Posted by: peopleshistreh | October 3, 2014

A City of Light… Excerpts Chapters 9 and 10

Excerpts from Chapters 9 and 10 relating to the Democratic Chapel and the Operatives’ Hall Society:

‘When the Nottingham Working Men’s Association was set up it met in the Chartist room “at the end of Halifax Place” and it was there that NWMA meetings were held during 1838, and to which the Nottingham Female Political Union moved their meetings in January 1839 …

At some time during the next seven months the NMWA moved from Halifax Place to the ‘Democratic Chapel’ in Riste Place, Barker Gate … But where exactly was the “Democratic Chapel”?

The Salem Chapel in Riste Place was built in 1817 at a cost of £2,000.’ … ‘William Wylie in 1853 wrote that “this neat little place of worship is occupied by the New Testament Disciples”.

The most likely explanation is that the Chapel was rented to the Chartists soon after its purchase by the New Testament Disciples and that they took it back in late 1845 when the Chartists vacated it.

Being free from alcohol the Democratic Chapel was able to provide a more welcoming place for women and children, a place where husbands and fathers need not desert their families of an evening …

A description of how the Democratic Chapel had been acquired and how it was used when at its zenith was given by “a Chartist shopkeeper” in the Midland Counties Illuminator in February 1841. The writer explains that “like our brethren in most other towns, the Chartists of Nottingham had great difficulty in obtaining a room to hold their meetings in; all the large ones being in the hands of persons whose minds were prejudiced against us on account of our being called “Chartists” …

”This chapel is open for religious services on Sunday, and the whole truth is preached therein. On Monday evenings the ‘Charter Association’ transact their business; on Tuesday evenings the ‘Chartist Total Abstinence Society’ meets in the same place; on Wednesday evenings the singing class meets to practice… “.

The last recorded meeting at the Democratic Chapel was that of the Operatives’ Hall Society in September 1845 at which the sale of 1,000 shares had been announced.

James Sweet’s letter to the Review in January had stressed the need for a meeting hall “for the labouring portion of the population” and ended with an appeal to working men: “It therefore becomes the duty of the operatives generally to look to themselves – to do their own work – to depend upon no other class doing it for them”.

The successor to the Operatives’ Hall project was the People’s Hall in Beck Street … it was once again an institution created largely by middle class philanthropy for deserving working class users.’

Read the full story of the Democratic Chapel and the Operatives’ Hall Society in chapters 9 and 10 of The City of Light: Socialism, Chartism and Co-operation – Nottingham 1844.


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