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The Glasgow Herald: March 25th 1863

The Glasgow Herald: March 25th 1863

The Riots at Stalybridge and Neighbourhood

The disturbances on the part of the recipients of relief were renewed at Stalybridge on Monday, and with the approach of night the excitement assumed an alarming aspect.

The persons attending the schools, numbering about 1700, assembled at the ordinary places of meeting, at the normal hour in the morning, but their only object for ****** appeared to be a discussion of the ticket system. At almost every school resolutions were passed that the scholars should accept no relief except in money. In some instances the superintendants and clergymen suggested that rickets should be received for at least this week, and that their acceptance should be accompanied with a protest, and a request that the relief committee would re-consider the objectionable part of their arrangements: but these suggestions were refused, the scholars maintaining as strong a determination to resist the ticket system as the committee were determined to enforce it. A suggestion similar to that just named was made to the scholars of St Pauls Schools by the Rev. W W Hoare , and a brief discussion which followed will probably better exhibit the feeling of the operatives than anything else we can give. In reply to Mr Hoare one of the scholars said that he doubted not the operatives would accept the new system is the shopkeepers would only give them change, and not compel them to spend the whole value of their tickets. The effects of the new system were especially felt by single young men, who knew little or nothing of marketing, and he for one ** not support the majority, and oppose relief by ticket. Another operative said that the scholars had no objection to the reduction from 3s. 4d. to 3s per week, but objected for reasons argued by the last speaker, to relief in tickets. They likewise could not understand how it was the committee desired to retain a day's pay in hand. Mr Hoare replied that that was one of the points the committee had not undertaken to explain, neither had they explained why they desired to pay by ticket. He had heard, however, that the reason for adopting the latter course was to suppress drunkenness. Several of the operatives protest against such charges, and alleged that it could only be laid at the doors of those who would always drink while drink could be obtained - fellows who preferred drink to food. The suggestions was ultimately refused, the scholars declining to act till they had heard from the shopkeepers, who, it was expected, would refuse to accept ticket payment.

The shopkeepers, however, could not act with unanimity, several of them attempted to call a meeting, but the majority seemed fearful of offending the Relief Committee, and nothing was consequently done.

When it became known to the scholars that the shop keepers had declined to adopt what was considered to be the only measure which could prove satisfactory to all parties, most of the schools broke up, and the scholars assembled in the streets. The shops were closed, Colonel Prettyjohn and a troop of the 14th Hussars were placed under arms opposite the Town Hall, prepared for immediate action. But their services were not required; the rougher portion of the mob, to the number of about 300, proceeded about ten o'clock to Ashton, and for some hours the streets of Stalybridge assuming a greater degree of quietude that was anticipated.

Outbreak at Ashton-Under-Lyne

On reaching Ashton under Lyne, the mob passed up Old Street, and visited the premises of Messers Hanforth Brothers, where they attempted violence. They were, however, pacified by the distribution of bread and provisions. Their next visit was to the shop of Mr Joseph Taylor, corn dealer, and he also gave them food; but at Mr Joseph Woods, Market Avenue, they are not so easily satisfied. The shutters, like those of every other tradesman, were closed, but the mob pulled them down, and ransacked the shop of cheese and bread to the value of not less than £40. They next repaired to Mr Corry's on Stamford Street where bread and biscuits were given them, and the same was done at Mr W Farrands and Mr Robert Millers. In Henry Square they visited the shop of another Mr Farrand and while engaged receiving bread there Mr Hugh Mason arrived with a troop of cavalry, under the command of Captain Cahdwick, and a body of police, under the superintendence of Mr Dalglish, Mr N Buckley, Mr J. Chadwick, Me S. Howard, Mr W. Sunderland and other Magistrates were also present. Mr Mason was lifted on the shoulders or some of the police, and addressed the crowd. He told them that strict measures would be adopted to preserve the peace of the borough; a riot had already been commenced - (cries of "No riot") - and it should be quelled at all hazards. Mr Mason, in the absence of the Mayor, then read the Riot Act, and a portion of the mob dispersed, but the majority, being the most mischievous portion, repaired up Oldham Road, and reaching Cavendish Street, burst into a bakers shop. Mr Hugh Masion and Mr. Chadwick here brought up the police, and drawing their cutlasses the constables forced their way through the crowd. At the connection of Catherine Street and Oldham Road a shower of stones was thrown at the police several of whom were hit, and the cavalry were called to the rescue. After a quarter of an hour's chasing up and down that quarter of town, about 200 of the mob were driven towards Dukinfield, the cavalry and Captain Elgee, the chief constable of Lancashire, following them a portion of the way. It is reported that on the road to Dukinfield a soldier had his left injured by riding against a wall, and that another soldiers horse hell on a boy, named Hollingworth, and lamed him. Immediately that the mob arrived at Ashton from Stalybridge 100 special constables were sworn and 30 of the Lancashire police sent for. These arrived at a later hour in the day, but the town was then in its usual state of quiet, and their services were not required.

Outbreak at Dukinfield.

The mob which arrives at Dukinfield from Ashton was joined by eight hundred or a thousand of the worst characters in Dukinfield. They visited the provision shops, and where food was refused inflicted violence. Mr Little, the deputy chief constable for Cheshire, with forty policemen tried to disperse them but failed to do so, and one hundred special constables were sworn in. Mr A Aspland read the Riot Act, but the mob went on plundering. The co-operative store was entered from the rear and ransacked of about £80 worth of goods, and, not satisfied with booty alone, the ringleaders fired a gross of matches with a view to burn down the shop. Among the places that they visited, and from which they got food under compulsion, were the shops of Mr. Jones, King Street, Mr T Jones, Peel Street, Mr Higginbottom, Astley Atreet, Mr Micholsons King Street, Mr H Broaderick Town Land and Mr Collier King Street. They even robbed a poor old woman of her stock of milk. After the shops had been pretty well cleared of provosions, the mob divided, and a portion returned to Stalybridge, and the remainder going forward to Hyde. Towards evening, Dukinfield became relatively quiet.

Back to Stalybridge

At half past one o'clock in the streets of Stalybridge had again begun to increase, and every movement brought fresh arrivals of a more excitable element from the mob which had been dispersed at Ashton and Dukinfield. As the crowd came in from Dukinfield they passed down Oxford Road into the Hydes and there renewed their attacks on shopkeepers and publicans. Assembling before the provisions store of Mr Robert Lowe they compelled that gentleman to give them bread and provisions. They also visited the Feathers Inn, and before the landlord could get rid of them he had to treat them to 14 gallons of ale. The mob likewise obtained ale and bread from a beer shop in Booth Street and bread and biscuits from the provision store of Mr Stamford. Simultaneously with the plundering in Booth Street, a second mob visited the shops of Messers Ridgeway and Worth and compelled them to perform their promises of Saturday night, and gave them provisions.

Messers Ridgeway and Worth were only too glad to get rid of them on such cheap terms, and a distribution of bread and eatables had the effect of stopping the demonstration. Information of these disturbances was conveyed to the Town Hall, and nine or ten policemen, some of them armed with cutlasses were despatched to quell the row. Passing the Mechanics Intuition they was **** with a shower of stones, and had to defend themselves. A fight ensued which ended in the dis**** of the mob, and the apprehension of a collier name Cheetham, from Charlestown. Cheetham received a would from a cutlass, and fearing the sigh of blood might only exacerbate the crowd the magistrates ordered the police to be disarmed. This measure was in accordance with the spirit on conciliation that has characterised the whole proceedings of the military and police. The shopkeepers and respectable house holders express an almost unanimous opinion that if the crowd had been dealt with on Friday, and overawed by a larger force of soldiers and police on Saturday , the system of shop plundering would never have been attempted. After the disturbance in the Hydes the mob were chased by the cavalry, and for a time dispersed.

With the approach of evening the streets were again crowded, and half - past six o clock Market Street, the Hydes and Melbourne Street were almost impassable. Many of the public houses in those districts were entered by the mob; some of the landlords were roughly handled and others compelled to distribute food and drink.

At the Victoria and the Beck Inns the mob were extremely demonstrative and Mr Maitland of the Victoria, was severely injured. A number of special constables were also attacked, and others driven from the streets to the Town Hall.

Some of the shops were plundered, but this part of the disturbance was not at eight o'clock, so serious as in the afternoon and was conducted without personal violence. The number of persons perambulating the streets was estimated at about 12,000. Their amusement appeared to be to jostle the more respectable inhabitants, thrash the Stalybridge police and beat the shop doors and window shutters to the no small terror of the inmates. At the Town Hall and Police office acts of violence were reported almost momentarily, but none of a serious nature. The police and military, consequently, made no attempt to clear the streets, their policy evidently being not to act till the outbreak assumed more serious proportions, or as one of the functionaries at the Town Hall expressed himself, "till the mob begin to riot". The only appearance of military being in the town between five o'clock and eight was the marching of a picket to relieve some of the companions who were on guard at the District Bank.

About half past eight o'clock the crowd in the centre of the town divided into mobs, as on Saturday night, the majority visiting the Castle Hall district. They demanded bread at the shops of Mr Ralph Whitehead, at Mr R Garsides, at Mr S Ridgeway's, and Mr Kenyons of Grovesnor Square. While they were here, about 50 policemen marched down, followed by half a dozen of the cavalry, and an attempt was made to clear the streets. A few stones were thrown at the police and they were hooter and yelled at, but none of them were injured. The mob gradually dispersed, but again concentrated in Market Street, and a portion of the infantry was sent to get in advance of them. By eleven o'clock the streets were perfectly quiet.

The Cause of the Riots.

In its leader yesterday the Manchester Guardian makes the following remarks:- Were we to judge merely by the ordinary connection of cause and effect, we might fairly ascribe no small share in the producing rioting at Stalybridge to the somewhat officious industry of the recent correspondent of the Times. We are very far from questioning the humanity of the motives which prompted Mr Bridges to make visits of investigation to some of the distressed districts of Lancashire; but from his own letters it is clear that he rather to seek support for a preconceived theory, than to learn the real facts of the case, and he may be supposed to show his own views if, as would appear from the comments of the Times, he favours the circulation of a pamphlet by a well - known agitator. But we do not meant to charge Mr Bridges with the deplorable occurrences at Stalybridge and Ashton. His last letter appeared in London only on the morning of the first outbreak and of course could hardly have contributed to it. In that communication he is pleased to accuse the "Manchester Press" of perpetuating "in its attempts to deceive the world by silence" as to the existence of discontent among the people. Discontent probably shows itself most readily to persons who expect and wish to find it; but the careful reader would observe that Mr. Bridges' charge rests only upon the alleged omission to report certain meetings which have been held "in the last few days" Had he been better acquainted with the progress of distress, he would have known that the meetings held before Christmas to complain of the rules to relief were always duly noticed. He would aslo know that the meetings in Stevenson Square on the Prince of Wales' wedding day, had more to do the "George Griswold" than with the existing distress. The imputation affords one instance of Mr Bridges, inattention to the facts of the spirit in which he writes. Nor can we refrain from saying that when a man in his position comes into a district like Stalybridge, busies himself with hunting for symptoms of popular discontent, and gives currency to the inflammatory harangues of firebrand agitators, he will be tolerably sure to find pleny of the discontent he seeks, and he cannot complain if he is held responsible for the results of the inflammatory words. In the extracts taken by The Times from one of the Rev J R Stephens speeches we see the people ads asked. "Do those garments" the clothes furnished from the Relief Fund "belong to you or them? " and the Stalybridge rioters gave the natural answer to that questions when they sacked the store, and consigned to waste no small part of the clothing provided by the munificence of the country. The crowd, in fact, helped themselves to what they had been taught to consider their own property, and we fear Mr Bridges must bear the blame of having in some measure contributed to the teaching. His letters prove him to have thought that if the people were no discontented, they at least ought to be, and this is an opinion which could hardly be concealed from any of them with whom he conversed.

It is some satisfaction to believe that we may attribute to agitation of this kind, no small share in producing an outbreak which so far forms the single marked exception to the peaceful and orderly demeanour of the whole of our manufacturing population. Nor are we disposed to look with any special severity upon the offenders in this one instance. We may still speak of it as standing alone, both because it springs from one centre, and because, if we are rightly informed, it has been propagated by bands of rioters from Stalybridge. It is probably also that some errors committed with the very best intentions, in the early administration of relief, have had their share in causing the outbreak. The rate of assistance allowed by the Stalybridge Relief Committee was too high when compared with that generally prevailing, and it had become absolutely necessary to reduce it. At Ashton rival committees were running a race in a similar destructive liberality, and all the surrounding districts looked with envy upon that favoured locality. When the inevitable reduction was announced it came upon a people not prepared to submit, and as we have seen above, taught to believe they had a right to resist. Mr Bridges seems from his letters to have sought information from the distribution of relief, as well as from the recipients; but he certainly exhibits a very faint conception of the difficulties with which the former have to contend. He says that the persons who pawn the clothes with which they are provided are comparatively few in number, and we are glad to believe he is right.

In the report presented to the Manchester Board of Guardians at its meeting last week, it was shown that out of 13,000 cases on the books, the number of detected frauds was under 100. No statement could be more confirmatory of the general good conduct with which operatives throughout the districts have been so justly credited. But Mr. Bridges should observe that this very gratifying, and honourable, result is greatly aided by the protection afforded by the precautions taken against imposition. Anyone who reads in the report to which we have just referred, the variety and ingenuity of the frauds already practised or attempted musy at once perceive that any laxity in the respect would soon lead to the grossest abuse. The case of imposition would rapidly increase and a general demoralisation of the population could not fail to ensue.

We know, unfortunately, that but for the restrictions now in force, there are too many latter class ready to take advantage of the benevolence of the public. "One feature of the Stalybridge disturbances throws an unpleasant light on the part of the case. All the accounts agree in stating that the main body of the rioters was composed, not of natives of the district, but of Irish immigrants, and that whatever the movement may spread, it will be found to derive it's chief support from the same class."

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