Little Pitchcroft Riots, 1818

  • 17 Feb 2019
  • Historical Studies
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The croft nearest the City walls (roughly the land cut off by the railway viaduct) was called Little Pitchcroft. It was taken up by the Cattle Market (now the Hive) and other buildings, but not before there was considerable violence to stop the loss of what regarded as the citizen's common land.

Buildings had encroached on the space after the end of the French War in 1815, and a meeting was held at the Hop Pole Inn to demand their removal. Nothing was done to take them down, so the protesting populace decided to do it themselves and led by Joseph Steers, a respectable tradesman, a part only, as a token, was demolished.

The Mayor read the Riot Act, but nobody took any notice, and he began to swear anyone in as special constables, but none dared interfere. Later the Yeomanry were assembled, but they, being pelted with stones, retreated to the Star and Garter yard and made no further appearance. The demolition being completed, everyone said it was disgraceful, but glad it was done.

Steer, who helped in the destruction was indicted for a capital offence. There was absolute tumult in court, so great was the crowd. Though found guilty, he was charged to keep the peace for twelve months, with one hundred pounds assurity - which was immediately offered. The jubilation was great and crowds endeavoured to drag the Judge's carriage in triumph through the streets, but the Judge threatened to commit the foremost of the crowd, and sense prevailed.