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Jean Shaw

In 1815, Napoleon was finally beaten at Waterloo and the war between England and France ended.  However, the end of the Napoleonic wars didn’t have a beneficial effect for many of the residents of the Cambridgeshire country side.  

The recession, lack of jobs and low wages for those battle weary men lucky enough to find work after the war, resulted in a huge divide between the local landowners and farm labourers.

With most people having scarcely enough money to survive, local benefit clubs were set up in the villages to help the poor and needy.  

The one for Littleport was held at the Globe Public House.

They were desperate times and eventually it became too hard to decide who needed help the most.  People were starving.

A man named Cornwall started a march of protest against the situation between the rich and the poor. As he paraded around the town, he blew a horn to encourage others to join him.

The numbers grew, as did the feelings of injustice, and

armed with clubs, pitchforks, cleavers and a few guns, tensions rose.

Some of the several hundred people who’d joined the marchers broke into shops and homes, smashed furniture, and stole money and goods.

Fired up, the rioters then moved on to Ely, where local magistrates attempted to dampen the situation by ordering the local farmers to guarantee extra wages to their farm labourers.

Somewhat satisfied, many returned home to Littleport … but an unruly few remained in Ely.   

This “mob” continued to disturb the peace and cause damage.  Law and order was only restored after the arrival of the First Royal Dragoon Guards.

 The next day they arrested eighty people, but one rioter was shot dead as he tried to escape.

The remainder were sent to jail to await trial, and after six days, five of the men were given the death sentence.  They were hung on Friday, June 28, 1816, and their bodies were all buried in the same grave in St Mary’s church in Ely.

Of the remainder, nine people were deported to Botany Bay in Australia, and those left were originally given a year inside the Ely gaol (jail), but this sentence was later changed to seven years deportation as well.  

Within a few days they left without ever having the opportunity to say goodbye to friends and family.

The Littleport Bread Riots of 1816 left a permanent impact on the village, and there have been many references to the tragic events over the years.

Littleport Riots