More than 20 men died in the battle at the Westgate Hotel on the morning of November 4th 1839. Once the Chartists had dispersed, the authorities gathered ten bodies and placed them under constant guard in the hotel stables. Three days later, following a brief inquest, they were buried in St Woolos churchyard under cover of darkness in three unmarked graves on the north side of St Mary’s chapel. No names are recorded in the parish register, but we know that amongst the ten were George Shell; Williams, a deserter from the 29th Regiment; William Griffiths (‘Will Aberdare’); Abraham Thomas, who his wife described as ‘a very wild man' and William Ferriday of Blackwood.

 

According to reports in the Monmouthshire Merlin, on Flowering Sunday in April in both 1840 and 1841, flowers, laurels and defiant Chartist verses were placed on the three graves. Of the latter occasion the Northern Star noted that ‘the poor fellows who fought and died for liberty were not forgotten’, as ‘hundreds of people came running with their presents.’ The Monmouthshire Beacon said that those attending ‘breathed the spirit of Chartism and lauded the victims,’ and described how a woman knelt on the grave believed to hold the body of George Shell and read some verses dedicated to him ‘in a clear tone and correct manner,’ though the reporter went on to complain about the presence of a beggar at the graveside holding out a hat for alms. There were no more reports of the decoration of the Chartist graves on Flowering Sunday in subsequent years in either the local or the national press.

 

In the 1980s local people once again began to remember the fallen Chartists by laying flowers next to St Mary’s chapel, though on November 4th, the anniversary of the Rising, rather than in April. In 1988 the Chartist memorial stone was commissioned and installed, and since then it has been the site of an annual ceremony marking the anniversary of the Rising and honouring those who died.

 

The changes to the nature of the commemoration this year are an attempt to return to the spirit of its origins in the 1840s, focusing on the sacrifice of those who lost their lives at the Westgate and on their desire for democracy.

 

 

Order of Service

 

Welcome from

the Dean and Chapter

 

Reading of the names of the dead

by the Mayor of Newport

 

Readings by the MPs for

Newport West and Newport East

 

Poem – Goff Morgan

 

Readings by representatives of two trades actively involved in the Chartist movement

 

Rob Jones, a publican and

Kelvin Reddicliffe, a shoemaker / repairer.

 

Laying of flowers

at the Chartist memorial stone

by the Leader of Newport City Council

Cllr Debbie Wilcox

 

Chartist song to conclude.

Led by Richard Parry

of the ‘In Our Footsteps’ project.

 

Chartist Hymn

(To the tune Calon Lân)

 

Sons of poverty assemble,

Ye whose hearts with woe are riven,

Let the guilty tyrants tremble,

Who your hearts such pain hath given;

A-rise! and spread the Charter

A-rise! we shall be free!’

Flying flag and banner proudly

For the day of ‘Victory!’

 

Must ye faint, ah! How much longer?

Better by the sword to die

Than to die of want and hunger,

They heed not your feeble cry;

A-rise! and spread the Charter

A-rise! we shall be free!’

Flying flag and banner proudly

For the day of ‘Victory!’

 

Rouse them from their silken slumbers,

Trouble them amidst their pride;

Swell your ranks, augment your numbers,

Spread the Charter far and wide:

A-rise! and spread the Charter

A-rise! we shall be free!’

Flying flag and banner proudly

For the day of ‘Victory!’

 

Dire oppression, heaven decrees it,

From our land shall soon be hurled;

Mark the coming time, and seize it,

Every banner be unfurled;

A-rise! and spread the Charter

A-rise! we shall be free!’

Flying flag and banner proudly

For the day of ‘Victory!’

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