You want history by region? Now you got it

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Steven.
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Feb 7 2005 14:44
You want history by region? Now you got it

Our history section now has all its regional indexes working (about fucking time I know)

If anyone wants to check them out, we'd appreciate you letting us know about any problems, broken links etc.

And of course we always want more contributions, either new stuff or recycled old bits, of people's history written for people who know nothing about a particular event prefereably 2,000 words or under

www.enrager.net/history

3rdseason
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Feb 7 2005 15:03

Bristol - Riots

Bristol, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries suffered from some of the worst riots in the country's history. There is an odd thing about the aftermath of all these riots, and this is the lack of severe reprisals against, or punishment of, the rioters. It is true that many, many people died or were severely injured at the time but relatively few were ever bought to trial and fewer still executed or imprisoned. It may have been the authorities didn't want more trouble than they already had or that they had a genuine sympathy for the peoples' grievances. There was also the matter of finding witnesses and juries for the trials. Perhaps the witnesses and juries had their own sympathies with the rioters or it could have been that they feared some sort of reprisal. Although the poorer Bristolians appeared to do most of the rioting, there are numerous reports of more prosperous citizens on the edges of these riots, not actively taking part but certainly obstructing the city constables and troops from acting as efficiently, or maybe as brutally, as they otherwise would.

Tax Riot ~ 1312

This was the earliest recorded riot in Bristol. The king, Edward II was not one of Britain's best rulers and already unpopular when he introduced another tax on shipping. The Mayor, William Randolph, took over control of collecting the taxes and the ship money from Bristol. Rioting started soon after and Edward II appointed the Constable of the Castle with powers to overrule the city council. Although he was given the income from the city as his own he never dared enter the city. Thomas de Berkeley was appointed to put down the rioters. Twenty men were killed and the King's officers had to driven to the castle. They remained under siege until 1316 when the barons called in the army. After four days the city surrendered. Edward II pardoned the rioters but fined them heavily.

Food Riot ~ 1709

In 1709 the price of food rose alarmingly. A bushel of wheat doubled in price from 4 shilings to 8 shillings. Two hundred coal miners from Kingswood, always a rowdy bunch, marched into the city and, joined by some of the citizens, raised a riot. They were promised a reduction in the price to 5/6 (5 shillings and sixpence) a bushel and soon dispersed.

Weavers Riots ~ 1728 / 1729

Although on the whole a wealthy city, groups of Bristolians suffered as much as others the difficulties that any traders and manufacturers have to endure. Added to these difficulties was the fact that Britain was often at war with her European neighbours. Bristol weavers, who were largely based outside of Lawfords Gate, found themselves in financial difficulties starting in 1727. They rioted several times during 1728 and 1729, wrecking looms and attacking unpopular employers. On 29th September 1729 the mob marched to Castle Ditch and the house of Stephen Freacham. Freachham fired into the crowd, killing seven people. Soldiers were sent to disperse the mob and Freacham accidentally shot one of them. Freacham was arrested for the murder of the soldier and escaped hanging by applying to the Government for a pardon. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any further information about this as I would have like to know if he was ever tried for the killing of the rioters.

Turnpike Riots ~ 1727 - 1749

The introduction of tollgates on 26th June 1727 sparked off far more serious riots than those of 1709 or 1714. Two days later the turnpikes had been destroyed and the Mayor of Bristol was warning the Duke of Newcastle that trouble was in store for the city. Wherever they appeared the tollgates were wrecked. For a time, in 1734, not a single tollgate was left standing between Bristol and Gloucester. This continued for 21 years, the length of time the Act of Parliament that allowed the tollgates was in force. The turnpike trustees wanted a new Act and the turnpikes were wrecked twice again in July 1749. Three of the rioters were arrested and put into Newgate prison. On 28th July 1749 the Turnpike Trustees warned of impending trouble. Three days later, on 1st August 1749 it arrived. Several hundred farm labourers destroyed some of the turnpikes and demolished the house of one of the officers that had arrested the riotors the previous month. Finding the city gates shut against them they destroyed more turnpikes. One of the Turnpike Trustees led some citizens and around fifty sailors armed with cutlasses against the rioters and caught 28 of them.

The Duke of Newcastle was again warned of further trouble and in response he sent a regiment of Dragoons against the rioters. Against this force the rioters could do nothing and peace was restored on 5th August. Two of the people responsible for demolishing the officers house on 1st August were hanged. Because of local sympathy other rioters were sent to Wiltshire for trial, but not one was convicted. Five of them, however, died of smallpox in prison awaiting trial. The hangings and the fear of armed response obviously had the desired affect as there were no more trouble concerning the turnpikes after 1749.

Political Reform Riot ~ 1831

The worst riots that Bristol, and probably the entire country, experienced was the reform riots of 1831. In November 1830, the Prime Minister, Earl Grey, informed King William IV that parliamentary reform was needed. Bristol had been represented in the House of Commons since 1295, but by 1831 little more than 6,000 people of the population of 104,000 had the right to vote. The fast growing industrial towns such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Leeds had no representation at all, whilst some once thriving centres of population had dwindled to villages, a couple of houses or had disappeared altogether but were still allowed to return Members to the House of Commons. This last group of constituences were known as Rotten Boroughs, and for good reason. Most of these constituencies were under the control of one man, the patron, who in many cases was the landlord. Rotten boroughs had very few voters. For example, Dunwich in Suffolk, as a result of coastal erosion, had almost fallen into the sea and by 1831 only had thirty-two people elligable to vote. Old Sarum, in Wiltshire, only had three houses and a population of fifteen people. With just a few individuals with the vote and no secret ballot, it was easy for candidates to buy their way to victory.

The Reform Bill was to be introduced to address all of these problems. It was to give more people the vote, ensure the new towns were properly represented, re-draw the boundaries of the voting areas and stop people buying their way to office.

Early in 1831, Lord John Russell had his Reform Bill defeated in Parliament. Lord Grey's attempt on 22nd September passed through the Commons but was rejected by the Lords. In the Commons, one of the most outspoken opponents to the Bill was the Recorder of Bristol, Sir Charles Wetherall.

On 24th October there was civil disorder when the Bishop of Bath and Wells arrived in Bedminster to consecrate the New Church.

Sir Charles Wetherall arrived in Bristol on Saturday, 29th October to open the Assize Courts, his carriage was pelted with stones all along his route through the city. The Court was opened but violent interuptions caused it soon to be adjourned. Sir Charles was driven to the Mansion House in Queen Square, pelted and jeered at all the way.

Queen Square in 1827

This was painted in watercolours by TLS Rowbotham (1783 - 1853)

This painting is in the collection of Bristol Museums and Art Gallery

To the left can be seen the old turret of St Mary Redcliffe.

In 1702 Queen Square was laid out in its present form, and new houses were built there in 1753.

It was feared that Sir Charles' life was in danger and so two troops of the 14th Light Dragoons and a troop of 3rd Dragoon Guards under command of Leiutenant Colonel Brereton was called for. The 14th Light Dragoons had been used to quell riots here before, were nicknamed the Bloody Blues and hated. In all these Dragoons were composed of 93 soldiers. In the city there were also around 100 constables and another 119 men were used as "specials", though these were later described as "bludgeon men". These forces were never used effectively together, one constable was warned by a soldier that if he didn't stop attacking the rioters with his sword the soldier would cut the constable down with his.

On his arrival Brereton found all the windows of the Mansion House smashed and rioters tearing up the railings and paving stones around the Square. The Riot Act was read but Brereton would not fire into the crowd unless the Mayor gave him direct orders to do so. The Mayor, Charles Pinney, declined to give such drastic orders and Sir Charles Wetherall had to make his escape over the rooftops.

Rioting ceased around dusk and the soldiers drew their swords and charged across the Square. The Square was soon cleared but it left one man, Stephen Bush, dead, shot by one of the soldiers. The soldiers and constables were withdrawn, the next morning the mob returned. Charles Pinney now had to escape across the roofs as this time the rioters forced their way into the Mansion House and looted the cellars of the store of wine held there. The soldiers returned but without orders to fire on the crowd could do nothing. By the end of the day the Mansion House, Excise Office, Custom House and the houses on the north and west sides of the Square were looted and on fire. There is a particularly horrific story that whilst rioters were plundering these buildings others were busy setting them on fire. The lead on the roofs was melting and running down the gutters. Several rioters were reported as being burnt alive by being trapped on the roofs while the roofs themselves were melting around them. The flames were so great that they could be seen across the Bristol Channel in Wales.

While Queen Square was being destroyed, other rioters broke into Bridewell and released the prisoners before setting the building ablaze. The prison at Lawford's Gate and the New gaol suffered the same fate. At the New gaol it took the rioters three-quarters of an hour to batter a hole big enough for a boy to get through and draw back the bolts. Around 170 prisoners were released who discarded their prison clothes and joined the mob. The gallows was thrown into the New Cut. Around 20 of the 3rd Dragoon Guards arrived led by a Cornet named Kelson. They watched the crowd for a few minutes, turned about and headed back to College Green. Faced with a crowd of several thousands there wasn't a lot else they could do.

Rioters in Queen Square

Bishop Gray had also opposed the Reform Bill in the House of Lords and so the Bishops Palace near the Cathedral was attacked. Bishop Gray had received warning that this might happen and had left for Stapleton. His servants and the city constables held back the rioters for a time by using their batons freely, but when Brereton arrived he ordered them to desist, saying "if the striking continued he would ride the constables down". The mob calmed down and Brereton then withdrew his troops. The inevitable happened and the palace was burnt to the ground.

The crowd then turned their attention to the Chapter House where many valuable books and documents were stored. These were all heaped onto the floor and burnt. The main Cathedral building was also broken into but the Sub Sacrist, a brave man named Phillips, with an iron bar in his hands persuaded the mob to desist in the destruction of their heritage.

On Monday, 31st October, the Mayor, Charles Pinney finally gave Brereton the order to "take the most vigorous, effective and decisive measures to quell the riot." Brereton still dithered and so Major Mackworth gave the orders to attack. The soldiers swept across Queen Square cutting down the rioters.

Soldiers cutting through the rioters - Monday, 31st October 1831

Over 250 people suffered as a result of this charge, many of them being killed. The 14th Dragoons were recalled from Keynsham where they had been sent on the Sunday morning as the sight of them infuriated the mob so much, and reinforcements arrived from Gloucester. By now hundreds of soldiers were on their way to Bristol under the command of General Sir Richard Jackson, and the rioters dispersed. It is reckoned that somewhere between 5 and 10 thousand people were involved in the rioting and that it had left 500 people dead. Brereton was court-marshalled, but on the fourth day shot himself. The Mayor, Charles Pinney, was aquitted at his trial for neglect of duty. Five rioters were sentenced to be hanged, but one was reprieved on the grounds that he was mentally deficient. Eighty-eight others were transported or imprisoned. The hangings took place above the gate of the Old gaol on the New Cut.

The Reform Bill became law in 1832. Fifty-six Rotten Boroughs were deprived of their status. The new towns were properly represented in Parliament. The vote was given to householders who paid more than £10 rental in towns or £40 in the country.

In 1835 the Municipal Corporation Act changed the constitution of the City Councils, and they stopped being the "clubs" that they were. Bristol was still represented by two members until 1885 when it was increased to four and then later to six.

3rdseason
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Feb 7 2005 15:03

Put that in a regional history section if you like it. smile

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Jacques Roux
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Feb 7 2005 15:18

Cool cheers, wheres it from?

3rdseason
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Feb 7 2005 15:19

er.. not sure. I knew vaguely about bristol riots so I googled it.

Dya want the URL?

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Jacques Roux
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Feb 7 2005 16:08

Yeah just out of interest smile

3rdseason
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Feb 7 2005 18:18
rkn wrote:
Yeah just out of interest :)

http://members.lycos.co.uk/brisray/bristol/briot.htm

Isit going on the site? grin