Richard Spurr

Richard Spurr (1800–1855) was a Cornish cabinet maker and lay preacher who was imprisoned for his part in leading the political movement Chartism.

Early lifeEdit

Richard Spurr was born son of Christopher Spurr and Christian Richards in 1800 in Truro, Cornwall, where he became a cabinet maker and carpenter. He was married on his 21st birthday in Saint Helier, Jersey to Ann Mary Babot who was born there in 1803.

In 1840, now living in London, he was one of eleven signatories to Henry Vincent's address on teetotalism who described themselves as political victims.[1]

Involvement in the Chartist MovementEdit

He became interested in promoting peoples’ rights whilst operating from premises in Pyder Street, Truro,[2] and was a leader of the Chartist Movement in Cornwall.[3] Possibly he may have been influenced by William Lovett who, like Richard, was a Cornish cabinet maker.[citation needed]

Spurr was arrested by police with drawn cutlasses[4] on Thursday 16 January 1840 at the Trades' Hall, Bethnal Green whilst addressing an LDA meeting of about 700 people "to put their trust in God and keep their powder dry"[5] and sent to Newgate Gaol[6] to await trial at the Central Criminal Court.

He later represented London at the famous 1840 Manchester Conference.[7]

Initially a member of the National Charter Association of Great Britain and Ireland, standing for election to its Executive Committee in May 1841,[8] he became an early member of the National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, founded in 1841 by William Lovett[9] There is much written about Richard Spurr in the newspapers of the day, but also in books including full chapters in [10] and "Crime, Protest and Popular Politics in Southern England 1740-1850".[11]

A new life in AustraliaEdit

By 1848 Chartists were being hunted down, imprisoned and deported. In 1850, possibly after being tipped off as to his impending arrest, Richard Spurr migrated to Australia together with his wife and children aboard the Trafalgar.[12]

According to "Victoria and its Metropolis"[13] Richard Spurr built the first Police Barracks in Melbourne, near his business premises at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Flinders Street. There is a possibility that he was at Eureka Stockade as he was in Ballarat for a while at that time, and the rights being fought for at the Eureka Stockade were very similar to those sought by the Chartists. Many of the leaders at the Eureka Stockade were Chartist members. The nights before the military attack on the stockade there were up 1,500 people there, but dropped to about 150 on the day of the attack.[citation needed]


Richard Spurr died in January 1855[14] (within 2 months of the Eureka Stockade) and so never saw true democracy introduced to England or Australia. However as a result of the Eureka Stockade democratic reform became a reality in Victoria over the next couple of years. Richard Spurr is buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery grave # CE 2 1201, where his headstone reads:


Writing recently, Richard's descendant Noel Spurr OAM pondered the question as to whether his great great-grandfather may have died of a broken heart, "believing that after half a lifetime of involvement, nothing had changed, that people were killed for nothing".[15]


  1. ^ "Signatories to Henry Vincent's address on teetotalism". Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
    Note: it is possible that Henry Vincent and Richard Spurr were related by marriage (cf. Oliver Spoure married Temperance Vincent in 1640 at North Hill, Cornwall, England; also John Vincent married Mary Spoure on 24 August 1661 at North Hill, Cornwall, England)
  2. ^ Rule, John; Wells, Roger A E (1997). Crime, Protest, and Popular Politics in Southern England, 1740-1850. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 81. ISBN 1-85285-076-0.
  3. ^ Comments on the Chartists' visit to Cornwall in the local newspapers:
    "Mr Heath, an operative, was called to the chair, and the meeting was then addressed by Mr Spurr, who read and proposed the adoption of the national petition. Mr Wm (sic) Rowe seconded the motion, which was unanimously carried." The speeches of Duncan and Lowery were described as "inflammatory...but marked by considerable ability."
    West Briton 15 March 1839 page 2, column 4 notes the Chartist meeting on "Thursday evening last", at Truro town hall hired with the mayor's permission as quoted in Mad dogs and mackerels: Chartists at St Ives © Maxwell Adams 2005
  4. ^ Chase, Malcolm (2007). Chartism: A New History. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-6087-8.
  5. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine 1840-page 199
  6. ^ "Chartism: A New History",Manchester University Press, 2007) p.137, see also
  7. ^ "History of the Chartist Movement, 1837-1854", Gammage R G
  8. ^ "Nominations for the Executive" in The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser, Saturday 1 May 1841 (Vol IV No 181 page 1).
  9. ^ Lovett, L&S, II, pp.264-5;Northern Star, 18 Sep 1841; Add. MS. 37,774:
    "Those who had been prominent in London working-class radicalism and Chartism who joined the National Association (for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, founded by William Lovett in 1841, included Vincent, James Watson, Richard Moore, Nesson, Charles and James Savage, Charles Westerton, Arthur Dyson, Richard Spurr, James Hoppey and James Peat." as quoted in London Chartism 1838-1848 by David Goodway (Cambridge University Press, 2002), ISBN 0-521-89364-X - Page 41
  10. ^ Rule, John (1976). "Richard Spurr of Truro – small town Radical". Cornish Studies 4/5. Cornish Studies. University of Exeter. pp. 50–55. reprinted in Rule, John (2006). Cornish Cases: Essays in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Social History. Clio Publishing. pp. 190–200. ISBN 0-9542650-8-4.
  11. ^ Rule, John; Wells, Roger A E (1997). Crime, Protest and Popular Politics in Southern England 1740-1850. Hambledon Continuum. ISBN 1-85285-076-0.
  12. ^ List of People Embarking on the Trafalgar, arrived South Australia March 1850. Ref 513/50/3 frame 6 maritime museum in Port Adelaide,South Australia. Richard Spurr paid £19 for the passage, which may have been under the Wakefield Assistance Plan for skilled migrants.
  13. ^ compilation illustrated by Alexander Sutherland (1888). Victoria and its Metropolis vol 2. McCarron, Bird & Co, Victoria.
  14. ^ "Family Notices". The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia). the Argus Office, Collins-street east, Melbourne, Victoria: Edward Wilson and Bauchlan Mackinnon. 29 January 1855. p. 4. Retrieved 26 July 2009. On the 25th inst., at the Duke of Wellington Hotel, Windsor, Mr. Richard Spurr, aged fifty-four years, a worthy, good, and benevolent man.
  15. ^ Spurr, Noel (2008). Spurr of the Moment, the Story of Noel Spurr OAM. Victoria, Australia: Memoirs Foundation. Retrieved 31 May 2009.