For the last few months, Andrew Howe and Ted Eames have been working with an enthusiastic and growing group of people in and around Dawley, Telford on the development of a community project to commemorate the Cinderloo Uprising of 1821.
So what is Cinderloo?
On 2 February 1821, more than 500 miners gathered in Dawley and marched in protest at pay cuts and increasing poverty. The march gathered in numbers to over 3,000 and following the reading of the Riot Act, culminated in a pitched battle with the local Yeomanry, leaving two men dead, many injuries on both sides and one man, Thomas Palin, hung in April 1821 for ‘felonious riot’. This dramatic conflict took place on the cinder hills at Old Park, adjacent to what was the Ironworks of Thomas Botfield, now occupied by the Forge retail park at Telford town centre. It has become known as ‘The Battle of Cinderloo’ or Cinderloo Riot.
The Dawley Heritage project did much work to bring the historic event to public attention, building on research by Ian Thomas. There is a great website here. Yet Cinderloo remains relatively unknown, and certainly less so than the Peterloo Massacre which happened only two years before in 1819.
The event had a significant impact on the local community at the time, and played a part in improvements in social justice and employment rights that became established some years later. There are many resonances with contemporary issues. We recognised that there would be an opportunity for a 200th anniversary of the event in 2021, and thought it would be a great time to bring the event into wider public awareness and encourage the local community to gain a greater stake and pride in its heritage and the role of Dawley in history. This could be achieved using art and other creative activities.
Andrew first contacted members of the Lawley and Overdale Local History Group in September 2017 at the Wrekin Local History Studies group history day. Andrew and Ted were invited to a members’ meeting in November to discuss various ideas for artwork and other events and activities, such as walks and exhibitions.
There was strong support and these initial ideas were circulated to other history groups in the Wrekin Local Studies Forum. Several people came forward with information and research, one of whom was Pete Jackson, who had already been thinking on similar lines that the importance of Cinderloo needed to be recognised. Pete’s inspiration, local knowledge and commitment helped give the project the impetus it needed and very soon there was a great deal of activity and interest emerging on social media.
In late December, Andrew joined Pete Jackson and a small group of enthusiasts on a walk from Wellington to Old Park before returning via Ketley. This gave a sense of the legacy of industrial workings in the landscape, which has now largely been cleared, reclaimed or built upon. There are signs of Telford’s industrial past all over the place when you look close enough. It was a great opportunity to share ideas and build some momentum for the project.
We also linked up with Jill Impey, artist and a director of Participate Contemporary Artspace CIC with a view to making a film which will form an interpretive legacy for the project.
Further discussions with Pete Jackson and others led to a public meeting at the Elephant and Castle, in Dawley on 19th February. The Riot Act was read by John Ellis for dramatic effect, and Andrew read a poem by Ted Eames and one by himself to further set the scene.
The turn-out for the meeting was impressive with over 35 people attending, representing 12 community groups and individuals with many different areas of interest. The meeting clearly established strong support for setting up a constituted group, Cinderloo1821, to plan and deliver activities to commemorate Cinderloo. There were many people with specialist skills and interests willing to contribute to the new group.
Jill interviewed some of the attendees and made a short video clip of the evening:
Some clear themes for activity emerged from the discussion including: –
- Family history relating to the participants in Cinderloo
- Research of political history building on work of Ian Thomas
- Art, music and poetry
- Mapping and walking around Cinderloo sites
- Linking to existing local history groups
- Producing publicity materials and activities to raise awareness
There is potential to use intergenerational public events and creative activities with schools/colleges and community groups to investigate some of the above themes and issues associated with Cinderloo, linking past and present.
From an arts perspective, there are many possible opportunities, and some work has already begun. People are writing poetry, music and creating visual art. In order to plan for more and larger events, involving the community, it will be necessary to secure funding, and that is one of the main priorities at the moment. We are also doing research and consultation to inform these plans.
Some ideas we hope will come to fruition over the next three years:
- An arts and heritage exhibition, linked with poetry/art competitions and public events;
- Pamphlets or books of poetry/creative writing and artwork
- Working with schools, colleges and community groups