Todmorden Chartists

While debate raged in the Chartist movement over the question of alliances with middle class reformers, in the lancashire town of Todmorden. one of the most prominent supporters of the movement was both the largest employer in the locality and an MP.

John Fielden.
John Fielden.

John Fielden, third son of Joshua Fielden, had built up the Fielden Brothers business with his brothers, making it one of the largest textile companies in Britain, and operating 684 power mills. Since his election as a Radical MP for Oldham in 1832 and the death of William Cobbett in 1835, he had also become one of the most stalwart supporters of reform in Parliament.

Fielden’s main interest was in factory reform, and he was to pilot the┬áTen Hours Bill through the House of Commons in 1847, but he had supported the Chartist cause from the start, and chaired the giant Peep Green meeting on Hartshead Moor in October 1838 that was said to have attracted a quarter of a million people.

It was to his London house that the first Chartist petition was taken on the eve of its presentation to Parliament in 1839, and it was Fielden who would second the motion in its favour.

W G Gammage in his History of the Chartist Movement 1837-1854, says of Fielden:

“No man, according to his powers, had been a more strenuous opponent of the new Poor Law; and against the police system he had taken an equally decided stand; but what most gained for him the heartfelt affection of the working class, was the position which he, a rich manufacturer, had taken as the unqualified denouncer of factory oppression.”

He adds that Fielden “had everywhere declared himself to be an advocate of universal suffrage”, and concludes with a glowing: “The sun has seldom shone over a better man than John Fielden.”

Though Fielden’s involvement can only have made life easier for the factory workers and others in Todmorden who backed the Chartist cause, however, the movement there involved more than the greath philanthropic capitalist and his family.

The following table is taken from John Fielden’s Todmorden (Tygerfoot Press 1994) by Linda Croft, and was compiled by her from the Northern Star and Halifax Guardian for the years 1838-50.┬áHere is a key to the activities listed in the table below.

a Arrested
b Selling Chartist Blacking
d Elected Delegate to meeting or conference
h Chartist meeting held at his House
k Named in Northern Star
l Selling Chartist Literature
m Taking active part in Meeting
n Nominee for Chartist General Council
o Officeholder
p Proposed as delegate
s Sent contribution to Chartist funds

WMA Actively involved in working men’s association
NLC Subscriber to National Land Company
TPU Committee member of Todmorden Political Union
SV Member of Select Vestry
APL Active in anti-poor law agitation
TH Active in ten hours movement
CM Actively promoted co-operative movement

Todmorden Chartists

NameAgeAddressOccupation1838'40'41'42'43'44'45'46'47'48'49'50Other
Robert Bark(er?)-------n--------
Richard Barker-Shade------------m-
Samuel Barker--Master handloom weaver--h l----------
Robert Brook29George StAgent for Northern Star, schoolteacher--b d om an od k o kh lm h----NLC CM
Brook St
Jakeh Butterworth40Blind LanePowerloom weaver, labourerm------------
John Butterworth35Back CheapsideSilk twister--n---------NLC
John Clegg------m--------APL
Richard Close-Oddfellows HallWeaver-----s------NLC
Gibson Cockcroft54DobroydWarehouse clerk---m--------APL
John Crowther-Blind LaneWeaver---ad no------NLC
William Cunliffe-DobroydSizer--b---------NLC
George Davies-PavementWatchmakerm-----------SV APL
James Fielden Esq53DobroydCotton manufacturer---d--------SV APL
Samuel Fielden25Centre ValeSon of cotton manufacturerm-----------APL TH
William Fielden-Shade---m nm---------
Matthew Firth---m------------
E Gibson------m---------
James Gibson-Shade-m-bm--------APL
Barker Greenwood31Market StCotton twister---m--------APL CM
William Greenwood-PavementGrocerm d------------SV
John Haigh56Stoneswood BottomOverlooker----m--------SV APL
Robert Hargreaves-------------m--
Henry Helliwell41Hanging DitchSilk spinnerm-n-nm------CM
William Helliwell-George Street---n-m nm o-------
Hartley Heywood-------m--------
Joseph Hirst29New BarnPowerloom overlookerm--m---------WMA APL TH CM
John Holden-------------mm-
F Hollowell--------s-------
Edmund Holt41LumbuttsOverlooker---k--------WMA TPU APL CM
Enoch Horsfall31MillwoodBoot and shoe maker--bk-m kkk----CM
James Lord------m--------APL
Jonas Marland21WalsdenMachine maker--n----------
Sutcliffe Marshall19-Tinner---a---------
William Marshall52DobroydSilk twister--k n--------m--
J Mitchell----------o-----
William Mitchell-------------m--
James Mooney33Union StreetLabourer-------d mo----
Luke Midgley24Stony BrinkThrostle overlooker-s----------NLC CM
Thomas Pollard47Stoneswood BottomCarter---a---------
John Robinson39Hanging Ditch/George StreetShoemaker---------m--NLC
William Robinson41StonesFarmer/ surveyorm-----------SV APL
James Scholfield25Roomfield LaneJoiner--n----------
William Scholfield-North StreetIronmonger---m--------TPU SV APL
Henry Shepherd24Goshen TerracePowerloom overlooker--mm d--------APL TH
William Smith-------a---------
John Spencer--------p-------
James Stansfield20MillwoodWhitesmith--n---mm m s----NLC
Stott--------------m-
George Sutcliffe-Butchers HillClogger---------dm-NLC
James Sutcliffe------a----------
John Sutcliffe-Dobroyd------n o--------
James Taylor-Rochdale/ TodmordenUnitarian minister--m----------
Joseph Tisdale37LineholmeInnkeeper, Railway Inn--n----------
J Walton----s-----------
Richard Wheelwright20Mytholmroyd/ ShadeUndercarder/ bookseller---------dmmTH CM
Samuel Whitham22Castle GroveGardener----nmom md---NLC CM