Monthly Archives: October 2017

A New Bibliography of Chartism


£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.