Mortimer Grimshaw, "Thunderer of Lancashire"

Labor Activist of the Mid-1800s from Great Harwood

Charles Dickens (Above) Based Two of His Characters -- Gruffshaw and Slackbridge -- on Mortimer Grimshaw



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Mortimer Grimshaw (1824/5-1869)

Mortimer Grimshaw was born into a working-class family in or near Great Harwood. He worked intermittently as a cotton weaver, and achieved local -- briefly, national -- fame as a strike leader and political activist in the mid-1850s.

He rose to fame in Royton, near Oldham, as a factory reformer, and claimed to have been blacklisted by the cotton manufacturers for his political campaigning, including supporting the Tory -- radical enemies of free trade as well as being involved in Ernest Jonesís ill fated Labour government in 1854. Grimshaw opposed unrestricted competition within the industry and feared the class power of the mill owners.

In 1853 when the Preston workers went on strike for a 10 per cent increase in wages, Grimshaw was an ever-present figure at mass meetings, defending the "factory slaves" against repression by their masters. He was, along with George Cowell, seen as the acknowledged leader of the seven-month strike. Speaking at sixty or more public meetings during the strike, he urged the construction of cooperative mills has a long-term challenge to the power of capital.

After the strike Grimshaw had no further purpose and despite attempting to intervene in several other strikes, and voicing his Tory sympathies during the American civil war, he died in obscurity on 22 December 1869 in Rishton.


IGI entries, summarized as follows:


Thomas Grimshaw (ca 1797 - ?) & Eden unknown (ca 1801 - ?). Married 29 Apr 1822, Church.

|--Ann Grimshaw (ch 9 Mar 1823, Church - ?)

|--John Grimshaw (ch 21 Mar 1824, Church - ?)

|--Mortimer Grimshaw (ch 21May 1826, Church - 22 Dec 1869, Rishton) & Mary unknown

|--|--Eden Grimshaw (ch 18 May 1851, Church - ?)

|--Richard Grimshaw (ch 6 Jul 1828, Church - ?)

|--Mary Grimshaw (ch 24 Sep 1830, Church - ?)

|--Thomas Grimshaw (ch 16 Dec 1832, Rishton - ?)


Cowell and Grimshaw led the Preston Strike in 1853

George Cowell, leader of the Preston Strike.
Illustrated London News, 1853







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Webpage posted January 2009.

Mortimer Grimshaw, "Thunderer of Lancashire"