A day event to commemorate the Anniversary of the Newport Chartist Rising of 4 November 1839
November 3rd 2007, St. Mary’s Institute, Newport
Summary by Les James, 12 November 2007
The Chartist Ancestors - Pioneers of Democracy event was organised in response to the great interest generated earlier
this year by the ‘Meet the Descendants’ event, held at Newport Museum and
Art Gallery on April 30th. Chartist Ancestors provided opportunities for:
people with Chartist ancestors to share their family stories with
the story of Chartism and the people of the Chartist era to be
understood and appreciated by a wider audience
for recognition of the struggle and sacrifice made by past
generations for the democratic rights enjoyed today.
11.00 INTRODUCTION 11.10 The Chartist Story | Pat Drewett, Kim Colebrook 11.40 Newport in 1839 | Colin Gibson, Les James
Holland (Chair, Accent Newport Trust) welcomed a very large
audience. Throughout the day, there were over a hundred
morning session opened with two illustrated lectures:
Colebrook (HERIAN) and Pat Drewett (Secretary, Accent
Newport Trust) presented the Chartist Story
Gibson (Gwent Record Office) and Les James (University of
Wales, Newport) descibed the townscape of Newport in the Chartist
12.00 - 12.45 CHARTIST WALK | From the Westgate Hotel to the Newport Chartist Mural
lunch time, a Chartist walk was led by Les James:
Starting at the old Westgate
Hotel, site of the Newport Chartist Rising, with its landmark Newport Chartist Memorial, an allegorical sculptural group commemorating the spirit of
Chartism (sculptor, Chris Kelly 1989; commissioned by Newport Borough Council to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Newport Chartist Rising).
A public gathering such as ours, would have been outlawed as an act of sedition in the day of the Chartists. Les James narrated the events of the morning of the 4th November 1839, when the Chartists marched down Stow Hill to protest at the Westgate Hotel where it was understood that seized Chartists were imprisoned. The exact details of the event are confused, but gun shot was fired and a full military engagement ensued. The 45th Regiment, who were secretly billeted inside the Hotel with Mayor Thomas Phillips, opened fire on the large crowd of Chartist protesters. Over twenty were killed.
We then proceeded to the Newport Chartist Mural, a narrative representation of the Chartist Insurrection at Newport, 4 November 1839 by artist Kenneth Budd (1978), a monumental 120 foot long mosaic mural located in the the pedestrian tunnel adjacent to John Frost Square.
The Newport Chartist Mural has been in the news in recent months as it - and the Capitol car park - are scheduled for removal to make way for a new shopping complex. This stimulated a
lively discussion about Newport’s celebration of Chartism, the
city’s commitment to its Chartist history, and the dilemmas
presented by the proposed removal of this prominent and popular piece of public art. Many questions
hung in the air about a replacement public art project:
is it possible to replicate such a large work?
will it go?
not art be designed to specifically fit a public space?
not use materials not available in the 1970s?
Newport afford to miss the opportunity to commission new works of public art that
further develop the meaning of Chartism?
mural ends with the deaths at the Westgate; should not this be the
start of the narrative in the new mural?
not make use of the historical research published since 1978 and
name and honour individual Chartists?
KEYNOTE SPEAKER | Paul Flynn, MP
13.30 KEYNOTE SPEAKER | Paul Flynn, MP (Newport West)
The afternoon session was opened by
Paul Flynn MP (Newport West), who spoke passionately of the
relevance of the Chartists today and our duty to continue their work.
Addressing today's agenda for democratic reform, he highlighted the need to tackle the anachronism of an
unrepresentative second chamber in Parliament and the lobbying influence
exercised by powerful interest groups. We need to constantly
remind ourselves of the struggle and sacrifice that past generations
made to gain our democratic rights.
DEMOCRACY DAY petition
Democracy Day Petition to Parliament
was launched by Bill O’Keefe,
great-great-great grandson of John Partridge, the Newport printer,
who published John Frost’s speeches and pamphlets.
the footsteps of his Chartist ancestor he read out:
the House of Commons
The Petition of concerned citizens,
followers of the Chartist pioneers of democracy,
there is a popular demand for an Autumn bank holiday;
is a need to celebrate, protect and extend the democratic
rights won by past generations;
and that November 4th is an
appropriate date to commemorate those who sowed the seeds of
in Wales and England.
Petitioners therefore request that
the House of Commons should
a Democracy Day bank holiday
in England and Wales
the Monday nearest to 4th November.
the Petitioners remain; etc
OUR CHARTIST ANCESTORS
13.45 OUR CHARTIST ANCESTORS | Descendants reveal their family stories
William Ferriday | One of the Chartists killed at the Westgate Hotel
John Lovell of Newport | Wounded at the Westgate Hotel, charged with High Treason
John Frost | Mayor of Newport and Chartist Leader | Transported to Tasmania for High Treason
James Horner | Shoemaker, publican and Chartist organiser in Newport
Wright Beatty | Newport coal trimmer | 3 years hard labour for firing at the military
John Partridge | Chartist printer in Newport | Six months hard labour
Phillips | Mayor of Newport in 1839 | Knighted for his action as Mayor
in defending Newport against the Chartist Insurrection
Thomas Walker | Special Constable
Ancestors Session (Chair: Les James)
An emotional highlight of the day was the testimony provided by Chartist descendants, giving the term "living history" a whole new dimension.
Chartist Ancestors project has brought forward descendants from those
on both sides of the social/political divide that existed in early
Victorian Wales and erupted into class warfare in the November rising
of 1839. 168 years later, we are all democrats and can see the
Chartist era with historical perspective and hindsight. None of us
can know how we would have acted or thought, if we had lived in the
Chartist era. Their stories deserve to be told in a historical
context, with understanding of the predicaments faced and the
aspirations held, all rooted in different economic and cultural
circumstances from our own.
To further develop the Chartist Ancestors project, Les
James and Colin Gibson plan to compile Chartist Ancestor Stories
and are looking for sponsorship of this publication.
Jenkins, assisted by Barbara Jenkins, talked about the family of
his great-great grandfather William Ferriday (Farraday/ Feredy),
a Blackwood collier, who was amongst those who died at the Westgate
inn in November 1839, when the military fired at the protesting
crowd. A week later his widow, Mary Ferriday, carrying her newly
born baby daughter Jane, came to Newport looking for his body. She
was shown his coat and it is believed that he is one of the ten
Chartists buried in an unmarked grave on the Thursday night 7th
November at St. Woolos churchyard. She had already lost her eldest
son, William in 1836. She fended for her five other children with
the magistrates and Poor Law authorities, but sadly lost her youngest
daughter, buried in Bedwellty Church at fifthteen months of age.
Searching the census records of the nineteenth century revealed a
story of human endurance and survival. Mary was a remarkable woman.
She found a labouring job for her remaining son, Thomas, aged 9,
took in lodgers to make ends meet, remarried to a man some sixteen
years her junior and finding herself widowed for a second time, kept
a grocery business. Rhys Jenkins is interested in hearing from
anybody who has traced the family of William’s brother Thomas
Ferriday, who was actively engaged in gathering arms for the
Blaina Chartists in 1839 and who avoided capture with an identity
change and location move. The descendants of Thomas Feriday are
understood to be still living in South Wales.
Catton and her sister Valerie Gordon gave a resumé
of the life of John Lovell, their great-great-great uncle, who
was born in Northamptonshire in 1798 and married Rebecca Bryan of
Christchurch in 1832. Where they lived has not yet been established,
but he was employed in the locality as a gentleman’s gardener and
rented land, which he worked as a market garden. Brought up as an
Anglican, he regularly attended Church and appears to have
established a connection with the Church of St. Pauls, when it opened
in 1836. He was certainly well known to its Vicar. As the
Chartists approached the Westgate Inn, Lovell was seen carrying a
rifle and was heard vociferously urging bystanders, including workmen
building St. Mary’s church, to join the demonstration. Seriously
wounded by gun shot in the thigh, he was taken into custody at the
Stow Hill workhouse, where he spent 33 days recovering from his
injury. He was charged with High Treason and sentenced to death,
but through plea bargaining this was commuted to life imprisonment. Released from Mill
Bank prison in London in December 1844, he returned to the
neighbourhood of Newport, to his wife Rebecca and to gardening. In
1847, he is recorded as a subscriber to the Chartist Land Company and
died in 1852.
Williams and Pam Matthews, cousins, spoke about their
relationship to Thomas Phillips, the Mayor of Newport, who was
the hero of the day in 1839, for his stand at the Westgate inn. He
never married so there is no direct line of descendants. Olwen
explained “My great-great-great grandfather Benjamin James was also
his grandfather”. Born at Clydach, his parents belonged to tenant
farming families rooted in the borderlands of Breconshire and
Monmouthshire. Articled to the Newport attorney Thomas Prothero, he
took advantage of the opportunities that came his way and in 1838 was
elected mayor of Newport by the enemies of John Frost (mayor in
1836). Seen as the saviour of the nation from revolution, he was
knighted by Queen Victoria, who invited him to a private dinner at
Buckingham Palace. Honoured and thanked by the local gentry and the
iron and coal owners, he was presented with a silverware dinner
service valued at 800 guineas. Ever since the plaque inscribed with
the names of the subscribers was found in a Colchester scrapyard in
the 1980s, there has been conjecture about the fate of this dinner
service. Olwen explained the details of Sir Thomas Phillips’ will.
The silver was inherited by his sister and therefore probably passed
to her son Thomas Phillips Price who settled at Marks Hall near
Colchester, dying there in 1932. His third wife lived there until
the house was requisitioned for war purposes andshe moved into Marigolds House. The Hall was stated to be in a
perilous condition and permission was obtained to demolish it in
1950. Mrs Price remained at Marigolds until her death in 1966. It
was sometime in the post war period that the silver was sold.
message was sent by Mike Duggan a descendant of Thomas
Walker, landlord of the Parrot Inn and a Newport special
constable. Several of his cousins are exploring their family
history and will be contributing their findings to Chartist
Ancestor Stories. It is to be hoped that others will explore
the list of special constables for the county of Monmouthshire to see
if there are family links. It is important that the stories of both
sides of the conflict are told.
Taylor and Patricia Horner both related the stories that
they have been telling school children at workshop sessions held in
Newport Museum and Art Gallery. They have shown the children some
of the documents from the Newport Library and the Gwent Record Office
that they searched for evidence about their Chartist ancestors.
Taylor’s great-great- uncle, Wright Beatty, fired his
gun at the window of the Westgate Inn where the mayor stood alongside
the 45th Regiment. The family claimed that Beatty
escaped by hiding up a chimney, but he was a wanted man, who was
caught a year later and served three years hard labour in Monmouth
Horner’s great-great-great grandfather, James Horner, a
shoemaker and publican in the town, was arrested and warned off by
the magistrates after the Westgate battle, but he continued as a life
long Chartist agitator. Chartism thrived as a political movement in
Newport throughout the 1840s and his public house in Griffin Street,
the Queen Adelaide, was the major centre for the local branch of the
National Charter Association.
surprise visitor of the day was Terry Frost Jones from New
Zealand, where he has been living the last thirty years. Terry grew
up in Monmouth and at school, he remembers his history teacher
presenting him to the class as ‘living history’, a living link
with John Frost, the Chartist leader.. His father,
grandfather and great grandfather were all given the second name of
Frost, as a mark of their family link. Between 1813 and 1826, John
Frost’s wife Mary had eight children: John, Elizabeth, Sarah,
Catherine, Ellen, Henry Hunt, James (who died at 8 months) and Anne.
John Frost had two uncles Edward Frost and William Frost, younger
brothers of his father John and they both had families. Terry’s
precise connection to John Frost requires further research.
15.45 BRAINS TRUST | Experts answer questions about how to find out about the people of the Chartist era
Peter Brown | University of Wales, Newport
Colin Gibson | Gwent Record Office
John Humphries | Author of The Man from the Alamo
Rachael Anderton | Newport City Museum
Alun Prescott | Newport City Library
'Brain's Trust' (Chair: Pat
Panel was chosen for their expertise regarding where and how to research
the Chartists. In a very informative session, they answered a wide
range of questions about available sources and the people of the
Conclusion - Film
– a film produced by Glyn Walters in 1988, showing the Ceremony at
St. Woolos Cathedral with Alexander Cordell unveiling the memorial
stone to the Chartist dead
REQUEST FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Gibson and Les James are compiling and publishing Chartist
Ancestors Stories. Do you have a Chartist family history
story to tell? Have you found out about your ancestors in the
Chartist era? Perhaps you know somebody else who does? We are
interested in both sides of the social/political divide.
[at ] newport.ac.uk
or tel 02920613359
DEMOCRACY DAY PETITION
regarding the National Petition contact
Ancestors was hosted by Accent Newport Trust, which is
promoting the development of a Chartist Heritage Centre in St. Mary’s
The event was supported by HERIAN (Heritage in
Action); the University of Wales, Newport; Newport Chamber of Trade;
Newport Museum & Art Gallery; Newport City Library; Gwent Record
Office; Gwent Local History Council.