The Local Situation Which Prompted the Authorities to Implement an Emigration Scheme
Nottingham was one of the areas worst hit by the Industrial Revolution and the affects of the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This was a Centre where cottage industries such as lace and hosiery making, flourished. These home industries could not compete on costs with the new factories and so all these cottage industries shut down, putting thousands out of work. Families were starving and the people looked to the councilllors of the town for financial assistance. Nottingham simply could not afford such massive amounts of support. There were riots and considerable social unrest. By August 1819 there were daily processions of protest.
In the same month the unemployed people wrote an appeal to the Lord Leiutentant and the gentry and noblemen of the county in which they stated:"From the various and low prices given by our employers, we have not, after working from sixteen to eighteen hours per day, been able to earn more than from four to six shillings per week, to maintain our wives and families upon, to pay taxes, house rent, &c., which has driven us to the necessity of applying for parochial aid, which after all has not in many instances left us sufficient to supply the calls of nature, even with the most parsimonious economy; and though we have substituted meal and water, or potatoes and salt, for that more wholesome food an Englishman's table used to abound with, we have repeatedly retired, after a hard day's labour, and been under the necessity of putting our children supperless to bed, to stifle the cries of hunger : nor think that we would give this picture too high a colouring, when we can most solemnly declare, that for the last eighteen months we have scarecely known what it is to be free from the pangs of hunger."
The pitiful conditions families found themselves in resulted on August 16 in a Protest March of some 5000 men.
The town's authorities were so fearful of trouble that they called in troops. Four companies of the 52nd Regiment of Foot took possession of Bromley House and several wagon loads of ammunition and stores were brought in. Memories of the Peterloo Massacre
in Manchester in August 1819, where troops charged into a crowd estimated to be some 60 000 strong, was fresh in the authorities mind. Women carried signs with the words " Pity our Distress!" "We ask for Bread ", "Pity
our Children ". When the opportunity of emigration arose many reached out to the lifeline presented to them. The majority that applied to join the Nottingham Party were out of work and destitute. This Party was among 4 of the total of 61
Emigration Parties of 1820 that consisted of the poor. Parishes attempted to raise funds but they were not allowed to use money from the "poor relief" to pay the deposits for their members. The Duke of Newcastle lobbied wealthy
patrons and got sponsorship for the Party. Only one man paid for his deposit, Thomas Webster.
The application for emigration of John Bradfield, his wife Mary, and their children reveals that the letter was only written at the end of October 1819. Less than 3 months later they had moved out of their home, packed those possessions they could comfortably carry, and left the life they had known behind them.
* John Bradfield, his wife Mary, and their children emigrated to South Africa as part of the Nottingham Party of 1820 Settlers