COMEDIAN Jack Whitehall has discovered his ancestral links to the Newport Rising.

In an upcoming episode of the BBC series, Who Do You Think You Are?, the comedian finds out that his ancestor played a key role in the historic events of 1839.

The connection, however, is less than impressive for Whitehall, who learns his great-great-great-great grandfather was one Thomas Jones Phillips, a former mayor of Newport who helped put down the Chartist suffrage movement and rounded up the rebellion's leaders.

In the episode, Whitehall and his father travel to Newport and visit the site of the Rising, where soldiers opened fire on a crowd of Chartist supporters who had marched on the city's Westgate Hotel.

Twenty-two Chartists died.

Phillips, the Whitehalls learn, was an ardent supporter of the Tory Party with a long history of anti-democratic dealings, and had tried to block the voting rights of those who supported the rival party, the Whigs.


The Whitehalls discover how, after the Rising, their ancestor had played a pivotal role in hunting down the leaders of the Rising, including John Frost.

Phillips received a £100 reward for Frost's capture, and the Chartist leaders were put on trial in Monmouth, charged with high treason.

They were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered – but this sentence was later reduced to transportation for life.

And while Frost spent the next 16 years in exile, in an Australian penal colony and later the United States, Phillips lived the high life – becoming a barrister, colliery owner, an recipient of the freedom of the City of London. He died in 1867.

The new series of Who Do You Think You Are? begins on BBC One on Monday, July 22.