Sutton dissident who led failed 1817 revolution

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HE was an unemployed stocking maker living with his wife and two children in Sutton - but Jeremiah Brandreth went on to lead a revolution that could have seen the Government overthrown.

Tomorrow marks the 194th anniversary of the ill-fated uprising of Pentrich, near Swanwick in Derbyshire, which saw Brandreth’s 300-strong army of miners, stocking makers, and iron workers attempt to march to London and storm the Tower of London.

And Brandreth, along with two of his co-conspirators, also have the dubious honour of being known as the last men to be publicly beheaded in Britain for their part in the revolution.

At the time 31-year-old Brandreth led the uprising, Britain was in a state of unrest following the Napoleonic wars.

Many of the industries that had boomed during the war years - such as the Butterley Company which had made weapons - cut down on their production leading to widespread unemployment.

And the extraordinarily dark summer of 1816 saw an ash cloud from an Indonesian volcano block out sunlight in Britain and ruin farmers’ crops.

These events prompted Brandreth and his men to take action against what they saw as an ‘indifferent’ Government in what became known as The Pentrich Revolution.

Starting at a pub in Pentrich, the plan was to join with 50,000 men from the northern towns and storm the Tower of London.

The rebels had hoped to reach Nottingham - but soldiers quashed the uprising by the time they got to Kimberley just outside the city.

Following a trial where he was found guilty of high treason, Brandreth and his co-conspirators were hanged and beheaded, while around 20 were sent to a penal colony in Australia.

Local historian and former chairman of the Pentrich Historical Society Eric Galvin, who has a keen interest in the subject, says: “They were a tough community back then.

“People decided to take things into their own hands on this occasion.

“The leaders had travelled around the country at the time and would have met a number of like-minded people who were keen on revolution.

“They were hungry and their land had disappeared, their crops had failed. They knew things had to be better and they thought they could change things.

“But they thought they had the support from across the country, but it wasn’t to be.”

The revolution is thought to have failed for a number of reasons, including the fact that the rebels had not managed to find enough weapons before arriving in Nottingham - despite calling in at various homes, farms and even the Butterley Company itself along the way.

They were also hampered by a lack of will amongst some of the revolutionaries, spies and poor communication between those in the northern towns and the Pentrich rebels.

Mr Galvin added: “The revolution had a lot of negative consequences on Pentrich. Some had to run away and find new lives for themselves.

“As far as we can see the village was roughly twice the size it is today. As a result neighbouring Ripley and Swanwick flourished in comparison.”

The bodies of Brandreth and the other two conspirators were put in graves at St Werburghs Church in Derby.