Ill-fated uprising is remembered

Eric Galvin at one of the signs for the Pentrich revolution.
Eric Galvin at one of the signs for the Pentrich revolution.
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It was during a fateful day in June, 1817, that the shape of our towns was changed forever.

Unrest was rife in England as the soldiers returned from the Napoleonic wars.

MDB090428c1'Plaque outside Butterley (engineering) Gatehouse about the Pentrich revolution.

MDB090428c1'Plaque outside Butterley (engineering) Gatehouse about the Pentrich revolution.

Poverty had spread in our towns in a tough economic climate.

With major employers the Butterley Company no longer required to make weapons for the war and local dyeworks no longer called upon to colour soldiers’ uniforms – few jobs were to be found.

And the extraordinarily dark summer of 1816 saw an ash cloud from an Indonesian volcano block out sunlight in Britain and ruin farmers’ crops.

Next week, June 9, marks the 194th anniversary of the day a band of people decided to take action against what many saw as an indifferent government.

The Pentrich revolution saw nearly 300 villagers from the area march on Nottingham with only a handful of weapons in an attempt to overthrow the government.

Led by Pentrich man Jeremiah Brandreth, they expected to meet up with thousands coming from the north of England and join with them in a great march towards London, where they hoped to overthrow the government and establish a republic.

But there was no revolution and soldiers soon rounded up the rebels. After a trial, three, including Brandreth were hanged for treason and around 20 were sent to a penal colony in Australia.

The events of the Pentrich Revolution have proved a fascinating topic to local historian, Eric Galvin, 60.

“They were a tough community back then,” he said. “People decided to take things into their own hands on this occasion.

“The leaders had travelled around the country at the time and would have met a number of like-minded people who were keen on revolution.”

“They were hungry and their land had disappeared, their crops had failed. They knew things had to be better and they thought they could change things. But they thought they had the support from across the country, but it wasn’t to be.”

There were a number of reasons the revolution failed, Eric said.

The band of men had little luck in rounding up weapons before arriving in Nottingham, calling on several farms and homes and the Butterley Company itself in the process.

Walking along a route we would now roughly know as the A610 through the night, the men stopped and drank dry a number of pubs on the way – offering to reimburse landlords when the revolution had come to power.

But poor communication between the northern towns and the Pentrich rebels, spies and a lack of will had already doomed the ill-fated uprising.

“The revolution had a lot of negative consequences on Pentrich,” added former senior civil servant Eric, who moved to the village in 2004 and is a former chairman of the Pentrich Historical Society.

“Some had to run away and find new lives for themselves. As far as we can see the village was roughly twice the size it is today. As a result neighbouring Ripley and Swanwick flourished in comparison.”