Monday, February 23, 2009

Charterville, Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire

Alternative settlements (2)

I have blogged before about Chartism, the working-class movement of the 1830s and 1840s that campaigned for electoral reform and set up settlements where people could live in decent accommodation with a plot of land to cultivate. A number of Chartist villages or colonies were established in the late-1840s – Heronsgate in Hertfordshire, Snig’s End and Lowbands in Gloucestershire, Great Dodford near Birmingham, and Charterville, at Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire.

Charterville was founded in 1847 on 300 acres of land divided into some 57 smallholdings and so, while in 1848, Europe’s year of revolutions, campaigning Chartists marched in support of such demands as universal suffrage for men over 21, a group of their fellows in Oxfordshire settled down to a quiet agrarian life. They built the standard Chartist bungalows, generously laid out with oak floors, good-sized windows, and bookshelves, that still survive today.

In spite of setbacks – the colonies were declared illegal by a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1851 and there were difficulties repaying the loans that had been taken out to buy the land – the smallholdings continued to function and many of the bungalows remain. Their typical layout – central gable with flanking rooms – makes them easy to spot in Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, and here not far from the Witney bypass in Oxfordshire. Here amongst the trees it is not difficult to imagine the attractions they held for their first occupants.


Peter Ashley said...

I wish I'd found this one when I scoured the Minster Lovell estate a few years ago. And I love the Chartists liking for B&Q doors.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Well spotted. Ah, the perception of the doors.

Familyhistorybuff said...

Do you know if the main property had gates at the front?

Philip Wilkinson said...

I'm not sure what you mean by 'the main property'. The bungalow I photographed certainly had its own gate, but the overall community seems to consist of a collection of scattered bungalows and smallholdings with a road running through the middle, so I wouldn't have thought it would have had its own gate.

Abersnecky said...

I don't want to sound pernickety, but the whole point of these settlements was to provide the inhabitant of each lot with enough ground to enable him to register as a voter. But they have a somewhat tangled prehistory, which will take the curious both to Ireland and to early post-slavery Jamaica, and among the folk that Feargus O' Connor filched his inspiration for them from seems to be none other than his arch-enemy, the Birmingham Quaker Joseph Sturge. It's worth looking too at the later evolution of crofting, where the idea was to make sure that you couldn't live entirely from your croft.