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Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Ascott Martyrs

I just came across this story when researching for another blog. It happened in 1873 in a quite rural part of Oxfordshire, in one of a group of villages collectively known as the Under Wychwoods, a stones throw from where David Cameron now lives. It seems deference to the ruling class and the landed gentry was not always what it is today where anything with a blue rosette will get elected to Parliament and local and county councils.

I'm proud to think I'm almost certainly related to Ellen, Elizabeth and Mary Pratley who played a leading role in this important piece of Trades Union Movement history in Britain.
The trouble started when Mr Hambidge of Crown Farm Ascott sacked his men who had joined the Agricultural Workers' Union and then employed men from Ramsden to do his hoeing. The Ascott women stopped these men from working, and tried to persuade them to join the Union. The women were arrested, taken to Chipping Norton, and charged with obstructing and coercing John Hodgkins and John Millen with a view to inducing them to leave their employment on 20th May.

The two magistrates conducting the trial were Rev. T. Harris and Rev. W.E. Carter. Mr Hambidge engaged a solicitor (Mr Wilkins) to conduct the prosecution but the women were not defended by counsel. The magistrates pleaded with the farmer not to proceed with the prosecution, as they would have no option but to send the women to prison. This he refused to do.

Read more... The Ascott Martyrs

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