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Umbrella brigade in march to remember the women chainmakers of a century ago

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 15, 2014

  • The chain shop at Temple Meadow School, Old Hill, where Annette Bradney, with help from her daughter Sarann, demonstrated the art of chain making and answered questions from interested groups of people on Saturday June 7 during the 2014 Women Chainmakers Festival in Cradley Heath (Pictures by John Workman)

  • A police constable is on hand to keep the peace (Picture by Malcolm Smith)

  • Lynn Morris as Mary Macarthur (right), and singing in the rain (pictures by Malcolm Smith)

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THE planning was over, the day had dawned, and then in typical British summertime fashion the heavens opened to rapturous applause from thunder and lightning.

But inclement weather wasn't going to deter those hardy souls who had already decided to take part in the annual march through Cradley Heath in remembrance of the Women Chainmakers of 1910, who went on strike and faced hardships in their fight for an additional 2.5d per hour far beyond a mere soaking from a thunder storm. Amidst a sea of umbrellas, banners and smiling faces it was a case of cracking open a bottle of indomitable Black Country spirit and getting on with it.

The Black Country Bugle cameraman was out and about during the day, in particular at Temple Meadow School where chain maker Annette Bradney, with help from her daughter, held chain making demonstrations in the school's traditional chain shop. But we are indebted to Malcolm Smith from Clapton in London for his contribution of photos on another memorable day in the former chain making capital of the world. Both Malcolm's grandmother and great grandmother were chainmakers.

Annette Bradney was full of beans when we asked her to comment on how the event had gone at then end of Saturday's chain making demonstrations. "Full credit to the Friends of the Women Chainmakers Festival", she told us. "Almost everything worked out well on the day, except the weather, but even the rain didn't dampen anyone's spirits. I was on cloud nine when I finished my chain making duties, albeit a little tired, the perfect reminder of how hard these women used to have to work for a pittance in the days of yore.

"Once I get started I have an adrenaline rush and can work the chain 'till the cows come home. But the amount of people who came to watch and the interest they took in what I was doing was absolutely brilliant and helped tremendously. I even managed to make a link of Black Country chain that will be winging its way to Germany in the very near future, possibly the Black Forest region, who knows.

"I have to mention my daughter Sarann who stuck with the task all afternoon of operating the bellows, which is no mean feat, and hubby Mick for his support and encouragement.

"The people at Temple Meadow School were brilliant in allowing us to use their chain shop, and with a little more time to make all the necessary arrangements, next year's Women Chainmaker's Festival should be even better."

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