life stories

Jeremiah Yates, 1810 – 1852

Jeremiah Yates was an early supporter of the Chartist cause who worked as a potter, alongside which he sold a range of Chartist literature from the coffee house and temperance hotel he ran at Fenton (Stoke-on-Trent) with his wife Ann. Among the papers he stocked was the Commonwealthsman which he obtained from the poet and preacher Thomas Cooper.

In 1842, as strike action spread across the North West of England and the Midlands, Staffordshire Chartists called a meeting at Crown bank, Hanley, to vote on resolutions to the effect that all work would cease “until the People’s Charter becomes the law of the land”. Cooper made a rousing speech, and Yates was among those who, according to the North Staffordshire Mercury (27 August, 1842) led a ‘mob’ of 200, mainly coal miners, to Messrs Ridgway and Marley at Shelton, entered the workshops, stopped all the men from working and ‘took them away’.

Arrested soon after, in October 1842 he was found guilty of riot and intimidation and given a prison sentence of one year, which he served at Millbank prison, London. After his release, he continued to hold Chartist meetings at his hotel. In 1845 he was elected as a delegate to the Chartist land Conference and in 1848 as delegate to the National Land Company conference in Birmingham.

The life of Jeremiah Yates was extensively researched by his great grandson, the late Alan Yates. Writing in 1985, he recalled: “In 1935 I visited with my father St. Mark’s Church, Shelton, in the English potteries to see the impressive memorial in the churchyard to Jeremiah Yates, his grandfather. Regrettably I did not copy down the inscription and, when I next visited the churchyard after the war, the memorial and other gravestones had been cleared away.”

The following account of his funeral comes from the People’s Paper of 23 October 1852.

This respected patriot was buried with well-merited honours. An invitation had been issued to the public to attend in procession from his late residence to Shelton Church. The result was that about 500 people formed themselves in procession. It was calculated there was ten thousand spectators forming a complete line for three parts of a mile. Indeed, so dense was the crowd part of the way, that the line of the procession could scarcely pass between. The procession moved at half past three and arrived at the church at four o’clock.

After the service had been read Mr. Peploin of Stafford (the good Samaritan to the prisoners for the unfortunate riots of ’42) delivered a short address to his friends in which he said we could not share in the idea that our friend’s death was altogether sudden but that suffering, persecution and reproach for the great principles which he advocated and advanced, by his good conduct had largely contributed to its cause. He exhorted all to follow his example in maintaining sound principles and acting uprightly.

Indeed the whole manifestation on that day was a complete demonstration of the triumph of our principle in the minds of the people, and also a proof that if their minds were not misled by Sophism and deceit and if they were not led astray by the delusions of interested knavery, their labours would soon tend to the realisation of those political and social principles that would place them in a better, freer and happier condition.

Mr & Mrs Linney from Bilston attended the funeral and also numbers of friends from distant parts.

He sleeps – but unforgotten – for his name
Is linked with goodness – memory’s noblest claim.
Toil, peaceful soldier – misery’s constant friend,
Want weeps his loss and labour mourns his end.

No pompous watcher come with nodding plume,
To wave black farewells o’er the patriots tomb,
But tearful eye and throbbing heart relates,
That all who knew him miss a friend in YATES.”