Extracts from ‘The Bristol Gazette’ - Source Three E

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’.


A simultaneous attack was made from several quarters on the Mansion-House. The iron-railings in front were torn up like magic, and with these formidable weapons, acting as crow-bars, and with long poles, all the lower windows, the shutters, frames, front and side doors, were beaten in. Where the special constables were at this moment does not appear; certain it is they offered no resistance. A free entrance being gained, the mob proceeded up stairs, and every article of furniture – tables, chairs, glasses, earthen-ware, and the splendid chandeliers – were almost immediately demolished, and the fragments thrown into the street. The beds were thrown out of the windows and taken down and flung into the Float. A portmanteau [large bag], containing, we believe, Sir Charles’s wearing-apparel, was ransacked of papers and clothes, and then hung up on a lamp-post. The Recorder himself made his escape over the roofs of the houses, succeeded in getting away unnoticed, and left the city for London in the course of the night. If he had possibly foreseen the scenes of destruction that followed, and of which his entry was the first exciting cause, we envy not his feeling. His name is a subject of universal execration [to be detested] throughout the city.

At this time the mob appeared solely to have turned their thoughts to destruction and to have neglected plunder. They had gone so far as to procure straw and other combustibles [things that could burn] with the intention of setting the Mansion-House on fire, when the military arrived from Clifton at a sharp trot, and immediately cleared the front and sides of the Mansion-House, which was thus saved from immediate destruction.

« Return to What caused the 1832 Great Reform Act?

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?