The Battle of Howe Bridge is the name given to a riot that took place in 1881, during the acrimonious strike by 50,000 miners from pits on the Lancashire CoalfieldThe Lancashire and Cheshire Coalfield in North West England was one of the most important British coalfields. Its coal seams were formed from the vegetation of tropical swampy forests in the Carboniferous period more than 300 million years ago. that was characterised by mobs of miners picketing working pits.
From 1 January 1881 Lancashire miners were strikingBitter and violent Lancashire miners' strike of 1881 that lasted for seven weeks, and ended with no resolution. to protect their rights if they were injured while at work, and for three weeks the strike was solid. The return to work by miners from Fletcher Burrow’sOwner of collieries and cotton mills in Atherton in North West England. Atherton pits brought thousands of miners from Ince, Haydock, St. Helens, Wigan and Hindley to a mass meeting in Leigh on 28 January. The Riot Act was read, but the crowd headed towards the Fletcher Burrows’ pits at Howe BridgeSuburb of Atherton in Greater Manchester, built as a model mining village in the 1870s by the Fletchers., followed by the Hussars and the police, who decided to disperse the crowd. Troopers charged into the strikers amid a hail of stones and flailed at the crowd with staffs, driving the men back towards the police.
The Hussars drew their swords and charged, scattering the mob in all directions. Soon after three o’clock some of the rioters had re-assembled and headed towards the Howe Bridge pits, where the shift had just ended. The row recommenced when a group of men leaving the Crombouke Pit were stoned and hailed as “knobsticks”, and had to take shelter in nearby cottages. The police chased the mob with truncheons as did the infantry who had arrived from Haydock.
The Hussars’ victory led a local brassfounder to strike a commemorative medal inscribed “The Battle of Howe Bridge”. and a silver-mounted riding whip was presented to the Hussars’ sergeant major when they left Leigh on 1 March.
Phillips, C. B., and J. H. Smith. Lancashire and Cheshire from AD 1540 Regional History of England (Reprint). Routledge, 1982.
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