Extracts from ‘The Bristol Gazette’ - Source Three C

Extracts from ‘The Bristol Gazette’ on a riot in Bristol, 3 November 1831 Catalogue ref: HO 40/28.

According this newspaper, there were 8 inquests into why people died during the riot ‘of which two died by excessive drinking, four were burnt in the Square, and two were shot. A very great number must have lost their lives, of which we can obtain no account’.

It was also deemed advisable to enrol in a number of special constables for the occasion, some of whom were gentlemen from the different wards [parts of the town], who volunteered their services, and others were individuals hired for the day. – On Saturday morning early this force was accordingly assembled in the area of the Exchange, and each having been provided with a short staff [long stick], proceeded to meet Sir Charles at Totterdown, and escort him into the city. It was generally understood at the same time that a body of the military was stationed in the new Cattle Market, near Hills-bridge, and another at the Gaol, ready to act if occasion required. Notwithstanding the change of the usual hour, the streets were crowded with people, thronging towards the Bath-road. At this time it was evident that among the crowd there were many persons ripe for mischief. Of this number, hardly a single individual wore the appearance of a mechanic [skilled worker using tools] ; they wholly consisted of boys and striplings [adolescents], persons evidently without stated employment, which the densely populated purlieus [area near] of wretchedness and vice in St. Philip’s and in the neighbourhood of Lawford’s Gate had sent forth on the occasion. Not a few among them were women of abandoned [not respectable] character, and these, by their violent language, seemed well fitted to urge them on to desperation.

At about half-past ten, Sir Charles was perceived to approach, at a rapid rate, in a chariot drawn by four greys, and on stopping at Totterdown for the purpose of being handed into the Sheriff’s carriage, he was instantly assailed [attacked] by the most deafening yells, groans, and hisses.

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Read these extracts from ‘The Bristol Gazette’ newspaper.

  • What happened during the riot at Bristol according to the headlines? (Extracts a, b)
  • Who are the rioters and how are they described? (Extract a, b, c, e, f)
  • What was the role of the ‘Special Constables’ during the disturbances? How were they viewed? (Extracts c, d)
  • What is the attitude of this source towards Sir Charles Wetherell? (Extracts a, b, c)
  • Do the extracts suggest that the riot could have been prevented in any way?
  • Why do you think that the prisons, custom house and toll houses and toll gates were attacked or burnt?
  • How do the authorities hope to prevent future disturbances? (Extract g)
  • Does this source infer why the government passed the Great Reform Act in 1832?