Joseph Rayner Stephens
(1805-1879)

Died aged c. 74

Joseph Rayner Stephens (1805–1879) was a Methodist minister who offended the Wesleyan Conference by his support for separating the Church of England from the State. Resigning from the Wesleyan Connection, he became free to campaign for factory reform, and against the New Poor Law. He became associated with 'physical force' Chartism (although he later denied he had ever been a Chartist) and spent eighteen months in jail for his presence at an unlawful assembly and his use there of seditious language. Born in Edinburgh in 1805, he moved to Manchester when his minister father was posted there in 1819. During his religious career, he worked in a variety of places (including Stockholm and Newcastle-upon-Tyne) before arriving in Ashton-under-Lyne in 1832. He was the brother of the philologist George Stephens.; three of his other brothers (John, Edward and Samuel) emigrated to Southern Australia and played their parts in the early years of that colony.

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Commemorated on 2 plaques

519BAC on Flickr
Rept0n1x on Wikimedia Commons

The Cotton Tree public house Opened in 1830 and so named as it coincided with the opening of the cotton mills in the Newton area by the Ashton Brothers. Features prominently in the Chartist movement, largely because Joseph Rayner Stephens, Dr. P. M. McDouall and John Bradley were arrested as a result of a meeting held here on 28th July 1839 A popular meeting place for the local Chartists where crowds would meet after dark with firearms and banners to further their cause for political and social reform

Cotton Tree Public House, Markham Street, Newton, Hyde, United Kingdom where they met

Joseph Rayner Stephens 1805-1879 Trained in the Ministry Joseph Rayner Stephens came to Ashton in 1832. He became an important Chartist Leader who campaigned against the Poor Law and for factory reform. His greatness was in his instinctive reaction to human distress and social injustice. In later life he lived in Stalybridge where he established a People's School and is buried in St John's Church, Dukinfield

Town Hall Frontage, Waterloo Road, Stalybridge, United Kingdom where they lived near