In 1915 the village of Stoke Canon, just north of Exeter, was the centre of a bitter strike. There several disputes during the First World War in Devon. Employers and the media accused them of betraying brave fighters in the trenches.
Workers were in dispute over a pay claim and recognition of the National Union of Printing and Paper Workers. Charles Tremlett, Managing Director of the Stoke Canon Paper Mill, responded by sacking the workers and evicting them from their tied cottages.
With nowhere else to go, the union bought the families tents and they were forced to camp in a local field. The strikers won widespread support from around the area. The village schoolteachers took up the cause and funds were raised to support the families.
Tremlett could not recruit local labour to break the strike but eventually found Scottish workers who took jobs unaware of the situation. The strikers, 19 men, 13 women and six boys, were supported by their union. They included: William Prout, the probable strike leader, his wife Ellen and family who lived at Mill Cottage; John and Elizabeth Coles and family, George Staddon and family lived in Laburnum Cottages; Sidney Mudge and family lived at Channings Court; John Bridle and family lived at The Square and Henry King and family lived at Hawthorn Cottages. Some found other jobs in munitions factories or joined the army.
The field where the strikers camped is now the children’s play area.