Help to build this part of the rebel road by sending details & photographs of pubs in your area to Mark Metcalf at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 07952 801783. Click on the links below to read about a particular pub
The Martyrs Inn
The Robert Kett and Kett's Tavern
The Joseph Arch
The Old John Clare
The Robert Burns
Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty
Rights of Man - Thomas Paine
Standard of Freedom
.THE MARTYRS INN
The Main Road, Tolpuddle, West Dorset
In 1832 George Loveless (1797 - 1874), a Methodist lay preacher and agricultural worker in Tolpuddle, successfully asked for a pay rise to 10 shillings (50p) a week (when average family expenditure was nearly 14 shillings (70p) a week. Shortly afterwards, however, it was cut down to seven shillings (35p) a week. Knowing “it was impossible to live on such scanty means” the Tolpuddle Friendly Society of Agricultural labourers was formed in October 1833.
The first meeting was attended by fourty labourers, which was about half the adult population of the village. The society’s rules expressly forbid any violence or violation of the law. Yet on February 24, 1834 Loveless and five others were charged with taking a secret oath (under ancient sedition and mutiny laws) and locked up in Dorchester jail. The other five were George’s brother James (1808-1873), James Brine (1813-1902), Thomas Standfield (1790-1864), his son John (1813-1898), and James Hammett (1811 -1891).
The show trial, before a jury composed entirely of farmers took place in March 1834 and the men were not allowed to give evidence on their own behalf. They were found guilty and transported to Australia for seven years. George said after the verdict that they had neither damaged property or injured but were just “uniting together to preserve ourselves, out wives and our children from utter degradation and starvation.” He also also scribbled the Song of Freedom which ended
We raise the watchword, liberty.
We will, we will, we will be free!
Parish relief was denied to the wives of the transported men but trade unionists from all over the country set up a fund to prevent their eviction. They also organised a march of over 100,000 people to demand the release of the men. They were finally pardoned in March 1836, but the Australian authorities failed to inform them and it was not until August 1839 that James Hammett arrived back in England.
Five of them emigrated to Canada but Hammett stayed in Tolpuddle as a farm labourer for the rest of his life. In 1875 he was awarded a gold watch by the newly formed agricultural labourers’ union. He said in response: “We only tried to do good to one another, the same as you are doing now.” He also revealed that it was his brother, not him, who was at the meeting where the oath had been taken, but he had taken the blame and because his brother’s wife had just become pregnant.
Lime Tree Avenue, Wymondham, Norfolk
29 Kett’s Hill, Norwich
Robert Kett (1492 -1549) led an army of 20,000 Norfolk farm labourers against the fencing off of common man by large landowners in the summer of 1549.
Many small holders depended on this land to graze their animals.
After drinking plentifully at the annual fair in Wymondham (where Kett lived) on July 7 many of the locals pull down the fences around common land in nearby Morley and the following day at Hethersett. Here the landlord pointed out that Kett had also fenced around land in Wymondham and they should pull that down as well.
Kett (a tanner by trade who had bought some local church land in 1540 that had been seized during the dissolution of the monasteries) surprised everyone by offering to pull it down himself and lead the protest further afield.
The following doing he addressed a crowd under an oak Wymondham (where Kett’s Oak now stands) demanded that all men be free from God made all free of this precious blood shedding” - echoing echoing the words of John Ball in the 1381 peasants revolt.
They then marched towards Norwich and set up camp outside the city at Mousehold. It took 2 military attacks before Kent and his men were defeated. He was imprisoned in Guildhall, Norwich and executed at Norwich Castle on December 7.
In 1949 a plaque was placed at the castle entrance honouring Kett as “a noble and courageous leader.” The Wymondham town sign shows him rallying the peasantry under the oak tree.
Bridge Square, Farnham, Surrey
A farm labourer who became the leading radical journalist to expose agricultural working conditions, Cobbett (1763-1835) was born on a small farm where this pub now stands. His first job in the fields was as a bird scarer, protecting turnip seeds and peas, when he was just tall enough to climb the stiles. Then he was employed weeding wheat, hoeing peas, ploughing, reaping and picking hops a mile away at Bourne.
In 1802 he started his famous weekly Political Register in which his eyewitness accounts (as he rode on horseback around the country) of the farmworkers miserable living conditions were read by thousands.
These accounts were published in book form as “Rural Rides” in 1830, the year of the great farm labourers revolt which spread throughout Surrey and the southern counties and resulted in nine of them being hanged, 500 transported to Australia and 400 imprisoned.
Cobbett estimated farm labourers produced about 15 times as much food as they were able to buy on their starvation wages of nine shillings (45p) a week or less. “What injustice, what the hellish system it must be, to make those two raise it (food) skin and bone,” he fumed.
In 1822, he was riding in this area where he picked up hops in the past, and came across an old childhood friend breaking stones into small pieces for use in road making.
This was “parish work” (a form of work for dole). There hops in the fields but, because of the depression the farmer, could not employ him.
Cobbett was jailed for two years in 1810 for his articles against flogging in the army. In 1831 he was prosecuted for sedition for calling for votes for all male adults, but was discharged by a hung jury after defending himself.
The following he was elected as a radical MP for Oldham and spoke in Parliament for relief of agricultural distress and the introduction of factory legislation. He died on Normandy Farm near Farnham and is buried in the local churchyard.
To read more see:- http://archive.org/details/ruralrides01cobb
.THE JOSEPH ARCH
Bridge Street, Barford, Warwickshire
Joseph Arch (1826 - 1919) formed the first ever national agricultural labourers’ union in 1872, and within two years it was the largest trade union in the country with 86,000 members
On the evening of 7 February 1872 he stood on on old pig stool under the chestnut tree on nearby Wellesbourne Green addressing hundreds of workers by the lights of a few lanterns. (because a hostile farmer had turned off the street lights). About 300 signed up to the union on the spot and Arch later wrote: “I knew now that a fire had been kindled which would catch on, and spread, and run abroad like sparks in rubble.”
Arch left school at the age of 9 to help the family income as a crow-scarer because his father was blacklisted by the farmers. Joseph Arch progressed to being a freelance ploughman and hedge-cutter. The first strike of the union was of 200 workers, who received strike pay of nine shillings (45p) a week and they won a rise from 12 shillings (60p) to 16 shillings. (80p) (some within a month, the rest within three) In the middle of the dispute Arch was elected organising secretary for 21 shillings (£1.05) a week.
He played a significant role in finally winning the vote for agricultural workers in 1884. This was 17 years after urban workers were granted it. In December 1885 he was elected as a liberal MP (before the formation of the Labour Party) for North West Norfolk. He retired in 1900 to live in his Barford cottage where he was visited in 1909 by Tom Higdon. (who five years later started the Burston school strike in Norfolk)
You can read Joseph Arch’s autobiography at http://archive.org/details/josepharchstory00archgoog
.THE OLD JOHN CLARE
Hallfields Lane, Grunthorpe, near Peterborough
Even after his poem’s made him famous Clare (1793-1864) continued to work as a farm labourer in the fields around Helpston, where he was born near Peterborough. Crowds gathered outside his cottage and were amazed to find him dirty from his farm work.
The son of a thresher and wrestler, John started working at the age of 10 on a farm where he learned to write in the dust on barn walls. Then he worked as a ploughboy and made up rhymes on the way home and wrote them down on sugar bags.
Financial desperation drove him to get his poems published. His father was crippled with rheumatism and John himself was off work for a year with fainting fits after witnessing a fellow young worker get killed from a broken neck falling off a hay load. His published works, in his own dialect and grammar, included “Poem’s descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery” in 1820. “The Village Minstrel and other Poems” in 1821, “The Shepherds Calendar with Village Stories and Poems” in 1827 and “The Rural Muse” in 1835.
Despite their success he still had to work long hours, sometimes digging ditches and planning hedges as part of the enclosures (privatising common land) which he despised. He also scratched a living by poaching with gypsies (who taught him the romany language and how to play the fiddle) and working in the New Inn at Peterborough, which he left when the wages were cut. In 1837, when suffering from delusions, he was committed to an asylum in Epping, from which he escaped and made his way to Northampton (eating grass from the roadside en route) where he was recaptured and confined for the rest of his life.
You can read John Clare’s poems at http://www.poemhunter.com/john-clare/poems/
.THE ROBERT BURNS
Townhead Street, Steveston, Ayrshire
The ‘Ploughman Poet’ is how Burns (1759-1796) was known, having started work thrashing corn at the age of 13 on his father’s small infertile farm and being its principal labourer at 15. “I was born a very poor man’s son,” he stated and life consisted of “the cheerless gloom of a hermit with the unceasing moil (drudgery) of a galley slave." It was probably this work which caused his recurring rheumatism from which he eventually died.
In 1781 he went to Irvine (3 miles south of this Steveston pub) to learn flax dressing. It was there that he met a sailor called Richard Brown, who suggested he send his poems (including ‘Corn Rigs’) to a magazine which led to them being published for the first time. He managed to remain unaffected by the fame which his poem’s and songs brought him, suspecting it would only be temporary.
In 1788 he started working for the Board of Excise, an employer which disapproved of his views in support of the French Revolution and the American Revolution. In fact he was suspended in 1792 for being a “Friend of the People.” He was also threatened with the sack for responding to a toast to William Pitt with one to “a greater man George Washington.” When he proposed another toast in the presence of an army captain that success in the war against America “be equal to the justice of our cause” (which burns was doubting) he was accused of sedition.
.LAND OF LIBERTY, PEACE AND PLENTY
Long Lane, Heronsgate, near Rickmansworth, Herts
The pub takes its name from a local Chartist land settlement called O’Connorville which existed from 1847 until it was declared illegal and wound up in 1850. It was named after Feargus O’Connor (1794-1855), the Chartist MP who was an MP for County Cork in the 1830s had campaigned for the release of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. He was imprisoned for sedition for 18 months in 1840 for writing an article in support of the Newport uprising of the previous year.
The land experiment (called the National Land Company scheme) was organised by O’Connor to provide smallholdings to working men as an alternative to factory employment. Those who bought shares for a few pennies a week from 1845 qualified for a lottery for plots of land.
Enough money flooded in to purchase five settlements around the country, the first of which was a farm of 103 acres of Heronsgate (that had employed three men) bought by O’Connor for £1860 in March 1846. This was divided into 35 plots each with its own cottage, built under his supervision along with a school. Crops were sown in time for the grand opening on May Day 1847 when the settlers took over their land. They were welcomed by O’Connor who warned them to avoid the “beer shop adjoining your land” which is now the Land of Liberty pub.
In 1846 a Parliamentary select committee ruled that the scheme was illegal and had to be closed down. When an Act was passed in 1851 the plots had to be sold and this followed in the years from 1853 to 1858. It had been a controversial experiment even in Chartist circles where many saw it as a distraction from the main political thrust of the moment as expressed in the People’s Charter.
.RIGHTS OF MAN – THOMAS PAINE
179 High Street, Lewes BN17 1YE
The Rights of Man was Tom Paine’s seminal work and inspired both the French and American revolutions. Born in Thetford, Norfolk on 29 January 1737 he became teacher in London before moving to Lewes in 1768 to work as an excise officer and where he became involved in local politics and began to take up writing seriously. When his employers dismissed him, Paine emigrated to America and settled in Pennsylvania.
He published Common Sense in 1776 and in which he attacked the British Monarchy and argued for American independence based on the superiority of republican democracy. He served with George Washington’s armies. After independence Paine returned to Britain in 1787 and four years later he published his most influential work, The Rights of Man.
Paine denounced hereditary government and proposed equal political rights by arguing for all men over 21 to be given the vote. He was also in favour of progressive taxation, family allowances, old age pensions and maternity grants. He also wanted the House of Lords abolished. The government was outraged and his book was banned. When he was charged with seditious libel he fled to France and from where he said he would forsake all profits on his book in return for it being widely published. This made it possible for the issuing of cheap editions and despite the ban over 200,000 copies were sold in the next two years.
In 1792, Paine, by now a French citizen, was elected to the National Convention where he upset French revolutionaries by opposing the execution of Louis XVI and was himself imprisoned. American pressure eventually secured his release but not before he completed Age of Reason in which he criticised Christianity.
He moved back to America in 1802 and died in New York on 8 June 1809 and by which time the Rights of Man had sold over 1.5 million copies in Europe.
The Rights of Man public house is on the High Street in Lewes and is situated next to the Law Courts and just opposite what were Paine’s lodgings when he lived in the Sussex town. The pub opened in December 2012 and is part of the Harveys group, which for sometime now has brewed a hopped strong pale Tom Paine Ale.
Unite would like to thank Harveys for allowing us to use their photograph of the pub sign, which was designed by Julian Bell and whose work can be found at www.jbell.co.uk
.STANDARD OF FREEDOM
Skircoat Green, Halifax, West Yorkshire
The Standard of Freedom draws its name from former landlord John Ashworth who said, around 1856, "The people of Skircoat Green shall join in that march of freedom & I shall raise the Standard of Freedom at this Inn."
Ashworth was referring to Chartism, the first working-class movement. Chartism sought to end exploitation by ensuring working-class representation in Parliament. With just 8% of men possessing the vote these were radical demands.
Click here to read more.