This Union was established in 1862, but there was a centuries-old tradition in shoemaking and other craft occupations of 'tramping' from town to town in search of work. The 'tramping relief system' ensured the member of lodging for the night, money for food and a union contact who would check his membership credentials and provide information on employment prospects in the area.
From the 1870s, seasonal shortages of work became more general throughout the country, making tramping less worthwhile. Regulations on travel allowances were also tightened due to concerns that unscrupulous workers "on the tramp" were under cutting local wage rates or acting as "scabs" in disputes. Due to the introduction of Labour exchanges in 1905 and out-of-work benefit from the 1911 National Insurance Act, tramping had disappeared in the trade by the First World War.