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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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Mark Crail

Chartist insurrection
Newport rebellion, 1839 - the battle for the Westgate Hotel

The threat of armed uprising hung constantly in the air around the Chartist movement. But on only one occasion did the Charter’s supporters deliberately take up arms in a serious attempt to force their demands.

This rising, at Newport – then in Monmouthshire and now in the county of Gwent – was undoubtedly ill-conceived and badly executed. It resulted in sentences of death being passed on three of its leaders, it achieved no political end in itself, and if, as the evidence suggests, it was intended to trigger a wider revolt, then it failed in that too - though not without bringing the Bradford and Sheffield Chartists along with others to the very brink.

A great deal has been written about the Newport Rebellion, much of it - even by contemporary writers - confused and confusing. But in his Chartism: A New History, the historian Malcolm Chase does an excellent job of untangling the events of November 1839 and explaining who knew what and when they knew it.

He demonstrates beyond doubt that there was a wider plot - hatched at the First Chartist Conference earlier that year - to attempt a country-wide rising in response to Parliament's utter rejection of the First Chartist Petition. However, Chase absolves the Chartist leader Feargus O'Connor of having advance knowledge of the planned rising, and records that he did all he could at the last moment to head off a disaster.

The rising was led by John Frost, a radical former mayor of Newport and magistrate – until he was removed by the Lord Chancellor for his political activities. The Chartist newspaper had earlier run a profile of John Frost while he was serving as a delegate to the Convention.

Frost and his allies planned to march in three columns on Newport under cover of darkness, early in the morning of Monday 4 November 1839. Frost would lead the western column, Zepheniah Williams the central column, and William Jones the eastern column.

A biography of Frost by David Williams, titled John Frost: a study in Chartism, is available from the Chartist Ancestors bookshop in association with Amazon.co.uk.

Planning for the rising went on for weeks, and was kept remarkably well concealed. However, at the last minute, a company of the 45th Regiment was drafted to Newport, and special constables were hastily sworn in and began to arrest known Chartists. Meanwhile, the Chartists set out on their march to the town.

When they reached their planned assembly point, however, there was no sign of Jones and his column, so some six and a-half hours later than planned, the forces under Frost and Williams entered Newport, not under cover of night, as had been planned, but in broad daylight, exhausted and wet from the heavy rain. The main force of the Chartist group assembled in front of the Westgate Hotel (pictured below) and called for the release of their comrades.

What happened next is not clear, but a gun was fired in the struggle between specials and Chartists, and this was taken as the sign for a full assault on the hotel. Unknown to the rebels, a contingent of soldiers were stationed in the building, they fired on the Chartists, and at least ten died there and then. (Continued...)

Westgate Hotel

The dead
Ivor Wilks in South Wales and the Rising of 1839: Class Struggle as Armed Struggle (London: Croom Helm, 1984) identifies the following men who died that day:
John Codd
David Davies of Waunhelygen, Brynmawr
Evan Davies, collier
John Davis of Pontnewynydd, carpenter
William Evans of Tredegar, miner
William Farraday of Blackwood, collier
John Jonathan of Blaina (uncertain)
William Griffiths of Merthyr
Robert Lansdown
Reece Meredith of Tredegar
David Morgan of Tredegar, tinker
John Morris, miner
George Shell of Pontypool, carpenter
Abraham Thomas of Blaina, collier
Isaac Thomas of Nantyglo
[unknown] Williams, deserter from the 29th Regiment of Foot
William Williams of Cwmtillery
William Aberdare
John the Roller of Nantyglo

Overwhelmed by the military response, he main bulk of Chartists ran off, dropping pikes and guns as they went.

Jones, Williams and others were captured and indicted for high treason. Despite the misgivings of the judge, they were convicted and would have been executed. The judge himself intervened on their behalf with the Home Secretary, and in the end the three condemned men had their sentences commuted and were transported to Australia.

Chartist Ancestors has an account of the response among Chartists to Frost's arrest and a list of contributors to the Frost Defence Fund.

In March 1854 Frost, Williams and Jones were pardoned conditionally, and in 1855 unconditionally. Both Jones and Williams remained in Australia. Frost returned to a hero’s welcome. He died at Stapleton in Bristol on 28 July 1887, aged 93 years.

Prisoners tried in January 1840
John Frost aged 54, charged with the crime of high treason against our Sovereign Lady the Queen her crown and dignity. Guilty, sentence deferred.
Charles Waters, 26 for high treason. Guilty, sentence deferred.
John Partridge aged 44, for divers acts of treason. 6 months imprisonment.
James Aust 25, for divers acts of treason and sedition. 7 years transportation.
Thomas Davies 33 for high treason. Guilty, sentence deferred.
John Rees 40, for high treason. 7 years transportation.
Richard Benfield 20, for high treason. 2 years imprisonment.
William Jones 30, for high treason. Guilty, sentence deferred.
Amy Meredith 45, James Meredith 11, Thomas Keys 29, for feloniously breaking open the house of John Jones at Trevethin, and stealing a quantity of bread and cheese, and a cask, containing six gallons of beer. Not tried.
Solomon Briton 23, for high treason and sedition. 7 years transportation.
William Williams 29, for feloniously breaking open the house of John Lloyd at Bedwelty and taking from Ann Walters a quantity of rum and gin and beer. 12 months hard labour.
George George 37, for high treason and sedition. Acquitted.
Thomas Davis 28. charged with having been riotously assembled with other persons unknown at Abercarne, and compelled G.Hitchings to join them for an illegal purpose. 18 months imprisonment.
George Turner 37, for treason and sedition. 7 years transportation.
William Shellard 36, for high treason and sedition. 2 years imprisonment.
Edmund Edmunds 34, for high treason and sedition. 18 months imprisonment.
Samuel Ethreidge 61, for high treason and sedition. 12 months imprisonment.
John Lewis Llewellin 49, for sedition. 12 months imprisonment.
Jenkin Morgan 40, for treason and sedition. 18 months imprisonment.
Evan Edwards 24, for high treason and sedition. 12 months hard labour.
Benjamin Richards 41, for high treason and sedition. Not tried.
Thomas Llewellin 44, for treason and sedition. Not tried.
Thomas Morgan 29, charged with having entered the house of William Adams at Ebber Vale, with other persons armed with guns, spears, &c, and compelled him to join them in an unlawful combination and conspiracy. [No verdict or sentence recorded in the original document – Editor]
Zepheniah Williams aged 44, for high treason and sedition. Sentence deferred.
Moses Horner, William Horner, Thomas Davies for stealing one shot belt and one dagger, the property of William Thomas of Monythuslovue. Not tried.
Thomas Edwards aged 22, William John Llewellin aged 20, Job Harris aged 25, and Joseph Coales aged 24, for breaking open and entering the dwelling house of John Walters of Bedwelty and violently and unlawfully assaulting him. [No verdict or sentence recorded in the original document – Editor]
Lewis Roland aged 37, for sedition. Not tried.
John Owen aged 28, for high treason. [No verdict or sentence recorded in the original document – Editor]
John Lovell aged 41, for high treason and sedition. [No verdict or sentence recorded in the original document – Editor]
John Batten 18, for conspiring against the peace of our sovereign Lady the Queen. [No verdict or sentence recorded in the original document – Editor]
Isaac Phillips 18, for stealing a cleaver, the property of Charles Harris of Machen.
True bills was also found on Tuesday against Henry Harris, Isaac Davis, David Williams, Charles Bicknell, James Moore, William Halford, and Thomas Ball for conspiracy and riot.

Source: contemporary handbill reproduced in The Monmouthshire Chartists, published by Newport Museum and Art Gallery, 1958

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


Judges and jury for the Newport Chartist trial

Judges
The Right Honorable Sir Nicholas Tindal knight, Lord Chief Justice of Her Majesty’s Court of Common Pleas,
The Right Honorable Sir James Parke knight, One of the Barons of Her Majesty’s Court of Exchequer
The Honorable sir John Williams knight, One of the Justices of Her Majesty’s Court of Queen’s Bench

Colthurst Bateman esq, Sheriff.

A full list of those called as possible members of the Grand Jury appeared in The Times on 11 December 1839. You can download a PDF of the page - but please be aware that this is a large file and it may take some time to complete the task. If you are not on broadband, I don't recommend it.
Mark Crail
Editor

Jury for the trial of John Frost upon an Indictment found against him and others for High Treason
Thomas Avery
of Monmouth, Gentleman
George Adams
of Portskewitt, Tailor
Simon Andrews
of Abergavenny, Ironmonger
William Baber
of Abergavenny, Grocer
George Cooper
of Abergavenny, Cooper
John Bowcott
of Abergavenny, Victualler
Samuel Buxton
Samuel Ball
of Chepstow, Victualler
Charles Barrow
of Chepstow, Accountant
Daniel Baker
of Chepstow, Victualler
Christopher Blunt
of Dinham, Farmer
Richard Bladon
of Llanvair Discoed, Victualler
James Birt
of Mounton, Paper-maker
Charles Bennett
of Portskewitt, Blacksmith
Christopher Benjamin
of Shirenewton, Farmer
Joseph Bowler
of Christchurch, Farmer
William Baker
of Christchurch, Farmer
John Buxton
of Llanvachas, Farmer
Robert Baker
of Llandevenny, Farmer
Daniel Barton
of Nash, Farmer
Philip Bennett
of Penhow, Farmer
Henry Box
of Monmouth, Woolstapler
Charles Burton
of Monmouth, Auctioneer
Edward Brittle
of Mitchell Troy, Farmer
Walter Blower
of Wonastow, Miller
Jeremiah Sharp Brown
of Chapel Hill, Esquire
Walter Blower
of Gwehelog, Farmer
John Bellamy
of Abergavenny, Wine-merchant
Samuel Babington
of Monmouth, Gentleman
James Cole
of Abergavenny, Victualler
William Crump
of Abergavenny, Victualler
James Coles
of Chepstow, Baker
Charles Charles
of Tintern Parva, Innkeeper
John Collins
of Christchurch, Farmer
Matthew Cope
of Caerleon, Maltster

Source: contemporary list reproduced in The Monmouthshire Chartists, published by Newport Museum and Art Gallery, 1958

 

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