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Pit Bottom to Parliament

Vernon Hartshorn OBE MP

South Wales Miners’ Museum has an exhibition to celebrate the life of Vernon Hartshorn OBE MP, the first  Welsh collier to become a Cabinet Minister during the turbulent years of the early 20th century. An outstanding miners leader, trade unionist and politician, his significant contribution to improving the wages and conditions of miners has been largely forgotten. Our aim is to create a touring exhibition that tells Hartshorn's remarkable journey within the context of a rapidly changing world.

Born in Risca, Monmouthshire in 1872 he started work as a collier underground at the age of 14. He worked at the coalface for 12 years before going on to become a Checkweighman and miners representative. He took an active part in the development of the South Wales Miners’ Federation, and in 1905 was elected Miners' Agent for Maesteg. By 1912 he was being described as the most prominent and capable of the Socialist leaders in the South Wales coalfield. He was first elected as an MP for the newly created Ogmore Constituency in 1918, a seat which he held until his death in 1931.


Hartshorn would serve as Postmaster General in Ramsay Macdonald’s first Labour Government in 1924. He was also a member of the Simon Commission examining constitutional change in colonial India. Finally he would serve as Lord Privy Seal in the Labour Government of 1931. In this role he was tasked with addressing the issue of unemployment, but he sadly died before he was able to complete the work.

Starting at South Wales Miners' Museum in Spring 2019. the exhibition will tour other venues in South Wales, including Rhondda Heritage Park, Risca Library and Cynon Valley Museum. The exhibition will also be at the Palace of Westminster next Summer

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