Friday, 27 May 2016

27th May 1816: Ely magistrates inform the Home Office of the situation in the City & about suspects

My Lord

In the absence of Sir H.B. Dudley, & at the request of my Brother Magistrates, I beg leave to inform you, that all immediate apprehension of danger is over, though from the information, we have received, we understand, that this night it was intended by the Rioters again to attack this town. We have many Prisoners, among whom there are several willing to turn Kings Evidence. It appears, that for the last six weeks Delegates have been sent, to various Towns & villages in this district, & that a Combination had taken place, though at present we are unable to stay, to what extent.

We have thought it our duty to appoint as many respectable Persons, as will come forward, Special Constables, & the Town of Ely, have much to their credit, mounted a regular watch. The Ringleader by name Dennis, a Publican of Littleport is in custody.

We understand that a man by name Stephen Saunderson, by trade a Labourer, & born at Land Beach in Cambridgeshire, lately working at Ely, & one of the most active Rioters here, & the Extortioner of the money from the Bank of this place, is now in London. He is a tall Stout man, in a Fustian Jacket, about 30 years age, good looking.

The Bench of Magistrates is at present so weak, that we are in great want of assistance. It therefore would be a very great Kindness in the part of Government to send without delay some efficient Member of the Police to aid us in taking examinations, & making commitments. It is with concern, I mention, that from the strongest evidence it appears before us this day that the plan of the Rioters was levelled at the subversion of the Government itself!! Contributions have been levied, & though the complaint on thursday was "a want of food" no money whatever of the sums levied & extorted, has been expended in provision or food.

I rely on your Lordships kindness to excuse inaccuracies, for I write in a most crowded room [illegible] [illegible]

I am, yr Lordships humble servant
H Law
Acting magistrate for
the Isle of Ely
Wm Metcalfe
F Dawbery

Ely Jail Monday
Ten oclock

Saunderson has a relative of the same name, by trade a [Whitesmith], and & [working] in the neighbourhood of [Piccadilly].

I have just heard that Saunderson the Whitesmith lodges at 91 Berwick Street, Soho & works with Mr Jibholt, Bell Hanger, Wardour Street, [Soho]

Henry Law —

27th May 1816: Sir Henry Bunbury updates the Home Office on the Suffolk County magistrates' meeting

Mildenhall. May 27th 1816

My Lord,

I am just returned from a meeting of Suffolk Magistrates at Bury. Though the waning had been short, a considerable number of Gentlemen were present. There was much discussion of different Plans for the employment of the Poor, & for regulating Parish Allowances:—there was also discussion on the best means of [giving] extraordinary aid, where necessary, to the Civil Power; – and necessity of giving some Arms to Special Constables;— on the means of augmenting the Yeomanry;— & other points connected with the present state of the County. Equal zeal, goodwill, &, unanimity was manifested. It was deemed inexpedient to publish any matters of Regulation or detail;— and we ended with a short Declaration of our Concern at the late Occurrences;—Our opinion that the most careful attention should be given to trace the causes of the Tumults, and also to relieve as far as circumstances may permit the several distresses of the Labourers;— but that we [illegible] would treat with or make any concession whatever to any tumultuous Assemblage, and that we would spare no exertion to suppress such Proceedings & to bring Rioters to Justice.

These Resolutions are to be published & dispersed throughout the County.

Permit me to press upon your Lordship’s consideration how desirable it is that our Special Constables should be properly armed. At present they feel themselves inferior to the Rioters on account of the weapon with which the latter takes care to provide himself:—the latter is consequently audacious & the Constables proportionally backward.

Sir John Byng is at my House. He desires me to say that as I write, He does not trouble your Lordship with a Letter. Suffolk is quite quiet at present:—but we keep an eye upon Brandon, where some Stir may be expected when the Fortnight night shall be Expired during which the Flour was to be issued at [two shillings sixpence] the Stone.

From Cambridgeshire the accounts are very satisfactory:—but as there had been some unfortunate Symptoms at Wisbeach, Sir J Byng has pushed some of the Troops nearer to that Town.—Three of the Ringleaders who fled from Littleport were taken near this place (Mildenhall) late last night.

Is your Lordships answer that besides a great quantity of Communication, there are eight or ten thousand stand of Arms in no very secure situation at Bury?

I write in a great hurry, & must offer many Apologies for the inaccuracies with which my letter may abound.

I have the Honour to be
Your Lordship’s
Very faithful Servant

H E Bunbury

27th May 1816: The Duke of Grafton sends the Home Secretary an update on the state of Suffolk

Bury May 27.

My Lord

I had the honour of acquainting your Lordship by the Post of last night from this place, that I had found such parts of this County as I had passed thro’ perfectly undisturbed, in consequence of the judicious measures of the magistracy, and the appearance of a small detachment of regular Cavalry, chiefly stationed at Bury & at Brandon. I had not then time to inform yr Ldship that I yesterday visited the Gaol, and examined various prisoners committed to it, as promoters, or abettors, of the late Disturbances, and tho’ there are artful individuals amongst them, particularly a writer of several inflammatory letters, & hand bills, I am not disposed to think, from any information which I have been able to obtain, that the disturbances, or fires which have taken place, are to be ascribed to any organized system of persons above the rank of the labouring Classes

The shock experienced by the whole of the agriculturalists, from the depression of the produce of all landed property since the last harvest, has fallen, with peculiar severity, upon all those whose subsistence depends upon their dayly labour, from the impossibility of their finding regular employment, men at reduced wages, and the difficulty of collecting poor Rates, at a period of general distress, in order to supply the wants, & increas'd privations of the poor. Under these circumstances, a spirit of discontent has prevailed during the winter, & have since been excited to shew itself by inflammatory writings, in tumultuous meetings for the purpose of destroying machinery calculated to diminish manual labour, or with threatening to induce the employers, & the overseers to increase the rates of Labour, & parochial allowances.

A well attended meeting of the magistrates was held this morning, in which all the topics touching the present situation of affairs in the County as connected with the late disturbances, were discussed; the result of which has been a perfect understanding amongst the magistracy of the principles, upon which the poor are to be maintained, but, if possible, employed. Also a clear communication between magistrates & Commandants of Yeomanry Cavalry as to the times & places, at which a greater or smaller detachment could be got together & the fullest Confidence established on the one hand, in the prompt co-operation of this Corps, if necessary, & on the other, of their not being called from their usual, and now, more than ever necessary domestic or agricultural Avocations, unless the Security of any part of the County itself was considered to be in danger.

In aid, & co-operation with this Corps & mounted special constables have been considered as likely to give & to receive confidence by joining the ranks of Yeomanry Cavalry, & I have no doubt but that if Swords could be allowed for such number of men of this description as it may be found useful to employ on the present occasion, it would give additional confidence to the men themselves as such as have a tendency to prevent tumultuous meetings.—

With regard to the measures taken by Lieut: Gen: Sir John Byng, with whom I have personally communicated this morning on the regular force required in certain points within the County, & of the Stations most convenient for Cavalry, with a view to the general object of throwing in detachments in whatever part of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, or Essex they may be required, he will have better Explained to your Lordship, than I can, these arrangements.

There undoubtedly are some places in this County which require a small military force such as is stationed in them, to give Confidence to those who act under the direction of the magistrates, & I trust I may assure your Lordship, such is my sense & that of the magistrates of the possible demand for troops at the moment, that a stronger military force, than appears indispensably necessary, will not be required by the civil authorities this County.

I take the liberty odds of all observing your Lordship that the wording of the royal proclamation does not appear sufficiently defined to meet an uniform construction from the magistrates who may have to act under it, or from the parties, who may be interested in pursuing offenders to Conviction—The reward is offered to each and every person who shall be convicted of any of the aforesaid felonies—Now the mere breaking or destroying a threshing machine or other instrument of husbandry, unless a riot be actually existing at the time, I am given to understand, amounts only to a misdemeanor in law; and I have therefore to request the favor of information from your Lordship whether the reward is intended to extend to convictions not of a Capital nature as well as to those, which are Capital.—

I have the honor to be,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's
most obedient humble Servt


27th May 1816: Colonel Ralph Fletcher informs the Home Office of the distress of the Bolton Weavers

Bolton 27 May 1816

Dear Sir

Some the enclosed papers came to my hands several days ago, but I waited to have heard from Mr Warr—some further particulars of the Intention of the Seditious, before I made any communication.

The minds of the Weavers are in a considerable degree of Fermentation from the Lowness of Wages, and Scarcity of Employment (even on their low Wages) owing principally, to the Number of recent Failures, and also from the discharging of Workmen, by those who are yet solvent. Some Attempts have been made in this town, this day, and are now making to rouse the Feelings of the Weavers, by exhibiting a Shuttle covered with Crape. The Effect it may have this evening, I hope will not be serious; but should the Number of Weavers be discharged that, it is predicted, will be in the course of three Weeks in this Town & Neighbourhood, (10000 & upwards) the Consequence will, I fear, be alarming.

Tomorrow a Representation will be sent from this Place, to my Lord Sidmouth, by the magistrates, at the Suggestion of two (loyal) Delegates from the Weavers, in which will be contained their Statement of the Average Wages earned, and the Number out of Employ—and their Opinion as the best mode of alleviation, the Distress that prevails in the Cotton Trade.

I thought it necessary to apprise you of the Intention—and in Haste, for fear of losing a Post—

I remain

Dear Sir

Yours most sincerely

Ra: Fletcher

[To] John Beckett Esqr

27th May 1816: Resolutions of a meeting of the Lord Lieutenant & Magistrates of Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds


AT a Meeting of the LORD LIEUTENANT and the MAGISTRATES of the said County, held at the Shire-Hall, in Bury St. Edmund's, on Monday the 27th day of May, 1816, for the purpose of taking into Consideration the late Outrages and Disturbances which have taken place within this County,

His Grace the DUKE of GRAFTON, Lord Lieutenant, in the Chair;
The Hon. and Rev. HENRY I.ESLIE
Rev. Dr. ORD


That this Meeting have observed with the greatest concern the tumultuous proceedings which have taken place in some parts of this and the adjoining Counties. 

That it is the opinion of the Meeting that the most patient and careful attention should be given, with a view of tracing the causes of these disorders, and of relieving, as far as circumstances will permit, the present distresses of the Labouring Poor;—but that it is the decided opinion of this Meeting, that no Concessions should be made, nor any Agreement entered into with bodies of people assembled in a riotous or threatening manner; and that the utmost exertions will he used to put down all tumults, and to bring to punishment all persons who may be concerned in such riotous proceedings. 

That the above Resolutions be inserted in the County Papers. 


Resolved.—That the Thanks of this Meeting he given to the Lord Lieutenant, for his uniform attention to the interests of the County, and for his presence at this Meeting, 

By Order,
JAS. HORTON, Clerk of the Peace.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

26th May 1816: John Lloyd sends a circular to Stockport Manufacturers, urging preparations for disorder

Rumours are kept afloat of unlawful [Combinations] & intended meetings of the dissatisfied workpeople. The weavers have petitioned the parliament & their Delegates have just received Letters from the members, who give them no hopes of relief from that quarter — nor cou’d it reasonably be expected.

I do not observe at any serious Check has been put to the Riots & Disorders that prevail in different parts of the Kingdom; on the contrary, I am sorry to see, by the papers this morning, that, in Norfolk, the worst possible example & [encouragement] have been given to the malcontents, by want of courage & firmness in those who undertook to oppose the violence of a lawless mob.

Rather than remain longer Indifferent to the Rumours, & what is actually going forward, the better policy wou’d be to prepare to prevent mischief; and I will venture to suggest that the "honest men active" [should] adopt plans of Operation in case of need & communicate from time to time to some one person such information as may be important to the peace of the Country.

Special Constables [should] be sworn-in & places of rendezvous fixed upon & the first symptoms of Disorder suppressed.

I shall be glad if you will call upon me at any my Office at any hour from 3 to 8 of the afternoon tomorrow—

In this affair I need not point out the necessity of secrecy & good faith

J Lloyd

Stockport [illegible] 26 May

26th May 1816: Sir Henry Bunbury tells the Home Office that "the Riots are quashed"

Milden Hall

My dear Beckett,

I do not trouble Lord Sidmouth with a Letter for I have nothing to write that is worth his time. He will know more of the occurrence a Littleport on Friday Evening than I do:—but the impression hereabouts is that the Riots are quashed. Three of the Fugitive Ringleaders are believed to be near this Village, & and I have people now upon the track.

Sir J. Byng has just written to tell me he will come here tonight, in order to talk matters over with me & to go with me tomorrow to the meeting at Bury.

All is & has been quiet at this Place:—but I hear there were many fellows on the look out & ready to join, tho’ not to take the initiative (as a Quiet Tactician would call it). At Soham & Isleham there were numbers ready to swell the mob if the Rioters had they moved from Ely in this direction. Such a movement was expected on Thursday. The Rioters talked on the preceding night of marching by Soham & this Place (augmenting their numbers as they went along) to Brandon, where they were to unite with the mob of that neighbourhood & of Downham. If they had realized this plan, they would have shewn some thousands in the field.

+All the Suffolk magistrates seem to have done their duty except the man at Brandon—

Ever your’s

HE Bunbury


Milden House
Sunday, 26th May

Major General
Sir Henry Bunbury

26th May 1816: General Byng sends his summary of the situation at Ely to the Home Secretary

Ely May 26th 1816

My Lord

I have the Honor to report Your Lordship that I arrived here at an early hour yesterday, in obedience to instructions I received by express from the Horse Guards during the night of the 24th Inst—

Sir Henry Dudley has informed your Lordship of the disturbances (which at Littleport as well as at this place had assumed an alarming appearance) being subdued—It is my duty to state, that it is owing to his personal example, as well as the prompt and determined measures which he took, aided by the magistracy assembled, the riotous disposition in this part of the Country has been so soon, and I trust I may add, so completely put down.

Sir Henry conceiving in opinion with me that but a small force is any longer requisite here—I shall consider it more my particular duty to attend to the Counties of Suffolk and Norfolk—I take upon myself therefore to move my Head Quarters to Newmarket where I shall be more readily in communication with those as well as the County of Cambridge—and as I am informed the Magistrates and principal Gentleman in the Eastern Hundreds of Suffolk meet the Duke of Grafton at Bury tomorrow – it is my intention to ride over there, to communicate with, and afford every assistance in my power towards the preservation of the peace in that County. I shall also give myself the Honor of communication with the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk by this days Post—

Considering it of much consequence that not a moment should be lost in putting down the least inclination to disturbance, I shall not fail to attend whereever I may hesr it is of sufficient consequence to render my presence necessary—providing always for the forwarding to me of every communication—I have however every hope that if decisive and determined measures are adopted in other places, as they were here, when circumstances render them expedient — the tranquillity of the County will in a few days be completely restored—

I have [etc]
John Byng
Major General

[To] Rt. Honble
The Secretary of State
Home Department

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

25th May 1816: The Duke of Grafton is concerned that East Anglian labourers may be encouraged by the events at Downham Market

Clarges Street May 25th

My dear Lord,

I received a letter this Morning from a very sensible Magistrate in Suffolk, who resides on the border of Cambridgeshire giving many particulars of the riot at Downham in Norfolk, which I had not heard before.—The point insisted on by the Mob, was that flour should be sold at 2/6 per Stone, and that labour should be at 2d per day; but finding themselves in force, there seemed to be no outrage for which they were not ripe, and excesses of various kinds were committed without bounds.

Should these rioters have succeeded in their object of fixing the price of food and labour, my correspondent observes (not knowing precisely termination of affairs in Norfolk & at Ely) that it is not likely that the population of the vicinity should be quiet; and that he has heard it currently reported that Cambridge will be in a state of Commotion this day, as well as the Villages of Soham, & other populous places in Cambridgeshire, on the borders of Suffolk. Such a report however may have no other foundation that the wishes of those who circulated it; nevertheless it is a very probable course for the current of disturbance to take; and with a view to such a state of things, or any which can arise in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, or Essex, I beg to submit to your Lordship whether the Town of Newmarket is not better calculated, in a military, as well as in every other point of view, to be a principal station for Cavalry particularly than Ely, or any place so deep in the Fens, and out of reach of communication with other points, at which disturbances may be apprehended of a description to require the prompt assistance of a Military force.

The first Suffolk Magistrate I expect to meet with on my way to Bury, will be at Newmarket, where I propose to sleep this night, to which place I will beg the favour of your Lordship to direct any communication or instructions you may have occasion to send to me. Afterwards my station will be at Bury, until I inform your Lordship of my having changed it.

I have [etc]


[to] Viscount Sidmouth

25th May 1816: Government Proclamation on the East Anglian disturbances


Whitehall, 25 May 1816. 

WHEREAS it has been humbly represented to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, that a great Number of Persons, for some Time past, unlawfully assembled themselves together in divers Parts of the Counties of NORFOLK, SUFFOLK, HUNTINGDONSHIRE and CAMBRIDGE, and have circulated Threatening Letters and Incendiary Handbills; held Nightly Meetings; and set fire to several Dwelling Houses, Barns, Outbuildings, and Stacks of Corn; and have destroyed Cattle, Corn, Threshing Machines, and Other Instruments of Husbandry:

His Royal Highness seeing the mischievous Consequences which must inevitably ensue, as well to the Peace of the Kingdom, as to the lives and Property of His Majesty's: Subjects, from such illegal and dangerous Proceedings, if not speedily suppressed; and being firmly resolved to cause the Laws to be put in Execution for the Punishment of such as offend against them, is hereby pleased, in the Name and on the Behalf of His Majesty, to promise and declare, that any Person or Persons who shall discover and apprehend or cause to be discovered and apprehended, the Authors, Abbettors, or Perpetrators of any of the Felonies or Outrages above-mentioned, so that they or any of them may be duly convicted thereof, shall be entitled to the Sum of


For each and every Person who shall be convicted of any of the aforesaid Felonies.

And His Royal Highness is further pleased, in the Name and on the Behalf of His Majesty, to promise His most gracious Pardon to any Person or Persons concerned in the violent and illegal Pro¬ceedings in question, upon making such Discovery as aforesaid, except any Person who shall have been a Principal in the Commission of any of the Felonious Offences above-mentioned.

The said Reward of One Hundred Pounds to be paid by the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

24th May 1816: Thomas Jessop writes a worried letter to the Home Secretary about Norfolk

Wednesy. Evg. 10 o'clock. [24th May 1816]

My Lord,

I arrived about an hour & a half I arrived about an hour and a half ago from Downham Market in Norfolk, which Town & its neighbourhood had been since Monday last the Scene of very serious Tumult & Violence; & when I left Norfolk this morning, there was a large & increasing mob of Rioters who were assembled at South Dereham, & who had last night "pressed" (their own term) several Labourers into their Gang.

I am the more desirous of being permitted to state what has passed to your Lordship, as I fear the pusillanimity & want of Energy which have been exercised by the magistrates in that District, as likely to be productive of very serious consequences, if prompt & decisive measures be not immediately adopted.

If your Lordship will condescend to favor me with a few minutes audience, at any time to-morrow most convenient to yourself, I would have the honor of waiting on you and receiving your commands addressed to me.

at Richards Coffee House
near Temple Bar.

With great respect, I have the Honor to subscribe myself,

Your Lordship’s most obedient
& very humble Servant

[Thos Jessop]

24th May 1816: Labourers from Outwell, Norfolk, march to Upwell for "Bread, beer & blood"

Peacock (1965, p.116) has a good description of events at Outwell & Upwell in Norfolk on Friday 24th May 1816:

Between nine and ten o'clock on Friday, 24th May, a crowd of about twenty labourers from the village of Outwell marched the few miles to Upwell.' Bread (beer), and blood were again their aims, and incidents very similar to those at Brandon, Downham Market and Littleport took place. According to Robert Atkins, a constable, the crowd assembled at Outwell and was led by William Lister who was armed and who was heard to say, "Damn all constables and farmers." John Massey, who had gone to the village from Upwell, said to the crowd, "Come along and I'll fill your Belly with Beer and your Pockets with Money." 
The crowd were met on the outskirts of Upwell by the Rector, the Reverend William Gale Townley. He remonstrated with them but was told by William Dawson that they were starving, and had no fears. "Here I am," Dawson told the Vicar, "between Earth and Sky—so help me God. I would sooner loose [sic] my life than go home as I am. Bread I want and Bread I will have." The crowd went on to the house of Daniel Dawson, a baker, who gave them bread "under Impressions of fear and to prevent Persons so tumultuously and riotously assembled from committing Depredations or Violence on his Premises". They then went to The Duke's Head, but the publican was in bed. John Lawrence, "Gentleman", argued with the crowd which, like that at Downham, showed little real spirit. Lawrence called Thomas Sheppard, a constable, to disarm Bowers of a bludgeon and three labourers were taken into custody and eventually lodged in Wisbech gaol. From a bill paid to an Ely constable for apprehending William Lister, which included expenses for a journey to Boston, it would appear that some got well away.

24th May 1816: Sir H.B. Dudley updates the Home Secretary from Ely

Ely Friday Evening

My Lord

On my arrival here I found that my Brother Magistrates had entered into an indirect amnesty with the Principal Insurgents, the mischievous terms of which your Lordship will see in the publication enclosed. The consequence has been what might have been easily foreseen: that the Insurgents feeling themselves thus triumphant, fell back to Littleport last night from those of this Town, where they recommenced their outrages with savage activity, and after levying contributions on all the Inhabitants, and destroying considerable property in Dwellings, [Stacks] Guineas &c are preparing as I understand to advance to join the mal-contents of this place this evening. A troop of Royston Yeomanry, we pressed on as we returned will arrive in half an hour; so that what with irregular cavalry we have here consisting of a detachment mentioned Enclosed in another. I have no doubt but we shall defeat them, but I am not inclined to think from all I learn that we shall be able to advance against them, to effect their complete overthrow, & secure the numerous Desperadoes that must be brought to [illegible] punishment until the arrival of a further military force.

—The information in the annexed Letter addressed to your Lordship, was about to be sent off on my arrival.—

Your Lordship may depend upon nothing being left undone on my part that can contribute to the restoration of the public tranquillity.—I have heard of five or six insurgents being connected in this town from Littleport as [illegible] to the main body expected from that place.—We are going instantly in search of them.—

I write in the midst of a noisy & alarmed Committee so that I fear I shall have scarcely made myself intelligible to your Lordship.—

Your Lordship will hear from me again tomorrow without fail

I have [etc]

Bate Dudley

PS. The continuing Outrages at Littleport are so alarming that, I am induced to make a Dash at the Insurgents without loss of time

[Ely Friday evening 24th May 1816]

24th May 1816: Further disturbances at Downham Market - arrests follow

Peacock (196, p.92) gave a brief description of further disturbances at Downham Market on Friday 24th May 1816:
On the Friday (after the Littleport riots had been forcibly put down) there was a scare in Downham Market. Another visit was expected from the Southerey labourers because the concessions the magistrates had agreed to on Monday had not been kept. It is said that the labourers demanded an allowance of 2s. a day for the two days they had spent rioting. By this time it must have been perfectly clear from what had happened at Ely and Littleport that the concessions would not be kept, and that the full force of the law would descend upon those responsible for the riots. Nevertheless, there was some violence and the Yeomanry were sent for again. Four troops arrived and during the early evening guns were seized and the rioters released on Tuesday were again taken into custody. Seven were committed for trial on the Saturday and more were brought in over the weekend.

24th May 1816: Ely Magistrates write to the Home Secretary about the disorder there

My Lord,

In Addition to the Report, which we did ourselves the Honor of communicating to you, by our Brother magistrate—the Reverend Mr [Lomas?], we feel it is our Duty to state further for your Information, that a Detachment of the First Light Dragoons, consisting of Captain [Methuen] & sixteen privates, has arrived here; but that they are by no means sufficient to quell the turbulent Spirit of the riotous populace, who, tho’ dispersed for the present still continue to exhibit the strongest Symptoms of a dangerous Disposition, which we can are apprehensive will again break out with encreased Violence, as all the Reports from the neighbouring Villages confirm; one of them Littleport, which is only five miles distant, being in the intire pawn of the Rioters, who are levying Contributions upon the peaceable Inhabitants, & are threatening Destruction to the Village—We therefore earnestly intreat you to send us a sufficient force to aid the exertions of ourselves & the peaceable Inhabitants of the place, to save us from the Dangers with which we are surrounded & from the Destruction with which we are threatened. We respectfully suggest, that nothing short of two full Troops of Horse will enable us to answer for the peace of this Town & neighbourhood, & that a piece or two of Artillery would be particularly serviceable, as some of the Rioters are armed with large fowling Guns, whose Tubes are from seven to ten feet in length, & will carry from one to two pounds of Shot, & will kill at a Distance of one hundred or perhaps two hundred yards—We have the Honor to be,

your most obedient Servants.
Peploe Ward DD.
John Vachell

Ely, May 24th 1816

[To] The Right Honble Lord Sidmouth
&c &c &c—

24th May 1816: Risings at Ely & Littleport are suppressed by the military

Friday 24th May 1816 was the final day of the labourer's uprising in Littleport & Ely, in Cambridgeshire. Once again, Peacock (1965, pp.pagenos) gave a good description of events using various sources:
Friday, 24th May was the most eventful day in the story of the East Anglian riots. The Ely magistrates had sent for troops to Bury, and had deputised Law "to convey the intelligence" of what had been going on to the Home Secretary. He left for London shortly after the attack on Cooper's house. En route he called on the Royston Yeomanry Cavalry and a detachment of these was sent to Ely. Later, he went to see Lord Sidmouth and asked for regular troops to be sent to the troubled city. 
Sidmouth did not seem to think that troops were needed but sent to ask an associate of his, Sir Henry Bate Dudley, to go back with Law and take charge of operations to pacify the troubled districts.' Dudley agreed and met Law the following day. They set out for Ely early on Friday morning. 
Bate Dudley and Law arrived in Ely at 2.30 p.m., with another forty-two of the Royston Volunteer Cavalry under Captain Wortham, to find the place in an uproar. (Vachell and Peploe Ward had written to Sidmouth, asking for no less than "two full troops of Horse and a piece or two of artillery" to add to the Royston Yeomanry and a seventeen-strong detachment of the 1st Regiment of the Royal Dragoons who were there under the command of Captain Methuen.) Methuen was at first held in check by the frightened magistrates in the same way that Lieutenant Goodenough had been at Brandon. The Dragoons paraded the streets but at about eleven o'clock an incident developed when John Hassett dashed from a crowd of twenty or more hostile labourers and assaulted Joseph Heamers, one of the soldiers. Grabbing the man's sword, Hassett was alleged to have said, "Damn your Eyes I have got your sword and will fight any of you you Bugger". Following this, fighting took place and Methuen's men arrested some labourers, including Wilson. Wyebrow and some of his friends from Downham, but they somehow contrived to escape. This was the first stirring against the crowd for which Daubeny and Seymour, two J.P.s, were responsible. Bate Dudley, however, told Sidmouth that the mob had destroyed "dwellings, stacks and granaries" and blamed "My Brother Magistrates who had entered into an indiscreet amnesty with the Principal Insurgents". His written accounts of the troubles were highly coloured and penned, of course, to glorify his own part. 
Nevertheless he did act with promptitude and considerable bravery although he had the troops to back him up that the unfortunate Ward and Metcalfe earlier had not. 
Ely was brought quickly under control by the new arrivals and Bate Dudley was told of the troubles elsewhere. "The continuing outrages at Littleport are so alarming," he wrote to Sidmouth almost immediately after he arrived in Ely, "that I am determined to dash at the insurgents without delay." About ten more people were recruited from the populace and then Dudley and Law, at the head of "20 of the Royston Yeomanry, the Detachment of the 1st Royal Dragoons and some inhabitants of Ely, and part of the staff of the Cambridge Militia", went "full charge" to Littleport. 
A number of colourful stories gathered around the story of the attack on Littleport, none of which can be substantiated, but most of which are worth repeating. The Rev. E. Coneybeare, for instance, said that the rioters were hunted by a Hanoverian Regiment who combed the district "with true German thoroughness", whereas in fact these troops had left the country long before May. 
"Local tradition still hands down the tale of the poor thatcher," he recorded, "who was engaged on the roof of the great tithe barn at Ely (the largest in the kingdom) at the moment when a detachment of these foreigners was marching past. The usual thatcher's cry to his assistant, 'Bunch! bunch!' was interpreted by the German officer in command as an insult to his troops. On the instant he halted them beside the barn, and gave the order to fire. Pierced by a dozen musket balls, the unhappy thatcher rolled from the roof, his body falling upon the great folding door of the barn, which happened to be half open. There it hung, dripping with blood for over three days, the officer swearing that anyone who dared to remove it should share the same fate, as an example to all to behave with due respect to their oppressors." 
Another writer painted a fanciful yet dramatic picture of the events of Friday and a clash with Methuen's troops. The armed waggon certainly had not been taken to Ely again. 
Next morning a report was circulated that the horse soldiers were coming. The waggon that was brought by the rioters on the previous day was placed at The Lamb corner, and upon it were placed heavy wash guns, charged heavily with slugs, and manned by pot valiant fenmen trained to command the road. Others with forks, cleavers, knives, and bludgeons had assembled, swearing they would cut down every soldier as he came up. About noon a cry was raised, "They are coming", and a troop of Dragoons from Bury came up the Gallery at a sharp trot, their carbines at hip, swords gleamingin the sunlight. The bright helmets, with the rattle and clank of horses' feet and military trappings were too awful for the warlike fenmen and their supporters; they bolted in wild confusion in all directions, some making off for Littleport, others creeping out of Ely the best way they could. Sir Bates [sic] Dudley was sent down also by Government to check further violence. Some of the princi¬pal rioters were soon overhauled, hoisted in a waggon, and thrashed through the streets. Dudley's ride, as it was called, spread terror throughout the fens, and a wholesale dread of incurring the wrath of Sir Dudley. 
While preparations for an attack on Littleport were being made, the labourers there were celebrating in the usual manner. Most of their time was spent in drinking with what money was left over from Thursday, and there were only a very few half-hearted incidents like those of Thursday. South went back to Josiah Dewey's and threatened him with a gun saying, "blast you, I have a good mind to shoot you in your House", and Cammell and Rutter led a crowd to the house of James Horsley, a thatcher, and demanded £5. Much of the spirit the labourers showed the previous day seemed to have gone, and they went away after Horsley had promised them that he would go along to Dennis's public house, a promise which he did not keep. James Luddington, a J.P., also argued with a crowd led by Joseph Irons, who went away from him empty-handed but threatening to return with "the foreman" (Dennis). William Walker was also threatened and told by Robert Langford that the mob was reassembling and that, unless he handed over money and gin, his house would be burnt down. It was generally believed that a plan was afoot to fire Littleport and Ely later during the day. Bate Dudley certainly thought so, and William Crow was reported to have heard James Lee say that "If the overseers of the parish will not come forward this day (Friday) and pay all us [sic] two, shillings per day for yesterday and today then woe be to Littleport tonight". Asked if he meant fire, he replied, "Yes", and told Crow to spread the news around. Long after the riots were over, reports appeared in the East Anglian newspapers saying an attempt to start something had actually been made in Ely. 
"The design of the Littleport rioters to destroy the town of Ely by fire," it was reported, "has been manifested by a discovery, made within these few days, of a quantity of combustible materials, which were found in the warehouse of a Mr. Garratt, a respectable grocer of that place, secretly laid immediately under the floor where he kept his casks of gunpowder: amongst these combustibles was a piece of charcoal, the fire of which appeared to have been providentially extinguished from the want of air." 
When Bate Dudley and Law arrived at Littleport at about six o'clock in the evening, most of the labourers were in The George. Robert Stevens, a local surgeon, said that the Fighting Parson dismounted and commanded them to give themselves up. Cammell became abusive and Bate Dudley tried to grab him, but broke off the encounter when either Rutter or Daniel. Wilson, the blacksmith, hit him over the head with an iron bar. The prosecution brief of "The King versus Daniel Wilson" in the Cambridgeshire Record Office describes this undignified treatment of the victor of so, many duels thus: 
N.B. The truth is that Sir H. B. Dudley attended by the Military went to the door of The George public house and commanded the Rioters to surrender upon which Cammell came out and stood in the Door way and said come on you Piccadilly Butchers (alluding probably to the military) upon which Sir Henry collared him and it was during the struggle between Sir H. B. Dudley & Cammell that this assault took place. 
Shortly after the assault on Bate Dudley, shooting began. It is not clear who fired the first shots, but the labourers, were no match for the military. John Simmons, one of the Dragoons, was knocked off his horse and a sergeant's knee was injured when he, too, was unhorsed. Thomas South seriously injured a soldier named Wallance, a Waterloo veteran, who eventually had an arm amputated and became a pensioner on the Littleport poor rates. These were all the injuries among Bate Dudley's party, but among the labourers casualties were greater. Thomas Sindall was captured and then shot through the head by William Porter while trying to escape, and a colleague had part of his jaw taken away by a sabre cut. Isaac Harley was badly shot but lived to regret that "having three waistcoats on, prevented his death that day". 
Most reports of the incidents at Littleport said that two labourers were killed during the fighting, but Sindall was undoubtedly the only fatality. Bate Dudley told Sidmouth there were two and every journal and newspaper wrote in the same way, The Morning Post, for instance, saying so in the very issue that reported the Coroner's inquest on Sindall. W. H. Barrett says that, according to tradition, two soldiers were also killed and not found until their bodies were dug up during excavations forty years later. It is inconceivable that their disappearance would have escaped comment at the time, however. 
The labourers scattered after the affray outside The George, chased by the soldiers. Fifty-six were taken into custody that evening and a further forty-two were brought in on the Saturday. The chase was not without its drama and the Dragoons compared favourably with those at Norwich. 
"We understand that after the firing ceased at Littleport," noted the Norwich Mercury, "two privates of the First Royal Dragoons, being in close pursuit of two daring offenders on one of the banks of the River Ouse, and the latter having taken to a boat and crossed the river, immediately gave their horses to, a bystander and elevating their pistols with their left hands above the water, swam across the river with their right arms, to the opposite bank, and secured the two men, the river is of a great width." 
All over the weekend labourers were taken in and examined by the magistrates. The two Harleys and John Dennis, for instance, who had £25 in notes with him, were caught on the 25th at West Dereham. Many were sheltered by other labourers, one of whom was eventually fully committed to the Special Assizes for doing so. This was David Stimson who was visited by James Smith of Eriswell, Suffolk, constable, 
who on his oath saith that on Saturday Evening the twenty-fifth day of May instant he went to the house of the Prisoner David Stimson who, resides in Burnt Fen in the Parish of Mildenhall in the County of Suffolk for the purpose of searching the said house after some Rioters who were suspected to be concealed there that the said David Stimson told him this informant that he had, had half a Dozen secreted there the night before and that he would secrete them. 
Some of the locals were zealous in their attempt to bring the labourers to book. One of the bills paid by the magistrates of Ely was for £1 3s. 5d. "Expenses for the apprehension and keeping in custody Thomas Tippell alias Gibbons on suspicion of being Jefferson a Littleport Rioter who was absconded". 
Some of the labourers who ran from Ely, Downham and Littleport got well away, and Bow Street officers were employed to apprehend them. Aaron Layton was one who was caught in London. William Gotobed also got to the capital, but was never caught. He eventually returned to Littleport several years later after his wife and family had become chargeable to the parish and the locals had petitioned on his behalf. His brother, Thomas, had also not been, caught by the time of the trial and Stephen Saunderson was, another who went to London, got clean away and was never brought to book. 
About eighty prisoners were eventually caught, sent before Bate Dudley and the other magistrates and fully committed for trial. It was decided to try them at Special Assizes, which, it was hoped, would attract great attention and serve as a warning to rioters in other parts of the country. According to Sidmouth it was successful in doing this. 
The Home Secretary also changed his mind about the need for sending more troops to the troubled areas. He had stopped the disembodying of the West Norfolk Militia on the 18th May and promised to send troops to Brandon the following day. Hearing that Ely Cathedral was in danger and that "reports from neighbouring villages" confirmed there was "a riotous disposition" prevailing, he despatched three troops of cavalry (100 men), two six pounders and three companies of the 69th Regiment there under the command of Major General Byng. He also ordered the Lords Lieutenants to go to their respective counties, expressed grave dissatisfaction at the behaviour of the magistrates, and ordered the following proclamation to be displayed prominently in all the trouble spots. 
Sidmouth's decision, to send troops to East Anglia and the magistrates' firmness—although belated—almost certainly prevented the riots spreading further. On the very day that the shooting took place in Littleport, there had been troubles elsewhere. There had been every indication that the affair there was but the beginning of a really widespread rebellion.

24th May 1816: A Brandon magistrates expresses concern that the military may be withdrawn from the town

Brandon May 24, 1816


I wish I write to you in consequence of the letter received this morning from Mr [Denny?] one of the Magistrates in the Downham district “stating that you had made an intimation to Mr [Hare] another of the Magistrates there — the Troop of Dragoons stationed at Brandon may be removed there.—if quiet is restored in this neighbourhood to request of you to submit to Lord Sidmouth that I cannot answer for the continuation of quiet in this neighbourhood (which is only partially restored) of the Military force which is now stationed on Brandon is allowed to be sent from thence to suppress Riot, & tumult elsewhere—

And Mr Moseley requests me to add that the Parishioners of Feltwell & Hockwold cum Wilton have expressly declared they dare not lay any information before him against the Ringleaders (who have proceeded so far as to commit Robbery) if the regular force is removed from Brandon because the yeomanry cannot be collected in sufficient time to save them from the vengeance threatened by the Rioters in case of any one of them being arrested

The Revd Mr Newcombe who is now with Us - & a Gentlemen possessed of considerable property in Feltwell and Wilton states he has had information - and has good grounds to believe an organisation of the lower class of the People is now on foot for commencing another riot on Monday next

We trust therefore from the foregoing Statement Lord Sidmouth will see the necessity of continuing the present military force at Brandon, & under our direction

I am
Yr very obedt
humble Servt

JR Burch

J. Beckett Esq
Undr Sec: St:
for the Home department

24th May 1816: Crowd of 200 people intent on machine-breaking in Essex

On Friday 24th May 1816, and having been successful in destroying a Threshing Machine at Finchingfield the evening before, a crowd of 200 people had mixed success with machine-breaking in nearby parts of Essex.

In the morning, they visited the farm of Robert Smith, of Byton Hall and destroyed a mole plough there. They then proceeded to Great Bardsfield (to destroy a threshing machine belonging to a Mr. Messent, according to the Morning Chronicle of 27th May 1816). The Bury & Norwich Post of 29th May 1816 described what happened:
On Friday last a tumultuous and riotous mob of nearly 200 persons, armed with axes, saws, spades, &c. entered the village of Great Bardsfield, in the county of Essex, with the avowed intention to destroy thrashing machines, mole ploughs, &c.—They made their attack on the premises of Mr. Philip Spicer, who fortunately for the place where he lived, as also for the villages and towns on that side of the county, had spirit and resolution to defend his property, and being assisted by about 20 of his neighbours, who were entirely unarmed, they determined to resist the attack of the rioters, and by a Waterloo movement, got between the mob and the barn where the machine was deposited, and dared them to advance: when perceiving the determined manner of their opponents, they wisely resolved to make a precipitate retreat.

Monday, 23 May 2016

23rd May 1816: Threshing Machine destroyed at Finchingfield, Essex

In the evening of Thursday 23rd May 1816, a crowd of people destroyed a threshing machine belonging to a John Smith at Finchingfield, Essex.

23rd May 1816: Ely magistrates agree concessions and offer amnesty for offences to date

Hundred of Ely,
In the Isle of Ely.

The MAGISTRATES agree, and do Order, that the OVERSEERS shall pay to each poor Family Two SHILLINGS per Head per Week, when FLOUR is Half-a-Crown a Stone, such Allowance be raised in Proportion when the Price of Flour is higher, and that the Price of Labour shall be Two Shillings per Day, whether Married or Single, and that the Labourer shall be paid his full Wages by the Farmer who Hires him.

No Person to be prosecuted for any thing that has been done to the present Time; provided that every MAN immediately returns peaceably to his Home.

ELY, May 23, 1816.