Thursday, August 6, 2009

The life of James Cartledge (1810 - 1877)

James Cartledge was born in Staffordshire (The Potteries District), 13 Feb 1810, his Brother John was born 13 Jun 1813 in Staffs. The family later moved to Manchester, sometime in the 1820s. Northern England at that time was a cauldron of social change, the nursery of socialism on the one hand, and the benevolent friendly co-operatives on the other.

In 1837 James married Margret shearer – Marriage document James & Margaret 10 Sept. Manchester Cathederal. James Res. 4 Ashton St. Manchester (Schoolmaster/widower) (Father William, gardener.) Margaret Res. 36 Lomax St. Man. (Father, William Shearer, bricklayer. Mother, Margaret.) Witnesses John & Sarah Dumbill (Margaret & Sarah illiterate(?), signed with X) [Margaret was born in Ulster Ireland, 22 Nov 1809.]

Two of the children born in Manchester, James and William George, died in infancy. The surviving sons were; John born March 27 1841 and George August 6 1843.

In the prevailing social conditions, James, a schoolmaster, became an active member of the Chartist Movement, under Feargus O'Connor. Margaret’s father, a bricklayer, and brother were also active Chartists. Though committed to social and political change, by 1843, James was at odds with the often radical and violent leadership of the movement. Following a series of violent riots across the North, many Chartists were arrested and tried for various offences.

James was prevailed on to give evidence against a number of Chartists, including O'Connor. We can only speculate on why he would turn on the movement, but given is later activities I suspect James would now be classed as a social democrat and many of the ‘radical’ ideas he supported are nothing less than basic expectations now.

It seems part of the deal for James’ testimony was relocation, and a government post in Van Diemen's Land. James and his wife Margaret, children John and George and his brother John arrived in Hobart Town in 1844 on the transportation ship ‘The London’. James was employed as secretary to the ship’s commandant. It is said that John was simply on an adventure, and intended to return to England. As the records show, he established himself comfortably in the colony.

Although active in politics in England, James never spoke publicly on political issues after leaving Manchester. In 1843 James appointed Superintendent of the Launceston Treadmill. It was an ironic twist, as some of the convicts in his charge were Chartists.

He is credited, in family oral history, with stopping the lash as a punishment while Superintendent of the Launceston. However, apart from the records showing the lashings stopped during his tenure, there is no proof of his direct involvement. The family story has it that as Magistrate James was sickened at having to sentence the awful punishment.

The legend has it that during one court session James had said something to the effect that he wished the [whipping] triangle would disappear. At least, according to the records, while the lash endured elsewhere in the colony none were recorded in Launceston. It is also said that when the treadmill was finally demolished the dreaded implement of punishment was found in the rafters of the old building.

New Life in the colonies

Needless to say, James found government work odious, and doubtless John saw an opportunity for them both as millers. They acquired a lease on the Supply River Mill, further down the Tamar River. However while John operated the mill James stayed in Launceston to operate another venture, the Union Water Supply.

The Supply River story is covered here. The Union Water Supply enterprise was based at another mill (see right), at the head of the Tamar and confluence with the South Esk River. This mill was powered by water fed by wooden flume, down the gorge from the cataracts. The Tamar at this point was brackish and something of a cesspool, but busy shipping needed fresh water.

The Union Water Supply collected the water used to drive the mill, supplying it to ships plying this river port. This connection with shipping could we answer another conundrum, it has always been a curious point that there had not been any previous history of ships in the family – until James.

Of course they needed and acquired a ship for the Supply River mill. The Tamar Maid was essential to deliver wheat to the mill and flour to the market, essentially contracts with the colonies government. But James went further and had another ship, the Cousins, built at the mill site. Then he went on to become a ‘ships master’.

It is unfair of course to employ the Cromwellian phrase here - right but repulsive, wrong but romantic. However it is clear in their business ventures that James chose a more romantic path while brother John built a close relationship with the growing business class of the colony. John forged ahead with is Supply Mill apprentice Tommy Monds, while James remained close to the dreamer, ‘Philosopher Smith’.

When James followed John to the gold rush (1854), though staying in Melbourne to establish a building supplies business he soon recruited Smith (left) to provide quality timber from the Forth/Mersey area of Tasmania. The tall, straight eucalypts of this region produced a bounty of smooth straight split palings for building needs.

But whatever happened, in 1856 James moved back to Tasmania – to Torquay now known s East Devonport – and the source of his timber business. He had a small store there and also returned to teaching, but he was still shipping out palings.

In 1861 James sold he Cousins to budding shipping magnate, William Holyman, however 1866 his world fell apart when oldest son John died when the Tamar Maid capsized at the rip, the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. That was the end of James’ seafaring, though the tradition lived on in the family.

But ven on the other side of the world it seems James could not altogether escape his Chartist past. It has been a matter of some speculation as to why others write of James' time on the North West Coast, as he was a prominent citizen, James Fenton should totally ignore him.

The discovery that a close friend of James Fenton's, Zephaniah Williams, was an exiled Chartist suggests that James might have been suffering for his past. Although Williams had been transported in 1840, he still appeared to have some knowledge of events in the movement. To him, James would have been a traitor, and the fact that he gave evidence against one James Fenton (certainly not a close relative of Fenton) would be enough to cause bad blood.

James and John were total abstainers throughout their lives. Williams on the other hand had been a publican both in Wales and in Devonport. In the small community of the time it is easy to surmise the two groups being hostile to each other.

Even after his return to Launceston and to his death in 1877 James remained committed to his Primitive Methodist background and remained active in organisations like the Rechabites and other abstinence groups. More than that he remained true to his belief in social reform.

Chartist historians still claim James Cartledge was a traitor, and they might well be right. From his actions James was less interested in the politics of the situation and far more concerned about the reality. He was an ‘ordinary’ businessman, but his involvement is establishing banking, housing and other essentials, within the reach of the common man, was relentless. Perhaps the subject of another post.


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