Wednesday 17 April 2024

COURAGE: Luddites-Peterloo-Chartists-Suffragettes

If like me you were a fan of graphic artist Polyp’s graphic novels about Peterloo and Tom Paine, you will be delighted to know that he is currently working on a new project - and it includes Chartism.

COURAGE: Luddites - Peterloo - Chartists - Suffragettes is described as, ‘An intense verbatim account of the shockingly violent struggle for the UK vote. Told in the words of those who were there.’

A crowdfunder to make it all happen is open until Tuesday 7 May. 

That doesn’t leave long for Polyp to hit his target, so please take a look and see if you can join me in backing it. 

Those who can contribute stand to get a whole load of goodies depending on your level of support - all the way through from a copy of the book and your name printed in the backers’ list for a tenner, to two signed and dedicated copies, some original artwork and your name in the list for £100.

Check out the crowdfunder today.

Here’s a fantastic suffragette image from the new book.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

More names for the Chartist Ancestors databank

I have added another 150 names to the Chartist Ancestors databank. This takes the total to 14,381.

Delegates to the first Chartist convention, meeting
at the British Coffee House, 4 February 1839.
The latest batch includes the names of all those elected as delegates to the General Convention of the Industrious Classes (the first convention) in 1839, whether or not they took up their seats.

I have also added the officers and councils of both the Carlisle Radical Association and the Carlisle Female Radical Association. Cumberland (as it then was) and Carlisle in particular are interesting Chartist centres, but to the best of my knowledge have not been properly studied. 

Friday 5 April 2024

Chartists and special constables: the Cumberland magistrates' embarrassing mistake

In the summer of 1839, as tensions ran high amid rumours of general strikes and armed risings, and the Chartists of Cumberland held threatening moonlit meetings, the mayor of Carlisle and the county’s magistrates decided to activate plans to swear in hundreds of special constables.

By the start of August, they could claim to have 195 specials organised into nine sections in Carlisle alone, each led by a ‘summoning constable’ able to mobilise their men in the event of ‘tumult, riot or fire’ under the overall command of the magistrates assembled at the town hall.

Monday 1 April 2024

The rise and fall of the tumultuous John Dover

John Dover was a ‘noisy fellow’, a man accustomed to causing trouble on behalf of Norwich’s dominant Whig faction… if they paid him enough. But when Chartism came along, he found a cause where he could really make himself heard - to the immense annoyance of his former allies.

Dover specialised in making a nuisance of himself at public meetings called by the city’s mayor and high sheriff, highjacking their efforts to showcase the county’s elite at their genteel political best, and using them as a forum in which to argue for the Charter and other radical causes. And as a freeman of the city, there was little the authorities could do to stop him.

But Dover, a silk weaver turned beer-house keeper and other things besides, had a weakness: never good with money, he found himself in front of the magistrates for unpaid debts on a number of occasions. And it was to be his chronic shortage of cash that did for him in the end.

In the 1841 general election he sold out the Chartist cause for a £50 bribe (or, at least, was entrapped into doing so) and nearly paid with his life. And three years’ later, after stolen silk was discovered at his home, he found himself facing a long, unwelcome sea voyage.

The full story of John Dover can be found on the Chartist Ancestors website.

Friday 22 March 2024

In search of Helen Macfarlane: the elusive ‘shooting star’ of Chartism

Red Antigone: The Life and World of Helen Macfarlane, by David Black (BPC Publishers, 2024)

On a spring day in 1860, parishioners at the tiny fourteenth-century church at Baddiley, deep in the heart of the Cheshire countryside, gathered for the funeral of the vicar’s wife. Helen Edwards had died after a short illness aged just 41, and was laid to rest in the churchyard at St Michael’s in a peaceful spot in the shade of a large and now quite ancient tree.