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Chartist Flags (United Kingdom)

Last modified: 2006-06-17 by rob raeside
Keywords: chartist | skelmanthorpe flag |
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The Skelmanthorpe Flag

"The Huddersfield Daily Examiner", 10 April 2006, reports the history of the flag known as the Skelmanthorpe Flag.

"The first half of the 19th century was a period of political agitation. Events ranged from the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 to the last Chartist Petition of 1848, which took place at a time when revolutions were occurring all over Europe. From 1819 the villagers of Skelmanthorpe were at the forefront of political struggles and a special flag, known as the Skelmanthorpe Flag, was woven in this year at a house on Radcliffe Street. The flag, which was later taken to many rallies and demonstrations all over Huddersfield, proclaimed: "Skelmanthorp will not rest Satisfied with the Suffrage being anything but Universal."

This was later taken up by the Chartist movement. Chartism was an umbrella movement which drew together many different groups with various aims and grievances. Chartists were called that because they devised a six-point charter which detailed their demands. These were: universal male suffrage, annual parliaments, vote by secret ballot, abolition of property qualifications for MPs, payment for MPs and equal electoral districts. None of these were realised in the lifetime of the movement, but all except annual parliaments are now law. The Chartists disbanded after the failure of their third petition in 1848, just two years after the hated Corn Laws had been repealed. Some believe that after the repeal of the Corn Laws Chartism's popularity declined. Thus, many historians argue that for many followers Chartism was purely a knife and fork question."


Ivan Sache, 19 April 2006

In my opinion, the Skelmanthorpe Flag is more properly described as a banner, rather than a flag. This banner, which is privately owned, commemorates the Peterloo Massacre, which was a massacre of a number of people at a gathering held in Peterloo, Manchester, to protest the lack of representation of the populous industrial areas in the north of England in Parliament. An image of it may be found in the National Banner Survey, a collection of the People's History Museum in Manchester.

It is divided into four quadrants and contains the words: "SKELMANTHORP Will not rest Satisfied with the Suffrage being anything but Universal" in the top left quadrant. In the bottom left, "May never a cock in England Crow, Nor never a Pipe in Scotland blow, Nor never a Harp in Ireland Play, Till Liberty regains her Sway. In the top right quadrant is the slogan "Truth and Justice Pouring Balm into the Wounds of the Manchester Sufferers." In the bottom right quadrant, is a drawing of a man looking up at an eye in the sky and a further slogan on a scroll, which is too indistinct to read on the above referenced web site.

The term flag seems to have originated from an article "Skelmanthorpe's Flag of Freedom" in Hirst Buckley's Annual 1926 and also in Politics and the People - A Study in English Political Culture c.1815-1867 by Vernon, but is more correctly described as a Chartist banner in the research paper cited as my source number (1) below, by probably the most authoritative current source in the United Kingdom in this area.

(1) University of Manchester, Arts Faculty, History Research Working Paper Number 45, Note, this document was located on the University of Manchester's web site at on 19 April 2006, but does not have any title pages, as it is a "working paper" and it is thus not possible to cite it correctly.
(2) Collections of the People's History Museum, Manchester, no catalogue number, title "banner, Peterloo. Skelmanthorpe Flag." as consulted on the People's History Museum web site, 19 April 2006.

Colin Dobson, 19 May 2006

Chartist flag in Waless

There exists a different flag for Wales which was used by the chartists in their uprising (and subsequently by Welsh republicans). It consists of a tricolor arranged vertically of blue white and green. Blue represents the sky (and heaven) white peace and green the earth (or the common people). It was supposed to represent a new order when the common people of Wales would be united under the sky.
Muiris Mag Ualghairg, 19 June 2000

I think you will find that the Chartist flag was a light purple, white and green horizontal tricolour, with the words "Universal Liberty" in English on the white strip. This flag was used by Chartists in England and Wales, but in Wales there was a armed rising by Chartists, I suppose carrying this flag. Here is a photo of such a flag (but without words).
David Cox, 4 May 2002