Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Shipwrights Co-op in Deptford and Woolwich

Following yesterday's post on Deptford Church Street, here's an interesting snippet about the shipwrights co-operative formed by workers in the Royal Docks in the 18th century.

In the 1750s 'a society of shipwrights came into existence... as a retail co-operative society. It opened a bakery at Chatham, a cornmill at Woolwich and a butcher's shop in Church Street, Deptford. The shops offered cheap provision to the local poor, undercuttng the bakers by a penny per quartern loaf, and in Deptford greatly reducing the cost of meat. The Chatham and Kent bakers prosecuted the shipwrights, both for baking without having served an apprenticeship to the trade and for selling bread below the lawful price, but lost at Maidstone Assizes in July 1758 and at Quarter Sessions the following April. The verdicts were followed by "great rejoicing" among shipwrights and townspeople and the Red Flag was hoisted at Woolwich, but the following March, on a Sunday night, the mill mysteriously burned down'.

Source: Masters and journeymen: a prehistory of industrial relations, 1717-1800 By C. R. Dobson (1980)

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