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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
Site editor


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Mark Crail

Chartists and the law
Transportation to Australia
the price of treason, riot, arson and drilling under arms


In the eight decades during which Britain used its Australian colonies as conveniently distant place in which to dump its most difficult, notorious or inconvenient criminals, some 162,000 people were transported from Britain, Ireland and to a lesser extent elsewhere in the Empire.

The social historian George Rude calculates that, of these, some 1,200 were transported from England, Scotland and Wales as a result of social or political protests. And of the 752 sentenced for their directly political actions (as opposed to arsonists, poachers and other "marginal" social protestors), the second largest group after the "Swing" rioters were the 102 Chartists transported in the wake of the three successive Chartist peak years of 1839, 1842 and 1848.

Here, we list all those who can be identified by name. The identities of those transported in 1839-40 come principally from Rude's Protest and Punishment; for those transported in 1842, most of the names are taken from documents in the Public Records Office at Kew; the names of those sentenced in 1848 again come from Rude.

1839-40
Of the 11 men transported to Australia in the wake of Chartism's first peak, six were connected with the Newport rebellion. Of the others, four had taken part in the Birmingham riots, and one was a Lancashire weaver who had killed a policeman.
They were:

Thomas Aston
: Aged just 16 at the time of his arrest along with three others for "demolishing a house by force" during the Birmingham riots of 1839, Aston was a gunsmith's labourer from Birmingham. He was sentenced to be transported for 10 years, and arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, on board the Asia in August 1840.

Richard Boothman: A Lancashire weaver, Boothman was convicted of killing a policeman (named Joseph Halstead) in a riot at Colne on 10 August 1840. George Rude argues that Boothman's Chartist credentials are not necessarily clear, but that the circumstances of the incident suggest a "better than even" chance of a political motive. Boothman maintained his innocence, but after his original sentence of death was commuted to transportation for life, sailed for Tasmania on the Barossa, arriving in Hobart on 13 January 1842. After two years at Impression Bay, Boothman went to work at in the north of the island. He continued to deny responsibility for the crime and to ask relatives to petition for his return in letters home, but was to die in Launceston, Tasmania, in 1877.

John Frost: The most famous of all those transported to Australia, Frost had been mayor of Newport and was a serving magistrate when he became involved in the Chartist movement. After chairing the first Chartist Convention, during which time he was sacked by the Home Secretary as a justice of the peace, Frost returned to Wales where he became involved in the conspiracy that was to lead to the Newport Rebellion. Many historians doubt that Frost was the true leader of this violent rising, not least because he had always advocated the use of moral force; nevertheless, he stood by his comrades once the decision to proceed was made, and was prominent in the event. Frost was born at Newport on 25 May 1789, the son of John and Sarah Frost, who kept the Royal Oak tavern in Mill Street. He became a prosperous woollen draper, and married Mary Geach, a widow, with whom he had five daughters and two sons. His early politics were those of a Cobdenite Radical.

Jeremiah Howell: Arrested along with three others for "demolishing a house by force" during the Birmingham riots of 1839, Howell was 39 and a Birmingham gunsmith at the time of his court appearance. He was sentenced to be transported for life, and arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, on board the Mandarin on 30 June 1840.

John Ingram: A single man aged 36, Ingram was described in court as a labourer and a soldier. He was one of three Montgomery men charged with "drilling the mob in the use of firearms" during the summer of 1839. Their activities appear to have been connected to the build-up to the Newport rebellion. Ingram was sentenced to be transported to Australia for seven years. He arrived at Sydney on board the Maitland on 14 July 1840.

John Jones: Arrested along with three others for "demolishing a house by force" during the Birmingham riots of 1839, Jones was 22 and a woodturner from Welshpool at the time of his court appearance. He was sentenced to be transported for life, and arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, on board the Mandarin on 30 June 1840.

William Jones: Newport

Humphreys Lewis: A 29-year-old boot and shoemaker, Lewis was married with one son. He was one of three Montogomery men charged with "drilling the mob in the use of firearms" during the summer of 1839. Their activities appear to have been connected to the build-up to the Newport Rebellion. Lewis was sentenced to be transported to Australia for seven years. He arrived at Sydney on board the Woodbridge on 27 February 1840.

Abraham Owen: A 45-year-old weaver at the time of his arrest, Owen was a widower with four sons. He was one of three Montogomery men charged with "drilling the mob in the use of firearms" during the summer of 1839. Their activities appear to have been connected to the build-up to the Newport Rebellion. Owen was sentenced to be transported to Australia for seven years. He arrived at Sydney on board the Woodbridge on 27 February 1840.

Francis Roberts: Arrested along with three others for "demolishing a house by force" during the Birmingham riots of 1839, Roberts was 28, and a blacksmith and shovelmaker from Sutton, near Birmingham, at the time of his court appearance. He was sentenced to be transported for life, and arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, on board the Mandarin on 30 June 1840.

Zepheniah Williams: Newport

1842
STAFFORD - 54 TRANSPORTED
The Staffordshire potteries saw the worst of the 1842 general strike - and the harshest crackdown. During the strike - which had been sparked by wage cuts - workers stopped the pumps that kept coal mines clear of water and closed down every factory that they could.

But the strike leaders failed to keep control, and in the riots that followed police stations were raided for arms, prisoners were released, poor-rate books seized and destroyed, and the houses and offices of magistrates, coal mine owners, rate-collectors and parsons set on fire or pulled down. A total of 274 people were brought to trial in the special assizes that followed, of whom 146 were sent to prison and 54 were transported (Rude says 51). Sixty-two were found not guilty. Many of these, of course, probably had little interest in Chartism, but the economic and political demands raised during the strike makes it impossible to disentangle the different motives of the individuals involved.

A contemporary account by local historian John Ward (The Borough of Stoke on Trent, 1843) notes that 21 of those transported were potters and 19 miners. His by no means sympathetic account of the strike can be found at thepotteries.org website.

The following list comes from the Register of persons charged with indictable offences at the assizes and sessions held within the county during the year 1842 held at the Public Records Office at Kew (document reference HO27/68) and is a record of those tried at the special commission on 1 October 1842. It gives the name, age, charge and number of years for which each individual was sentenced to transportation
John Harris, 27, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
Richard Wright, 17, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
George Colclough (also Cogsey Nelley, 26, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
John Williams, 31, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
Joseph Whiston, 30, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
Thomas Cotton, 27, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
William Cartledge, 24, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
Jervis Phillips, 34, Feloniously demolishing a house, 15years
Thomas Wagstaffe, 24, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10years
Jospeh Saunders, 24, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10years
Sampson Whitehouse, 23, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10years
Josiah Gilbert, 20, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10years
Thomas Banks, 20, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10years
Edward Smith, 26, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10years
John Roden, 20, Robbery with violence, 10 years an erroneous sentence
Thomas Murray, 29, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
Henry Howard, 19, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
William Ellis, 32, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
Elijah Clay, 18, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10 years
John Cunliffe, 26, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10 years
Joseph Green, 20, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10 years
Thomas Roberts, 22, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10 years
Thomas Turner, 28, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
George Wilcocks, 33, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
Elijah Simpson, 20, Feloniously demolishing a house, 21 years
Adam Wood, 19, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10 years
Edward Ellis, 22, Feloniously demolishing a house, 10 years
William Fearn, 31, Larceny and feloniously demolishing a house, 7 years after 6 months imprisonment
Samuel Gibson, 22, Burglary, 10 years
Charles Simpson, 20, Shop-breaking, 10 years
Thomas Banks, 21, Shop-breaking, 15 years
Joseph Barrett, 26, Larceny, 7 years
Thomas Sanders, 24, Robbery in company, Life
William Turner, 24, Feloniously setting fire to an office, Life
James Slack, 32, Feloniously demolishing an office, 10 years
William Millor, 19, Burglary, 15 years
Philip Hewson, 25, Burglary, 15 years
Edwin Mass, 32, Robbery in company, 15 years
Thomas Kelsall, 22, Shop breaking, 15 years
Isaac Colclough, 21, Larceny and seditious riot, 7 years after 6 months imprisonment
Philip Deans, 23, Burglary, 15 years
Thomas Owen, 43, Burglary, Life
George Simpson, 25, Burglary, 10 years
John Rathbone, 36, Burglary, Life
William Spilsbury, 32, Burglary, 10 years
Samuel Crutchley, 20, Maliciously stabbing with intent to maim, Life
John Room, 30, Maliciously stabbing with intent to do bodily harm, Life
John Hollis, 28, Maliciously stabbing with intent to do bodily harm, Life
Robert Clish (also Ma clash), 28, Maliciously stabbing with intent to do bodily harm, Life
James Mason, 26, Maliciously stabbing with intent to do bodily harm, Life
Francis Taylor, 31, Maliciously stabbing with intent to do bodily harm, Life
Richard Croxton, 27, Burglary, Life
William Johnson, 21, Burglary, 15 years
William Lawton, 19, Burglary, 15 years

LANCASTER - 13 TRANSPORTED
Names to follow
LEICESTER - 11 TRANSPORTED
Names to follow

1848
Chartism's final fling as a mass movement was again accompanied by a judicial crackdown. Chartists arrested in 1848 numbered in their hundreds. In common with many of those convicted in earlier episodes, most of the Chartists sentenced to transportation in 1848 were charged with rioting and similar crimes. A small group of London conspirators, however, faced much more serious accusations that could have led to capital charges had there been more evidence.

Those sentenced to transportation were:

SCOTLAND
Aberdeen
Donald Davidson: Born in Inverness, Davidson was 33 at the time he was arrested and charged with "mobbing and rioting and culpable homicide". According to his own account, he stood accused of "assaulting a man who was killed at a riot at Stonehaven". Davidson was convicted at Aberdeen Court of Judiciary on 12 April 1848 along with four others. But while they were sent to prison, he sailed for Tasmania on the Nile II, arriving on 3 October 1850.

Glasgow
Robert Mair or Main: One of six Glasgow men who participated in riots in the city on 6 March 1848, Mair was involved in stealing a gum from a Mr Musgrave at Irongate. Mair, a 45-year-old tin and coppersmith, was tried at Glasgow Judiciary Court on 5 and 6 May, and sailed for Tasmania on the Nile II, arriving on 3 October 1850.

James Campbell: One of six Glasgow men who participated in riots in the city on 6 March 1848, Campbell was present when a number of houses were looted. A 28-year-old hammerer or striker from Glasgow, he was tried at Glasgow Judiciary Court on 5 and 6 May, and sailed for Tasmania on the Lady Kennaway, arriving in Hobart on 28 May, 1851.

John Lafferty: One of six Glasgow men who participated in riots in the city on 6 March 1848, Lafferty was present when a number of houses were looted. A 45-year-old ostler, Lafferty was tried at Glasgow Judiciary Court on 5 and 6 May, and sailed for Tasmania on the Lady Kennaway, arriving in Hobart on 28 May, 1851.

Charles O'Bryan: One of six Glasgow men who participated in riots in the city on 6 March 1848, O'Bryan was present when a number of houses were looted. He was tried at Glasgow Judiciary Court on 5 and 6 May, and sailed for Tasmania on the Lady Kennaway, arriving in Hobart on 28 May, 1851.

Peter Keenan: One of six Glasgow men who participated in riots in the city on 6 March 1848, Keenan was a 25-year-old farm labourer from County Monaghan. He was tried at Glasgow Judiciary Court on 5 and 6 May, and sailed for Tasmania on the Rodney, arriving in October or November 1850.

Thomas Walker: One of six Glasgow men who participated in riots in the city on 6 March 1848, Walker was a 23-year-old iron moulder from Bainsford in Stirlingshire. He was tried at Glasgow Judiciary Court on 5 and 6 May, and sailed for Tasmania on the William Jardine, arriving in Hobart in October or November 1850.

ENGLAND
Liverpool assizes
James Stott: A 24-year-old Oldham man, Stott was tried with a number of others at Liverpool Crown Court in December 1848 with "sedition" and "compassing or devising to levy war against the Queen". Unlike the others, however, Stott was also charged with "Chartism". He was sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856.

Thomas Tassiker: A 34-year-old carder, Tassiker was tried with a number of others at Liverpool Crown Court in December 1848 with "sedition" and "compassing or devising to levy war against the Queen". He was sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856.

Joseph Constantine: A 20-year-old Manchester man, Constantine was tried with a number of others at Liverpool Crown Court in December 1848 with "sedition" and "compassing or devising to levy war against the Queen". He was sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856.
Read more about him in our Brief Lives page.

Thomas Kenworthy: A 29-year-old man from Ashton-under-Lyne, Kenworthy was tried with a number of others at Liverpool Crown Court in December 1848 with "sedition" and "compassing or devising to levy war against the Queen". He was sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856.

London conspirators
William Dowling: One of a group of London conspirators who probably did plan some kind of coup or putsch following rejection of the third Chartist petition, Dowling was charged with "sedition", "levying war" and "compassing to depose the Queen". By background, Dowling was a Roman Catholic from Dublin. Aged 25, he was a portrait painter. Along with the others he was seized at the Orange Tree public house in Bloomsbury and tried at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey before being sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856. Dowling continued to work as a portrait painter in Launceston, and died in 1857.

Thomas Fay: One of a group of London conspirators who probably did plan some kind of coup or putsch following rejection of the third Chartist petition, Fay was charged with "sedition" and "levying war". He was a Roman Catholic from Dublin, working in London as a boot clover at the time of his arrest. Along with the others he was seized at the Orange Tree public house in Bloomsbury and tried at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey before being sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856.

William Lacey: One of a group of London conspirators who probably did plan some kind of coup or putsch following rejection of the third Chartist petition, Lacey was charged with "sedition" and "levying war". Aged 39 and married with six children, Lacey was a prosperous bootmaker from Keyworth in Nottinghamshire. Along with the others he was seized at the Orange Tree public house in Bloomsbury and tried at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey before being sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856. Lacey, however, did not live to receive his pardon. He died at Launceston in February 1854 aged 44.

Joseph Ritchie: One of a group of London conspirators who probably did plan some kind of coup or putsch following rejection of the third Chartist petition, Ritchie was charged with "sedition" and "levying war". A 44-year-old bricklayer and Quaker, he came originally from Newcastle upon Tyne. Along with the others he was seized at the Orange Tree public house in Bloomsbury and tried at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey before being sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856. Ritchie, however, did not live to receive his pardon. He died in poverty in Launceston Hospital in August 1854.

William Cuffay or Cuffey: The leader of a group of London conspirators who probably did plan some kind of coup or putsch following rejection of the third Chartist petition, Cuffay was charged with "sedition" and "levying war". Cuffay was by far the best known of the Chartists arrested in 1848, having played a part in a tailors' strike as far back as 1834 and serving at one point as auditor of the National Land Company. Born in Chatham, Cuffay was black, the son of a freed former West Indian slave. He stood just 4 foot 11 inches tall, and was already 61 years old and had been married three times at the time of his trial. Along with the others he was seized at the Orange Tree public house in Bloomsbury and tried at the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey before being sentenced to transportation for life. He sailed for Australia on the Adelaide, arriving at Hobart on 29 November 1849. The nine English Chartists transported on the Adelaide were immediately granted tickets of leave allowing them to seek paid work subject to certain police checks on their activities on their arrival, and were pardoned seven years later in December 1856. Cuffay died at the age of 82 in July 1870 at Brickfields Invalid Depot. He had been joined by his wife Mary Ann in 1856 and worked as a tailor, returning to political activity after receiving his pardon, leading a campaign against the Master and Servant Act.

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


Chartism's democratic legacy in Australia

Not all Chartists who ended up in Australia were convicts by any means. Like those who went to America, many were fleeing persecution at home, or simply wanted to start a new and better life.

They did, however, play an important role in the development of Australia's early democratic politics and constitution.

Some, such as William Cuffey simply picked up where they had left off in England, joining agitation on a range of social and political issues. But a turning point was the gold miners' revolt at the Eureka Stockade in 1854.

Some 1,500 rebels staged Australia's only armed uprising, initially in protest at a harsh system of taxation intended to deter thousands from flocking to the new gold fields.

Armed troops stormed the stockade, killing 30 and maiming many more. But the government had misjudged the political mood of the nation, and 13 prisoners for their part in the rising were acquitted.

Within a year, the licence fee had been abolished - and the vote had been extended to all adult men.

 

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