In 1838 the Chartist movement, spurred on by poverty, poor living conditions and unemployment, drafted the People's Charter demanding more rights for the working class. In Newcastle, where unemployment was effecting over 3000 men, large meetings were held on the Parade Ground and the Town Moor with Chartist speakers like O'Connor and Stephens addressing the crowds. Reports flooded in that miners and other workers were collecting arms and troops were put on alert. This song refers to the climax of this particular point in the Chartist movement in July 1839, when Parliament rejected the People's Charter. A general strike was called for August of that year, and Chartists in Newcastle began to hold nightly meetings at the Forth public house. On the 20th July a riot began in the Side and over the next few days a large force of constables was employed. The Riot Act was read on several occasions to no effect, and it was not until cavalry was called from Fenham that the crowd was broken up. This song was clearly written for the middle-classes of Newcastle who had lived in fear of revolution throughout this period of Chartist activity and celebrates the restoration of order - a rare conservative protest song!
Newcastle was the second largest producer of chapbooks in the country at the time of this book's publication. 'The Newcastle Songster' was originally printed by J. Marshall, one of the most prominent chapbook printers in Newcastle during the early nineteenth century. This particular series of the Newcastle songster was issued by another Newcastle printers, W. and T. Fordyce, some years after Marshall's original publication. Although the collection cannot be dated precisely, the printers' address of 48 Dean Street, Newcastle, displayed on the title page, does give a rough idea as to the date of publication. It is likely the book was printed some time between 1837 and 1841, as it was not until the former date that William Fordyce took his brother Thomas into partnership. By 1841 the Fordyces no longer resided at Dean Street and had removed to 15 Grey Street.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From the 'Jemmy Joneson's whurry' to 'The skipper's dream', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as Henry Robson and would have been extremely popular amongst the local population.