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The Swing Riots in Norfolk, 1830

The agricultural riots that broke out across the south of England in 1830 were precipitated by a reduction of wages and less work being available to agricultural labourers. The Magistrates in one area of Norfolk realised that the violence was caused by economic distress and sought to alleviate the cause of the problems.

The Magistrates in the Hundreds of Tunstead and Happing, in the County of Norfolk, having taken into consideration the disturbed state of the said Hundreds and the Country in general, wish to make it publicly known that it is their opinion that such disturbances principally arise from the use of Threshing Machines, and to the insufficient Wages of the Labourers. The Magistrates therefore beg to recommend to the Owners and Occupiers of Land in these Hundreds to discontinue the use of Threshing machines, and to increase the Wages of Labour to Ten Shillings a week for able bodied men, and that when task work is preferred, that it should be put out at such a rate as to enable an industrious man to earn Two Shillings per day.

The Magistrates are determined to enforce the Laws against all tumultuous Rioters and Incendiaries, and they look for support to all the respectable and well disposed part of the Community; at the same time they feel a full conviction that no severe measures will be necessary, if the proprietors of Land will give proper employment to the Poor on their own Occupations, and encourage their Tenants to do the same.

The magistrates of North Walsham, 24 November 1830, HO52/9, p. 156, quoted in E. Hobsbawm and G. Rudé, Captain Swing, (1969)

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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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