Page 1


1839 South Wales Chartist Rising A Key Stage 2 & 3 Educational Resource Pack


Contents Introduction How do we choose the Government in the United Kingdom nowadays? How was the Government in the United Kingdom chosen in the past? Who were the Chartists and what did they believe? Views for and against the People’s Charter What happened at first between supporters and opponents of the People’s Charter? Had there been any violent protests in South Wales before 1839? What work did people do in the valleys of South Wales during the 1830s? What was the ‘truck system’ and why was it so unpopular amongst workers? What were homes like in the valleys of South Wales during the 1830s? Preparations for the march to Newport The march to Newport After the march—the Empire strikes back! Was this the end of Chartism? Did Chartism end in complete failure? Were the 6 points of the People’s Charter ever achieved? What happened to John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones? Teachers’ Notes & Sources

3 14 17 21 27 40 46 53 61 64 72 78 86 90 92 93 95 96


Introduction Just after 9 o’clock in the morning on 4th November 1839 about 5,000 people with weapons from the valleys of South Wales marched towards the Westgate Hotel in the town of Newport. Look carefully at the images on the next 4 pages.






After looking carefully at the last 4 pages, describe what you think may have happened that morning in Newport. What might have been the cause of this?

On the next page, is part of a poster that was printed after the events of 4th November 1839. Read it carefully and use a dictionary to help you understand any difficult words.



After reading the poster, answer the questions below: 1) What name was given to the people that marched to Newport on 4th November 1839? 2) What happened? How did the march end? 3) In your own words, describe what you think happened on the 4th November 1839 at Newport.


Very few of the men killed at the Westgate Hotel could be identified at first. Over the next few days, relatives of men who had still not returned home came to Newport to find out what had happened to them. The parents of 19 year-old George Shell brought a letter with them to Newport that had been written by their son just before the march started. Sadly, George was one of the men killed at the Westgate Hotel. Here is a copy opposite:


Read the letter on the previous page carefully and use a dictionary to help you understand any difficult words. 1) What clues does this letter tell you about the purpose of the march? 2) What did George Shell think may happen to him at Newport? A report on the death of George Shell was published in the local newspaper. There is a copy of the report on the next page. The report mistakenly names him as John instead of George Shell! Read the report on the next page carefully and use a dictionary to help you understand any difficult words. 3) What was the cause of George Shell’s death? 4) According to the newspaper report, who was to blame for his death? 5) Why wasn’t his death thought of as a murder?



How do we choose the Government in the United Kingdom nowadays?


Today all adults can have a say in how the country is run. All people aged 18 or over are able to vote in elections to chose the person or party that will best represent or support their own views or interests. In elections, voters make their choice on a ballot paper and then place their paper inside a ballot box— the choice made is known only to the voter. The votes are then counted and the person receiving the most votes is able to represent a town or area as a member of Parliament (or MP for short). Each town or area—known as a constituency– has roughly the same number of voters living within it. Each member of Parliament also receives a wage during the time that they are elected as an MP.


MPs are often members of a group or party with similar views and ideas. The group or party with the largest number of MPs in Parliament usually forms the Government of the country.

The Government makes important decisions that affect all of our lives. It makes new laws or changes existing laws to please the group or party in Government and their supporters.


How was the Government in the United Kingdom chosen in the past?


The way that members of Parliament and the Government of the United Kingdom was chosen during much of the 19th century (or 1800s) and before then, was very different to that we have today. During the time of the march of the Chartists to Newport in 1839, most adults were not able to vote in elections. Poor, working people felt that their views and interests were being ignored by Parliament, which was controlled by rich and powerful men. During much of the 19th century or 1800s, only men who either owned or rented property of a certain value were allowed to vote. Members of Parliament didn’t receive any wages either so only rich people could afford to become an MP. Besides, an MP had to be the owner of a lot of property anyway to be allowed to become a member of Parliament in the first place!


The number of voters in constituencies or different voting areas also varied a great deal. Some rich men could buy their place or ‘seat’ in Parliament because many of the smaller constituencies contained so few voters that enough of them could be persuaded or promised favours in return for their support in elections. Votes were not made in secret as they are today. They were published for everyone to see! A rich and powerful man could check who had voted for him or not! This put voters under pressure in an election contest because they would be worried what might happen to them if they voted against, say, a rich and powerful landlord.


Many people felt that the great wealth being created by new industries, which grew rapidly during the 19th century (1800s) in Britain, was not being shared out fairly. It appeared to many that a few people were becoming very wealthy but life for most people was very hard and improving very slowly, if at all. Many ordinary people felt that the only way to make things fairer was to give everyone a say in how the country was being run. Many people believed that it was only fair that everyone had a right to vote in secret in elections for Parliament. They also wanted changes to rules that prevented ordinary people from becoming members of Parliament.


Who were the Chartists and what did they believe?

“Here’s a health to the Radical boys, May tyranny fail, and freedom prevail” A Popular Chartist slogan from the 1830s


In 1837, a small group of MPs and members of the ‘London Working Men’s Association’ drew up a list of demands for changes to the voting system. This was called the ‘People’s Charter’. Millions of poor, working people were inspired by these ideas. Supporters of the ‘People’s Charter’ were known as ‘Chartists’. Read the ‘Six Points of the People’s Charter’ carefully and use a dictionary to help you understand any difficult words.


Where support for the People’s Charter was strong, local societies or ‘lodges’ were formed. Chartists usually held their meetings in rooms at public houses that were run by supporters of the Charter. At lodge meetings, supporters of the Charter gave talks and held discussions to encourage and help spread Chartist ideas. Although Chartists did not campaign for votes for women, many women’s groups are known to have existed. Women supporters of the People’s Charter are known to have met at the Royal Oak public house at Coalbrookvale, Blaina.


Members of Chartist lodges were encouraged to carry membership cards to show their support for Chartism. Here is an example below:


Between 1837 and 1839, Chartist lodges met all over South Wales. Popular Chartist speakers such as Henry Vincent and William Edwards spoke to crowds of thousands of people gathered at open-air meetings in South Wales.


Many ordinary, working people became involved in Chartism; so many that this became a cause of alarm to people who were the owners and masters of mines, works and the land. They feared that Chartism was a threat to their property and businesses. Soon, the masters and owners began to organise against the Chartists.

Left: Chartist MP,


Feargus O’Connor

Henry Vincent

Threats of violence and tensions increased on both sides —those in favour of the People’s Charter and those against it.


Views for and against the People’s Charter


View in favour of every man having the right to vote

As a young girl, I kept a door underground and then, a bit older, I pushed drams in Mr Bailey’s collieries. We work 14 to 16 hours a day, 6 days a week only to receive a miserable wage in return. Many of us have no choice but to take our children to work in dangerous conditions so that we may earn just enough to survive. We, the workers, have had enough of being ruled by the rich. We demand the right to have a say in choosing the Government. We demand a say in how decisions and laws of this country are made. We say that our problems can only be heard and dealt with if every man over 21 years of age has the right to vote regardless of his wealth or the value of his property.


View against every man having the right to vote I am Reverend Jenkins, Minister at Dowlais. Chartism teaches the idea that all men are equal. There is nothing in nature or in the Bible that supports this idea. The Bible tells us of kings, princes, judges, carpenters and workmen. Equality is a thing opposed to all else on earth, in heaven and in hell. What would the poor gain by every man having the right to vote? They will gain nothing but setting workmen against each other. They would neglect their work and waste their time in election squabbles. Poverty is not the result of unfair and cruel laws, or the oppression of the rich. It is the design of God. Poverty has existed at all times and in every country of the world.


View in favour of a secret ballot at elections I am a puddler at Nantyglo Ironworks, the son of a farm labourer, who came here to find work. What would be the point of voting for the workers’ candidate in elections if we had to do so in public, in full view of our employers and our landlords? If we did not support their candidate they would dismiss us from work, evict us from home and discredit our name so we would never find work again. It is not enough to simply vote. The vote must be recorded in private so we cannot be bullied or threatened in any way.


View against a secret ballot at elections What do workmen expect from voting by ballot? In other words, secret voting or voting for or against a person without the possibility of that person finding out which side I voted and no-one being able to find out the truth! It would enable someone to vote for Mr A. and then to say to Mr B. that it was for him he voted! It is nothing but a law for rogues, nothing but a cloak for lies, dishonesty and hypocrisy!


View in favour of ending property qualification for MPs Who amongst us is rich enough to become an MP? In order to stand for election to Parliament, we must be owners of property. Ordinary men like ourselves are excluded. How can rich landowners understand our problems and concerns? How can a rich man know what it is like to work a 15-hour day in dangerous conditions for a pathetic wage that ends the moment a man is ill or unfit to work? The rich have no understanding, so cannot represent our views.


View against ending property qualification for MPs You may have been in the habit of looking at the rich Ironmasters with envy – but what anxiety, mental labour and toil must they experience. They experience banks collapsing and their debtors failing to repay debts owing to them. They suffer from the carelessness of those they employ. The assumption that the rich are idle drones is a mistaken one; it is to them that workers owe most of their comforts. If the ‘People’s Charter’ became law in this country, it would be worse and more miserable to live as a slave in one of the slave states of America.


View in favour of members of Parliament being paid We need working men in Parliament to fight for us. What's more, these men need to be paid a decent salary so that their families do not starve whilst they look after the interests of their fellow workers in Parliament.


View against members of Parliament being paid With respect to having Members of Parliament paid - this is too absurd an idea for an idiot to be the author of it. We have some inefficient MPs now but if they were paid wages they would be 10 times more so. How to increase their own wages would occupy the whole of their thoughts! Besides, do you not complain that taxes are too many already? And yet you would establish a new tax, towards which all working men would have to pay.


View in favour of equally sized voting areas We know of places where one Member of Parliament represents over 20,000 voters but elsewhere just 700 people. We insist that there must be the same number of people in each voting area.


View against equally sized voting areas The population of the manufacturing and mining districts is more condensed than the farming districts. The weight of numbers of MPs who would be sent from the manufacturing and mining districts would act with such force in Parliament that the country MPs would be unable to withstand it and would be overwhelmed! The field of coal would beat the field of barley! This would create a division in Parliament between rural and industrial interests and may upset the balance of members. This could threaten the stability of the Government and might upset trade, which would cause the working man to suffer.


View in favour of annual elections to Parliament

To make sure that we are not betrayed we must be certain to elect Parliament each and every year. With 7 years between elections now, it is all too easy for an elected member to forget the promises made to the people that voted for him. It is too easy for those who join the ranks of Parliament to be seduced by life in London. To stay in touch with the people's needs and concerns, each MP must face his electors every year and be judged at the ballot box on his efforts. There will be no dragging of heels or forgetting of his roots if annual parliaments are the rule.


View against annual elections to Parliament What possible benefits could be gained from annual elections? Annual squabbles and upsetting of the peace and trade of the country? I have heard hundreds of workmen complain that election times were poor for them because they were forced to lose many days’ work and wages, of course. Would any workman wish to have these annual losses? No one would benefit except the public houses!


What happened at first between supporters and opponents of the People’s Charter?


The authorities tried to stop Chartist meetings by declaring their gatherings as illegal. In May 1839 two popular speakers, Henry Vincent and William Edwards were arrested and sent to prison in Monmouth jail. Read the poster opposite and use a dictionary to help you understand any difficult words. 1) What might Henry Vincent mean by ‘the jails of our tyrants’? 2) Who are the people that Henry Vincent calls ‘our enemies’? 3) Why did Vincent believe that Chartists should keep the peace?


Following the arrest of Henry Vincent, a protest by Chartist supporters in Newport was broken up by the police. Read the poster opposite and use a dictionary to help you understand any difficult words. John Frost calls the Chartists, the ‘working men of Monmouthshire.’ What is he asking them to do in his message?


In summer of 1839, a petition of over 1 million signatures demanding the ‘People’s Charter’ was presented to Parliament. However the Chartists’ demands were refused and the Charter was rejected by MPs.


The news that Parliament had rejected the Chartist petition did not go down well with Chartists in South Wales. They held meetings throughout the summer and autumn of 1839 to discuss their next step.

A Chartist meeting held on 12th August 1839 near Tredegar is thought to have been the largest gathering of people anywhere in Wales during the 19th century. Read the notice above carefully and use a dictionary to help you understand any difficult words. What was the purpose of the meeting at Duke’s Town?


In secret, Chartist leaders in the valleys began to make plans for an armed uprising of workers to achieve their aims by force. They believed there was no hope that peaceful action would ever gain the ‘People’s Charter’. So what caused protests in South Wales to become violent, leading to the attack on Newport on 4th November 1839? For us to make any sense of why this happened, we need to study the background to what life was like in South Wales in the years leading up to 1839.


Had there been any violent protests in South Wales before 1839?


In 1816, the price of iron fell. To reduce the cost of making iron, the people who ran the many ironworks in South Wales decided to reduce the wages of their workers to save money. This decision caused rioting across a wide area and the army was called upon to restore order. However workers were both angry and determined and, ironworkers and colliers battled with soldiers for many weeks until peace was restored.


After 1816, the ironmaster at Nantyglo called Joseph Bailey was so worried about his workers taking violent action against him that he decided to build 2 defended towers, similar to a castle from the Middle Ages! Known as the ‘round houses’, the towers are circular in shape and built of stone. They were designed to be a refuge for the ironmaster’s family and supporters in times of trouble.

Right: One of the two towers built at Nantyglo by Joseph Bailey.


In 1822, after another fall in the price of iron, ironmasters again tried to reduce workers’ wages. Violent protests broke out once more across South Wales. Again, the army was called upon to restore order. The Times newspaper of 15 May 1822


By 1822, it was clear that the workers’ protests were well organised. Large groups, in disguise, would attack their enemies or property belonging to them during the night. Usually warnings were given to their intended target beforehand; as the reputation of these night-time raids grew, a threat was often sufficient to have the desired effect.

The Times newspaper of 1 May 1822


The groups that carried out these secret and violent night-time raids were known as the ‘Scotch Cattle.’ Here are 2 examples of their warnings.


In 1831, ironmasters again reduced wages and violent protests by workers occurred again. In Merthyr Tydfil, workers took control of the town and fought off the army for a week. By 1839, in times of trouble, workers in South Wales were wellpractised and capable of organising violent protests to achieve their aims.

Source 20— Leaders of the ‘Scotch Cattle’ groups or ‘herds’ were known as ‘bulls’ and on this warning notice, the hearts of 2 traitors are “fixed upon the horns of the bull!”


What work did people do in the valleys of South Wales during the 1830s?


Let’s look at evidence collected around the time of the 1839 armed rising by a Government inspector whose job it was to find out what work children and young people were doing in the ironworks and mines in South Wales.

Children’s Employment Commission report 1842—Nantyglo


Children’s Employment Commission report 1842—Nantyglo


In your own words, describe a week in the life of an ‘airdoor boy’ or a ‘carter’. How would you feel if you had to do any of these jobs instead of going to school?

Children’s Employment Commission Report 1842


Children’s Employment Commission report 1842


How many hours did David Jones work each day or night? How old was he when he started work? What do you think a free school was? 3s. means 3 shillings in old money. There were 12 old pennies in a shilling. How many pence did David Jones earn in one week? How many hours did he have to work each week to earn this amount?

Children’s Employment Commission report 1842


How long was a working day for people in the mines and ironworks? Were the hours of work the same for children as adults? How would you feel if you had to work these hours for six days every week without holidays? Why might owners and managers claim that children worked fewer hours than was Children’s Employment Commission report 1842 actually the truth?


Children’s Employment Commission report 1842

Why was it unusual for colliers (coal miners) to live beyond 50 years? What diseases did they suffer from by working underground?


What was the ‘truck system’ and why was it so unpopular amongst workers?


Nantyglo Ironworks ‘truck’ shop tokens

People who worked for most ironworks and coal mines in South Wales in the early 19th century or 1800s weren’t paid in money! Instead they were paid in goods supplied by the company through their own shop! The problem with this was that the goods in the company’s shop were more expensive than similar items sold in independent shops (around 25% dearer). Workers also complained that the goods in the company shop were of poor quality. To many people this system of payment to workers called ‘truck’ seemed very unfair.


Evidence of John Evans, Schoolmaster, Children’s Employment Commission Report 1842

It was made illegal in 1831 for workers to be paid in ‘truck’. However, owners of ironworks and collieries in South Wales used a loophole in the law to continue using the ‘truck’ system of paying their workers by keeping the pay offices and company shop accounts separate. This caused much resentment on the part of workers who often never saw any money come out of their wages!


What were homes like in the valleys of South Wales during the 1830s?


Nantyglo by Henri Gastineau about 1830


View in Coldbrookvale by Henri Gastineau about 1830


Look carefully at the drawings made by Henri Gastineau about 1830. Think about what it may have been like to live and work in these places during the 1830s.

Report by Seymour Tremenheere 1839


Left: An example of workers’ housing in the 1830s at Long Row, Nantyglo

What were houses like? Let’s look at some more evidence collected by inspectors at the time.

Report by Seymour Tremenheere 1839


Report by J.C.Symons 1847


Artist’s reconstruction of Nantyglo House, farm and roundhouses — home of the Bailey’s, ironmasters at Nantyglo.


Make a list of the things that would have made many ironworkers and colliers in South Wales feel angry in the time leading up to 1839. Think carefully about what it may have been like to live and work in these places during the 1830s after studying the pictures and written evidence on pages 39 to 56.


Preparations for the march to Newport

Chartist song—printed in January 1840


Throughout the autumn of 1839, in complete secrecy, the leaders of Chartist lodges drew up plans to take control of all the mines and ironworks and a number of towns in South Wales. With the help of their allies in England, they believed that the Chartists would take control of Britain and form a new Government based on the ‘People’s Charter’. The planned date of the rising is thought to have been decided upon at a meeting of 500 Chartists at Zephaniah Williams’ beer-house at Coalbrookvale, Blaina on 3 October 1839. Leading Chartist, John Frost from Newport, had tried to persuade the Chartist leaders in the valleys to delay their uprising, telling them that Chartists in other areas of Britain weren’t yet ready to join them but feelings ran so strongly that he failed to postpone their plans. Right: Pikes used by the Chartists


It is thought that the Chartist leaders’ most ambitious plan was to seize control of the towns of Brecon, Newport, Pontypool, Monmouth, Usk, Cardiff and Abergavenny on 5 November. The attacks would coincide with Guy Fawkes’ Day, which would add to the sense of confusion. From his base at Blackwood during the week before the rising, John Frost appears to have persuaded the other leaders to make several changes to their strategy. Possibly having doubts about the Chartists’ strength, Frost persuaded the leaders to combine most of their forces for an attack on Newport a day earlier, on 4 November, and then to attack the other towns on the next day as originally planned.

Right: Chartist leader, John Frost, 1840


Frost believed that the soldiers in Newport drank heavily on Sunday night so it would be easier for the Chartists to take control of the town if they marched into Newport during the early hours of Monday morning, 4 November 1839, whilst everyone in the town was asleep. Frost was confident that the soldiers were sympathetic with Chartists’ aims and would lay down their weapons without a shot being fired. For the assault on Newport, John Frost was chosen to lead the Chartist groups from the Blackwood area; Zephaniah Williams of Coldbrookvale near Blaina was to take charge of the Chartists from the heads of the valleys towns; William Jones was to lead the Chartists from the Pontypool and Abersychan areas.

Right: Chartist leader, Zephaniah Williams, 1840


The Chartists in Merthyr and Pontypridd were to be held back in reserve and used to attack Brecon and Cardiff on Tuesday 5 November. The Chartists who attacked Newport on Monday were to march on Usk and then Abergavenny on the same Tuesday. News of the Chartists’ successes in South Wales would be a signal for Chartists across Britain to rise up at once; the Government would be overwhelmed and unable to contain all the outbreaks. After the assault on Newport, however, any advantage of surprise that the Chartists would have had, would be quickly lost. Seizing control of the other towns would therefore be a much more difficult task since the authorities would have time to prepare defences against them.

Right: Chartist leader, William Jones, 1840


For the revised plan to work, everything would now depend on achieving success at Newport. In the days leading up to 4 November, guns were collected and weapons such as pikes were made by Chartists across the valleys.

Right: Map showing routes taken by Chartist marchers on 3 & 4 November 1839


The march to Newport


On Sunday 3 November 1839, members of Chartist lodges were finally told that they were to march on Newport that evening and ordered to gather their weapons, food and to meet up in readiness for action. In many places, Chartists searched their areas and forced men to join them on the march. Hundreds of families must have anxiously watched their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers leave home and wondered if they would ever see them alive again. Downpours of torrential rain fell throughout Sunday and Monday morning.


In the early hours of Monday morning, a few miles outside Newport, thousands of men huddled inside shelters wherever they could find them, trying to dry their clothes and gunpowder whilst waiting for the final order to march on Newport. Many hours late and in broad daylight, the wet and weary Chartists resumed their march on Newport. John Rees (Jack the fifer) led the assault on the Westgate Hotel. Here, Thomas Phillips, was directing the defence of the town and was keeping prisoner some Chartists arrested that night.

Thomas Phillips, Mayor of Newport in 1839.


The Chartists may not have known that soldiers were at the Westgate hotel too. After marching all night and soaked to the skin, ‘the men who entered Newport were fitter at the time for a hospital than for a battle.’ What happened just after at 9am at the Westgate Hotel is described on pages 4 to 9. After 15 minutes of fierce fighting, the initial assault force abandoned the attack on the hotel. The soldiers drove away anyone who tried to help wounded Chartists in front of the hotel and many that were ‘mortally wounded, continued to writhe in tortures, crying for water’. At 11am, the Chartists occupied most of the town and gunfire was still to be heard. At 2pm, most of the town was still in the hands of the Chartists.

Westgate Hotel about 10am on 4 November 1839


It wasn’t until the approach of nightfall that the Chartists withdrew completely. A fresh attack after dark was expected by the town’s defenders but this never came. Mayor Thomas Phillips sent for more troops who arrived from Bristol on Tuesday. At once, troops set up defensive positions north of Newport as thousands of armed Chartists made their way towards Abercarn on Tuesday evening, only 9 miles away. Around Blackwood, Chartists gathered for a new assault. Panic gripped Newport and some people fled from the town. But no new attacks came. British army uniforms of the early 19th century


In Newport, George Shell and 9 other Chartists killed at the Westgate were buried on 7th November at St.Woolas’ Church.

Burial register for St.Woolas’ Church, Newport The handwriting reads: Buried at once in 4 graves. Ten men, names unknown, shot by a party of the 45th Regiment of Foot in a Chartist insurrection before the Westgate Inn, November 4th 1839


Some of the injured men were treated by surgeons for gunshot wounds at the workhouse in Newport. The leg of Morgan Jones of Tredegar was so badly injured that it had to be removed by doctors! This was at a time when doctors had no anaesthetics to knock out the patient whilst the operation was being carried out. Ouch!

Admissions register for Newport Workhouse for November 1839.

Other injured men made it back to their home areas where they could perhaps receive treatment for their wounds without being linked to the Chartist rising and the events at Newport.


We will probably never know the exact number of people killed or injured during the Chartist rising. Only those men who died in and around the Westgate hotel have been identified. Their names are listed on the right:


After the march—the Empire strikes back!


British soldiers poured into the valleys to prevent a new ‘Chartist rising’ and arrest Chartist leaders. Although John Frost was captured quickly, others avoided capture for weeks and some even escaped altogether. The authorities wanted the 3 main ring-leaders quickly brought to trial and sentenced for their part in the rising as an example to others.

The trials began on 31 December at Monmouth. 14 men were charged with the offence of high treason, which carried the death penalty!


John Frost was the first leader put on trial. On 8 January 1840, the jury found him guilty of the crime of treason. The same verdict was passed in the cases of Zephaniah Williams and William Jones. All 3 prisoners were sentenced on 15 January. Here is the judge’s sentence:


The executions of the 3 ring-leaders was set for 6 February 1840. From their cell, they could hear the scaffold being built ready for their execution. Despite campaigns by supporters, the Government was only persuaded at the last minute by a legal argument to change the sentences on the prisoners from death to transportation for life. The 3 men arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) by ship on 30 June 1840 to begin their sentences. Right: A guide to Van Diemen’s Land from the 19th century. What clues does the cover give you as to what went on there?


Was this the end of Chartism? No. Chartism was the first mass protest movement that involved millions of ordinary, working people. Supporters of the ‘People’s Charter’ continued to campaign for the right to change the voting system. Chartist protests and meetings still continued but these were largely peaceful in nature.

Right: Notice for a Chartist meeting at Merthyr Tydfil in 1848


In all, 5 national petitions were sent to Parliament demanding changes to the way that MPs and Governments were elected. The largest petition of 1842 collected over 3 million signatures. There was also a petition that demanded the pardon of Frost, Williams and Jones a year after their trial. All 6 petitions were rejected. After the failure of the 3rd national petition in 1848, many Chartists lost hope as every avenue of protest had been tried but all had ended in failure. Chartist meeting at Kennington Common on 10 April 1848


Did Chartism end in complete failure? In the 1850s, many Chartists switched their support from Chartism to the new Liberal Party. Chartists did not win the right for all men to vote during the lifetime of the Chartist movement. However, today, all but one of the 6 points of the ‘People’s Charter’ has become reality – the one exception being the Chartists’ demands for annual Parliaments. Today elections have to be held at least every 5 years, rather than every 7 years in the early 19th century. Chartism helped to change people’s ideas about politics and their own individual rights. In this sense, the Chartists did not fail, but success took rather longer than they might have hoped. On the next page is a list of all the changes to the voting system that have taken place in the United Kingdom from the Chartist period up to the present time.


Were the 6 points of the People’s Charter ever achieved? In 1858 the property qualification for MPs was abolished. In 1867 the right to vote was given to male house-holders in towns, doubling the number of people allowed to vote. In 1872 voting by secret ballot was introduced. In 1884 the right to vote was given to all male house-holders. In 1885 the model of equally populated voting areas was introduced. In 1911 Members of Parliament first received a regular salary. In 1918 women over 30 were given the right to vote for the first time; all men aged over 21 were also given the right to vote. In 1928 women over 21 were given equal voting rights as men. In 1969 the minimum voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 for all.


The right of all citizens to have a vote and a say in how their country is run and governed is one that we take for granted today in the United Kingdom. However, as we have seen, these rights did not come about without the personal sacrifices of many men and women. We owe a great debt to those people who suffered and gave their lives in the cause of Chartism and democracy. In the words of an important Chartist leader, Dr William Price of Pontypridd, who wrote in 1839: “Today, we are fighting for something more than our own freedom— for that of our children and the children of our children.”


What happened to John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones? In 1856, after many campaigns from supporters for their reprieve, all received free pardons. John Frost returned to Britain but Tasmania became the home of Zephaniah Williams and William Jones for the rest of their lives where they both became successful businessmen. John Frost was buried at Horfield Church in Bristol in 1877. His gravestone carries a verse which says, ‘The outward mark of respect paid to men merely because they are rich and powerful hath no communication with the heart.’


Teachers’ Notes & Sources Use of the materials included in this pack as a learning resource or case study will be relevant to the following programmes of study: Wales KS2 / History Changes to people’s daily lives in the locality in the nineteenth century Wales KS3 / History Changes that happened in Wales, Britain and the wider world between 1760 and 1914 and people’s reactions to them It looks at the story of the South Wales Chartist rising through evidence relating to the nature of the movement, the experience of some of those involved and the reaction of the authorities. A consequence of industrialisation was the creation of new industrial communities in hitherto rural backwaters. Chartism was a movement which was a catalyst for the workers’ rising of 1839 rather than being the direct cause of it. The brutal working and living conditions that existed in the new industrial settlements created a working class hungry for social and political reform as a means of addressing the gross inequalities of early Victorian society. The South Wales rising of 1839 is one response to the social, economic and technological transformation of Wales during this period. QCA Schemes of Work: Key Stage 3 Unit 11: Industrial changes - Action and reaction Key Stage 3 Unit 16 Section 3: Who was struggling for political change between 1815 and 1848? Links could also be made to: Key stage 4 GCSE WJEC Specification A & B, which requires an in-depth study of ‘Popular Movements in Wales and England, 1815-1845’.


Why did conditions in South Wales before 1839 give rise to an organised, armed attack in the name of the ‘People’s Charter’? Many working people in the iron and coal-producing towns and villages in South Wales lived in poor quality and overcrowded houses, which were often owned by the works providing them with work. There were few clean water supplies and sewerage systems. Outbreaks of diseases such as cholera were caused by polluted drinking water. Poor living conditions made it more likely that people fell victim to disease. People worked very long hours in dangerous conditions. They had no compensation in the event of serious injury or death. Desperation forced entire families to work, even children as young as 5. Whenever demand for iron fell, ironmasters reduced wages to cut their costs forcing families into near starvation with no other real support. Workers were often permanently in debt to the companies for which they worked due to the ‘truck system’. This forced workers to accept payment in over-priced goods instead of proper wages that could be spent anywhere. There was little trust between the owners and managers who were mainly church-going, English people and the majority of workers who were Welsh-speaking, chapel-goers. Since 1816, there had been a history of violent and organised attacks by groups of workers against those who they felt threatened their livelihoods. The ‘Scotch Cattle’ had been active since at least 1822. Working people resented the fact that fortunes were being made by the few who owned the ironworks and mines whilst the majority who worked for them lived no better than slaves. Many people felt that the People’s Charter offered hope of a better future by giving poor, working people a say in how the Government was constituted. These hopes were dashed by the rejection of the petition by Parliament and those advocates of ‘physical force’ within the Chartist movement in South Wales gained the upper hand. The People’s Charter and its rejection in 1839 was a catalyst for the rising and not the underlying cause. Preparations for the rising were made, which through a combination of poor leadership and confused strategy, notwithstanding the horrendous weather of 3 & 4 November 1839, ended in failure.


Sources: Pages 4 & 5: ‘The attack of the Chartists on the Westgate Hotel, Newport. Nov 4th 1839’ by J.F. Mullock. National Library of Wales collection. (WlAbNL)003381769 Page 6: The Chartist attack at Newport. Nov 4th 1839’ by John Wyart. Newport City Library collection Pages 7 & 81: Scene outside Westgate Hotel after riots on 4 November 1839. Tredegar Museum Page 9: ‘Dreadful Riot and Loss of Life at Newport!’ November 1839. Gwent Archives collection. D.361 J.E.W.Rolls Scrapbook Page 11: Handwritten mock-up of letter by George Shell published on part of Handbill—see page 9 Page 13: Coroner’s Inquests, Monmouthshire Merlin, 7 December 1839. Gwent Archives collection.D124.881-896 Pages 23 & 24: ‘Chartist’ membership cards, National Charter Association of Great Britain, 1840s Page 26: Portraits of Henry Vincent and Feargus O’Connor, 1840s. National Portrait Gallery Pages 29, 31, 33, 35, 39: (text abridged) from ‘Chartism Unmasked’ by Rev. Evan Jenkins, 1840 & Glamorgan, Monmouth & Brecon Gazette & Merthyr Guardian, 28 December 1839. Gwent Archives Collection. D124.881-896 Page 41: ‘To the Men & Women of Newport’ by Henry Vincent , 25 April 1839. Newport City Library collection Page 42: ‘To the Working Men of Monmouthshire’ by John Frost, 1839. Newport City Library collection Page 43: Carrying the Chartist Petition to Parliament, 1842 Page 44: Handbill entitled ‘Council of the General Convention, August 1839. Newport City Library collection Page 45: Chartists meeting at night, 1840s Page 47: ‘Merthyr Riots 1816’ by Penry Williams. Cyfarthfa Castle Museum collection Page 49: ‘Riots in Monmouthshire’, The Times (newspaper), 15 May 1822 Page 50: The Times (newspaper), 1 May 1822 Pages 54 to 60 & 63: (Extracts from) Inquiry into the Employment and Condition of Children in Mines & Manufactories, 1842


Sources: Pages 65 & 66: ‘Nantyglo’ and ‘View in Coldbrookvale’ by H.Gastineau, 1830. Science & Society Picture Library Pages 67 & 68: (Extracts from) Report on the Mining Districts of South Wales, H.S.Tremenheere, 1839-40 Page 69: (Extracts from) Report of Commission of Enquiry into the State of Education in Wales,1847 Page 70: Reconstruction of Nantyglo house, farm and round houses by Michael Blackmore Page 71: Nantyglo by Henri Gastineau, 1830. National Museum of Wales. Page 72: Popular Chartist song, from Glamorgan, Monmouth & Brecon Gazette & Merthyr Guardian, 30 November 1839. Gwent Archives Collection. D124.881-896 Page 74: ‘Chartist Chiefs, No.1, John Frost’, ‘Chartist Chiefs, No.2, Zephaniah Williams’, ‘Chartist Chiefs, No.3, William Jones’, 10 January 1840. Gwent Archives Collection. D.361 J.E.W.Rolls Scrapbook Page 80: Mayor of Newport, Thomas Phillips, 1840 from ‘The Monmouthshire Chartists’, Newport Museum, n.d. Page 83: St. Woolas’ Church, Newport. Burial Register, 7th November 1839. Gwent Archives Collection Page 84: Newport Union Workhouse. Admissions Register, November 1839. Gwent Archives Collection Page 85: List of the Rebel Dead from ‘South Wales and the Rising of 1839’, Ivor Wilks, 1984 Page 87: ‘Trial of the Chartist Chief, Zephaniah Williams at Monmouth for High Treason’ 1840. Gwent Archives Collection. D.361 J.E.W.Rolls Scrapbook Page 88: Monmouthshire Merlin (newspaper), 18 January 1840. Gwent Archives Collection. D124.881-896 Page 89: Early book about Tasmania, showing instruments of punishment Page 90: Handbill advertising Chartist meeting at Merthyr Tydfil, 20 March 1848 Page 91: Photograph of the Chartist meeting at Kennington Common, London, 10 April 1848 A note on copyright: Copyright is reserved for all sources contained in this resource. Permission to reproduce, copy or publish any of the enclosed images and text in any form including digital copying and electronic formats is strictly forbidden. Application for reproduction must be made to the appropriate repository cited above. Please send any enquiries to the Access to Heritage Project at Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council.

South Wales & Chartist Rising of 1839  

Educational Resource devoted to the story of the Chartist Rising in South Wales on 3 & 4 November 1839

South Wales & Chartist Rising of 1839  

Educational Resource devoted to the story of the Chartist Rising in South Wales on 3 & 4 November 1839