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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, Editor


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Local and family history groups: full UK list

Local records offices in England and Wales

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

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Chartist timeline - 1836-60

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© Mark Crail

Teetotal Chartists
Looking for the Charter "at the bottom of a glass of water"?

Chartism and alcohol enjoyed an uneasy relationship. The London Working Men's Association had been founded at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, and local Chartist organisations often met in public houses; some publicans (among them Peter Bussey in Bradford) were themselves active Chartists and sometimes sold radical newspapers as a sideline.

Yet there was also a strong teetotal element within the movement that felt abstinence was a core element of the Chartist philosophy.

Jump to list of (mostly) English teetotal Chartists
Jump to list of Scottish teetotal Chartists

At the root of these two different approaches was a tension between those for whom support for the Charter had its roots in nonconformism and those from a rationalist perspective. There was also a linked and important dispute about the whole way in which the Charter might be won.

On the teetotal or abstinence side were those such as John Fraser (pictured left) who in his True Scotsman paper described the “revolting spectacle” of “pot house politicians hiccupping for liberty while they make themselves degraded slaves”.

Early in 1840, a number of teetotal Chartist societies were formed, and on his release from prison that year William Lovett, the author of the Charter and secretary to the first Chartist convention, began to emphasise the importance of temperance in his New Move towards education and self improvement as the cornerstones of Chartism.

Lovett wanted to see district halls opened throughout the country at which Chartists could meet in a non-drinking environment. Similar initiatives included the “temperance hotel” opened by the Potteries Chartist Jeremiah Yates, which sold a “Chartist Beverage” – some form of cheap coffee substitute. In 1843, the Scottish Chartist Robert Cranston would open a coffee house and temperance hotel on Princess Street in Edinburgh (pictured below in 1876). The “Old Waverley Hotel” is still there today. Continued...


Both Lovett and Henry Vincent (an abstainer since 1836) appear to have been confirmed in their anti-alcohol beliefs by their experiences of prison, and in December 1840 Vincent would initiate an address arguing that the aristocracy ruled only because of the vices of the poor and that Chartists must therefore become teetotallers.

The address was widely disseminated, being published in full in the Northern Star, English Chartist Circular and the Odd Fellow, and it produced an enormous response, encouraging Chartists in many parts of the country to establish teetotal Chartist bodies alongside local branches of the National Charter Association, or to incorporate abstinence from alcohol within the objectives of their NCA branch.

Among the 135 signatories to the address were such other Chartist luminaries as Charles Neesom of the London Working Men's Association, the bookseller and publisher John Cleave, and Henry Hetherington, the veteran campaigner against a stamped press and key ally of Lovett.

In “Teetotal Chartism”, a paper for the journal History (vol 58 no 193, June 1973) Brian Harrison wrote of the address:

“Judging by its signatories, Teetotal Chartism was strongest in the North of England. One hundred and thirty of the 135 signatories are known; of these, 48 came from Yorkshire, 26 from Lancashire, 20 from the Midlands, 13 from the Potteries, nine from London, four from Scotland, three from Ireland, two from Sunderland, two from Wotton-under-Edge and one from Brighton. But London had at least five Teetotal Chartist societies – at Bermondsey, Lambeth, Cheapside, Beak Street and East London.”

The East London Chartist total Abstinence and Mutual Instruction Society was led by Charles Neesom and his wife Elizabeth Neesom, who also founded the London Female Democratic Association and was the leading light in an East London Female Total Abstinence Society.

Teetotal Chartism was also strong in Scotland. In response to Vincent's address, Scottish Chartists used the Chartist Circular of 9 January 1841 to issue their own call to “dedicate this year to total abstinence". Their own address was signed by 101 Scottish Chartists, including some of the movement's leading figures. All their names are set out here.

On the other side of the argument, Peter McDouall would condemn the teetotal movement at the National Charter Association's 1842 convention as “more of a religious than a political body”.

His views were firmly in line with those of Feargus O'Connor, who in the face of a rapid advance by teetotal Chartism and Lovett's New Move denounced church, teetotal, knowledge and household suffrage Chartism as “trick, farce, cheat or humbug”. All were, he warned, distractions and potentially divisive, raising the spectre that those who were not Christian Chartists or teetotal Chartists might be judged not good enough for the vote.

His intervention was enough to prevent Warrington Chartists establishing a teetotal body, but marked a decisive split with Lovett and his supporters.

But the anti-teetotal line was about more than the personalities of leading Chartists and their positions within the movement. More politically advanced Chartists believed that Chartism could triumph only by organising and confronting its opponents in the ruling class.

Much later, speaking in Manchester on 20 October 1850 after his release from prison, the Chartist leader Ernest Jones told the crowd: “Some will tell you that teetotalism will get you the Charter: the Charter don't lie at the bottom of a glass of water.” In the same speech, he marked his change of political stance by warning the authorities that before his imprisonment, “I spoke of a green flag waving over Downing-street.  I have changed my colour since then—it shall be a red one now”.

Signatories to Henry Vincent's address on teetotalism

Members of the late General Convention
Henry Vincent, late Resident in Oakham Gaol
John Cleave, 1 Shoe Lane, Fleet Street
Henry Hetherington, 126 Strand
C H Neesom, 76 Hare Street, Bethnal Green
W Rider, Leeds
J Harris, London (late of Brighton)

Political victims
Rev W J Jackson, now of Lancaster Castle
W Shellard of Ponty Pool, Wales; now resident in Oakham Gaol, Rutlandshire
W Edwards of Newport (Mon.) now in Oakham Gaol
G E Boggis, Brick Lane, London
Messrs Williams and Binns, Sunderland
Isaac Johnson, now resident in Chester Castle
RD Lacey, Wotton under Edge
H R Lacey, ditto
G M Bartlett, Bath
R Spurr, London

President of the Executive
J Leach, Manchester

Members of the Executive
M Littler, Manchester
W Smith, Manchester

Secretaries to Chartist Associations
C Webster, Burnley
J Mitchell, Aberdeen
M Simpson, Shelton Potteries

President of Chartist Association
E Riley, Burnley

Treasurers to Chartist Associations
E Pate, Burnley
J Heath, Shelton Potteries

Committeemen or Councillors of Chartist Associations
H De Courcey, Mansfield
J Penn, Birmingham
W Penn, ditto
W Pomfret, ditto
J Norton, ditto
J Knipe, Mansfield
R J Page, Dunfermline
J Christie, ditto
J Hoggan, ditto
T Haskeith, Liverpool
B Macartney, ditto
J Lowery, ditto
J Cowan, ditto
J Sutcliffe, Burnley
J Curdiffe, ditto
H Clegg, Burnley
J Heap, ditto
J Hill, ditto
W Sager, ditto
H Holland, ditto
S Bartlett, Bath
H Bartlett, ditto
J Holdham, Potteries
C Hackney, ditto
J Cartlidge, ditto
J Page, Brighton
R Haslem, Oldham
L Haslop, ditto
R Beaumont, ditto
T Lawless, ditto
T Leslie, ditto

William Hill, Editor of Northern Star, Leeds
J Yates, Skelton, Staffordshire, Provincial Delegate
W Thomason, Manchester, Political Lecturer
W Griffin, Reporter to Northern Star, Manchester
E Stallwood, Hammersmith, Agent to the United Temperance Association
J R Bairstow, Chartist Lecturer for West Riding, Yorkshire
J Watkins jun., Aislaby Hall, near Whitby
W H Cotton, Birmingham
Walsingham Martin, Chesterfield
P Fitzpatrick, Dublin
J Clinch, Dublin
P M Beaufrey, Dublin

Source: The English Chartist Circular and Temperance Record for England and Wales, Dec 1840, Vol 1, No. 9.

Temperance Record
The subjoined are some of the signatures which ought to have been annexed to the Chartist Temperance Address as republished in the preceeeding No. (9) of the Circular

W Worsdell, Sub-Treasurer, Charter Association Hull
S Healey, Sub-Secretary, ditto
W Padget, Member of Council, ditto
R Pinder, Member of Council, ditto
J Scholey, Member of Council, ditto
C Toy, Member of Council, ditto
L Toy, Member of Council, ditto
J Endrick, Member of Council, ditto
G Gray, Member of Council, ditto
W Gray, Member of Council, ditto
W Webster, Member of Council, ditto
The above also form the Committee of the Hull and East Riding Chartist Total Abstinence Association

J Hawksley, Sheffield
H Taylor, ditto
S Satterthwaite, ditto
W Spencer, ditto
J Moorhouse, ditto
H Burnett, Secretary, National Charter Association, Bradford
J Williams, Chesterfield
A Beresford, ditto
J Elliss, ditto
E Broomhead, ditto
T Whittaker, Chairman of the Brown Street Ward of National Charter Association, Manchester
H B Marley, Secretary to the St Pancras (London) Charter Association; and late Sec to the Exeter Working Men's Association
W Hicks, Secretary to Chartist Total Abstinence Association, Leeds

T Leslie, Oldham
R Beaumont, ditto
T Lawless, ditto
J Parkinson, ditto
J Badsley, ditto
R Stevens, ditto
W Kershaw, ditto
J Unsworth, ditto
W Flitcroft, ditto
S Halbert, ditto
J Holt, ditto
J Marsland, ditto
D Blackwood, ditto
D Hirst, ditto
J Newton, ditto
J Farmer, ditto
L Heslop, ditto
It is worthy of note that the above have been Total Abstainers for periods varying from one, three, and five years!

J Anderson, Minister of Christian Chartist Church and President of Teetotal Chartist Society, Manningham, near Bradford
J Whitehurst, Treasurer of Teetotal Chartist Society, Manningham
G Ellis, Secretary, ditto
D Whitehead, Member of Committee, ditto
J Croft, Member of Committee, ditto
---- Kitching, Councilman, Chartist Association, Daisy Hill, near Bradford
---- Staveley, Secretary, ditto
T Mercer, Member of Committee, ditto
J Mercer, Member of Committee, ditto
E Broadbent, Ashton-under-Lyne
A Barber, ditto
G Halton, Sub-Secretary, National Charter Association, Preston, Lancashire
R Walton, Councillor, ditto
E Swindhurst, ditto
D Clinton, ditto
J Murphy, ditto
S Cook, Dudley, Warwickshire
S Ardery, Sub-Secretary to the East London Total Abstinence Association

Source: The English Chartist Circular and Temperance Record for England and Wales, Vol 1, No. 10.

Additional Signatories to the Chartist Teeotal Manifesto
H Burnett, Secretary, National Chartist Association, Bradford
D Farquharson, Sub-Sec, NCA, Liverpool
E Swindlehurst, President, Chartist Association, Preston
G Hatton, Sec, ditto
R Walton, Councilman, ditto
J Murphy, Councilman, ditto
D Clinton, Councilman, ditto
W Jones, Treasurer, Chartist Association, Northampton
J McFarlane, Member of Committee, ditto
R Garratt, Member of Committee, ditto
C Lightwood, Member of Committee, ditto
W Hollowell, Member of Committee, ditto
R Foster, Secretary, ditto

Source: The English Chartist Circular and Temperance Record for England and Wales, Vol 1, No. 11.

Signatories to the Scottish total abstinence address

Glasgow
Matthew Cullen, power-loom dresser, Marlborough Street, President of the Universal Suffrage Central Committee for Scotland
George Ross, boot and shoe manufacturer, 24 and 26 Princes Street, Treasurer, ditto
William Thomson, 22 Princes Street, Editor of the “Chartist Circular”, Secretary, ditto
William Pattison, machine maker, Member, ditto
Malcom McFarlane, 41 Robertson Street, ditto
David Allan, Green Street, Calton, ditto
Walter Currie, Bookseller, 41 Nelson Street, ditto
Arthur George O'Neil, 90 Trongate, ditto
John Howie, 237 Main Street, Gorbals, ditto
Charles McEwan, Crown Street, ditto
John Gardner, power-loom tenter, Ladywell Street, ditto
Abram Duncan, Main Street, Gorbals
Colin McDougal, woollen draper, 5 Gallowgate
William Miller, printer of the Chartist Circular, 90 Bell Street
George Harris, minister of the Gospel, 27 Abbotsford Place
George Chisholm, merchant, Brunswick Street, President of Lanarkshire Universal Suffrage Association

Kirkintilloch
William Thomson, merchant, Westermains, President of the Total Abstinence Society
John Murray, Secretary to the Working Men's Association
Thomas Baird, tailor
John McCubbin, dyer, Bellfield

Alloa
David Thomson, agent of the Chartist Circular

Kirkaldy
John Taylor, weaver, Pratt Street, President of the Universal Suffrage Association
William Baird, mechanic, Glass Work, Treasurer, ditto
William Todd, Secretary, ditto

Falkirk
Hugh Maclean, of the Universal Suffrage Committee

Campsie
James Cowan, President, Universal Suffrage Association
Alexander Love, Vice-President, ditto
Peter Maitland, Treasurer, ditto

Forfar
John Philips, agent of the Chartist Circular
James Meldrum

Abroath
James Tosh, townhead, agent of the Chartist Circular

Aberdeen
John Mitchell, bookseller, 23 Queen Street
John Legge, bookseller, 48 George Street

Dundee
George Adams, Hawkhill, Chairman of the Democratic Association
James McPherson, Horse Water Wynd, Scouringburn, Secretary

Perth
James White, grocer, Powmarium
James Whitlet, tea merchant, High Street
T McPherson, bookseller, Parliament Close

Markinch
William Melville, agent of the Chartist Circular
Patrick Ballingall
James Law
John Philip, Melton of Balgonie
Robert White, Rathes' Mill
John Thomson, senior, Star

Edinburgh
John Fraser, Editor of the True Scotsman

Airdrie
Mathew Whitelaw, President, Universal Suffrage Association
William Brodie, Vice-President, ditto
Michael Gordon, Secretary, ditto
William Stewart, Member of Committee, ditto

Lesmahago
Thomas McCartney, merchant

Stonehouse
James Hamilton, merchant
James Hamilton, junior, merchant
John Walker, weaver
Thomas Millar, ditto
Nathaniel Lieper, ditto
William Jackson, ditto
James Lieper, ditto
James Summers, ditto
Thomas Forrest, ditto

Stratheven
William Barrie

Eaglesham
Robert Dunlop, shoemaker
James Wallace

East Kilbride
John Struthers, Secretary, Chartist Association
Thomas Gilmour, President

Barrhead
John Whitelaw

Paisley
William Aitken, bookseller, High Street
Edward Pollin
Patrick Brewster, Minister of the Gospel
David Glassford

Greenock
Duncan McGibbon, student of medicine

Galston
Robert Howie, salesman, Economical Society

Kilmarnock
John Kerr, tailor, Regent Street
Robert Johnston, nailmaker, Soulis Street
William Carruth, bookseller, King Street

Maybole
Charles Crawford, shoemaker
James McCrindle, shoemaker

Gatehouse of Fleet
John Donaldson, merchant

Dumfries
Andrew Wardrop, frame smith maker

Hawick
Charles Hunter, President, Chartist Association
Christopher Crossier, Treasurer, ditto
John A Hogg, Secretary, ditto

Selkirk
Alexander Hogg

Girvan
John Eadie, Dalrymple Street, Chairman, Working Men's Association
John McEwen, Montgomerie Street, Treasurer, ditto
Mathew Scott, Montgomerie Street, Secretary, ditto
John McKay, Secretary, Democratic Association

Bathgate
William Deuk, senior
Alexander Arthur
Alexander Brown
Henry Halden
Thomas Frew

Stirling
Maurice McIntyre
George Owen
Peter Mathie
James F Dow
George White
Robert Boyd
William Rodgers
Daniel Duncanson
James Anderson

Newmills
Alexander Brown, senior, Magistrate

Source: The Chartist Circular, 9 January 1841

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


How can I find out more?
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