Cartwright Gardens, WC1N

Place Name

Major John Cartwright (September 17, 1740 – September 23, 1824), known as ‘the Father of Reform’, was a naval officer and social reformer who campaigned for universal suffrage, vote by ballot, annual parliaments and the abolition of slavery. He lived and died at No. 37, the street at the time being called Burton Crescent, after its developer, James Burton. Born in Nottingham, he was the middle brother of Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the power loom, and George Cartwright, trader and explorer of Labrador, Canada. He entered the Royal Navy at the age of 18 and served his first years of service during the Seven Years’ War, seeing action at the capture of Cherbourg and the Battle of Quiberon Bay. After a stint at the Newfoundland Station in Portsmouth, he served as Commander of the HMS Sherborne leading campaigns against smugglers off the south coast of England. After ill-health forced him to retire from active service in 1771, the task of his life became the attainment of universal suffrage and annual parliaments. In 1779 his first work – thought to be the second earliest – advocating annual parliaments, the secret ballot and manhood suffrage (voting rights for all adult male citizens regardless of income, property, religion, race, or any other qualification) was published. He initiated a number of organisations, including the Society for Constitutional Reform (which gave rise to the more famous London Corresponding Society) in 1780, and the Hampden Clubs in 1812. He toured the country promoting the reform cause and was later arrested in 1819 for speaking at a parliamentary reform rally in Birmingham. The street itself was built in 1809–1820. It was renamed in 1908. Cartwright’s statue has stood in its gardens since 1831. He is buried at St Mary’s Church, Finchley, where in 1835, a monument to him was erected in the churchyard. Cartwright Sound, on the west coast of Graham Island in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, Canada, is named in his honour in relation to his Royal Navy service.

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