The Reading of the Riot Act

By 1830, with falling prices and an influx of unemployed soldiers and sailors following the end of the wars, matters came to a head across southern England, and on 30 November 1830 there was a demonstration in Winfrith Newburgh by local men, egged on by their wives and children.

An entry from the Journal of Mary Frampton at the time:

“Notice was received of an intending rising of the people at Winfrith, Wool and Lulworth. My brother Mr Frampton was joined early in the morning by a large body of farmers etc. – all special constables amounting to 150 armed only with short staffs, the pattern of which had been sent by order of the Government. Numbers increased as they rode towards Winfrith where the clergyman was very unpopular and his premises supposed to be in danger. The mob, urged on from behind the hedge by a number of women and children, advanced rather respectfully and with hats in hands to demand an increase in wages but would not listen to a request that they should disperse. The Riot Act was read. They still urged forward and came up close to Mr Frampton’s horse; he then collared the man but in giving him in charge he slipped from his captors by leaving his smock frock in their hands. Another mob from Lulworth was said to be advancing …  The mob was described in general as very fine looking young men and particularly well dressed as if they had put on their best clothers for the occasion.”

James Frampton, the Justice of the Peace who later sentenced the Tolpuddle Martyrs to transportation, read the Riot Act and with the help of a large number of special constables on horseback dispersed the demonstrators and restored order. Nothing was gained by the men, and their lot continued to be hard.

The text of the Riot Act, which reads: Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the Act made in the first year of King Geroge the First for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King.

The text of the Riot Act

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