Friday, 2 March 2012

Thomas Rayner Smart: veteran Chartist patriot

Thomas Rayner Smart was a largely self-taught working man whose scruffy greatcoat and battered hat marked him out from the generality of middle-class delegates to the First Chartist Convention of 1839.

While representing Loughborough and Leicester at the convention, Smart was profiled by The Charter newspaper. Both the profile and a portrait sketch which accompanied it now appear on Chartist Ancestors.

Very little appears to have been written about Smart, and in tracking him down in the 1841 census and through mentions in the Chartist press to add a little more detail to his life story, I was also pleased to uncover some information about his daughter.

She is named only as “Mrs Cully” in a Northern Star account of the setting up of a Female Chartist Association in Leicester in 1848. But BMD records and the census reveal her full name to have been Caroline Augusta Smart.

Apparently born around 1801 (the 1841 census gives her age as 40, but frequently rounded ages to the nearest five years), she had married Joseph Culley in 1837. 

The couple also appear to be present in the 1851 census (Caroline’s age here given as 47 – so, perhaps, unrounded her date of birth was nearer 1805). However, there appear to be no children from the marriage, and no sign of either Joseph or Caroline in 1861.

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