What do Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Revolution, an Indonesian volcano and Derbyshire framework knitters have in common? They all played their part in one of the first truly working class rebellions in British History.
This June marks the bicentenary of the Pentrich Rebellion.
In April 1815 Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted. This volcanic eruption was one of the most powerful in recorded history and resulted in two years of poor harvests, due to sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere preventing sunlight from reaching the earth’s surface. Sir Henry FitzHertbert of Tissington Hall wrote in his dairy, which forms part of the FitzHerbert family papers held at the record office:
“This was the worst year which was ever recollected. The Spring was most severely cold, the snow falling as late as the 7th of June; and there was no grass till the end of June.”
As a result harvests failed and people could not produce bread to feed themselves or their families.
British soldiers returning from the Napoleonic Wars found an economic crisis at home and very few jobs to return to. Due to the Industrial Revolution new trades were emerging, demanding new skills, served by semi-skilled factory workers. Demand in some long established crafts decreased and many craftsmen lost their livelihood. Nowhere were the changes more marked than in the East Midlands, traditional home of framework knitting.
Unrest was growing. The success of the French Revolution led to the spread of revolutionary ideals across much of Europe. This brought fresh fears to the British monarchy and landowning classes, who stamped down on and severely punished any opposition to their authority.
It was within this atmosphere of unrest that on the night of 9th June 1817 men from villages on the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border, including Pentrich, South Wingfield and Alfreton, set out to march to Nottingham. They believed they were part of a general rising across the North and Midlands to bring down the unjust and oppressive government. They were met, however, by military forces, who had known about the uprising thanks to a network of government spies, sent all over the country to uncover rebel plots. The punishment was severe; for some, such as rebel leader Jeremiah Brandreth, it meant death, for others transportation to Australia.
There is, of course, much more to the story so come along to the record office to delve deeper into this fascinating aspect of Derbyshire’s history. We are holding an exhibition featuring original material from the time which runs from the beginning of June until the end of September.
Or why not join us at the Bicentenary Commemorative Day event being held by the Pentrich and South Wingfield Revolution Group, which takes place this Saturday (10th June) at the Social Club in South Wingfield. We‘ll be there from 1pm till 5pm with lots of information on our collections and services, along with some original archive material taken from our exhibition.
For more information on the Bicentenary Commemorative Day see the Pentrich and South Wingfield Revolution Group’s website www.pentrichrevolution.org.uk/events