Here be lollypriggers

Forgot - of course, in those antideluvian Days Before Le Smartphone not only did you have to have an HP iPaq palmtop, but also a backpack with the GPS gubbins! O tempora o mores!

A WEEKEND of violence in Bristol over 150 years ago is thought to have been one of the worst outbreaks of urban rioting in 19th century Britain.

Now it has been brought back into the spotlight with a valuable new archive of memorabilia acquired by the University of Bristol.

The Bristol Riots began on Saturday 29 October 1831. At the time, only around 6000 people in Bristol were able to vote out of a total population of 104,000. For the previous year, a process of parliamentary reform in England had been progressing, and a bill to give voting rights to more people had been passed by the Whig-dominated House of Commons.

But when the Tory-dominated House of Lords refused to ratify the act, angry protests erupted in several English towns. Bristol’s leader at the time was Sir Charles Wetherell, who embodied the old order in Parliament and the self-electing Corporation of Bristol. The combination of widespread anger and an ultra-Tory representative in Bristol sparked the worst of all the disturbances that were later dubbed the Reform Act Riots.

Wetherell is said to have made an ill-advised show of pomp at this time in the city’s Guildhall, only to receive a hostile reaction from the assembled crowd. His threats to imprison anyone found responsible for the disturbances brewing outside apparently provoked further outcry, and by the time he had returned to the Mansion House it was being set upon by a mob. 

Ironically, Wetherell quickly managed to escape while his pro-reform mayor and other officials barricaded themselves in. By the following afternoon, the Mansion and Custom Houses were both ablaze and three prisons had been emptied of inmates and set alight. The mob, reportedly made up of between 500 and 600 men, also targeted the houses of other unpopular figures including the Bishop’s Palace.

On Monday morning, military reinforcements arrived and dragoons attacked the mob to bring about an end to the riot. Hundreds of people were killed and wounded in the process. 


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