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London Pubs Radical History Walk

London Pubs Radical History Walk


Prologue:

‘And when King George’s poll

Shall in the basket roll,

Let mercy then control

The guillotine!’


‘No King!’

‘No War!

‘No Pitt!’


Part the First


We were on our usual sort of pilgrimage,

Discovering a radical history around publick houses,

Inns, taverns, side-streets and thoroughfares,

And whether the pubs still stood or had been renamed,

Or whether we had to recollect

A past existence on a site long hidden

By London’s mercurial modernity:

You know, the usual liminality

And palimpsest sort of thing.


We walked through Soho, Covent Garden,

The Strand, Fleet Street, Chancery Lane, Fetter Lane,

Holborn, Clerkenwell, and Pentonville:

A seven-mile stroll through an area,

That once was a labyrinth of radicalism,

Toasted by the London Corresponding Society,

The United Englishmen and Irishmen,

The Spenceans and the Chartists.


First up, we remembered Robert Wedderburn,

Preaching in a hay loft behind what is now

A National Car Park,

Opposite the Duke of Argyll,

At the junction of Lexington and Brewer Streets:

Hear the words of the Reverend Chetwode Eustace: “I had some difficulty to discover the place for it is apparently a ruinous loft to which you will ascend by a step-ladder – the assemblage was perfectly suitable to the place for both Orators and Audience were with few exceptions persons of the very lowest description. The Doctrines were certainly of the most dreadful nature and two persons particularly distinguished themselves by expressions which appeal to the most violently seditious and treasonable – One of these men (who appeared to be the principal…) is a Mulatto & announced himself as the descendant of an African Slave.”

Ye Africans and relatives now in bondage, I offer you the only tribute the offspring of a slave can give for a simple Spencean who cannot write his name, will receive his opponent as David did the giant Goliath and with simple means destroy his gigantic impositions.’


‘Will not priests follow their princes and sing the solemn dirge of tyranny and corruption falling into contempt, and hail the Kingdom of Christ forwarded by Spence, and experience the new birth, ‘for a nation shall be borne in a day.’ Then shall the worthless kings who thirst for human blood to support their tottering thrones turn their swords into ploughshares and pruning hooks, then will it be said, and not before, as the apple tree of the wood, so is my beloved sovereign amongst the sons. I sat down under its shadow with great delight, and its fruit was pleasant to my taste.’


RW, A Spencean enthusiast

On we went down Great Windmill Street …

We then toasted Citizen John Thelwall

In the Lyric, formerly the (in)famous

Ham and Windmill, and sang …


‘SPENCE’S PLAN

By Mr. Porter


As I went forth one morn

For some recreation

My thoughts did quickly turn

Upon a Reformation.

But far I had not gone,

Or could my thoughts recall, Sir,

Ere I spied Spence’s Plan,

Wrote up against a wall, Sir.

I star’d with open Eyes,

And wonder’d what it meant, Sir,

But found with great surprise

As farther on I went, Sir,

Dispute it if you can,

I spied within a Lane, Sir,

Spence’s Rights of Man,

Wrote boldly up again, Sir.


Determin’d in my mind,

For to read his Plan, Sir,

I quickly went to find

This enterprising man, Sir,

To the Swan I took my flight

Down in New-Street-Square, Sir,

Where every Monday night,

Friend Tommy Spence comes there, Sir.


I purchased there a book,

And by the powers above, Sir,

When in it I did look.

I quickly did approve, Sir.’


We remembered Colonel Despard’s trial in 1803,

When a soldier spoke of a meeting in this very building,

And how he had been asked to be ‘sworn in’

To Thomas Spence’s ‘free and easy society’:

‘Free and Easies’: Political sing-songs,

Discussions, debates and readings:

‘A free and easy society, to overthrow the Government,

and have our nation the same as the French.’

We sallied forth along Shaftesbury Avenue,

Towards the free and easy Mercers Arms

(On Mercer Street at the junction with Sheldon Street),

On we went along Mercer Street,

Turning left on to Long Acre,

Then into Bow Street,

Then along Wellington Street,

And then past the Bell in Exeter Street,

Where the LCS was formed in 1791,

And where we caught the words of its founder, Thomas Hardy:

“’The Rights of Man’ are not confined to this small island but are extended to the whole human race, black and white, high or low, rich and poor.”

We glanced right towards Charing Cross Station,

To where the Globe stood in 1794,

Where LCS delegates would congregate:

‘We must have redress from our own laws and not from the laws of our plunderers, enemies and oppressors.’

Then along the Strand and Fleet Street,

Thinking of the Cheshire Cheese,

Haunt of proverbially radical shoemakers,

And some on the fringe of the Cato Street Conspiracy,

Remembering the Red Hart in Shoe Lane,

Where a spy reported on shoemaker Thomas Preston:

‘He usually asked in the Tap-rooms he visited, if there were any Men out of Work; if there were, he immediately sent for Bread, Cheese and Beer, saying, “It is the Duty of everyone not to see anyone in distress, but to divide all equally”.’

Next up, the Falcon once in Fetter Lane:

‘May the wings of Liberty never lose a feather’

And where when fingers once sliced the head

From off a pint of beer, ‘dark mutterings’

Were heard about the heads of kings and queens.

Thence to Holborn and the Prudential building,

Once Furnival’s Inn Cellar:

‘The very general resort of the most Jacobinical politics in London’,

A favoured meeting place for the United Englishmen

And the London Corresponding Society too:

‘If the King dares to trample upon the Liberties of the People,

I hope they will trample upon his head.’

We passed Chancery Lane again,

And the site of Lunan’s in Academy Court,

The words of both Jacobins and informants

Drifting in the wind up from Bell’s Yard:

‘He talked of killing the King with blow-pipe and poisoned arrow.’

Then, at last, towards Little Turnstile, High Holborn,

And Thomas Spence’s bookshop, The Hive of Liberty,

Now a friendly Italian café,

First observing, through the eyes of William Hone,

The 1792 assault on Thomas Spence by Bow Street Runners.

Spence said afterwards, both in court and in print,

That he, ‘being a poor man, and less likely to oppose the lordly meanness of violent Aristocracy, was repeatedly surrounded, insulted, and then threatened with his life, and the destruction of his little all, if he did not give up part of his bread, and decline selling The Rights of Man, and other political tracts for I am so exposed with only a stall in the open street.’ Handbills appeared upon the closed shutters of Spence’s stall: ‘That the owner was confined to jail for selling seditious books; and they hoped it would be a warning to others.’

The Hive of Liberty opened within a year.

To complement the spoken word of the free and easies,

The shop was decorated with lines in prose and verse,

While children in the streets sold Spence’s pamphlets,

Leading the Duke of Portland at the Home Office

To demand that Justices of the Peace

‘Commit to the House of Correction little children selling Spence’s halfpenny sheets.’

Back to Red Lion Street, then Theobald’s Road,

Past the site of Benbow’s Chapel

(‘Blasphemous republicanism’)

But still hearing Thomas Spence’s words:

‘Now citizen, if we really want to get rid of these evils … we must destroy not only personal and hereditary Lordship but the cause … which is private property in land, for this is the pillar that supports the aristocracy.’

Then crossing Gray’s Inn Road, and along Clerkenwell Road,

Into Farringdon Lane,

Thence to Clerkenwell Green

And its quondam ‘radical Infidel printing press’,

On past the site of Lunt’s,

Where the British Forum, the republican

Anti-slavery debating club met,

With singing as well as discussion and readings,

And where veteran Spenceans and young Chartists gathered too.


And so, to Spa Fields and 1816:

A meeting was planned here for the 15th November with the intention of petitioning the Prince Regent (at his home) with demands for universal suffrage, annual parliaments, secret ballots and redistribution of land. Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt moderated these demands somewhat with a focus on the political demands and with a presentation of the petition by just Sir Francis Burdett and himself, rather than any of the 10,000 there, that day.

He was refused admittance.

Some Spenceans such as Watson, and his son, and Arthur Thistlewood wanted direct action. They advertised a second meeting for December 2nd with ‘inflammatory handbills’, subverting traditional patriotism:

ENGLAND

Expects every Man to do his Duty

The Meeting in Spa Fields

Takes Place at 12 o’clock

On Monday December 2nd 1816

To receive the answer of the PETITION to the PRINCE REGENT

Determined on at the last meeting held in the same place

And for other important Consideration

THE PRESENT STATE OF GREAT BRITAIN

Four Millions in Distress!!!

Four Millions embarrassed!!!

One Million-and-half fear Distress!!!

Half-a-million in splendid Luxury!!!

Arrogance, Folly, and Crimes – have brought

affairs to this dreadful Crisis.

Firmness and Integrity

can only save the Country!!


A large crowd gathered again in consequence at Spa Fields on the day. Hunt was there again to address the crowd. James Watson (son of the Spencean leader, also named James Watson) took up the tricolour and led a small group towards the Tower of London. They called at a gunsmith’s shop in Snow Hill and shooting followed, with the army closing the gates at the Royal Exchange. The attempted coup saw further action in Fleet Street and Snow Hill; the revolutionaries also took control of the Minories for a few hours. Thistlewood led an armed group from there to scale a wall at the Tower of London. He asked the troops there to surrender. ‘Unfortunately’, they refused.

The subsequent trials resulted in an execution and charges of high treason. Henry Hunt was a crucial witness for the defence and he destroyed the evidence of the chief prosecution witness, one Castle. Castle blurred the line between spy and agent-provocateur – he had been on the organizing committee for both the meetings at Spa Fields. Hunt made the accusation that Castle had tried to lead him into acts that would constitute treason, twice or more.

Defence council then provided more examples where Castle had acted as an agent-provocateur – the jury found Watson not guilty and all others were acquitted in the wake.


On that happy note, we made our way along Exmouth Market

To the old post office building complex,

Mount Pleasant,

Where the notorious Coldbaths Fields Prison once stood.

Jane Evans, the Spencean leader, was incarcerated here in 1798 on a charge of ‘Revolutionary Conspiracy’, on the evidence of the spy and informer, the hated James Powell. Her twins were stillborn, in consequence. Her husband, Thomas, was also incarcerated here.

It was reported by the spy that Jane, in consequence, ‘is more furious than ever and bids open defiance. She sells Spencean pamphlets which are much sought after.’ She also smuggled pamphlets and tracts in for husband; petitioned relentlessly against the conditions in which her husband was kept, and organized a riot outside the prison in protest.

There was a right regular shindig to celebrate Thomas’ release in 1818 at the Mulberry Tree in Moorfields. But Jane wanted to attract more women to political meetings and so favoured a move away from pub to chapel. These chapels attracted substantial congregations and the usual attention of informers and spies. But here is a report from a well- heeled gentleman sent to the Home Office about such a chapel meeting: ‘Passing yesterday through Archer Street I saw some people going (or so I thought) into a Religious meeting, curiosity caused me to go in to hear what doctrine was preached there … I was astonished to find that it was a Political Lecture where a man of the name of Evans was delivering a … Lecture from the Bible, Paine’s Rights of Man & Age of Reason … for the purpose of bringing the Government and Clergy into contempt.’

On we processed, however, along Roseberry Avenue,

Then along St John’s Street,

Past the site of the Nag’s Head, the George, the Well,

And so, to the Belvedere on the Pentonville Road …

Shegog, the spy, reported of Pentonville that ‘many of the Spenceans’, ‘And other suspicious characters’ were congregating in ‘some of the Publick Houses’ ‘in the neighbourhood of the Belvedere Tavern, Pentonville Road’, where some, he reported, were optimistic that ‘some enthusiastic characters may be worked up to commit assassination’. Once more, we see how spy, informant and agent-provocateur were difficult to distinguish.


Part the Second


All these pubs and inns and taverns

And all these sites and sights and streets and yards

Highways, byways and thoroughfares,

All with a history to be told and written,

And yet none with a plaque of any colour or code,

But we carry the torch of remembrance,

With ludic guerrilla memorialization,

In a playful London pilgrimage,

Because if we don’t, who will?


Part the Third


And when you get home, tell friends and family

About how Thomas Spence and co.

Would meet in a pub for a bit of a sing song,

With spontaneous political balladeering,

Rather than endless speechifying as in Parliament.

Strong, plain simple language.

With debates and discussions too.

With this maxim:

‘A free and easy society to overthrow the Government

and have our nation the same as the French.’

And then read this spy’s report of such a free and easy in 1817:

‘It wanted about 10 minutes to 7 when they got there – they went first into the tap room and then up stairs – The room upstairs is two Rooms made into one, it is a cosy room. They waited in the tap Room till the Company became very numerous, then they went up … Then Porter [Thomas Porter, advocate of Spence] called Silence and gave the first Song – it was a song against the Prince Regent, about the fat pig in Hyde Park … then others sang a great many Songs all against the Government and after each Man had done singing he gave a toast – One was given by Porter and was this “May the Skin of the tyrants be burnt into Parchment and the Rights of Man written on it.”’

Numbers at such sessions could reach 150 and many wore, according to another spy, ‘radical millinery’: white hats (as sported by Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt at Peterloo), or ‘a green silk umbrella with a hooked yellow stick’.

And often, toasts would be raised with a ‘glass of Radical’ – a drink that avoided a government tax, so no tea, coffee, beer or other alcoholic tipples; a sort of radical boycott.

(Daniel Tiffany Infidel Poetics pages 183-189)


Part the Fourth


William Blake wrote London in 1794.


I wander thro' each charter'd street,

Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.

And mark in every face I meet

Marks of weakness, marks of woe.


In every cry of every Man,

In every Infants cry of fear,

In every voice: in every ban,

The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.


How the Chimney-sweepers cry

Every blackning Church appalls,

And the hapless Soldiers sigh

Runs in blood down Palace walls.


But most thro' midnight streets I hear

How the youthful Harlots curse

Blasts the new-born Infants tear

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.


Interesting to think that if Blake had written this a few years later then who knows?

There might have been a reference to Thomas Spence’s chalkings.


Perhaps you might wish to take a piece of chalk

And create your own street-art,

Or create your own pamphlet, write postcards,

Or create simulacra of Spence’s coins,

With radical circumferential messages

And iconongraphy,

In the spirit of ‘Guerrilla Memorialization’:

‘Spence’s Plan and Full Bellies’;

‘End the poor man’s agony and the rich man’s gout’;


Remember the words of the Home Secretary: ‘Spence’s Plan’ was scrawled ‘on every wall in London’. Others in high authority complained that ‘Every wall in London has been covered with inflammatory and seditious writings’, while William Cobbett wrote in 1816, the year of Spa Fields, ‘we have all seen for years past written on walls in and near London the words “Spence’s Plan” and I never knew what it meant until … I received a pamphlet’.


Part the Fifth

Radical London Pubs Walk Itinerary


1. Leave Oxford Circus station & walk along Regent Street (North); turn L into Glasshouse Street; L into Brewer Street at the Glassblower; thence to the junction of Lexington Street and Brewer Street by the NCP, opposite the Duke of Argyll (Robert Wedderburn’s chapel).

2. Walk past the Duke of Argyll down Great Windmill Street. Stop at the Lyric opposite Archer Street (The Ham and Windmill opposite what used to be the Red Lion where Karl Marx met, discussed and wrote).

3. Carry on down and turn left on to Shaftesbury Avenue. Turn R on to Mercer Street and get to corner with Sheldon Street. (Mercer’s Arms)

4. Carry on down Mercer Street. Turn L opposite Arket on to Long Acre. Turn R into Bow Street. Carry on down to Wellington Street to junction with Exeter Street (Old Bell).

5. Go to the Strand and turn L. Mention the Globe (Craven Street by Charing Cross station). Walk along the Strand past the Royal Courts of Justice. Bell Yard with its telephone kiosk and post box on your L. Old Cheshire Cheese. Mention Shoe Lane (Red Hart).

6. Retrace steps to Fetter Lane (Red Lion Court on the R with telephone kiosk) – follow Fetter Lane on your R (Falcon somewhere here). Walk up Fetter Lane.

7. Turn L at Holborn. The Pru (site of Furnival Inn’s Cellar) almost directly opposite (

8. Continue L to Chancery Lane and carry on down to 94 Academy Court (site of Lunan’s). Retrace steps (Chancery Lane where TS was apprehended by Bow Street Runners, witnessed by William Hone) to High Holborn.

9. Turn L along High Holborn (Red Lion Street on your R). You pass site of York Arms at 87 High Holborn. Have a break at Little Turnstile (The Hive of Liberty at the café site). Retrace steps to Red Lion Street and walk up Red Lion Street). Turn R into Theobald ‘s Road (Benbow’s Chapel. Carry on to cross Gray’s Inn Road and walk along Clerkenwell Road – turn left into Farringdon Lane.

10. Then R into Clerkenwell Green (21, radical Infidel printing press) and Lunt’s. Then L into Clerkenwell Close. Reach Spa Fields. Turn L into Exmouth Market. Arrive opposite Mount Pleasant (Coldbath Fields). Exmouth Arms? Turn R into Roseberry Avenue; continue to St John’s Street.

11. Walk on to Pentonville Road and turn L to the Belvedere (now the Lexington). Then turn to walk to King’s Cross and thence to Paddington.




Part the Sixth


On Thomas Spence’s birthday

Remember how

The body of Thomas Spence was carried with all due pomp and ceremony along Tottenham Court Road to St James’s, Hampstead Road, and the near pristine new burial ground there. A fine cortege it made, with scales of justice, tokens, emblems, medallions, and white ribbons. And Thomas Evans was pleased to report to the numerous throng, that as part of the new Philanthropic Society’s formal annual programme, the life of Thomas Spence would be celebrated each year on his birthday, on mid-summer’s day.

Thomas composed The Memory of Thomas Spence to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:

“His books and songs for forty years

He’s published many ways,

For which he oft was sent to jail,

Grant him your mead of praise,

And never let him be forgot,

Though he is gone from hence,

But drink a bumper o’er the tomb,

Of Old Tom Spence,

Here’s Old Tom Spence, my boys,

&c,”

The Legacy of Thomas Spence:

He did not live to hear these words: ‘I wish to join the Society of Spencean Philanthropists.’ ‘Why then, sir, follow this catechism: Are you of the opinion that the land or territory of the nation is by nature the people’s farm … Are you then willing to become a true Spencean Philanthropist, by endeavouring to extend a knowledge of these natural rights…?’

He did not live to hear his alternative dictionary lauded as an attempt to spread literacy amongst the working classes:

Let us remember Thomas Spence

For his work on a dictionary and literacy,

He may have followed in the wake of Dr. Johnson,

But Spence sought to empower working people,

Not satisfy aristocratic patrons,

But instead empower working people who lived within an oral culture,

And so, he developed a spelling reform,

And The ‘Crusonian’ Alphabet,

To try and make reading and writing easier

For the labouring classes,

So they could confront their so-called betters –

The graffiti, the tokens, the tracts,

The pamphlets, the songs, the poems, the sayings, the slogans,

But especially the songs, in taverns, clubs and the streets,

The free and easies,

This was all part of ‘Spence’s Plan’,

These weren’t a series of random ideas and actions,

It was all part of a coherent strategy:

A fusion of the oral and the textual:

‘Spence’s Plan’;

He did not live to read the pages of Hansard where his ideas were castigated thus: ‘Utterly subversive of every well regulated state, subversive of all property, order and government’.

He did not live to see, uniquely in British history, a set of ideas and an ideology illegalized – his ideas: ‘All societies or clubs calling themselves Spencean or Spencean Philanthropists, and all other societies and clubs, by whatever name or deception the same are called or known, who hold and profess or shall hold and profess their objects and doctrines’ … are henceforth, illegal.

Let’s celebrate and commemorate the view and life of Thomas Spence,

On each and every mid-summer’s day,

June 21st, the anniversary of Thomas Spence’s birthday,

Let’s raise a toast and sing a song to Thomas Spence,

The Jubilee and the People’s Farm,

For as Thomas exhorted:

‘Meet and sing and sing and meet’,

For, ‘A song that awakens applause

Is better than speaking or preaching’ –


‘That man, that honest man, was Thomas Spence

Whose genius, judgment, wit, and manly sense,

Confounded all the dogmas of the schools,

And prov’d that statesmen are but learned fools;

That priests preach future worlds of pain and bliss,

To cheat the weak, and rob the poor in this!

Or else their practice and their cry would be,

“Let all be equal, and let all be free!”’

(Allen Davenport)



The People’s Farm’, reviled by Malthus,

Remembered by Marx,

Admired by Chartists – for example,

The Chartist newspaper Nation:

‘As yet no stone or other memorial marks the spot where this persecuted friend of mankind at length found rest. When will the gratitude of the working classes raise a fitting monument to commemorate the virtues, and martyr-like sacrifices, of this model man of their “order”?’


In conclusion, I’m pleased to say that the name of Thomas Spence now appears on the Reformers’ memorial in Kensal Green, west London. Why not visit there on June 21st to remember him and also visit the site of his bookshop in Little Turnstile, High Holborn? Or do the walk again. Have a pint and a sing song. Or take a walk to Cato Street to remember the Cato Street Conspiracy 1820 (see Postscript below).


Hark! How the Trumpet’s sound

Proclaims the land around

The Jubilee!

Tells all the poor oppress’d,

No more shall they be cess’d,

Nor Landlords more molest

Their Property.


“His books and songs for forty years

He’s published many ways,

For which he oft was sent to jail,

Grant him your mead of praise,

And never let him be forgot,

Though he is gone from hence,

But drink a bumper o’er the tomb,

Of Old Tom Spence,

Here’s Old Tom Spence, my boys,

&c,”

Sources used:

Artisans and Politics in Early 19th Century London John Gast and His Times

Iorweth Prothero Methuen 1979

The Life and Times of Thomas Spence P.M. Ashraf 1983

The Poor Man's Revolutionary ed by Alastair Bonnett and Keith Armstrong

The People’s Farm English Radical Agrarianism 1775-1840 Malcolm Chase

The Life and Literary Pursuits of Allen Davenport With a further selection of the author’s work Compiled and Edited by Malcolm Chase Scolar Press 1994

The Muses’s Wreath, containing Hornsey Wood and other Poems Allen Davenport

Radical Underworld Ian McCalman Clarendon Paperbacks

Radical Culture David Worrall Wayne State University

William Cuffay The Life & Times of a Chartist Leader by Martin Hoyles





POST SCRIPT CATO STREET CONSPIRACY 1820

(The year after Peterloo)

Peterloo 1819

All in orderly procession, dressed in their Sunday best, All following Hunt’s request that they should bring ‘No other weapon that that of an approving conscience’, Banners were profuse: UNITY & STRENGTH; PARLIAMENTS ANNUAL – SUFFRAGE UNIVERSAL; Red caps of liberty at this perfectly legal meeting, With nigh on 20% of Lancashire’s population present, But in rode the Yoemanry, And then the Hussars, flashing their swords (Nearly three foot long and weighing two lbs two ounces) Within minutes eleven dead and over four hundred wounded, Sprawled everywhere on the ground were ‘Hats, bonnets, shawls, shoes, musical instruments … In the midst stood the hustings with its broken flag-staffs and tattered banners’; Samuel Bamford described it thus: ‘the hustings remained, with a few broken and hewed flag staves erect and a torn and gashed banner or two drooping, whilst over the whole field were strewed the caps, bonnets, hats, shawls and shoes … trampled, torn and bloody. The Yoemanry had dismounted – Some were easing their horses’ girths, Others adjusting their accoutrements; And some were wiping their sabres. Several mounds of human bodies still remained as they had fallen, Crushed down and smothered. Some of these still groaning – some with staring eyes, Were gasping for breath and others would never breath again …’ Eleven dead and over four hundred wounded; The Prince Regent offered his congratulations for ‘prompt, decisive and efficient measures for the preservation of the public tranquillity’; Lord Sidmouth, Home Secretary, in private: ‘an essential principle of government … the confidence of the magistracy … a readiness to support them in all honest, reasonable, and well-intended acts, without inquiring too minutely whether they might have performed their duty a little better or a little worse.’ The local authorities thanked the Yoemanry: ‘Their extreme forbearance exercised when insulted and defied by the rioters’; And so that was the meeting at St Peter’s Fields, Peterloo, 1819, Witnessed thus, by Lieutenant Joliffe, 15th Hussars: ‘although nine tenths of the sabre wounds were caused by the Hussars, it redounds to the human forbearance of the men of the 15th that more wounds were not received,’; Peterloo, followed by the dictatorial Six Acts, And Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy – ‘I met Murder on the way It had a face like Castlereagh … Ye are Many, They are few’ … Peterloo, followed by the spy-riddled 1820 Cato Street Conspiracy: Arthur Thistlewood, Watson and co. organised The Committee of Two Hundred, They met surreptitiously at the White Lion in Wych Street, Planning a coup d’etat with the formation of a Provisional Government (Thistlewood’s planned speech: ‘Your tyrants are destroyed. The friends of liberty are called upon to come forward. The provisional government is now sitting.’), The spark – the assassination of the cabinet in revenge for Peterloo, Whilst they were dining at Lord Harrowby’s, The idea being to decapitate the cabinet (Henry Bathurst’s would have been included, btw), And parade the heads on spikes through London’s chartered streets: James Ings: ‘ I will enter the room first, I will go in with a brace of pistols, a cutlass and a knife in my pocket and after two swordsmen have despatched them, I will cut off every head that is in that room And Lord Castlereagh’s and Lord Sidmouth’s I will bring away in a bag … As soon as I get into the room I shall say: “Well my Lords, I have as good men here as your Manchester Yoemanry. Enter Citizens, and do your duty.”’ But the Bow Street Runners broke into the stable loft in Cato Street, The conspirators were taken prisoner after a skirmish; Whilst they were held at the Horse and Groom, A search of the loft revealed ‘a great quantity of pistols, blunderbusses, swords and pikes’; Charges of high treason followed, For the conspirators ‘ did compass, imagine, invent, devise And intend to deprive and depose our said Lord the King of … The style, honour and kingly name Of the imperial crown of this realm’; Secondly, they intended ‘To move and excite insurrection, rebellion and war against the King … and to subvert and alter the legislature, rule and government and to bring and put the King to death’; Ings emphasised the role of Edward the Spy: ‘The Attorney-General knew … when I was before Lord Sidmouth, a gentleman said, Lord Sidmouth knew all about this for about two month’; Bruit said, ‘Should I die, by this case, I have been seduced by a villain, who, I have no doubt, has been employed by Government’; Thistlewood: ‘Liberty and Justice Have been driven from confines by a set of villains, Whose thirst for blood is only to be equalled … By their plunder’; Apart from castigating Edwards, he spoke also of Peterloo: ‘when infants were sabred in their mothers’ arms and the breast from which they drew the tide of life, was severed from the parent’s body’; ‘High treason was committed against the people of Manchester, I resolved that the lives of the instigators of the massacre should atone for the souls of the murdered innocents’,

But Black Cap Chief Justice was unmoved: ‘You and each of you; be taken here to the gaol from whence you came and from thence that you be drawn upon a hurdle to a place of execution and there be hanged by the neck until you be dead; and that afterwards your heads shall be severed from your bodies and your bodied be divided into four quarters to be disposed of as his majesty shall think fit. And may God in his infinite goodness have mercy on your souls’; Thistlewood disdainfully took snuff as he listened to the verdict; The date chosen: a hurried May 1st 1820 – Thistlewood: ‘The sooner we go, sir, the better’; And on the scaffold, Tidd and Thistlewood shook hands: ‘Well, Mr Thistlewood. How do you do?’ ‘I was never better.’ After they had hung for half an hour, Their bodies were taken down, de-hooded, And their heads were placed on the block: ‘This is the head of Arthur Thistlewood, the traitor.’ One by one, the heads were shown, But the crowd shouted: ‘Bring out Edwards! Shoot that bloody murderer!’ Windows were smashed afterwards … The Home Office had received a plenitude of anonymous letters Before May 1st, threatening violence: ‘To Ministers, Privy Councillors, Bloody-minded wretches – Ye are now brooding with hellish delight On the sacrifice ye intend to make on those poor creatures Ye took out of Cato Street on pretence Of punishing them for what your own horrid spies And agents instigated … But know this, Ye demons, on an approaching day And in an hour when you least expect it Ye yourselves shall fall a sacrifice to The just vengeance of an oppressed And suffering people who shall behold Your bloody corpses dragged in Triumph through their streets.’







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