A RIOTOUS TIME: NOTTINGHAM 1754-1854.
“as poor as a stockinger”—OLD EXPRESSION.
“For the last quarter of the century troops were an almost permanent feature of the scene. Contingents of the Oxford Blues and of Light Dragoons were quartered in the town and in 1792 a barracks was built in the park. Two years later (1794) the South Nottinghamshire Yeomanry came into being. Primarily the regiment was part of the general defence preparations being made against a possible French invasion, but it also provided a safeguard against the disturbed internal state of the country, and, as its early history shows; it was in fact largely used for police work of this kind throughout the long war with France. There were times in these iron years when Nottingham presented something of the aspect of an occupied town.”
A HISTORY OF NOTTINGHAMSHIRE—A. C. Wood.
1754, election riots; 1755, bread prices riot; 1766, cheese prices riot (cheeses were snatched from the staBs at the Goose Fair and were hurled or rolled about, one bowling over the Mayor when he tried to intervene. Troops were called out.); 1779, riot following defeat of an Act to regulate prices and conditions in the framework-knitting trade (the Riot Act was read, 300 special constables were enrolled and cavalry was brought in. The Associated Stockingers was suppressed and its papers were seized.); 1783, riot about prices for work (troops brought in); 1795, disturbance about the price of butter; 1787, riot about conditions in the trade with the first framebreaking (an Act was passed making framebreaking a felony punishable by transportation for from seven to fourteen years: but an agreement on wages and prices was secured); 1788, meat prices riot (the Shambles
was wrecked and the doors of the stalls were taken off and burned in the Market Place); 1790, election riot (troops called) and trade prices riot; 1791, trade prices riot; 1792, meat prices riot (doors of stalls again burned); 1793, conservative counter-revolutionary riots following the declaration of war—supporters of the French Revolution were attacked and an effigy of Tom Paine, was burned in the Market Place; 1794, further political disturbances; 1795, riots. about election results and about bread and meat prices; 1796, political disturbances; 1799, food prices riot (one witness stated that in 17 years residence in the town he had seen 17 major riots); 1800, bread riots.
1811, Luddite activities (a large-scale outburst of framebreaking. Police from Bow Street were brought to Nottingham and nine troops of horse and two regiments of infantry were brought into the Midlands. A Bill was passed the following year making framebreaking punishable by death. One of the few who violently resisted it in the House of Lords was Byron, who had close associations with the district. He said: “I have traversed the seat of war in the peninsula. I have been in some of the most oppressed provinces of Turkey, but never under the most despotic of infidel governments have I beheld such squalid wretchedness as 1 have seen since my return in the heart of a Christian country.”); 1814-1820, framebreaking (—an early example of direct action, Wood says. In 1819 many of the stockingers who worked in their own homes brought in their frames and stacked them at the hosiers’ doors, blocking the streets.).
1831, the Reform Riot. The Bill was rejected by the Lords at 6 a.m. on Saturday, October 8th. A few in the city had the news that evening but it was not generally known until the mail-coach arrived on Sunday morning. Rumours. of rioting in Derby filtered in and the town was crowded for the Goose Fair. The Mayor received 19 separate requests to convene a meeting and stone-throw-. jng at the windows of anti-reformers began. The crowds were dispersed by the’ 15th Hussars. On the Monday a meeting of some 20,000 suporters of the reform movement passed without incident but in the afternoon a windmill belonging to an anti-reformer was destroyed and the mob learnt that some of the troops had been sent to Derby. Colwick Hall, home of an opponent of the bill, was pillaged (Mary Musters, Byron’s first love, had to hide in the shrubbery) and an unsuccessful attempt to storm the House of Correction in order to release the prisoners took place. A part of the mob then broke away and forced open the castle gates. Tapestries were cut into squares and sold to bystanders and the building was fired and completely gutted. On the Tuesday a silk mill at Beeston was fired—three of the ringleaders were hanged later—and there was an unsuccessful attempt to enter Wollaton Hall. But the troops had now been greatly strengthened and after further skirmishing the town was cleared. The message of the riot, together with the one at Bristol and smaller disturbances throughout the country, was received and understood. The Reform Bill was hastily passed without serious opposition the following summer.
1839, Chartist agitation and demonstration. Troops brought in. 1854, bread riots.
“it is only by making the ruling few uneasy that the oppressed many can obtain a particle of relief.”—JEREMY BENTHAM.
Nottingham Mutual Aid
Shop stewards at Raleigh Industries last winter arranged for the “adoption” by 9,000 trade unionists of an orphaned Nottingham family of nine.
According to a survey financed by an anonymous group of professional people in Nottingham the principal topics of political interest for Nottingham’s’ citizens are (in this order) old age pensions, roads, capital punishment, and nuclear disarmament.
A group of prisoners serving preventive detention sentences at Nottingham Prison wrote last autumn to the Prison Reform Council and MPs, declaring that the extension of the pre-release hostel scheme to PD prisoners recommended as an interim measure pending abolition of preventive detention by the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders, was being operated unfairly, causing “a general atmosphere of tension.”