The tribute to Ben Rushton at Lister Lane Cemetery in June 1853, has been described as the final major Chartist gathering. And yet, just two months later, there was another huge gathering, also at Lister Lane, following the death of Ben’s younger Chartist colleague, Christopher (‘Kit’) Shackleton from Queensbury.
He had been born at Clayton in 1808 and was a self-educated handloom weaver by trade. In 1829 at Halifax Parish Church, he married Amelia Jowett, and they had a large family. The Chartist writer Ben Wilson tells us that by the 1840s, Shackleton was “considered the finest speaker in the district, a very able writer and debater.” He spoke alongside Ben Rushton at Skircoat Green in 1848 and served for a period as secretary to the local Chartists.
At Shackleton’s August 1853 interment, alongside Ben Rushton, Chartist elder G J Harney gave the final address over the grave. The tombstone has long disappeared; but in 2015 the space was filled by The Friends with a modern plaque (right) with Shackleton’s name on it.
John Culpan (left) is another prominent local Chartist buried at Lister Lane. Born in 1814, and lame from birth, he lived in Union Street, and later in Albion Street. In the later 1840s, he was the Chartists’ local Corresponding Secretary, writing reports for The Northern Star, getting thousands of posters printed, distributing petition forms, and inviting lecturers to this area. Ben Wilson wrote of John: “I sat on the Committee for several years and know something of the services rendered by the secretary. He was looked upon as the leader among the workers, and as a debater and writer he had not his equal amongst our party in this town.”
By trade he was a cashier at a Dye Works. John survived to see a partial implementation of the famous Charter through the Reform Bill of 1884. In July 1885, he was invited by Wilson to chair a celebratory meeting at Maude’s Temperance Hotel in Broad Street. Having earlier been a Methodist, later in life Culpan became notable as one of Britain’s first Spiritualists. He never married and died in 1888.
By 1885 Joe was living comfortably at Lightcliffe. At the July gathering that year in Halifax, he moved “That the best thanks of the meeting be given to Mr Gladstone and his government for passing into law those principles which we have endeavored during a long life to enjoy.” Like Culpan, he died in 1888; and in 1890 James Stansfeld, MP for Halifax, donated two stained glass windows on the west side of Northgate End Unitarian Chapel “in memory of a dear friend, Joseph Foreman”. Sadly, these were lost after the Chapel fell into disrepair, and was demolished in 1982.
With improvements in trade, there was a general change of direction by the late 1840s among many Chartists in the Halifax district, towards consumer co-operation.
A further and little-known Chartist buried at Lister Lane was Joseph Foreman (right). Born locally in 1820, early in life he was a cordwainer and then a bookseller. In 1842 he married Sarah Ashworth, and they lived first at Range Bank and then at Northgate. In 1850 Joe became storekeeper to the Halifax Industrial Society, of which he was a founder member. In 1855 he defused a tense incident in which sixty members stormed the Society and demanded their investment back after the treasurer had misappropriated over £80.
James Feather, Deputy Constable of Halifax
responsible for Law and Order in 1842
On the other side in 1842, was Halifax’s Deputy Constable James Feather, who lived at, and operated from, the Police Office in Upper Kirkgate. He was responsible for the arrests of many Chartist supporters in Halifax in 1842. Born in Warley in 1803 and baptised at Luddenden in September that year, his early career was as a woolcomber. He married Mary Clegg at Halifax Parish Church in May 1837, at which time both were Northowram township residents. From 1838 he was Deputy Constable of Halifax, and on 16th November 1838, he was seconded to deal with a crisis at Mankinholes. He and Sergeant King of Halifax were attempting to arrest William Ingham, overseer for Langfield, for refusing to pay his rates towards the new Union Workhouse. When the two Halifax lawmen reached Mankinholes with a horse and cart, an alarm bell was rung, and hundreds of angry men and women hurried into the village. A violent scene ensued: the horse and cart were thrown roughly over, with the constable on the top. The cart was then smashed and burnt. The two men, after seeking refuge in the overseer's house, were compelled by the mob to come out and swear never to engage in such a business again. Being released, they raced along the road to Stoodley, pursued by an infuriated crowd who repeatedly assaulted them, until at last they found shelter near Eastwood. This was the start of the Mankinholes Riots.
James Feather may have felt more in control at Halifax in 1842, and could have authorised the arrest of Ben Rushton. He was almost certainly one of the men attacked on 16th August when returning from taking the prisoners to Elland. James died in Halifax on 10th January 1844, aged 40, and was buried at Lister Lane Cemetery four days later. His widow was buried there twelve years later. Location of the grave is identified, but there is no memorial inscription.
David C. Glover