An Enigmatic Miners' Federation Badge with an Interesting History.

If you are a collector of Miners’ Association checks/badges you may at sometime have come across a very large Federation piece similar to that shown below;

A commemorative brass miners' association badge/check issued by the North Staffordshire Miners' Federation c.1912. 

The above brass check or badge is exceptional in its design. Most circular Miners' Association checks are normally in the order of 32mm in diameter and 1mm thick. The piece illustrated above is comparatively much larger at 38mm diameter and 2.5mm thick. It also has an embossed circular border on its reverse that is relatively uncharacteristic for such issues. Apart from the two usual holes at the check's edge, which were used for sewing it onto the owner's jacket lapel or cap, it is generally more medallic in appearance than badge like.

For a long time after first encountering this badge I didn't really understand the significance of the date it carried or the portrait of the man shown on its obverse. I assumed the portrait belong to an esteemed member of the North Stafford Miners Federation but couldn't decide if the reference to "DIED 1912" related to him or the demise of the federation to which he belonged. Originally I thought the latter explanation was feasible given that in 1912 there had been a great national strike amongst coal miners in the attempt to secure a minimum wage of 6s 5d a day. After the turmoil created by this strike it was possible that there had been some reorganisations and mergers of individual miners associations and local federations which had resulted in some of the earlier known ones becoming extinct, at least in name.

It wasn't  until recently after finally acquiring one of the pieces for my own collection that I finally learnt the true story behind them and the man depicted on their obverse.

These check/badges belong to a series produced to commemorate the death of Enoch Edwards in 1912. They were struck in both brass and copper and were possibly copies of a much larger original which hung in the boardroom of the Miners Offices (now occupied by the Moorland Photo. labs.) in Park Road, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. 

The majority of those similar pieces issued were in the form of very large and ornate miners' association badges. However, some time ago the late John Hammond informed me that he had also seen at least one similar example which had been made with a lapel button attachment lug on its reverse as opposed to the usual sewing holes. 

The story and significance to British coal mining history of the man whose portrait the above badge/check bears is briefly given below.

Enoch Edwards was born on 10 April 1852 and was the oldest son of a miner from "Talke O' the Hill" colliery near Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. At the age of 10 after a very meager education at a local Methodists Day School he started work at Hollinwood Colliery which was then owned by the Birchenwood Coal & Iron Co. Ltd.

By the time he was eighteen Enoch had taught himself to read and had even become a Sunday School teacher. He was to continue to have links and strong views about education for the rest of his life. However, he remained in the local mining industry moving to the "Talke O' the Hill Colliery" in 1869 and then to Harecastle Colliery in 1874. 

During his time at as a collier Enoch became involved with the local Mine Rescue Services and took part in several successful rescue operations involving miners who had become trapped underground as the result of accidents. His involvement in Union work started at the age of 17 when he started collecting money for a local Miners Association. Even when his Colliery Manager threatened him with the "sack" for this he was not deterred. At about the same time he also started to take an interest in Friendly Societies and soon after became appointed Secretary for the local Talke Branch of the Ancient Order of Shepherds, later becoming Secretary for the District, a position he held for 14 years. He also became a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters.

In his early years Enoch had become a member of the Butt Lane Branch of the local Miners’ Union (the North Staffordshire Miners' Association, 1869-86) and by 1875 he had been appointed its Chargehand. He continued to hold this title until 1880. In 1875 he was also appointed Treasurer of the North Staffordshire Miners Association (which became the North Staffordshire Miners' Federation in 1886) and then in 1878 he transferred to the office of General Secretary. He continued to hold this position until his death.

A brass miners' association badge issued by the North Staffordshire Miners' Federation. Such badges signified that their wearers were paid up members of the Federation either up to or commencing from June of 1903. The Obverse of this badge bears an impression of a Staffordshire knot while the revere depicts the full frontal portrait of what appears to be Enoch Edwards.

Enoch's career in local union work lead him into ever more important offices both in the spheres of British Mining and politics. A brief résumé of some of the more important landmarks in his career are given below;

Enoch Edwards M.P.

At the time of his death Enoch was a J.P. for Burslem, Secretary and Agent of the North Staffordshire Miners Federation, President of the Midland Miners' Federation plus President of the Miners Federation of Great Britain (of which he had been Treasurer prior to becoming President). He was also Chairman of the English Coal Trade Conciliation Board and both President and Committee Chairman of the International Miners' Congress.


1) I would like to thank Dave Richards for providing me with most of the historical details quoted in the above article.

2) The late John Hammond for information regarding the button hole fastening variety of the commemorative "Enoch Edwards" badge.

Based on an article first published in "Badges & Checks, Issue No.4, October 1996 and later reproduced in part in NMMA Newsletter No.5, February 1997. © Mark Smith & Dave Richards 1996.

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