‘While we write, the wounds of many of the deluded persons engaged in that affair are still fresh and bleeding and the lifeless bodies of others remain grim and melancholy spectacles of the lamentable event. (Reported in the Monmouthshire Beacon, November 9th 1839)
The tally was at least twenty dead and more than sixty wounded. The Welsh language paper Seren Gomer reported that after the rioters dispersed, a young girl pushed her way through the throng of spectators at the Westgate, and as soon as she caught sight of the bloodied bodies, fell on one of them, giving a heartbreaking scream, embracing and kissing it; when she was taken away, her arms and face were covered in his blood. This rioter, who had come to such a pitiful end, was her sweetheart!
The Monmouthshire Merlin wrote that, ‘A few of the miserable objects that were helplessly and mortally wounded continued to writhe in tortures, crying for water’. And for over an hour a young apprentice carpenter lay wounded near the steps of the Westgate Hotel before Moses Scard, a special constable, was allowed by the soldiers to give him some water, just before he died. George Shell’s body was amongst the ten buried by the military in two unmarked graves at St. Woolos under cover of darkness. Their names were not entered in the Burial register. Shell had written a letter to his parents (although some wondered if it had been written by the authorities) before joining the march:
I hope this will find you as well, as I am myself at present. I shall this night be engaged in a struggle for freedom and should it please God to spare my life, I shall see you soon; but if not, grieve not for me, I shall fall in a noble cause. My tools are at Mr. Cecil’s, and likewise my clothes.
Yours truly, George Shell.
Text and artwork from Voices for the Vote: Shire Hall and the story of Chartism in south Wales. Reproduced by kind permission of Monmouthshire County Council/Shire Hall, Monmouth. The book costs £4.99 and can be obtained from Shire Hall Monmouth, Newport Museum or Gwent Archives