Basingstoke UNISON history gem

UNISON members in Basingstoke recently uncovered a wonderful piece of social history with the discovery of an antique minutes book hidden on top of a dusty shelf in their office. The book, which had its first entry in 1923, records the creation of the Basingstoke Branch of the National Association of Local Government Officers, which later went onto became UNISON in 1993.

Notebook with old fashioned handwriting

An official meeting washeld at the Municipal Buildings Basingstoke on Monday 15th October, 1923, and was evidently facilitated by one Mr Frank Thomas, Divisional Organising Secretary of the National Association of Local Government Officers (NALGO). Also present at this first gathering of trade unionists were ‘Messers J Arlott, F Barlow, S F Bantlett, A Bunden, J Callahan, A W Cheyney, E Cooper, E Cunliffe, J H Drew, C Hills, W A Haughton, J Keene, G F Pager, J Parnell, T Pritchard, A Spooner, F Swanbrick, G A Tranter, and R H Wanklyn’, who acted as Chair. Mr Thomas was given the opportunity to ‘outline the activities’ of the union and the following proposal was made:

‘That a local branch of the National Association of Local Government Officers be formed and that the name of the association be the Basingstoke and District Branch of the National Association of Local Government Officers.’

Mr R H Wanklyn was appointed as the branch’s first ever President, and Mr S F Bantlett became ‘Hon Sec and Treasurer’, whilst an Executive Committee was also formed. The branch’s first piece of business was ‘to approach the officers of the Basingstoke Rural District Council, of the Fleet Urban District Council, and of the Hartley Wintney Rural District Council, asking them to become members of the Basingstoke and District Branch’.

It was then proposed by ‘…Mr Cooper, and seconded by Mr H Thompson and resolved that the Secretary be directed to write to each of the Candidates at the Parliamentary Election asking whether they are in favour of a measure providing compulsorily for superannuation of Local Government Officers’; one wonders what responses they may have received to this approach!

At nearly two inches thick the book contains an absolute wealth of history, with the final entry recording an emergency meeting on 31st October 1939, at which members discussed the implications of the Local Government Staffs (War Service) Act of the same year. With typical British understatement the members also agree that ‘owing to the conditions imposed by the War it was resolved to recommend to the Annual General Meeting that the usual annual Branch Dinner be not held this year’.

Among the very many other great points of interest are a decree from January 1938 that the branch would contact ‘the Matron of the Council’s Isolation Hospital, with a view to enrolling her and members of the hospital nursing staff’; proof that women have always been a vital part of our union! In December 1937 the branch also proudly recorded that at a recent football match they had ‘beaten the Hants County Officer Branch by 3 goals to nil in the first round of the S. Dist. Competition, Hants County Officers being the present holders’, though sadly we are not told the names of the scorers.

The Basingstoke branch of UNISON was recently merged into the Hampshire County branch, at which point activists Keith Farmer and Ian Kempton were reviewing files in their UNISON office and discovered the book tucked away on the top shelf. Ian told us that “we were delighted and indeed proud that our union’s presence has been at Basingstoke Council for over 100 years, originally as NALGO and then of course as UNISON. And long may it continue.”

As much of the first part of the book was written by hand before later changing to typeface, we approached UNISON member Rhian Dolby – an Archives Assistant at the Hampshire Records Office – for help in deciphering its contents. She agreed that it was a marvellous piece of history and one that Records Office would be very interested to retain for their archives, should the branch be willing to loan it to them. The book certainly represents an absolute treasure trove for anyone with an interest in the history of the trade union movement, and we thank Ian and Keith for sharing it with us!