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Cato Street Conspiracy: the rebel and the spy

On the anniversary of the famous Cato Street Conspiracy, a joint film by The National Archives and Museum of London Docklands explores the seditious plot and its aftermath.

Jaanuja Sriskantha

Marketing Officer, Communications

17 February 2023

One of the most notorious executions outside Newgate Prison was that of the five leaders of the Cato Street Conspiracy in 1820. On 23 February, Arthur Thistlewood, Richard Tidd, James Ings, William Davidson and John Brunt, along with a group of political radicals, attempted to murder the British Prime Minister Lord Liverpool and his cabinet, with the intention of starting a revolution. But they had been led into a trap and were swiftly arrested. Having been thwarted by a government spy, the conspirators at the trial argued the spy to be unreliable, but met their downfall when two of the conspirators testified against the others in exchange for dropped charges. On conviction, five of the conspirators were transported for life, and five of the principal ringleaders were hanged at Newgate Prison on the charge of ‘High Treason’.

In this film, Christopher Day (Curator, The National Archives) and Thomas Ardill (Curator, Museum of London) take us through the beginnings of the Cato Street Conspiracy, the plot, the entrapment and the aftermath of their capture.

The film has been jointly produced by The National Archives and Museum of London Docklands as part of their 2022-23 exhibitions, Treason: People, Power and Plot and Executions.

Treason at The National Archives closed on 6 April 2023, and Executions at Museum of London Docklands closed on 16 April 2023.

Find out more here:

If you’d like to hear more about the world of public executions, watch our series of short films on topics ranging from the execution of Charles I to the various methods of executions from the exhibition’s curators.

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