Wednesday, February 20, 2008

London Carmen's Trade Union

London Carmens Trade Union was established in 1888 during the famous London dock strike (the union should nott to be confused with the London Cab Drivers Trade Union) , it represented carters in the East End of London who drove horse drawn vehicles for the London docks and warehouses . The union was highly influenced by the syndicalist strand of British trade unionism, promoted best by the union’s own organiser Edward “Ted” Leggatt. The union was prominent force in the August 1911 London strike wave that hit the capital. However it lost half it’s membership during the disastrous Transport strike of 1912. In 1913 the union changed it's name to the National Union of Vehicle Workers with about 4,000 members and later joined the TGWU on Amalgamation on January 1st 1922.
ed by Samuel “Sam” March, its General Secretary from 1895.

The Uxbridge branch of the London Carmen’s Union was established in November 1910 and meet on Monday nights at the Three Tons Public House, Uxbridge. The Unions leading official Ted Leggatt addressed the meeting as did Will Godfrey” General organiser, visiting branches in attendance at the inaugural meeting were Southall, Brentford, Ealing and Bro C. Tanner of Bermondsey branch.

Ted Leggatt reported on benefits of the union, including presently 34 on the sick list receiving 10 shillings a week

At a later meeting in 1910 Ted Leggatt wished that “he employers could be made to realise how very essential it was that their men should protect themselves,, how much easier it would be for the wives and sick during the time they are away from their work” another speaker was Will Godfrey General Organiser of the union who taught them about “ true fellowship, comradeship and unity, single handed the workers is practically helpless but united effort the unions is powerful and effective.

Will Godfrey stated the union stood for “bettering the working conditions of those who are engaged as wealth producers, better house accommodation, good nourishing food and opportunity for recreation and amusement”

Carmen wishing to join the London Carman’s Union were told to write to Mr J.W. Boakes care of the Three Tuns public House, Uxbridge, Middlesex.

The Southall branch of the House, Southall Carmen’s Union was established in November 1905 and meet at the Waggon and Horses Public

In 1911 the Uxbridge branch of The London Carmens Trade Union held a concert on behalf of the widow and young children of Mr John Whyte of Harefield Road, Uxbridge, one of the first men to join the branch and who had died after a short illness. Raised in excess of seven three shillings and ten pence

Union representatives from Southall, Walthamstow were present as was Ted Leggatt and Acton Councillor Mr Shillitoe the delegate for the West London District branch of the London Carmen’s trade union (who was also active in the West london Independant Labour Party ILP).

Donations were received from Acton, Southall and Hampstead branches of the union

Uxbridge ILP Councillor L.W Spencer of Uxbridge referred to the low wages paid to carters by Uxbridge District Council of twenty two shillings for a 66 hour week. A “scandalous” while Leggatt referred to some Councils paying 30s a week

“the Carmen work long hours, in all weathers, taking their lives in their hands when driving through the congested traffic of London


Edward “Ted” Leggatt was an official of the London Carmen’s Trade Union, he was a committed anarcho-syndicalist and strong anti-parliamentary who traditionally began his speeches with the phrase “I’m Ted Leggatt the Anarchist”. Ben Tillett recorded his role in the strike as that of “rebel agitator par excellence…..a militant with reckless courage….time has hardly mellowed his hatred of class control and government. (Ted Leggatt in the top row in the bowler hat

Samuel March

Samuel “Sam” March (1861-1935) was born in Romford, his father was an agricultural labourer victimised for joining Joseph Arch’s union. Aged nine Sam became a farm labourer, later he worker in a bakery, a milk delievery boy in Holburn and aged 18 became a cabman in Poplar, where he was “he wielded the whip for sixteen years” 1895 became general secretary of the London Carmen's trade Union. He joined the Poplar Labour League and helped in the election of Will Crooks.

Sam March stood unsuccessfully for Poplar Council in 1900, but was later elected to the Council 1903-1927, Sam March was a councillor (and Mayor) during the great Poplar rebellion against the poor law and as such received six weeks in Brixton prison in 1921. He was later elected to thhe London County Council 1919-1925 representing South Poplar. finally becoming Labour Member of Parliament for South Poplar 1922-1931. He was the first Labour Party Justice of the Peace in the East End

In 1922 Sam March was appointed national secretary of commercial road transport section of the new Transport & General Workers Union” Samuel March MP died in 1933