Journeymen Steam Engine, Machine Makers' and Millwrights' Friendly Society

Scope and Content

Minute Books (Greenock Branch), 1835-1848; Cash and Contributions Books, 1831-1851; Apprenticeship Certificates 1822-1850.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Journeymen Steam Engine, Machine Makers' and Millwrights' Friendly Society (Old Mechanics) was formed on 26th July 1826 through the merging of the Friendly Union of Mechanics and the Mechanics Friendly Union Institution. Generally the Union became known as the Old Mechanics. By 1839 the Old Mechanics had 3000 members and a part-time secretary. In 1836 the Union made a demand for a 10 hour day which resulted in an 8 month strike. The strike cost the Union £5000 but resulted in victory. The word Millwright was added to the Union's name in 1841 bringing an older class of skilled labour into the membership. 1n 1845 the Old Mechanics attacked the employment of unskilled labour on machines, the piecemaster system and systematic overtime. Actions by branches to enforce the Union's demands led to the Executive Officers and 20 members being indicted for conspiracy and illegal combination. A national movement was instigated by the engineers and the indicted men were freed in June 1847. The success of the national demonstration was a major factor is speeding up the process of Amalgamation between the various engineering Unions. The Old Mechanics were one of the founding members of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in 1851.

Reference: J.B. Jeffreys, The Story of the Engineers( London, 1945; repr. 1970).

Reference: Arthur Marsh and Victoria Ryan Historical Directory of Trade Unions Volume 2( Gower Publishing Company, 1984).

Access Information

This collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

Acquisition Information

These papers form part of a large collection (MSS.259) that has been deposited in the Modern Records Centre over a number of years. Most of the Records came from the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Engineering Section). The first deposits were made in 1984 with further deposits made up to 1997.

Other Finding Aids

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this archive, apart from the requirements of copyright law.

Appraisal Information

This collection has been weeded for duplicates.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

These papers constitute part of a large collection of related papers that have been deposited in the Modern Records Centre over a long period of time. For a full listing of these trade Unions see (MSS.259/UMB).