5 October 1936: the Jarrow Crusade sets off for London

On this day in 1936, 200 men set off on the Jarrow Crusade to march the 300 miles from County Durham to London to demand the government take action on unemployment.

For over a hundred years from the middle of the 19th century, Jarrow, in County Durham, had been a thriving shipbuilding town. By the 1930s, Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company employed 80% of the town's workforce.

Then the Great Depression hit, and Palmers closed. Unemployment soared to 70%. And with unemployment benefit lasting just 26 weeks, things soon started looking grim. The people of the town wanted the government to do something – many wanted them to build a steelworks to provide employment. And so on 20 July 1936, Jarrow Borough Council decided to present a petition to Parliament demanding that "His Majesty's Government and this honourable House should realise the urgent need that work should be provided for the town without further delay."

The petition was circulated and received 11,000 signatures. A "crusade" – a march the length of the country to London – would be staged to bring the petition, carried in an oak box, to the government.

Some 200 physically fit men (women were not invited to march) were selected from the local population and checked to ensure they could endure the 300-mile walk to London. And on this day in 1936, they set off, a mouth organ band leading the way.

It wasn't the first march of its kind. The National Unemployed Workers' Movement had organised “hunger marches”, including one of 2,000 people in 1932, plus others in 1934 and 1936. But there was a strong scent of Bolshevism about those marches which meant they weren't widely supported. For this one, however, Ellen Wilkinson, Jarrow's Labour MP, threw her weight behind the cause, despite the misgivings of her national party. And her presence ensured huge publicity.

As they wound their way south, the petition was added to, and the marchers received hospitality along the way. They finally reached London on 31 October. And Ellen Wilkinson presented the petition in Parliament on 4 November. But, rather than the petition, it was the coming of war that brought industry back to the town of Jarrow. The shipyards were reopened in 1938, and in 1939, the Consett Iron Company started a steelworks.

Recommended

Imperial Brands has an 8.3% yield – but what’s the catch?
Share tips

Imperial Brands has an 8.3% yield – but what’s the catch?

Tobacco company Imperial Brands boasts an impressive dividend yield, and the shares look cheap. But investors should beware, says Rupert Hargreaves. H…
20 May 2022
What's behind Sri Lanka’s crippling debt crisis?
Emerging markets

What's behind Sri Lanka’s crippling debt crisis?

Sri Lanka has been hit by a triple whammy of economic shocks and has gone to the IMF for a bailout. It may just be the first domino to fall in a globa…
20 May 2022
Investing in drugmakers: uncommon profits from curing rare diseases
Share tips

Investing in drugmakers: uncommon profits from curing rare diseases

Treatments for medical conditions with only a small number of sufferers can still be very attractive for pharmaceutical companies and investors becaus…
20 May 2022
Share tips of the week – 20 May
Share tips

Share tips of the week – 20 May

MoneyWeek’s comprehensive guide to the best of this week’s share tips from the rest of the UK's financial pages.
20 May 2022

Most Popular

Barry Norris: we’re already in the 1970s. Here’s how to invest
Investment strategy

Barry Norris: we’re already in the 1970s. Here’s how to invest

Merryn talks to Barry Norris of Argonaut capital about the parallels between now and the 1970s; the transition to “green” energy; and the one sector w…
19 May 2022
The ten highest dividend yields in the FTSE 100
Income investing

The ten highest dividend yields in the FTSE 100

Rupert Hargreaves looks at the FTSE 100’s top yielding stocks for income investors to consider.
18 May 2022
Share tips of the week – 20 May
Share tips

Share tips of the week – 20 May

MoneyWeek’s comprehensive guide to the best of this week’s share tips from the rest of the UK's financial pages.
20 May 2022