Milborne St Andrew



All data and photos generously contributed by Mr. MICHAEL WALKER:



The union was always strong in Dorset with 80 -90% union membership (along with Norfolk and Lincolnshire). The accompanying picture refers to its predecessor union, Joseph Arch's National Agricultural Laborers' Union est. 1872, which quickly spread across Britain with the support of the non conformist church and the arrival of the railway in many rural areas. (The union meetings were extensively covered in local papers).

The union had great success initially, until the counter offensive occurred and "lock out's" especially in this year 1874 were widespread. Many union members were forced to seek work in the cities, many others with the help of the union emigrated to Australia and Canada.


Those who remained often had a picture of Joseph Arch in their house, despite the union being crushed. The new union arouses at the beginning of last centaury and is now part of the Transport & General Workers Union.

The next picture is from Sharpen the sickle  (The history of the Farm Workers Union) by Reg Groves circa 1950

"Sharpen the sickle! The fields are white; 'Tis the time of the harvest at last"


Karl Marx referred in 1872 to "The great event here is the awakening of the agricultural labourers".

In April 1874 the union had 6,000 members locked out. As Landlords & Farmers locked out the labourers in order to cut pay and by now a refusal to re-employee union members.

I would put good money on those in the picture having little option but to emigrate. The union by April 1875
had helped 2,000 men go to Australia and New Zealand, 500 to Queensland and 4,000 to Canada.


From Sharpen the sickle by Reg Groves


In Dorset the union made rapid strides, over 2,000 joining in the first nine weeks.  Active in this county was G. Allington, a farm worker, who, sacked by his employer, was elected to the union executive and became a "delegate," or organiser.  One of the strongest union centres was the Blandford area.

At Winterbourne Kingston, Arch held a meeting at a spot still called " Arch's corner " by the older villagers.  Bert Wellstead, for thirty years a union member, and a leading figure in the Dorset Labour movement, recalls his father's membership of Arch's union.  His father was a woodman in the winter and worked on the farms in the summer.  " Wages were nine shillings a week when Arch came, and hundreds joined his union; When he came to Kingston the farmers turned up in force and pelted him with rotten eggs, but he was soon in a position to deal with them all right and wages went up from nine to twelve shillings a week. And there," adds Bert Wellstead, " they stood till 1916." The rises were not got without strikes and threats of strikes.

There was a strike of twenty-five men led by one Alfred Martin at Melborne St. Andrew, in the Blandford
area, and other strikes were only prevented in April over the whole of the district between Shaftesbury and Blandford by the farmers conceding rises of 2s. or 3s a week.

" It would appear," Wellstead recalls, " that Arch had a man named Mitchell to assist him and the farmers spread all sorts of tales about this man, and told their men what fools they were to keep this man in a soft job. . . ."


Below Wellstead information:

Western Gazette 13th February 1953
Leading Trade Unionist

Sudden Death of Mr. B. J. Wellstead
Former Dorset Chairman of N.U.A.W.

Mr. Bertie John Wellstead who died suddenly at his home at Congella, Winterborne  Kingston in the early hours of Tuesday was one of Dorset's leading trade unionists and a staunch supporter of the Labour cause. Until ill-health obliged him to give some of his public work he was a prominent member of the Dorset branch of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, and a former chairman, retiring from that office in 1950. He also at one time served on the Union's National Executive. With the late Mr. Fred James, who was then the county organiser, Mr. Wellstead did a great deal of the spade work In the early days of the Union in Dorset, and addressed ' meetings all over the county. He and Mr. James (NUAW District organiser) actually organised the first big Union rally at Tolpuddle, which has now become an annual event.

The late Mr. Wellstead was one on the originators of 'the scheme which resulted in the building by the T.U.C. of the Martyrs' Memorial Cottages at Tolpuddle. Since the death of Mr. James had acted in the capacity of friend and elder statesmen to the residents of the cottages, and had looked after their welfare on behalf of the T.U.C.

Public Work
Mr. Wellstead had devoted the greater part of his life to public work.  He was a Justice of the Peace for the county, having been appointed in 1947, and sat regularly on the Blandford Bench. He was a member of the Dorset Standing Joint Committee and of the Police and General Purposes Sub-Committee of the Dorset County Council. He also represented the magistrates of the Blandford division on the County Licensing Committee and the County Appeal Committee.

He was vice-president of the North Dorset Labour Party and occupied a similar office with the Blandford local Labour Party. He was also Chairman of the Party's newly-formed branch at Winterbourne Kingston. Mr Wellstead was also the first president of the Blandford & District Trades' Council when it was formed in 1947 (Arthur Jordan Dorset organiser of NUAW being Secretary), Wellstead giving up his office three years later owing to ill health.

He took a keen interest in the affairs of his own village, where he was a member of the Parish Council for more than 30 years and the chairman for close on 20 years. He resigned from the Chairmanship in May last year (1952). He was intensely proud of the fact that under his Chairmanship the Parish council had acquired for the village its own allotments, recreation ground and cemetery - all without cost to the rates. He was a manager of both Kingston Bere Regis School.

Mr. Wellstead retained his interest In the village right to the last, Only the evening before his death he spoke at a parish meeting which had been called to consider the question of a local appeal for the Flood Relief Fund.

Wonderful Spirit

Mr. Wellstead had been a sick man for several year's, but his wonderful spirit still kept him going, and he continued to take his share in village and county affairs. Although some of his activities had to be curtailed.

Aged 63 he leaves a wife Mrs B. J. Welstead, three sons (Cyril and Harry), and a daughter (Mrs L. Langdown).  One son died some time ago. (His brothers were Edward, William and Reginald Wellstead and sister Mrs F. Vincent) Before his retirement for health reasons in 1949 he was employed by the Dorset County Council Highways Department, which he joined in 1918. When he retired he was district road foreman for the Sturminster Newton district.

He was born in Winterborne Kingston, where he had lived for the greater part of his life.  His father, the late Mr. Harry Wellstead, was a hurdle maker, who was the last farm worker in Dorset to pay into the National Agricultural Labourers Union formed by the late Joseph Arch (estb1872-1896). At the age of 19 he became secretary of the Winterborne Kingston branch of the Liberal Association. In 1915 he joined the Army, and during four years abroad he served in German East Africa. On demobilisation in 1919 he joined the local branch of the National Union of Agricultural Workers which had been formed in the village, and was soon elected chairman.  It was at this period that he began his friendship with the late Fred James (NUAW District Organiser). Who was to have such a profound influence on his later life In 1928 Mr. Wellstead was elected to the Union's National Executive to represent the counties of Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, but resigned when he was appointed road foreman as his duties -prevented him from attending meetings. One of Mr. Wellstead's greatest delights in an active life was his visits to the village centenarian Mrs. Sophie Wellstead, who lived near him and will be 102 this year. The funeral was arranged to take place at Winterbourne Kingston Methodist Church this (Friday) afternoon at 2pm.