In the summer of 1887 the young SDF Branch received a great boost when political consciousness in the town was raised by a strike of engineering workers.
The dispute was long and bitter, mainly because the bosses brought in scab labour from other parts of the country. Hundreds of extra police and a detachment of the 13th Hussars were drafted into the town.
Members of the SDF supported the strike and were helped by the arrival of a full-time organiser, Tom Mann (later to become the famous trade unionist and a founder of the Transport and General Workers Union).
Outdoor meetings were held with audiences of up to 2000 and branch membership mushroomed.
Although the strike was finally lost, the Bolton Socialists were so impressed with the work of Tom Mann that they invited him to return for a longer stay. They set him up in a newsagent’s shop at 96 Deansgate (still a newsagents) and in March 1888 he came to live in the town and stayed until December.
During his stay William Morris visited the town and spoke to a large audience at the Spinners Hall on 'Art and Socialism'.