Political Meetings Mapper: London Chartism

In preparation for the Chartist tour of west London on 21 September, here are some brief notes I've taken from David Goodway, London Chartism, 1838-1848 (Cambridge UP, 1982):

The population of London in 1841 was 1,873,676

What was distinctive about London Chartism?

  • It was non-religious, if not actively anti-clerical. [This stood in contrast to the Methodist flavour of much of northern Chartism, who often met in dissenting chapels, sang Chartist 'hymns' and held camp meetings]
  • it did not have the background (both in terms of grievances or organisation) of the anti-New Poor Law movement, which dominated northern Chartism
  • Goodway argues that metropolitan Chartism was very much the continuation of half a century of artisan Jacobin radicalism inherited from the London Corresponding Society in the 1790s, if not the Westminster Association of the 1780s [I need to research whether this was the case, given new historiographical thinking on political radicalism published since 1982]
  • the branch structure reflected the multiple trades of the capital, including the extreme localisation of industries and their fluctuating economic situations - e.g., the Spitalfields silk weavers, Bermondsey leather workers, Southwark hatters and Clerkenwell watchmakers and jewellery makers.


There were divisions from the start between the following groups:
  • Feargus O'Connor's Great Radical Association, founded 1835
  • London Working Men's Association, founded June 1836
  • East London Democratic Club, set up by George Julian Harney, January 1837
There were still lots of factions even after the formation of the National Charter Association in July 1840 - not resolved until July 1842, when societies were amalgamated into a single Metropolitan Delegate Meeting. 

The People's Charter was published by the LWMA on 8 May 1838

The 1839 National Convention agreed the establishment of trade and district associations - membership was 1d a week.

extensive agitation in summer 1842 around the presentation of the second national petition - riots outside Euston station, and monster meetings on Kennington Common, Clerkenwell Green and outside Paddington station.

Distribution of localities:

Goodway highlights that branches were concentrated predominantly in the south-west of the City, and also in Surrey.
[my own map suggests a broader spread of 'hotspots', including Southwark]

Activity in Surrey was due to the exertions of a small group of activists who contrasted with the apathy of the central leadership. Outstanding activists who emerged in 1840-1 included Edmund Stallwood of Hammersmith, who became London correspondent of the Northern Star in 1843, and Ruffy Ridley, who ran the United Patriots' Benevolent and Provident Insurance Society.

Number of Chartist localities:
October 1840 - 5
April 1841 - 15
December 1841 - 28
By the time of the Convention held in London in April 1842 - there were 43 localities

The main trade Chartist Associations included tailors and boot and shoemakers, who had 5 branches (each?)

The number quickly contracted after the 1842 agitation to an average of 10 until the revival of activity in 1847-8.

Chartist meeting sites mapped somewhat anachronistically on Charles Booth's map of poverty in London (1889), Whitechapel areaDark colours = poorest areas, 'semi-criminal'


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