Tonypandy Riots

A Struggle for a Living Wage in the Mines

The book commemorating a hundred years since the Tonypandy Riots of 1910/11 is well worth getting if you have ancestors who were in the area at the time. There are plenty of photographs giving a flavour of life, the coal mines, shops, entertainment and politics in the Rhondda valley. (Updated) The connected Tonypandy 2010 website appears to have closed, at Jan 2012.

A short extract: “The Tonypandy Riots were a series of violent confrontations between coal miners and police that took place at various locations in and around the mines of the Cambrian Combine, a business network of mining companies formed to regulate prices and wages in south Wales. The riots were the culmination of an industrial dispute between workers and the mine owners who went on strike for a year in an effort to fight for a living wage.”

While the strike did not achieve a great deal for those immediately involved, overall it had a significant impact on the politics of the time and the development of Labour policy.

Wikipedia’s Tonypandy Riots entry.

Our family’s role – unknown

Granddad, Levi (Len) Watkins, was a coal miner living in David Street at the time, in the 1911 census age 16 shown as ‘Coal miner helper’, and at time of signing up in 1916 was employed by Cambrian Colliery. His elder brother William was in 1911 shown as ‘Engine Plane (below ground)’ and father John, age 42 ‘Coal miner – hewer’. They, and many relatives in the valleys, must have been involved in some way in the events of that time, from suffering the extra hardships of limited strike income to being onlookers or maybe participants in the less justifiable actions of the workers. But sadly there aren’t any known family stories.

Update: I am told that one of the book’s authors, Gwyn Evans, is related to the Osborne branch of our family. He was Head of art and design at a Tonypandy school, and a founder member of the Rhondda Group of painters.

Also see

The show must go on … the railway.

About part of the local community: Feeling Bushed, A community in the BushSnapshot of Bush Houses 1911

7 thoughts on “Tonypandy Riots

  1. hi my great great uncle was herbert greenslade he was a police constable 23yrs old he was at blaenclydach on the 23rd of march 1911 where he was injured,,im looking into my family tree sheridans/greenslades on my dads side and on my mums side toye and wienskowitz thats the hardest to find anything about changed names 4 times crossing europe to usa in the 1880s and coming to britain in 1890s regrds steve sheridan

    1. Thanks for the comment Steve. Do you have a copy of the book? I’ve had a quick look and found the passage on incidents on 23rd March – I’ll copy it for you if you want.

      Best of luck with your researches.

    2. Hi. My name is Deirdre McCumiskey and I am the partner of David Herbert Greenslade (whose grandfather was your great-great uncle Herbert Greenslade). I am very interested in genealogy (having traced my family tree back to 1500) and have done some research into David’s family history. Would love to hear what information you have about the Greenslade Family. Best Wishes. Deirdre

  2. hi would love a copy also ,,,any ideas how i research the police history of herbert,,i have is a photo of him in uniform and records of birth marriage death etc,,but want find out more about him when he was alive the times around him etc

    thanks steve

  3. mY NAN was only 4 during the riots and I dont know how involved or not her family were at the time. but 80 years later after an operation to replace her knee , she was halcinating about the riots crying and wanting to hide – how horrible must it have been for those people involved

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