by Jenna Dawlish
Last month I posted about the Bread Riots in Exeter in 1854. I posted a transcript from the newspaper the Exeter Flying Post which described the rioting in detail.
The rioting started because many of the poor in the City couldn't afford bread and their anger tipped over into violence.
This month I posted below a transcript the day after the riots when some of those arrested appeared before the Magistrates Court.
Again, this makes interesting reading, not only the amount of detail described by the journalist (something not done today), but also their opinion on some of the accused is blatant.
I hope you enjoy it.
Jan 12th 1854 Exeter Flying Post
On Tuesday morning the County Magistrates met at the castle, and after some consultation,Mr Bere announced that in consequence of Mr Trood having sustained so much injury as to be unable to attend, the prisoners would not be brought before the bench that day, but that the adults would appear before the Bench this (Wednesday) morning, and those who were under 16 years of age, be dealt with summarily on Friday.
On the same morning a number of rioters were bought before the city magistrate at the Guildhall.
The magistrates present were the Mayor, (John Daw Esq.,) H Hooper, R S Corrish, E Woolmer, J C Sercombe, and J D Osborn, Esqrs.
The consequence of the magistrates room not being sufficiently large to accommodate the public, the investigation was taken in the hall below.
Mr Steel stated that there were two of the prisoners- Amelia Perkins and George Brice – against whom cases which could be brought for disturbances in the county, were much stronger than those in the city. He, therefore asked whether they had not better be handed over to the county magistrates.
The Mayor said he would take the other cases before hearing these.
Mr Steel said as many of the parties had but just been apprehended, he proposed to offer sufficient evidence to justify a remand and then ask that they might be remanded.
JOHN LODGE was the first person charged.
PC Moore stated that he saw the prisoner at half past four o'clock on the Friars. There was a great crowd collected together, and he appeared to be one of the leaders. He had a large stick two feet long in his hand, and was calling out “Come on you b----s.” One of the mob threw a stone at the dwelling house of Mr Sercombe, in Colleton-Cresent, and struck the window blind. There were a great number of stones thrown, and he (the policemen) received one in his thigh. He followed the mob, and they went on towards the Quay, prisoner being at their head.
Prisoner: Did you see me with a stick?
Prisoner: That is a lie.
Mr Francis Golsworthy, dairyman, of Holloway Street, offered his evidence. He said that he was at the bottom of Holoway Street, at the corner of Lansdowne-Terrace and saw from 200 to 300 people assembled there. The prisoner was among them, and joined in heaving stones at Mr Bodley's window. They completely wrecked Mr Bodley's house inside and out. The shutters were “ripped down” and the mob then commenced throwing stones at the glass upstairs and down. They did not enter the house and he did not see them take anything. They passed up Holloway-Street but he did not follow them. He advised others not to follow them.
The Mayor: You were quite right.
Prisoner: I can take my oath that I was not in Holloway-Street for the day.
Mr Golsworthy: I have not the slightest doubt that I saw you.
Prisoner: Then what dress had I on?
Mr Goldworthy: The same you have on now.
Prisoner: That is a lie, for I had on a good pair of trousers.
In reply to the Mayor, Mr Steel said that the prisoner always dressed in sailor's clothes, but he believed that he had nothing more of the sailor about him than the attire.
The Mayor said that it was clear from the prisoners appearance that he was not a person that had been suffering from want of food, and he must have acted as he had merely from mischief. The case would be remanded till Saturday, as Mr Steel thought he would be able to make it stronger; but at the same time the evidence was perfectly clear, and there was not the slightest doubt that on Saturday he would be committed for trial. His worship also said the public were much indebted to Mr Golsworthy for attending.
MARY ANN HOLMAN, a woman who appeared to suffer much more from excessive impudence than want, was then placed in the dock.
On the witness against her, P.C. Marton, entering the box, she turned to him and told him that she hoped he would tell the truth, as she had witnesses in court who knew all about it. She was afraid there would be a good deal of false swearing in the case.
Martin said that he was on duty in West-street at about quarter-before four o'clock.
Prisoner: I was then in the Lower Market getting some peas soup.
The policeman continued: There were a great many assembled there, about a hundred, and the prisoner was in front calling to the parties who passed the street to join and assist them as they were “determined to get it and would.” There was a great deal of shouting and halloing.
Prisoner: I was not near Westgate from half-past two till five o'clock.
Martin said he was quite positive that she was the person he saw and she was remanded till Saturday.
EMMA FOWLER was then brought up.
The same policeman (Martin) said that he saw her about half-past four in West-Street. A crowd of persons passed up through Preston-Street into the Lower market, and prisoner was in the front, crying out that they would have bread. They went into the Market.
Prisoner – I have not been to the market for three months.
Martin continued. - On coming from the market the parties cried out: “We don't want their old soup; we want bread, and we will have it.” They went on into South-street.
The prisoner was also remanded till Saturday.
The Mayor remarked that she had not the least appearance from want. In reference to the soup he said he had himself dined upon it, and better soup he never had. The only complaint he could make of it was that it was too good and he was obliged to put some water with it. - (Some hisses from the back part of the hall followed this observation)
The next prisoner was bought before the Bench was GEORGE BRICE, a rough looking fellow, apparently fit for any rough sort of work.
Inspector Fulford said he saw the prisoner in Westgate Quarter, with a crowd of other persons between 200 and 300. They went towards the Quay calling that they would have bread, and that there would be a row before the night was over. He afterwards saw him again on the Friars, near Mr Sercombe's house. He tried to disperse them but could not.
Mr Steel having stated that there was a very strong case against this prisoner, which would come under the jurisdiction of the county magistrate, and it appearing that the county officers were waiting to take him in charge, the Mayor ordered him to be given into their custody.
AMELIA PERKINS was dealt with in a similar way.
MARY HOLLOWAY, a denizen of the West Quarter, was then brought up.
Inspector Ellicombe said, about eight o'clock last night, he saw the prisoner and others in West-Street. There were 300 or 400 present. She appeared to be much excited; and called out “I'm – if I will not have it.” He told her that she had better be careful what she said, but she took no notice of the caution. They passed up Preston-Street towards the Lower Market. He afterwards apprehended her at her own house.
Mr Matthew Barrett baker, of the West Quarter, said that at about five o'clock the mob came and broke in his windows. There were 41 squares of glass broken in a minute or two, but there was nothing stolen. About an hour afterwards the prisoner came with four or five others, declaring that they would have bread. He opened the door to give a loaf to a customer, and they attempted to enter the shop, but he prevented them. He told them that they had better go home, but they made no reply. He tried to close the door, but they pushed against it, and broke it from the hinges. A man named Sergeant was there telling them to go in and take the bread. Mr Upright and Mr Brooking passed the door, and he requested them to look after the shop while he went for the police, which they consented to do. He then went to the police station, and returned with Inspector Ellicombe, who apprehended the prisoner at her own house.
The prisoner was also remanded till Saturday.
This was the last case for hearing.
Mr Steel said that he should have to apply for summonses or warrants, but he should do so privately.
The Mayor said that the Bench were determined to put down riots. For the advantage of the poor themselves they would put them down for it was an utter absurdity to think to get cheapter bread by breaking into bakers shops. All riots would be put down by force.
A considerable number of respectable inhabitants attended to be sworn in special constables, and the mayor told them that the citizens were much indebted to them for offering their assistance, for although he would not hesitate for a moment to call out the ,military when necessary, he would prefer that peace should be maintained by the civil force.
His worship observed that the Bench would retire for a few minutes to consider what course had better be taken.
The bench were, accordingly absent about ten minutes. When they returned to the Hall, the Mayor expressed the great satisfaction he felt reporting that the city was perfectly tranquil, and that there was no reason to apprehend any further breakout. He briefly stated the course which had been taken; observing that the military had been sent for, and that the result was most successful; the mob at once went from Exeter to St Thomas. He said that the Bench had come to the determination of dividing the city into districts and again expressing the thanks of the magistrates to those gentlemen who attended to offer themselves as special constables, he assured them that they should not be led against any mob that they were not quite competent to contend with; for if the mob should be too great for hte, he would send for the military at once. He was determined that there should be no rioting in Exeter."