South Shields Local History Group

Under Construction

South Shields Union Banner

This banner was made for the National Union of General and Municipal Workers in 1894 by Samuel M. Peacock of 35 Baring Street a china dealer, insurance agent and seemingly a banner maker!  It shows some of the keys areas in South Shields, painted by John Davison Liddell and M. W. (probably Mark Watson) Ramsey.

Full Banner
The Groyne
Wooden Ship Building
William Stanley first secretary of the union
Metal Ship Building
Samuel M Peacock Banner Maker
House Building
Steamer at Stanhope Buoys
Market Place
Westoe Village
Wouldhave Memorial
Custom House Tavern, Seamens’ Church, Mill Dam
Marsden Rock
Always Ready

William Stanley became secretary of the Labourers’ Association in 1889 this later became the Tyneside and District Labourers’ Association then the National Union of General and Municipal Workers.  On Tuesday 27th November 1894 the following article appeared in the Shields Daily Gazette:



      Last evening the formal ceremony of un-furling a new banner, which has been procured by the South Shields branches of the National Amalgamated Union of Labour was performed in the Free Library Hall, South Shields, in the presence of a large assemblage of local trades unionists and others, Mr W. Gray, chairman of the banner committee, presided, and he was supported on the platform by the Mayor (Ald. Robert Readhead), Councillor Beattie, Mr G. T. Scott, and Mr J. Elliott, secretary of the banner committee The Chairman, in his opening remarks, explained that the banner scheme was promoted some four years ago, and a committee was then appointed and deputed to take the matter in hand. Their first difficulty, that of expense, they got over by the ready manner which the members contributed to the fund, and the generous support from outside, friends in the principles of Trades Unionism; and the difficulty as to the design, by deciding upon making their new design a thoroughly Shields one, as would be seen every picture was representative some important industry, and yet at the same time had some connection with the borough.—The Mayor then unfurled the banner presenting to the gaze of an admiring audience an emblematic ornament of artistic and appropriate design. Addressing the members he urged upon them the necessity of always putting the banner to its proper use, He would be very sorry to see them using it at any political gathering. There were many ways in which they could utilise it to the advantage of their society, themselves and their families without in any way interfering with the opinions of the great masses of the people.—On the motion of Councillor Beattie, seconded by Mr Elliott, and supported by Mr G. T Scott, a hearty vote of thanks was accorded to the Mayor, after which a programme of music was given.—The new banner is of dark blue silk, empanelled on both sides, with larger centre and corner pictures engrafted in oils and bordered with gold. The centre piece on one side is a fine representation of Shields harbour, depicting a full-rigged laden ship towing out to sea. In immediate prominence is the Groyne pier and lighthouse realistically painted, whilst beyond the stretch of water is seen the cliffs of Tynemouth and the old Priory. At the four corners are small panels showing a partially built dwelling house ; the frame of a vessel, in course of construction at one of the local yards; a steamer loading at the Stanhope Buoys ; and a steamer in a graving dock. On the other side is a handsomely painted view of the South Shields Market Place. The Town Hall stands out in bold relief in the foreground, whilst in the background is shown the colliery and Plate Glass Works, with a glimpse of St. Hilda’s Church. The colouring of this picture is exceptionally good. In the corners, representations are given of Westoe Village, a bit of old Shields, Marsden Rock, and the Wouldhave Memorial. The whole is surmounted with the name of the union on one side being the borough coat of arms and on the other a portrait of the founder of the society (the late Mr Stanley, of Newcastle.) The order for the new banner was placed with the proprietors of the Gallery of Fine Arts, Albion Terrace, South Shields, who have executed it in the most satisfactory manner.

Pete Hampson tells the story of how he came to possess the banner:

I must admit I am a little (!!) addicted to looking up South Shields on eBay and other online auction sites. A couple of weeks ago, I saw the most amazing thing advertised – a trades union banner for South Shields. Well, of course I had to have it so purchase went ahead (another long story and diminishing of bank account funds) and I was the proud owner of said banner.

Now there was a problem – the original advert did not give a size.  I have a Toyota and know, from transporting wood etc, that I can just fit a 2.4 metre length in the car – from front windscreen over seats and to almost rear screen. Well, unfortunately the banner was……. 3.5m x 2.5 m (with a pole slightly longer than 3.5m!) I managed to fold the banner (not an easy job for one person) so that the pictures on it were as little creased as possible and got it on the back seat. The pole, however, was left sticking for almost a metre out of the passenger window!

When I got home I unfurled (see I am getting banner speak now) the banner and found it took up the full width of my garage floor and most of the length! Now to do some research.

I post regularly of a couple of sites on Facebook so started putting banner photos up. The banner is from the South Shields branch of the General and Municipal Workers Union. I looked up the union online and found it seemed to have started in around 1924! Wow, my banner was almost 100 years old!

Soon after posting John Bage kindly located an original newspaper article about the very banner – you can tell because the article describes it EXACTLY! It has two large hand painted views, one on each side, and at the four corners (again on each side), four smaller views – all of South Shields. Well, John’s article gave me an exact date – 1894! The banner was even older than I had realised. It is is generally good condition for its age but the ‘silk’ is tearing slightly in some places. I wont describe all the pictures – you can read about them on the newspaper article!

I have contacted a couple of local (ish) museums with banner collections for advice – but sadly received no replies or help! Luckily, the People’s Museum in Manchester has a large banner collection and actually care enough to respond – with lots of information about how to look after my banner. Thanks so much People’s Museum (shame local one do not even bother to reply  – I must mention that the South Shields museum were NOT contacted as they do not have a large banner collection).

Now I am buying a 20cm roll to put the banner on  – about 2.5metres wide, I have taken the decision to roll it width wise rather than the ‘normal’ length wise to make it more manageable. The People’s Museum gave me the width needed for the tube – I had already travelled round builders merchants, factories and shops and asked if anyone on Facebook sites had any suitable rolls. Sadly no, but ebay came up trumps again (although ‘my’ roll comes in two halves and will need attaching together – another task for me.

I am looking for a place to permanently display the banner – I have hopefully saved it for the people of South Shields and am in contact with a few possible organisations, but have no firm takers yet.

Photographs do not really do it justice – to see it in its full size shows its magnificence and quality.

Pete Hampson

British Newspaper Archives
Pete Hampson

Terry Ford

error: This content is protected.