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Monday, 1 June 2015

Children of the Revolution

I am very happy and excited to announce that I have been asked to be part of a very special local project. The Pentrich and South Wingfield Revolution Group are planning a series of commemorative events to mark the bicentenary of the Pentrich Revoution in 2017.

The Pentrich Revolution was the last armed uprising to occur in England and it happened right here in the area where I was born and raised. In the early nineteenth century, the main industries in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire were lacemaking, coal mining and stocking knitting. Industry had boomed during the Napoleonic Wars but when they came to and end, the economy fell into recession and unemployment soared. To compound matters, natural disaster brought further hardship. Just months before the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted. It was one of the most powerful eruptions ever recorded and in the months that followed, clouds of volcanic ash drifted across the Northern Hemisphere. Asia, Europe and North America endured long spells of cold, wet weather. Crops failed, animals died and famine ensued. Prices rose sharply and people who were already struggling began to fear for their very survival.

It was at this time the song Hard Times of Old England was written. It perfectly describes the plight of the working poor during this period. One such person was Jeremiah Brandreth, an unemployed stocking knitter from Sutton-in-Ashfield. Unemployed, disenfranchised and facing destitution, he joined with other men in the same predicament and they marched through the district calling in at various public houses, hoping to raise an army big enough to overthrow the government.
The men were arrested by a band of Hussars from Nottingham. Some were imprisoned, some were transported to Australia and the three leaders - Jeremiah Brandreth, Isaac Ludlam and William Turner were hanged and beheaded after being found guilty of treason. There was a certain amount of sympathy towards the men, as shown in historical accounts. People recognised that not only had the men acted out of desperation but they had been set up by a government agent provocateur known as Oliver the Spy.

This story is an important part of my local area's history, and indeed national history, so I was very pleased when I heard that a group were organising commemorations. I was even more pleased when I was asked to help design a large embroidery piece that will tell the story of the revolt. I will be working from pictures painted by local artists to produce mini scenes for local WI members to embroider.
This is the biggest project I have ever worked on and I am really relishing the chance to be part of these exciting endeavours. If you would like to find out more about the group, their plans and the wonderful artwork, you can find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. There is also this excellent website put together by Sylvia Mason, featuring family trees and other information about those involved in the revolt.

Here is Steeleye Span's version of Hard Times of Old England.

Images (c) Karen Eley, taken from Bulmer's Directory of Derbyshire, 1895.

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