Riches and Rebellion at Tredegar House

A sketch published in The Times newspaper depicting Chartists approaching Tredegar House.

This autumn we’ll be marking 180 years since the Newport Rising, exploring themes of power, responsibility, surveillance and the curation of history through a new experience in the mansion house.

The Newport Rising and the Morgans

On 4 November 1839, 10,000 Chartists mobilised and marched towards Newport to show strength of support for political reform, the release of Chartist prisoners and their determination to have the People’s Charter accepted. More than 5,000 marchers reached the Westgate Hotel in central Newport, where the 45th Foot Regiment were ready and waiting for them.

What ensued was one of the most violent events in the movement for political reform.

Apathy, power and control

At the time of the Rising the Morgans of Tredegar were one of the most powerful families in South Wales. As the largest landowner in the region, the Morgans were responsible for tenants from the Vale to the Valleys.   

Sir Charles Morgan became the focus of the Newport Chartists’ anger against the established political system. Chartist leader John Frost wrote a series of stinging letters to Sir Charles throughout the 1820s and 30s, accusing him of indifference to the lives of his tenants, rebuking him for his frivolous pursuits and highlighting what he considered the corruption, villainy and cruelty of Sir Charles’ land agent, Thomas Prothero.

While tensions between the working classes and the landed gentry began to boil over, Sir Charles hired special constables and guards who were placed around Tredegar House for protection. This action was not missed by Frost.

"The present possessor of that splendid mansion thinks it necessary to have a guard around his house, to protect it from fire, to protect his property from (probably) his own tenants!

"Have you never, Sir Charles, thought of the causes which produce these effects?"

The attack of the Chartists on the Westgate Hotel, J.F. Mullock (1840)
An illustration by J.F Mullock depicting the attack on the Westgate Hotel by the Newport Chartists.
The attack of the Chartists on the Westgate Hotel, J.F. Mullock (1840)

Riches and Rebellion

Riches and Rebellion will explore the Morgans’ role in the uprising, the surveillance of their tenants and Octavius Morgan’s passion for collection and curation.

The New Parlour will host a series of collection items on loan from the National Library of Wales and Newport Museum, including Chartist posters and trial documents, some of which are out on display for the first time. Discover the main players of the story and appreciate the resolve of the Chartists through John Frost’s impassioned letters to Sir Charles.

See some of those items collected by Octavius, including a copy of a letter implying the real purpose of the Rising and one of the pistols found on John Frost at the time of his arrest the day after the Rising. How or why Octavius obtained these things can only be speculated.

Continue onto the state rooms and bedrooms to reflect on the contrasting lives of the Morgans and their workers.

The Master’s Bedchamber and the Cedar Closet will be re-opening to the public in October to tell the story of the Morgans and the Chartists 20 years on from the Rising, giving visitors the opportunity to consider the role Octavius played in curating this part of the Morgan’s history. 

Sir Charles leading a procession through the New Hall at Tredegar House
A sketch of Sir Charles leading a procession through the New Hall
Sir Charles leading a procession through the New Hall at Tredegar House

What you need to know

  • Dates: 11 September – 3 April
  • Times: 10.30am – 4pm (last entry at 3pm)
  • Prices:  Normal admission prices apply.
" You have, Sir Charles, on various occasions declared that it would give you pleasure to promote the interest of the inhabitants of Newport. This was a wise determination; for, as the greater part of the town belongs to you, in promoting the welfare of the inhabitants, you serve yourself."
- John Frost