This pamphlet is a unique record of how the arrival of Chartism in Crayford created a terrible split amongst local people. You can see the pamphlet fullscreen.
Only one copy of this pamphlet exists in the world at the Southern Methodist University in the United States. Without its discovery we could never have proved that Crayford men played an active role in one of the largest acts of protest this country has ever seen. We would also never have known that one of the leading Chartists in the town was none other than the Catholic parish priest and that his political beliefs stoked the embers of a terrible family feud.
The pamphlet underlines just how bitter things became because it is not only evidence of the split between factory owner and worker but evidence of a bitter split between father and son. The printed words were written anonymously by ‘a Working Bee’ on April 11th 1848. This was the day after the huge demonstration at Kennington where a planned march on parliament ended in chaos and defeat for the Chartist movement. The hand written notes on the printed leaflet unveil the anonymous ‘Working Bee’ to be none other than Augustus Applegath Senior, a former owner of one of the Crayford Calico mills and resident of Shenstone, Crayford. Six years before writing this pamphlet, Applegath Senior had been made bankrupt and been forced to sell both his home and factory to David Evans. The extent of his debts, £31,000 according to the West Kent Guardian, meant he also could not afford to meet the bills for the new Catholic church, St Mary of the Crays, that he had built in the grounds of his home for his son, also Augustus. The church had been an act of reconciliation between father and son following the younger Augustus’s conversion to Catholicism. However the pamphlet proves the family feud grew deeper still through their political differences.
A review in the Chartist newspaper, The Northern Star in 1848 ridiculed the pamphlet and its arguments by saying it must have been written by ‘an idle drone or sucking slug.’ The review was attributed to the Dartford Chartists who were led by Peter Hoey who was leader of the Block Printers Union at Swaisland’s in Crayford. The handwritten notes in the pamphlet contradicting each of the arguments were put forward by Rev Augustus Applegath was tasked with drafting a response to his father’s defence of the status quo.
The pamphlet was published at a point in history, 1848, when Europe was torn apart by revolution and Britain came close to following suit. In local terms it also came between the two bitter Crayford Block Printers strikes of 1847 and 1852. Consequently, it is a unique primary source that we hope pupils studying the Chartists at KS3 may use in future years as a means of discovering a story that has until recently been missing from the history of our town.