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Forum Home > Other Crimes and Punishments. > Riot and Rebellion.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

For the whole of recorded history, there have always been bands of people, nearly always armed, who have ravaged the fair land we call England. They have robbed, stolen, looted, and set fire to the property of anyone who had anything worth the effort. From the past, we have legends such as the tale of Robin Hood, which are in all likelyhood, based on real events. The experts will tell you, that there are two sides to all civilisations, the largely law-abiding, and the predators. The problem has always been, how to seperate one from the other, for given the right circumstances, even the most unlikely people can be become predators. During the English Civil War, bands of men, affiliated to neither side roamed the countryside, taking what they wanted. Unstoppable, they ransacked Towns and villages, and the melted away into the night, only to re-appear when least expected. Cromwells law and order put a stop to it for a while, but each time the circumstances made life a little harder, they returned, not so strong, but they still managed to pillage a great deal. Throughout the 17th and 18th century, as mechinisation came in, and jobs became harder to find, these mobs became a real menace. To combat the threat, almost ever Town had it's own Malitia, Yeomanry, or Volunteers. The authorities had always been afraid of keeping a standing Army on English soil, having seen what had occured on the Continent. The rich were determined to hang on to what they had aquired. The strength of the Industrial unrest though, must have caused a bit of a panic, and we begin to see more of these Malitia's being used to quell even small disturbances. There were several workers strikes in the 1830s, and the " Gentry " became rather nervous, perticulary when the workers were Miners. A group of miners in Wolverhampton, were fired on by volunteers, after several shops in the Town had been looted, and the crowd had refused to disperse. So much panic ensued, that Thomas Badger, a Dudley magistrate, sent an urgent message to the Home Secretary. It requested " Thirty stands of muskets and ammunition for use against disturbers of the peace ". This was rightly refused, but he did allow for 30 cutlasses, and 30 brace of pistols. Non of these arms could used without a signed order from the magistrates, and only then in a dire emergency. The unrest continued, and was made worse by many inflammatory speeches, most of the speakers sometimes forgetting, that the strikes were to improve the wages of miners, not start a class war. One Doctor Taylor, was a noted speaker, and at a meeting on Lye Waste, in 1839, he tried to recruit 2,000 men, to take up their hammers, and prepare to knock down a few doors. Some shops were attacked, as were a few workshops and mines. Having no other means of control, the authoroties had no option but to call out the Stourbridge Troop, of the Worcester Yeomanry. On the way, the mob being a bit more mobile, ambushed the troops, injurying several men and a number of horses. As conditions in the mining industry got steadily worse, so did the trouble, and those who were caught suffered some severe penalties. A few were Hanged, some were sentenced to a few years hard labour, and the ringleaders were Transported for life. I842 was a bad year for all concerned, there were riots and looting in Manchester, Liverpool and London, and many houses of the rich, were burnt to the ground.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 14, 2011 at 11:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Unicorn
Member
Posts: 46

In some cases not a lot has changed has it.

August 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

I am afraid it hasn't, nor it won't, mainly because, as I said before, the potential to become a predator is within us all. What kept it all in check, was the introduction of a proper Police Force. At times, it's members were somewhat worse than the criminals they were meant catch, but over time it evolved. The gangs who caused trouble however, also evolved. They ventured into Gambling, Drugs, Prostitution, and high value Robbery. The first World War, saw an escalation of lawless behaviour. Any shop or business, with a foreign sounding name, was wreaked, ransacked, or burnt. Men called up for Army service, if they had been thieves before, Army service did not change the habits of a lifetime, and they became thieves in uniform. It was the high value shops that suffered the most, as they will always do, and the major crime wave, after the war, was directed at Banks and Jewellery shops .With so many experienced Officers serving in the Army, they were strecthed to the limit, and so bad were the the crime figures, that they were suppressed. In some cities, it was unsafe to walk the streets. When the War ended, the country was awash with weapons, there was very little work to be had, and the gangs got bigger. Between the Wars was a golden era for the gangs, they seemed to control the whole justice system, as time after time, case's collapsed and crooks walked free. Then there were the Facist marches, and attacks on religious minorities began. Whole rows of shops and business's looted in the countries major cities, and the Police Forces were overwhelmed. Then came the second World War, and the terror of the Blitz and the blackouts. Once again, it became foolish to venture out at night. Not because of the bombing, but because of the robberies and violence. Forget what you may have heard, about the " Spirit of the Blitz ", there was wholesale looting and robbing going on, almost as soon as the sirens had sounded. Try reading a book about the " Myth of the Blitz ", and you will appreciate the horror of what some people had to endure, as if the falling bombs weren't enough. The crime figures from around the country, are truly shocking for this period. So bad that the Government, once again, put an imbargo on the publication of them. Once again, men called up, did not change their ways, and during this War, they had opportunities not only here, but abroad as well. It was as easy to buy a gun and ammunition, after the War, as it was to buy Silk underwear. They were cheap, and you just needed to know which Pub to go too. We will all have to accept, that a degree of criminal behavoiur will always be with us, Charles Dickens realised this, when he wrote Oliver Twist, but just like the rest of us, he didn't have an answer either.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 14, 2011 at 2:50 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Even further back in time, there was unrest in the Country, take the early part of the 19th Century, and we have a very familiar problem. When the Napoleonic Wars ended, all the Soldiers came back home, and found there was very little work available. There was no longer any need for a huge amount of Iron, Coal, Leather goods, Cloth, or Shoes, and unrest spread. The Colliers in the Midlands, who due to a complete lack of any education or Newspapers, and thinking they were the melting pot of the Industrial Revolution, also believed themselves to be the worst off of any in England. They were wrong. Not wishing though, to suffer the same fate as the " Littleport Rioters ", they devised a novel form of protest about their poor conditions.

Note.

Between 300 and 400 people in the village of Littleport, just north of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, had gone on a wreaking spree in late May/earlyJune, of 1816. The end result was the hanging of 5 men, Thomas South, William Beamiss, and George Crow, not for the rioting, but for stealing in a dwelling house. John Dennis, and Isaac Harley, were hanged for the robbery of some Merchants. These executions were noteworthy, for having been carried out in Englands smallest, and now vanished county, The Isle of Ely.


The Colliers loaded up several carts with Coal, and proceeded in numerous directions in order to bring their wretchedness to public notice. Each waggon was accompanied by about 40 miners, and strict rules were imposed as to their conduct. Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester, Bristol, and London were the targets, but not waggon got to it's destination. The authorities, learning of the plan, and nervous of the reaction of the people, sent out instructions to stop the marches, by the simple process of buying the Coal in the wagons, and giving the men enough money to go back home. It worked, and also pricked at the conciences of the Coal and Iron masters of the Black Country, who started up a relief fund. The Colliers had also learned, that there were others in the country who were far worse off than they were. In all, over £8,000 was donated, including a hefty sum of £2,000 from the Earl of Dudley. While all this money was welcome, some of the population were not pleased. One gentleman in Wolverhampton described some of the colliers as " too idle to work " ,  and that they should have accepted the lower wages on offer. ( The reason of course for the protest ) He also pointed out, that food prices had almost halved, so the lower wage offer was justified. Another letter writer, this time from Dudley, accused the miners of being nothing more than vagabonds, imposters, beggers and thieves. Not surprisingly, he only signed the letter with his intials. The Militias, who had been put on standby, were sent back, only to re-appear in many more subseqent disturbances that would throw the Black Country back into the headlines.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 25, 2012 at 3:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Col Gate
Member
Posts: 1

Alaska. at April 25, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Even further back in time, there was unrest in the Country, take the early part of the 19th Century, and we have a very familiar problem. When the Napoleonic Wars ended, all the Soldiers came back home, and found there was very little work available. There was no longer any need for a huge amount of Iron, Coal, Leather goods, Cloth, or Shoes, and unrest spread. The Colliers in the Midlands, who due to a complete lack of any education or Newspapers, and thinking they were the melting pot of the Industrial Revolution, also believed themselves to be the worst off of any in England. They were wrong. Not wishing though, to suffer the same fate as the " Littleport Rioters ", they devised a novel form of protest about their poor conditions.

Note.

Between 300 and 400 people in the village of Littleport, just north of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, had gone on a wreaking spree in late May/earlyJune, of 1816. The end result was the hanging of 5 men, Thomas South, William Beamiss, and George Crow, not for the rioting, but for stealing in a dwelling house. John Dennis, and Isaac Harley, were hanged for the robbery of some Merchants. These executions were noteworthy, for having been carried out in Englands smallest, and now vanished county, The Isle of Ely.


The Colliers loaded up several carts with Coal, and proceeded in numerous directions in order to bring their wretchedness to public notice. Each waggon was accompanied by about 40 miners, and strict rules were imposed as to their conduct. Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester, Bristol, and London were the targets, but not waggon got to it's destination. The authorities, learning of the plan, and nervous of the reaction of the people, sent out instructions to stop the marches, by the simple process of buying the Coal in the wagons, and giving the men enough money to go back home. It worked, and also pricked at the conciences of the Coal and Iron masters of the Black Country, who started up a relief fund. The Colliers had also learned, that there were others in the country who were far worse off than they were. In all, over £8,000 was donated, including a hefty sum of £2,000 from the Earl of Dudley. While all this money was welcome, some of the population were not pleased. One gentleman in Wolverhampton described some of the colliers as " too idle to work " ,  and that they should have accepted the lower wages on offer. ( The reason of course for the protest ) He also pointed out, that food prices had almost halved, so the lower wage offer was justified. Another letter writer, this time from Dudley, accused the miners of being nothing more than vagabonds, imposters, beggers and thieves. Not surprisingly, he only signed the letter with his intials. The Militias, who had been put on standby, were sent back, only to re-appear in many more subseqent disturbances that would throw the Black Country back into the headlines.



So what's the real story behind the burning of Witley Court? Was it rebellious Dudley miners as told to me in my youth? Or is that a black country urban myth?

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April 26, 2012 at 1:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It's a total Myth. The fire started in the Bakery, (in September 1937), which was in the basement, and destroyed one wing of the house. It was sold for scrap, and what you see today, is the result of stripping away all the fabric to sell.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 26, 2012 at 4:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The Birmingham, or " Priestly " Riots, as they became known, threw the whole area into some confusion in 1791. Joseph Priestly, was due to attend, and speak, at a dinner, which was held to celebrate the second anniversary of the Storming of the Bastle. A pamphlet had been distributed, that claimed that a effergy of the kings head, ( George III ) would be paraded around the room, and a toast drunk to his distruction. Totally false, but it would be the spark that set off 4 days of carnage. All riots of course, have leaders, and in this case, it was some of Birminghams more prominant figures. John Brooke, the under Sheriff of Warwickshire, Joseph Carles, a criminal Magistrate, Doctor Benjamin Spencer, the Vicar of Aston, and a Magistrate, and Edward Carver, a manufacturer of brass goods.

Guided by these men, the resulting mobs looted and burnt down, Baskerville House, owned by the Ryland family, the homes of William Russell, William Hunt, all members of the famous Luner Society, and 24 other large houses. They also burnt down 4 religious meeting houses, but left the Quackers alone. Samuel Galton, another society member, ( remembered by famous Galton Bridge in Smethwick ) only saved his home by bribing the mob with Money and Ale. Matthew Boulton, protected his home, Soho House, and his Manufactory, in Handsworth, by surounding them with a large group of his workers, all armed with heavy staves and iron bars. Other business'es in this area also took precautions, but in the event, following the arrival of a body of Dragoons from Nottingham, the mob headed off to the south. Houses and Meeting houses were burnt in and around Kings Heath, as the thinning mob went off towards Alcester, and Bromsgrove. Of the hundreds of rioters, only 50 were ever given a name, and of these, only 17 were arrested and sent for trial. In front of what can only be called " friendly juries ", 15 were found not guilty, and released, the other 2 were hanged for the riots, or were they? In their case, being notorious thieves and robbers, it was felt they could be hanged, as a example to the rest of the Town. And so they were.


Robert Cooke, a well known Birmingham thief, had been seen setting fire to William Russells Office in Showell Green, now in Sparkhill, Birmingham. He was also seen at more trouble in Kings Heath, and Kings Norton, then part of Worcestershire. The other man, Richard Pittaway, long suspected of a series of nasty armed highway robberies, was also seen at several sites of looting and burning, but appears to have made a fatal error by committing a further robbery in Bromsgrove. This gave the Court at Warwick, ( they not wishing to create any martyrs out this sorry affair ) the chance to pass sentence of death on the two, but order the execution to take place in the county in which the crimes were committed. So, in August, 1791, the two were sent to Worcester County Gaol, and, later that month, they were taken to Red Hill, on the road to Pershore, and before a large crowd, Hanged until they were dead.


From this experience, it was learned that should such a thing happen again, Troops should be sent quickly on the scene. After this date, each large Town began to develope it's own Militia or Volunteers, unless there was a garrison nearby. So in the Town of Wolverhampton, a troop of Dragoons appeared, in Dudley, a troop of Militia were trained, and the troops at Stourbridge were reinforced. Birmingham, that hotbed of rioters, got it's own mixed garrison of foot and mounted soldiers. All this firepower came in very useful, when the Blackcountry Nailers and Miners went on strikes during the next century. Concidering what occured recently, maybe it might be time to review our current response to any further trouble.


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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 19, 2012 at 4:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Despite all the strikes, riots, and general disorder in this region during the early part of the 19th century, there were very few severe punishments handed out. That of course could not be said of other parts of the Country, and which prompted the authorities to despatch large bodies of troops to the counties involved. It had been tough period for working men, both during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Machinery, which produced goods faster, had been introduced, especially in the Weaving and Cotton industries, lowering the wages of what had been a lucrative cottage industry. Started by a lone protest, by a supposed half wit called Ned Lud, his name was adopted by workers who shared the same aim, Luddites. From Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire, reports came in of large bodies of men, sometimes a hundred strong, who rampaged the towns, destroying the Mills and breaking the Machinery. Thankfully, the Blackcountry was spared this, and the terrible retribution enacted on those eventually caught. A great many were simply transported, but this was not enough for some, as happened after Mills in Blackburn, Rochdale Oldham and other towns in Lancashire were attacked. One owner, William Cartwright, fought back, turning his premises into a virtual fortress, and succeeded in getting one group of Luddites ambushed by Soldiers. Another owner, wasn't so lucky.


On the morning of 13th June, 1812, eight unlucky Luddites, were led in chains, from the deep confines of Lancaster Castle. This was to be their last day on earth, for James Smith, Thomas Kerfoot, John Fletcher, and Abraham Charlson were to be hanged for Riot and Arson. Next up came John Haworth, John Lee, and Thomas Hayle, found guilty of Riot and Housebreaking. The last in line was a woman, believed to be James Smith wife, Hannah Smith, condemned for Riot and Highway Robbery. If the Government thought that this demonstration of power would deter others, they were to be sadly disappointed. Over the border in Yorkshire, several attempts had been made to destroy the Mill of William Horsefall, but he had also fought back, and as a result, was now a marked man. In the December of 1812, he was on the way back from the market in Huddersfield, to his Ottiwells Mill at Marsden, when he was waylaid and shot dead. The men responsible, George Mellor, William Thorpe, and Thomas Smith, were put on trial at York Castle on 6th January,1813, and in one of the speediest executions of the time, all hanged within 36 hours of the verdict of Guilty. For the Luddites, worse was to follow, for already held at the Castle, were fourteen others, all facing the same fate. Baron Wood, the presiding Judge, was asked by the prosecution, if all of them could be hung on the same beam, at the same time, for it would have sent out a powerful message to those bent on more destruction. No, he said, it would be more comfortable for them to be hanged on two beams. And so it was, that at 11am, on 16th January,1813, and in front of huge crowd in the old Castle's enclosure, Jonathon Dearne, John Ogden, Thomas Brook, John Walker, John Hill, Joseph Crowther, and Nathaniel Hayle were hanged in a long line. This was only possibly because the system of hanging had changed to the " short drop method " , using the back of horse drawn carts or ladders. The charges were again a mixture of Riot/Arson/Attempting to Demolish a Mill/Burglary/Robbery. The second scene was enacted at 2pm, when an even bigger crowd witnessed the demise of John Swallow, John Hartley, Joseph Fisher, James Hiag, Job Hay, William Hartley, and James Hay.  It can be seen by the surnames from both Lancashire and Yorkshire, that several do in in fact, seem to be related. It would appear, that the local authorities were on the ball, and knew all the agitators, as they travelled from place to place, inciting trouble. These were to be the last heavy handed tactics used, and many more were later transported to Van Diemans Land, and Botony Bay, where no doubt their skills as weavers came in useful, and where there wasn't, as yet, any machinery. There was still trouble in the Blackcountry though, fairly mild when it came to protesting about the conditions I thought, and thankfully, no mass hangings.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 9, 2012 at 11:37 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

I have tried, thoughout the website, to illustrate just how difficult conditions were, for the heaving, starving masses of the Country. When Queen Victoria came to the throne, in 1837, some would have looked forward to change, sadly it didn't happen. If you read, or were taught, just the bare bones of history, the period would seem to be full of acomplishments and great wealth. Not for the humble working class though, who could do very little to relieve their families daily struggle. Members of Parliament were elected, at times, with just a few votes, bought and paid for I should add, for unless you owned property, or paid rates, you had no vote. Then, along came the Chartist's, agitating for better conditions, and a fairer share for all. The response of those in power, already nervous from events abroad, was to re-inforce the presence of regular troops and voluntary yeomanry units. This did not stop some notable meetings, which began in 1839.  In 1842, over 200,000 men from Birmingham and the Black Country assembled to hear speeches in the towns Bull Ring. Over 300,000 in Manchester, and similar sized crowds in other Industrial towns. Many were arrested, simply for being in the crowd, some were hanged, others shot, a few transported, and many imprisoned. Unable to seek redress for the many wrongs, mobs formed, and roamed the districts, burning, looting, and encouraging others to join in the massive strikes. This is a report from the start in 1839.


On July 16th, when carrying out orders to move the Stourbridge Troop to Birmingham, we were set upon by a mob at Lye Waste and most brutally assaulted with stones, cinders and other missiles, whilst bulldogs were set upon our horses.


It sounds like the local miners were a bit annoyed, and some would say, a bit better organised than they had been some years before. There were other incidents, which must have caused a shudder in the ranks of the higher orders, the use of explosives. In 1842, began what was to be some of the worst of the trouble, as witnessed by this next report, from July, 1842.


On Monday, miners stopped Lime and Coal pits at Walsall, and compelled other workers to join them. The Walsall Troop of the Staffordshire Yeomanry turned out, augmented by troops of the 3rd Dragoon Guards. Large numbers of Colliers roamed about demanding food and money from all and sundry.

Tuesday morning saw large numbers of Colliers marching through Wolverhampton. On Wednesday and Thursday, the pitmen visited Bilston and Princes End, ( Tipton ) bringing out workers and throwing into the Canal, all those who refused to join them. Bilston shops were raided and bread stolen.

Ten thousand Colliers met at West Bromwich, ( This was in Spon Lane ) and were addressed by the Chartists, who advised them not to return to work for less than Four Shillings per day. ( With the average working week at 12 hours a day, 5 and a half days a week, it worked out at just 22 shillings per week, 66 hours, at just 4 pence per hour. ) This meeting was followed by similar gatherings at Wolverhampton and large bodies of special Constables were enrolled. Two Companies of the 12th Regiment of Foot, and the Himley Troop of Yeomanry also stood by. 400 Colliers threatened those working at Parkfield Colliery and work was stopped. The Colliery owner, Mr. Underhill, rode among the mob, and later identified several of the miscreants. Eight men were arrested.


The same scene would be en-acted all around the Black Country, as men armed with cudgels, sticks, iron bars, and hammers roamed the area urging others to down tools and join the strike. Alfred Barrs, the son of the late Vicar of Rowley, on seeing a mob of over several hundred men approaching, armed himself with a brace of pistols. mounted his horse, and  threatened to shoot the first man that set foot on his property. ( Haden Hill No.1 Pit ) Thomas Badger, the Dudley Magistrate, looking slightly deranged, appeared on the scene, as he had already done several times that day, and read out the Riot Act. Among the men arrested that day, were William Parry, who would later be transported for 7 years, John Bloor, 20, who was given 12 months for assaulting a policeman, William Morris,21, William Francis,36, and William Harley,25, all of who went to prison for 9 months, Thomas Taylor,28, who got 8 months, and Thomas Millership,31, sentenced to 4 months, who was later arrested again, but went on to own several Mines himself. The conditions and pay they were protesting about, persisted all the way through the Victorian era, what you see now is just the surface. Scratch it, as Charles Dickens did, and the foul and loathsome smell that emerges, was what our ancesters had to put with every day of their misable working lives.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 3, 2013 at 3:24 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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