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Chartist Ancestors
What did your family to 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, Editor


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Strikes and industrial action - 1901-2000

Mark Crail

Chartists and the law
The trial of Feargus O'Connor and 58 other Chartists - 1843

In August 1842, in the wake of Parliament’s rejection of the second Charter petition, a Chartist conference took place in Manchester. As it convened, strikes protesting at wage cuts imposed by the factory owners broke out first in Ashton, then across Manchester.

Disputes still rage over whether this was a spontaneous outbreak of industrial militancy, or a politically inspired one. What is clear, though, is that it turned into a substantial and well-organised general strike, with committees issuing permits for those who might work on during the stoppage. The strike has come down through history as the “plug plot riots”, though in truth it was neither a plot nor for the most part a riot.

Many of the delegates to the National Charter Association conference were suspicious of the strike, fearing that it had been stirred up by the Anti-Corn Law League, which they opposed. They feared that factory owners had provoked the strike because over-production meant that they had too many goods in stock, and wanted a respite from paying their men’s wages. But, at length, resolutions were passed in support of the strike, and the Chartists placed themselves at the head of events, speaking from platforms and giving some political direction.

For days as events unfolded the factories of mills of the North West were closed down by groups of workers who went from place to turning out the workers. With the exception of the work needed to maintain life, no-one worked without a permit from the strike committees. Manchester was in the hands of the working class.

But this was to be no dry run for the later Paris Commune. Without broader political direction - which the Chartists could but did not provide - the strikers were gradually starved back to work, and public order was restored.

As might have been predicted, when the strike failed, many of its leaders, along with the delegates to the conference were arrested.

A total of 59 men went on trial at Lancaster assizes the following March, charged in what the Chartists dubbed the “monster indictment” with nine counts of inciting riots, risings, strikes and other forms of disorder. Among them was Feargus O'Connor, publisher of the Northern Star and leading light of the National Charter Association. Still more men and women - 1,500 in total - were tried elsewhere, particularly in the Black Country and the Potteries, where nail makers, miners and others had been on strike for many months.

The Lancaster trial lasted eight days. The attorney general himself led for the prosecution, and some of the most damning evidence was given by two former Chartists who had turned Queen’s evidence. At the conclusion of the trial, charges had been dropped against seven men, 19 more were acquitted, and the remainder convicted of one or two of the nine counts against them. Sentence was, however, adjourned, and due to a fortuitous legal loophole, never passed. Many of those tried elsewhere, however, were not so fortunate. The Chartist movement, however, had been robbed of its leadership and broken at its very height.

The names shown here are drawn from R G Gammage’s History of the Chartist Movement 1837-1854, and from The Trial of Feargus O'Connor - a contemporary account of the court proceedings published by the Manchester Chartist and later mayor of the town, Abel Heywood.

List of prisoners found guilty on the fourth and fifth counts, and of those acquitted.

Fourth count
F A Taylor, James Arthur, J R H Bairstow,
Robert Brook, John Campbell, Thomas Cooper,
George Candelet, John Durham, C Doyle,
James Fenton, James Leach, John Leach,
P M M’Douall, James Mooney, David Morrison,
Bernard McCartney.

Fifth count
William Aitkin, John Arran, William Beesley,
A Challenger, G J Harney, William Hill,
John Hoyle, John Norman, Feargus O’Connor,
Richard Otley, Samuel Parkes, Thomas Railton,
Robert Ramsden, James Skevington, Wm Woodruffe.

Acquitted by consent
John Atkinson, James Cartledge, George Johnson,
William Scholefield, John Thornton, John Wilde,
Thomas Pitt.

Not guilty
Patrick Broply, J Chippendale, Joseph Clarke,
John Crossley, Thomas Fraser, John Lomax,
Thomas Mahon, David Ross, Albert Wolfenden,
Thomas Storah, William Booth, John Fletcher,
James Grassby, John Massey, Richard Pilling,
James Scholefield, Wm Stephenson, James Taylor,
Thomas Browne Smith.

The Monster Indictment

Source: The Northern Star, January 1843

Michaelmas Term, in the sixth year of Queen Victoria
County Palatine of Lacaster to wit,

Be it remembered that at a Session of our Sovereign Lady Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, defender of the Faith, of hearing and determining and Gaol Delivery held at the Court House, in Liverpool, in and for the County Palatine of Lancaster, on Monday the Tenth Day of October, in the sixth year of the reign of our said Lady the Queen, before her Majesty’s right trusty and well-beloved Cousin and Councillor, James Lord Abinger, Chief Baron of her Majesty’s Court of Exchequer, her Majesty’s trusty and well beloweved Sir Edward Hall Alderson, Knight, one of the Barons of her Majesty’s said Court of Exchequer, Sir Creswell Creswell, Knight, one of the Justices of her Majesty’s Court of Common Pleas, and other their companions, Justices and Commissioners of our said Sovereign Lady the Queen, by the letters patent of the said Lady the Queen under the seal of the said County Palatine of Lancaster, to the said Lord Abinger Sir Edward Hall Alderson and Sir Creswell Creswell, and others, or any two or more of them directed and whereof the said Lord Abinger, Sir Edward Hall Alderson and Sir Creswell Creswell (amongst others) our said Sovereign Lady the Queen would have to be xxxx, as well to hear and determine as inquire by the oaths of honest and lawful men of said County Palatine of Lancaster, and by other ways, means and methods, which they can as well within liberties as without by which the truth of the matter may be better known and inquired into of all Treasons, Misprisons of Treason, Insurrections,
TO BE CONTINUED

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Accused, witnesses and jury

The list of names here comes from the indictment . Quite why all the defendents should be designated "labourers" and said to come from Manchester when this was clearly not the case is something of a mystery.

Feargus O’Connor, late of Manchester in the county of Lancaster, labourer,
Peter Murray M’Douall, late of the same place, labourer,
James Scholefield, late of the same place, labourer,
James Leach, late of the same place, labourer,
Christopher Doyle, late of the same place, labourer,
John Campbell, late of the same place, labourer,
Jonathan Bairstow, late of the same place, labourer,
Bernard M’Cartney, late of the same place, labourer,
James Arthur, late of the same place, labourer, otherwise called James McArthur
David Ross, late of the same place, labourer,
Richard Otley, late of the same place, labourer,
George Julian Harney, late of the same place, labourer,
James Cartlege, late of the same place, labourer,
Thomas Cooper, late of the same place, labourer,
William Hill, late of the same place, labourer,
Robert Brooke, late of the same place, labourer,
James Taylor, late of the same place, labourer,
John Hoyle, late of the same place, labourer,
John Thornton, late of the same place, labourer,
John Norman, late of the same place, labourer,
Joseph Clarke, late of the same place, labourer,
John Massey, late of the same place, labourer,
John Fletcher, late of the same place, labourer,
Thomas Browne Smith, late of the same place, labourer,
Thomas Fraser, late of the same place, labourer,
John Atkinson, late of the same place, labourer,
James Grasby, late of the same place, labourer,
William Beesley, late of the same place, labourer,
James Chippendale, late of the same place, labourer,
Samuel Parkes, late of the same place, labourer,
Thomas Railton, late of the same place, labourer,
Robert Ramseden, late of the same place, labourer,
James Mooney, late of the same place, labourer,
Thomas Mahon, late of the same place, labourer,
John Leach, late of the same place, labourer,
David Morrison, late of the same place, labourer,
John Lomax, late of the same place, labourer,
John Arran, late of the same place, labourer,
James Skevington, late of the same place, labourer,
William Scholfield, late of the same place, labourer,
Richard Pilling, late of the same place, labourer,
William Aitken, late of the same place, labourer,
Sandy Challenger, late of the same place, labourer, otherwise called Alexander Challenger,
George Candelet, late of the same place, labourer,
John Durham, late of the same place, labourer,
James Fenton, late of the same place, labourer,
William Stephenson, late of the same place, labourer,
John Crossley, late of the same place, labourer,
Albert Woolfenden, late of the same place, labourer,
Robert Leas, late of the same place, labourer,
John Lewis, late of the same place, labourer,
Patrick Murphy Brophy, late of the same place, labourer,
George Johnson, late of the same place, labourer,
Thomas Storah, late of the same place, labourer,
William Booth, late of the same place, labourer,
John Wilde, late of the same place, labourer,
William Woodruff, late of the same place, labourer,
Frederick Augustus Taylor, late of the same place, labourer,
Thomas Pitt, late of the same place, labourer,

NB: Atkinson appears variously as Allinson

The jury
James Anderton of Duxbury, Esq, foreman
James Rothwell Barnes of Great Lever, Esq
Edward Brooke of Rusholme, merchant
Isaiah Ashley of Kirkdale, merchant
Thomas Edgeley of Rusholme, merchant
Forsyth William Smyth of Toxteth Park, merchant
Charles Armstrong of Everton, merchant
James Blyth, Plymouth Grove, Chorlton-upon-Medlock
Thomas Hague of Wavertree, merchant
Richard Harrison of Burnley
Charles Storrs, Kennedy
William Scott

Witnesses
John Ardell, clerk
Samuel Bannister, chief-constable of police, Preston
Luke Barker, schoolmaster
William Barker, journeyman tailor
George Barlow, an apprentice
Thomas Barrington, governor of Stockport workhouse
Thomas Beattie, called but not examined
Robert Bell, extra policeman
William Bentley, policeman
Richard Beswick, chief superintendent of police, Manchester
James Bradshaw, millowner
Henry Brierly, factory operative
John Brook, cabinet maker
Titus S Brook jun, druggist
John Brook, book-keeper and manager to Mr Platt
James Buckley
James Cartlege
Samuel Chambers, carpenter
Alderman George Boyle Chappell
William Clayton, constable
John Cockshott, butcher
Joe Cooper, cotton-spinner
James Crompton, constable of Stockport
William Drake
Mr Eastwood, solicitor
Paul Fairclough, fruiterer
John Fair, steward to Mr O'Connor
Silvester Faraday, constable
Nathan Fryar, blacksmith
William Griffin, reporter
Joseph Haigh, milkman
James Halliday, spinner
John Hanley, reporter
John Heap, constable
William Heap, later farmer
Joseph Hibbert, clerk to the magistrates of Hyde
James Hindley, driver of a fly
Henry Holland, block cutter
Peter Jamieson, tailor
James Kershawm mayor of Manchester
Henry Lees
Joseph Little, special high constable of Hyde
Abraham Longson, police constable of Stockport
Grattan M'Cabe, superintendent of police at Burnley
Archibald M'Mullen, inspector of Manchester police force
Matthew Maiden, constable of Ashton
William Moore, dresser
George Nasmyth, occupier of Bridgewater forge
Robert Newton, deputy constable of Ashton under Lyne
Samuel Newton
Agnes Mary Noblett
Thomas Noblett
John Northcote, printer
Joseph Oliver, overlooker at Robinson's mill
Sir Thomas Potter, magistrate of Manchester
Isaac Clarke Pray
Henry Rhodes, steam-loom weaver
Thomas Rhodes, cotton manufacturer
George Roberts, book-keeper
James Rothwell
George Rowe, coachman
Joseph Sadler, police officer
William Scholefield, schoolmaster
John Robinson Scott
Edwin Shepherd, superintendent of police at Blackburn
Samuel Shepley, cotton spinner
Charles Storack, a designer
Thomas Sutton, an apprentice
Rev Jno Taylor
Issachar Thorpe, manager of print-works
Samuel Turner, farmer
James Whitham
James Wilcox

Source for jury and witness names: The Trial of Feargus O'Connor (First published by Abel Heywood, Manchester 1843)

 

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