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Reader’s Letter: The ‘landmark gasometer’ at Armley gyratory and historic gas workers strike of 1890

Dear sir; You recently carried an article on the demolition of the “landmark gasometer” by the Armley Gyratory.

It is worth mentioning that this was the site of the historic gas workers strike of 1890.

The Leeds Town Council, then the supplier of gas to the town, had decided to reduce the wages of the gas workers during the summer months when there was less demand.

Not surprisingly the workers bitterly opposed this move and, failing to persuade the Council to back down, they voted to strike.

The dispute became a national issue, particularly when the Council foolishly decided to bring in replacement workers from London and Manchester.

When these “blacklegs” were marched down to the New Wortley gas works the Leeds workers climbed on top of the railway bridge nearby and rained stones down on the unfortunate imported men who realised that they had been misled.

As soon as they became aware of the situation many of them joined the strike and demanded to be sent home. Leeds industry which depended on gas for its heating and its furnaces was slowly coming to standstill and it was soon clear that the Council could not succeed with its policy.

Secret negotiations were carried out with the men through trusted intermediaries and the Council gave in. The gas workers had won and this 1890 strike became a seminal point in the rise of the Labour party in Leeds.

I gave a lecture on the strike as part of the Heritage Open Day in 2019. This lecture was given in the West Leeds Railway Club in the shadow of the gasometer. Just in time to beat the demolition!

Michael Meadowcroft, Bramley

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