Turbulent Londoners: Katherine Chidley, 1590s-c.1653

Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past, with a particular focus of women, whose contribution to history is often overlooked. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. The next Turbulent Londoner is Katherine Chidley, an activist for religious toleration and a leader of Leveller women.


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A drawing of a servant or housewife in 1640. Katherine Chidley might have dressed like this (Source: ECW Living History Resources).

The further back in time you go, the harder it is to find out about individuals who weren’t members of the aristocracy, especially if they were women. There are some women who managed to leave a trace in the archives, often thanks to their radicalism, such as Mary Astell (1666-1731) and Elizabeth Elstob (1683-1756). Katherine Chidley lived even earlier, between the 1590s and about 1653. She was a religious dissenter and a key member of the radical networks that preceded the Levellers, as well as the Levellers themselves.

The first time Katherine Chidley appears in the historical record she is already married with seven children. Along with her husband Daniel, she set up an independent church in Shrewsbury  in the 1620s which clashed with the local established church. At this point everyone was required by law to be a member of the Church of England, and there was no toleration for anyone who wanted to worship differently. Radical religious sects had an emphasis on church democracy, which meant that women played more of a role than in other sectors of society, as preachers, prophetesses and petitioners. In 1626 Katherine was charged with refusing to attend church, along with 18 others. She also got in trouble for refusing to attend church for an obligatory cleansing after childbirth.

The Chidley family moved to London in 1629. Katherine’s husband became a member of Haberdashers Company, and their oldest son Samuel started an apprenticeship in 1634 . The family’s views became more radical and separatist after they moved to London. Daniel and Samuel helped to establish a dissenting congregation headed by John Duppa. The congregation claimed the right to choose their own pastor not paid for by Church funds. The congregation itself was illegal, and its members faced harassment, arrest, and imprisonment.

Katherine authored several pamphlets in defence of religious radicalism. Thomas Edwards was a popular puritan preacher at the time, who argued against religious Independents from a conservative Presbyterian perspective. In 1641 he published a pamphlet, addressed to Parliament, arguing against religious tolerance. Katherine was the first to attack Edwards’ arguments in print, in her first pamphlet. It was called The Justification of the Independent Churches of Christ, and it was very unusual for a woman to take such a step. Edwards ignored her response, embarrassed to have been so publicly confronted by a woman.

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The front page of Katherine’s first pamphlet, from 1641 (Source: Online Library of Liberty).

Katherine’s concept of toleration was broad, even extending to Jews and Anabaptists, groups that faced extreme discrimination at the time. She believed that everyone should be able to organise their own churches if they so desired. Katherine did view women as weak and inferior to men, but she defended a wife’s right to make her own decisions about religion. She also frequently discussed examples of God using the weak or socially inferior to defeat the powerful and ungodly. Katherine may not have been a feminist by modern standards, but her views were radical for the time. She published 2 more pamphlets in 1645. The first was another attack on Thomas Edwards, called  A New-Yeares-Gift, or a Brief Exhortation to Mr. Thomas Edwards; that he may breake off his old sins, in the old yeare, and begin the New yeare, with new fruits of Love, first to God, and then to his Brethren. They didn’t really go for snappy titles in the seventeenth century.

When the Leveller network emerged, Katherine became a leader of Leveller women. The Levellers were a radical movement that argued for popular sovereignty, equality before the law, and religious toleration. They gained significant popular support between the First and Second English Civil Wars, but were considered too radical even for Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate. Daniel died in 1649, and it seems as though Katherine took over his business with the help of Samuel. As well as being a religious radical, she was also a successful businesswoman, handling government contracts worth significant amounts. In 1649 Katherine was one of the organisers, and probably the author, of a women’s petition to free four Leveller leaders from the Tower of London. In 1653, when Leveller leader John Lilburne was again imprisoned and charged with treason, Katherine led a group of 12 women to Parliament to present a petition demanding his release signed by 6000 women.

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An image of a meeting of Leveller women in 1647, created by Red Saunders in 2014 as part of the Hidden Project (Source: Red Saunders).

Although much of her activism involved male family members, and she believed that women were inferior to men, Katherine Chidley was a fierce woman who fought for the right to make her own decisions about how she worshipped. There is no trace of her in the historical record after 1653, so the rest of her life is a mystery.

Sources and Further Reading

Rees, John. The Leveller Revolution: Radical Political Organisation in England, 1640-1650. London: Verso, 2016.

Wikipedia, “Katherine Chidley.” Last modified 28 May 2017, accessed 15 August 2017. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Chidley

The Reformers’ Memorial, Kensal Green Cemetery

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The Reformers’ Memorial stands in the non-conformist section of Kensal Green Cemetery in the London borough of Brent (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The Reformers’ Memorial in Kensal Green Cemetery in Brent in north east London is a lesser-known memorial to 75 British reformers. Some of the better known include: Elizabeth Fry, prison reformer; Charles Bradlaugh, MP and atheist; John Ruskin, writer, artist, and social reformer; William Cobbett, parliamentary reformer; and John Stuart Mill, philosopher and political economist. Erected in 1858, the memorial was update in 1907, restored in 1997, and given Grade II listed status in 2001.

Kensal Green Cemetery was the first of the ‘Magnificent 7′, cemeteries established in the 1830s and 40s in what was then the suburbs of London to reduce overcrowding in inner city burial grounds. Highgate Cemetery, the final resting place of Karl Marx, was the third of the Magnificent 7 to be established, in 1839. Kensal Green Cemetery is well worth a visit in its own right, it has a peaceful, eerie beauty that contrasts sharply with the often manic atmosphere of modern London.

The Reformers’ Memorial is located in the non-conformist section of the cemetery, located close to the main entrance, near the crossroads of Harrow Road and Ladbroke Grove/Killburn Lane (I’m giving detailed directions because I had trouble finding the memorial–I entered the cemetery by a smaller gate, where they weren’t giving out maps).

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The memorial and it’s pair, an obelisk dedicated to the memory of Robert Owen, stand out amongst the graves of Kensal Green Cemetery’s non-conformist section (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The two memorials in around 1900. The Reformer’s Memorial only had 50 names inscribed on it at this point; the rest were added in 1907 by Emma Corfield (Photo: People’s Collection Wales).

 

The memorial is a grey granite obelisk on a sandstone base, signed by J.S. Farley masons. It was erected in 1885 by Joseph William Corfield.  The names of 50 well-reformers, “who have generously given their time and means to improve the conditions and enlarge the happiness of all classes of society,” were inscribed in the stone. Two decades later, in 1907, Joseph’s daughter Emma added a further 25 names. It is a pair to the Robert Owen memorial, a pink and grey granite obelisk erected in 1879, by public subscription organised by Joseph Corfield. Owen was a Welsh social reformer, and one of the founders of the cooperative movement. Both memorials were refurbished in 1997, at the instigation of Stan Newens, an MP and MEP for both the Labour and Co-operative parties. Both memorials were given Grade II listed status in 2001 for their “special architectural or historic interest” (Historic England, n.d.). It is unusual to have non-funerary monuments in a public cemetery, so the two memorials stand out in this regard too.

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The main inscription of the Reformer’s Memorial (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Radicals and activists place a great deal of significance on the past; historical movements, groups, and individuals, are a powerful source of inspiration, encouragement, and identity. Both the Reformer’s Memorial and the Robert Owen Memorial are a reflection of this appreciation of the past. They give us an insight into how late-Victorian non-Conformists perceived their radical history. The reformers listed on the memorial indicate who the Corfield family looked up (or back) to, and what kinds of behaviour and causes they were inspired by. Memorials are as much a reflection of the time in which they were produced as they are of the past they are representing, which is one of the things that makes them so interesting.

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Some of the names on the Reformer’s Memorial are beginning to be obscured by the effects of the weather and time (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

 

I don’t imagine that the Reformer’s Memorial receives that many visitors. It’s a little obscure; even a stonemason working in the cemetery didn’t know what it was when I asked for directions. It is also starting to look a bit weathered, and some of the names at the top of the obelisk are partially obscured. I for one think this is a shame, so if you ever find yourself with a bit of time to kill in London, why not pay it a visit, and commemorate those who “felt that a happier and more prosperous life is within the reach of all.”

Sources and Further Reading

British Listed Buildings. “The Reformers’ Memorial.” No date, accessed 17th April, 2017. Available at http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101271535-the-reformers-memorial-dalgarno-ward#.WPS-Aojyubg

Historic England. “Memorial to Robert Owen.” No date, accessed 14th August, 2017. Available at https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1227646

Historic England. “The Reformers’ Memorial.” No date, accessed 13th August, 2017. Available at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1271535

julia&keld. “Reformers’ Memorial.” Find a Grave. Last modified 20th May 2000, accessed 17th April 2017. Available at https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=9399

People’s Collection Wales, “Robert Owen Memorial Obelisk at Kensal Green Cemetery, London, c.1900.” No date, accessed 13th August 2017. Available at  https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/7192

Wikipedia, “Kensal Green Cemetery. Last modified 16th April 2017, accessed 17th April 2017. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensal_Green_Cemetery

Protest Stickers: Manchester

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Manchester is a wonderful blend of old and new (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

A few months ago, I spent a couple of days in Manchester. I’ve already blogged about the brilliant museums I visited whilst I was up there (the People’s History Museum, and the Imperial War Museum North), but I also found some great protest stickers whilst exploring the city. Paying attention to a city’s protest stickers helps me get to know a place, by giving me an insight into the issues that matter to the city. Manchester had a lot of protest stickers, many of which I hadn’t seen before, which is just one of the reasons I liked it so much. Manchester is a vibrant city with a fascinating history. Protest stickers in some cities are dominated by only one or two issues (Newcastle, for example, had a lot of stickers relating to animal rights), but this was not the case in Manchester. Its diversity is reflected in the wide range of issues that are represented in the city’s stickers. There were also a lot of stickers in Manchester that I haven’t seen before; I have not seen any of the stickers featured in the post anywhere else. I’m not saying they are all unique to Manchester, but it is an indication of the city’s healthy culture of dissent.

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This is the first sticker I found when I arrived in Manchester. Although the Bedroom Tax has been a contentious issue since it was introduced in 2013, this is the first sticker I have ever found about it (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Stickers relating to the EU, both pro- and anti-Brexit, were quite common in Manchester. Most of them were supportive of the EU, such as this one (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This is probably more of a poster than a sticker, but I wanted to include it because it’s unsual to see hand-drawn protest stickers or posters, they are usually designed on a computer and printed. This poster is advertising an anti-Brexit protest in central Manchester, a few weeks after the referendum (Photo: Hannah Awcock)

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Again, this is probably too big to be a protest sticker, but I think it sums up Manchester’s irreverent attitude nicely. I also don’t like Nigel Farage (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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You are much more likely to find stickers that criticise the Conservative Party than supporting them, and Manchester is no exception. This sticker is referring to the Conservative Party Annual Conference, which is frequently held in Manchester (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Bun the Tories also started out as a call to protest the Conservative Party Conference in 2015. If you follow the link there’s an…interesting music video, and you can buy a Bun the Tories t-shirt, the proceeds of which go to homeless charities in Manchester (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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It is not just the Conservative Party that Mancunians object to, but also their policies whilst in government. Jeremy Hunt has been Health Secretary since 2012, and is blamed by many for the difficulties which the NHS now faces (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The conflict over Junior Doctor’s contracts in 2015 and 2016 is perhaps one of the most controversial episodes of Jeremy Hunt’s career. Hunt tried to impose new contracts on Junior Doctors, which they refused to accept. Neither side would back down, leading to strikes in which Junior Doctors only provided emergency care. A survey by Ipsos MORI found that 66% of the public supported the Junior Doctors (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The Scottish National Party also comes under fire in Manchester’s protest stickers. Most of the stickers I have seen in London relating to Scottish politics have been pro-Scottish Independence, so I was interested to find a sticker with a different perspective (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Anti-fascism is one of the most common topics of protest stickers that I find in London. I particularly like the design of this sticker, which was produced by a Mancunian anti-fascist group (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Animal welfare is another relatively common topic of protest stickers. Although it’s a common topic, I have never seen this particular sticker before (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Working class solidarity is also a topic I have seen before in protest stickers. They make the argument that the working classes should be uniting against the rich and powerful (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Football is a huge part of Mancunian life and culture. The sport, particularly the Premier League, is now a multi-million pound industry, and there is increasing opposition to it being commercialised to such an extent (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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I have seen protest stickers relating to prisons before, but they are quite rare. I found several different ones in Manchester, which is very unusual. This sticker was produced by the Empty Cages Collective, which campaigns for the abolition of prisons (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The prevalence of CCTV cameras is not something I have seen before on protest stickers. The statistics on this sticker are pretty eye-opening, and I like the way that whoever made it included their source–perhaps they have had academic training at some point? (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

How to Write PhD Acknowledgements: Collected Resources

I have had some feedback that the blog posts I put together on resources for writing thesis Introductions and Conclusions. The latest thing I turned to the internet for help with is my Acknowledgments, and I’m glad I did. Although the Acknowledgements aren’t assessed, they are significant, not only because it’s important to thank the people that have helped and supported you, but also because it says something about you as a researcher.

Doctoral Writing SIG: Writing the Acknowledgements: The Etiquette of Thanking suggests who to thank and what order to thank them in in order to avoid causing offence. Reading and Writing the Thesis Acknowledgment: Support, People and Identity is a guest-authored post by Lila Mantai who conducted an analysis of 79 thesis acknowledgements to explore what kinds of support PhD students value most. It made me think about the purpose of the acknowledgments, and how they might be perceived by others.

Newcastle University Writing Development Centre: Acknowledgements is a short post that provides some useful vocab if you run out of ways of saying “Thank you to…”

For Acknowledgement: Useful Expressions for Acknowledgement: Samples and Examples has a somewhat longer list of possible vocab. What’s Acknowledgment? provides a brief introduction to acknowledgments and what they should include. It is aimed more towards journal articles than PhDs, but it still came in handy.

Patter: I’d Like to Thank…The Important Work of Acknowledgments is a brief reflection on what the author of acknowledgments gets out of them. It points out that acknowledgements can situate a researcher in academic networks, showing the reader the author’s scholarly context. This is something I hadn’t thought about before.

Times Higher Education: The Best Academic Acknowledgments Ever is perhaps a better indication of what not to do rather than good practice, unless you want to passive-agressively criticise someone, or propose to your partner. It may be a reminder that it’s all been done before, so it’s probably not worth trying to be original or witty, unless you’re very good at it.

Book Review: Buda’s Wagon- A Brief History of the Car Bomb

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The front cover of the 2017 edition of Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb by Mike Davis.

Mike Davis. Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb. London: Verso, 2017. RRP £9.99 paperback.

Among geographers, Mike Davis is particularly well-known for his writing on cities. Books like Planet of the Slums and City of Quartz are staples of undergraduate Geography reading lists. Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb is not one I was familiar with, until Verso released new editions of some of his works at the start of 2017. My family can always tell when I’m enjoying what I’m reading because I bombard them with facts and stories from the book. My family have had to listen to a lot of facts about car bombs.

It is the car bombers’ incessant blasting-away at the moral and physical shell of the city, not the more apocalyptic threats of nuclear or bioterrorism, that is producing the most significant mutations in city form and urban lifestyle.

Davies, 2017: p. 7

Buda’s Wagon doesn’t have an introduction as such, instead launching into the story of Mario Buda, an Italian anarchist living in New York who packed his horse-drawn wagon with explosives and iron slugs, drove it to Wall Street, and left it there. At midday, the wagon exploded, killing 40 and injuring more than 200. Mario Buda has the dubious distinction of being the world’s first car bomber-sort of. From there, Buda’s Wagon ricochets around the world and through a century of conflict, finishing up in the Middle East in the early 2000s. Davis makes a convincing case for the car bomb as a powerful leveller for terrorists and insurgent groups confronting powerful and well-resourced  governments. He also conveys the human cost of a weapon that is indiscriminate at best. At it’s worst, it is deliberately meant to cause further hatred and violence.

Davis does not explicitly state his opinion on the issues he’s writing about, he lets the statistics he uses and the stories he tells speak for themselves. I like this style, it feels like Davis is trusting the reader to form their own opinion. At some points, it highlights the strength of Davis’ feeling, as you can almost sense his opinion fighting its way out through his non-judgmental language.

There aren’t many pictures in Buda’s Wagon, which some readers might not like, but I think was a sensible decision. It would be difficult to include many pictures without becoming ghoulish. I did find the narrative a bit difficult to follow when it reached the Middle East, but I imagine simplifying the politics in a way that would make them comprehensible for most readers would be a very difficult task.

Buda’s Wagon is a poignant, engaging read, that thinks systematically about the car bomb in a way that is scholarly, but not insensitive. I would recommend it to anyone interested in contentious politics or geopolitics, or anyone who wants to try and understand what can seem like a senseless and inexplicable act.