Wednesday, 9 June 2021

In remembrance of William Lovett

Chartist memorabilia is getting harder to find. But I was delighted to come across this death/remembrance notice for William Lovett.

Working on behalf of the London Working Men's Association, Lovett was the author of the People's Charter and secretary to the First Chartist Convention. But he was sidelined in later Chartism by Feargus O'Connor and his supporters, and moved on to devote his energies to secular education.

The remembrance notice is typical of those produced at the time (Lovett died in 1877). Interestingly, it gets a mention in trade union newspaper The Bee-Hive's report of Lovett's death, and its text is quoted there in full.

Unlike some of those who went to their graves before him, Lovett was no populist and was never a great platform orator. Similarly, his funeral was quiet and attended mainly by those who had known him well - in contrast to the great outpourings of popular grief that attended the funerals of O'Connor and others.

I have written more here about the simple and secular funeral of William Lovett, and the tragic death and magnificent funeral of Feargus O'Connor.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Talking Chartism: the video is here

I recently spent a very enjoyable hour and a half chatting about all things Chartism with professional genealogist Natalie at Genealogy Stories. You can watch the first hour of our conversation below.


This was a completely unscripted and unplanned talk (at least on my part), so please excuse the ums and ahhs, and any stories I launched into before getting sidetracked.

In part two, which you can access through Natalie's website, we talked a little about what happened to Chartism after 1848, and rather more about some interesting Chartists, including William Cuffay and Susanna Inge.

On the whole, I am really pleased with how it came out - although there are so many things I didn't get round to talking about, and of course if I'd prepared an answer to every question I might well have looked at alternative interpretations of some events. 

Natalie herself did a great job, and was very easy to talk to. Do check out Genealogy Stories where she has a growing collection of interviews along with some other great family history resources.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The incomplete life stories of David Duffy and Benjamin Prophett

Neither Benjamin Prophett nor David Duffy cuts the same heroic figure within Chartism as William Cuffay.

However, the fact that both men were arrested and brought to trial (along with more than 20 others) just days before the great Kennington Common Chartist meeting of 10 April 1848, does demonstrate that Cuffay was hardly unique as a black man in early Victorian London.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Sir Francis Burdett, 1770-1844


Sir Francis Burdett was for many years a powerful advocate of parliamentary reform. As MP for Westminster after 1807, he was a strong supporter of Catholic emancipation and advocated a series of radical measures that would later be included in the People’s Charter.

But he was no Chartist. Following the Reform Act of 1832, the fifth baronet drifted away from his earlier convictions, fell out with his notoriously radical constituents, and in 1837 got himself elected for North Wiltshire instead, where he became a staunch Tory.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

In the Tasmanian footsteps of William Cuffay

William Cuffay
The following blog post was written after a visit to Hobart in March 2020.

Twenty-first century Hobart is a magnet for cruise ships. Tourists have only to step ashore to enjoy the vibrant outdoor market at Salamanca Place, while the historic convict sites and natural wonders of Tasmania attract vast numbers of visitors.

But 170 years ago, when Tasmania was still Van Diemen’s Land, the deep natural harbour that now makes it possible for ocean liners to dock was equally attractive to those operating a rather different type of passenger shipping.