The Jarrow March took place in October 1936 to protest against unemployment and extreme poverty suffered in North East England during the Great Depression. The 207 marchers travelled from the town of Jarrow to the Palace of Westminster in London, a distance of almost 300 miles to lobby Parliament.
The background of the march, its causes and outcomes.
The march was to find jobs to support Jarrow men and their families. It was also a bid for respect and recognition, not only for the people of Jarrow, but for others in a similar situation all over the country. The marchers had no resources other than their own determination, and some good boots supplied by the public. During the march, wherever the marchers stopped for the night, the local people gave them shelter and food.The marchers were selected carefully, with only fit men being allowed to participate. A separate march of 200 blind people also left for London in October 1936. The marchers were supported by a bus which carried cooking equipment and ground sheets for when the march had to stop outside.
Many of the men marched in army style, walking for 50 minutes before a ten-minute break, and they held blue and white banners. A harmonica band and frequent singing helped to keep morale of the marchers high. The original petition, which demanded government aid for the town of Jarrow, signed by 11,000 people from Jarrow, was carried in an oak box, whilst supporters of the March could add to an additional petition. The marchers spent the nights in local accommodation, whilst sometimes receiving extra aid from locals. For example, in Barnsley, the marchers were allowed to use specially-heated municipal baths. The marchers arrived in London on 31 October, almost a month after leaving. The total number of signatures on the petition was 11,000, and it was handed into Parliament by Wilkinson. The Prime Minister of the day, Stanley Baldwin, refused to see any of the marchers' representatives, claiming it would set a dangerous precedent. The marchers generally received sympathy, though no proposal was made to help Jarrow, despite the petition being accepted in the House of Commons — with a single simple sentence of announcement, after which the House of Commons went back to their previous business.