The ‘workless workers’ and the Waterbury watch

Historian article

By Peter Hounsell, published 20th August 2021

W.T. Stead, W.A. Dunkerley and the Census of the Unemployed 1887

Peter Hounsell looks at the role of the Waterbury Watch Company in both the Queen’s Jubilee and the attempt to record and alleviate unemployment in London in the 1880s.

In Britain generally, but for London in particular, 1887 was a year of great contrasts. On 27 June, Londoners lined the streets to watch Queen Victoria drive to Westminster Abbey as part of the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of her reign, and crowds flocked to the centre of London to participate in the national rejoicing, as described in George Gissing’s novel In the Year of the Jubilee. In the autumn and winter Trafalgar Square became the gathering point for the homeless and unemployed. Meetings and protest marches, which highlighted their plight, culminated on 13 November with police and military action that left two dead and many injured, on what would be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. The Waterbury Watch strangely had a place in both the Jubilee and the unemployment question of that year...

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