This month’s object has been chosen by Kent Mining Museum volunteer and former miner John Baldwin. John was a miner and N.U.M representative for Tilmanstone Colliery.
This ballot box was specifically used for Snowdown Colliery, but they were commonplace across all pits. Ballot boxes were used to collect votes from colliery employees in order to decide whether or not to go on strike or settle other disputes.
John recalls, that voting would take place after their shift. They would go to the pithead baths to shower and change clothes, then head to the hall (now the Elvington & Eythorne Heritage Centre), provide their name and number, walk into a cubicle, mark ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on a ballot, and slot it through the ballot box. Each pit would collect their ballots and would then send them off to be counted.
John explained the controversy during the 1972 and 1974 strikes. At these strikes the majority of miners voted against the changes to their work contracts – however, the Union went ahead and made the changes anyway.
In the 1984-1985 strike, however, it was questioned whether or not it should be allowed to take place as votes were taken by a show raised hands (in Kent) rather than formal votes, using a ballot box.
John remembers men asking why there was a picket line at the entrance to the pit – he asked them “well, are you going to cross the picket line?” and the answer was usually “no.”