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The most serious violence of the Chartist period took place in Wales where conditions in the mining valleys were, if anything, the worst in Britain. The rising took place on 4 November 1839. Five thousand men led by John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones marched to Newport (Monmouthshire), ostensibly to rescue some local Chartists who were in prison in the town. Frost, a local draper and former mayor of Newport was an ex-delegate at the National Convention and may have thought that a Chartist demonstration in Newport was going to coincide with similar displays of Chartist force elsewhere in the country or possibly be part of a national rising against the imprisonment of Henry Vincent. Some of the miners were armed.
The three leaders took their men towards Newport using different routes. Jones' men never arrived, having got lost; the remainder were dispersed by a few dozen soldiers. The authorities clearly knew of the march in advance and had garrisoned the troops at the Westgate Hotel. As the Chartists approached the soldiers opened fire.
Contemporary illustrations of the Newport Rising
Twenty-four Chartists were killed or died later of their injuries - more than twice the death toll of the Peterloo Massacre. A further 125 were arrested and of those, twenty-one were charged with high treason, including Frost, Williams and Jones.
On 10 December a special commission began to hear the cases in Monmouth. Jones, Frost and Williams were condemned to death but this was commuted to transportation for life.
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Last modified 6 January, 2011
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