Notes about Chartist Songs

Attending church or chapel was the regular practice of most Chartists.  The recently rediscovered National Chartist Hymn Book shows that Chartist sympathisers sang the hymn tunes of the day to Chartist lyrics with a spirituality committed to social justice.  The words of these passionate and poetic hymns, discovered in the National Chartist Hymn Book are re-printed in the following pages under the heading “Chartist Words” bring to life the poverty and injustices experienced by the Chartists.  The Chartist hymnbook was discovered in Calderdale, Lancashire but nevertheless these are rousing and thoughtful songs echoing the sentiments of the Chartist Movement in Wales.

Henry Vincent, the charismatic Chartist leader and orator was a firm favourite of the Newport and South Wales Chartists, and was a regular preacher at the Chartist Christian church in Birmingham.  It is very likely that the National Chartist Hymnbook was used in services there.

Chartists in Hamilton Scotland set up an independent Chartist Church in 1839, boasting regular attendances of 80 to 100 worshippers.  Other areas followed and in 1839 James Moir warned that if the churches did not adapt to Chartism, then Chartism may found its own religious denomination.

However, Chartism evoked little sympathy within the establishment of the Church of England, and sermons were preached against the Chartism.  At St. Paul’s church in Newport the anti-Chartist sermons were resisted by silent sit-ins by the Chartists.  In some areas, the Chartists provoked the outright hostility both of the Roman Catholic church and the Methodists.  However, the Chartists attracted considerable support among other non-conformist clergy, many of whom lived lives little different to those of the working class men and women to whom they ministered (the Chartists).

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