November 2016 – Newport Rising print, 1839

Westgate Hotel, Newport, 1839In 1819, Britain had its first taste of mass protest, when the demonstration on Manchester’s St Peter’s Field descended into violence and death as it was crushed on the orders of the magistrates.  20 years later, after the Whig’s Reform Act of 1832 still limited the number of men who could vote, the Chartist Movement began.

Over one million people signed the first Charter of 1838 that was rejected by the government.  This Charter held six points for change; universal suffrage for all men aged 21 and over, election by secret ballot, annual parliamentary elections, no property qualification for MPs, equal sized electoral districts, and payment for MPs.  When the Charter was rejected, outrage broke out across the country.

On 4 November 1839, one of the leaders of the movement led an uprising in Newport, South Wales.  Though the true aims of the march are unknown, it’s said that the intention behind the march was for it to inspire more uprisings and revolts in other industrial towns.  8,000 protesters marched on the Westgate Hotel, where fellow Chartists were being held prisoner.  The soldiers, ready and waiting to attack, killed 22 men, dispersing the crowd after outbreaks of fighting and violence.

In Main Gallery One, the sister to this print – a representation of the crowd descending on Westgate Hotel – is on display.  This print depicting the aftermath however is much more harrowing.  Despite the support and popularity of the rising, the print shows the tragedy that was faced by men only protesting for their basic right to vote.

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