One Monday in November
the Selborne & Headley Workhouse Riots of 1830 and their aftermath
John Owen Smith
New extended edition
UK RRP: £7.95
Availability: Usually despatched by return of post
Front cover: View over Selborne from The Hanger
Back cover: Headley Workhouse (Headley Grange) and Selborne Workhouse (Fishers Buildings) today
Paperback - 136 pages, plus period illustrations and maps of the area
John Owen Smith; ISBN: 978-1-873855-33-1; August 2002 (replaces 1-873855-09-5, first published May 1993)
Associated titles: RIOT! or This Bloody Crew Echoes of a Trumpet A Parcel of Gold for Edith
Reviews . Foreword . Description . Publisher's Notes . Author's Note . Introduction . Contents . Excerpt . Personalities . Dramatisations . Riot website . About the Author . Further information
Reviews (of the original edition)
S.Z. - Local
History Magazine, No.41, November/December 1993
The dramatic events of these two days are ably recounted as the author pieces together all the known facts from sometimes contradictory reports and from the legends which have grown up around the names and deeds of those involved in the action.
Joe Fyles - Country.Side, April/May 1993 - A Darker Side to Selborne
We need more studies like John Owen Smith's - adding details to the national picture and suggesting as many questions as it solves. Why was the mob keener to destroy workhouses than threshing machines? What was the role of the farmers who were often present and clearly had a vested interest in the tithe reduction?
Several dozen more such studies would produce a welcome new national picture.
Anthony Rosen - Farming News, October 1993
'One Monday in November' is a well-written and detailed chronicle of the riots in 1830 instigated by farmers, the main aim of the riots being to reduce tithes so that a living wage might be paid to the labourers. What chance is there today of the farmworkers' union getting together with the NFU to put their joint representations to government?
Lyn Colbeck - Folk on Tap, Issue 57, Autumn 1993
'One Monday in November' is the story of the Selborne and Headley Workhouse Riots of 1830. Written by John Owen Smith, this book is not only tremendously well-written, but beautifully produced with superb photographs and illustrations. A version of this story is to be performed as a play by local people under the title 'This Bloody Crew' in October.
L.C. Giles - Vice-Chairman, Bramshott
and Liphook Preservation Society, 1993
Jo Smith's book is a real contribution to our history. It tells the story of a few tragic days in East Hampshire in 1830, when hungry men, bewildered by falling wages and rising prices, blundered into mob action. They wrecked two buildings, in a period when property was sacred and retribution was savage but strangely selective.
1830 fifteen years since Waterloo and the defeat of revolutionary France, but years of depression and city riots! Now it was the turn of the countryside, where the hardships of the poor had been increased by low wages, enclosures and new machinery. In August the farm-workers of Kent suddenly broke out in riot and destruction. Mobs roamed the countryside carrying banners inscribed 'Bread or Blood,' demanding money, firing ricks and destroying machines. Could England too be drifting towards revolution? The flame spread rapidly westwards. Our turn came in late November. The disturbances in Selborne and Headley were closely connected in time, targets and cast of characters. In Liphook itself the mob was dispersed by firm action but Liphook men almost certainly joined in the violence at Headley. In Jo Smith's book the events in the three villages are at last told as one coherent story.
I am particularly happy to have the chance to introduce the book to the public. A few years ago I researched and wrote a brief account of the riots, so I am probably one of the few people who can appreciate fully how hard Mr Smith must have worked, how thorough and widespread his investigations have been, unearthing ten times more information than I found. He gives us the economic and social background and then recounts the facts, with clarity, humour and impartiality. His sympathies are clear, but he has not made all his rich men villains or all his poor men saints; he has told it "as it happened". Selborne, Headley and Liphook are much in his debt.
During the 'Swing' riots of 1830, according to the famed historians J.L. & Barbara Hammond, "the most interesting event in the Hampshire rising was the destruction of the workhouses at Selborne and Headley." If these riots had succeeded, they say, "the day when the Headley workhouse was thrown down would be remembered ... as the day of the taking of the Bastille." Here a local historian traces the dramatic events of two days of rioting and its aftermath in the villages and beyond-a story never fully told before.
'One Monday in November' is about this, the last agricultural uprising in England. It gives the political and social background to the riots which swept across southern England and, as an example, details the particular manner in which it affected Selborne and Headley - unique in that, there and only there in the entire country, the workhouses were attacked. It also lists the men transported to Australia as a result of the troubles.
It is cited as a reference by the Southern Examining Group, and used as a text in a number of schools.
What we believe we may have done for the first time in the original version (1993) was to pull together the known information on two truly dramatic November days in 1830 and their aftermath in a particular way, by following our band of local men as they marched along the lanes and tracks through part of East Hampshire to do what they could to relieve their poverty.
In this new edition, we have retained the original text (which had no need of updating), and added information gathered subsequently about what happened to the rioters and their families after the trials information obtained largely from direct descendants of the rioters.
There is also the addition of a 'Rioters Walk', from Selborne to Headley and back again, for you to follow on foot if you wish.
In the original edition, I was writing about events which had occurred over 160 years previously, and I thought I was therefore fairly safe from any come-back by those involved. But I had not bargained for the growing world-wide interest in genealogy.
Since publishing that first book, I have been contacted by the families of no fewer than a dozen of the named rioters and it is an eerie sensation to answer the telephone in the middle of an afternoon and be told that you are speaking to the great-great-granddaughter of the man transported for leading the riots.
She, and several of the others, had not previously been aware of a connection with these events and in some cases there were relations on the other side of the world who they knew nothing about. In fact, over the past seven years I have felt occasionally like the organiser of a 'lonely hearts club,' putting one side of a family in touch with the other. This was an unexpected outcome from what, to me, had initially been just a local community project but, it has to be said, a most rewarding one.
So now, in this new edition, not only can you follow our band of local men as they marched along the lanes and tracks through this part of East Hampshire in 1830, but also read on and see what became of them and their descendants afterwards.
I hope you find it as fascinating to read as I did to write.
One Monday in November in the year 1830, a mob several hundred strong attacked the workhouse in Selborne, Hampshire, turned out the occupants, burned or broke the fittings and furniture, and pulled down the roof. The next day an even larger mob, containing some of the Selborne rioters, did the same to the workhouse at Headley, some seven miles away. The parsons in both villages were also coerced into promising to reduce by half the income they took from tithes.
Less than a month later, at a special court hearing in Winchester attended by no less a person than the Duke of Wellington, nine local men were sentenced to transportation (commuted from a death sentence in the case of eight of them), and all but one sailed for the antipodes in the Spring of 1831 never to return.
These are the bare bones of the story. But why did the riot start? Why were the two workhouses attacked? And why were some of the supporters and leaders of the mobs seen to be not oppressed labourers, but relatively well-to-do artisans and farmers?
In this book we cover the dramatic events of the two days and their aftermath, piecing together the sometimes contradictory reports and legends which have grown up during intervening years around the names and deeds of those involved in the action.
Table of contents
A Tale of Two Villages
Selborne in 1830
Selborne was not a happy place during this period. William Cobbett, when staying there overnight on one of his 'Rural Rides' in 1823, reported that he met a local man who told him that "he did not believe there was a more unhappy place in England" than Selborne. When asked why, he replied that "there's always quarrels of some sort or other going on ... on matters of rates and tithes mostly." Cobbett then remembered he had read about a shot being fired through the vicar's window, and a King's proclamation for a reward relating to the discovery of the perpetrator. Nobody came forward to claim the reward.
The vicar in question, William Rust Cobbold, was not well loved in his parish. He was regarded as arrogant by his parishioners, and on his own admission seemed to be in constant conflict with his vestry. For a parish which could still remember the gentle curacy of Gilbert White, this must have been an unhappy situation indeed ....
Headley in 1830
By contrast the rector at Headley, described as a "jolly, big old Cumbrian farmer who suffered from ill-health and was a good deal absent", seems to have been regarded in a more kindly light by his flock. He was present in the village at the time of the riot, and the difference between his attitude and that of the vicar of Selborne can be seen by the fact that he was prepared to attend a meeting in the village pub to discuss labourers wages.
Although as a bald statement of fact similar events happened in Headley as in Selborne - the parson was 'mobbed' to reduce his tithes and the workhouse was sacked - the actions here seem to have been directed less at personalities and more at the institutions they represented ....
The Mob in Action
At Selborne Workhouse
The mob were pulling tiles off the roof, breaking up furniture and smashing windows. A fire had been started and John Newland was there, blowing his horn and carrying flags. In less than 15 minutes the house was unroofed, the doors, crockery and windows broken, feather beds pulled to pieces, the furniture destroyed and burnt, and the Master's grandfather clock thrown on the fire ....
At Headley Workhouse
Shoesmith [the master of Headley Poor House] says he had removed most of his goods by the time the mob came back at around midday having been away for about an hour. He described how he was upstairs with his wife in the room where the sick children were when "the mob rushed like a torrent into every room and began breaking the windows and partitions." Mrs Shoesmith spoke to Henry James and begged him to put somebody at the door to protect the room. He did this, and then assisted her downstairs to the yard. Mrs Cowburn, writing from Selborne the next day, reports hearing a rumour that "they brought out two poor women ill with a fever and one poor child dead from the workhouse before they began their work."
The destruction was already well under way when Holdaway reached the house, and although he reportedly kept calling to the men, "Come away, we have done enough", they took no notice of him and carried on sacking the building for an hour to an hour and a half. Shoesmith mentions seeing James Painter breaking the banisters of the staircase while the rest of the mob were breaking up doors, tearing out windows and taking down the ceilings. Mr Lickfold talks of seeing them putting their sticks through the roof "till the dust looked like smoke". After that they made their way through the roof and began to remove the tiles, stripping some 40,000 to 50,000 off in all. Shoesmith particularly noticed that Matthew Triggs, the bricklayer who had come for his uncle that morning, was on the roof at this time.
Some of the mob took a 40 gallon copper out of the brickwork and rolled it into the yard and began to beat on it with their bludgeons, others found 30 gallons of Shoesmith's home-made wine in the cellar and started to drink it. He recorded that, "Aaron Harding was doing nothing but drinking my wine; James Painter was astride on my cask; there were many men and women drinking it out of tins and other vessels about the yard; Thomas Harding was there and he was quite drunk." Thomas, a 32 year old bachelor and a farm labourer from Kingsley, was Aaron's younger brother.
Some women were obviously involved in the rioting along with the men. We heard earlier how women were patting the rector on the back when he was mobbed on the Green, and here we are told of some drinking Shoesmith's wine. Lickfold also talks of women carrying off all the bedding and blankets from the sacked house. Altogether it was estimated that about £200 worth of blankets and other property was taken away, and "very little of it was returned", according to Mr Sparrow, one of the Poor House Visitors from Bramshott.
At the end it was reported that "there was not one room left entire, except that in which the sick children were". An estimated £1,000 worth of damage had been done, and when Robert Holdaway was asked what he thought of the work he replied, "I am sorry to see it - it is too bad - it will hang me."
Known details of the following 22 local men arrested, the two village clergymen, and the London lawyer involved, are included in the book: (see further information on the rioters)
The author of this book has written both a stage play and a radio play covering the events of the riot and their aftermath.
The stage play, which began the author's involvement in the subject, was first performed in October 1993 under the title This Bloody Crew - which was William Cobbett's description of the Times newspaper and the government of the time! It covers the events of the riot during the two days in Selborne and Headley, and the trial of the ringleaders. It was last performed in October 2002 under the title Riot! See details.
The radio play, which was broadcast in May 1994, takes up the story after the trial and centres on William Cowburn's successful efforts to spare Robert Holdaway from the gallows. It is titled Condemned, or Not Fit to Live in England - the latter phrase being Cowburn's comment on Holdaway and the rioters about to be transported.
For details and performance rights of both these plays, please contact the author.
About the Author
John Owen Smith was born in 1942 and trained as a Chemical Engineer at London University, but spent most of his working life designing commercial Information Systems for the paper-making industry. Following redundancy, he 'fell' into researching and recording the local history of east Hampshire, where he now lives. His output of historical community plays, lectures, articles and books includes:-
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