The Chartists petitioned for ballot reform. A plot in Heronsgate (won by lottery) would not only give a life of freedom from the mills and mines but, more importantly, a vote.
In 1845 Fergus O’Connor, a chartist leader bought “Herringsgate Farm” and built an estate of 35 houses and a school, which he named O’Connorville. His intention was to resettle families from the industrial north on plots of land, at subsidised rents, so that they were self-sufficient and, as landowners, they would have the franchise (i.e. be freeholders). The road names, Stockport, Nottingham, Halifax and Bradford reflect the origins of the settlers. Unfortunately, O’Connor’s plan failed as the settlers had no knowledge of how to farm or grow food.
A ban on alcohol was imposed on the estate which led to the building of a public house just over the boundary, appropriately named, ‘The Land Of Liberty, Peace and Plenty.’
The estate has since been renamed Heronsgate. It has Conservation status, as most of the original chartist cottages and former school still exist today, and are preserved buildings of historic interest.
(A more detailed account of Heronsgate’s history can be obtained in ‘Heronsgate – Freedom, Happiness & Contentment’ by Ian Foster, published by Manticore Europe Limited.)
The emblem of the charter can still be seen the eves of the Heronsgate cottages. This demanded:
a vote for every man over 21
voting by secret ballot
no need forMPs to own property
payment for MPs
annual general elections
We now enjoy all but one of these.
The lanes are still a cart-width wide and we still maintain them ourselves. We keep the tradition of self-sufficiency and the horticultural show in September always has a fine display of flowers, vegetables, preserves and cakes.
And when you cast your vote on the village hall, you do so under a sign comemorating the man who made it possible, and may even have had a hand in building your home.