Reform Riot Walk: Take 2

Tagged as: 1831 history peoples_histreh reform_bill reform_riots
Neighbourhoods: nottingham
Published by group: GroupPeople's Histreh

On Sunday 29th May, Nottingham Radical History Group (People's Histreh) organised a second Reform Riots walk, retracing the riots which followed the defeat of the Second Reform Bill in the House of Lords in October 1831.


espite the threat of rain (which forunately never materialised), more than thirty people came along for the walk, with a handful drifting in and out along the way.

The walk followed the same route as the previous walk in October, beginning at St Peter's Square, near the site of the well-known incident where the mayor was knocked (or bowled) over by a cheese during the 1766 "Cheese Riots".

From here the walk made its way into one of the nearby alleys to convey some sense of what life might have been like in Nottingham during the early industrial revolution.

The walk then went onto High Street and then down to Market Square, the site of many political confrontations over the years and then up to the castle. This landmark was infamously burned down in an expression of the anger against the hated Duke of Newcastle.

The route then went down to and along Castle Gate, crossing Maid Marian Way, and up to Low Pavement for a discussion of the motivations of the rioters. It is here that People's Histreh deviate from many conservative or liberal interpretations of the riots.

Where liberal or conservatives tend to view the participants as either misguided dupes of the Whigs or self-interested, petty thieves, rioting for bounty. By contrast People's Histreh argue (at length in the pamphlet on the matter, soon to be reissued in an expanded form *shameless plug*) that they were instead waging class war, supporting a Bill which offered them nothing, but which would clearly hurt those they hated most like Newcastle.

The final stop on the tour was outside the old courthouse and gaol (or goal, as one unfortunate mason thought), now the Galleries of Justice, on High Pavement. Here alleged rioters were tried at a Special Assize in January 1832. Ultimately three were hung and six transported.

As is so often the case in the history of the real world, there is no happy ending, but it should be noted that when the third Reform Bill went before Parliament in 1832, the Lords took the hint following the violence the year before (which had taken place in many other cities) and passed it into law.


For more radical history related goodness, join People's Histreh on Friday for a wine and cheese evening (vegan options available) to celebrate the launch of our new pamphlet "Damn your charity..." about the 1766 Great Cheese Riot.


Link_go People's Histreh

Nottingham Radical History Group's website

Link_go "To The Castle!" booklet

People's Histreh pamphlet (100pp) on Nottingham's Reform Riots

Link_go Riot Walk materials

The materials used for the walk - photos and maps etc.

Link_go Reform Riot Walk October 2010

Indymedia report on the previous Reform Riot walk last year