Alfred W. (Alfred Wilks) Drayson.

The Chartist riots at Newport : November, 1839 online

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fellows, replied, with Stentorian voice, "No, never!" At the
same time an attempt was made to seize a pike in the hands of
one of the Chartists, upon which a gun was immediately levelled
and fired at the head of the first constable, a man named Thomas
Bevan Oliver, a printer of the town. Seeing the danger, he
immediately slammed the door, and succeeded in striking aside
the barrel of the gun as it exploded, so that the shot took no
effect. The constables made no attack, as they had been par-
ticularly ordered by the Mayor to act only on the defensive.

The firing of the first gun seemed to have dissipated the courage
of the special constables, who were armed only with staves, and
to have incited the Chartists to a general and indiscriminate
attack upon the Hotel. "In, my men!" was the command
uttered by one John Lovell and others, and a rush into the
building was the work of a moment. The passage was speedily
choked, and then many made ingress through the windows. The
constables fled in all directions— some to the cellars, some to
upstair rooms, others to the yard and outhouses, while the more
nimble mounted the walls and roofs, and made their Avay to their
homes or other places of security, where they changed their
clothes, fearing that being police oflScers they would be shot. It
is jocularly said that, some time after the conclusion of the affray,
one of the brave defenders was discovered, with his baton of
authority, snugly ensconced in the copper boiler. ISlore than one
constable, however, was severely wounded, and, being unable to
escape, was left to the tender mercy of the rebels. Hem-y
Williams (ironmonger), whose name we have before mentioned,
was wounded at the commencement of the attack. He received
a gunshot wound in the head, a wound in the leg, and two stabs
in the body. He fell senseless, and was left alone. It was
fortunate he escaped with his life. Mr. Hallen, the landlord of
the Hotel, whilst escorting some ladies upstairs, was struck and
wounded by a slug. A constable named Morgan (draper, of
Waterloo House, Commercial Street), was also wounded by a
gunshot, afterwards abstracted. Among a number of special
constables stationed in the commercial room of the Hotel were
Mr. Thomas Latch, Mr. Waters (an attorney), and a Mr. Cleave,
whose anxious curiosity induced them to peep through the crevices
of the shutters of the window overlooking the bottom of Stow .


Hill. Immediately on being noticed, the passing Chartists dashed
their weapons through the glass, the hinder ones completing the
destruction which the foremost ranks had commenced. The valour
of the constables was shown in its better part discretion ; and
when danger was apprehended from this proceeding, they fled
from the room with the intention of escaping by the back way.
Mr. Latch succeeded, but Mr. Waters, after a moment's delay,
found to his dismay that the head of the column had intruded
itself into the house, and that the doorways and passages were
all blockaded. Waters, as a dernier ressort, dashed upstairs, and,
succeeding in gaining access to a back room of the building,
remained there until all danger passed away. The men who thus
filled the passages of the house, ere the smoke of the first guns
cleared away, appeared bent on destroying all property, thrusting
their pikes at the glass, and attempting to smash everything with-
in reach. Outside, the windows were broken, and frequent shots
fired into the various rooms of the building. The shutters of the
room in which the soldiers were stationed were battered by
weapons which, from the inside, could be seen above the closed
shutters, and torn by slugs and balls fired at them.


The Mayor and Lieutenant Grey found it was time to act, and
accordingly the soldiers were ordered to load with ball cartridge.
As they were in the act of loading, shots were heard in the passage
which communicated with the room and other parts of the house,
and in a very short time the soldiers would have found themselves
between two fires. The door was temporarily secured, and the
Mayor and Lieutenant Grey went to open the windows to enable
the soldiers to fire therefrom. Lieutenant Grey stood at the
middle window of the bay, and the Mayor at the window nearest
the centre of the building. At the same moment they withdrew,
and the soldiers approached and fired upon the mob. Before they
could do so, however, the Mayor found that he had been wounded
in his arm by a slug ; and from the holes in his trousers, he knew
that he had also received a shot in his groin or hip. The wound
in the arm proved to be a very severe one ; the wound in the hip
was only a flesh wound. Sergeant Daily was also wounded by six
slugs in the head, and had also the pan of his gun knocked away
by a ball from the Chartists as he was in the act of loading. The
firing of the soldiers soon proved eftective, and the shrieks of the
dying and wounded men among the mob created a panic. In a few
moments it was evident the mob was scampering away in all
directions. A few reckless spirits among them, however, con-
tinued to return the fire of the soldiers, and seemed to court death
at their hands in the most daring manner. One man named
George Turner, conspicuous by the fact of his having a wooden
leg, continued to load and fire time after time ; and whether the
soldiers out of pity for his deformity, or whether from mere


accident, the fact remains that he stood ahnost alone as a target
for their fire, and yet escaped uninjured.

After firing the first few volleys, the soldiers had to turn for
their own protection to repel the attack made in the passage to
obtain an entrance into the room. A caution having been given
to any special constables who might have been in the way, the
door was opened, and the fire of the soldiers now poured into the
passage. In such close quarters the shots could hardly fail to
prove fatal, and here the dead and wounded fell thick together.
The intrxiders, probably unconscious of what had occurred in the
street, and that their commander had fled, again and again made
a dash to get into the room ; but each time they advanced they
were met by the steady and deadly fire of the soldiers, which
added to the number of killed and wounded, until the streams
of blood flowing at their feet, the piercing shrieks of their
comrades, and the obstacle to progress formed by the helpless
bodies, made them recoil in horror.

During the affray the Mayor had another very narrow escape
of his life. Finding the blood from his arm flowing so fast as
to induce him to think there was danger from the hemorrhage, he
went to a special constable, who he saw in the passage, and asked
him to bind up his arm. While he was endeavouring to do this,
one of the insurgents made his appearance, and prepared to thrust
his pike at them ; but, before he could do this^ he was shot by
one of the soldiers, and fell on his face at their feet, apparently
dying. Again, when the Mayor was returning to his room, after
tlie blood from the wound in his arm was staunched, a soldier
approached tlie door, and, not being able to distinguish him
through the smoke, presented his musket within a few feet of his
head. Lobbett, the constable, who had bound up the Mayor's
arm, seeing this, called out "For God's sake, don't fire; it is
the Mayor !" The soldier immediately threw up his musket, and
the Mayor entered the room.


In about ten minutes danger was over, and Lieutenant Grey
ordered his men to cease firing. At length the spot was deserted,
the dead and dying only being left where, but a few minutes
before, such terrible commotion had existed. The Mayor and the
soldiers then left the room ; the former being compelled, by the
state of his wounds, to relinquish his authority and the preserva-
tion of the peace of the town into other hands.

Mr. Blewitt, who, after addressing the Chartists at Llantarnam,
rode into Newport through Caerleon, consented, at the Mayor's
request, to remain in the town and take his place. [Pencilled in
the margin of the MS. of the Mayor's statement are these words :
"Contemptible trickery to deprive a brave man of his meed of
praise."] Sergeant Daily remained in bed at the Westgate for
a day, and was then removed to the residence of the Mayor,


where, with his wife, he remained for thirteen clays, receiving
during that time every attention from the Mayor, his sister, and
family. [In the margin of Daily's statement, taken on the 30th
November, 1839, is this annotation of probably a facetiovis counsel :
" Hem ! Thirteen days' board and lodging for one knight !" — an
allusion to the honour subsequently conferred upon the Mayor.]

The soldiers, on the average, fired three rounds each ; but many
of them entirely exhausted their stock of ammunition, and a
further supply was deemed absolutely necessary. There was
a difficulty how to obtain more. No soldier could leave his post,
and no other person in the house was willing to stir. Yes ! there
was one person — a young volunteer, a small boy named Partridge
(our esteemed townsman, Mr. W. H. F. Partridge), who expressed
his willingness to run to the Barracks and bring the ammunition.
He was permitted to go, and in a very short time returned with
his pockets loaded with cartridges. It was a valourous act, but
for which the lad was never rewarded.

The collapse of this great movement, which had filled the hearts
of thousands with terror, was as sudden as unexpected. Literally
an army fled before a mere handful of disciplined soldiers, whom
they could not even see. The flight of the rebels was swift, and
prolonged until safety was obtained in seclusion. Many of the
men threw away their arms, and even their outer garments, in
order to assist them in making their escape the quicker.

From the time that the leading force passed down Stow Hill
until they retraced their steps over the same ground but a few
minutes had transpired. In fact the rear, accompanied by
Zephaniah Williams, had scarcely commenced the descent of the
hill ere they were met by those whom conscience or terror had put
to flight.


Zephaniah Williams soon perceived th'e hasty retreat, and heard
of the disaster to his cause. It was a sudden shock to all his
hopes ; he made no attempt by hurrying on his forces to re-
trieve the position, the unwilling ones were troubled no more,
and every one joined in the general flight. Williams gave way to
despair, and was one of the first to seek his own personal safety.
In a very short time the driver of the tram, who had brought
him from Llanhilleth, met him at Waterloo.

The head of the retreating party soon reached the Park, but the
intelligence which the first few brought was scarcely believed.
Upon the report reaching the ears of the poor fellow Lloyd, who
was pushed into the canal at Abercarn, he again made an attempt
to regain his liberty ; but his guardian, with a curse, once more
threatened him. Every instant, however, the persons hastening
from Newport increased in numbers. They all brought the same
disastrous information, the dire results becoming even much
exaggerated as the tade was conveyed from man to man.


It was not long before Frost himself was recognised hastening
at a good strong pace along the road, holding with liis left hand
a handkerchief to his face, and apparently crying. Being recog-
nised by one of the park-keepers, named William Adams, he was
asked what was the matter ; but he stopped not, and the reply
he made was unintelligible. The curiosity of the park-keeper was
aroused. He was not altogether ignorant of the entry of the
Chartists into Newport ; but, seeing them now flying back in
droves, and Frost among their number, he conjectured that the
fortunes of the day were against them. Turning upon his horse,
he followed Frost, and saw him enter a piece of copse wood
running under the park wall at a distance of about three hundred
yards from the lodge gate.

Beyond the park and upward in the tramroad from Pye Corner,
the retreat continued ; and guns, pikes, and mandrils, thrown
away, marked the course taken by the rebels.

On the road to the Cefn, the same scene was presented, and
again repeated on the fields and paths leading to the heights of
Penylan Vawr. Here William Jones, at ten o'clock, was idly
waiting, when man after man came rushing, despondent and
fatigued, yet eagerly hastening onward. Jones enquired what had
occurred in Newport, and was informed that an attack had been
made on the Westgate Hotel, that three or four men had been
killed, and that the whole body were defeated. Jones exclaimed,
"Oh ! damn me ; then we are done !" Beyond the crowd gathered
around him, the news soon spread, but the outburst of grief or
passion was not of long duration. The rabble became, if possible,
more disorderly than ever. Jones lost all control over them, and
in a very short time the spot was deserted, every man making the
best of his way to his own home.

There was no pursuit of the rebels, nor any attempt to make
prisoners of any numbers ; nor was there any pursuit necessary to
hasten their fliglit. Oaths and curses resounded on all sides, and
the bitterness of feeling was now turned by the deluded men upon
those who had acted as their leaders. Along every road, every
field, and under every hedge were now seen the units of this
immense force dispersed like chaff before the wind.


In front of the Westgate alone about 150 weapons of various
kinds, thrown down by the Chartists, were collected together,
and subsequently removed to Cross House, on Stow Hill, the
residence of Mr. Hopkins, the Superintendent of the Borough
Police Force, Among these being guns, pistols, blunderbusses,
swords, bayonets, daggers, pikes, spears, billhooks, reaping
hooks, hatchets, cleavers, axes, pitchforks, blades of knives,
scythes and saws fixed in staves ; rods of iron, two and three
yards in length, sharpened at one end ; bludgeons of various


length and size, hand and sledge hammers, and mandrils ; in fact
every implement that could be made available as a weapon.

Inside the Westgate five dead bodies were found weltering in
their blood. Two unwounded Chartists found in the house were
secured as prisoners. Every attention was speedily given to the
wounded in the house. Medical men were sent for, and all those
at hand gave their services readily. Mr. R. F. Woollett and Mr.
Jehoiada Brewer were among the number who were present on the
occasion. As the doors remained fastened, access to the building
was only obtained through the windows ; and we have heard on
good authority that as the former gentleman was being assisted
headforemost through the opened window space, the one pre-
dominant thought in his mind was what an excellent target he
presented for any Chartist who might still be lingering in the

The wounded men — and there were many of them — managed to
escape. One man named Lovell, who carried a gun and was
wounded in the thigh, lay near the corner of Skinner Street for
some time, repeatedly calling for assistance. At length several
persons carried him away to the house of a Mr. Jenkins, where he
was put to bed and his wound attended to.

One dead man was lying under the portico of the Mayor's house
at the foot of Stow Hill. He received a gunshot wound when at
the corner of the Westgate, and, falling upon his hands and
knees, crept across the road, and fell where his body was found.
Mr. Benjamin Evans, of the London House, and the late Father
Metcalf endeavoured to render him some assistance, but they
were driven off by the threats of the soldiers, and the misguided
man died where he fell, exclaiming, "The Charter for ever !"
Another body was lying on the steps near the doorway of the
Westgate, apparently shot at the moment of entering the Hotel.

The dead bodies were not permitted to be removed during the
whole day. Many persons — some from mere curiosity, and others
from nobler motives — attempted to go towards them ; but as soon
as they ventured to approach, the guns of the soldiers still on
guard were levelled at them, and the attempt was in no case
persisted in. Eventually the dead bodies were removed on
stretchers, and laid out in the stables of the Hotel to await an
inquest. On their being examined it was found that nearly all
were well supplied with ammunition, loose slugs, ball cartridges,
and powder in flasks. Among the dead the following were
identified : — William Williams, of Cwmtillery ; George Shell, of
Pontypool ; Abraham Thomas, of Coalbrook Vale ; William Evans,
of Tredegar ; Isaac Thomas, of Nantyglo ; William Griffiths, of
Merthyr ; William Farraday, of Blackwood.

Shell was only 19 years of age, and by trade a cabinetmaker.
That he was an enthusiast in what he believed to be a good cause,


is proved by the following letter, which was found in his box after
his death : —

"Pontypool, Sunday Night, November 4th, 1839.

"Dear Parents,— I hope this will find you well, as I am myself at present.

I shall this night be engaged in a struggle for freedom, and should it please

God to spare my life, I shall see you soon ; but if not, grieve not for me. I

shall fall in a noble cause. My tools are at Mr. Cecil's, and likewise ray clothes.

"Yours truly,

" George Shell."

It is said that Shell was the man shot down in the passage by
one of the soldiers when he attempted to take the life of the

The dead body of one David Morgan was said to have been laid
out on a table in a house down towards Friars Fields.

Altogether 22 bodies were discovered, but not one identified as
belonging to Newport.

As may be expected, many scenes of withering woe were
observed, and the record of one may be regarded as an instance
of others. A young woman, who had forced her way through the
crowd of spectators in the stable-yard, no sooner came within
sight of the dead than she threw herself upon one of the bodies —
her husband ! She was tenderly dragged from him, smeared with
,his blood upon her face and arms.

The bodies of the Chartists were subsequently interred in St.
Woolos Churchyard, on the north side of St. Mary's Chapel.

So great a consternation did the event occasion in the town, that
it is recorded a woman was prematurely taken in labour, and died
in child-birth.


The father of the Mayor — an infirm old gentleman — endeavoured
to seek safety by mounting a ladder and scaling a wall ; but so
helpless was the old gentleman that he was found on the wall
unable to advance or retire. He was removed with the greatest
difficulty by the assistance of his servant and others who found
him in this position.

Many interesting incidents are still remembered by several in-
habitants of the town now living. Mr. Henry jMullock, printer,
witnessed the attack upon the Hotel from an upstairs window
of the premises of Mr. Webber (now Mr. Alfred Taylor, outfitter),
when a shot struck the window blind near. Himself and com-
panions at once bolted down Skinner Street and up Corn Street,
towards liis house ; but in that brief space of time the rioters had
gone ! He ventured to visit several poor fellows lying on the
pavement, but was at once ordered off by the soldiers then
stationed in the offices of Messrs. Prothero and Phillips, at the
bottom of Stow Hill.

Mr. Mullock's father, when the attack was made, was standing
at his shop door (the premises being the same as now occupied by



his son) talking to Mr. Davies, proprietor of the London House.
This establishment had been promptly closed by the assistants
(of whom Mr. Benjamin Evans was one) on learning of the advance
of the Chartists down the hill ; but Mr. Mullock's shop remained
open, as did that of his neighbour, Mr. William Evans. While
Mr. Mullock and Mr. Davies were engaged in earnest conversation
a bullet whizzed near their heads, and lodged in the wall adjoin-
ing Mr. Evans's shop.

Mr. W. H. F. Partridge, shortly before the riots, assisted his
father in a furniture warehouse, kept by him at that time.
A customer one day entered and purchased two dozen chairs, to
be sent by the tram to Blaina. In looking round the warehouse
he espied some sword belts and pistols (which had just been
received for the use of the West Monmouthshire Yeomanry), and
enquired if they were for sale. On being informed that they
were not to be disposed of, he asked what they were for, when
the lad bluntly told him he thought they were ' ' to tackle the
Chartists with." When the lad's father returned home, he heard
of what had transpired, and discovered that his customer for
chairs was no other than Zephaniah Williams, of Blaina— one of
the Chartist leaders !

About nine o'clock on Monday morning a rumour was set afloat
in Pontypool that the Chartists had secured possession of Newport,
and that the soldiers were all killed. Upon this many of the
Chartist women set off towards the town in the hope of gaining
plunder ; and it is recorded that they appeared more eager than
the men. The real state of affairs was not known in the town until
two o'clock in the afternoon.


As soon as the authorities saw that danger in Newport had
ceased, they lost no time in taking the necessary legal steps to
bring to justice the leaders of this great public outrage. Before
the day closed warrants were issued for their apprehension, and
also warrants for the search of their dwellings, and the dwellings
of others who were known or suspected to be concerned in the
affair. Placards, offering a reward of £100 for the apprehension
of either of the leaders named, were also issued. At five o'clock
in the evening, the Superintendent of Police, with Mr. Thomas
Jones Phillips (solicitor), and a Mr. Stephen Rogers, went to
Frost's house. The servant opened the door, and they were
shown into a room behind the shop, where Mrs. Frost im-
mediately attended them. Having ascertained that Mr. Frost
was not at home, they explained to Mrs. Frost their business,
and commenced minutely to examine all the papers they could
procure. In this examination they were readily assisted by
Mrs. Frost and several of the daughters, who attended the
officers the whole of the time they were in the house. The
papers were in no way concealed, but openly placed upon shelves


in a room in which it was the practice of Mr. Frost to receive
persons who applied to him on magisterial business. The papers
were taken from the shelves, bundle after bundle, by Miss Frost,
and handed to the officers for inspection.

From Frost's they proceeded to the house of a printer, named
Partridge, who lived near what is now known as Devon Place.
Partridge, it was known had been much employed by Frost in
printing his productions, and it was expected that some crimina-
tory matters would be obtained from him.

A knock at the door was made, but no notice was taken of the
knocking by any one inside. An attempt being then made to open
the door from the outside, it was found to be fastened. Mr.
Partridge was called upon by name, upon which a voice inside
said, "I am gone to bed." He was directed at once to get up,
and come down and open the door, and informed that unless he
did so the door would be forced open. There was no response
made to the appeal, and therefore steps were at once taken to
force an entrance. In a very few minutes the iron fastenings on
the inside were heard to fall, and the door was opened. As soon
as this was effected, the sergeant of police, much to his astonish-
ment, saw Mr. Frost in the house standing within two yards of
the doorway. A well-known Chartist named Charles Waters
(ship's carpenter) was also there. Partridge was in the same
room with them. Mr. Phillips and Mr. Rogers at once seized
Frost, and told him he must consider himself a prisoner. Frost
merely replied, "Very well ; I will go with you directly." They
were, however, not prepared instantly to take him, and said he
must wait a little. The officers thereupon proceeded in execution
of the warrant to search Partridge's premises. Partridge handed
to Mr. Phillips two files of manuscript ; and while the latter was
examining them. Frost walked across and asked by what authority
he^ examined the papers. Mr. Phillips told hmi that he did not
think it necessary to make him acquainted with his authority,
upon which Mr. Frost added, "If you expect to find any of my

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Online LibraryAlfred W. (Alfred Wilks) DraysonThe Chartist riots at Newport : November, 1839 → online text (page 5 of 8)