Westminster Archives Talk: William Davidson and the West End Job

William Davidson and the West End Job Westminster Archives Talk
Public presentation of the story by Peter Daniel of Westminster Archives

Background to the talk

On 1 May 1820, outside Newgate Prison, in front of a huge crowd of onlookers, William Davidson and his fellow Cato Street conspirators—Arthur Thistlewood, James Ings, Richard Tidd and John Brunt— were hanged for high treason. Then they were decapitated in the last brutal act of a murderous conspiracy, ‘The West End Job’ as they’d called it, that aimed to assassinate Prime Minister Lord Liverpool and his cabinet and spark a British version of the French Revolution. The talk will look at events from Davidson’s birth in 1786 to his arrival in Marylebone in 1816 and the final four years of his life and his execution on May 1st ,1820.

On 25th May 2021 Peter Daniel, Education Officer gave a public talk via Zoom about William Davidson and the Cato Street Conspiracy.  Westminster Archives received some fantastic feedback which you can see below:

William Davidson and the West End Job Feedback

Something I was not aware of so really interesting. I originally come from London so will definitely make a visit to Kensington library after lockdown. Please keep these events up as they are so beneficial to keep people connected and learning thank you 
Excellent talk . 
Fascinating and detailed story behind the Cato Street Conspiracy. Peter had depth of knowledge and plenty of detail to give the whole picture and the context. If I have one criticism, it would be that his slides were much too full of text. I would have liked to see more of his excellent illustrations larger on my screen, and I don’t want to read screeds of text, but would rather to listen to him. 
I knew nothing of this event. I may need to rewatch to catch the elements I missed the first time through. 
A marvellous talk. Very informative and engaging. I knew of the Cato Street Conspiracy but not much about it, so I learned a good deal. Thank you to all involved in getting it into my living room. 
The best zoom call we have done this lockdown . Especially as it was on subject totally unknown, very bad that we knew nothing about it. 
A brilliant talk. Definitely the best we’ve been too all year, Looking forward to the exhibition. 
Excellent talk, very detailed. Enjoyed the length. Only suggestion is that the speaker’s image obscured some of the images and text but I don’t if it’s possible to plan in advance where the image will be. It didn’t spoil an excellent talk. I learnt a lot. 
To be honest, it was far more interesting than I thought it would be. I knew nothing about the Cato Street Conspiracy beforehand, I’d not even heard of it. I intend to re-watch and make some notes. 
I’d seen the exhibition at Guildhall City Library, so was particularly pleased to be able to find out more of the background. 
Engaging guest. Interesting subject. 
Nothing specific; REALLY good! 
Would’ve liked more time to look at some of the slides 
It was a very entertaining talk. I was spellbound by it. 
An excellent opportunity to learn more about this historical event 
A very interesting talk. Thank you for keeping us sane during lockdown! 
Thank you for sending the recording as I am keen to read the slides more slowly. They were so interesting but also so full that I was conscious of missing lots of reading material during the talk while listening. The talk was really fascinating and added lots to my rather sketchy knowledge of the conspiracy and the radical/protesting background to the times. It was useful to be reminded just how repressive the government were and how many groups and plots were resisting. I had no idea that there may well have been many more members of the group than just those arrested, and seeing inside the property nowadays was surprisingly informative about the layout and size, even in its current form and two centuries later. Apologies for commenting that the questions were not very well handled and the moderator needed some support. It is time-wasting to read out comments (even praise) and some questions were clearly attendees showing off or raising potentially interesting sideline discussions for which we did not have time (the Glorious Revolution for instance). When there are so many questions it is useful if a line of questioning can be summarised and we over-ran by nearly as long as the talk itself. 
Nothing to add. 
Excellent talk 
High quality presentation, thanks for doing this particularly during the pandemic. Thank you. 
Great talk 
Excellent talk from a very knowledgeable speaker. Very enjoyable, informative and interesting though I did have to concentrate a lot to keep track of all the sidelines. It was a pity there wasn’t enough time to read all the items on the ppt. Very good at placing the incident in its historical context which I found very useful. One of the best talks I have heard in the last year or so – and I have heard a lot! Thank you. 
I had heard of the Cato Street Conspiracy but knew nothing about it, and I found it very interesting, 
An interesting talk. I knew the name of the Cato Street Conspiracy before but nothing else about it. 
It was a fascinating and well delivered talk. The amount of preparation involved showed in the 3D recreations and the shear wealth of material. My only criticism follows from that. We were shown too much on screen to take it in while also listening to what was said. I definetely intend viewing it again to appreciate the visuals more. 
Unfortunately, there was far too much information in different formats on each slide to pay attention to as well as what was being said. Obviously Mr. Davidson was passionate about his ‘stuff’, but the information overload and sparse time given for it all did not make for an enjoyable lecture. Less is more might be appropriate! 
Terrific terrific lecture, you can see that a lot of time and knowledge has gone into it, but too much information on screen and not nearly enough time to speed read and listen simultaneously !! A tour de force. thank you 
Fantastic talk on a subject of which I had no previous knowledge. 
I did not engage with it 
Too much info…far too many tangents. The bones of the story got lost. 
A lot of information to digest which ranged beyond the conspiracy itself.Maybe some editing would help to provide a clearer overall picture.A very interesting presentation nonetheless and I will be following up on a number of the events and issues touched upon. 
I heard many talks from K&C, NationalTrust, British Museum etc until now, but I was absolutely impressed by the quality and the media Peter used to make the whole thing one of the best talks I have heard so far. Having the filmsequences, the song and the illustrations made it easy to follow and gave them faces as well as helping to understand what the conspiracy was about. Brilliant! Thank you so much for this event! 
Absolutely brilliant. It was a wonderful presentation in every way. 
Excellent presentation about an event in British history that I had never heard of. 
Excellent talk by Peter. Very interesting and exceptionally well researched and presented .The Cato Street conspiracy is unknown to most and great to see it brought back to life as a very relevant piece of history. A point of interest for Peter may be that in the last Poldark TV series which concluded in 2019, Colonel Despard and his Jamaican wife featured prominently as he was a friend and comrade of Capt.Poldark from the American War they were involved in and Despard was betrayed by a government spy and executed . It showed how his Caribbean wife tried to petition for him and how badly she was treated in London. Thank you for this talk and hope to see the exhibition at Kensington Town Hall later in year 
Another excellet talk – thak you 🙂 
Best ever Cato Street talk or event I have attended 
Excellent in-depth analysis giving a wide view of the circumstances. Great visuals. Glad of the chance to see the presentation again 
A very interesting talk, well presented and organized. The subject was one that is an important part of British history, but not one I had heard about before. I expect the same can be said for quite a lot of people. 
thought the talk was illuminating and very well presented 
Excellent talk. Thank you. 
I was looking forward to this and I did stay with it to the end, but left promptly as soon as the questions started. Perhaps the speaker was having an off day. He sort of stuttered all the way through his presentation and there were too many insertions into his speech by other people/groups. His slides were so tiny as to be unhelpful and I made a cup of tea and popped a choccie cupcake into the microwave to warm up and piled cream on top of it. Which gave me more satisfaction than the speech! I think this is the only talk from the library service which didn’t hold my attention at all. It felt like the speaker had somewhere else to go to when he finished and he rushed it, talking very fast, and just didn’t connect with me or his subject at all. Well that was just my opinion. 
As said in my e-mail back this was a very interesting well run event 
It was one of the most informative talks I have ever heard. Spurred me to find out more about the Cato conspiracy 
It would be good to have webinars at weekends as well as on weekdays. 
Best webinar so far. 
A very informative presentation which I will watch again as lot of information given but needed more time to read it but I really liked the way it was shown different to some of the talks I’ve seen over recent months 
Very impressive details of the historical background and the individual conspirators. My only complaint is that the slides went so fast it wasn’t always possible to take in the biographies and news items. But this would probably have turned into a 2 hour lecture. 
extremely interesting – good slides, good contact, researched well. 
I’d have preferred more factual information over graphics and re-enactments. Nevertheless the talk was interesting. 
Fascinating and extremely knowledgeable.  
Very well presented, both speaker and slides very accessible and engaging. I have a history A-level & a degree with a large modern history component (albeit done in the Bronze Age), yet I did NOT know ANYTHING about the Cato Street Conspiracy. I would love more bottom-up history of London. 
Excellent talk. Was gripped. I live near the events recounted. Great archivist. He did a grand job of solidarity and research 
Well researched talk but felt there were too many slides and too many tangents to the main topic of the talk 
Excellent. The best so far  
I was fascinated to hear the historical background and about the lives of the conspirators. I live quite near Cato Street and had already heard of the conspiracy so I was pleased to learn all about it and look forward to the exhibition.  
There wasn’t anything in the talk that I could say I had heard before, it was all new to me and as soon as it is safe to do so I wouldn’t mind going out and familiarising myself with some of the locations to bring the whole thing to life. 
First class 
The speaker’s presentation was very clear and easy to understand. I particularly liked the slides because it enabled me to understand more how and why the Cato Street Conspiracy happened. The speaker’s knowledge of the subject is excellent and the colleagues who collaborated with research and creating the images are also to be congratulated for their skills and expertise. A very very worthwhile project. 
Most enjoyable. Please keep doing digital events. It is so good to be able to experience events I could never attend in person. That has been the major benefit of the lockdowns, 
Loved it. Thank you. 
The perspective of this talk is very different from those I have heard previously, as it looks at events from the viewpoint of the man-in-the-street rather than the official line. For example, the notion that enclosure of common land was illegal clashes with the fact that they all were approved by Acts of Parliament. Yes, all MPs and peers were either landowners or their nominees — but it was still legal according to the mores and attitudes that existed at the time. 
Fantastic event – rich information and really engaging presentation and speaker. Would highly recommend! 
Best talk I’ve seen in ages. So glad it’s been recorded as there was so much to read. 
Better than I anticipated. Thanks. 
An excellent talk. Well paced with some good visuals. I liked the Goose and Common extract. 
Heard about the conspiracy in O-level History in the late -50s. Nice to be reminded what was all about! 
V informative & a good pace. At first i thought it might be pitched at school level but it wasn’t! Lots of tangents, absorbing detail & i learnt about an event i’d not heard about before.  
I very much understand all comments about the terrible slave trade, but feel that it doesn’t always feel right to incorporate comments into every talk. The talk was about the Cato street plot. I felt that to emphasis the fact that one of the group had been a slave was not necessary. In fact, the man involved ended up being completely defined by that fact alone. 
Excellent presentation 
Really fascinating insights 
Well presented. Knowledgable presentation. Very interesting. 
Well paced, informative. I learned a lot about the subject. Would have liked to learn a bit more on William Davidson.  
Very informative and engaging talk about about a little known event in British history. I learnt something new., thank you Westminster Archives!  
A lively, well presented talk. It was a change to hear a talk from a more radical viewpoint after the mealy- mouthed talk that typifies much of our present public discourse.  
A really interesting subject that I was only vaguely aware of 
The talk was very interesting and full of information. I will watch it again to see if I missed anything. There was a great deal to see and the prints and cartoons were most enjoyable. 
Very interesting 
Really interesting subject. Brilliantly told and put into historical context. I can imagine this would be fascinating for school children. Really brought history alive. 
Superlative multi-faceted project and moving and thought-provoking talk. Now I’m inspired to study the website as well as look into the conspiracy more generally.  
As a fan of C J Sansom’s Shardlake series and once a frequent visitor to Norfolk, I continue to realize that those in power from before Sansom’s Tombland through to Cato Street that those in power hold onto it with all their might. 
Excellent well researched. Had talks on this last but this gave a fresh perspective. 
The best Westminster Archives talk I’ve attended, and I’ve enjoyed the previous ones. Peter Daniel had complete mastery of the material, and spoke eloquently and engagingly. The fact that he was able to draw on his key role in the Cato Street archive and educational project focusing on William Davidson made this event so much more insightful, and I appreciated the forthrightness with which he framed these events in a political context, and didn’t shy away from speaking from a politically engaged perspective – I wouldn’t have been surprised to have had a presentation that was commendably “historical” but shied away from conveying the events’ roots in vast social, economic and political inequalities. The talk was all the better for it. The illustrations and multimedia presentations certainly contributed to the enjoyment, but it was the speaker who really made the event as strong, vivid and memorable as it was. 
A first class talk. Mr Daniel did betray a personal political slant; not that that bothered me.  
I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and illustrations. 
Interesting, well-researched talk. Learnt a good deal. Thank you. 
I thought it was great – and technically very good with the musicians/re-enactments and maps. I’d heard of the Cato Street Conspiracy before but not in such detail… 
Fascinating talk by enthusiast – thoroughly enjoyed it, possibly a tad too long but well worthwhile 
Wonderful talk on a fascinating subject, interwoven with lovely songs, poems, letters, and pictures. More, please! 
This was a superb talk — deep, thoughtful, exciting and with a fantastic PowerPoint (with inset videos) to make it all come alive. It’s so rare to hear the people’s history/political history presented, and with such passion. More of this please! 
I enjoyed the talk as it was different to a previous Cato Street Talk that I had attended, it did at feel seem a little over long in places but still very interesting.  
excellent talk, briefly mentioned this at A-Level, so nice to find out a little more and i will visit Cato Street when lockdown ends! 

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