Extracts from ‘The Bristol Gazette’ - Source Three F

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’.

The mob had, in the course of the morning, obtained possession of a quantity of iron-railings, &c. and early in the afternoon a party proceeded, armed with these implements, pickaxes, hatchets, &c. to Bridewell, with the avowed [determined] intention of liberating the prisoners that had been committed the preceding day. – The party was far from numerous, but not the slightest molestation [harm] was offered them! On reaching Bridewell, they procured a quantity of sledge-hammers from a smith’s shop in the neighbourhood, and immediately commenced an attack on the massive gates. These they soon force, and thinking that they might be used as barricades against themselves, almost instantaneously destroyed them, throwing the fragments over the wall into the Frome River.

After liberating the prisoners, they systematically proceeded to set one wing on fire, and the building was soon in a bright glow. About the same time a much larger party proceeded to the New Gaol, a very strong stone building, erected only a few years ago, at a very great expense.

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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?