23rd November 1830 - Swing riots on Bishop's Down Farm, Salisbury

Swingletter.jpgOn 23rd November day in 1830 ‘Swing Rioters’ destroyed a threshing machine at Bishops Down Farm.

The Swing Riots were a series of protests against low wages and high prices which occurred across the south of England in 1830.

The first riots started in Kent in August, and the movement spread west.

According to Paul Sample’s ‘History of the Wiltshire Constabulary’:

A party of men had wrecked a threshing machine, and, armed with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on, began to march towards Salisbury – intent on destroying Messrs Figes Iron Foundry.

Within an hour Salisbury was in turmoil as the news spread. Wealthier citizens armed themselves; special constables were sworn in and the Yeomanry Cavalry were mobilised.

The rioters were met on the road, but refused to withdraw. Above angry threats and taunts the Riot Act was read. Eventually the militia arrived and moved in to break up the crowd. A number of men were taken prisoner – and gradually the gathering was dispersed[1]

According to, I think, the Salisbury Journal:

The then editor of the Journal William Bird Brodie was in charge of the Special Constables with several members of the Salisbury Philharmonic Society among their number.

It was noted elsewhere that the second meeting of this society had had to be cancelled “on the 25th inst as advertised, in consequence of many of the members having been engaged as Special Constables”.

The Yeomanry Calvary took up position in front of the Council Chamber where “the pistol of one of the privates of the troop went off by accident, and the contents of it were unfortunately lodged in the body of Sergeant Mackrell”.

So much unrest obviously proved too hot a potato for one Thomas Brown, who was elected mayor of the city at a Common Council and promptly “paid a fine to be excused from serving the office”[2].

Image credit

The signature is from a photo of sent during the Swing Riots.

Wikimedia Commons says that it’s in the Public Domain because it’s a photograph created by the United Kingdom Government and taken prior to 1 June 1957. See via Wikimedia Commons


[1] Paul Sample, The History of Wiltshire Constabulary, Riots and Rebellion, page 6. URL:Downloads | Individual Chapters | History

[2] Journal 275th Anniversary Supplement, p10(s) (I think), quoted at this webpage