Social History Social History

Chartist Collection

Chartism in the 1800s was the first national political movement with widespread working class support in Britain and it was very popular in south Wales.

The Chartists took their name from their manifesto, which they called The People’s Charter.

This caught the imagination of the many ordinary people in south Wales who were struggling with poor working and living conditions because of the boom of the industrial revolution in this area.

The Chartists believed that if they could gain more political representation, they would be able to fight for better working and living conditions.

On 4 November 1839, thousands of local Chartists marched into Newport to protest about the rights of ordinary working people.

The Mayor and troops were waiting for the Chartists at the Westgate Hotel and when they got there, shots were fired and chaos broke out.

There were over 50 people seriously wounded and about 22 people killed – the exact number is unknown because they were buried in unmarked graves.

The leaders were rounded up and arrested and put on trial in Monmouth. They were sentenced to be hung and quartered, but there was such a public outcry that the sentence was changed to transportation to Tasmania.

Watch the Celebrate Chartism film on YouTube, commissioned as part of the Chartist Commission work in 2016 with Visit Wales funding. 

The Chartist collection

The Chartist collection is a nationally significant collection of items related to the Chartist movement in Newport and includes images, weapons, newspapers, silver and documents from the time of the Chartist rising in 1839.

This protest is the most important event in Newport’s history and this collection has always been on permanent display in the museum.

The current Chartism in Newport display was officially opened in April 2010 by Welsh actor Michael Sheen.

Learn about what and who the Chartists were, how and why Chartism, the protest, Chartism and family, the trial, sentencing, calls for freedom and the legacy.

Write your own views on our legacy wall, learn about the truck shop system by working out what products to buy with your wages for the week and listen to John Frost, one of the Chartist leaders, as well as local politicians and descendants of Chartists.

There is a short film showing an interview between Sylvia Taylor, a local descendant of a Chartist and local school children, who also re-enact the Chartist trial.

See also Newport Libraries' collection of Chartist documents