Who were the Cato Street Conspirators? 

The Man of Colour
Westminster Archives
Leader of the Conspiracy: Arthur Thistlewood
Westminster Archives
The Pompey Butcher
Westminster Archives
Shoemaker revoltionary
Westminster Archives

Accounts talk about twenty seven conspirators being on site on the night of the 23rd February 1820.  That doesn’t account for others who would have been at other sites.

In the event only eleven stood trial:

Five were executed:

ARTHUR THISTLEWOOD, a former Lincolnshire Militia officer whose experiences drove him to become a hardened revolutionary.  So dedicated was he too the overthrow of the system that he went to France at the height of the French Revolution and served in the French Grenadiers! After returning home he lost an inheritance and drifted into radical Spencean politics. Together with Thomas Preston he was a lead figure I the Spa Fields Riots and had escaped execution for treason only tow years before in 1817..

WILLIAM DAVIDSON, son of the Jamaican Attorney General and a freed black woman, he travelled from Kingston, Jamiaca to Glasgow at 14 to study the law. He was apprenticed to a Liverpool lawyer, but soon lost interest and ran away to sea.  During his life on the open waves he was twice press gained in to the Royal Navy before returning to England and settling into life as a Cabinet maker in Litchfield. At was at this time he did some work for Lord Harrowby at his country mansion. He began courting a Miss Salt, the daughter of a prosperous merchant. He suspected that Davidson was after her £7,000 dowry, and attempted to kill him by firing a pistol at him. Luckily, the pistol ball passed through Davidson’s hat! Mr Salt offered his consent to marry his daughter if Davidson dropped charges against him. This Davidson readily agreed to, only to discover she had married someone else. Distraught, Davidson attempted suicide by taking poison, but was saved by a friend.  Davidson then came to London, married a widow with four children and worked as a cabinet maker.  He became involved in the plot through his acquaintance with John Harrison.

.JAMES INGS, once ran a prosperous Portsmouth butcher.  However, the end of the Napoleonic wars destroyed trade in the port so he sold his house and moved to London.  His West End butchers failed and in desperation he opened a Whitechapel coffee shop which also sold radical pamphlets.  This business too failed and so he pawned his watch to send his wife and children home to Portsmouth.  His route to becoming a revolutionary was via starvation and desperation.

JOHN THOMAS BRUNT, was the only Londoner growing up near Oxford Street and learning his trade as a women’s shoe maker.  He became a master boot maker and when trade was bad Brunt and his son had walked to Paris and back to find work at the Royal Horse Guards barracks at Cambrai in 1816. They were away so long that his wife was admitted to St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics because she believed they had died. He had a wife and fourteen year old son.

RICHARD TIDD another shoe maker was originally from Grantham Lincolnshire once committed perjury to vote for Sir Francis Burdett in the Westmisnter elections.  He also became involved in Colonel Despard’s revolutionary plot of 1803 but escapted prosecution by running away to Scotland. He seems to have subsisted by joining half the regiments in the British army so that he could pocket their bounty and then disappear.  After a spell in Rochester he returned to London and began mixing with Thistlewood and his Spenceans.

 Five were transported:

JAMES WILLIAM WILSON, JOHN HARRISON, RICHARD BRADBURN,  JOHN SHAW STRANGE, CHARLES COOPER,  and one was cleared JAMES GILCHRIST.  Both Thomas Preston and Thomas Hazard were held but later released without charge.

The key conspirators were all followers of Thomas Spence who had died in 1814. Spence was a radical Geordie who believed in two key ideas: Votes for all and share the land.  In may respects he was a proto-communist.  They met regularly at the Marylebone Union Reading room to discuss the issue of the day.  A succession of events drove them to seek revolution rather than reform.

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