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A New Bibliography of Chartism

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF CHARTISM 1995-2018

£7.99 from Amazon

Hard to believe, but across the world enthusiastic researchers are beavering away trying to uncover yet more about the Chartists.  We might know a lot of stuff about them already but there’s more to know.  Already what has been found out about the Chartists has filled two volumes ,,, and now along comes another one.  This time rather than releasing the book as a pricey library hardback, it is coming out as an inexpensive paperback … in the hope that researchers will like the idea of investing in their own copy rather than having to trudge to the library.

What’s in this book?  Well, as before, there is a manuscript sources section.  The big find here has been correspondence & petitions concerning Frost, Williams & Jones, the three men transported after the Newport rising of 1839.  But that’s not all … yep, there’s more … diaries & letters from such keen Chartists as W.E. Adams, J.B. Leno & Thomas Cooper and sketches from Richard Doyle, of Punch fame.  There’s an entirely new section listing what can be found in the provincial newspapers of the late nineteenth century … including interviews with former Chartists, reports of the continued use of Chartist banners in reform demonstrations and many, many obituaries.  On top of all this, there is a complete listing of everything that has been written about the Chartists in the last quarter of a century … all the books, the articles & the theses … years of collective effort to recover the stories of British working people.

And all this for £7.99.  What can you get for £.7.99 these days?  You could get four copies of the Guardian … good idea.  You could get two pints of Guinness … another good idea.  You could get the bus & go & delve into the riches of the magnificent Library of Birmingham & then do the same thing the next day … also money well spent.  And for just £7.99 you can also order ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF CHARTISM 1995-2018 from Amazon … a handily-sized book to peruse on the bus, in bed, in the bath &, of course, in your study.

The Murdered Chartist

On Christmas eve 1886 a 78-year old man Samuel Osborn was bludgeoned to death at his home in Co-operative Square, Newland Street, Kettering.  The court took its name from a Co-operative butcher’s shop at the entrance, and Samuel’s home was modest – one room on top of the other.  Next door to Samuel lived two unmarried women, Rebecca Ruff and Betsey Branes. Rebecca had visited Samuel that evening, bringing him a glass of beer.  Neither she nor Betsey had heard anything, they declared.  In fact Betsey answered questions put to her at the inquest with ‘dogged ignorance’.

But someone had entered Samuel’s room, and battered him around the head with a hatchet. Why this had happened could not be explained.  Samuel had little money.  He subsisted on Poor Law relief of two shillings a week, which he topped up with a few pence from selling railway timetables and taking messages.  Not that the messages could be urgent – Samuel walked with two sticks.  He even put his flowing white beard to good use, offering his services as a model at the art school.  You’re getting to like Samuel a lot, aren’t you?

The police did in fact make an arrest.  John Sudborough, in his mid-thirties, had been seen in Co-operative Court late that evening.  As a relative of Betsey Branes, he was no stranger to the people who lived there.  However, blood stains on his clothes alerted the police to his possible involvement – a suspicion strengthened when blood stains were also found on the bed clothing in his lodgings.  Sudborough maintained that these were the result of a fight with his brother-in-law the previous week.  The police began a search for the murder weapon.  They found nothing in Samuel’s rooms.  Nothing in the house of Rebecca & Betsey.  They had no proof & could establish no motive.  Sudborough was let go.

At the inquest into his death, the coroner observed that Rebecca & Betsey ‘knew more about the murder than they had told the jury’.  But what it might have been was anybody’s guess.  Samuel’s body, which had remained where it had been found until the inquest was completed, was released to his son.  What had happened to his father, he was never to know.

Samuel had been a well-known figure in the streets of Kettering.  People who knew the white-bearded old man who shuffled along with two sticks well knew that forty years earlier he had been something else – a slik weaver who had been a thorough-going Chartist, a reader of the Northern Star, one of the millions who signed the great petitions, one of those who could always be relied on to turn out to hear the Chartist speakers …

Homage to Samuel Osborn.

Finding Feargus …

Feargus O’Connor, the most famous Chartist of them all … the most-travelled across the British Isles, for sure … tour after tour, speech after speech, lionized wherever he went, children named Feargus held aloft at his meetings …thousands upon thousands of working people inspired by his defiance, by his optimism, singing his song ‘The Lion of Freedom’ … Chartists gathered in the open air or in pubs to hear his weekly letter from the famous Star read aloud … working men and women in their cottages, no longer framework knitters or woolcombers but independent pig owners instead, at Heronsgate or Snig’s End … Feargus O’Connor, the most famous Chartist of them all …

Today Feargus can be found at Kensal Green, his inscription on his headstone now needing to be peered at.  He’s been a resident there since 1855.  It’s been 162 years since 50,000 people watched his funeral procession.  Feargus can also be found gazing from his plinth across the Arboretum in Nottingham, clutching the People’s Charter.  It’s a short cut across that park, many people have walked past that statue a hundred or more times and have never looked up at the figure standing there, waiting for them to say, “Well done, Feargus, you were some guy”.  Search for Feargus’ statue in the Arboretum on Trip Adviser and you’ll search in vain.

Is that all that’s left of the most famous Chartist of them all … a fading headstone and a statue no one takes any notice of?   There aren’t many surviving letters.  Why is bit of a mystery.  When the police arrested Thomas Cooper in Leicester, who was at the time Feargus fan no. 1, they searched his shop and house for incriminating letters.  And they carried off hundreds and hundreds of them.  But not a single letter from Feargus.  Clearly Cooper must have kept them separately.  Up the chimney or somewhere.

It seems you can buy almost anything on the internet these days.  I wanted a storage box for my DVDs … I was spoilt for choice.  A washing bag for socks?  There it was.  A gardening apron this morning?  Yes, I chose the third one I read about … couldn’t be bothered to look at the other two dozen options.  A letter from Feargus O’Connor to Thomas Cooper?  Fat chance.  A letter from Feargus O’Connor to anyone, even to Rebecca the famous Chartist cow?  Nope, none to be found.

And then, it happened .., the great discovery.  I  could become the owner of Feargus O’Connor’s signature!  Now I know Feargus could be boastful and ungracious, but, all in all, he was a good chap.  I had to have that autograph.  Feargus picked up that actual piece of paper and actually signed it. And now I own it.  Reader, how much do you think I had to pay to own the signature of the most famous Chartist of them all?  A ton?  A grand?  Rather less in fact … just £1.80!  So Feargus’  signature is worth less than the price of an ice cream.  But, of the two, I know what I’d rather have, even on this sweltering afternoon …

A Freebie in Feargus’ Nottingham

One afternoon in June 1995, after returning from having lunch at the Guildhall in Worcester, I sat with Dorothy Thompson in the music room of her country house, Wick Episcopi, situated on the outskirts of the city.    We had spent lunch talking about classical music, but now our attention moved to discussing how research on Chartism could be taken forward.  Dorothy suggested that a meeting of all those who were working in the field would be a good place to start.  And so that September about twenty five people met at the University of Birmingham for an event  which, remarkably, has continued to take place without a break for the past 22 years. This event is  known as Chartism Day – a title invented by one of those early attendees, Miles Taylor.  The other suggestion that Dorothy put forward that afternoon  was that a collection of contemporary pictures of the Chartists should be put together.  Dorothy had been collecting the portraits of Chartist leaders that were given away with the Northern Star for almost half a century – the first engraving she obtained had been glued to a Christmas card in 1950.  These portraits had been framed and hanged on the staircase at Wick Episcopi.  As you climbed the stairs you met the gazes of  Ernest Jones, Peter Murray McDouall, William Prowting Roberts and other Chartist stalwarts .  So there were a core of images to begin the project.  I then set about scouring Chartist and other early Victorian periodicals in search of other illustrations we could include.  It was a laborious task – there must, I thought, be better ways of spending a Saturday morning than peering at the Oddfellow on microfilm … until I found two fantastic cartoons in it!  But eventually 80 images were identified and Merlin Press  released Images of Chartism, with a wonderful illustration of a Chartist sampler on the front cover.  (Dorothy’ subsequently donated her personal collection to the People’s History Museum, where they are available to be seen).

In the twenty years since that book appeared interest in nineteenth century caricature and portraiture has grown.  A lot of this, it has to be said, has concentrated on the second quarter of the nineteenth century – see, for example, the interesting publications of Brian Maidment and Richard Gaunt.  Even so there have been some startling discoveries – in turning up all sorts of fascinating material relating to the Chartists, Ian Haywood came across a depiction by the Punch illustrator Richard Doyle of the Birmingham Bull Ring riots of 1839 which was so good that it was snapped up by the Times Literary Supplement.  My own interest in satirical art hadn’t lapsed, but had moved forward in time – to the late Victorian period. What brought this change of focus about was joining the Birmingham & Midland Institute … and getting access to the fabulous treasures of its library. (You can join, too … it’s only £40!).   There I found almost complete runs of Birmingham’s famous satirical magazines, the Dart and the Owl.  These weekly magazines featured a full page cartoon of leading political figures of the day – Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Randolph Churchill, Lord Salisbury, David Lloyd George and so on – drawn principally by two very talented (and overlooked) men, George Bernasconi and Ernest Chesmer Mountford.  Unlike the depictions of the Chartists in Punch in the 1840s, these cartoons weren’t cruel – but they still made powerful political points.  I was fascinated by these magazines. Completely forgotten, the cartoons deserved to be enjoyed in the 21st century. And so I co-edited a volume of them with Roger Ward, an authority on Joseph Chamberlain.  There are 60 cartoons in Mocking Men of Power, ranging over some 30 years and taking in such subjects as Irish Home Rule, the rise of Labour and the Boer War.

But, hang on, you ask, what’s all this got to do with a freebie in Nottingham?  Well, Mocking Men of Power does include a cartoon featuring the pudding-loving John Skirrow Wright, who was elected MP for Nottingham in 1880 but rather unfortunately hit the snooze button before he could take his seat. There’s Feargus O’Connor, of course, gazing across the Arboretum … you can see him for free. But the freebie I refer to is a symposium entitled ‘Graphic Satire and the UK in the Long Nineteenth Century’, which takes place at Nottingham University on Tuesday 5 September.  Richard Gaunt, an associate professor at the University, is one of the organizers, and he’s roped in eight speakers, including Brian Maidment.  It looks like it’ll be a very interesting day. And here’s the good news … it’s free!  So let the train take the strain, settle down with a copy of the remarkably inexpensive Mocking Men of Power, and head to Nottingham on 5 September!

Stephen Roberts and Roger Ward eds .Mocking Men of Power: Comic Art in Birmingham 1861-1911 (2014) is available from Amazon for the very satisfactory price of £8.99.

To register for the Nottingham symposium go to nottingham.ac.uk/go/graphicsatire.

Remembering the Halifax Chartists

I was recently sent photographs of the graves of three of the men who led the Chartist campaign in Halifax and the West Riding.  These men are buried in Lister Lane cemetery in Halifax:  you can see the images in the photo gallery of this website.  The headstones of Ben Rushton and John Culpan are still standing – that of Christopher Shackleton, who was buried alongside Rushton, has disappeared and has been replaced by a modern plaque. Rushton’s headstone is inscribed with lines written by Burns.

If you were to try to  create the ideal Chartist leader, you would very probably come up with Ben Rushton.  He was an almost faultless working class leader.  A big claim, you might think, possibly even a ridiculous claim.  But it’s difficult to come up with evidence to argue against the description from his own times that Ben was ‘as steady, fearless and honest a politician as ever stood on an English platform.’  To the end of his days Ben remained a handloom weaver.  No paid lecture tours for him, no flogging Chartist boot polish or bottles of Chartist jollop, no comfy editorial chair.  Ben ended his life as he had begun it:  in poverty.  What made him so revered in the West Riding?  Well, Ben was a stalwart, he stuck at it.  He wasn’t a here-today-gone-tomorrow working class politician.  He was calling for the political and economic rights of the handloom weavers before the People’s Charter was published in 1838 – and he only stopped advocated those rights  when he breathed his last.   Think of the problems that Ben could have caused himself – the police constables arriving at his door at 6 a.m., perjured evidence at a trial, the cold, damp prison cell, separation from his wife and children …  But, even though he was fully aware of these risks, Ben wasn’t a man to shut up.  He had things to say and he said them powerfully:

‘As he depicted in glowing language, the miseries of the poor man’s lot and the sin of those who lorded it so unjustly over him, the feelings of his audience were manifested by fervid ejaculations…until at last one, carried away by Mr Rushton’s strong denunciations of his oppressors, cried out “Ay damn them, damn them.”

Little wonder that Ben Rushton’s funeral in June 1853 was turned into a huge Chartist demonstration.  His friend Christopher Shackleton also died in that year.  It was fitting that the two men were buried side by side.  Kit Shackleton was also a handloom weaver, and throughout the 1840s was a key Chartist organizer and speaker in the West Riding.  There he is now addressing a meeting on Skircoat Moor, on the edge of Halifax, in April 1848.  The people listen intently, hang on to every word, of this inspiring, passionate self-educated man.  John Culpan long outlived Rushton and Shackleton, in fact living long enough to attend a Chartist reunion in Halifax in 1885.  Culpan did the heavy lifting for the Halifax Chartists.  For years he was the local secretary, writing reports for the Northern Star, getting the posters printed, distributing the petition forms, inviting lecturers to the West Riding.  He survived to see a partial implementation of the famous People’s Charter.  At that dinner he remembered Ben and Kit and all the rest of them and what they had achieved.

To read the full story of Halifax Chartism see The Dignity of Chartism:  Essays by Dorothy Thompson (Verso, 2015).

A Chartist Poem for May Day

In August 1842  the Chartist pastor Arthur O’Neill, arrested for declaring that he would not pay income tax to a government that used the money to fight wars, refused to remove his hat when he appeared before the magistrates.  In April 1843 the Birmingham correspondent for the Northern Star George White, arrested for making seditious speeches, demanded that the magistrates provide him with a sandwich before he cross-examined his accusers.

There was defiance, too, from George Tweddell.  The magistrates called this contempt of court.  In autumn 1846 Tweddell was incarcerated for forty days in York Castle.  If the magistrates thought that he had been taught a lesson, George had other ideas.  We know very little about this man.  Almost certainly he was an autodidact.   He wrote derivative verse.  OK it’s not great poetry… but so what?  Like so much Chartist poetry, it has spirit in it:

Think not, because a prison’s massive wall

Deprives my body of its liberty,

That stones and locks and iron bars can thrall the soaring mind, which, mounting over all,

Can freely roam o’er each declivity …

For tyrants ne’er can keep the soul in chains,

The heart that nobly learned to soar above,

Mere worldly wealth and rank and lawless power …

The heart that in its love

Can comprehend the meanest thing that crawls

Defies all terror of your castle walls!

 

Cooper’s Journal, 27 April 1850.

The voter who refused to vote …

When I was out leafleting for the Labour Party during the general election of 2015, I was well aware that a lot of the people whose garden paths I purposefully strode up would not bother to vote.  I’d put a leaflet through a letter box, the candidate beaming at any voter who cared to look, the key pledges prominently on display.  How many were given a quick shufti and then immediately binned?  Most of them, I suspect.  We live in an age of voter disillusionment, of disengagement with politicians.  It is becoming increasingly clear that Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t changed this, whatever his supporters might have said about how he was the man to reconnect with those who had chosen to opt out of voting.  When I speak to voters I still hear the same thing … that so familiar mantra … “they’re all the same”.

Choosing not to use your vote is not a new thing.  James Arthur was a voter who categorically refused to vote.  He owned a bookshop in Carlisle in the 1830s and 1840s and he was enfranchised under the terms of the 1832 Reform Act.  He voted just once … in the election that followed the passing of the Reform Act and thereafter refused to ever vote again.  Was it because he thought “they’re all the same”?  Was it apathy?  Was it because he had better things to do?   It wasn’t any of these things, as you doubtless guessed.  James Arthur had a deep interest in politics.  He was the agent for the Northern Star and for the Northern Liberator in Carlisle. He printed Chartist handbills and posters.  He chaired Chartist meetings.  He was arrested in 1842 and spent some time in the nick.  He was, in the words of his friend Joseph Broom Hanson,  a ‘pure and honest patriot.’

Joseph Arthur refused to vote because he believed in manhood suffrage.  Whilst the electoral system locked out working men he would not take part in it.  And this continued until his death in 1877.  General elections came and general elections went and James Arthur did not use his vote.  He attended hustings for sure, where he’d conduct a chorus of hooting and yelling by the unenfranchised.  The 1867 Reform Act, which gave the vote to  working men who lived in towns, did not soften him.  James Arthur was a whole hogger, a first principle Chartist: ‘A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.’  James Arthur had been forty-one years dead by the time this came about.

But this wasn’t the only principle James Arthur adhered to.  He refused to buy salt because the government derived revenue from its sale.  It was ‘a habit contracted in order to make the government bankrupt’.  Of course, James Arthur’s efforts didn’t result in emptying the coffers of the government.  He was called eccentric by some of his neighbours.  Or perhaps principled is a better description.

James Arthur will feature in a forthcoming volume of the Dictionary of Labour Biography.

The Hunt for Wat Tyler

In the fevered summer of 1848 – just after the great petition for manhood suffrage had been burnt in the ovens of the House of Commons – it wasn’t just in the capitals of Europe that men’s minds turned to rebellion.   A revolutionary spirit certainly stalked the West Riding.  In a blacksmith’s shop just off the Manchester Road in the Chartist stronghold of Bradford a burly, bearded man was hard at work.  The sweat poured from his brow as he hammered.  This man was thirty-five year old Isaac Jefferson.  Isaac wasn’t making spades.  Isaac was making pikes.   His neighbours called him Wat Tyler.

And so it was that one Sunday morning about fifty wool combers assembled on the moors outside Bradford.  Wat was at their head.  David Lightfowler, wearing a green shirt and a green cap, was giving the orders.”To the left”, he barked. “March”.  “Stop, lads.”  This was a risky enterprise.  There was a good chance that one of those fifty men wasn’t what he seemed.  Wasn’t a good Chartist at all; was in fact an informer for the magistrates.

These men were, of course, betrayed.  Now these men knew that, even with their pikes, the odds were very much against them if they came up against trained soldiers with rifles.   They were angry at their poverty, at the injustice of their situation, at the intransigence of the mill owners, the magistrates, the ministers far away in London.  They marched like soldiers, a few armed with pikes, others with bludgeons; but they were caught up in the moment, they were venting their frustration … they didn’t expect to be storming the court house in Bradford anytime soon.

The magistrates were alarmed.  Over their port that talked about how what had happened in Paris might well happen in Bradford. These men they agreed in no time at all had to be dealt with.  That Wat Tyler and his dangerous comrade Lightfowler must be apprehended.  And so a few days later 100 special constables were sent into Manchester Road to bring out the two wanted men.  Wat and Dave expected this and had made themselves scarce.  They were nowhere to be found.  The specials now got into a lot of trouble.  The working people of the Manchester Road fought back.  Women hurled abuse at them. Stones were thrown. Pokers were wielded.  Hemmed in by these furious people, it must have been a very alarming experience for the shopkeepers who had enlisted as volunteer police constables.

Where Wat and Dave were, the authorities did not know.  Word reached them about a month later that Wat had returned home.  This time they decided to tiptoe in.  A couple of police constables at Wat’s front door, another at the back and he was quickly apprehended. Now came an unforeseen difficulty.  Wat’s wrists were too thick to accomodate the handcuffs.  Still they marched him down the Manchester Road to the lock-up.  This was not a sight that his neighbours would accept.  The constables were surrounded by a huge crowd.  One woman called Mary Patchett kicked out at them, knocked their hats off and encouraged others to do the same.  Stones were thrown.  In the melee Wat’s wife Ann and his daughter Hannah managed to free him.  Wat Tyler did a runner.

For the next few months the magistrates hunted for Wat.  Every night the constables were out; but this working class community closed round him.  Wat was moved from place to place.  Wherever the constables went, he had already left.  It was not until September that the finally got their hands on him.  And it was in the middle of the night.  They found Wat fast asleep in a pub in a Pennine village on the outskirts of Bradford.  He was not armed and did not resist arrest.  He’d had enough of being on the run.

Isaac Jefferson got four months in the nick for drilling on the moor.  Mind you,he had already spent three months in York Castle before his trial.  He lived until 1874 and to the end of his days he remained proud of his involvement in the great Chartist Movement back in ’48.

Isaac Jefferson will appear in a forthcoming volume of the Dictionary of Labour Biography.

‘Poor, harmless’ Frank Mirfield takes a cheap trip to Van Diemen’s Land

On 3 October 1831 the ‘Elizabeth’ set sail for Australia.  On board were 220 men, all going to live in a new country but not through choice.   Amongst these men was a 29 year old weaver from Barnsley.  He was called Frank Mirfield.  Everyone called him Frank … that is apart from the Leeds Patriot and the authorities. To the former he was ‘poor, harmless Frank Mirfield’ and to the latter he was Francis.  Frank had spent eighteen months in a hulk at Sheerness before setting off on his enforced adventure.  He was later to recall how he had defended the weavers against wage cuts ‘and received a cheap trip to Van Diemen’s Land as my reward’.

What exactly had Frank done to deserve his reward?  In Barnsley in 1829 the masters were seeking to cut wage rates. Not good news at the best of times, very bad news when what you got already wasn’t enough.  Frank told the weavers to resist the wage cuts, or, as he put it, ‘to turn up their noses for there was no law against turning up noses.’  He urged them to stick together because that way they could prevail.  So Frank sought to instill hope and defiance into these men.  But these were hard times and these men were frustrated and angry.   That August the weavers turned to violent protest.   The windows of a house belonging to a mill owner were smashed and yarn belonging to men trying to undercut prices was shredded so that it could no longer be used.  Had Frank thrown the stones himself?  Of course not.  Had Frank urged the weavers to do this? Of course he hadn’t.  But inevitably there was an informer ready to help the ruling elite bang Frank up.   And so it was that Frank found himself on the high seas, with fourteen years in Van Diemen’s Land to look forward to.

Frank in fact came home earlier – after eight years.  The Barnsley weavers  did not forget the man who had been their champion.  They organised a petition to secure his return and stumped up the cash to pay for it.  At a celebration dinner at Union Inn in Barnsley  to mark his return in 1840 Frank typically had nothing to say about his experiences in Van Diemen’s Land. He talked instead about the continued injustices facing working people.  No egotist was Frank. What is remarkable about Frank Mirfield is that, in spite of his unpleasant punishment, he did not give up on the working class struggle.

To the end of his days – he was found dead in his bed in 1869 – Frank Mirfield championed the causes of fair wages for the weavers and the People’s Charter.  His loyalty to Feargus O’Connor was never broken. He led a number of strikes against wage cuts. He urged working men to join together in trade unions.  He also became a spokesman for his own people on local affairs, resisting rises in the price of meat and campaigning for a cleaner water supply. When he appeared at meetings at the end of his life, Frank was loudly cheered.  The people loved him.  Of course, they didn’t have the money to put up a statue to him.  But if they had had it, they would have.

Frank Mirfield will be appearing in a future volume of the Dictionary of Labour Biography.

The Woes of the Revd. Hill

Ever heard of the Reverend William Hill?  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you haven’t. There is no biography of this man.  No entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  No entry in the Dictionary of Labour Biography.  Even Wikipedia has forgotten about the Revd. Hill.  You could be forgiven for thinking that he was a Victorian Nonconformist minister who did his duty on the preaching front and perhaps penned the odd theological pamphlet … and, er,  that was it.  Well, he was a minister for sure … but in the late 1830s and early 1840s he was also one of the most influential men in the country. Many thousands read or heard his words.  For the Revd. Hill, you see, was the editor of the famous Northern Star, which, in summer 1839, was selling an astonishing 50,000 copies a week.

The Northern Star was one of Chartism’s great achievements.  It is the greatest working class newspaper in English history.  A bit over the top that, you might think …yes, you might have a point …  I’ll have a think about what I’ve just written …no, I’m sticking with that … the Northern Star is the greatest working class newspaper in English history.  The paper had everything … a confident, defiant letter from Feargus O’Connor on the front page, a column from hard-thinking Bronterre O’Brien, stirring reports of Chartist meetings ‘packed to suffocation’ from across the country, letters from itinerant lecturers about the excellent progress of the cause, poems … even jokes.  And each issue came with a lengthy editorial from William Hill.  These were cogently-argued, but they also revealed a deep depth of feeling for the cause and for the paper’s readers.  Working people, you see, when they read the good reverend’s editorials realised that here was a man on their side.

William Hill edited the Star from his office in Leeds for almost six years – from 1837 until 1843.  Of course, he made enemies.  The Leeds Mercury wasn’t a fan.  It was Whig, the Star was Chartist.  It sold diddly squat.  The Star sold shed loads.  But it got a scoop in 1841.  Hill had separated from his wife … or, as the Mercury had it, deserted her.   So William Hill had to endure a ‘ruthless invasion of the sanctities of my domestic misery’.  Being a Chartist leader meant there was always a price to pay.  With your colleagues it occasionally meant shutting up or getting embroiled in nasty rows.

William Hill wasn’t a man to shut up.  And so he got involved in a few nasty rows.  When the Chartists fell out with each other, it was only rarely about policy … often it was about money or personal position.  Now the Chartists tried to be scrupulous when it came to money.  The executive of the National Charter Association published its accounts in the Star.  Casting his eye over these on one occasion, Hill found himself concerned by payments to men like John Campbell, Jonathan Bairstow and Peter Murray McDouall. Looked like they were helping themselves to more than they should, he thought … and this is what he said in a blistering editorial in the Star.  A nasty row ensured.

Feargus and his editor never shared a drink.  This is because William Hill championed teetotalism – Feargus, enjoying a bottle of brandy a day, unsurprisingly didn’t.  For quite a few years they managed to rub along.   But eventually the rupture came.  It had been brewing for sometime.  This time it was actually over policy – too arcane to go into here but it concerned the NCA executive – but clearly there were personal antagonisms.  Feargus sacked his editor and called him ‘a knobstick parson’.  He was never to contribute to the newspaper he had edited so successfully ever again. A sad ending to a great partnership.

I am glad to say that the Revd. William Hill’s story will be told.  I have agreed to write it up for the DLB.