Pentrich Revolution 1817
by martin davis artist
This morning I had the unalloyed pleasure of attending the official launch of the Pentrich Revolution Exhibition in Belper, Derbyshire. I would hazard a guess that not many people outside the immediate locality have even the faintest idea of what the “Revolution” was all about. Here I am at the opening at No 28 Cafe, Belper;
Two things to explain here – 1. my involvement with the exhibition as an artist, and 2. the significance of the revolution itself.
Taking the second one of these first when I first became aware of the P.R. when I moved to this part of Derbyshire some 30 odd years ago my first reaction was why had I never heard of it before? ….and I still don’t know why. In 1817 an uprising occurred in these parts in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the poverty and the lack of jobs etc in the face of the ongoing industrial revolution. It has since been fondly referred to as the Pentrich Revolution even though the village of Pentrich was just one of the places up and down the land where an insurrection was festering and even though it never really got off the ground. In the end it was nipped in the bud with the ringleaders “tried” and hanged in Derby and the rest transported to Australia for life. To me this whole episode deserves a much bigger and more widely recognised place in the nation’s history because it was the very last time a revolution was planned and at least partially carried out in this country. To me that makes it hugely significant and deserving of wider recognition. At least as big as gunpowder, treason and plot! Maybe that would have happened had the uprising got much further than it did. To read more about this fascinating episode and the whole sordid story of govt spies and agent provocateurs go to http://www.pentrichrevolution.org.uk
My involvement started when I was contacted by one of the local organisers a couple of years ago in anticipation of the bicentenary of the uprising this year. Great plans were afoot and festivities to mark the occasion both here and in Australia part of which was to have scenes from the uprising painted and produced by local artists with the intention of creating a multi-imaged tapestry and a permanent exhibition to raise awareness of the events that took place 200 years ago. The committee also had the aim of tracing all the descendants of the original “revolutionaries” who were transported down under for their sins and bring them together for the first time for the celebrations.
I love all this historical recognition and re-appraisal and even though my personal involvement has been just to produce an image of the insurrection (in my case to mark the uprising of men in the neighbouring town of Alfreton – see my painting Alfreton arise! below- I am following this year’s events with much interest. One of my passions about art is its ability to pop up in unexpected circumstances like this and involve you in something amazing way out of your ken.
So if you, like me, have never heard of this part of our history go to the website above and take a look. I promise you it is absolutely fascinating…real history about real people in their struggle to survive.