Chartism and the Plug Plot Riots of 1840’s
by Brent Shore

Date: Thursday 4 February 2021

I will consider the topic with reference to the research and writing of my 2019 novel “Blessed are the Meek”.

Chartism and the Plug Plot Riots of 1840’s

The Plug Riots of the 1840s: violent, significant steps on working people’s long road towards justice and equality.

Like many mill towns, the small settlement of Hyde, seven miles to the east of Manchester, grew rapidly in the first half of the nineteenth century. Cotton mills and coal pits defined it and thousands moved in from the surrounding countryside to live and work there.

Conditions for the spinners, winders, weavers and the rest were invariably poor, and in years of depression were worse than miserable. Protests for fair pay and for political representation of the new working class were common and yet harshly rebuffed by the powerful.

One man who lived through these times was James Shore, a machine mender, a Chartist, a rioter and convict. He was also a son, a husband and a father, and his story amounts to far more than that of a lengthy prison sentence.

He was a man who sacrificed his freedom for the prize of equality, who could glimpse its light in the distance, but who was born too early to bask in its glow.

This is a story based on historical truth which I will examine, explain and illustrate in my talk.

Brent Shore was born 1955 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire; BA & PGCE University of Nottingham, Teacher of Modern Languages 1978-2010 (schools in North Yorkshire, Bermuda, Dorset).

Since retirement from teaching I have spent much time and energy writing fiction. I have written several short stories plus four self-published novels - three contemporary and one historical:

“Shillingstone Station” (2015), “Bailing Out” (2016), “An English Impressionist” (2018) and “Blessed are the Meek” (2019).



Tolpuddle author Brent Shore, whose first novel, Shillingstone Station has become something of a local bestseller, has recently self-published a historical novel, Blessèd are the Meek.

“It’s a departure for me,” said the writer, “as all of my work till now has been contemporary fiction. But I wanted to tell the story of the Chartists and particularly the Plug Riots which took place in my home town of Hyde, near Manchester, in the 1840s. Although I have written about the industrialised north, the period detail and tone are not so different from rural life around the time of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.”

Sabotaging the factory boilers was part of the workers' means of protest against not only their low pay and working conditions but also against the continued opposition of parliament to the demands for the vote. James Shore (the author shares a home town and a name but he is no direct relation) was one of eighteen men imprisoned for their parts in the riots of 1848. There is also a reference to Peterloo; the story includes an eye-witness account of the massacre at St Peter's Fields in Manchester, exactly 200 years ago, related by James Shore's father.

Based on historical detail, Blessèd are the Meek is the story of a working man’s life. Beyond the politics is his personal tale: as a son, a husband and a father, what he loved in life as much as what frustrated him in it.

The book is available to buy, priced £8.99, directly from

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