Friday, 2 March 2012

Isaac Ickeringill: "notorious" Bingley Chartist

The name of Isaac Ickersgill appears briefly in R G Gammage’s History of the Chartist Movement. Along with a number of other Bingley men, Isaac was charged with having rescued two local Chartists from police custody in the summer of 1848.

Not for the first time, however, Gammage made a mistake in his list of captured Chartists. Isaac’s great great grandson, John Mottley, has been in touch to point out that his Chartist ancestor’s real name was Ickeringill.

England in 1848 was a tumultuous place. Once Chartism had faded into memory, it was usual to make light of the events of 10 April 1848 and the disturbances which followed over the course of that summer.

For those living through it, however, an insurrection similar to that which had toppled governments across Europe appeared all too real a possibility.

In London, a conspiracy to seize the capital was thwarted by police spies, at Ashton under Lyne the Chartist “national guards” shot dead a policeman, and there were similar outbreaks elsewhere. Bradford and Bingley in West Yorkshire were among the towns affected. 

There had been a Chartist camp meeting on Bingley Moor on 26 March which attracted some 5,000 people. Banners bearing the colours of the French Republic were carried in procession, and there were reports of speakers urging the crowd to arm themselves.

When, in May, reports of men drilling under arms reached the magistrates, they were determined to act, and a number of arrests were made. Two of those arrested were then freed by a crowd of 200 men at Bingley railway station.

That night, the Chartists drilled with their pikes, effectively taking control of the town. The magistrates sent for the army, and with their backing carried out a series of arrests.

At 46 years of age, Ickeringill was considerably older than the other Bingley men charged at York Assizes in connection with the incident, and he received one of the harshest sentences – six months’ hard labour in Wakefield House of Correction.

Gammage appears not to have been the only one having difficulties with Isaac’s surname, however. In some court documents, a rogue letter h creeps in, and Old Bingley, an 1898 local history by Harry Speight settles on Isaac Gill.

Despite the foreshortening of the name, John Mottley says he is more inclined to believe Speight’s account of the “Bingley War” than Gammage’s – not least because it is so much more detailed.

Speight writes that “Gill” was living in a house in Chapel Lane at the time of the disturbances, and that since he was “a notorious character, who took part in many a local broil during the agitation”, the magistrates thought it best to have him “in safe keeping” and arrested him at his house.

Speight says that despite the arrest of some 16 men (including Ickeringill), who were taken to York for trial in a special train, a few days later there was an enormous Chartist meeting on Toftshaw Moor and the streets of Bradford were “filled with a violent mob”.

Under a hail of stones and brickbats, the police and special constables set about the protestors with staves and drew their cutlasses. The crowd was finally dispersed by a body of dragoons on horseback, and more arrests followed. 

Here is a link to the entry for Isaac Ickeringill in John Mottley’s family tree.

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