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Family Tragedy

The Chartist Rising brought tragedy to Frost’s family and many other families across Monmouthshire.  His 17 year old son, Henry Hunt Frost, was arrested, taken into custody without a warrant, and brought before the magistrates on November 14th, 1839.  Although discharged, he was on the run for many months, the newspapers claiming he had absconded.  Henry Hunt died in 1842 at Stapleton, where Frost’s wife Mary had moved with her daughters Catherine, Ellen and Anne.    Anne was only 13 when her father was sentenced to death and she remained at this Bristol house until after the death of her father in 1877.[JJ1] 

William Davies, the sweetheart of Frost’s daughter Ellen, was also on the run.  He was with Frost on the night of the march and fled to relatives in Kent, where he had been arrested.  Brought back to Newport, he was questioned and provided details of Chartist activities at Blackwood in the days before the march.  He absconded, probably to avoid appearing as a witness (against his girlfriend’s father) at the Trial. Staying away for over a year, he later married Ellen.

Frost’s stepson William Foster Geach had been a solicitor in Pontypool, until he too had fallen foul of Thomas Prothero and Thomas Phillips in 1837.  After the march he represented John Frost, Henry Hunt and others at the Magistrates’ examinations, where he crossed swords with Prothero, who was leading the inquisition. Prothero got his revenge in July 1840. He committed Geach to the Monmouth Assizes where he was sentenced to transportation for gaining false credit.

John Frost’s brother, Edward, was arrested and threatened with treason charges, but released when no evidence was produced. A family friend and neighbour, John Partridge, the printer who sheltered John Frost on the night following the Rising, was charged with treason, detained and sentenced at Monmouth to 6 months hard labour for riot and conspiracy.  He died, a broken man, in 1844.

Those Chartists who had turned Queen’s evidence also found life had changed, and not for the better, as Seren Gomer reported:

We have also heard that there is so much enmity against the witnesses who gave evidence against the Newport Rioters in the industrial workplaces of Monmouthshire that they have had to leave the area, despite the justices’ attempts to shelter them and ensure their safety.

Israel Firman couldn’t return home after the Trial. The magistrates paid for him and his family to travel to London by ship. Barnabas Brough went bankrupt; a few months after the Trial his brewery was advertised for sale in the Monmouthshire Merlin. An obituary, when his wife died, explained why:  ‘...in consequence of (being one of the chief witnesses for the Crown at the trial), Mr. Brough became exceedingly unpopular among the colliers who had been concerned in the outbreak, so much so that they deserted the inns he supplied with beer. His once prosperous business soon declined and he was obliged to leave the town’.

 

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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