Chartists ~ all over the blimin' place
You will soon realise how important the Chartist movement is to Newport's history and identity. I mean to say, there are murals, sculptures and references to them all over the city. John Frost Square, Newport's main plaza, is named after a leading Chartist.
Chartism is a political movement which developed rapidly in Britain in the 1830's. They were unhappy that 'democratic' reforms were benefitting the super rich gentry at the expense of the workers and middle-classes.
In 1838 The Peoples' Charter was written, demanding democratic reforms, particularly the vote for all men over 21 years old (yeah, the idea of women voting was too advanced for most). Within a year The Charter was signed by more than 1 million people, not a mean feat before the age of mass communications!
Chartist demonstrations and uprisings took place across England and Wales. In November 1839 three marches were planned to converge on Newport. They were demanding better, safer working conditions for the iron- and coal-workers of Southeast Wales.
However, the plans went a bit pear-shaped. Not all the demonstrators reached Newport at the agreed time. On Monday 4th November, those who did were fired on by soldiers from the Westgate Hotel. 20 were killed.
John Frost had led the march from Blackwood. He was a draper in Newport and had also been Mayor of Newport in 1836. He was transported to Tasmania for 17 years.
Zephaniah Williams was an innkeeper who led the march from the top of the Valleys. He was shipped off to Tasmania too and died there in old age.
I guess we have to be grateful to the men who died for the democratic reforms we now all enjoy in the modern world. Fair pay, free trade unions, safe working conditions, the Vote ~ they didn't come cheap!