Friday, 2 March 2012

John Skevington: Leicestershire Chartist

Our current series of Chartist portraits finishes with John Skevington, the working class radical leader from Leicestershire who represented both Derby and his home town of Loughborough in the First Chartist Convention of 1839.

The series ends here because this is the point at which The Charter newspaper drew to a close its own run of 12 profiles of delegates to the First Chartist Convention (more properly, the General Convention of the Industrious Classes).

A profile of John Skevington, based on the sketch and brief biography which first appeared in The Charter of 19 May 1839, can now be found on Chartist Ancestors

Skevington was among the most capable and committed of the local working class leaders thrown up by Chartism. Already an established radical figure in Loughborough at the beginning of the Chartist era, he would go on through thick and thin to serve the movement until his death in 1850.

It can hardly have been easy to be a prominent Chartist in that county. Tensions between Thomas Cooper, a Wesleyan Methodist preacher and journalist who arrived in Leicester in late 1840, and the town’s more established radical leadership were disastrous.

For a period, there were two Chartist factions which held separate meetings at different venues. Skevington, however, appeared to retain sufficient good will among both groups to be asked to chair a meeting at which the two sides could air their differences.

Although Skevington played little enough part on the national political stage after 1839 (other than as a conference delegate), his commitment to the cause earned him the respect of thousands who flocked to the Chartist banner in Leicestershire.

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