Britain 1825

The Non-Signers of Bradford and Its Neighbourhood

Written: Bradford, June 20th, 1825;
Source: Original poster in the collection of the British Library;
Transcribed: by Mitchell Abidor for

The circumstances behind the issuing of this poster, produced by the Wool Combers and Weavers Union of the Yorkshire city of Bradford, belie its jocular and mocking tone. The union, in a slightly different form, was founded in 1824 when the Combination Acts were abolished, though even under the restrictive conditions of those acts the workers had managed to organize. In June 1825, the month this poster was issued, a strike broke out for higher wages and union recognition. The “non-signers” of this poster were those who refused to sign a petition renouncing the union, the employers going so far, according to E.P. Thompson, “as to dismiss all children from the spinning mills whose parents refused to sign” such a document. £20,000 were subscribed in support of the strike, from places distant as Brighton and Scotland, but the 23 week struggle resulted in a crushing defeat for the union. The union wasn’t killed, though, and was able to carry out another action in 1827.

A further note: the “SUN” of the poster is not only a symbolic usage: the headquarters of the union opponents was the Sun Inn. – M.A.

Fellow non-signers,

Those hot-headed Fellows, the Inhabitants of the Sun, seem to think, because they have more Light and Heat, that they have more Sense and Wisdom, also, than we poor Mortals of the lower Regions.

It has lately also been driven into their empty Noddles, that they have a Right to rule or govern us, who are only the poor and simple Inhabitants of Earth.

On account of our independent Spirit, we did not so easily submit to this, as they the Inhabitants of the SUN had at first imagined. They have therefore solicited their Brethren, who live in neighbouring STARS, to come to their Assistance and help them in putting down the Upstarts of the Earth.

Not being able, with the Assistance of their zealous Brethren of the Stars, together with the King of that scorching COMET nightly seen at BOWLING, to curb by Force our independent Spirit, they have now Recourse to Stratagem.

They mean to assail us separately with a Request to sign. To sign what? We do not know. Cannot you think or guess? Yes. We think we are to sign away our independence. We think we are to sign away our children’s Bread. We think we are to sign away our Labour at any price which these Inhabitants of the higher Regions may be pleased to give. This we certainly shall do if we sigh against the UNION. No sooner shall we have done this than they will ascend to their high Abode, laugh at our Cowardice and Ignorance, bind us to future Slavery through our present Conduct, and we being exposed more to the to the Pride and greediness of the Sun’s Inhabitants than to the Heat of the Sun itself, shall be dried and shriveled up, until we are reduce to Skin and Bone.

Committee-Room, Roebuck Inn, Bradford, June 20th, 1825