Friday, 2 March 2012

Chartist riots in Trafalgar Square

Today sees the 160th anniversary of the first serious disturbances in Britain associated with the Chartist resurgence of 1848.
There is a page on Chartist Ancestors dealing with the Trafalgar Square riots, which escalated into three days of disturbances, with windows broken throughout the City and along Regent Street and a barricade being thrown up across the street at Charing Cross.
The page also records the names of the 127 rioters arrested and brought up before the magistrates.
The best remembered event of 1848 is, of course, the Kennington Common meeting on 10 April and the subsequent presentation of the national petition to Parliament.
But it is important not to get too hung up on this day.  That summer saw far more serious attempts to force the issue of Chartism, with armed plotters arrested in London, and the death of a policeman at the hands of a Chartist national guard in Ashton-under-Lyne.
The year 1848 ended with arrests throughout the country, a series of trials and a substantial number of Chartists transported to Australia.
It has been said that in the Year of Revolutions, the French rose up and overthrew their government while the British had a petition. As you can see, that is not entirely the full truth.
* William Henry Fox Talbot's 1843 photograph of Trafalgar Square (below) shows Nelson's column still under construction.
Picture 1 by Walking with a Ghost.
Picture 2 by William Henry Fox Talbot.