Chartist land plan 1845 – 1850

This page introduces the Chartist Land Plan, which aimed to resettle industrial workers on smallholdings by collecting small share contributions from Chartists and allocating farms by lot, and names those who were allocated land.

‘O’Connorville: the first estate purchased by the Chartist Co-operative Land Company.’ Click for larger image.

With the Chartist movement demoralised by the rejection of the second great Charter of 1842, and many of its leaders on trial or in prison in the wake of that year’s general strike, Feargus O’Connor led his supporters away from political action and into a plan for resettling urban workers on the land.

Reflecting his long-term interest in land reform and belief in the virtues of small-scale farming, the Chartist Land Plan originated in speeches made by O’Connor at Chartist conventions in Birmingham in 1843 and Manchester in 1845, but it was only after the London convention of 1845 that the Chartist Co-operative Land Society was formed. After a number of name changes, this would become the National Land Company.

The aim was to sell 100,000 shares, the money from which would be used to buy estates. These would then be parcelled out by lot among the members, who would receive between two and four acres each.

In four years, the National Land Company attracted 70,000 shareholders, raised more than £100,000, acquired a total of 1,118 acres (the first of which, Herringsgate [in some sources given as Heronsgate] near Watford, was renamed O’Connorville), but succeeded in establishing just 250 smallholders. Its other sites were at Lowbands, Snigs End, Minster Lovell and Great Dodford in Worcestershire.

Opinions vary on the wisdom of the scheme. For many it was a utopian and even reactionary nonsense, doomed to failure both because it would inevitably disappoint the bulk of subscribers who failed to gain a smallholding from the lottery while diverting the Chartist movement from its objectives. But it may also be considered an inspired way of reawakening the enthusiasm of the many workers dismayed and alienated from political activity by the failure of the Chartist petition.

Either way, the scheme collapsed in recriminations by 1851, having failed to find a proper legal basis for its activities, and embroiling O’Connor in arguments about its finances. An utterly damning account of the land scheme’s history, which puts much of the blame on the unrealistic and increasingly insane O’Connor, can be found in The Chartist Land Company by Alice Mary Hadfield (David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1970).

The list, below, of 73 National Land Company shareholders who were allocated land at Minster Lovell (renamed Charterville) is drawn from The Northern Star. The other lists were compiled by Alice Mary Hadfield from the same newspaper and other contemporary sources. It is important to note that those allocated land in the ballots did not always take it up, and sometimes abandoned or sold their claim on.

Supporters of the Land Plan

Now that the three great Charter petitions have been lost, the best record of Chartist sympathisers is the list of shareholders in the National Land Company (which records a name, occupation and home address). This contains tens of thousands of names and can be freely consulted at the National Archives at Kew. Anyone wanting to see it should cite these references: BT 41/474/2659 for the initial list; and BT 41/476/2659.

The Chartist Ancestors Databank includes transcribed data from the list of shareholders for Chartists based in Lancashire, Manchester, London, and France, and for Chartist Women. It can be freely downloaded in Excel format. See the databank here.

The lists below include the names of those allocated land under the plan at Minster Lovell, O’Connorville (Herringsgate or Heronsgate), Lowbands and Snig’s End.

Ballot for location on the Minster Lovell Estate
February 3rd 1848
Four acres
Benjamin Jackson, Oldham
W.Atkins, Peterborough
Robert Goodwill, Leeds
T.Pickersgill, Westminster
John Benson, Manchester
A.Dunford, City of London
S.Rathery, Dewsbury
R.Seed, Clitheroe
M.Cornwall, Bradford
W.W.Coombes, Newton Abbott
P.Loutel, Alva
P.O’Learey, Kidderminster
C.E.Hill, Rochester
J.Price, Pershore
W.Smith, Carlisle
J.Smart, Branham, Wilts
C.Barton, office list
J.Littlewood, Leeds
A.Lockwood, Wakefield
J.S.Beattie, Glasgow
J.Baker, Birmingham
J.Kendall, Bradford, Wilts
J.Plaice, Lambeth
E.Sikes, Huddersfield
T.Holland, Manchester
J.Ramsey, Glasgow
J.Stanton, office list, Coggeshill
G.Johnson, Mottram
J.Bennett, Wooton-under-Edge
H.Lester, Reading
A.Willis, Rochester
J.Hoe, Nottingham
A.Rice, Cheltenham
E.Coolan, Navarra St German
J.McWilliam, Manchester
J.Shawcross, Manchester
J.Campbell, Manchester
J.Gathard, Manchester

Three acres
J.Bowers, Birmingham
M.Dyson, Ashton
C.Arnold, Leicester
J.Holmes, Nottingham
C.P.Graham, Hull
J.Townson, Oldham
J.Hornby, Stockport
W.Bottrill, Northampton
T.Kirk, Hull
R.Tippler, Northampton
J.Horne, Brighton
J.Z.Barber, Westminster

Two acres
M.Stockley, Lamberhead Green
W.Hay, Stockport
H.E.Grimshaw, Ashton-under-Lyne
E.Tibbles, Cirencester
W.Smith, Newcastle-on-Tyne
H.Gose, Derby
O.Hornby, Manchester
S.Ashworth, Rochdale
J.Bennett, Stockton
D.Denton, Huddersfield
B.Sledaw, Rochdale
T.Bankell, Radcliffe
J.Ashanan, Dudley
J.Clark, Norwich
R.Butterfield, Bradford
T.Gilbert, Coventry
A.Brierley, Leeds
R.Jones, Bilston
T.House, Norwich
E.Stallwood, Hammersmith
J.Davis, Pershore
H.Heskit, Leigh
J.Crampton, Leigh

Wm.Cuffay, Chairman
Source: The Northern Star, February 12, 1848

Heronsgate (renamed O’Connorville)
Ballot names in order of their plots, 1846
Two acres
John Westmoreland, London
John Lambourne, Reading
Michael Fitzsimmon, Manchester
William Mann, Northampton
Philip Ford, Wotton-under-Edge
George Hearson, Leeds
George Mansfield, Bradford-on-Avon
Richard Eveson, Stockport
Charles Brown, Halifax
John Walwark, Ashton-under-Lyne
William Mitchell, London
John Firth, Bradford
Ralph Kerfoot, Rouen

Three acres
James Short, Bilston
William Oddy, Bradford
George Richardson, London
Benjamin Knott, Halifax
Isaac Jowett, Bradford

Four acres
Thomas Meyrick, Worcester
Joseph Mills, Ashton-under-Lyne
David Watson, Edinburgh
Martin Griffiths, Worcester
James Cole, Bradford
Barbara Vaughan, Sunderland
Alfred Crowther, Ashton-under-Lyne
Thomas Smith, Wigan
James Greenwood, Heddon Bridge
Thomas Smith, London
Thomas Bond, Devizes
James Taylor, Manchester
Joseph Openshaw, Manchester

Later, George Hearson of Leeds was replaced by Charles Smith of Halifax. By 1 May 1847, when the allottees took up their land, Charles Tawes of New Radford replaced Charles Brown of Halifax, and Alfred Barker of Ashton-under-Lyne replaced Joseph Mills, also of Ashton-under-Lyne.

Between this date, the sale of the land in 1857 and the production of a tithe role in 1858, there were numerous changes. These are listed in The Chartist Land Company by Alice Mary Hadfield, but the new names have no other information attached which would help to identify them.

Land allocated in 1846
Probably two acres
James Young, Manchester
James Dennis, Salford
Sheriff Wyatt, Leicester
William Jennings, Bilston
Arthur Shaw, Nottingham

Three acres
James South, Blackburn
Cornelius Ashton, Manchester
John Dennis, New Bradford
Alexander Robertson, Aberdeen
James Driver, Northampton

Four acres
William Young Souter, Westminster
Saville Crowther, Mottram
Thomas Rawson, Manchester
Edmund Kershaw, Rochdale
William Charlesworth, Stalybridge
James Bearman, Bocking
William Addison, Manchester
Thomas Richardson, London
George Webb, Reading
Thomas Aclam, Barnsley
James Halliwell, Hebden Bridge
James Wharnton, London
Christopher O’Doyle, O’Connorville
Isaac Weir, Manchester
John Renham, London
James Ferguson, Burnley
William Rogerson, Somerston
John Lee, Manchester
George Redfern, London

Runners up in the second ballot
John Hartley, Hebden Bridge
William Danley, Stockport
Richard Robinson, Clitheroe
George Smith, Halifax
William Johnston, Hindley
Thos Wm Dale, Macclesfield
John Cloud, Monmouth
George Forster, Manchester
William Sadler, Manchester
James Stott, Bradford

Snigs End
Land allocated in June 1848
Two acres
Emma Andrews, Banbury
S.Whalley, Manchester
J.Holt, Manchester
J.Hudson, Leicester
J.Carter. Upton-on-Severn
C.Frith, Greenwich
W.Curtis, London
W.Peckitt, office list
C.Jay, Hull
R.Wilson, Walsoken
C.Firth, office list
J.Harmer, office list
J.Smith, Birmingham
S.Needham, Derby
T.Sutton, office list
J.Langley, Norwich
F.Staples, J.Staples – family ticket, office list
J.Teague, Bilston
Mary Clarkson, Addingham
I.Goodhall, Market Lavington
W.Gray, Market Lavington
C.Buddecombe, Southampton
E.Edesbury, office list
W.Dart, Exeter
T.Hope, Ledbury
T.Ashman, Mells
R.Heppenstall, Hull
R.Bains, Newcastle-on-Tyne
J.West, office list
J.Robertson, Stalybridge
R.Halsale, Chorley
R.Daniels, office
D.O’Brien, Alva

Three acres
J.Kay, T.Buckby – family ticket, Ashton-under-Lyne
J.Watson, Dewsbury
J.Buswell, Banbury
A.Cleland, Glasgow
G.Close, Nottingham
T.Saville, Halifax
R.Winter, Hull
H.Oliver, Newport Pagnall
Matthew Brown, office list
Donal Robinson, Edinburgh
W.Gent, Wellingborough

Four acres
Doyle, O’Connorville
Baker, Birmingham
G.Wheeler, Reading
Cornwall, Bradford
Rawson, Manchester
Smith, London
Kindell, Bradford
W.Colston, Derby
J.Wakeman, Torquay
T.Newson, Dewsbury
D.Powell, Merthyr Tydfil
J.Brand, Sleaford
J.Rice, Bradford
T.Franklin, Limehouse
J.Kinross, A.Kinross – family ticket, Alva
J.Lawton, Retford
J.Simpson, Esther Hunt – family ticket, Manchester
R.Jarvis, office list
J.Smith, Rouen, France
E.Gee, Wigan
W.James, Merthyr Tydfil
J.Miller, Newton Abbot
J.Carew, Manchester
J.Ramsey, Glasgow
W.Jarrett, office list
T.Launchbury, Kidderminster