National Trust turns REVOLUTIONARY with focus on UK’s history of protest

The National Trust is launching a programme of events to commemorate protests, marches and demands for social change which helped shaped Britain as a way of getting visitors more involved with their projects.

The conservation organisation is typically known for its upkeep of historic homes and landmarks across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but is trying to stay ‘relevant’ to attract a new audience. 

One of the trust’s marquee events will be to commemorate and examine the truth behind the Peterloo massacre on its 200th anniversary, in which 18 people died and hundreds more were injured demanding political reform.  

Samuel Greg, the founder of the Quarry bank cotton mill (pictured), witnessed the massacre and following cover-up

Samuel Greg, the founder of the Quarry bank cotton mill (pictured), witnessed the massacre and following cover-up

Samuel Greg, the founder of the Quarry bank cotton mill (pictured), witnessed the massacre and following cover-up

Print of a painting of the Peterloo Massacre, which occurred at St Peter's Field, Manchester, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000 to demand change to parliamentary representation 

Print of a painting of the Peterloo Massacre, which occurred at St Peter's Field, Manchester, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000 to demand change to parliamentary representation 

Print of a painting of the Peterloo Massacre, which occurred at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000 to demand change to parliamentary representation 

Dunham Massey, a Georgian house in Cheshire (pictured), was owned at the time by the head of the brigade which charged into the protesters

Dunham Massey, a Georgian house in Cheshire (pictured), was owned at the time by the head of the brigade which charged into the protesters

Dunham Massey, a Georgian house in Cheshire (pictured), was owned at the time by the head of the brigade which charged into the protesters

Two properties of the trust have links to the 1819 Peterloo massacre, where the cavalry charged at a group of protesters on a field in St Peter’s Field, Manchester.

Samuel Greg, the founder of the Quarry bank cotton mill, witnessed the massacre and following cover-up, while Dunham Massey, a Georgian house in Cheshire, was owned at the time by the head of the brigade which charged into the protesters.     

John Orna-Ornstein, the trust’s director of culture and engagement, said: ‘We recognise that many people want more than a cream tea. They want to feel connected to the places they visit.’

A number of high-profile contemporary artists have been drafted in by the trust to further their engagement with the public, led by the Turner prize winner Jeremy Deller. The aim of the new programme will be for artists to engage with sites where people have gathered to seek cultural change.

Six labourers tried to form a union against their poor working conditions under this tree. Pictured: The Tolpuddle Martyrs tree in Dorset

Six labourers tried to form a union against their poor working conditions under this tree. Pictured: The Tolpuddle Martyrs tree in Dorset

Six labourers tried to form a union against their poor working conditions under this tree. Pictured: The Tolpuddle Martyrs tree in Dorset

Four of the six labourers who were shipped to Australia for forming a union against their poor working conditions in Dorset

Four of the six labourers who were shipped to Australia for forming a union against their poor working conditions in Dorset

Four of the six labourers who were shipped to Australia for forming a union against their poor working conditions in Dorset

In Dorset, artist Bob and Roberta Smithwill examine how normal people demanded change at the Tolpuddle Martyrs tree in Dorset, inspired by six labourers who were shipped to Australia for forming a union against their poor working conditions. 

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker is working on a number of events to commemorate the 1932 mass trespass of Kinder Scout, which led to open public access to the countryside.  

What was the Peterloo massacre? 

An estimated 18 people, including four women and a child, died from sabre cuts and trampling. Nearly 700 men, women and children received extremely serious injuries. 

The Massacre occurred during a period of immense political tension and mass protests. Fewer than 2% of the population had the vote, and hunger was rife with the disastrous corn laws making bread unaffordable.

Around 60,000 to 80,000 protesters gathered and most were supporters of parliamentary reform. Areas like Manchester had become increasingly industrialised yet disenfranchised. Inspired by men like Henry Hunt and the journalist William Cobbett, they began to campaign for suffrage. 

They argued that extending the vote to working men would lead to better use of public money, fairer taxes and an end to restrictions on trade which damaged industry and caused unemployment.

Yet soldiers round in, slashing at protesters with sabres. Many were trampled as they tried to escape 

Film and photograph collective Amber is working with the former mining community of Easington, County Durham, where the National Trust looks after five miles of coastline that were once blackened by mining residue but have now disappeared.  

The director of the new initiative, Orna-Ornstein, denied the trust was trying to make a political point in the new ‘People’s Landscapes’ project.

He said: ‘Some of our places have borne witness to human suffering; other sites have been places of profound joy; many have been both. If our places are to remain relevant now into the future, we need to be able to tell these complex stories.’

He added that 26 million visitors to the trust’s sites would see ‘more that is locally relevant but nationally resonant’ in order to keep attracting visitors in 2019.

An example he pointed to of the trust bridging the historical gap at their landmarks to the modern day was at one of the grand Georgian homes in Croome, which had been sold to the Roman Catholic church which became a boys school.  

Boys at the school had made allegations about sexual abuse and from March, former students at the school and other children in care will talk about the meaning of ‘home’.  

He added such projects were vital to ensuring the trust stay ‘relevant in the lives of modern people’.

He said: ‘They are also critical if we are to become relevant to new audiences, because we cannot simply expect people to come to us, sometimes we should be willing to go to them.’  

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker is working on a number of events to commemorate the 1932 mass trespass of Kinder Scout in the Peak district (pictured), which led to open public access to the countryside

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker is working on a number of events to commemorate the 1932 mass trespass of Kinder Scout in the Peak district (pictured), which led to open public access to the countryside

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker is working on a number of events to commemorate the 1932 mass trespass of Kinder Scout in the Peak district (pictured), which led to open public access to the countryside

The coastline in Durham which was once blackened by the effects of mining which has become a National Trust landmark

The coastline in Durham which was once blackened by the effects of mining which has become a National Trust landmark

The coastline in Durham which was once blackened by the effects of mining which has become a National Trust landmark

The history behind the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs Tree’ 

Under this tree in 1834, six agricultural labourers, exploited by their employers – paid just 9 shillings a week and living in dreadful poverty – formed the first trade union in Britain to bargain for better pay and working conditions under the leadership of George Loveless.

The landowners, led by James Frampton and supported by the government, were desperate to put a stop to the union and to control increasing outbreaks of dissent. 

The Tolpuddle Six were arrested, sent to Dorchester for trial, and charged under the 1797 Mutiny Act. They were convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers, sentenced to seven years and transported to Botany Bay.

Credit: Ancient Tree Forum 

 

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