Saturday 30 September 2023

All about that place: the Newport Rising

I was delighted to be asked to take part in the rolling online festival organised to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Society for One-Place Studies. 

My ten-minute video looked at the Newport Rising of 1839, its place in Chartism, and some of the places people might want to visit to find out more about what happened on that fateful day in November.

Here’s the video…

Monday 25 September 2023

John Cleave - Chartist and campaigner for a free press

John Cleave was one of the great names of London radical publishing. His book shop at 1 Shoe Lane, just off Fleet Street, stocked all manner of risky and risqué publications, while Cleave's Weekly Police Gazette may have sold as many as 40,000 copies a week at its height. It earned him a significant income - and two brief spells in prison for his refusal to pay stamp duty, the 'tax on knowledge'.

But his origins have always been slightly mysterious. Some biographers have suggested that he came from Ireland, or that his family at least did so. But this appears to be based on his long and unwavering support for the cause of Irish independence rather than on documentary evidence. And even his date of birth has been so uncertain that biographers have given it variously as 1790 or 1795.

Sunday 3 September 2023

James Bronterre O’Brien at Abney Park Cemetery

The sort-of-annual Bronterre O’Brien Commemoration is back after a bit of a break. It’s taking place at Abney Park Cemetery, where Bronterre is buried, on Sunday 17 September 2023, and the address this year is being delivered by Dianne Abbott, the local MP.

Details of the event and how to attend are here.

I am hoping to make a trip to Abney Park some time this autumn to track down a number of Chartists buried there, and in the mean time have added a piece about this great Irish radical’s life to the main Chartist Ancestors website.

Biography of James Bronterre O’Brien.

O’Brien was at the famous meeting at the Crown and Anchor in London in February 1837 at which the London Working Men’s Association’s programme was adopted. This would in due course become the People’s Charter. His enthusiastic response to what he saw and heard is shown in the image below.

Tuesday 29 August 2023

The life of Henry Vincent

Henry Vincent was without doubt the great orator of the Chartist movement. An early member of the London Working Men’s Association, he was soon sent off on tour to establish similar bodies across Yorkshire, before moving to Bristol where he also launched the Western Vindicator newspaper.

If he had not already been arrested and imprisoned for his seditious speeches at Newport in South Wales, he would almost certainly have suffered the same fate as his friend John Frost and found himself transported to Australia following the Newport uprising. As it was, he emerged from prison in 1841 to marry and forge a new life for himself.

I’ve written a biography of Vincent for the main Chartist Ancestors website. You can find it here.

Friday 18 August 2023

Three Chartist tankards: make mine a quart

 'Lot 473. A set of three graduated personalised pewter tankards engraved with the symbol of the Chartists'.

A larger version of this and other pictures can be found at the link below.

Over the years it has become more and more difficult to find Chartist memorabilia up for sale. So when I spotted these at auction I had to have them.

Slightly dented, and tarnished with age (and aren't we all), these three engraved pewter tankards are a solid link back to the days when men and women turned out in their thousands to hear big name speakers spread the message of Chartism at great monster meetings.

After all, what better way to thank the speaker than by presenting them publicly with a keepsake of their visit to your town which stressed the readiness of its radical population to fight for the Charter.

I have written about the tankards, what I think they are and what I think the inscription tells us on the Chartist Ancestors website. Go here to read it.