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REFORM DAY IN TODMORDEN

Saturday 28 July 1832

 

The Reform Bill was finally passed in 1832, after a long and difficult process. Before this bill, voting was restricted to the wealthy landowners. With the coming of industrial wealth to the cities such as Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool etc. it was thought time that more of the people should be given the right to vote.

In 1831 a Reform Bill was defeated and in October that year serious riots broke out in Bristol, Derby and Nottingham. The castle at Nottingham was burned down and members of parliament who opposed the bill were attacked and their homes vandalised.

A new Reform Bill was introduced by December the same year and this one had more success and was given Royal Assent on 7 June 1832.

 

However not everyone was satisfied with the terms of the bill, which allowed only men who occupied homes with an annual value of £10 or more to vote. This still meant that only one in seven men were eligible to vote. So the Chartist Movement was formed and they wanted Parliamentary reform to go further and drew up a People's Charter which contained six points:

 

1. A VOTE for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.

 

2. THE BALLOTT-To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.

 

3. NO PROPERTY QUALIFICATION for Members of Parliament thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.

 

4. PAYMENT OF MEMBERS, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man or other person, to serve a constituency when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.

 

5. EQUAL CONSTITUENCIES securing the same amount or representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of the large ones.

 

6. ANNUAL PARLIAMENT thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelvemonth; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituencies as now.

 

This was all in the future and at the time, the Reform Bill of 1832 was a great step forward with rejoicing all over the country. Todmorden held its own celebrations and they were observed by William Helliwell, a visitor from Canada, but a native of Todmorden who had emigrated with his parents in 1818 when he was seven. You can read their story HERE.

 

William Helliwell (1811-1897)

William kept a diary and wrote the following account of the day's events. Some of the spelling has been altered to make it easier to read, but it is mainly as William wrote it.

Saturday morning 28 July 1832,

 

I bid the people here all goodbye as the time for my departure drew. I thought it probable that I could not see them any more.

 

I came down to Todmorden to witness one of the greatest days that ever was seen in this village. It was the procession in honour of Reform.

 

I came over the fields from Stansfield Hall to Jump Clough Bridge and when I got there I was surprised to see the Buckleys weavers marching with a band of music at their head. The men walked first, four deep, and the girls followed, all in their best bib and tuckers all in copt.

 

Tythes Sinecures Nationals

Debt Taxes Englands Curse

 

Union is Strength

Fielding and Brothers

Work Men

 

The Triumph

Of Liberty over

Tyrrany

Earl Grey and all true Reformers may they

Ever prosper and their opposers be Damd to eternal

Perdition

 

This is a specimen of their Ensigns which I noted down on the spot.

 

They marched with three bands of music playing down as far as Lob Mill and there turned round and came back and was followed by a pair of looms in a cart and a man weaving calico and another winding bobbins, with an oaten cake and a red herring nailed fast to the top of the looms, and ever and anon, the bobbin winder would take a bit of the cake and offer the weaver a small bit.

They had a large…..tile suspended from the looms with the inscription on it:

 

Distress

of Calico Weavers

Occasioned

By Poor Looms and

The exportation of cotton yarn

Calico weavers wages 9d. per day of twelve hours

 

The procession went up the Burnley Road as far as the church and turned round. I stood on the top of the ridge above the church, from which elevation I had a good view of the whole column which reached from the Blind Lane end to Bloomleys across the canal bridge, all four deep.

 

After the procession had passed I went to Dr. Gleadhills and took dinner, and then the doctor and me went up to Waterside to see how they was all coming on there.

 

The field where the people was dining is in front of the factory and is about an acre. Above the gate was decorated with flowers, the letters Reform formed of wire and covered with flowers and suspended down from the gate. From the gate to the other side of the field there was a large booth erected and covered with calico, with two tables. Here all the beef and pudding was cut up and served out, everyone bringing his own plate, knife and fork. There was 24 tables at right angles with this ??????? and all covered with calico, about 20 yards long.

 

There was an orchestra erected at the head of the booth and a band of music playing all the time the people was dining. Here was all the ladies of the Waterside and many of their friends with medals suspended from their fair necks, cutting up beef and pudding and seemed to enjoy the scene very much.

 

The beef was of the best possible quality and the pudding was very rich Hunters Pudding. The ale and porter was excellent and in sufficient quantity.

 

After Messrs. Fielding work people had finished all that would, came, and such crowding and shoving to get to the table, I never saw before in my life. When a slice of beef was cut, a dozen hands would grasp at it, to the great danger of the hands being cut by the carving knife.

 

After eating was over, Mr. John Fielding made a speech in which he spoke of the Reform as being of universal franchise and hoped that the time was not far distant when every Englishman would eat roast beef and plum pudding every day.

 

By this time the ale and porter had made many of them forget their poverty and groups began to dance on the green with a spirit and animation not often witnessed and ????? the music, the dancers and the vast crowd of people, all in their Sunday finery, made one of the most picturesque scenes that I ever saw in my life.

 

About seven o'clock, Mr. John Fielding put up a balloon, somewhat larger than a beer barrel. It ascended nearly perpendicular until it got as high as the surrounding hills and then the gas being all exhausted, it came down again. It fell just on the other side of the canal.

 

In the evening as I was going down York Street, I heard a fiddle and dancing going on up ?????, so I went straight up to them and there was some 18 or 20 showing the light fantastic toe. Here I got hold of a bonny red cheeked lass dressed in white and took two or three turns on the floor, as merry as any of them.

 

I slept that night with Doctor Gleadhill.

 

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