The towns of Macclesfield and Leek developed from the 17th century onwards as the major centres of a silk goods industry which also took in other parts of east Cheshire and west Staffordshire. It is not surprising that these two towns became the headquarters of the trade unions set up to protect and advance the interests of the workers of what became in the l9th century primarily a factory-based industry.
The Amalgamated Society of Textile Workers and Kindred Trades (ASTWKT), now part of Unite, was formed in 1919 and has been based since its inception at Foxlowe, Leek. This union developed from the merger of most of the unions which, in 1907, set up the Leek Textile Federation.
By 1907 several of the unions shared in the services of William Bromfield as Secretary. This facilitated the federation and amalgamation process, and Bromfield held the post of Secretary of the ASTWKT from 1919 to 1942, setting a trend for long service carried on by his successors, Herbert Lisle and Alfred Hitchmough. In 1918 Bromfield was elected Labour M.P. for Leek, and, with the exception of 1931 to 1935, held on to the seat until 1945.
There were trade unions which chose not to join the Federation and/or the ASTWKT. The most significant of these was the National Silk Workers Association (NSWA), originally known as the Macclesfield Power Loom Silk Weavers and General Silk Workers Association. This remained separate until merging with the ASTWKT in 1965. The NSWA was based in Macclesfield and probably remained the major union for the silk workers there, although the ASTWKT did have a Macclesfield branch.
In addition to Leek and Macclesfield, branches existed at various times at Cheadle (Staffs), Congleton, Great Yarmouth, Mayfield, Sandbach and Tean.
Click here to find out more about our Silk Workers' trade unions collection
Amalgamated Society of Textile and Kindred Trades
A brief timeline
1902 - Macclesfield Power Loom Silk Weavers and General Silk Workers Association was formed. It changed its name to the National Silk Workers Association in 1906.
1907 - Leek Textile Federation was formed.
1919 - Amalgamated Society of Textile Workers and Kindred Trades was formed to replace the Leek Textile Federation from an amalgamation between the Amalgamated Society of Silk Pickers (1872), the Amalgamated Society of Braid Workers and Kindred Trades (1888), the Amalgamated Society of Silk and Cotton Dyers (1889), the Amalgamated Society of Women Workers (1906), the Amalgamated Society of Silk Spinners, Throwsters and Reelers (1907) and the Leek Spun Silk Dressers Union (1907), which were all based around Leek, Macclesfield and Congleton.
1992 - the Amalgamated Society of Textile Workers and Kindred Trades changed its name to the Union of Textile Workers.
2002 - the Union of Textile Workers joined AMICUS.
2007 - Amicus merged with the Transport and General Workers Union to form Unite.
Unite still exists today, click here to visit their Website
Resources about the Silk workers unions in the library collection
F Burchill and J Sweeney, A history of trade unionism in the North Staffordshire textile industry / The Leek textile unions, 1850-1919 / The Amalgamated Society of Textile Workers and Kindred Trades, 1919-1971 (1971) - Shelfmark: B30
Ben Turner, Short history of the General Union of Textile Workers (1920) - Shelfmark: B31