Jeremiah Brandreth (1785 – 7 November 1817) was an out-of-work stocking maker who lived in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, who was beheaded for treason after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the Government of Great Britain. He and two others, who were known as the Pentrich martyrs, were the last people to be beheaded by an axe during an execution in Britain.
Brandreth, who became known as "The Nottingham Captain", was born in Holborn, London and was baptised at St Andrews Holborn on 26 June 1785. The Brandreth family moved to Barnstaple, Devon, in 1786. When he was about 13 the family moved to Exeter and set up a framework knitting business on Maudlin Street. In 1803 he was listed as a reservist in the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot and in the same year was present at the execution of Colonel Edward Despard and six guardsmen in London for the Despard Plot. He deserted from the army around 1808. In 1809 his mother died followed by his father in 1811. He moved to Sutton-in-Ashfield, where he had a wife and three children.
It is believed that Brandreth was involved in Luddite activities in 1811. He was involved in a Luddite raid in 1811 when a fellow Luddite was shot dead.
He met William J. Oliver ("Oliver the Spy") in May 1817 and agreed to cooperate in a plan in which he would join 50,000 men in London to storm the Tower. It is widely believed that Brandreth was a victim of the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, who took severe measures against Luddite rioters.
The "revolution" began on 9 June 1817. Brandreth had held a final meeting at a pub in Pentridge, or Pentrich, The White Horse, where he and his fellow conspirators were to lead a march on Nottingham where "they would receive 100 guineas, bread, meat and ale." They would then lead an attack on the local barracks, overthrow the government and end "poverty for ever". They were lightly armed with pikes, scythes and a few guns and only had a set of rather unfocused revolutionary demands, including the wiping out of the National Debt.
At 10 pm on 9 June, around 50 men assembled at Hunt's Barn in South Wingfield and for four hours ranged around the neighbourhood for weapons and extra men. At one house a widow, Mary Hepworth, lived with her two sons. When she refused to open up, the rioters broke a window and Brandreth fired a shot through it, killing a servant. Some of the party were appalled at this act but Brandreth threatened to shoot anyone who tried to leave.
Eventually the group set out for the works of the Butterley Company outside Ripley, Derbyshire. When they arrived they were confronted by George Goodwin, the factory agent, who was with a few constables. After a stand off, several of the rebel party left. Increasingly demoralised Brandreth and the remainder headed into the town where they forced some of the townsfolk to join them. The rebels continued their march through Codnor and Langley Mill where they awoke publicans for beer, bread and cheese. When it started to rain heavily, more men slipped away.
Outside the village of Giltbrook they were met by 20 mounted troops from the 15th Regiment of Light Dragoons. The appearance of regulars prompted the revolutionaries to scatter. While forty men were captured at the scene, Brandreth and some of the other leaders managed to escape only to be arrested in the next few months.
Trial & execution
A total of 35 people were brought to trial at the Old Bailey in London for their role in the Pentrich rising. As Brandreth and two others, William Turner and Isaac Ludlam, were convicted of High Treason, they were sentenced to death. The punishment for treason, which was still on the statute books, was execution by being hanged, drawn and quartered (it would not be abolished until Forfeiture Act 1870). However, in keeping with the changing times, the quartering (ie the living dissection of the condemned person) was commuted by the George, the Prince Regent. Brandreth's and the other's executions took place outside Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Southwark on 7 November 1817. After they were hanged until dead, the three men's heads were cut off with an axe. When Brandreth's head was shown to the crowd and they did not cheer to the announcement that they were being shown the head of a traitor, the mounted cavalry were said to be prepared to charge at the first signs of trouble (in August 1819, 15 people were killed by local Yeomanry at the infamous Peterloo Massacre in Manchester). The board that was used to hold the bodies during the beheading is kept in Derby Museum.
On the scaffold one of the men claimed that they had been set up by Lord Sidmouth and "Oliver the spy". The claim was investigated by Edward Baines of the Leeds Mercury who found sufficient evidence to justify publishing the story.
- "Hanging, Drawing and Quartering". Archived from the original on October 4, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-05.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) accessed July 2007.
- The Life of Jeremiah Brandreth by John Dring, Pentrich & South Wingfield Revolution Group.
- Chambers Biographical Dictionary (1990). p. 1346.
- Cooper, B (1991). Transformation of a Valley: The Derbyshire Derwent. Scarthin Books; New edition edition. ISBN 0907758177.
- Derby Gaols Hangings, 1732 to 1847, Derby Reporter, 2 April 1847.
- Forfeiture Act 1870, legislation.gov.uk, 1870, archived from the original on 13 November 2012, retrieved 10 March 2011