Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Cotton Tree and the Chartists

Here's another cutting from the 'All Our Yesterdays' souvenir paper printed by The Reporter' 20 odd years ago.

Here's what the Cotton Tree looked like in 2011:

And this is a photograph taken a few days ago:

On the left side of the building is a blue plaque, unveiled by Tameside Council in 1999, commemorating its history as a Chartist meeting place:

Thomas Middleton in his 'History of Hyde' says this about the trial of Joseph Rayner Stephens:
'No one was more outspoken than the Rev. J.R.Stephens, and it was a speech of his at a Hyde meeting which led to his prosecution at the Chester Assizes, and one of the most notable political trials of the century.'
and later:
'The trial of Stephens took place at Chester on Thursday, August 15th 1839. There were three indictments against him, two charging him with sedition and disturbing of the peace, at places in Lancashire; but only the Cheshire indictment already quoted, was proceeded with. The Attorney General – Sir G. Campbell – who prosecuted, said that the meeting in question assembled at the Cotton Tree Inn, in Newton, half way between Dukinfield and Hyde. The crowd met after dark with firearms, and flags and banners of a most violent and inflammatory character. On one was "Tyrants believe and tremble"; on another "Liberty or Death"; others bore the legends "For children and wives we will war to the knife", and "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garments and buy one". There was also a transparency with the one word – "Blood".
Wm. Manley, the first witness, a constable of Dukinfield, spoke to seeing a large assembly at the Cotton Tree, about half-past seven in the evening; part of them came from Ashton and part from Stalybridge, and they were going towards Hyde. They had lighted torches and pots of fire with them. He heard the reports of pistols or guns. He left them at Flowery Field on the verge of Hyde. They were then walking six abreast. At the Cotton Tree there were about 500 persons, but they were joined by 400 more from Newton. Joshua Pickford, cotton manufacturer, of Hyde, said: "He was at home that night, and between 9 and 10 o'clock he heard a noise and music in the street; he then went down to Shepley's Fields near to Hoviley Brow. A platform had been erected, and defendant was one of those on it. Banners were placed in a half circle round it; there were 3,000 or 4,000 people within the half circle, and many more outside it. Some torches were on the hustings, and some within the barriers. He heard Stephens speak. Stephens said – "You need not be afraid of the soldiers, they will not act against you. The time has now gone by for petitioning; the time has now come for acting. There should be no mistake there that night, for he should advise them to arm." He said: "You men, women, and you – to the children – my little powder-monkeys, you that mean to buy arms, put up your hands with me." Stephens then put up his hands, and some hundreds put up theirs, and there was a great shouting and firing of arms. At half-past ten he, the witness, went home; he remained up until one o'clock, and went out at intervals from eleven to one. After twelve he heard music as if the meeting were dispersing. Stephens told them to procure guns, pistols, swords or pikes, or anything that would tell sharper tales than their tongues. His wife and children were very much alarmed, and his wife sat up till all was quiet."

The other witnesses included Messrs. W. Tinker, Charles Howard, Edward Hibbert, and Samuel Ashton, junior. Stephens addressed the jury for five and a half hours in his defence, but was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment, and bound over for five years, himself in £500, and sureties in £250 each. On the first of February, 1841, he was liberated from Chester castle, eight days before the termination of his sentence, to enable him to attend the funeral of his father, the Rev. John Stephens.'


Anonymous said...

Barry in Oz. I was surprised on my last visit to Hyde in 2010 at just how many old Pubs had fallen by the wayside. Does anyone buy them to remodel as a house ? What is happening to them all ?

Gerald (SK14) said...

Some like the Globe, Walker Lane, The Bricklayers, Reynold St, The New Inn, Hattersley and the George, Gt Norbury St have been converted to houses. Others such as the Crown and Red Lion are now offices. I know of some in Stalybridge, Gorton and Ashton that are now convenience stores.

Tom said...

Another cracking post from Dave, thank you.
Barry, I'll give you a quick run down as far as I can.,
Hallbottom, a pile of rough rubble with a for Land for sale sign.
Bayhorse, Shutters on all windows... no sign of it being opened again.
Globe.. a shop,
The George, flats,
The Bankfield, Housing,
The Bush Something to do with a car lot.
On the plus the King-Bill is going from strength to strength...

Werneth Low said...

Whilst I respect the feelings of all those who mourn the loss of what seems a lot of Hyde's pubs, I do believe that the important feature of this post is that of The Chartist Movement, which plays a significant part in Hyde's history. In some ways I'm sorry that the excerpt from MIddleton's book has been included because, probably because he was out of the top drawer, it is heavily biased.

Chartism first appeared in 1838 with the publication of the People's Charter, the campaign for which had been established two years earlier in order to try and establish an equality of political rights. The Charter had 6 points:

A vote for every man over 21
The ballot in order to protect the elector
No property qualifications for MPs - this allowing the constituencies to elect the man of their choicem be he rich or poor
Payment for MPs
Equal constituencies
Annual parliamentary elections.

Working men's associations grew at that time, as did trade unions. There were areas of the country where Chartism was especially strong - London, Leicester, Manchester and South Lancashire. Stockport and Hyde amassed great membership, which included women. Despite what Middleton writes, the Chartists were not troublemakers merely for the sake of trouble. They were working people who had been downtrodden by the toffs of their day and left to gather up the crumbs from the tables of the likes of Middleton.

They fought to make a difference and were successful. We owe them a great deal. I'm glad their plaque is on the Cotton Tree, anf as TMBC has a habit of duplicating these plaques, I think it deserves one on the town hall front as well. Speaking of the town hall, next time you pass, spend a little time looking at the sculpture there in front which honours the Chartist Movement in Hyde.

Anonymous said...

Barry in Oz. I saw the Hallbottom Inn in a delapidated state when I was last there but I was surprised at the Bay Horse. Another British Institution going down the gurgler.

Stephen Hope said...

Great article. I don't know an awful lot about the Chartist movement but wouldn't it be nice to think that this disused pub could be used as a small museum of Chartism