Extracts from ‘The Bristol Gazette’ - Source Three D

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’.

We firmly believe, from our own observation and from the concurrent [agreeing] testimony of numerous persons of all political principles present, that if it had not been for the very indiscreet zeal [energy] of some of the volunteer constables, no further disturbance would have taken place. True it is that some stones – we are sure they did not exceed half-a-dozen – had been thrown, and some very trifling

injury had taken place. The constables, however, aided by some very young gentlemen, who loudly made a boast of their principles, charged into the crowd, and made themselves particularly busy in apprehending various individuals, whom they dragged into the Mansion-House, using their staves without mercy. The mob, who at this time were quite unarmed, raised a cry of “To the Back,” where piles of faggots [bundles of sticks] for firewood are usually kept, and in a short time about fifty, principally boys, returned with sticks. A kind of rescue was attempted, which ended in the rout of the mob [defeat of the crowd], and the constables proceeded back in triumph.

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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?