Friday, 2 March 2012

Chartist leaders in Aston under Lyne

Ashton under Lyne was one of the heartland towns of Chartism – and one of the most militant. The south Lancashire mill town was also the adopted home of two of the movement’s best known leaders – Joseph Rayner Stephens and Peter Murray M’Douall.
The new addition to Chartist Ancestors is based on research carried out by Dr Robert G Hall of Ball State University, who has written extensively on Chartism in Ashton, and who identified the 65 leaders from local newspapers, Home Office and Treasury Solicitor's files, the records of the Palatinate of Lancaster, and from 1841 and 1851 censuses and local directories.
As he says of those identified:
"The sixty-five Chartists who made up this small but crucial group were speakers and lecturers, nominees to the General Council of the National Charter Association (NCA), propagandists, travelling delegates and neighbourhood organizers. They sold Chartist newspapers and publications, drew up addresses and broadsides, chaired or spoke at mass meetings, and served as delegates, Chartist missionaries, and lecturers. Along with carrying out the mundane committee work and correspondence of the locality, these leaders and activists raised money for Chartist and labor causes and performed the necessary, but often boring and time consuming, work of organizing and publicizing meetings, lectures, tea parties and dinners."
There are two other pages on Chartist Ancestors which focus specifically on Chartism in Ashton under Lyne. These are an account of a gathering of the local Chartist “national guard” in 1848 during which a police constable was shot dead, and a list of people from Ashton under Lyne who subscribed to the Chartist land company.
A more detailed account of Chartism in Ashton under Lyne can be found in Dr Robert G Hall’s recent book Voices of the People: Democracy and Chartist Political Identity, 1830-1870.