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List of Articles.

  • Article 1: In the latest of his series on county politicians, JON LAND recalls the trade union pioneer Sydney Box.
  • Article 2: Readers are able to supply some answers.
  • Article 3
  • Article 4
Article 1 - published Hereford Times approx 2000
Sidney Box

Sydney Box, organiser of the Herefordshire workers union.

In the latest of his series on county politicians, JON LAND recalls the trade union pioneer Sydney Box.

From rags to reputation as a champion of the workers

Sydney Box was fighting for his very existence from day one. Born at Walton in 1873 into a family of 17 children, he was orphaned at the age of eight and working the land by the time he was nine.
Self-educated, he spent the greater part of his early life as a labourer and developed a first-hand knowledge of their expectations and needs.
In 1912, he became an organiser of the Workers’ Union, and quickly realised what he was up against. No national agreement determined labourers hours or wages which, at the time stood at a paltry 70 pence a week, in new money, having risen the equivalent of only two pence in the preceding 11 years.
Sydney took it upon himself to organise meetings at Ledbury and Bromyard, and, as a result, the Herefordshire Agricultural Workers’ Union was formed.


50 branches

Within a year 50 branches had been established across the county and an association was made with the national union. Travelling by bicycle, Sydney co-ordinated meetings up and down Herefordshire, recruited members and established branches, which would later spread further afield to Worcestershire, Shropshire, Monmouthshire, Breconshire and Radnorshire.
His tireless work, however, was not always appreciated and wherever he went he faced verbal insults and very often physical violence from farmers and, according to his memoirs, even parsons.
At Kington, the town's vicar led the local Boy Scouts in a chorus to drown out his words and disrupt the meeting, while at Stoke Lacy he was locked in a room by farmers in an effort to silence him.


Enrolled 1,500

Acting as chairman, secretary and organiser of the new union in the county, he had enrolled 1,500 members by the beginning of 1914.
He was also a clever propagandist and The Hereford Times carried many letters, written in dialect and signed ‘Garge Gee-Up’, in which he pleaded the cause of his members.
In May 1914 demands were drawn up for a 54-hour week and the introduction of a different wage scale for winter and summer months.
The Lord Lieutenant of the county immediately upped the wages of his men and his example was followed by others, but just as the union was seemingly victorious the First World War brought everything to a standstill.
The management of the Workers’ Union was transferred to district offices, while Sydney himself became a jobbing gardener for the duration, operating from his home at Marden.
The war brought increased profits and better wages to the farming industry, which itself became more politicised as employers and workers fought to safeguard what had been achieved between 1914 and 1918.
In December 1918 Sydney's supporters put him forward as the Labour Party candidate for the Hereford Division following his efforts to establish the party within the county during 1917. Although he was defeated, he received nearly 4,000 votes for a programme that included the establishment of the National Health Service, equality of educational opportunity, public ownership of the land and an end to sex discrimination.


Career lasted 45 years

As president of the Hereford Trades Council and a member of the county council for nine years, Sydney continued his work to improve conditions for labourers and for people in the workhouses, as well as fighting for a minimum wage.
His trade union and political career lasted 45 years and on his retirement as an official of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, in 1946, he was presented with gifts and letters of appreciation from 2,000 members.
Sydney box died in 1958, at the age of 85, but his name lives on in the form of a Hereford Trades Council award presented to the top student at Herefordshire College of Technology each year.

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Article 2: Hereford Times, Thursday, March 12, 2009, Farming Times

Readers are able to supply answers

Sidney Box

A group of workers outside the Tarrington Arms pub were taking part in a rally. If you can identify anyone, please let us know. Click for a closer view.

The mystery surrounding a photograph featured in the Hereford Times in January may have been solved.
Lindsey Lloyd spotted this photo of a group of workers in front of an agricultural workers union banner and noticed that it used to be on the wall of the old Labour club in Edgar Street.
Mr Lloyd's grandfather, Sidney Box, founded the union.
“He has got a book written about it and was a war correspondent for agriculture during the First World War”, said Mr Lloyd. “He even came second to Elgar in the Who’s Who of Herefordshire.”
Gordon Hotchkiss contacted the Hereford Times to say that his father William was in the photo, believed to have been taken in the 1950s, and he was told that it was outside the Tarrington Arms pub.
Wendy Clarke, from Hereford, thinks Mr Hotchkiss is correct and the union members were taking part in a rally.
“My father-in-law Bob and his son Tim also in the photo”, said Mrs Clarke.
“He was a union organiser for the National Union of Agriculture and Allied Workers (NUAAW) and used to collect money from the members on a fortnightly or monthly basis.

The Tarrington Arms was one of the places where he collected the subs”.

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Sidney Box

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