Caritas Anchor House

Working at the heart of homelessness

Commemorating the Great London Dock Strike

Press Releases

Commemorating the Great London Dock Strike

23rd June 2014
The East London Catholic community came together this week to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Great London Dock Strike at a conference, organised by Caritas Anchor House with support from the Newham Deanery.

This strike saw around 130,000 dock workers walk out over low wages and desperately poor working conditions, and marked the beginning of widespread trade unionism. 

A key factor in the resolution of the strike, which posed a serious threat to the local and national economy, was the intervention of Cardinal Manning, who led the attempts at conciliation between the workers and employers. A much‐loved advocate for the poor and working class in London’s east end, Cardinal Manning, had great sympathy for the dockers, who were paid just 3 ‐ 7 shillings per week – almost half that of an agricultural labourer, and often had to compete to be employed for only a few hours or a day at a time.

The strike is now widely recognised as a significant milestone in the development of the British labour movement and for influencing the beginnings of Catholic Social Teaching. To commemorate this incredible achievement, this week’s conference on Catholic Social Teaching reflected on how it has developed since then and what relevance it has in the modern day.

Chairing the conference was Mgr John Armitage, who spoke of the importance of the role of the communities. Speaking of the strike, he remarked: “There was and still is this great difference between the wealth of the docks ‐ not in ships now, but in Canary Wharf ‐ and the poverty that still touches this area: the bad working conditions, the low pay.

“It was the local community here that came together with the East London Communities Organisation (TELCO) and organised to start to work for the living wage, on exactly the same principle as the fight for the ‘Dockers’ Tanner’, for which the Great Strike eventually became known. That inspiration came from what happened there.”

Lord Maurice Glasman also reflected on the importance of the strike for the whole population, saying, “The strike recognised organised labour and people were given hope that their lives and the lives of their loved ones could be improved. It’s not idealistic, it’s just a matter of necessity that we must trust each other. We must find a way of working and acting together, not for our individual good alone, but for a common good ‐ to build the power of our people so that they can have a say in the governance of politics and in the governance of the economy.”

In his speech, Kevin Flanagan, Director of St Antony's Centre for Church and Industry, spoke of influence Catholic Social Teaching has had on trade unions. “I would say the trade union movement is probably the UK’s largest voluntary movement ever. Thousands upon thousands are committed to serve people, and many have been motivated or influenced by Christian, Catholic and other faith traditions who want to serve others for the right reasons.”

Following this conference, a Mass of thanksgiving for Cardinal Manning will be held on 14th September, celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols. It will be held in St Mary’s and St Michael’s Catholic Church, Poplar, near the primary school where the ‘Cardinal’s Peace’ was signed in 1889.

For more information, or to book a place, please contact us on or call 0207 476 6062.


Jazmine Sandison, Marketing and Communications Lead
Caritas Anchor House, 81 Barking Road, London E16 4HB
Phone: 020 7476 6062


Caritas Anchor House is a nationally acclaimed flagship project addressing the root causes of homelessness – such as poor education, substance misuse, mental health problems, domestic violence or a history of offending – and create sustainable solutions that ensure the people we help will never find themselves in that situation again.  

It is a registered charity providing accommodation for over 230 single homeless people each year aged 19 to 65. It gives so much more than just a roof over their heads and provides a wide range of accredited vocational training courses in construction, electrical, plumbing and distance learning for both residents and the local community. In practical terms, this means not only giving our residents the skills and confidence they need to rebuild their lives and move on to independent living, but also serving the community as a whole.

The charity is located in Canning Town, in the London Borough of Newham, the third most deprived borough in England and Wales.


Left to right: Mgr John Armitage, Kevin Flanagan, Lord Glasman

Left to right: Mgr John Armitage, Kevin Flanagan, Lord Glasman

Left to right: Kevin Flanagan, Lord Glasman

Left to right: Kevin Flanagan, Lord Glasman

Left to right: Kevin Flanagan, Lord Glasman

Left to right: Kevin Flanagan, Lord Glasman