Samuel Holberry was born in Nottinghamshire, the youngest of nine children. He joined the army in 1832 but bought himself out in 1835 and moved to Sheffield.
At this time, the Chartist Movement for political reform was seeking wider and more equitable voting rights. The Sheffield Working Men’s Association was set up in 1837 and adopted the “Peoples Charter” and arranged meetings and peaceful demonstrations but their meetings were banned by the local magistrates in 1839.
On 12 August, thousands of protesting workers ignored the ban and gathered in Paradise Square. When troops arrived to disperse the crowd, conflicts broke out between the protesters and the police and troops. Many of the speakers and protesters were arrested. Following this event, the membership of the Association grew and regular gatherings, marches and protests took place.
More radical members of this protest movement started to plan more extreme actions. Samuel Holberry was one of the leaders of this group in Sheffield. They started to make plans to take control of public buildings in the town centre. Their plans included the use of firearms and explosives.
The group were betrayed and Samuel Holberry and his co-conspirators were arrested. Holberry’s wife Mary was arrested with him when the police arrived at his house to take him into custody.
Samuel openly admitted that he was wanting to overthrow the authorities and was found guilty of sedition and conspiracy to riot and was sentenced to four years imprisonment. During his imprisonment, his wife Mary continued to campaign for his release but Samuel was harshly treated in prison and became ill with consumption. He died, in prison, at York Castle on 21 June 1842. Mary continued to be an active member of the Chartists. She joined a picket line at a miners’ strike in 1844.
Samuel Holberry was buried in Sheffield General Cemetery and it was reported that 50,000 people attended his funeral procession.
There is now a plaque commemorating Samuel Holberry on the cascading fountains in the Peace Gardens next to Sheffield Town Hall.