This particular protest dates back to 22 May 1816, in Littleport [ht: ja], when about 100 workers left The Globe armed with pitchforks, cleavers, and guns and smashed windows and broke down doors, stealing money, food, and goods from their wealthy neighbors.
The Littleport Riots were not isolated events, but part of “a wave of unrest” from 1815 onwards, according to Anglia Ruskin University historian Rohan McWilliam.
“There was economic dislocation after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the introduction of the Corn Laws in 1815, which increased taxation on wheat,” he said.
“Labour wages weren’t keeping up with the cost of living, while poor harvests exacerbated the situation.”
Previously common land, on which labourers could grow crops or keep livestock to supplement their wages, was being enclosed by landowners.
Their employment conditions had also changed, said University of Hertfordshire historian Katrina Navickas, to “daily hirings instead of yearly hirings – in essence, the introduction of a type of zero-hours contract”.
This was exacerbated by a breakdown of the Poor Law, which was supposed to help the most vulnerable based on need with small sums of money and “in kind” goods such as shoes. . .
And then to tighten the screw still further, the Game Laws passed in 1816 restricted the hunting of game to landowners, with transportation the penalty for poaching – or even being found in possession of a net at night.
The disturbance broke out when a group of mostly unemployed men met at the Globe Inn, for a meeting of the village Benefit Club.
More than 300 people eventually participated in the riot, which spilled over into Ely and was put down on 24 July by the Cambridgeshire Militia and the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Dragoons.
On 28 June 1816, five men were hanged, “having been convicted of divers Robberies” during the riots.