Plug Riots

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femmett
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Plug Riots

Post by femmett » 06 Jul 2016, 03:54

If you don't mind a Yorkshireman-in-exile sticking his nose across the border, I was drawn here by a great sleuthing job Stanley had done on what exactly the plug was that the Plug Rioters of 1842 pulled (and it wasn't called a plug). As part of a paper I'm giving at the Victorians Institute conference in North Carolina on the Plug Riots, I'd like to be able to describe exactly what they did (most of the research is on the implications for working-class history, not the actual act of drawing the plug). So Stanley figured out it was the draw down valve. How did they (or did they even have to) shut down the fire as well?
Thanks--
Frank Emmett (from Keighley now on Shelter Island NY)

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Stanley
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Re: Plug Riots

Post by Stanley » 06 Jul 2016, 06:38

Morning Frank! Nice to know someone reads my scribbles and takes notice....
My reading of the intentions of the rioters was that what they wanted to do was make a point by preventing the mill from running temporarily. They knew the technology and knew that if they blew the boiler down and then stole the plug out of the blow down cock it would take a day or two to get a replacement and get the boiler going again. Remember that in those days these plug cocks were individually made and it wasn't just a question of getting on to your supplier and buying a replacement.
The rioters also knew that if they blew the boiler down with a full fire going they would do serious damage to the boiler and this meant an extended period when the workers would have no income. I have no direct evidence but I'm sure that they would first burn the fires off with the dampers wide open and then draw the red hot residue out of the furnace. This meant that the boiler, though temporarily useless was not terminally damaged. In short, their intention was to make a point to the owners without damaging the income of the workers who they were trying to help. I've always thought that it was a particularly clever mode of attack with the added benefit that the plug, being solid bronze, could be weighed in for scrap and the proceeds spent in the pub!
As you've picked up from my scribblings, many historians, because of lack of direct knowledge, have equated the 'plug' with the fusible plug which is an entirely different kettle of fish and couldn't easily be removed.
Hope that helps......
Stanley Challenger Graham
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scg1936 at talktalk.net

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The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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