Monday 1 April 2024

The rise and fall of the tumultuous John Dover

John Dover was a ‘noisy fellow’, a man accustomed to causing trouble on behalf of Norwich’s dominant Whig faction… if they paid him enough. But when Chartism came along, he found a cause where he could really make himself heard - to the immense annoyance of his former allies.

Dover specialised in making a nuisance of himself at public meetings called by the city’s mayor and high sheriff, highjacking their efforts to showcase the county’s elite at their genteel political best, and using them as a forum in which to argue for the Charter and other radical causes. And as a freeman of the city, there was little the authorities could do to stop him.

But Dover, a silk weaver turned beer-house keeper and other things besides, had a weakness: never good with money, he found himself in front of the magistrates for unpaid debts on a number of occasions. And it was to be his chronic shortage of cash that did for him in the end.

In the 1841 general election he sold out the Chartist cause for a £50 bribe (or, at least, was entrapped into doing so) and nearly paid with his life. And three years’ later, after stolen silk was discovered at his home, he found himself facing a long, unwelcome sea voyage.

The full story of John Dover can be found on the Chartist Ancestors website.

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