Heritage Talk: A North Shields’ Hidden History: Robert Lowery – Chartist Leader

Stuart Barlow, an Old Low light volunteer and trustee, will give a talk on the hidden history of Robert Lowery, a North Shields man who was one of the leaders of the Chartist movement. Chartism was one of the first movements of working people trying to extend their democratic rights.

Robert Lowery was born in North Shields in the early 19th century. While his mother was from Shields his father was a Durham man who was a “Greenlander”, a mariner who hunted whales. As a small child he lived in various ports, as his father followed jobs in the whaling fleet. After his father’s death Robert and his mother returned to North Shields and by the age of 13, he “apprenticed to the sea”, on a Shields ship engaged in the North American timber trade. But due to a serious illness he was forced to quit the sea and became an apprentice tailor.

Robert Lowery soon married and developed an interest in political issues and the plight of the working man. His reputation grew sufficiently for him to be elected as one of Newcastle’s delegates for the launch of the Petition supporting the People’s Charter. The Charter called for the vote to be given to all working men.

The talk will look at Robert Lowery’s role as a Chartist Missionary touring the country trying to persuade people to sign the Petition and his reaction to Parliament’s rejection of the Petition. Robert was also closely involved in the developing moral and physical force debates within Chartism. After another serious illness, Robert increasingly moved towards more moderate views and was involved in other political campaigns of the time, before becoming a full time Temperance lecturer, as he drifted away from Chartism.

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