Friday, 20 August 2010

Not a town but a large village

Riot notice in the corner of the Churchyard
I accused Littleport of being a very small town in my last post but apparently Littleport is the 'largest village' in East Cambridgeshire.  On Tuesday I had a cycle around in the rain to see what was there and came across this notice about the reading of the riot act.  I subsequently had a search on the Tinternet and found that this village of some 2000 souls in 1816, shortly after the end of the Napoleonic wars, had been the place where a riot had started that spread to neighbouring Ely.  The following link, Littleport Riots, gives the details of what happened and its consequences but the result for the rioters was the hanging of five of them and the deporting of a further 19 to Botany Bay.  Justice was swift ( well perhaps not justice, more like retribution) for the riots had taken place on 22nd May 1816 and the Assizes were held the following month.  Drunkenness played a big part in the rioting as it unfolded; though their cause was just, with farm labourers and their families facing starvation, their actions were deplorable, highway robbery, theft and vandalism.

The sentencing was harsh, all were condemned to death or deportation but the outcry made the Judges revise their sentences so that the majority were commuted to a year in Ely gaol.  After things had quieted down and five men had been dispatched by hanging,  the Judges reverted the sentence to deportation and the unfortunate inmate's of Ely gaol found themselves on their way to Botany Bay.

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