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The Cast...for the Establishment

Chartists and their Establishment Enemies

As with any good story there are heroes and villains. Let’s introduce some of the men who took leading roles - on both sides.

For the establishment:

Thomas Prothero vengeful villain (1780- 1853)

Prothero had been engaged in a longstanding feud with John Frost, dating back to the 1820s.  Frost had published pamphlets accusing Prothero of corruption whilst he was Newport Town Clerk.  Prothero’s revenge was a libel case. Frost was found guilty and served six months in gaol.  Prothero took any opportunity to pursue his long time enemy.

Thomas Phillips Prothero’s protégé (1801 - 1867)

Legal partner and political ally of Prothero, together they prevented Frost from being re-elected Mayor of Newport in 1837, and used their influence to have Frost sacked as a magistrate when he became involved with Chartism. Phillips was elected Mayor of Newport in 1838. He was a Welsh speaker and in the late 1840s he became a leading defender of the language and culture of Wales

Lieutenant Gray of the 45th Foot Regiment (1810 - 1889)

Born in Ceylon, into a military family,Basil Gray was a young Lieutenant in the 45th Foot Regiment which was garrisoned at the Workhouse in Newport in November 1839. The Regiment had recently returned from a long tour of duty in the Far East, India and Ceylon. He was promoted to Captain following the Rising, but lived on half pay in London for much of his later life.

Supporting Cast:

Capel Hanbury Leigh (1776 - 1861) the Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire, lived at Pontypool House, where he kept London informed of Chartist activities in the county.   With few police and no armed forces, he called for the power to swear in Special Constables, arm the gentry and suppress sedition.

Reginald Blewitt MP  (1799 - 1878) elected for the Monmouthshire Boroughs (Monmouth, Usk and Newport) in 1837, had a firm finger on the pulse of local politics and business.  He owned the Monmouthshire Merlin newspaper, collieries in Cwmbran and a Newport bank, served as Deputy Lord Lieutenant and lived at Llantarnam Abbey, which he renovated extravagantly at a cost of £60,000. 

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