life stories

William Henry Chadwick 1829 – 1908

William Henry Chadwick was arrested for his Chartist activities in 1848 but lived on into the 20th century. This is his life story.

William Chadwick
William Chadwick in later life

Imprisoned at the age of 19 for six months, William Henry Chadwick was one of the more colourful political figures to emerge from a movement not lacking in eccentricity.

Chadwick had become a Wesleyan preacher at the age of 14 and was lecturing on temperance within two years.

His prison sentence followed a series of inflammatory speeches in 1848 in which he pronounced himself tired of speaking and ready for action.

He emerged from gaol to become in turns an actor, phrenologist and mesmerist, marrying an actress and touring the country giving seances.

Chadwick returned to politics later in life to help found the agricultural labourers’ union with Joseph Arch, and to preach for the Primitive Methodists and the Manchester Reform Union.

Joseph Chamberlain’s private secretary, William Woodings, secured him work as a van lecturer for the National Liberal Federation in 1891, and he was still speaking at the general election of 1906 in favour of free trade and Home Rule.

William Chadwick was buried at Willow Green Cemetery, Reddish, Manchester

His headstone read:


Here lies the Body of
(“The Old Chartist”)

Born May 21st, 1829
Died May 28th, 1908

In 1848, at the early age of 19, he was imprisoned for sedition and conspiracy as a leader of the Chartist movement. His whole after-life was spent in striving to extend the liberties of the people, and to promote temperance, justice, and righteousness.

“I have fought a good fight; I have
finished my course; I have kept the faith.”
— 2 Tim. iv.7.

This stone was erected to his memory by some of those who shared in his labours, rejoiced in his triumphs, and loved him for himself.

Source: Pages From a Life of Strife: being some recollections of William Henry Chadwick, the last of the Manchester Chartists, by T Palmer Newbould, Frank Palmer, 1910