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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Where are they now?
Last resting places of the Chartists
Graves identified on this page
Joseph Rayner Stephens
George Julian Harney
James Bronterre O'Brien
Thomas Slingsby Duncombe
The final resting places of many once prominent Chartists is now unknown. Some died impoverished or unnoticed except by their families and would have had no gravestone.
John Arnott, for some time at its height general secretary of the National Charter Association, was last seen by the journalist W E Adams some time about 1865, "a poor half-starved old man", begging for a few coppers on the Strand, and is now known to have gone to a pauper's grave.
The passing of others, such as Ernest Jones and Jeremiah Yates, was mourned by thousands; though their monuments have often fallen prey to 20th century clearances and redevelopment.
A few, however, have survived, largely unnoticed except by local historians and by cemetery friends groups. Here we list the known graves of Chartists great and obscure, along with reports of their funerals.
If you know of ANY other Chartist last resting places, please contact me with as much information as possible so that they can be added to this list.
Ben Rushton, 1785-1853
Lister Lane Cemetery, Halifax
Employed as a weaver at Dean Clough, Ben Rushton had led a procession from Halifax to Huddersfield after Peterloo in protest at the massacre. He later chaired many Chartist meetings in Halifax, and was close to Ernest Jones. Although he died impoverished, his funeral was attended by up to 10,000 people. From his house at Ovenden, a procession of Bradford Chartists led by a brass band marched with the coffin through the town centre to Lister Lane. Rushton had asked that no paid priest should speak at his funeral, and the oration was given by Jones, who said “The foundation stones of liberty are the graves of the just… the memories of the past are the beacons of the future.” The company moved on to a further political meeting at West Hill Park after the funeral.
The headstone reads:
In Memory of
OLD AND TRIED PATRIOT
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE JUNE 17 TH 1853
AGED 68 YEARS.
An honest man here lies at rest,
As e'er God with his image blest;
The friend of man, the friend of truth;
The friend of age, and guide of youth;
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,
Few heads with knowledge so inform'd;
If there's another world, he lives in bliss,
If there is none, he made the best of this.
(From an article by Norman Berry in the Halifax Evening Courier, 24 June 1976). Further information at Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery.
William Henry Chadwick, 1829-1908
Willow Green Cemetery, Reddish, Manchester
Imprisoned at the age of 19 for six months, William Henry Chadwick was one of the more colourful political figures to emerge from a movement not lacking in eccentricity. Chadwick had become a Wesleyan preacher at the age of 14 and was lecturing on temperance within two years. His prison sentence followed a series of inflammatory speeches in 1848 in which he pronounced himself tired of speaking and ready for action. He emerged from gaol to become in turns an actor, phrenologist and mesmerist, marrying an actress and touring the country giving seances. Chadwick returned to politics later in life to help found the agricultural labourers' union with Joseph Arch, and to preach for the Primitive Methodists and the Manchester Reform Union. Joseph Chamberlain's private secretary, William Woodings, secured him work as a van lecturer for the National Liberal Federation in 1891, and he was still speaking at the general election of 1906 in favour of free trade and Home Rule.
His headstone read:
"FOR GOD AND THE PEOPLE"
Here lies the Body of
WILLIAM HENRY CHADWICK
("The Old Chartist")
Born May 21st, 1829
Died May 28th, 1908
In 1848, at the early age of 19, he was imprisoned for sedition and conspiracy as a leader of the Chartist movement. His whole after-life was spent in striving to extend the liberties of the people, and to promote temperance, justice, and righteousness.
"I have fought a good fight; I have
finished my course; I have kept the faith."
-- 2 Tim. iv.7.
This stone was erected to his memory by some of those who shared in his labours, rejoiced in his triumphs, and loved him for himself.
Source: Pages From a Life of Strife: being some recollections of William Henry Chadwick, the last of the Manchester Chartists, by T Palmer Newbould, Frank Palmer, 1910
Ernest Jones, 1819-69
Ardwick Cemetery, Manchester
Ernest Jones died of pleurisy on 26 January, 1869, six days after addressing his last political rally, at Chorlton Town Hall. Up to 100,000 people lined the streets of Manchester for the funeral. Having led Chartism's left wing after 1848, and subsequently all that remained of the movement, he had in later life joined the Radical wing of the Liberal Party, and was widely expected to win a seat in Parliament in the general election then under way. His son, Llewellyn Atherley-Jones KC (born 1851), became a well-known barrister and Liberal MP. A good account of his funeral can be found on the website of the Working Class Movement Library. The account here is adapted from it.
The funeral has been called the last great Chartist gathering. The ceremony was public and many thousands of people, probably between 80,000 and 100,000 crowded the streets as the procession which started from his house in Wellington Street, Higher Broughton went along Bury New Road , through Strangeways, along Market Street and London Road to Ardwick Cemetery. Many shopkeepers along the route closed their doors out of respect and as the demonstration gathered strength friends and political supporters increased the numbers. Four old Chartists, veterans of the Peterloo Massacre led the procession. They were followed by Mr Higham's brass band playing the DEAD MARCH from SAUL. About fifteen hundred people followed in ranks of six abreast and they were doubled as the demonstration passed the Assize Courts and the Royal Infirmary.
Among those in the carriages were the Executive Committee of both the Liberal Party and the Reform League. There were also many private carriages in one of which was Thomas Topping who had been in prison with Ernest Jones in 1848. At the cemetery, Edmund Beales delivered the Address. He said that Ernest Jones combined "the erudition of a scholar, the genius of the poet, the fervent eloquence of the orator and the courageous and fervent spirit of the undaunted patriot who no persecution could frighten from the advocacy of his principles, whilst no temptation or threatened loss of fortune could tempt him to betray them."
Jones died poor. After his funeral, his friends decided to launch an appeal to raise funds to support his widow and three children. Meetings were held in and around Manchester and an advertisement was inserted in Punch. In Halifax where he had been parliamentary candidate in 1847 and had a large following, a committee was set up to raise funds. John Snowden commented that they did "exceedingly well in Halifax". Benjamin Wilson of Salterhebble reported that he had raised between £13 and £14 pounds from 40 subscribers - all working men. By the time the fund was closed in April 1871, it stood at £2,942.
At the same time, the memorial over his grave in Ardwick Cemetery was unveiled. A contemporary description read,
" The monument was twelve feet high and was composed of three large blocks of granite each four feet six inches by twelve inches. The blocks are surmounted by a slab of red polished granite with base and cap moulds on which is placed a block of grey stone, with panelled sides ornamented with the rose, thistle and shamrock. The corner pillers are of red granite, with curved caps, upon which is laid another slab of red polished granite; surmounting this are two blocks of grey stone, the whole terminating with a draped funeral urn. On the left-handside panel is the following inscription:-
Erected by public subscription to the memory of Ernest Jones, patriot, poet; born at Berlin 27 January 1819; died at Manchester 26 January, 1869.
Immediately below runs the epitaph:
Full of warm sympathies and generous desires, he freely toiled and suffered on behalf of the wronged and oppressed, and made himself honoured and beloved by the people whose welfare he sought throughout life, and in whose service he met an untimely death.
The front panel simply bears ERNEST JONES while below is an extract from his reply to Professor Blackie in DEMOCRACY VINDICATED:
We say to you whatsoever ye would that men should do to ye, do ye even so to them - when you realise this, you have democracy, for democracy is but Christianity applied to the politics of our worldly life.
The work was executed by Mr Peter Spence of Ardwick at a cost of one hundred pounds and it was favourable commented on by all."
The unveiling ceremony was performed by Rev S A Steinthal who said that principles last forever. Those gathered around the monument had come to testify that they still clung to the principles of which Ernest Jones had been so noble an exponent. Elijah Dixon added that he had never known a man whose "talents and position were so freely and distinctly sacrificed for the public good".
Over forty years later when the Trades Union Congress met in Manchester, a further ceremony took place in Ardwick Cemetery. Manchester and Salford Trades and Labour Council had arranged for the monument to be renovated. At their invitation, large numbers of Congress delegates assembled on Saturday afternoon, 31 August, 1913 for a rededication ceremony. An additional inscription had been added
Whoso fadeth and dieth,
Yet his deed shall still prevail.
This memorial to Ernest Jones was restored
and renovated by Manchester and Salford Trades
and Labour Council and was unveiled and dedicated
to his memory, yesterday (31 August, 1913)
The unveiling ceremony was performed by TUC president W J Davis, who thanked the trades council for having given him the opportunity of honouring the memory of a great champion of the people. However, the memorial was forgotten except for a few enthusiasts who visited the cemetery from time to time. In 1960, when the area was converted into a playing field for the use of Nichols School, in spite of the efforts of the Antiquarian Society and others, the monument was destroyed.
Thomas Livsey, 1815-64
The son of an inn-keeper, later grocer, Livsey learned the flannel-weaving trade. In addition to his Chartist sympathies, he strongly opposed the controversial Church Rate. In 1840 he was elected guardian of the Castleton Union, and became chairman. From 1842-47 he was a churchwarden, and became a commissioner under the 1844 Act, serving as chief constable (equivalent to mayor). Although initially opposed to municipal incorporation, as were many Chartists who feared the growth of local state control, Livsey later changed his mind, becoming an alderman. He received a public funeral. A cortege of about 2,000 friends and admirers followed the coffin, and 40,000 people lined the route from his home at 50 Drake Street to the cemetery.
Further information from Rochdale libraries.
Joseph Rayner Stephens, 1805-79
St John's Cemetery, Dukinfield
Stephens (pictured above), a Methodist minister, was a controversial figure in Chartism. A fiery speaker and active in the factory reform movement and campaign against the Poor Law of 1834 before he became a Chartist, he was imprisoned in Manchester for seditious behaviour after addressing a meeting in Hyde in 1838. But Stephens was widely perceived to have renounced his radicalism from the dock in a failed attempt to save himself. After his release and a brief spell living in London, he returned to Stalybridge, where, in 1848, he launched the Ashton Chronicle and District Advertiser . Later renamed The Champion , it continued until 1850. Having suffered from gout and bronchitis in later life, he died in 1879 and is buried in St John's Cemetery in Dukinfield.
Information from Manchester 2004.
St Ishmael's Parish Church, Carmarthenshire
St Ishmael's church is undoubtedly an older site than the surviving 13th century masonry. The most celebrated of the many interesting gravestones in the churchyard is that of Hugh Williams, lawyer and radical, a leader of the chartist movement and the Rebecca uprising.
Information from Carmarthenshire County Council.
Jeremiah Yates, 1808 or 1810-52
St Mark's Church, Shelton
The life of Jeremiah Yates was extensively researched by his great grandson, the late Alan Yates. Writing in 1985, he recalled: "In 1935 I visited with my father St. Mark's Church, Shelton, in the English potteries to see the impressive memorial in the churchyard to Jeremiah Yates, his grandfather. Regrettably I did not copy down the inscription and, when I next visited the churchyard after the war, the memorial and other gravestones had been cleared away." The following account of his funeral comes from the People's Paper of 23 October 1852.
FUNERAL OF MR JEREMIAH YATES
This respected patriot was buried with well-merited honours. An invitation had been issued to the public to attend in procession from his late residence to Shelton Church. The result was that about 500 people formed themselves in procession. It was calculated there was ten thousand spectators forming a complete line for three parts of a mile. Indeed, so dense was the crowd part of the way, that the line of the procession could scarcely pass between. The procession moved at half past three and arrived at the church at four o'clock.
After the service had been read Mr. Peploin of Stafford (the good Samaritan to the prisoners for the unfortunate riots of '42) delivered a short address to his friends in which he said we could not share in the idea that our friend's death was altogether sudden but that suffering, persecution and reproach for the great principles which he advocated and advanced, by his good conduct had largely contributed to its cause. He exhorted all to follow his example in maintaining sound principles and acting uprightly.
Indeed the whole manifestation on that day was a complete demonstration of the triumph of our principle in the minds of the people, and also a proof that if their minds were not misled by Sophism and deceit and if they were not led astray by the delusions of interested knavery, their labours would soon tend to the realisation of those political and social principles that would place them in a better, freer and happier condition.
Mr & Mrs Linney from Bilston attended the funeral and also numbers of friends from distant parts.
He sleeps - but unforgotten - for his name
Is linked with goodness - memory's noblest claim.
Toil, peaceful soldier - misery's constant friend,
Want weeps his loss and labour mourns his end.
No pompous watcher come with nodding plume,
To wave black farewells o'er the patriots tomb,
But tearful eye and throbbing heart relates,
That all who knew him miss a friend in YATES."
Information from thepotteries.org.
John Epps, 1805-69
Kensal Green Cemetery
An Edinburgh medical graduate and early supporter of phrenology, John Epps was associated with radical causes, including free trade and republicanism. He stood for Parliament with Chartist backing in 1847. He wrote on medicine, botany, grammar and religion, and edited several medical and phrenological journals. He was a member of the phrenological societies of Edinburgh and London, and he also lectured on phrenology.
Information from findagrave.com.
Peter Bussey, 1805-69
"Fat Peter" was a Bradford innkeeper who served as the West Riding's delegate to the first Chartist convention of 1839. In the wake of the failed Newport rising, in which he was implicated, Bussey fled to America, where he lived for 14 years. He returned in 1854, married, and settled down to run a public house once again. Bussey died on 11 September 1869 and is buried in the churchyard at Farsley, Leeds, where his gravestone still stands (left). Read the profile of Peter Bussey published by The Chartist newspaper in May 1839.
Find out more about Chartism on this website, or browse the Chartist Ancestors Bookshop.
George Julian Harney
Richmond Cemetery, Grove Road, Richmond.
Section L (pictured above).
"In memory of George Julian Harney/born in Deptford February, 17 1817/Died in Richmond December 9 1897/ in his 81st Year/The last of the Chartist leaders/'After his life's fitted fever, he sleeps well'/Erected by his widow/In fond remembrance of many years of happy wedded life."
James Bronterre O'Brien, 1805-64
Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington
Grave found at Path C. Worn, half-missing headstone with kerb, n/L10.
Further information from the Abney Park Trust.
George William MacArthur (GWM) Reynolds,
Kensall Green Cemetery, Catacomb B,
Vault 194, Compartment 5.
Feargus O'Connor, 1796-1855
Kensal Green Cemetery
Henry Hetherington, 1792-1849
Kensal Green Cemetery
Thomas Slingsby Duncombe
Kensal Green Cemetery
Thomas Cooper, 1805-92
Canwick cemetery, Lincoln
Further information from Welcome to Gainsborough .
Samuel Holberry, ??-1842
Non-Conformist section, Sheffield General Cemetery (pictured below).
Further information from the Friends of Sheffield General Cemetery.
Mary Holberry, 1817-83
Non-Conformist section, Sheffield General Cemetery (pictured above).
See also Brief Lives.
Friends of Sheffield General Cemetery.
David Morison 1814-65
See also Brief Lives.
Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney
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