It was 1834 and 100,000 people gathered in what was Copenhagen Fields and is now just north of King’s Cross to demand freedom for the Tolpuddle Martyrs; it is now 175 years later and residents in King’s Cross together with trades unions from all over the country are preparing to commemorate that momentous day with a march on 25 April from the Caledonian Park to Edward Square where an acoustic music festival and lots of activities will end a week of events.
The credit crunch is hitting us all hard in 2009, but back in 1834 things were very much tougher for ordinary working people. Average family outgoings for the basics was 13 shillings and ninepence; six farm labourers from the Dorset Village of Tolpuddle soon to become ‘martyrs’, decided that local pay of 9 shillings a week was tantamount to starvation wages. So George Loveless together with his brother James and brother-in-law Thomas Stanfield, Thomas’s son John, James Hammett and James Brine decided to set up a trade union to fight for better wages from the rich landowners including James Frampton. Frampton complained to the Prime Minister who agreed that development of unions must be stopped. The six were framed on charges of ‘swearing an oath’ under laws created to stop seditious meetings and assemblies and in March were sentenced to seven years transportation to the penal colonies of Australia where they could reasonably be expected to starve or die.
But… on April 21, 1834 a month after the Trial a mass procession of 35 unions, organised in Copenhagen Fields by the Metropolitan Trades Unions, marched to Whitehall to present a massive 200,000 signature petition which the Prime Minister refused to accept. Protests continued and after some years the Martyrs returned to England. They are now world famous as six heroes who stood up for our rights.
In King’s Cross a street has been named after the Martyrs and a mural on Copenhagen Street celebrates the original march. Right next to the mural isEdward Square, founded by another local hero, Lisa Pontecorvo who sadly died last year. Lisa’s image has been added to the mural and she would have been the first to welcome this years’ festivities.
An educational pack for local schools is now being distributed.
Tolpuddle KX 2009 is set to be a highlight in North London’s year!
Festival Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/tolpuddlekx