The Age of George III

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Riots in Sheffield, 1812

taken from the Leeds Mercury. This is about the time of the Luddite riots.

There was a formidable riot in this place last market day, (Tuesday) though nothing of the kind was previously apprehended. About noon a number of poor men. (who being out of regular work, are employed in forming a new burying ground on the west side of the town) came in a body into the corn-market. Their appearance had almost an instantaneous effect upon the multitude of workmen from the manufactories, collected there at the hour of dinner, who immediately proceeded to acts of violence. Their rage was principally directed against the potatoe [sic] dealers on account of a considerable advance in the price of that article. The stock of these they seized and scattered about the streets, or carried away in great quantities wherever they found it, in cans, in cellars or storehouses. Two or three sacks of corn were also emptied upon the pavement and wasted or purloined. Some butter was taken from the market women and a barrel of red herrings broken, and the fish thrown amongst the spectators. After about two hours of disorder, the Magistrates and peace officers seemed to have prevailed upon the greatest part of the rioters to disperse, but unfortunately among one division of them, the cry was suddenly set up of "All in a mind for the Volunteer arms!" and away they hastened to the military depositary of the Local Militia, on the outside of the town, which was in an unprotected building. Into this depot they presently forced an entrance, when finding no ammunition, they begun to break to pieces the fire-locks, destroy the drums, tearing and carrying off the clothes and other accoutrements but before they could accomplish all their intended mischief, the Magistrates with a troop of Hussars from the barracks came upon them and dispersed them in a few minutes. Here the destructive tumult ceased, and the peace of the town has been well preserved ever since, by the prudent and vigorous measures which have been adopted. No personal injury has been sustained either by the rioters, the military, or the orderly Inhabitants, beyond the bruises from potatoes, pieces of wood, &c. flying about during the tumultuous depredations of the mob. The magistrates deserve the highest praise for their forbearance and attention to the difficult duties of their office at such a time of danger and exasperation. Seven persons, (men and boys and one woman) have been committed to York Castle, charged with being actors and accessories in the disturbance.

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