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Eyewitness accounts of Newport Rising uncovered



W

itness testimonies from the last large-scale armed protest in the UK have been unearthed after nearly 200 years.

In 1839 around 4,000 Chartists marched on Newport in Gwent demanding democracy and the right to vote in a secret ballot.

In what became known as the Newport Rising, armed soldiers fired on the crowd, killing 22 demonstrators and injuring dozens more.

The leaders of the march were convicted of treason and were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The sentence was later commuted to transportation.

Witness testimonies of the 1839 Newport Rising have been digitised and transcribed (Gwent Archives/PA)

Transcripts of witness testimonies to the battle were used in court during the Chartist Trials.

They have been unearthed by Archives Wales and until recently were archived in their original, illegible form between the Newport Reference Library and Gwent Archives.

The statements have been transcribed by volunteers from the Gwent Archives as part of a project with the National Library of Wales and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

They detail the battle that took place on November 4 1839, when thousands of men marched from the Monmouthshire valleys to Newport’s Westgate Hotel in an attempt to secure the release of five of their number who were being held under arrest at the hotel.

Records show that the march was led by John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones, and when the Chartists arrived at the Westgate Hotel, they were faced with 500 special constables and soldiers from the 45th Regiment.

The written statements were used in evidence against the leaders of the Newport Rising during the Chartist Trials (Gwent Archives/PA)

Thomas Hawkins, a tin plate manufacturer from Bassaleg, wrote: “I witnessed the effect of the attack on the Westgate Inn, I saw nine dead bodies lying in the stables belonging to and adjoining the Westgate Inn.

“I saw the mayor on a bed in the Westgate Inn, he had been wounded and when I saw him his linen was covered with blood.”



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