New Book – Bought by Tyrants, Sold by Knaves

We are pleased to say that a new song-book is in preparation and will be available later in the Spring. It has been written by Paul Guppy – our choir-leader – and we asked him about it:

I remember, in the far-off days of O-level History, studying the radical movements of the early 1800s. About 45 years later this subject assumed a more personal relevance when my attention was drawn to The National Chartist Hymn Book of c.1840. The hymns it contains were written by poets and activists in the Chartist Movement, which campaigned for Universal (male) Suffrage in the mid-19th century. All express indignation at social injustice, all except one doing so in religious terms: as the historian Malcolm Chase put it, ‘religious ideals were seldom far from the surface of Chartism’.

It wasn’t long before I realised that the Chartist hymns were originally sung by the same sort of people who sang West Gallery Music – and to the same sort of tunes. The ensuing project was to find appropriate musical settings for the hymns – and then perhaps publish them. The resulting collection, BOUGHT BY TYRANTS, SOLD BY KNAVES is designed foremost to be a practical singing-book, with the hymns laid out accordingly; but I hope there is included enough of social and musical history to give a good historical context.

Of the 16 hymns we know the tunes for three – all to be found in WG manuscript books: the others I have selected from similar sources. Some will be familiar to present-day West Gallery enthusiasts, some less so. I have also included a further four hymns which do not appear in The National Chartist Hymn Book: three are examples of ‘radical psalmody’ associated with other 19th century political movements – the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Owenites, the Peterloo demonstrators – and the fourth a ‘Smite-the-Mighty’ psalm-setting by Joseph Stephenson. All, I hope, will enable WG choirs and quires to have a good sing in their familiar musical style – but with a slightly different lyrical emphasis.

If you’d like to order a copy, you can, until 15th April, become a SUBSCRIBER. Publishing by subscription is not common nowadays but was often done a couple of hundred years ago: the idea is that the publication costs of a new book are partly met by people ordering a copy in advance, and agreeing to pay when it becomes available. They then have their their name included in a list of subscribers included in the book; in this case you also only pay £6 instead of the full price of £8.

To do this you’ll need to contact Mike Bailey at, saying how many copies you’d like, and undertaking to send the money when the book is realised in print. Please give your name as you would like it to appear – also a partial identification, such as Arthur Pickering, Lancaster, Lancashire – or, if you belong to a choir, or perhaps a church, you can use its name – Dr Rosemary Wetherall, The Wyreside Warblers, Garstang, Lancashire, or Alex Rowbotham, M.A, St Lawrence’s Church, Appleby, Westmorland.

Paul Guppy, March 2022

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