Chartists arrested in 1848

This page draws mostly from R.G.Gammage’s History of the Chartist Movement, 1837-1854 to name Chartists arrested after the third petition was rejected in 1848.

Many have looked back on April 10 1848 as the nemesis of Chartism as a mass political movement. In the run-up to the rally on Kennington Common and planned march on Parliament to present the third petition, Feargus O’Connor had done nothing to temper his rhetoric about the consequences of a further rejection – or to gainsay the increasingly violent threats of his supporters. Fatally, however, he had done nothing to prepare or equip the Chartists to carry through those threats.

By contrast, the government had fortified Westminster and the City of London with detachments from the army and navy – and, more significantly, had mobilised the middle classes in defence of the establishment. Thousands of men now came under arms as volunteer special constables, ready to beat back the threat posed by the Chartists.

When the day came, O’Connor’s bluff was called. He knew he had no option but to call off the march of Parliament; and when MPs later dismissed his claim to have collected 5,700,000 names for the petition – alleging instead that it contained fewer than 2 million and many of these forgeries – the Chartists were largely discredited. This was a propaganda coup for the government.

As yet, however, few within Chartism realised the scale of their defeat, and in truth the government had much to do to turn its propaganda victory into something more. The mood among the Chartists and their allies, the Irish Confederates, was angry, and in many parts of the country, some began to prepare for insurrection. Thousands turned out for public meetings. At Halifax, men brandished pikes. At Bradford, they marched through he streets and paraded in military order. At Wilsden, 3,000 men drilled openly, marching “in military array, preceded by black banners, surmounted by pike heads”, as the Chartist activist R.G.Gammage later wrote.

In London, when the police raided the Angel Tavern in Webber-street, the Orange Tree in Orange-street, and another public-house in Moor-street “they found a number of loaded pistols, pikes, daggers, spear-heads, and swords, and some of the prisoners wore iron breast-plates, while others had gun powder, shot and tow-balls: three hundred ball-cartridges were found secreted in St.James’s Churchyard, Clerkenwell.” This became known as the Orange Tree conspiracy.

The authorities cracked down hard. Before the end of the year, habeas corpus had been suspended in Ireland and summary arrests were taking place throughout the country. A new “treason felony” law was introduced, enabling juries to convict without the threat that those found guilty would be hanged – something which had often in the past meant juries were reluctant to reach a verdict. Trials, convictions and harsh sentences followed. Chartism would never again be a mass movement, nor would it pose a threat to the government. But there was life in it yet.

The names set out below are mostly extracted from R.G.Gammage’s History of the Chartist Movement, 1837-1854, first published in 1854. Some attempt has been made to link names to the place of the alleged crimes or trials; however, Gammage is not always clear in his account, and in some cases names are spelled in different ways while appearing to relate to the same individual.

Activists arrested in 1848

An attempted uprising in Ireland by the Confederates ended with a skirmish at Ballingarry, Co Tipperary where the rebels were routed by a local British garrison. Nine men were arrested directly as a result in this attempt, of whom five were transported to Australia, one went there of his own accord and three fled to America.

The nine were:

Thomas Francis Meaghar, born Waterford, 1823, who was transported to Tasmania but escaped to America in 1852 and ended his life as governor of Montana;

Charles Gavan Duffy, born Co Monaghan, 12 April 1816, later to be elected to the Australian Parliament, where he became Minister of Public Works before becoming Prime Minister of Victoria and receiving a knighthood;

John Mitchel or Mitchell, born County Derry, 1815, who escaped to San Francisco, sided with the Confederate forces in the American civil war and eventually returned to Ireland where he became an MP at the Westminster Parliament;

Thomas D’Arcy Magee, born Co Louth, 1825, who escaped to America and later became Canada’s Minister of Agriculture before being assassinated by a later generation of Irish nationalists;
William Smith O’Brien, born Co Clare, who had already served as a Westminster MP and who was transported to Tasmania, returning in 1856;

John Blake Dillon, born Co Mayo, 1814, who escaped to America where he became a lawyer before returning to Ireland where he was elected as a Westminster MP;

Terence McManus, born Co Monaghan, 1823, who was transported to Australia but escaped to America where he died in poverty;
Patrick O’Donoghue, born Co Carlow, who was transported to Australia, escaped to America and died in poor circumstances;

Richard O’Gorman, born Dublin, 1826, who escaped to America where he became a judge in the Superior Court of New York.

Additionally, Gammage records that John Martin, editor of the Felon newspaper, surrendered himself after a warrant for his arrest was issued.

George Copley, W.Stott, G.Ainley, W.Connor, F.Hatslead, W.Bairstow, W.Smith, J.Downe (or Downes), H.Whitecombe, T.Glennan, S.Ratcliffe,, J.Heaton, F.Vicary, W.Winterbottom, J.Darwin, J.Wood, W.Sagar, Mary Mortimer arrested and charged with drilling and threatening to shoot the constables.

J.Johnson and W.Sagar sent to prison with hard labour for two years for riot and assembly. Connor, Heaton, Winterburn, Smith, Whitcombe, Downes and Vicary sente to prison for 18 months for the same offence. A.Tomlinson “a youth, convicted of sedition” sent to prison for 18 months without hard labour. J.Ramsden, B.Plant, D.Holroyd, T.Fell, sent to prison for 18 months with hard labour for drilling.

J.Cockerham, H.Butterfield, R.Bradley, A.Bowler, J.Leeming sent to prison for 12 months with hard labour for drilling.

Issac Ickersgill, Joseph Hollings (or Hallings), Thomas Bottomley, H.Rawsthorne, T.Whitaker, E.Lee, J.Crabtree, J.Taylor, W.Smith, R.Atkinson, John Quinn “captured in the mills, while at work, for assisting in the rescue of T.Kilvington and W.Smith”. Sent by special train to York castle. Later discharged on surety of £50 to keep the peace. Ickersgill sentenced to siz months with hard labour, Crabtree to two months, Kilvington to one month; J.Bland, a special constable, fioned £10 for neglect of duty.

Ernest Jones, John Fussell, Alexander Sharpe, Joseph Williams, W.J.Vernon, arrested and examined on charges of sedition for speeches delivered at Clerkenwell Green and Bishop Bonner’s Fields. Of these: Fussell – sentenced to two years and three months in prison; Vernon – sentenced to two years and one week in prison; Vernon – sentenced to two years in prison; Sharpe – sentenced to two years in prison; Looney – sentenced to two years and two months in prison; Jones – sentenced to two years in prison.
John Shaw arrested, and sent to prison for two years for sedition.
William Ritchie, Alfred Able, William Gurney, J.Shepherd, J.Snowball, J.Richardson, G.Greenslade, H.Small, E.Scadding, W.Burn, P.Martin, W.Lacey, T.Jones, C.Young, W.Dowling, H.Argue, W.Cuffay, Fay, indicted for conspiring to levy war against Her Majesty. Dowling, Cuffay, Fay and Lacey found guilty and sentenced to be transported for life. Ritchie pleaded guilty and also sentenced to be transported for life. Able, Gurney, Snowball, Scadding, Martin, Winspere, Prowton, Conwaty, Morgan, Young, Jones, Argue, Poole, Herbert and Irons pleaded guilty to misdemeanour. Poole, Herbert and Ironside sent to prison for 18 months, the others to two years with hard labour and fined £10. Shepherd, Richardson, Greenslade, Burn, Taylor, Cox, Gibbs, Alexander Harby, Samuel Harby, Martin and Small discharged.

McDouall arrested, found guilty of sedition, conspiracy and riot, sent to prison for two years with hard labour.

Rankin, Walker and Cumming arrested for attending an illegal meeting. Grant and Hamilton arrested.

Greenock and Glasgow
Burrell, Neilsom, James Smith arrested.

James Leach, T.Whittaker, H.Ellis, G.Rogers, H.Williams, G.Webber, D.Donovan, J.J.Finnegan, P.Deolin, M.Carrigan, J.Leaman, G.White, J.Dowlan, S.Cairns, T.Rankin arrested for attending secret meetings of the Chartists and Irish Confederates.

R.G.Gammage arrested but not tried.

Tried at Chester
Special assizes held in the city in December 1848. G.J.Mantle tried, found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced to two years’ confinement. Amos Armitage, J.Brown, J.Cheetham, J.Hall, J.Hindle, J.Ralph, J.Shore, J.Shawcross, J.Done, P.Collier, R.Markland, P.Matlocks, T.Schofield, S.Shaw, E.Wylde, and C.Sellers charged with seditious conspiracy. Most found guilty and sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment.

Tried at Liverpool
Sixty-five people charged with conspiracy and sedition after events at Ashton-under-Lyne. Joseph Radcliffe and Joseph Constantine indicted for the murder of a constable named Bright at Ashton. Radcliffe found guilty and sentenced to death, but “the capital sentence was never executed”. J.Constantine, T.Kenworthy, J.Walker, J.Sefton, J.Statt, and T.Tassiker charged with levying war against the Queen. Sefton sentenced to transporation for 10 years, the others to transportation for life. Winterbottom, E.Harrop, Healey, Bolton, J.Harrop, Jesson and Fetlow sentenced to between three months and one year for conspiracy. W.Grocott, W.Chadwick, E.Clark, Cropper, John West, George White, J.Nixon, T.Rankin, McDonough, D.Donovan and J.Leach charged with seditious conspiracy. Rankin, Leach, Grocott, Cropper, Donovan, West and White sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, Leach to nine months, McDonough and Chadwick to six months and Nixon to four months. G.J.Clark, J.Dowlan, Patrick Devilen, H.Ellis, J.J.Finnegan, J.Foyle, M.Hume, W.Heap, S.Cairns, J.Lenion, T.Roberts, G.Rogers, G.Ramsden, F.Spooner, T.Whitaker, W.Burton and Joseph Barker offered discharge “on condition of entering into their own recognizances to appear when called”. Barker refused, demanded to be tried – and was eventually discharged. Charles Bowker fund guilty of “delivering a false, scandalous, seditious, and blasphemous speech” at Heywood and sentenced to two years in prison.

Tried at York
Henry Hunt, W.Angus, Isaac Jefferson, Nathaniel Frith and D.Lightowler tried for drilling, found guilty and sentenced – Hunt to eight, Jefferson four, Angus 10, Frith 11 and Lightowler nine months in prison.

J.R.Tomkins, Lilley, Kershaw, Farrell, Radcliffe, Lees, Pogson and Neal (“all mere youths, except Tomkins and Neal) charged with conspiracy and with the exception of Radcliffe and Lees found guilty.
D.Linden, A.Stratton, T.Wilkinson, T.Ibbetson, E.Wilman, J.Riddelholgh, J.Helliwell, W.Wood, E.Power and James Smyth charged with conspiring to destroy Bradford gas-works, seize the magistrates and detain them until the enactment of the Charter. All found guilty.

Place not specified
George Shell, James Maxwell Boysan, Robert Crowe, J.J.Beezer found guilty of sedition and sent to prison for two years. John West arrested. Joseph Barker, editor of The People arrested.


Magistrate. “Now Sir, what do you want?”
Nervous Gent. “I beg your pardon, Sir; but I wish to be sworn in as a Ch-Ch-Chartist. I mean as-a-Sp-Sp-Special C-Constable.”
Punch ‘s take on preparations for 10 April 1848.