1842 General Strike

The 1842 General Strike in Britain, also known as the Plug Plot Riots,[1] started among the Staffordshire miners and soon spread through the country affecting factories, mills and coal mines from Dundee to South Wales and Cornwall.

The strike was influenced by the Chartist movement – a mass working class movement from 1838 - 1848. After the second Chartist Petition was presented to Parliament in April 1842, Stalybridge contributed 10,000 signatures. After the rejection of the petition the first general strike began in the coal mines of Staffordshire. The second phase of the strike originated in Stalybridge.[2]

A movement of resistance to the imposition of wage cuts in the mills, also known as the Plug Riots, it spread to involve nearly half a million workers throughout Britain and represented the biggest single exercise of working class strength in nineteenth century Britain. On 13 August 1842 there was a strike at Bayley’s cotton mill in Stalybridge, and roving cohorts of operatives carried the stoppage first to the whole area of Stalybridge and Ashton, then to Manchester, and subsequently to towns adjacent to Manchester, using as much force as was necessary to bring mills to a standstill. The movement remained, to outward appearances, largely non-political. Although the People's Charter was praised at public meetings, the resolutions that were passed at these were in almost all cases merely for a restoration of the wages of 1820, a ten-hour working day, or reduced rents.


  1. So named because the mills “were stopped from working by the removal or ‘drawing’ of a few bolts or ‘plugs’ in the boilers so as to prevent steam from being raised”: OED s.v.plug.

  2. F.C.Mather (1974).”The General Strike of 1842: A Study in Leadership, Organisation and the Threat of Revolution during the Plug Plot Disturbance”. George Allen & Unwin Ltd London. Retrieved 2008-01-30.

Related topics in the Connexions Subject Index

Chartism/ChartistsDirect ActionGeneral StrikesStrikesWildcat StrikesWorkers’ History

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