Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Article - H is for... Samuel Holberry (1814-1842) (Sheffield)

QUITE where Samuel Holberry sits in the annals of history is still open to some debate.

Undoubtedly he was a man of great liberal vision, a tireless campaigner for universal suffrage and a working class hero.

But this Chartist, of Eyre Street, city centre, was also someone who, in attempting to further his cause, sought to bring unparalleled terror to the streets of Sheffield.

Holberry was born in Nottinghamshire but moved here in 1835 after leaving the army and taking work as a distiller.

He had long held radical views but he became convinced working men must take up arms after various Chartist meetings were broken up in Sheffield by heavy-handed police.

On January 12 1840, Holberry led some 200 men in an attempt to seize control of the Town Hall in Waingate and spark a nationwide revolution.

That it would be bloody, he had no doubt. Gun shops were plundered, Holberry stockpiled hand grenades and spikes were laid across Snig Hill in a bid to cripple any troops rushing into town.
As it turned out, not a single shot was fired.

A Rotherham landlord infiltrated secret meetings and passed information to police who were able to round up the revolutionaries as they gathered.

Holberry was sentenced to four years in York Gaol where he died of consumption aged just 27.

Tellingly, more than 50,000 Sheffielders attended his funeral at the city’s General Cemetery, while a commemorative cascade today stands in the Peace Gardens.


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