This article originally appeared in Belbroughton Parish Magazine in March 2012.
In the present economic climate we have heard a great deal about the controversy concerning bonuses awarded to Bankers. At the same time there is unrest over pay freezes for workers in both the public and private sectors.
Dissatisfaction over earnings has caused dispute from time immemorial, as this extract from the Bromsgrove Messenger (March 2nd 1872) illustrates:
BELBROUGHTON: The Wages Question. – A large meeting of agricultural labourers of the Belbroughton district was held at the Talbot Inn, Belbroughton, on Wednesday evening, the 14th instant, to take into consideration the desirability of having a higher rate of wages. It was unanimously carried that the wages of the labourers be raised from 1s 10d to 2s 6d per day, and shepherds, waggoners and cowmen to 18s per week, and if their terms be not acceded to, to give fourteen days’ notice to the masters. – In connection with this movement a meeting of the employers of agricultural labour was held at the Queen’s Head Inn on Friday, the 16th instant. Nearly all the employers of labour in the parish were present or represented. The general feeling of the meeting was in favour of giving some advance, but not to the extent asked for by the men at their meetings.
BELBROUGHTON: Farmers and the Wages Agitation. – An adjourned meeting of the farmers and others of this parish was held at the Queen’s Head Inn, on Friday evening, the 23rd February. There was a large attendance, C P Noel Esq presiding. The meeting was private, but from what afterwards transpired, it appears it was resolved, after some discussion, to continue the present allowance of beer and other perquisites, and at the same time give an advance of one shilling per week. The men seem generally satisfied with this, though a few cases of a partial strike have occurred.
A reminder that 1s 10d is about 9 pence, 2s 6d is 12½ pence,18s is 90 pence and the eventual award to the farm workers was a shilling or 5 pence a week.