History explorer: The Chartist movement
Dr Joan Allen visits Rosedene cottage in Worcestershire to explore the 19th-century campaign for working-class enfranchisement
Visitors to London on 10 April 1848 would have been taken aback by the sight of more than 20,000 people gathered on Kennington Common. They would have been even more surprised if they’d known that the three horse-drawn cabs wending their way slowly from the massed crowd, in the direction of Westminster, were transporting thousands of pieces of paper that contained the signatures of millions of people demanding a host of democratic rights.
This petition, which followed two others – in 1839 and 1842 – was the product of a national reform movement known as Chartism, a political campaign partly borne out of the Great Reform Act of 1832, which had only extended the right to vote to the middle classes.