Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Labourers Union

A badge of the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Labourers Union. 
 A badge of the Dock, Wharf,
Riverside and General
Labourers Union.

More commonly known simply as the Dockers Union, the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Labourers Union was originally formed in 1887 as the Tea Operatives and General Labourers Union.

The union recruited 2,300 members by the end of 1888, and in 1889 became involved in the Great Dock Strike which brought the Port of London to a halt. The dispute won widespread public support for the dockers, and achieved its aim of establishing a rate of 6d an hour.

In the wake of the strike, the union changed its name and membership grew rapidly to 30,932 by the end of 1889, and to 57,000 by the end of 1890. However, a dispute between dockworkers north and south of the Thames also led to the creation of a separate South Side Labour Protection League.

With the dockers split, and many remaining outside any union, by 1904, the Dockers Union had almost disappeared in London. It remained strong elsewhere in the countryhowever, and in 1922, the Dockers Union was one of 14 organisations which merged to form the Transport and General Workers Union.

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15 Responses

  1. Like the aforementioned Trade Union, the Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Bargemen were also instrumental in the setting up of the Transport and General Worker’s Union in 1922.
    I have a large collection of membership cards from the Society starting in March 1917 – they issued quarterly cards then in differing colours – through to them becoming part of the new TGWU in 1922. They then split with the TGWU a couple of years later, and the collection of membership cards I have then shows that the individual had a short spell with the National Amalgamated Stevedores, Lightermen, watermen and dockers, before returning to the old society which now incorporated Tugmen as well.
    In 1942 he rejoined the TGWU Waterways Branch.
    The member’s name was Long, and branches were at Great Prescott St (Watermen, Lightermen and Bargemen) 3, Central Buildings, Matthew Parker St (TGWU) 222, High St. Poplar (Stevedores) and Roman Wall House, 1 Crutched Friars (watermen, tugmen, etc) then 33 E.India Dock Rd same union, different address.
    Would appreciate any more information about the above, and can be contacted at

  2. Hello from New Zealand. My great grandfather was Tom Robinson, he worked with Ben Tillet and also knew Ramsey McDonald. I have always known that Tom Robinson was a strong unionist, as have been generations come down from him.

    I didn’t know that one could purchase the badges from different unions. Could you tell me please the cost inc postage of a badge for the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Worker’s Union?

    • I dont know if you have has a reply yet but I have a spare old Dock Wharf Riverside badge if you are interested. I would prefer an old New Zealand union badge in return preferably building trade if you can find one. If not we can sort something out. Postage is about £2.50 airmail and about £7.50 International Signed For. If you check out ebay UK you will see a lot of union badges for auction or sale.

      • Shalom,

        Thanks for your email, I have just come home from hospital and found it. No I have not heard from anyone in connection with a badge. I have no connection with any of the trade unions here, probably my late father did, but his would have been to do with electricians I guess. as he was an electrician. He sure was vocal re unions, and couldn’t understand worker not being a member.

        I hadn’t actually thought about getting a badge, but I guess it would be a a good thing to show my chn and grandchn too. What would be the cost of a badge?

        Many thanks – Phyllis Pearson

      • It is a nice badge to shown and pass on to your children and grandchildren with the story about your grandfather. Get them to research the union! Do you have a Paypal account ? It will cost £2.50 postage for ordinary airmail plus £2 for the badge. Let me know.


      • Hello Norman, nice to have a name! Yes I’d like to buy the badge. I don’t have paypay, I generally pay for online transactions using my credit card and its worked well so far.

      • Hello Phyllis

        I just need your full name and address to post the badge next week. You can send it to me at How does the credit card payment work ? Do you need any information from me ?


        By the way this is not the badge in the article but an old enamel one.

      • Hello again. Most of the firms I deal with have a credit card facility, TradeMe [NZ] has a ‘Paynow’ facility as well. Very easy to use. I don’t really know anything about PayPal, how does it work?

      • You will have to sign up to Paypal. Useful and cheap if you transfer a a few times to other countries but not worth the bother for this. Just put a few New Zealand or preferably Australian dollars in an envelope to me and that will sort it. I will stand any loss but believe our postal services are as reliable as you can get. E mail me and I will give you my address. Also let me have yours and I will put the badge in the post next week.


      • Hi Norman,

        I have just contacted our bank to see if they will send Australia money to you, now I’m not sure how this will playout. We are customers of the BNZ and stey have the ability to send money this way, I will do my best to get Australia dollars for you. I may need you bank number if we do go via this route.

        Wet and windy in Paeroa today, the fire is going and it’s just about time for lunch 12:56 am here – Phyllis

      • Bank transfers usually cost a lot of money so it is not worth it for this small amount. As I said, just put a few NZ dollars in an envelope. I have never had any problem with post from friends in Australia before so it should not be any different from New Zealand. Send me your address and I will post the badge anyway while we sort it out.



  3. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.

    I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  4. Hello, I am currently writing a book, which intends to help people trace their dock worker ancestors. Would it be possible for me to use the image of this badge in the publication?

    Best wishes

    Alex Ombler

    • I am not the owner of the photo but do not think anyone would object But if you are unsure let me know and I will try find you one which you could use with a simply acknowledgement.

    • I am not the owner of the photo but do not think anyone would object. But if you are unsure let me know and I will try find you one which you could use with a simple acknowledgement.

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