Workhouse Riot of December 1835 (in which Robert
Barber was arrested)
Copy of a letter of 4 Jan. 1836 - to a Mr. Tomlinson (lawyer? magistrate?)
The 21st of Dec. last, an attack was made on Bulcamp House of Industry - a Workhouse belonging to the Blything Union in the country of Suffolk. The evident & professed intention was to destroy the workhouse with a view to prevent the classification of the paupers under the provisions of the Poor Law Amendment Act & the Regulations of the Poor Law Commissions. The riots were of such a nature that the military were called out and a violent affray took place. Several of the rioters have been apprehended & committed.
The question submitted to Mr. Tomlinson is whether upon the evidence disclosed in the subjoined examination any and what procedings may be successfully taken against Mr. Churchyard. Then follows . . . the examination of William Fisher of Cratfield in the County of Suffolk taken under oath before us two of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the said County this 28th day of December in the year of our Lord 1835,
saith: I give my evidence with the greatest possible reluctance but being
compelled by the Magistrates and by the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners.
I have no alternative but to state the facts.
On Friday morning I went to pay the poor at Cratfield Church when Mr. Churchyard made his appearance towards the close of the evening and said ‘I suppose I am going to be hanged.’ I asked him what was the matter; he replied that he had understood that I had exclaimed very much against him the previous night. I told him I certainly had & if that what I had heard on the Thursday night were true, I was sorry for it.
Mr. Churchyard did then decry having said that he would pay his labourers. Mr. Churchyard & I after we had left the church walked together & called in at the Bell public house. I had some further conversation with him when he, Mr. Churchyard, confessed that he believed he did say that if they pulled the House down he would pay them for their day’s work, meaning by ‘them’ his own labourers. I again replied ‘I was very sorry for it. It as very foolish,’ & much more to the same effect.
Mr. Joshua Moore the publican was present and heard the conversation on the Thursday night & also what Mr. Churchyard said on the following morning relative to the above admission.
I saw Japhet Edwards, a labourer in the employ of Mr. Churchyard in the assemblage of persons on Monday the 21st at the Bulchamp house. I asked him, Edwards, if his Master had paid him for his day’s work. He replied, no, but ‘he will when I go back.’ I also saw Jacob Pretty, another labourer of Mr. Churchyard’s & Barber his horse driver amidst the rioters at Bulchamp house on the 21s — Edward & Barber having Picks & Mattocks in their hands.
Signed W. Fisher
there was a Riotous & possible Demolition of the Workhouse, or even
a Riotous & forceable beginning to demolish it, within the meaning
of the 8th sec: of Stat: 7 & 8 yrs; 4 cop30, a capital Felony was
committed by the Parties engaged in such act; & by the 26th section
of the same Stat: accessories before fact which persons who persuaded
or pursued (?) pressed? The others to do the act would be & are punishable
in the same manner as principals. If only some misdemeanour was committed
within the meaning of that Stat: any person aiding, abetting, counselling
or pressing the commission of such misdemeanour is by Section 26 liable
to be punished as a principal offender. The difficulty in this Case is
that the Evidence does not bring home the charge to Mr. Churchyard; assuming
that a criminal offence was committed by the workpeople, it does not show
that they were incited by him to do it, which would be necessary; that
which he said about ‘paying them for their day’s work’
might be only the idle boast of an irritated man. It is not proved that
he said this to any of the parties who committed the mischief, or that
it was communicated to them, or that they acted after than encouragement;
it will probably be necessary to examine some of the Parties who committed
the mischief in order to bring the charge more immediately home to Mr.
Churchyard; but at ( ?) events, the Evidence must be carried farther."
At the request of the Board of Guardians, I have to Report to the Poor Law Commissioner the measures that have been taken against some of the most active of the Rioters assembled at Bulchamp House on Monday the 21st last, viz;
Stannard - discharged upon payment of expenses, in consideration of his
general good character.
Jacob Pretty - bound on his own recognisance for 6 months in 20 pounds in consideration of character.
Wm. Seaman - bound in 20 pounds to be of good behaviour for 12 calendar months & one surety, viz. Saml King of St. Michael, in 20 pounds.
Japhet Edward - case stands one for sureties same as Robt. Barber.
Saml Dickerson - committed to Beccles for 12 calendar months undef(?). he in the meanwhile find 2 sureties in 10 pounds each & himself in 20 pounds.
Only one of the above number is out of employ & receiving relief, viz. Joseph Eastaugh, a single man. With the exception of Japhet Edwards, & Saml Dickerson, the whole were ready with their sureties & their money to pay the Expenses. I have no doubt but that Dickerson & Edwards will in the same way obtain their discharge also.
Three of the persons apprehended, viz: Japhet Edwards, Jacob Pretty, Robert Barber are labourers in the employ of Mr. Churchyard, farmer & ( ?) overseer of Cratfield. I deemed it advisable that these men should be apprehended, with expectation that Evidence would be gained through them, upon the charge against Churchyard; but in this I have been disappointed. I therefore now forward a copy of this & ( ?) against Churchyard.
The Evidence is & is direct as to leave no doubt of his having been one of the principal instigators to this Riot, & I consider the case to be one of the greatest importance to the public. I am anxious that every step we take to bring this man to justice should be well considered . . .
See Suffolk Churches
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