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Chartist Ancestors
What did your family do in the revolution?

Millions signed the three great Chartist petitions of 1839 to 1848. Thousands were active in those years in the campaign to win the vote, secret ballots, and other democratic rights that we now take for granted.

Chartist Ancestors lists many of those who risked their freedom, and sometimes their lives, because of their participation in the Chartist cause. The names included on the site are drawn from newspapers, court records and books of the time, from later histories and other sources.

I would like to thank the many historians, researchers and the descendents of those associated with Chartism who have helped with this site since it was launched in 2003.

Mark Crail
Site editor


History research toolkit
Local and family history groups: full UK list

Local records offices in England and Wales

Local records offices in Scotland

How to...
Make the most of your visit to an archive or records office

Research your trade union ancestors

Find Chartist records in the National Archives


Timelines and statistics
Chartist timeline - 1836-60

Trade unions timeline - 1798-2007

Trade union membership - 1901-2000

Strikes and industrial action - 1901-2000

Mark Crail

Chartist timeline
Twenty years of Chartism

1836
London Working Men's Association founded by Henry Hetherington, William Lovett, James Watson and other radicals.

1837
Charter demands set out at Crown and Anchor public house (28 February). William Lovett, working on behalf of the London Working Men's Association, is the principal author.

East London Democratic Association founded.

Birmingham Political Union last active in fight for 1832 Reform Act is revived.

Feargus O'Connor launches the Northern Star newspaper in Leeds (November).

1838
Great Northern Union founded in Leeds (April).

People's Charter launched in London and National Petition launched in Birmingham (May)

Mass meeting on Glasgow Green hears of the People's Charter for the first time (21 May); copies have not been printed in time.

Tens of thousands attend Chartist rallies in Birmingham (August), Manchester (September) and elsewhere.


1839
Launch of The Charter newspaper (January) as mouthpiece of the London Working Men's Association.

First Chartist convention meets in London (4 February), and later (May) in Birmingham. William Lovett, its secretary, is arrested and sent to prison following the Bullring Riots..

Western Vindicator newspaper published by leading Chartist Henry Vincent (runs February to November).

Anti-Corn Law League founded (May).

First Chartist petition of more than 1,280,000 names presented to Parliament (7 May). A debate on the motion that the petitioners be heard in the House of Commons (12 July) is rejected by 235 votes to 46.

Chartist rallies end in clashes with the army at Newcastle and in a riot at Birmingham.

Great meeting of Scottish delegates in Glasgow (14-16 August) forms central committee to co-ordinate activities in Scotland.

Three thousand Chartists march on Newport (November). Soldiers fire on the crowd, killing at least 20 and injuring 50 more.

1840
John Frost and other leaders of the Newport uprising are tried for high treason and sentenced to be hanged and their bodies quartered.

Abortive uprisings in support of the Newport Chartists across the West Riding and North East of England.

Government backtracks on Newport death sentences and says they will instead be transported to Australia.

Feargus O'Connor is sentenced to 18 months in prison for publishing seditious libels.

Chartist convention in Manchester founds the National Charter Association to unite local organisations (20 July).

1841
Peel and his Conservatives form a new government after the defeat of Melbourne's Whigs.

Joseph Sturge forms Complete Suffrage Union.

William Lovett forms National Association of the United Kingdom for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People - Lovett's New Move.

Thomas Slingsby Duncombe presents petition of 1.3 million names to Parliament seeking a pardon for the Newport prisoners (25 May).

Conservatives return to government under Robert Peel (August).

National Charter Association agrees to launch second petition to test attitude of new parliament.

1842
Scottish Chartist Convention refuses to endorse wording of petition.

Chartist convention held in London.

Second Chartist petition of more than 3,250,000 names presented to Parliament (4 May). It is rejected by the House of Commons by 287 votes to 47.

General strike (otherwise known as the Plug Plot riots) breaks out across Lancashire, Staffordshire and in other areas of Northern England and Scotland. Thousands demand that pay cuts are reversed and the Charter made law. Many leading Chartists are arrested. In total, 1,500 Chartists and strikers face trial, with 79 sentenced to transportation.

Conference intended to unite the National Charter Association and Complete Suffrage Union
ends in failure.

1843
Feargus O'Connor and 58 others tried for incitement to strike and riot at Lancaster Assizes. None of those found guilty is ever sentenced.

1844
Chartist convention held in Manchester (April).

Northern Star newspaper relocates to London.

1845
Chartist convention held in London (April).

Formation of Chartist Land Co-operative Society (later National Land Company).

Society of Fraternal Democrats founded.

1846
Repeal of the corn laws.

1847
O'Connorville opens - the first of the Chartist plantations founded by the National Land Company.

New government formed by Lord John Russell's Whigs (July); Feargus O'Connor is elected MP for Nottingham.

1848
Revolution in France overthrows monarchy. Attempted revolutions break out across Europe.

London (later People's) Charter Union founded (22 March) by James Watson, Henry Hetherington and Richard Moore as rival to National Charter Association.

Chartist convention held in London (April).

Third Chartist petition presented to Parliament after a rally at Kennington Common (10 April). Feargus O'Connor claims it holds 5,706,000 signatures; MPs say it has just 1,975,496 names, including many forgeries.

Chartist National Assembly meets (May).

Widespread disturbances including aborted risings in London, Ashton-under-Lyne and Ireland.

Many Chartists are arrested in the months following the rally. Ernest Jones is sentenced to two years in prison for sedition; William Cuffay/Cuffey is sentenced to be transported to Tasmania.

1849
Henry Hetherington dies of cholera (23 August).

People's Charter Union wound up.

Metropolitan conference of 28 delegates meets to elect provisional executive for the National Charter Association (December).

1850
George Julian Harney launches short-lived Red Republican newspaper. It publishes the first English translation of the Communist Manifesto before ceasing publication and relaunching as the Friend of the People.

Harney and the Left capture the National Charter Association executive.

Moderate National Charter League launched to build links with middle class.

1851
Chartist convention in Manchester boycotted by supporters of Harney attracts just eight delegates (January).

Bill put forward to dissolve National Land Company (February).

Chartist convention in London adopts socialist programme (April).

Northern Star ceases publication.

1852
Chartist convention held in Manchester (17-21 May).

1853

1854
Labour Parliament meets in Manchester to lead Chartist revival that fails to appear (6- 18 March).

1855
Death of Feargus O'Connor (30 August).

1856

1857

1858
Last national Chartist convention held, attended by 41 delegates (February).

1859
Nottingham Town Council agrees to erect a statue of Feargus O'Connor.

1860
National Charter Association formally wound up.

Find out more about Chartism on this website, or browse the Chartist Ancestors Bookshop.


How can I find out more?

There are some excellent books. Chartist Ancestors recommends Malcolm Chase's Chartism: A New History For other books, see the Chartist Ancestors Bookshop.

 

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