This England - - News - GLYN JONES

At the fu­neral of a for­mer col­league I met an ex-pupil who told me why he had taken a day off work to pay his last re­spects. Dyslexia was not un­der­stood very well 40 years ago and, amaz­ingly, the pupil man­aged to con­ceal his prob­lem un­til he was 16 years old when the teacher spot­ted he had mis­spelt his name at the top of an ex­am­i­na­tion pa­per. “Stay be­hind, I want a word!” He then helped the pupil with spe­cial tuition in his own time. A mod­est man, he also re­quested no eu­logy which re­sulted in what the speaker cun­ningly de­scribed as a trib­ute in­stead, ad­ding “What younger brother ever obeyed his older brother’s in­struc­tions?” We all heartily agreed!

The up­ris­ing was sched­uled to start at 10 o’clock on the evening of 9th June 1817 and the men duly gath­ered at Hunts Barn in South Wing­field. Their num­bers vary from 50 to near 300 in wit­ness state­ments from the time. They were armed with an ar­ray of un­con­vinc­ing weapons: a few guns but mainly scythes, pitch­forks and rudi­men­tary home­made pikes.

Things did not go well from the be­gin­ning. Oliver’s tipoff to the au­thor­i­ties was aided by rather per­sis­tent rain. The an­tic­i­pated rush to join those march­ing south to­wards Not­ting­ham did not ma­te­ri­alise.

Bran­dreth and his men be­gan call­ing at iso­lated farms, knock­ing on doors and ex­hort­ing fol­low­ers to join them but with lit­tle suc­cess. Bran­dreth be­came in­volved in an ar­gu­ment at the home of Wi­dow Hep­worth who was not keen on sup­port­ing his ven­ture. A firearm was dis­charged which re­sulted in the ac­ci­den­tal death of her ser­vant, Richard Wal­ters.

Un­de­terred, the scat­tered groups re­formed at Pen­trich Lane End and marched on their first ma­jor ob­jec­tive. How­ever, But­ter­ley Iron­works did not throw open its doors and pro­vide sup­port. In­stead, the “rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies” were forced to stand out­side in the rain and ex­pe­ri­ence re­sis­tance and re­jec­tion.

There was no al­ter­na­tive but to carry on. Wet and los­ing mo­men­tum, they stopped off at three pub­lic houses — promis­ing the land­lords that they would re­ceive pay­ment in full af­ter Lord Liver­pool’s gov­ern­ment had been over­thrown.

When the bedrag­gled force en­coun­tered a de­tach­ment of the King’s Hus­sars re­solve evap­o­rated. They broke ranks and made their es­cape in small groups. The “rev­o­lu­tion” was over — the un­for­tu­nate Richard Wal­ters be­ing the only ca­su­alty.

The tin­der­box nature of Bri­tish pol­i­tics at the time guar­an­teed the fate of the ring­leaders. A show trial fol­lowed and Bran­dreth, Lud­lam and Turner were sen­tenced to be hanged, drawn and quar­tered. This was the last time that the ul­ti­mate pun­ish­ment in Eng­land was handed out. In the event clemency was shown and they were merely hanged and be­headed. Bran­dreth fa­mously en­quired about the role of “Oliver the Spy” prior to his death but his re­quest for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion fell upon deaf ears.

Pun­ish­ment did not end with the deaths of the three ring­leaders. Trans­porta­tion to Australia was the fate of 14 men from Pen­trich, South Wing­field, Al­fre­ton and Heanor. Five men from Pen­trich and one from South Wing­field were given prison sen­tences.

The vil­lage of Pen­trich was also pun­ished. The houses of the men who had taken part were razed to the ground by the Duke of Devon­shire, the lo­cal land­lord, leav­ing no­tice­able spa­ces along the main road to­day. Depen­dants were evicted and forced to live in poverty. The White Horse Inn, the scene of Bran­dreth’s fi­nal plan­ning meeting, was de­mol­ished.

Eng­land did ex­pe­ri­ence other wor­ry­ing events. In par­tic­u­lar, in 1819 the Peter­loo Mas­sacre in Manchester was an­other ex­am­ple of ten­sion, sus­pi­cion and free speech mak­ing for a heady cock­tail.

Pen­trich was to ben­e­fit from the en­dow­ment of a new school in the af­ter­math of “Eng­land’s Last Rev­o­lu­tion”. It was pro­vided by the Duke of Devon­shire and built on the site of the for­mer home of Thomas Ba­con, which was one of those de­mol­ished. Pen­trich had paid a high price for its in­volve­ment — but sta­bil­ity had re­turned.

The ex­te­rior of But­ter­ley Iron­works to­day and a gar­den where the White Horse Inn once stood.

Two of the main pro­tag­o­nists: Wil­liam Oliver and Jeremiah Bran­dreth.

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