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Jean Shaw

In 1815, Napoleon was finally beaten at Waterloo and thus ended the war between England and France.

However, when the Napoleonic wars ended, the recession, lack of jobs and low wages for those battle weary men lucky enough to find work in the countryside 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, and Littleport’s was held at the Globe Public House.

They were desperate times and eventually it became too hard to decide who to offer assistance to because everyone needed help.

A man named Cornwall started a march of protest around the town and encouraged others to join him by blowing a horn.

The numbers grew, as did the feelings of injustice, and armed with clubs, pitchforks, cleavers and a few guns, some of the several hundred people who’d joined the marchers broke into shops and homes, smashed furniture, and stole money and goods.

The rioters then moved on to Ely, where local magistrates ordered the 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, and the next day they arrested eighty people and one rioter was shot dead as he tried to escape.

The remainder were sent to jail to await trial.

After six days, five 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.  

This sentence was later changed to seven years deportation as well., and within a few days they left without ever saying goodbye to friends and family.

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

Riot Video

Littleport Riots