Sheffield’s radical history
‘Drive Bigots from the Judgement Seat’: Radical Politics and Sheffield’s Old Town Hall, 1832 – 1843
In 1824, the poet and writer John Holland published a study titled The Picture of Sheffield. The work is an extensive catalogue of the town’s history and geography, detailing local notables and resident clergymen, streets, churches, public buildings as well as rivers, hills and the surrounding agricultural hamlets. Part way through there is a short and slightly uncharitable section on Sheffield’s then Town Hall, erected sixteen years previously in 1808 on the corner of Waingate and Castle Street. Holland describes its municipal and judiciary functions, remarking how the building contained ‘an upper part’ with ‘a spacious court room’ for the use of the ‘Sessions, Police Commissioners and other public business’, as well as two rooms ‘generally used by the Magistrates who sit every Tuesday and Friday’ with a ‘dwelling house for the keeper’ and ‘places of confinement’ on the ground floor. He further stated that ‘the building has nothing in its appearance which will bear any comparison to the elegant structures in many other towns’ or indeed in Sheffield itself; the next few pages are dedicated to a far more detailed commentary on the old Cutlers’ Hall, capped with an illustration of the Cutlers’ heraldic coat of arms complete with its distinguished Norman motto Pour Y Parvenir a Bonne Foi (to succeed through honest endeavour).1 Reading Holland, one has the impression of the Old Town Hall as a plain and distinctly bland building, paling in comparison to other more sophisticated architectural achievements, and functioning only as a stable, uncontested and rather uneventful location for the drudgery of municipal government to operate.
Nothing could have been further from the truth, especially in the immediate decades that followed the publication of Holland’s work. Not only did the building itself undergo many extensions and architectural changes, it very rapidly from around 1830 became a central location in Sheffield’s dramatic and often violent political culture, witnessing bloody riots in the streets outside and rambunctious public meetings inside its own walls. It was a history that John Holland would participate in himself as editor of the progressive newspaper the Sheffield Iris, along with a wider cast of rag-tag radicals including rioters, revolutionaries, and ‘troublemakers’, evangelical ministers, pamphleteering cutlers and Chartist insurrectionaries.2 Local people were not exclusively divided along class lines but constituted a medley of fractious and unstable political coalitions which gradually became more polarized along socio-economic lines as the decade progressed, reaching a flashpoint at the turn of the decade with the aborted Chartist plot and ‘Sheffield rising’ of January 1840.3 The Old Town Hall was at the very centre of the decade’s political upheavals, from the Great Reform Act of 1832 to the introduction of the New Poor Law and the rise of Chartism, and functioned as both the tangible location of and symbol for authority, power, and governance within a time of rapid political and social change. From the period there emerged complex debates over enfranchisement, democracy and social obligation, but also a profound sense of civic pride and distain for meddling into others’ affairs, as summed up by a traditional town folk song called ‘The Jolly Grinder!’:
‘A pale teetotaller chanced to meet, Our Grinder one fine day,
As he sat out the door with his pipe and his glass, And thus to our friend did say:
“You’ll destroy your health and senses too’, Says the grinder, ‘You’re much too free, Attend to your work, if you’ve ought to do, And don’t interfere with me!”’4
From Revolution to Reform: Sheffield Politics before 1832
Sheffield underwent significant political and social changes before the 1830s. The town had long been known as a centre of cutlery manufacturing right back to the time of Chaucer, and by the late
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eighteenth century the expansion of world markets and piecemeal infrastructural improvements to the town had made Hallamshire cutlery highly desirable on the world stage.5 The emergence of Sheffield as an important commercial city led to a huge growth in population, rising from a measly 9,695 in 1736 to 60,095 in 1801 and 134,599 later still in 1841.6 This rate of change caused problems for governance of the town, still at this stage divided between a patchwork of overlapping local administrative units, and it was a commonly-held sentiment that local governing bodies could not cope with the furious rush of industrial expansion and demographic change.7 Three main units – the Cutlers’ Company, Church Burgesses, and Town Trustees –were responsible for the day-to-day functioning of local affairs in conjunction with Justices of the Peace. The nature of Sheffield’s staple industries, small workshops as opposed to large warehouses, resulted in the town’s social values and political thought having greater homogeneity compared to other industrial centres; the tradition of the town was essentially Liberal or Radical with little Tory influence, confining the foremost political struggles to the three main administrative bodies.8 All these factors coalesced to create the perfect environment for radical activity to flourish. As David Price explains, ‘Sheffield became known nationally as a centre of radical and revolutionary politics…because of its happy-go-lucky administration, its radical non-conformists and its militant artisans’.9
Sheffield was also deeply affected by the seismic political upheavals unleashed by the French Revolution. The events of 1789 and the subsequent decades ushered in a period of far-reaching, fundamental change in Europe and across the globe, becoming the focal point for the development of all modern political ideologies and constituting in many people’s minds the start of the modern world and of ‘modernity’ itself.10 The period from 1789 – 1840s has been extremely influential in subsequent historical studies, particularly those focussed on labour movements and social history: Eric Hobsbawm’s history of the modern world began in the wake of the events in France with the ‘Age of Revolution’; E. P. Thompson detailed the formation of the ‘working class’ through ‘the growth of class consciousness’ and the growth of ‘corresponding forms of political and industrial organization’; while John Baxter charted the emergence of an explicitly ‘class-conscious labour vanguard’ engaged in fighting a ‘social war’.11 More recent accounts such as Rachel Hewitt’s A Decade of Feeling convey the importance of the 1790s, and how, ‘inspired by the French Revolution, British radicals concocted new political worlds to enshrine healthier, more productive human emotions and relationships’.12 Even contemporaries noticed it. The great statesman Edmund Burke remarked that, during the decade, Britain had undergone ‘the most important of all revolutions… a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions’.13 The ideas of the French Revolution were extremely important in Sheffield, gaining popular support amongst Sheffield’s artisans and non-conforming religious denominations and leading to violent clashes in the streets.14 Enlightenment ideas were so pervasive that it caused Samuel Roberts, a leading cutler and later opponent of the New Poor Law, to observe that ‘to many, even professed ministers of the Gospel, it (Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man) appeared to be dearer than their Bible’.15 The French Revolution and its aftermath marked the start of the modern political world, and shaped to a certain extent all subsequent developments, both locally and nationally, in the decades after.
Riots and popular disturbances were hence a familiar feature of Sheffield life, although not on a scale which made the town exceptional by national standards. Disputes over the enclosure of land in 1791 resulted in ‘a vast concourse’ of people attempting to burn down the vicar’s ‘Broom Hall’ property before clashing with Light Dragoons who had arrived from Nottingham.16 Fluctuations in the price of food caused mainly by the Napoleonic Wars resulted in numerous riots in 1802, 1808, 1810, 1812 and 1816. In Reminiscences of Old Sheffield by the Victorian historian and journalist Robert Eadon Leader, the early years of the nineteenth century are recalled as a time of ‘bad trade and high prices’ where the cost of flour and other essential commodities was extremely high. One the elders interviewed by Leader, a man named Johnson, remarked that disturbances were ‘plentiful’, and describes how flour riots would break out frequently under the leadership of a vicious renegade named Jack Blacker who commanded mobs demanding ‘Bread or Blood!’.17 Jacob Bohstedt has written elegantly about the role of food riots and their participants across three centuries of English history, describing how ‘in times of dearth, concatenations of food riots, repression, and relief created a maturing politics of provisions…which comprised both customary negotiations over scarcity and
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hunger, and negotiations of the social vessel through the turbulence of dearth’.18 Popular disturbances regarding the price and provision of food were a tangible political outlet for the urban masses to articulate their views and shape municipal policy.
Still, the disturbances related to the price of food were essentially reactive in character, formulated in response to the fluctuations in market conditions and the vicissitudes of mass warfare.19 Many popular disturbances predated the Old Town Hall. Even after its construction in 1808, it still paled in comparison to Cutlers’ Hall and the Company of Cutlers who, whilst slightly declining in status, still retained a good deal of responsibility for ‘the wider life of the community’.20 Popular disturbances and agitations for reform were conducted on a specific basis, and the targets of the mobs were often governed by the particular aspects of any given grievance when it emerged. This looked sure to change in the wake of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester on the 16th August 1819, where fifteen people peacefully demanding suffrage and protesting economic uncertainty were killed by a cavalry charge. The Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley composed his famous work The Mask of Anarchy in direct response to the massacre, calling on the unenfranchised masses to ‘Rise like lions after slumber / in unvanquishable number’ against the cruel tyranny of the British state.21 It looked like Peterloo would be the catalyst for widespread change, but it proved to be a false dawn. The following decade was a period of relative political tranquillity, economic growth and commercial innovation.22 It was not until the 1830s that the bubbling of reform and radical agitation would finally erupt into mature political movements, directed not so much against disparate individuals and locations but as fully articulated campaigns for social change. The Old Town Hall existed in relative obscurity up until this point. For decades power was perceived to reside in the region around Fargate, which contained the previous Town Hall, Cutlers’ Hall and parish church which hosted the Town Trust, Cutlers’ Company and Church Burgesses. The erection of the new building in 1808 signalled a shift in the location of political authority towards the commercial centre clustered around the Haymarket. The Old Town Hall, through its vital role in facilitating public political life, soon developed into the central location in Sheffield’s radical political drama, becoming gradually conceived as the absolute symbol of governance, power and authority by the town’s restless citizenry.
‘Shots Fired at the Tontine!’: Political Fallout and the Great Reform Act of 1832
Britain’s electoral system in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was limited in its franchise. To be eligible to vote people often had to meet restrictive criteria regarding their class, occupation and property ownership. Much of the population was ineligible. The system was also riddled with inconsistencies and corruption. Different boroughs had different rules regarding the eligibility of voters, often with their own special rules and exceptions, which resulted in an utterly bewildering patchwork of political communities unregulated by a uniform set of rules and principles. In practice many constituencies, especially ones with small populations, were dominated by rich landowners, who used their local influence, prestige and wealth to sway voters and bribe public officials. In the 1760s the Whig Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder called borough representation the ‘rotten part of our Constitution’ – hence the term ‘rotten boroughs’ – but was roundly defeated in his attempts to reform the system.23 His son Pitt the Younger and Lord John Russell were later frustrated in their attempts to introduce reforming measures in the subsequent decades. After Peterloo, the Commons was even less receptive to the notion of reform, and passed legislation such as the Seditious Meetings Act which prohibited groups of more than 50 people from assembling to discuss any political subject without prior permission from their local sheriff or magistrate.24
Events began to favour reformers in the latter years of the 1820s. The collapse of Lord Liverpool’s ministry in 1827 bitterly split the Tory party, who quarrelled over the issue of Catholic emancipation and struggled to form stable coalitions within their own ranks. Eric Evans sees the period 1827 – 1830 as a time in which ‘personal antagonisms and vanities’ fuelled ‘major shifts in existing party loyalties’, which subsequently brought ‘radical parliamentary reform to the forefront of British politics when five years earlier nothing would have seemed less likely’.25 The events in Parliament severely weakened the anti-reformers, although they were also hurt by the effect of public opinion and
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the extent of the dissatisfaction ‘out of doors’ as well. Radical pressure for reform was driven in part by the growth of working-class political consciousness, but also by the unpredictable middle-class votership who reacted with extreme volatility to fluctuations in economic fortunes.
Two events in 1830 provided the immediate backdrop to the feverish political atmosphere: the death of King George IV and the July Revolution in France. The death of the King on 26th June 1830 dissolved Parliament and forced the unstable Tory government to contest a general election. The issue of parliamentary reform became a central campaign issue and across the country several pro-reform “political unions” emerged to mobilise middle and working-class support.26 Across the channel, French revolutionaries aspired to replace their hereditary monarchs with a system bound by constitutional restraints which recognized popular sovereignty as the basis of political authority. As in 1789 these events in France provoked significant reactions in Britain. Many reformers welcomed the news, including the Whig leader Earl Grey who remarked hyperbolically that ‘the people of Paris have not only preserved the liberty of France but have prevented the destruction of that of every country in Europe’.27 Another contemporary noted how ‘a mere change of dynasty in France . . . electrified the people of this country and caused them to demand radical political changes’.28 The Tory party won a majority but continued to be bitterly divided. When the issue of reform was brought up again in Parliament, the Prime Minister Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, remained implacably opposed:
“He was fully convinced that the country possessed, at the present moment, a legislature which answered all the good purposes of legislation, and this to a greater degree than any legislature ever had answered, in any country whatever… as long as he held any station in the government of the country, he should always feel it his duty to resist [reform] measures, when proposed by others”.29
Wellington’s views proved extremely unpopular and he was forced to resign on 15th November 1830 after a vote of no confidence by his fellow MPs. The writer and Anglican cleric Sydney Smith remarked that ‘never was any administration so completely and so suddenly destroyed’ due its ‘perfect ignorance of the state of public feeling and opinion’.30 Wellington was replaced by Earl Grey as Prime Minister who headed a Whig government dedicated to reform. Sir Robert Heron, a Whig backbencher, described the breathless change of affairs: ‘Two years ago, I thought Reform of Parliament almost hopeless. I now believe it to be certain and approaching’.31
Events in Sheffield were closely linked to national affairs at this time. Even before the fall of Wellington’s ministry, people in Sheffield were united in support of the reform agenda. A public meeting was held on 19th February 1830 at the Old Town Hall, chaired by the Master Cutler Enoch Barber, with the object of ‘petitioning parliament for the extension of franchise to Sheffield’.32 An article in the Independent remarked that a ‘a more respectable assembly [of men] it would have been difficult to find’.33 Under earlier proposed schemes for enfranchisement Sheffield would have lacked political representation in Westminster; its growing importance as a centre of industry and commerce necessitated its inclusion, and local residents made their voices heard through support for campaigning and petitioning. The dissolution of the government in December of the same year led to request by the Master Cutler to convene another meeting, but there was already a more radical element emerging. Demonstrations broke out on the 1st December in Paradise Square, a large public meeting space around half a kilometre west of the Old Town Hall. Spurred on by the news in France, protestors draped themselves in the colours of the tricolour and held up banners demanding ‘Universal Suffrage’. 34 The support for reform in Sheffield had a whiff of revolutionary sentiment about it, although for the time being things remained peaceful.
Further measures were pushed by The Sheffield Political Union, an assemblage of prominent local reformers and lobbyists who included the politician T. A. Ward, the Independent editor Robert Leader and the young radical Isaac Ironside. The group held their own meeting at the Old Town Hall in January 1831 and discussed a long list of proposed motions. One of their primary goals was the ‘real and effectual representation of the lower and middle classes’ through reform of the House of Commons. Further measures aimed at introducing secret balloting and changing the system of
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taxation. Despite the seemingly radical intentions of the group, many members stressed caution. As David Price explains, despite the union’s ‘strong rhetoric, it stood essentially for middle-class reformism’. Radical voices within the SPU wanted annual parliaments and manhood suffrage, but they were increasingly marginalised in support of the Whig agenda, especially when ‘conflict with the House of Lords intensified’ as the year progressed.35
The sweeping proposals for reform introduced by Grey’s government received unanimous support at a meeting of the Town Trustees on 9th March 1831:
‘Resolved that the declaration from the inhabitants of Sheffield to his Majesty and the House of Commons expressive of their approbation of the measure of Reform lately introduced by his Majesty’s Ministers into Parliament is approved by this meeting, and that the seal of this Trust by fixed accordingly.’36
- T. Ward, local politician and chairman of the Sheffield Political Union, was one of the men who signed this resolution in support of the proposed reform measures. What is remarkable about this period of Sheffield’s history is just how united its inhabitants were in favour of radical political change. Even in October 1831, when the House of Lords rejected the Bill, Sheffield managed to avoid the large-scale rioting witnessed elsewhere in the country.37This was largely due to the city’s united support base and the effectiveness of politicians and newspapers in channelling mass support into constructive avenues of political expression. It is also clear that the Old Town Hall was growing in prominence around this time. Whilst still accommodating the more mundane business of public governance, it was increasingly becoming the central location in Sheffield where momentous decisions regarding the political life of the town were discussed and enacted. When the Reform Act was finally passed in March 1832, Sheffield erupted in celebration. The poet Ebenezer Elliot captured the impassioned mood of the town in his short verse The Triumph of Reform:
No paltry fray, no bloody day, That crowns with praise, the baby-great; The DEED of Brougham, Russell, Grey,
The Deed that’s done, we celebrate! Mind’s great Charter! Europe sav’d! Man for ever unenslav’d!
Oh could the wise, the brave, the just, Who suffer’d—died—to break our chains; Could Muir, could Palmer, from the dust, Could murder’d Gerald hear our strains; Then would martyrs, thron’d in bliss, See all ages bless’d in this.38
The struggle for reform in Sheffield was one of vigorous yet relatively harmonious collaboration. Sheffield could now elect at least two MPs, although restrictions did remain. To be eligible to vote adult males had to own or occupy property amounting to £10 per annum, whilst the secret ballot desired by many in the Sheffield Union failed to be passed into law.39 Despite these setbacks, expectations were high for the town election held in December 1832. T. A. Ward was one of the candidates alongside the cutler Samuel Bailey, former East India Company member James Buckingham and the Whig John Parker. All four candidates were reformers, although Ward and Buckingham were the clear popular favourites. At the final count, Parker and Buckingham were announced as Sheffield’s first MPs, winning 1,515 and 1,498 votes respectively.40
Disgusted by the choice of Parker over the radical reform agenda of Ward, crowds began to amass outside The Tontine Inn, the headquarters of the candidates’ committees just across from the Old Town Hall in the Haymarket. Protestors began pelting the building with stones and became involved in intermittent scuffles with people trying to keep the peace. The coroner, Thomas Badger, began to
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read the Riot Act, before special constables and a detachment of infantry arrived to disperse the crowd. As they arrived they pushed the rioters into the yard of the Tontine Inn where they faced fierce resistance and frantic stone throwing from the cornered masses.41 It was here that James Bosville JP gave the order to fire live ammunition directly into the crowd. Five people were killed before Hugh Parker, leading local magistrate and father of the successful election candidate John, arrived from the Town Hall to stop the slaughter. After the chaos subsided, the remainder of the crowd were dispersed before the corpses of the slain protestors were moved into the police cells of the Town Hall. Robert Leader described the horror in his Independent editorial the next day: ‘our eyes have seen five of our…townsmen, all pale and ghastly and bloody, lying dead upon the floor of our Town Hall; and others who have been wounded severely may be lying in the agonies of death or groaning in pain’.42
The riot itself had relatively little impact and was overshadowed by the deaths of the five civilians. An inquest into the event by the coroner’s office returned a verdict of ‘justifiable homicide’. The deaths were easily and conveniently blamed on James Bosville, a ‘young and spirited man’ who was also ‘severely wounded’ in the melee.43 Neither Bosville or the troops who fired into the crowd were from Sheffield or were regularly active in the city, and the whole gruesome event had been stopped as soon as possible by the Chief Magistrate Hugh Parker. As Chris Williams explains, the riot ‘became imprinted on the popular consciousness as a tragedy rather than as an outrage’, thanks in part through purposeful appointment of people to the coroner’s committee who were tasked with keeping order in the town.44
The Reform Act of 1832 bequeathed an ambiguous legacy to Sheffield’s inhabitants. Many historians have sought to downplay its achievements; Norman Gash famously stated in his study Politics in the Age of Peel that it ‘would be wrong to assume that the political scene in the succeeding generation differed essentially from that of the preceding one’.45 This is far from the conclusion reached by the Victorian historian Walter Bagehot, who hailed 1832 as the watershed moment when ‘the aristocracy and gentry lost their predominance in the House of Commons’ in favour of the middle classes.46 The five dead bodies which were laid in the basement of the Old Town Hall testified to a markedly different political experience from this tale of Whiggish triumphalism. Recalling for Robert Leader in the 1860s, one Sheffield resident remarked how for many years the ‘unpleasant holes’ made by the bullets fired during the riot could still be seen ‘under t’clock’ of the Old Town Hall – a bleak reminder of the violence which had accompanied Sheffield’s first civil election.47 The Old Town Hall was at the centre of the drama, hosting the bustling, optimistic meetings during the initial fervour for change and functioning as a grim temporary mortuary after the fallout of election night. Eric Evans is almost certainly correct when he says that the Reform Act ‘opened a door on a new political world’.48 Just what kind of world this would be was uncertain at the time. Only one thing seemed sure in Sheffield: those hoping for a return to normalcy would be bitterly disappointed.
‘This Accursed, Damnable Bill’: Sheffield and the New Poor Law, 1834 – 1838
Only two years after the passing of the Reform Act, Parliament introduced legislation which aimed to fundamentally overhaul the system of poverty relief in England and Wales. The existing laws could be traced back to the Act for the Relief of the Poor (1601), which formalised earlier practices of provision and instituted the ecclesiastical parish as the primary unit responsible for maintaining the well-being of the local poor. This system required those responsible for the distribution of aid, work and money to have an intimate knowledge of the local area, and allowed officials or ‘overseers’ in charge to differentiate between paupers who were deemed deserving or undeserving based on their individual or familial circumstances. By the nineteenth century there were significant concerns about the effectiveness of this system. Thomas Malthus and Jeremy Bentham both provided intellectual justifications for reforming the law. Malthus argued that the pressure of unchecked population growth explained the existence of poverty, and that poor relief should be avoided as a result, whilst Bentham reasoned along Utilitarian lines that government should stigmatise relief and make it ‘an object of wholesome horror’ to lessen its overall appeal.49 An 1832 Royal Commission advised Parliament to
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centralize the Poor Law system, recommending the banning of outdoor relief, the grouping of parishes into unions and the introduction of separate workhouses for different types of pauper.50
The first workhouse was set up in Sheffield in 1628, located in West Bar just to the northwest of the Old Town Hall. Other smaller facilities were situated in Attercliffe and Brightside Bierlow and all were under the jurisdiction of different church parishes. Concerns were raised over these workhouses up to half a century before the proposed changes were enacted in law. In a 1789 report titled Facts and Observations relating to the state of the Workhouse, visitors recorded the shocking scenes they witnessed. The Sheffield workhouse was ‘a scene of distress, of illness, and profligacy’, which housed ‘unfortunate Females’ and boys destined to become ‘vagabonds and thieves’, as well as innumerable children who had ‘not one friend in the world interested in their preservation and welfare’.51 These local observations were ratified by Sir Frederick Eden’s three volume work The Study of the Poor (1797), which recorded the abysmal conditions found in poor houses throughout the country.52 Later still at a town meeting of 1804, chaired at Cutlers’ Hall four years before the opening of the Old Town Hall, Reverend James Wilkinson lodged an urgent public appeal concerning the state of the Sheffield workhouse. The resolution asserted that ‘the present Workhouse…is very inadequate to the proper accommodation, employment and instruction of those Paupers it is necessary to admit’.53 Support for some form of change, at both a local and national level, was clearly high in the period leading up to the proposed reforms.
Despite being passed in 1834, it took almost three years before the process of instituting the New Poor Law in Sheffield really began. The new law created two unions in the town in place of the older parish system – Sheffield Union and Ecclesall Bierlow Union. These bodies then appointed local officials to ensure the smooth operation of relief mechanisms. A printed notice from the Poor Law Commission, the central governing body based in London responsible for the law’s administration, dated the 11th of August 1837 directed the Ecclesall Union to, ‘within one month of the date of this Order, appoint fit and proper persons to be the Collectors of the Poor Rates’.54 Records from the office of the registrar for the Sheffield Union shows they undertook these tasks at a similar time; in correspondence from the 30th August 1837, the Union provided written confirmation to the Commission that they had ‘assembled at a Board’ to divide the area into ‘six Registrar’s Districts’ and had begun the process of registering ‘Births, Deaths, and Marriages’ in accordance with the new regulations.55 Amongst the names of the Guardians of the Poor for the Sheffield Union was a Mr Hugh Parker, town magistrate and ‘saviour’ of the 1832 massacre. Many local notables in this period assumed political responsibility for a wide variety of tasks and duties, and there was often significant crossover between the people accountable for supposedly separate units of governance.
Resistance to the new law was swift and forceful. Further documents from the vestry clerk of the Sheffield Union reveal an organized attempt to disrupt the process of appointing Guardians before it had even begun. In a letter dated 17th June 1837, the clerk described how he was ‘apprehensive that some difficulty would arrive in respect’ to appointing new officials, specifically because of the ‘Resolutions passed at a public meeting’ which prayed that the ‘Rules of the Poor Law Commissioners not at present be introduced into Sheffield’.56 This mirrored the views of the local newspapers who, despite their differences in political outlook, all opposed the introduction of the new laws into Sheffield. The Mercury published an editorial the previous month, stating that ‘it was [now] generally admitted that the law as it is cannot be administered in thickly populated districts and that unless it be speedily ameliorated it must be repealed altogether’.57 The progressive newspaper the Iris took a more radical stance, writing how they had ‘opposed the New Poor Law as firmly and as conscientiously as anyone could have done on the broad principles of humanity’.58
This statement seems utterly tame in comparison to the intense hatred of the New Poor Laws expressed in the works of Samuel Roberts. He was born into the silver trade and laboured in his merchant father’s factory for much of his early life, but it is for his literary career as a social campaigner, prolific pamphleteer and moralizing essayist that he is best known. Possessed of both a sharp tongue and acute sense of Christian zeal, Roberts became known as the ‘Pauper’s advocate’ for his opposition to the New Poor Laws alongside his endeavour to ‘never publish anything that was not
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favourable to morality and religion’.59 Between the years 1834 and 1846 Roberts published over twenty pamphlets on the new legislation, all of which captured his apocalyptic sense of dread that the new system was a moral abomination which degraded and abused the most vulnerable members of society. In a pamphlet printed by the Iris office in 1837, Roberts appears to have been present at the public meeting – held one assumes at the Old Town Hall – mentioned in the registrar’s papers; the preface reproduces the resolution of the public meeting, namely that ‘whoever…promote[s] the introduction of the New Poor Law into Sheffield will be considered an oppressor of the poor, and an enemy to the harmony, peace and prosperity of the town’.60
The rest of the pamphlet is a direct attack on the magistracy of Hugh Parker with a compendium of the ‘doings and sayings of his son’ John, still in the office of MP which he won during the turbulent election of 1832. By introducing the laws into Sheffield, both father and son were complicit in the work of the ‘agents of Lucifer, who were endeavouring by opposing the Laws of God, tyrannizing over the people, famishing the poor and fomenting irreconcilable enmity between the lower and higher ranks’ to produce ‘anarchy, insubordination, and destructive tumult throughout the country’.61 Roberts was quick to assert that these opinions were not just his own but were the ‘unanimous assertion of all the Rate-Payers in Sheffield’.62 Elsewhere in his writings, Roberts eviscerated the Bill not just for its degrading effect on the poor but for its corruptive influence on the very structure of the British constitution:
‘The measures which have been taken…are throughout calculated to corrupt the old manly nature of the…British Constitution. They are calculated…to change this long-boasted land of freedom into a land of despicable tyrants and abject slaves – into a nation in which even FRENCHMEN may point the finger of scorn – a nation of which a native may hereafter be ashamed; a nation consisting of voluptuous, profane scoffers, and of crawling reptiles…a nation of fornicators, adulterers and blasphemers; a nation ruled by mercenary sycophants: paid by the people themselves to keep them in abject subjugation’.63
Although Roberts’ language seems now to us absurdly exaggerated, there was a clearly emerging political rift forming in Sheffield. Betrayed by the Reform Act and subjugated by the New Poor Law, Sheffield’s paupers and their literate spokespeople were more divided than ever from the local political establishment clustered around the Old Town Hall and its surrounding area. Men like Parker and other political officials were increasingly seen as complicit in a degrading, immoral imposition designed to permanently enslave and degrade the labouring constituents of the town.
Another pamphlet titled A Letter to the Working Classes (1838) captures this sentiment, and features a detailed narrative of a riotous public meeting held at the Old Town Hall to discuss these matters. Prefaced by Roberts, the pamphlet was written anonymously by ‘a Sheffielder’ and is addressed to both Henry George Ward and Richard Oastler, the newly elected MP for Sheffield and the Yorkshire ‘Tory-radical’ who fervently opposed the new legislation on religious grounds. The author asks of the representative for Sheffield whether he ‘behave[d] properly toward me at the meeting on Friday, at the Town Hall’, and remarks how he pressed Ward to ‘be consistent’ in his support for or opposition to the bill.64 He continues attacking Ward on his slipperiness, accusing him of using cunning rhetorical elegance and performative charisma to avoid answering the charges set against him. ‘Before I ever heard of H. G. Ward’, he continues, ‘I had…been at times disgusted with the poisonous eloquence of wicked, selfish, lying empirics’, something which Ward aptly demonstrated when he told a story that was ‘so funny, that everybody applauded the trick’ to distract from the matters at hand.65 This open contempt for the discussion of the issues is indicative of the perceived growing divide between the people and the political establishment of Sheffield. What initially started as an attack on New Poor Law legislation rapidly became a thorough denouncement of the cunning tactics of rhetorical expression employed by local politicians to confound and deflect substantive criticism.
The pamphlet does not stop here. By engaging in this behaviour, the political establishment were guilty of supporting a bill which converted ‘POVERTY…into a crime’ and condemned people ‘to
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famishing, in prison, without the benefit of either clergy, judge, or jury’.66 The author purported to have ‘exposed the vileness of the men, not only to a meeting in the Town Hall in Sheffield, but to all the world’.67 Clearly the Old Town Hall functioned as a key public space for the expression of political opinions, and its role as a forum was considered so important that it transcended its role as a merely local or municipal building. The pamphlet continues with a full-on assault on the entire local political establishment. The author remarks how he could ‘remember before the time of Henry Brougham, John Parker, and Luke Palfreyman,’, who all sought to ‘bamboozle and entrap you to your ruin for their own advantage’.68 The piece ended with an open question addressed to ‘my fellow townsmen’: ‘are you satisfied as to who your real friends are and who are your real foes?’.69 Clearly, there was a growing view amongst many of the opponents of the new law that they had been betrayed by their own political leaders. Not only had they violated the will of God and condemned the poor to a state of abject misery, they had exposed the township to the intrusive influence of external bureaucracy and tyrannical government authority. The pamphlet ended with an exhortation to the working masses – ‘what a curse are ignorant, wicked Rulers to any nation! Shun them as ye would the plague!’.70
The opposition to the New Poor Laws encapsulated an overlapping range of political arguments. Whilst much of the outrage against their imposition focussed on the dehumanising effect on the poor themselves, further conversations about the nature of political power, enfranchisement and class relations revealed the extent to which debates at this time assumed a more complex nature. The historian John Knott writes that the law was ‘a focus for popular discontent, rather than its sole cause’, which incorporated frustration at the ‘failure of the 1832 Reform Act to extend the franchise to the labouring population’ and the ‘boom and depression [which] punctuated their lives’.71 The Old Town Hall continued to grow in importance, hosting a number of important public meetings and functioning as the primary civic location for the discussion of relevant political and social issues. But it was also seen as the residency of an increasingly aloof local political establishment, whose complicity with the dictates of the metropolitan government risked the introduction of wanton poverty, abjection and moral decay. The debates surrounding the New Poor Laws fractured Sheffield’s politics more explicitly along class lines, and this trend continued as the decade progressed. Although opposition to these laws was expressed mainly in public meetings and in the pages of political pamphlets, the next two years witnessed the rise of a radical movement that was by far the most revolutionary and authentically “popular” of any that preceded it.
‘When Adam Delved and Eve Span’: Chartism and the Politics of Insurrection, 1838 – 1842
Chartism was a working-class movement for political reform started in 1838 which lasted until the 1850s. It emerged in part from the London Working Men’s Association, an organization founded in 1836 by William Lovett, Francis Place and Henry Hetherington associated with the socialist ideas of Robert Owen and the campaign for general education. The following year, six MPs and six working men including Lovett formed a committee who met to discuss policies and strategies for the reform of Parliament. On the 6th August 1838, the movement was officially born in Birmingham with the announcement of the People’s Charter, a document which laid out the six main aims of the movement. It called for universal manhood suffrage; a secret ballot; no property qualifications for MPs; payment of MPs; equal constituencies and annual elections to Parliament.72 Chartism claimed a complex heritage of intellectual inspirations, and espoused a syncretic mix of British constitutionalism, Enlightenment rationalism and the democratic and egalitarian philosophies of the French Revolution. The movement was to a large extent the product of the failures of the past decade. The exclusiveness of the Reform Act and the harshness of the New Poor Law were further aggravated by downturns in economic conditions, although organic movements had begun to emerge of their own accord in the pages of the press and in trade unions campaigning for factory reform. It was certainly the most radical movement of the era for, as Harry Browne explains, it proposed ‘a revolutionary change in the political structure of Victorian Britain’. The Chartists’ message struck at the ‘roots of a
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hierarchical society based on the rights of property’, and implied a very different political future based on universal manhood suffrage, civic equality and popular sovereignty.73
Although the movement officially started in August 1838, Chartist activity occurred in Sheffield and the wider Yorkshire area nearly a year prior to the official declaration of the People’s Charter in Birmingham. In December 1837, a group of local workers formed the Sheffield’s Working Men’s Association, a working-class organization who met to discuss avenues for political reform. Their formation coincided with the creation of the Northern Star newspaper, founded by the charismatic Irishman Feargus O’Connor, which promulgated Chartist ideas from the 18th November 1837 when the first issue was published in Leeds.74 The SWMA adopted early Chartist ideas, stating forcefully that ‘the working classes produced the rich man’s wealth, while being oppressed by unjust and unequal laws’.75 On the 14th of December 1837, the Master Cutler John Greaves convened a public meeting at the Old Town Hall to petition for a secret ballot, one of the six Chartist proposals contained in their founding document.76 The Iris reported that ‘a numerous meeting was held at the Town Hall, for the purpose of petitioning Parliament’, which concluded that ‘for many years…their Legislators were composed too much of the higher classes, who were ignorant of the needs of the poor’.77 Working-class political momentum was growing in Sheffield at the turn of the year, seemingly with the assent of some members of the town’s social and political elite.
Not everyone was so enamoured by this new political movement. The scourge of the New Poor Law Samuel Roberts published several works where he explained how Chartism was directly caused by this legislation. He claimed that ‘the Chartists are the offspring of…that imp of darkness, the New Poor Law…the unnatural product of a rape committed on poor Britannia’, and resolved that ‘the explosion of combustible matter is rendered fatal by confinement and compression’.78 Roberts thought that the degradation of the poor would drive them in desperation to find a political outlet for their grievances. This is of course true to an extent, as some historians have subsequently pointed out. John Salt stated in his 1971 study Chartism in South Yorkshire that anger and bitterness over the legacy of the 1834 Act drew many in Sheffield to Chartist meetings and congregations.79 Roberts was no supporter of Chartism though, and hoped to placate the movement by reverting to the old system of poor relief. Roberts maintained that ‘if the Working Classes connected the New Poor Law question with politics, they would bring the cause and the country to ruin’.80 His social policy for helping the poor rested heavily on a sense of moral Christian paternalism, and he resented the prospect of the labouring classes exercising agency in the political sphere – especially when they were drawn to ideologies as radically transformative as those propagated by the Chartists.
For the next two years Chartist meetings in Sheffield were peaceful and well-attended. The first big demonstration took place in Paradise Square on 25th September 1838 and featured some familiar faces, such as Ebenezer Elliott and Isaac Ironside, two men who had agitated vociferously for reform in 1832. There was a reported crowd of 20,000 which included people from the urban outskirts as well as other towns such as Rotherham, Birmingham and Manchester.81 These meetings continued to grow in popularity into the following year. 1839 witnessed more mass rallies than the previous year, including another on Whit Monday where around 15,000 people gathered to protest for reform.82 The rejection of the Chartists’ National Petition in July fractured the movement, and some advocated for more violent methods of engagement moving forward. On the 20th of the month, Sheffield magistrates banned the use of Paradise Square as a meeting ground, leading many Chartists to push back and hold illegal assemblies across the town anyway. In a letter dated just a week after the banning of the meetings, an agent named Michael Ellison warned the Whig politician the Duke of Norfolk – a major landholder in Sheffield – of the growing discontent: ‘considerable alarm prevails: a disaffection is now manifest in the lower classes…Tomorrow a meeting is called in Paradise Square… I hope it will not be my destiny to communicate to Your Grace the occurrence of any tumultuous disorder’.83
Unfortunately for Ellison the meetings continued, and Chartists became steadily more combative with the Sheffield authorities. A rally held on Monday 12th August began in Paradise Square before making its way eastwards through the city and passing directly by the magistrates’ offices in the Old Town Hall. The next day two Chartist leaders were arrested and placed in the police cells of the
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building, before a huge crowd assembled and began pelting stones and trying to force their way in.84 A report on the 17th August in the Independent described the scene: ‘Hugh Parker from the steps of the Town Hall, read the riot act…Mr Palfreyman afterwards attempted to address the people…He was answered by violent execrations…[and] vehement denials and vollies of abuse…several half-bricks, or large stones, were thrown with great violence through the window of the entrance-hall…between seventy and eighty persons were arrested and lodged in prison, either for acts of violence or for refusing to move off when ordered to do so’.85 Several officials, soldiers and special constables were injured in the melee.
More violence occurred a month later. According to a man named Johnson in R. E. Leader’s Reminiscences, ‘On the 12th September, 1839, the Chartists held a silent meeting in Paradise Square, which was dispersed by the soldiers and police… they were followed by the soldiers and police, and 36 prisoners taken’. These men were imprisoned in the Old Town Hall, guarded by ‘the dragoons, and…policemen armed with cutlasses’, where ‘several anxious mothers inquir[ed] for their missing ones’.86 The following day a band of Chartists marched in protest along Duke Street, singing a signature melody:
‘Press forward, press forward, There’s nothing to fear, We will have the Charter, Be it ever so dear…’87
Before the march could proceed any farther, they were met by the same Dragoons who had been deployed at the Old Town Hall. ‘Instead of pressing forward’, recalled Johnson, ‘we all “pressed” every way but that, and in two minutes not a Chartist was to be seen’.88 Violent clashes between Chartist protestors and local law enforcement catalysed the already tense political atmosphere in the town. The presence of the Dragoons in particular caused anger amongst many of Sheffield’s inhabitants, and the increasing militarization of public space meant people gradually reconceived many urban areas as locations of strict government authority, with the hostile magistracy present at the centre of it all in the Old Town Hall.
The constant presence of the military drove many Chartists to meetings out of town in the surrounding rural areas. At a meeting on 22nd September 1839 at Hood Hill around eight miles north of Sheffield, over ten thousand Chartist sympathisers assembled to sing songs associated with their message. These four hymns were compiled on a sheet which was mass printed and circulated amongst the assembled masses. Their lyrics give an insight into the nature of the Chartists’ message at this time. The first hymn was composed by ‘that Philanthropic Friend of the People’ Ebenezer Elliott.89 Another opened with the lines ‘When Adam delved and Eve span / who was then the gentlemen?’.90 This is a direct quote attributed to the Lollard priest John Ball, a key participant in the 1381 Peasant’s Revolt against Richard II and his feudal noblemen. Many Chartists drew heavy inspiration from events in English history, often in order to articulate their own movement as the latest radical step in a long progression toward societal liberty and justice. The most interesting piece is the third song on the sheet, which stresses the legality and almost meek nature of Chartism’s intentions:
‘Lord let them know that us oppose, We wish to mend, not break the laws; Yet we can not from murmuring cease,
Till justice shall have purchased peace.’91
This is followed by two verses which convey a very different message, stressing the virtues of zealous and forceful struggle:
‘O let each manly bosom feel, The glow of patriotic zeal;
Strengthen’d with knowledge, arm’d with might. To know and to assert out right.
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The malice of our foes defeat, Drive bigots from the judgment seat;
And give us power to rend in twain Each hateful link in slavery’s chain.’92
Many historians have sought to distinguish between ‘moral-force’ and ‘physical-force’ Chartists, often making a sharp distinction between the two and claiming that the latter group gained ascendancy only in the closing stages of the 1830s. John Baxter claims however that this view is a ‘caricature’ and that calls to arms were loud and consistent from the very start.93 This hymn is perhaps an example of how these viewpoints could co-exist within Chartist movements without provoking consternation amongst their individual adherents.
Darker plans were bubbling under the surface though, involving a young radical named Samuel Holberry. He was born in Nottinghamshire in 1814, the youngest of nine children, before joining the army aged seventeen and serving in Ireland and Northampton. Disgusted by military life, he bought himself out of his service in 1835 and became involved in Chartist agitation in Sheffield for the next few years. After the crushing of the Newport Rising in November 1839, Holberry began to plan a Chartist insurrection in an attempt to violently seize power from the established authorities. The full details of the plot are readily available in more detail in other sources, but it is worth sketching out the briefest of outlines.94 The proposed rising was to take place across the whole West Riding of Yorkshire and not just in Sheffield. Holberry toured other towns to drum up support, testing explosive shells in the countryside outside Sheffield, before attending a number of meetings in December and January and settling on a final date of 11th – 12th of January 1840. He devised a careful paramilitary operation, which involved setting off explosives and firebombs on the outskirts of the town before unleashing Chartist assault groups to take the Old Town Hall and the Tontine Inn. Holberry named these two key targets the ‘Chartist forts’. The plan was betrayed though by a man named James Allen, and the authorities swiftly arrested Holberry and his co-conspirators at his address, 10 Eyre Lane. In a letter to her sister Horatia, the children’s writer Margaret Gatty described the gripping aftermath:
‘the Chartists have been completely subdued… they intended to have a grand display – pillaged the Town, killed the Magistrates and fired the Public Buildings – for which purposes they had got a quantity of hand grenades and other combustibles prepared’.95
Holberry’s targeting of the Old Town Hall is particularly revealing. The storming and barricading of the building was clearly in part a tactical decision. The area around it was the main gate way in and out of Sheffield. Once secured, the Town Hall could be used as base to set up defensive fortifications to both the North and East, preventing the returning authorities from re-establishing control of the town, especially across the bridge which spanned the River Sheaf just up the road from the Tontine Inn. But it was more than this. Buildings exist not just in brick and stone but as symbols which communicate meanings and ideas in the public realm. Since its founding the Old Town Hall had housed Sheffield’s most important municipal and judiciary functions, including the town’s public administration, police headquarters and criminal courts.96 The occupation of the building was as much a symbolic coup as a tactical one, and signified to the rest of the town’s inhabitants the successful extirpation of the established order from their main seat of power. This aspect of Holberry’s plot helps us to conceptualise the zone around the building as the key public space in Sheffield at this time, as control of this area was vital in the fierce contestations aimed at maintaining or seizing political power.
Ultimately, the uprising was quelled and Holberry was imprisoned in York Castle, although some historians have cast doubts over the standard versions of events. Catherine Lewis disputes the fairness of Holberry’s trial, explaining how the ‘coercive and judicial powers of the nineteenth century state’ often facilitated unfair legal convictions.97 She even speculates that the plot may have been, in whole or at least in part, a fabrication devised by the paranoid Sheffield authorities. Michael Lobban writes how ‘after 1820 the public order issue took centre stage’, whilst John Belcham contends that ‘by the time of Chartism, it was the massive occupation of public space, in what numbers and by whom, that
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caused alarm and transgressed elite views of order and legitimate participation’.98 The authorities’ obsession with public order and the alarm triggered by Chartism may have caused them to construct or wilfully distort evidence related to Holberry and his plot, less via cold, meaningful calculation but through paranoid and unthinking action which exploited the pre-existing shortcomings of the legal system. From the perspective of the Old Town Hall, it matters not whether Holberry was guilty or innocent. What counts is that either through intentional design or unconscious paranoia, the building was still conceived as the most important building in the town by both the authorities and their Chartist adversaries. The Old Town Hall, from its modest start in life, was by now conceived as the tangible location of and symbol for authority, power, and governance by all of Sheffield’s citizens.
Unfortunately for Holberry he was never again a free man. Before being transferred to York Castle he was held at Northallerton jail, where the months of poor diet, hard exercise and solitary confinement broke his health. He contracted tuberculosis in 1841 and died, ravaged and agonised by disease, from inflammation of the liver on 21st June 1842. A letter addressed to Holberry just two days previously begged for news on the condition of his health, signed ‘from your devoted and loving Wife, Mary Holberry’.99 At his funeral, people sang hymns which lamented him as a fallen martyr: ‘The Brave, the poor-man, Patriot is dead, / His dauntless soul from earth to heaven has fled / The people now to heaven for vengeance call, / To God, the Father and Friend of All’.100 Another vowed to continue his Chartist struggle: ‘O! may his fate cement his bond / That binds us to us glorious cause; / Raise, raise the cry, let all respond, / Justice, and pure, and equal laws’.101 Nearly a hundred and fifty years after the attempted uprising, the City of Sheffield honoured Holberry by naming a set of water features located in Peace Gardens after the late Chartist leader. The Holberry Cascades are located in an open public space on the forecourt of Sheffield’s new Town Hall, opened in 1897 when the old building, always too small and having undergone numerous extensions, was relieved of many of its municipal functions. Although Holberry never lived to see this reconfiguration of public space in his honour, a commemorative plaque captures his aspirations and the wider aims of this particular generation of Sheffield radicals: ‘He gave his life for what he believed to be the true interest of the people of England – a democratic society that would guarantee freedom, equality and security for all’.102
By Liam Blackshaw, MA in Historical Research at the University of Sheffield
1 J. Holland, The Picture of Sheffield; or an Historical and Descriptive View of the Town of Sheffield, in the County of York (Sheffield, 1824) pp. 158-9.
2 D. Price, Sheffield Troublemakers: Rebels and Radicals in Sheffield History (Stroud, 2008)
3 J. L. Baxter, The origins of the social war in South Yorkshire – a study of capitalist evolution and labour class realisation in one industrial region (Sheffield, 1976)
4 ‘The Jolly Grinder’ traditional, c. 1840 in S. Pybus, “Damned Bad Place, Sheffield” (Sheffield, 1994) p.101.
5 ‘A Sheffield thwitel bore he in his hose / Round was his face, and camus was his nose’ in G. Chaucer, ‘The Reeve’s Tale’ in The Canterbury Tales (London, 2012) p. 141.
6 ‘Sheffield’s Population Statistics 1086 – 2001’, https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/dam/sheffield/docs/libraries-and-archives/archives-and-local-studies/research/Population%20statistics%20study%20guide%20v1-2.pdf [date accessed 7th May 2018] p. 4.
7 R. Childs, ‘Sheffield before 1843’ in C. Binfield et. al. (eds), The History of the City of Sheffield 1843-1993 Vol. I: Politics (Sheffield, 1993) p. 7.
8 Ibid, p. 10.
9 Price, Troublemakers, p. 2.
10 F. Feher, The French Revolution and the Birth of Modernity (Berkeley, 1990)
11 E. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: Europe, 1789 – 1848 (London, 1962); E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working-Class (Cambridge, 1991) p. 212; J. Baxter, `Early Chartism and
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labour class struggle in South Yorkshire’ in C. Holmes and S. Pollard (eds) Essays in the economic and social history of South Yorkshire (Barnsley, 1976), pp. 135-158, p. 135.
12 R. Hewitt, A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade that Forged the Modern Mind (London, 2017) p. 1. 13 E. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (London, 1790) p. 67.
14 J. Stevenson, Artisans and Democrats: Sheffield in the French Revolution, 1787-97 (Sheffield, 1989)
15 S. Roberts, Autobiography (Sheffield, 1849) p. 44; Price, Troublemakers, p. 10. 16 Price, Troublemakers, p. 13.
17 R. E. Leader, Reminiscences of Old Sheffield (Sheffield, 1875) pp. 269 – 271.
18 J. Bohstedt, The Politics of Provisions: Food Riots, Moral Economy, and Market Transition in England, c. 1550–1850 (London, 2016) p. 1.
19 Childs, ‘Sheffield before 1843’, p. 11.
20 C. Binfield and D. Hey, (eds), Mesters to Masters: A History of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire (Oxford, 1997) p. 2.
21 P. B. Shelley, ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ in B. Woodcock, (ed.), The Selected Poetry and Prose of Shelley (St Ives, 2002) p. 392.
22 C. Williams, ‘Police and Crime in Sheffield, 1818-1874’ PhD thesis (University of Sheffield, 2000) p. 1.
23 ‘Speech in the House of Commons on the Stamp Act’, (14 January 1766) W. Pitt, The Speeches of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham in the Houses of Lords and Commons: With a Biographical Memoir and Introductions and Explanatory Notes to the Speeches (London, 1848) p. 75. 24 Bulletins and Other State Intelligence, 1819 (London, 1819) p. 382.
25 E. J. Evans, Britain Before the Reform Act: Politics and Society, 1815 – 1832 (London, 1989) 26 Ibid, p. 81.
27 R. Quinault, ‘The French Revolution of 1830 and Parliamentary Reform’, History, vol. 79, 257 (1994) pp. 377 – 393, p. 379.
28 E. G. Wakefield, Swing Unmasked or, The Real Causes of Rural Incendiarism (1831) pp. 25 – 6; Ibid.
29 E. P. Cheyney, (ed.), Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate A Short History of England (London, 1922) p. 680.
30 S. Smith, A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith, vol. II (New York, 1855) p. 313. 31 Evans, Reform Act, p. 75.
32 ‘Masters Cutler of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire’, https://www.cutlers-hallamshire.org.uk/files/pdf/Masters%20Cutler%20date%20list%202016.pdf [date accessed 2nd June 2018] p. 3; C. Harrison, The attitude of the local press to radical social and political movements in Sheffield, 1830 – 1867 (Sheffield, 1981)
33 Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 20th Feb 1830. 34 Ibid, 4th December 1830.
35 Price, Troublemakers, p. 33.
36 J. D. Leader, The Records of the Burgery of Sheffield (Sheffield, 1897) p. 455. 37 Price, Troublemakers, p. 34.
38 E. Elliott, The Splendid Village: Corn Law Rhymes; and Other Poems (Sheffield, 1833) p. 119. 39 Price, Troublemakers, p. 35.
40 Price, Troublemakers, p. 35.
41 Williams, Police and Crime, p. 125 – 126.
42 Price, Troublemakers, p. 36; Sheffield Independent, 15th December 1832. 43 Williams, Police and Crime, p. 126.
45 N. Gash, Politics in the Age of Peel: A Study in the Technique of Parliamentary Representation, 1830–1850 (London, 1952) p. xii.
46 W. Bagehot, The English Constitution, cited in J. Vincent, The Formation of the Liberal Party, 1857-1868 (London, 1966) pp. 1-2.
47 Leader, Reminiscences, p. 215.
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48 E. J. Evans, The Forging of the Modern State: Early Industrial Britain, 1783–1870 (Abingdon, 1996) p. 229
49 T. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (London, 1798); J. Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation (London, 1781); J. R. Poynter, Society and Pauperism: English Ideas on Poor Relief, 1795-1834 (London, 1969) p. 312.
50 Two of the leading members of the Commission, Nassau William Senior and Edwin Chadwick, were influenced by Malthus and Bentham respectively.
51 Facts and Observations relating to the state of the Workhouse (Sheffield, 1789) Sheffield Local Studies Library: Local Pamphlets Vol. 63 No. 1, 042S.
52 F. Eden, The Study of the Poor (London, 1797)
53 Resolution that a Committee be established to build a new workhouse in Sheffield (1804) Sheffield Archives: MD1123
54 Printed notice from the Poor Law Commissioners to the Guardians of Ecclesall Bierlow Union instructing them to appoint collectors of poor rates (1837) Sheffield Archives: OD/1563
55 Sheffield registrar’s papers mentioning (amongst other subjects) opposition to appointment of Sheffield Guardians (1836 – 1837) Sheffield Archives: CA40/4-15
57 Sheffield Mercury, 20th May 1837.
58 Harrison, The attitude of the local press, p. 30. 59 Roberts, Autobiography, p. 45.
60 S. Roberts, ‘The Guardianship of Hugh Parker; with the doings and sayings of his son; also a plan to abolish slavery from Sheffield’ (1837) Sheffield Local Studies Library: Local Pamphlets, vol. 13 no. 5 042S, p. 4.
61 Ibid, p. 19. 62 Ibid, p. 4.
63 S. Roberts, ‘Chartism, its cause and cure: addressed to the clergy and others of Sheffield and Ecclesall’ (1839) Sheffield Local Studies Library: Local Pamphlets, vol. 13 no. 9 042S, p. 5.
64 ‘A Letter to the Working Classes and H. G. Ward, Addressed to Richard Oastler, By A Sheffielder’ (1838) Sheffield Archives: SY619/Z8/30 p. 8.
65 Ibid, p. 5, 12. 66 Ibid, p. 13.
67 Ibid, p. 12. 68 Ibid, p. 11. 69 Ibid, p. 15. 70 Ibid, p. 16.
71 J. Knott, Popular Opposition to the 1834 Poor Law (London, 1986) p. 247.
72 ‘The Six Points’, http://www.chartistancestors.co.uk/six-points/ [date accessed 4th June 2018] 73 H. Browne, Chartism (Trowbridge, 1999) p. 22.
74 J. Allen and O. R. Ashton, Papers for the People: A Study of the Chartist Press (Pontypool, 2005); J. Epstein, ‘Feargus O’Connor and the Northern Star’, International Review of Social History, vol. 21, 1 (1976) pp. 51 – 97.
75 ‘Sources for the Study of Chartism in Sheffield’, https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/dam/sheffield/docs/libraries-and-archives/archives-and-local-studies/research/Chartism%20Study%20Guide%20v1-1.pdf [date accessed 5th June 2018] p. 4.
76 Price, Troublemakers, pp. 42 – 43.
77 The Sheffield Iris, 19th December 1837.
78 S. Roberts, ‘Chartism, the offspring of the new Poor Law’ (1839) Sheffield Local Studies Library: Local Pamphlets, vol. 26, no. 8 042S, p. 4; Roberts, ‘Chartism, Cause and Cure’, p. 1.
79 J. Salt, Chartism in South Yorkshire (Sheffield, 1971) p. 4. 80 Roberts, ‘Chartism, Cause and Cure’, p. 3.
81 Price, Troublemakers, p. 43. 82 Ibid.
83 ‘Letters written by Michael Ellison to the Duke of Norfolk in 1839 about Chartism in Sheffield and surrounding areas’ (1839) Sheffield Archives: ACM S 478/17/156, 163, 167, 197
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84 Price, Troublemakers, p. 43.
85 Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 17th August 1839, p. 8. 86 Leader, Reminiscences, p. 270.
87 Ibid, p. 271. 88 Ibid.
89 ‘Handbill containing four Chartist hymns’ (1839) Sheffield City Archives: Wil D/7/1/4 90 Ibid.
91 Ibid. 92 Ibid.
93 John Baxter, Armed Resistance and Insurrection: The Early Chartist Experience (Holberry Society Publications, 1984)
94 See Price, Troublemakers, pp. 44 – 47; Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 18th January 1840.
95 ‘Letter from Margaret Gatty to her sister about the Chartist uprising in Sheffield’ (1840) Sheffield Archives: HAS/8/4/9
96 K. Miller, Sheffield Old Town Hall and Court House: The rise and decline of a landmark building, Unpublished MA dissertation (2017) p. 24.
97 C. Lewis, ‘Samuel Holberry: Chartist Conspirator or Victim of a State Conspiracy’, Crimes and Misdemeanours: Deviance and the Law in Historical Perspective, vol. 3, 1 (2009) pp.109-124.
98 M.Lobban, ‘From Seditious libel to Unlawful Assembly: Peterloo and the Changing face of Political Crime c.1770–1820’, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 10 (1990) pp. 307 – 352, p. 307; Quote from Ibid, p. 115; J. Belcham, ‘Radical language, meaning and identity in the age of the Chartists’, Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 10, 1 (2005) pp. 1 -14, p. 10.
99 ‘Letters sent to Samuel Holberry while in jail’ (1841-1842) Sheffield City Archives: HS/1/1-15; PhC/494/1-2
100 L. Stanley, ‘Who was Samuel Holberry?’, http://www.ourbroomhall.org.uk/content/explore/places/roads-and-streets/samuel-holberry [date accessed 6th June 2018]
101 ‘Funeral hymn “sung at the interment of the murdered and lamented patriot”’ (1842) Sheffield Local Studies Library: MP 1216 S
102 ‘Samuel Holberry, 1814 – 1842’, http://www.riversheaf.org/sheafrwp/?page_id=3628 [date accessed 6th June 2018]