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The History of Newport

today26 March 2024 24 1

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Newport Rising

On November 4th, 1839 the last large-scale uprising in Britain took place and it happened in Newport.

Today we are going to look at the story of the Newport Rising
and the people involved.

In 1838 the Chartists submitted their petition to the Parliament. However, the House of Commons rejected the first Chartist petition for democracy. This lead to the Chartists planning their uprising, demanding to be heard and demanding the government listen to the charter.

So, what was in the people’s charter? Well, there were 6 points.
The first one was for all men over the age of 21 to be given the right to vote. From there the points went on. Voting to take place with a secret ballot, equal constituencies based on equal number of electors, annual elections, to abolish the requirement for an MP to own  or property and finally wages for all MPs.

The Chartists were ready for a fight with the Government and the Government was ready for a fight with the Chartists. The march to Newport would be long but worth it. With the final destination being the Westgate Hotel in Newport centre.

With very little time, the authorities quickly prepared for the attack. There were already 60 soldiers stationed in Newport, but the Mayor of Newport, Thomas Phillips, had sworn in 500 special constables and asked for more troops to be sent. He also had 32 soldiers of the 45th Nottinghamshire regiment of foot in the Westgate Hotel. This is why the chartists chose the Westgate, Thomas Phillips was held up inside with building and the fact that some other Chartist prisoners were
held here.

There were three leaders of the marches through the valleys to Newport. John Frost, William Jones and Zephaniah Williams. John Frost lead his group of men from Dowlias to Tredegar and then from Tredegar down to Argoed. From there, he lead them to Blackwood and arrived in Newbridge. They then marched all the way through Risca and Rogerstone. Zephaniah Willams lead his men from Beaufort to Ebbw Vale. From there they marched to Crumlin and into Newbridge and right through Risca and Rogerstone. William Jones was to lead his group from Blaenafon down to Garndiffaith. From there they marched to Abersychan before arrving in Pontypool and were to march through Malpas.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Heavy rainfall delayed the marches and there were delays in the planned meeting of each contingent at the Welsh Oak in Rogerstone. In fact, William Jones and his men from Pontypool never even arrived. This delayed the final march into Newport into the daylight hours which contributed to their defeat.

Many marchers never participated in the final assault on Newport and simply waited on the outskirts of the town. This was because they had spent all Sunday night outdoors and in the pouring rain, their commitment was lukewarm too.

At 9:30am, the Chartists all arrived at the small square in front of the hotel. The flash point came when the crowd demanded that the guards released the imprisoned Chartists, but when the guards refused, a brief but violent and bloody battle broke out. Although shots were fired by both sides, it is believed that the Chartists fired the first shots.
Even though the soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the large and very angry crowd, they still had superior firepower, training and discipline, all of which soon broke the crowd.

But the Chartists didn’t go down that easily. At one point they
managed to temporarily get inside the Westgate Hotel, but were forced to retreat in disarray. Mayor Thomas Phillips was seriously wounded in the attack along with a soldier and two special constables.

After a fiercely fought battle which lasted approximately 30 minutes, between 10 and 24 of the Chartists had been killed by troops who were firing out of the windows. Up to 50 Chartists were wounded and over 200 Chartists were arrested. Only 21 were charged with high treason.
John Frost, William Jones and Zephaniah Williams were all arrested and were found guilty on the charge of high treason. They were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered at The Shire Hall in Monmouth.

After a nationwide petitioning campaign and direct lobbying of the home secretary by the Lord Chief Justice Viscount Melbourne, the government finally decided that the three of them would be sentenced to transportation for life. They were to be sent to Australian territory.
In his later life, John Frost was given an unconditional pardon and he straight away sailed for Bristol where he retired, but still published articles.

John Frost died on the 27th July 1877 in Bristol. 

The History of Newport series is written by Adam L Davies

Written by: Kym Frederick

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