move to a new building and Reading Room at London Metropolitan University’s Old Castle Street building at Aldgate in the City of London. The building, known as The Wash Houses, retains the exterior of the old Whitechapel public baths which were in use since the 1850s.

The TUC Library now shares the building with the University’s other Special Collections, including the University archive, the Frederick Parker furniture making collection, and the Archive of the Irish in Britain.

Access to the new Reading Room is from the university entrance at 16 Goulston Street (see map).

Our new contact details are:

TUC Library Collections
London Metropolitan University
Special Collections
CC2-01 The Wash Houses
Old Castle Street
London E1 7NT
Tel: 020 7320 3516

Nearest tube stations are Aldgate (Circle and Metropolitan Lines) and Aldgate East (Hammersmith & City and District Lines).

Our opening hours remain unchanged – Monday to Friday, 09.00 – 17.00 – as do all our other services. Stay tuned to the blog for future updates about the activities of the Special Collections.

For more information, or to arrange an appointment to visit the library, get in touch.

Living Wage Week – history of campaigning for decent pay

This week is Living Wage Week (30th October – 5th November), organised by the Living Wage Foundation. The Foundation raises awareness about the importance of a living wage throughout the UK that meets the real cost of living. Every year at the start of Living Wage Week the independently-calculated living wage for London and the rest of the UK is announced. You can see the figures here.

The TUC Library holds material that documents the long struggle by working people for a minimum, and a living, wage. The document below is from 1906, when a minimum wage conference was organised by The National Anti-Sweating League. This reminds us that in many ways the existence of insecure, low paid work, based on piece rates or long hours, is nothing new.

In the 1940s the same issues prompted the article below – “How do girls manage?” – from the postal union journal. The article discusses how a young woman, living alone, can meet the rising costs of living.

It was also an issue that concerned apprenticeships during that period, as shown in the newspaper cutting below. In 1941 apprentices won a large pay rise, negotiated by the various engineering unions and the Engineering Employers’ Federation.

A fair and equal wage for women also became an important campaigning issue in the post-war economy, culminating in the passing of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. However, as our Winning Equal Pay website shows, equal pay for women in many sectors is still an issue today.

In the 1970s there were increasing disputes between unions, employers and the Government over the issue of prices and incomes policy and the straining of the Social Contract. The image below is from a strike by domestic staff and cleaners, demanding a living wage, at an Oxford University college in 1972.

By 1979 the disputes over what constituted a fair pay rise and a living wage culiminated in the “Winter of Discontent”, particularly affecting low paid workers in the public sector.

To find out more about any of the items, or any other material held in the library, get in touch.




Grunwick strike 40th anniversary celebrated in new exhibition

The TUC Library has contributed some items to the new exhibition “We are the lions” at Brent Museum and Archives, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Grunwick strike 1976-78.

Staff from the TUC Library attended the packed launch event in Brent last night and the exhibition opens today (19th October) and runs until March 2018. The exhibition has been created by the Grunwick40 group, combining the Brent Museum and trades council and with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Grunwick strike was an influential period of industrial action involving mainly Asian women workers at a film processing plant in Brent. The TUC Library holds a significant collection of material relating to the strike, including a number of posters and photos that can be seen on our history website here, here and here.

Guests at the launch event viewing the exhibition

For more information about what the TUC Library holds on the strike, get in touch.


“They shall not pass” – Battle of Cable Street anniversary

Last week saw the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, 4th October 1936, when thousands of Londoners prevented the march of Oswald Mosley’s fascist Blackshirts down Cable Street in the East End.

The rise of fascism across Europe in the early 1930s was of great concern to the TUC and the trade union movement, and they campaigned actively against it.

The cartoon below featured in an issue of the journal of the General and Municipal Workers Union in the 1930s. A blackshirt is showing a trade unionist the “unity” of the fascist cause, and the unionist replies “I seem to remember it isn’t reeds you tie up, but trade unionists..”.

Anti-fascist cartoon from the GMWU journal, October 1933.

In 1933 a series of marches and demonstrations had been organised by the TUC and unemployed workers organisations to highlight the issue of unemployment and the relationship between economic hardship and the rise of fascist sympathies. The poster below was produced by the Joint Council (TUC and the Labour Party) for the February 1933 National Unemployment Demonstration.

The National Unemployed Workers Movement produced a number of pamphlets on the relationship between unemployment and facsism, such as the one below entitled “Fascist Danger and the Unemployed”.

The TUC Library is in the process of relocating to a new building quite close to Cable Street in Tower Hamlets. Our collections will soon be moved to a London Metropolitan University building on Old Castle Street, between Aldgate and Aldgate East tube stations. Please refer back to the TUC Library webpages for updates about the progress of the relocation.

For more information about the items featured in this post, or any other TUC Library material, get in touch at or phone 020 7320 3516.



Turn of the century union banner saved

Southampton Boilermakers and Shipbuilders Union Banner

Guest blogger Michael Walker, Unison regional Officer tells us the story of how he saved a rare turn of the Century union banner from being sold into private hands.

Soon after visiting the Labour History Museum in the early 1980′s then at the old Limehouse town hall, I secured a copy of the late John Gorman’s “Banner Bright”. The rich history and illustrated pictures of banners through the ages left a major impression upon me and so many others. The most beautiful and striking banners illustrated in Banner bright were those executed by George Tutill of 83 City Road, London.

Tutill banners are of such rarity they are talked about in almost hushed tones and people come from around the world to see them at the Peoples History Museum in Manchester. Tutills banner are exhibited as works of art in their own right.

The odd Tutill banner would turn up from time to time.

However, little did I imagine that I would play a part in uncover another Tutill trade union banner

In August I began to hear rumours of what looked like a freemasons lodge banner recently retrieved from under the stage of a workingmen’s club in Woolston, close to the old shipyards in Southampton

I soon established that this was infact a Boilermakers Lodge (Union) banner, but before I could investigate further, I heard alarming news that the owner was thinking of auctioning the banner. Thus entering the murky world of a friend of a friend a message was communicated to the owner, and despite what seemed to be long periods of email silences, when I feared for the worse that the banner would be snapped up by a private collector or the owner had decided not to sell, I was relieved to get a message that he agreed to sell the banner to us (thank you Bromley Hospitals UNISON branch) for an undisclosed “finders fee” which was significantly less that the true value of the banner, on the condition that it went to an appropriate “good home”.

We were warned that the banner was in a fragile state but on the up side it was in a 15 foot wooden banner box.

Getting a 15ft banner into a vehicle is difficult and we had to hire a van especially to collect the box,

We left destined for Southampton in a truck not really sure if the owner had had second thoughts regarding the banner, but when we arrived the banner was ready for collection and in its box. After opening the four metal catches we discovered inside a tightly bound brightly coloured blue and red banner and visible immediately in-between the fringe of tassels the trade mark hand painted stamp of G.Tutill 83 City Road, London, clearly visible, also in the box was one set of Tutill banner holders and ceremonial toppers for the top of the banner poles.

Trade mark hand painted stamp of G.Tutill 83 City Road, London

Interestingly the newspapers surrounding the banner were Daily Herald’s from 1928 suggesting that possibly the banners last outing had been in that year,

Getting the banner into the truck still proved difficult and had to be carefully positioned at an angle to fit in the van. But thanks to the patience of my colleague Allen Reilly the banner was strapped into the van and brought back into the arms of the Labour Movement.

When opportunity allowed we unraveled the banner revealing the beautiful silk golden swirl designs and brass tags so distinctive of Tutill banners, Prominent on one side is the ship the Tynemouth Castle and on the other side the ceremonial emblems of the Boilermakers, Steel, Iron & Shipbuilders Society with the legend Southampton Branch. This organisation became the Boilermakers union and would end up merging into what is now the GMB in 1982.

A major strike took place in the Southampton shipyards in 1890 and I suspect the banner dates from around 1900.

The banner is presently in a very fragile (please note I have digitally enhanced the border which is damaged in places) We are obviously very keen for it to be assessed by the textile conservation at the Peoples History museum.

Hopefully, funding will be forthcoming for its proper preservation , especially as this is the only Tutill banner from Southampton’s proud trade union history, I am aware of that has survived to-date.

The moral of this story should be never give up searching for those trade union banners, not all will be Tutill’s but they remain an important part of our Movements history

Michael Walker
Unison regional Officer
September 2016