Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Survival of Chartism


£4.99 from Amazon

Hands up if you’ve heard of James Whateley.  So that’s, er, no one then.  So how about Ollie Whateley?  Ah, yes, there’s a hand at the back. You must have a read a few books on the history of Aston Villa.  Yes, Ollie Whateley wore the famous claret and blue.  In fact in the 1880s he was one of the Villa’s most reliable goalscorers.  He was known for hitting the ball with such force along the ground that it was almost unstoppable.  He even put one of his ‘daisycutters’ into the net for  England on his debut.  Olllie was the son of James Whateley.  And dad was a Chartist.  Two of my great interests – Chartism & the Villa – combined.  Well, I had to write a book about them, didn’t I?

The thing about James Whateley was that he never stopped being a Chartist.  Even when Chartism was over, he continued to agitate for universal suffrage.  Yes, universal suffrage, men and women .Whateley was one of those Chartists who believed that all working people were entitled to a say in law making.  He became a councillor in Brum and campaigned to make it easier for working people to use their votes – for example, by extending polling hours until late evening.  This was putting Chartist principles into action.  Feargus was dead, the Northern Star no longer published … but chaps like James Whateley continued to behave like Chartists.

James Whateley wasn’t on his own.  Across Britain former Chartists often  remained prominent in their local communities.  Quite a lot of them, especially in the north and in Scotland, were elected as councillors.  These were the men who sat on the baths and parks and library committees of town councils, determined that the lives of working people would be improved.  And then there were the Chartists who became journalists, editing with a radical hue provincial newspapers.  Anyone who picked up a copy of the Grimsby Observer in the 1880s was guaranteed to receive a good dose of radicalism.  The paper was edited Abel Hinchcliffe.  And Abel had, of course, been a Chartist.  A generation after the heyday of Chartism he continued to inject his Chartist beliefs into what he wrote.

The Chartists didn’t simply disappear when the movement was over.  These men had acquired the self confidence and the skills of writing and speaking and they put them to good use in the later decades of the nineteenth century.  Yes Chartism survived.  In my new book, which I am trying to flog here, I tell the story of one of them … James Whateley, a Chartist for a lifetime.