The Jarrow Crusade
Speech by Wilkinson in the House of Commons on malnutrition
Parliamentary Archives, HC/OF/55/314
On the 5th October 1936, 200 unemployed men began to march to Parliament as part of the Jarrow Crusade. The Crusade, led by David Riley (chair of Jarrow council) and Ellen Wilkinson, covered 282 miles and took 26 days to complete. The marchers aimed to arrive in Westminster at the opening of Parliament, where they would present a petition signed by 12,000 residents of Jarrow. The marchers were hosted by supporters across the country, and Wilkinson would speak at a public meeting at the end of each day's marching.
The marchers reached London on 31st October 1936. On 4th November Wilkinson presented their petition at Parliament, stating that
"During the last 15 years Jarrow has passed through a period of industrial depression without parallel in the town's history. Its shipyard is closed. Its steelworks have been denied the right to reopen. Where formerly 8,000 people, many of them skilled workers, were employed, only 100 men are now employed on a temporary scheme. The town cannot be left derelict, and therefore your Petitioners humbly pray that His Majesty's Government and this honourable House should realise the urgent need that work should be provided for the town without further delay. "
Whilst there was no immediate support provided, the publicity accompanying and following the Jarrow Crusade helped to generate some renewal for the town, and the relationship between large businesses and the government remained under scrutiny.