Chartism at Gwent Archives

On the 4th November 1839, John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones led thousands of men from the industrialised valleys of Monmouthshire to Newport. At Newport, 500 Special Constables were sworn in by the Mayor of Newport, Thomas Phillips. They established themselves, along with soldiers from the 45th Regiment of Foot at the Westgate Hotel.

At 9.30am, the Chartists arrived at the Westgate Hotel. They believe that there were other Chartists imprisoned within the Hotel and demanded their release. Shots were fired - who fired the first shot is not altogether clear, but a brief bloody battle broke out. In 30 minutes, roughly 22 were killed - ten were buried at St Woollos. Over 50 were injured and were treated at Newport Workhouse.

John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones were all found guilty of high treason and were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. This was later commuted to transportation for life.

Gwent Archives holds a number of records relating to the Chartists, ranging from parish registers to watch committee minutes, to letters and newspaper reports. A complete list can be found here. Below is a list of projects and sources that may be of interest;

Witness Testimonies

In January 1840, the leaders of the Chartists stood on trial for their part in the Newport Chartist Uprising. In 2010, the testimonies from the Chartist Trials were digitised through funding by the Monmouth Shire Hall Chartist Interpretation Project.

These digitised testimonies were later transcribed by dedicated volunteers as part of a project with the National Library of Wales and National Lottery Heritage Funding. Providing a unique insight into Wales valley communities and the Chartist’s campaign for democratic reform, these fantastic records can now be found at People's Collection Wales.

The Western Vindicator

Published by one of the leading Chartists, Henry Vincent, this newspaper has been digitised by the Marw Eisiau Pleidlais project and can now be found at People's Collection Wales.

Short Films

Two short films on the Chartist and the Trial can be found on YouTube: “A Man’s Life” and “Unlocking the Chartist Trials

Websites of Interest

All the documents that are transcribed have been added to Peoples Collection Wales.