Heacham Declaration
"The Minimum Wage"
Stella of Heacham-On-Line would like to thank Mike Hudson
(currently of Lincoln but latterly of Heacham)
for making this feature possible by researching, compiling and sending in the information.
Photo by Stella.

The end of the 18th century was a turbulent time.
The American rebellion of 1773 led to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Thirteen years later a Parisian mob stormed the Bastille igniting the French Revolution.
In England the Agricultural revolution had, by enclosure of land,
driven yeoman farmers down into the ranks of labourers.

By 1795 the French Revolution was nearly over.
The harvest poor was, bringing Bread Riots in London.
Autumn brought stormy weather, wet and cold.

It is against this background that day labourers from Heacham,
Snettisham and Sedgeford met in Heacham parish church
on the Thursday, 5 November 1795.
They met to seek "redress of all the severe and peculiar hardships
under which they have for many years so patiently suffered".
Quoting the gospel of St Luke, " The labourer is worthy of his hire"
the labourers sought a statuary minimum wage.
They appointed Adam Moore of Heacham secretary
and gave a shilling (5p) each to cover expenses.
Their advertisement for the scheme in one London and one Norwich paper
is how we know of the meeting.
They planned a national campaign that would culminate in a petition to Parliament.

The scheme vanished as fast as it appeared.
The Treason and Sedition Acts passing through Parliament that same month
banned all meetings of more than fifty people unless in the presence of a Magistrate. 

Two hundred years later, people from Heacham again met in the Parish Church
to celebrate that first faltering step towards a national minimum wage.
Funds were raised - more than 5p each - for a commemorative plaque
now mounted on Cannon Corner and pictured above.


Further reading and points of reference:

"The Village Labourer 1760-1832" J L and Barbara Hammond.
The celebrations 200 years later were attended by Mike Hudson personally.

The weather conditions were determined after an internet search and
other dates are taken from a very very old school history book.