Hepburn, Thomas

Trade unionist, born in February 1796. He was the oldest son of a colliery worker at Pelton, Co. Durham killed in a mine accident. He began work in the mine at the age of 8, but continued to further his education. Converted at 26, he became a PM class leader and later a local preacher on the Gateshead Circuit. While working at the new Hetton colliery he took a leading part in the great strike of 1831 and initiated the first Northumberland and Durham Miners' Union. He was a skilful negotiator, but the Union was short-lived. After a period of unemployment and poverty, he was befriended by T.E. Forster, manager of Felling colliery and distanced himself from later union activity. His pioneering work was overlooked for a time, but was acknowledged in 1972 when he was included in a series of commemorative postage stamps. For a while he parted company with PM, but returned in later life and was active as a local preacher and in their Sunday Schools. Her died at Newcastle upon Tyne on 9 December 1864.

  • Durham Advertiser, 16 Dec. 1864
  • H. Phillips in PM Magazine, 1865 pp.546-7
  • T. Burt in PM Quarterly Review, 24 (1882) pp.385-97
  • J. Oxberry, Thomas Hepburn of Felling (c.1938)
  • Oxford DNB


Entry written by: NADS
Category: Person
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