Brett Volume 1: Chapter VI - Hastings 1831

From Historical Hastings

Chapter VI - Hastings 1831

Smuggling fatalities
Political meetings and dinners
Parliamentary Reform
Five candidates to represent Hastings and Rye, with rioting at the latter
Terrible riots at Bristol caused by a farmer. Hastings M.P., and nearly 500 persons killed
Life sketches of Sir Charles Wetherall and Col. de Lacy Evans
Population of Hastings
Making of 276 freemen
Copy of the decree of 1725
Names of the new freemen
Death of the Iris newspaper
Accidents, incidents and miscellaneous occurrences. Completion of the Gas Works
Proceedings of the Corporation.

Transcriber’s note

[ 44 ]

More smuggling fatalities - A reform dinner at the Swan

The year 1831 was but three days old, when a smuggling affair happened which was attended by terribly fatal results. Three uncles of the present writer were concerned therein, and the account of the conflict is here produced from the biography of "The Last of a Family of Smugglers".

A boat came ashore at Fairlight, not far from the Dripping Well, with a cargo of tubs, twenty of which, in the bow of the boat, were, by the drawing of lots or some other arrangement to be the property of Ranger and his brothers (an elder and a younger), who were also present. At that time, a party of Rifles were quartered in Post-office passage, and as their duty was to assist the blockade, they, on this particular night were called out to prevent what was believed to be a contemplated run of contraband. The Government detectives were assisted in their object by the light of a full moon, and were thus enabled to pounce upon the boat as soon as it struck the beach. A young man named Richard Cobb was one of the boatmen, and seeing that the venture was likely to be of a sanguinary nature, he threw himself into the sea with a pair of tubs, the buoyancy of which assisted him to swim towards Hastings, landing ultimately at a convenient spot and getting off unscathed. One of his companions ("Dolly" Mann) was less fortunate, he having been wounded in one arm, after the bullet had passed through the two heads of a tub of spirits. This first shot was quickly followed by others, the blockademen firing almost indiscriminantly at any smuggler who was within range, while the rifles (or as some say, the marines) discharged their weapons in the air. As, however, one of the smugglers (George Harrod), besides being mortally shot, was found with a bayonet thrust, the soldiers were, perhaps, hardly so considerate as rumour gave them credit for. There were two other fatalities, the one occuring during the night to "Trucks" (William) Cruttenden, and the other, after several weeks suffering to William Nash. Cruttenden's body was found next morning in the New-barn field where the tops of a crop of turnips were pulled or kicked to pieces over a considerable area, thus indicating that the unfortunate man had had a terrible struggle either with his assailants or with death. His age was 25 years, and the interment of his remains took place in the All Saint's burial-ground on the 10th of January. The other sufferer (William Nash) was seriously wounded, and was conveyed by some of his comrades to a house near the Fish-ponds.

A clue to this removal was obtained by the blockade officers, and some of the rifles (or marines) were placed there on guard. The unfortunate occurrence was quickly communicated to Mr. Nash's family at 106 All Saints' street, and two surgeons, Mr. William Ross Chapman, of 49 High Street (brother-in-law of the wounded man) and Robert Ranking, of 79 [[High Street[[, were despatched to the house at the Fish Ponds, where the sufferer was lying in a precarious condition. The doors had been made secure on the inside against intruders, so that the sentinels, acting on their suspicion, objected to the surgeons entering the house unless one or more of their number accompanied them. This was sternly refused by the medical practitioners, and one of them (Mr. Ranking), being thus suddenly put on his mettle, was equal to the occasion, and told the sentinels that they had been sent for to attend a woman in labour, and that as it was a very serious case those who made demands impossible to be granted, would be held responsible for any fatality that might result. The guard at first demurred, but ultimately withdrew, thinking, perhaps, that discretion was the better part of valour. As soon as the way was clear and the object could be effected without exciting renewed suspicion, Mr. Nash was secretly removed to his own home, where he remained with but little expectation of recovery for a considerable period.

I used to be sent almost daily to ascertain the poor man's condition, and, as far as my memory serves me, it was about ten weeks after the melancholy conflict that Mr. Nash's death took place. The extracted bullet is, I believe, in the possession of a living member of the family, while the pistol which inflicted the fatal wound on Cruttenden, and was afterwards knocked out of the hand of his assailant was for many years in the possession of Mr. Carly, of St. Leonards.

Contrary to reasonable expectations, Thomas Range, and those of his associates who survived the sanguinary conflict at Fairlight, continued their contraband ventures, and with, upon the whole, a less amount of success. On the 23rd of February, a boat-load of smuggled goods was attempted to be landed at 48 Tower, in the vicinity of Bexhill, but the blockade men, more alert than on a previous occasion seized the boat, with 98 casks of spirits and one bag of tea. A month later, as an additional means of detection, twelve horses arrived at Hastings, to be mounted by as many Preventive patrols, appointed to go forth every night, in twos, along the highways and bye-ways. The work of the "fairtraders" was thus made more difficult and more hazardous, although means were still occasionally found to elude even the keenest look-out and the swiftest pursuit.

Among the misadventures, howerver was that of July 14th, when Soloman Bevill and his crew seized at Ecclesbourne a boat named the Albion, together with three men and 70 tubs. Again, on the 3rd of October, the Government officers seized two cart-loads of contraband spirits; and, three nights later, a body of preventivemen of the Priory station (then situated at what is now the centre of Carlisle Parade) attempted another seizure, when a serious skirmish ensued in which the smugglers were more than a match for their opponents, and came best out of the conflict. In this affair £500 was offered by the Government for the apprehension of the smugglers. A few not very important successes and failures intervened the last-named date and the 28th of December, when Ranger had the mortification of being out-Rangered by the Ranger revenue cutter, which made a seizure of five men, 205 tubs and a boat. The goods were deposited in the Custom-house while the men were lodged in 39 Tower at Bopeep from which they afterwards effected their escape. When the captured goods were conveyed through the streets, many of the people were so incensed that they assaulted the men in charge with stones. Two days later (Dec. 31st) another seizure was effected consisting of a fishing-boat and a number of tubs. But a more serious affair occurred on the morning of New-year's Day, which is described under the heading of that year. Some of the Hastings Smugglers were also losers on the 16th of May by a venture at Rye, when 140 tubs and four men were taken. On Sunday, Nov 27th two smugglers, both of Ore named respectively, Head and Cobby, were shot at Bopeep. One's body was carried by his comrades to near the Iron-latch gate, Hollington, and there privately burned. The other unfortunate man, who survived for a few days was probably buried at Ore.

As connected with smuggling affairs, it may be stated that on the 5th of January, a six-pounder ball was fired from a Revenue cutter ¾ of a mile from land, which struck the beach, just westward of White Rock and scattered the stones near to a man who was walking there. The ball lodged in the embankment, was extracted and exhibited.

On the 31st of January, the bells of St. Clements Church pealed forth, whilst 130 persons sat down at the "Independent Reform Dinner", provided by Mr. Emary at the Swan Hotel and presided over by Sir Godfrey Webster, supported by Col. de Lacy Evans, M. P. for Rye. Those who attended the dinner were animated by the prospect of another Dissolution and on the 17th of March, the Hastings Rector wrote:

The dissolution of Parliament seems inevitable and will put all in a bustle. I had a letter today from Mrs. Camac, Mr C. meaning, I suppose to offer himself for election. Milward has, months ago, retired to Boulogne, and is thought to be a candidate for another world.

During the months of March and April Messrs. Ottway Cave, John Ashley Warre, Frederick North and William Camac were actively canvassing in anticipation of the passing of the Reform Bill. The proposed measure it was said provided that no place with fewer than 200 voters was to be represented in Parliament; that all residents in boroughs rated at £10 were to be entitled to vote; that the qualification of Members was to be increased; that the election in boroughs was to be completed in one day and that for a county in two days.

An address to his Majesty in favour of Parliamentary Reform was prepared at Hastings, and in one day, whilst lying at the Swan Hotel, it received over 600 signatures. [ 45 ]

Political canvassing by Otway[a] Cave, J. A. Warre, F. North, W. Camac and H. Elphinstone

Another political meeting was held at the celebrated hostelry here moved on the 26th of March, the purpose being to support the candidature of Messrs. R. Ottway[a] Cave and J. A. Warre. The principal speaker was Mr. Fraser, a candidate for the Cinque Port of Hythe. He had come specially from London to advocate the claims of the two most popular candidates for Hastings. Mr. George Duke, a resident barrister, occupied the chair, and opened the meeting with a call of "Four times four for the King!". He was followed by Mr. John Mannington (afterwards a freeman) who, in proposing a toast to Lord John Russell, alluded to what the Parisians had achieved in 1830, despite the frowns of the Court and the bayonets of the soldiers. After a short address by Mr. Baker in favour of the two named candidates, and in disparagement of Mr. North, the Mr. Fraser (who was received with loud applause), addressed the meeting in a fervent strain calling for Hastings to rise as one man to wrest its liberties from the grasp of the boroughmongers. He was followed by Lieut. Francillon, who, while returning thanks for the respect the company had paid to Col. Evans, spoke of Mr. North as a gentleman who was offering himself as a candidate after doing all in his power to keep the people from having votes, and who still held in his pocket the suffrages of the 17 men who returned to Parliament the present members. Another fluent speaker was Mr. Townshend, the proprietor of the Hastings Iris, who referred to the distribution of political tracts by ladies for the purpose of upholding the sinking cause of the boroughmongers and fanning the dying embers of corruption. One of such tracts contained the speech of Mr. Moring, the proprietor of the rotten borough of Callington, and the other was an address to the people beseeching them not to be so much in love with Reform, which would only end in anarchy and confusion. At the close of his lengthy speech, Mr. Townshend proposed the health of Mr. Fraser. The latter gentleman then rose and spoke at some length on the question of Reform, and then returning to local politics, denounced, with great vigour the pretentions of Mr. North in offering himself as a candidate favourable to Reform, after having been, for some years, one of the principal agents in withholding from them their rightful suffrages. The address of Mr. Fraser, as well as the addresses of the previous speakers, was principaly in condemnation of Mr. North, it being felt that that gentleman's prospect of election was in the ascendant.

The above meeting, as before stated, was on the 26th of March, and on the 15th of April a fifth candidate entered the field in the person of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Howard Elphinstone. His address, dated from the University Club was as follows;

Having been privately requested to offer myself as a candidate for the honour of representing you in Parliament, I think it is due to you and myself to publish the answer I then made. I stated that if invited by a respectable number of the inhabitants, I should feel proud to come forward on the first opportunity; but that unless your support were given to me on public grounds and on your agreeing with my political sentiments, I would not consent to enter on a private canvass. As unfortunately I have the honour of being personally known to so few among you, I beg to leave now to state distinctly what my opinions are:-
1st. I profess to be a Radical Reformer of all abuses.
2nd. I support the Reform Bill introduced by his Majesty's Government - the Bill, the whole bill and nothing but the Bill
3rd. after this Bill shall have become law, I think the votes should be taken by ballot, that the duration of Parliaments shortened, and all persons paying rates and taxes to possess the right of voting
4th. I detest all monopolies, and especially that of the East India Company.
5th. I am an advocate for Free Trade, and consider the tax on the importation of foreign corn a wicked robbery of the people, an injury to the farmer and a detriment to landowners.
6th, I have a rooted aversion to Primogeniture, and consequently, a deep dislike to an Hereditary Legislature.
7th, I think the taxes ought to be so arranged as to fall 
[ 46 ]as lightly as possible on the working classes.
Such, gentlemen, is an outline of my political principles. I have therefore only to state that if it be your wish to find a representative who will fearlessly advocate such opinions, I shall have much pleasure in coming forward at any time provided. I am honoured by a public invitation; but if these opinions be not in accordance with your own, or if you imagine that your interests will be better represented by men whose political sentiments are less strong than mine, I must respectfully decline the honour of being a candidate. It remains therefore entirely with yourselves to decide whether I am to come forward or not."

Election of Frederick North and John Ashley Warre

Mr. Elphinstone had not long to wait for an invitation, nor did he hesitate to respond to the same, as promised, although he must have thought that his own election stood not in the front rank of probabilities. Ten days after the issue of Mr. Elphinstone's address - namely, on the 25th of April, a mandate was received from the Lord Warden to elect two barons to serve in Parliament; and four days later, the election took place, when Messrs. Frederick North and John Ashley Warre were declared to be returned by the votes of 11 jurats and 12 freemen. Through the same cause - that of the resignation of an unpopular Ministry - an election became necessary at Rye, and this was appointed to take place on the preceding day to the one at Hastings, but which commenced and terminated in a very different manner. Although in consequence of an untoward decision of a Parliamentary Committee in unseating Col. Evans and Benjamin Smith, on petition, those two gentlemen had left Rye to try their poitical fortunes elsewhere, the former gentleman was fetched from Preston just soon enough to be nominated once more, together with his late colleague, Mr. Benjamin Smith. They were pitted against the Corporation nominees, Messrs. Pusey and Pemberton, and as the magistrates anticipated a disturbance, they helped to realise the same by imprudently getting together a detachment of the Coastguard. The sight of these men, armed with their usual weapons, so exasperated the already large assembly outside of the Town Hall, that the people immediately broke down the iron rails and brandished them as pikes in the face of their threatened assailants. They also pulled up the large stones with which the streets were paved and kerbed and formed therewith a barricade. At this instant, the Mayor and his party entered the Town Hall, to commence the election, but such was the unrestrained uproar both at that time and throughout the remained of the day that the election could not be completed, and the business was adjourned to the following day. The anti-Corporation men had arranged not to vote on their old claim of having paid scot and lot, but on getting by persuasion as many as possible of the freemen to vote for the popular candidates, or to abstain from voting. Amidst the wildest confusion the first day closed with only twelve votes being recorded - three each for the Corporation nominees, for for Col. Evans and two for Mr. Smith. Night followed with no re-escalation of the turbulence and the magistrates finding themselves powerless to subdue the riotous spirits, yielded, on the day following tot the suggestion of a compromise, the result of which was the raising of Col. Evans' four votes to seven, and Mr. Pemberton's three votes to five. Thus Mr. Pusey and Mr. Smith retired with their  [ 47 ]previous day's record of three and two, respectively.

On the very day that the Rye tumult ended the Hastings Election was peaceably effected in the choice of Messrs. North and Warre - two candidates who had pledged themselves to vote for measures of Reform. Thus, whilst Rye was in the throes of revolution in consequence of the attempt to elect two pronounced anti-Reformers, Hastings was pacified by the choice, even by the old means of two candidates of professedly advanced views.

Death of the first local newspaper - The Rye Riot - Bristol do.

At this time, and for some weeks before, Mr. Townshend's new journal, The Iris, laboured assiduously to kill Mr. North's chance of election, but almost immediately after that gentleman's success, the Iris itself became defunct.

In returning thanks for his election, Mr. North said

Accept my warmest thanks for the honour you have this day conferred on me in sending me to Parliament as the representative of my native town. The important change that has thus by your kindness devolved upon me is one that I will at least spare no pains adequately to fulfil. To the local and peculiar interests of Hastings my habits and inclinations will alike lead me to attend. My constant aim will be honestly and steadily to promote the real interests of the country. These are times when more particularly England expects every man to do his duty; I will endeavour to do mine, and when the course of events shall send me back amongst you to give an account of my stewardship, I trust that your confidence will not be found to have been misplaced.

Mr. Warre also published his address of thanks in which he said;

I beg to repeat those assurances which I have already given of its being a very gratifying fulfilment of my wish to enter the House of Commons as your independent representative. You are acquainted with my attachment to the great principles of civil and religious liberty and of my unalterable desire to obtain for the people of this realm the constitutional benefit of a full, fair and free representation in Parliament. That object will be attained by the revival of the Bill lately introduced by Lord John Russell, and to that Bill I shall give my cordial support. The election, gentlemen, has been conducted in a manner which is honourable to all parties; and I am sure that its termination will lead to harmony and tranquility of the town and tend to the promotion of its welfare.

And, upon the whole this last sentence in Mr. Warre's address of thanks was very fairly realised, as was shown a month later by the harmonious enjoyment at a ball given by the new members. The rhymster of Brett's Gazette referred to it thus:-

In Eighteen-thirty-one the Swan Hotel
Was graced by many a Hastings beau and belle,
And wives and husbands - fourteen times in all-
To dance and sup at an election ball.

That the same harmony and good feeling did not prevail at other places has already been shown in one instance of the riotous proceedings at Rye; but a more lamentable riot was that which occurred in the same year at Bristol; and as it was said to have been mainly caused by a gentleman who was previously one of the Hastings representatives, it may not be inappropriate to give here some account of that terrible affair, which resulted in the destruction of thousands of pounds worth of property and the loss of 500 human lives.

Sir Charles Wetherall was a Tory of the first water, and was elected for Hastings in 1826, but a sketch of his life will give the reader a clearer perception of his character as fomenting the riots at Bristol. He was a son of Dr. Nathan Wetherell, master of the University College, Oxford, and was born in that city in 1770. His father was a friend of Dr. Johnson, and Charles is said to have retained a lively recollection of the doctor's appearance and manners. Charles's early education was superintended by his father. He took his B. A. in about 1790, entered as a student of the Inner Temple, and was called to the Bar in 1794. For a considerable period his practice was inconsiderable, but as he received a liberal allowance from his father, he could afford to bide his time for better things. At the death of his father he inherited a large fortune, but still clung to his profession. His first opportunity of distinguishing himself was in being retained as counsel for Thistlewood and his associates. His Toryism was of a thorough type, yet even when pitted against those of his own political views, he could indulge in the fullest latitude of professional personality. After [ 48 ]the accession of George IV, he was retained to assist the Crown counsel on the trial of Queen Caroline.

The terrible Bristol Riots mainly caused by a Hastings Parliamentary Representative

In 1823, when Sir John Copley was appointed Attorney General, Wetherall succeeded to the office of Solicitor General, and was, as usual, knighted. In 1826, when Copley on the death of Gifford was promoted to the Rolls, Wetherall became Attorney-General, and on the 9th of June in that year, he, with Sir William Curtis was elected M. P. for Hastings by 10 jurats and 18 freemen. It was in January of that year that he became Attorney-General for the second time, he having previously resigned the office when Canning (who also had represented Hastings) became Prime Minister. He held it under the Wellington administration until 1829, when having refused to draw the Bill for the Relief of the Roman Catholics, he was dismissed.

When the Reform Bill was introduced he opposed it with vehement eloquence, and his action therein was unfavourably viewed by many of the Hastings people and more so by those of Bristol. He was, indeed, well nigh becoming a martyr to his faith in rotten boroughs. His last great effort in the way of fervid oratory was in what he himself designated "the last dying speech of the Member for Boroughbridge" which was blotted from the list of constituencies, after which, Sir Charles never sought admission into the Reform Parliament. He continued for some time in professional practice, but, as a rule, only in important cases. One of his latest being that of counsel for the King of Hanover in the trial for the Crown Jewels of that Kingdom. Sir Charles was twice married after his 60th year - firstly a daughter of Sir A. Croke, by whom he had a daughter, and secondly to a daughter of Col. Warneford, who, without family, survived him. He was also outlived by two brothers who were clergymen, and a sister, the wife of Mr. Spooner, M. P. for Birmingham. He died in 1846 at Preston Hall, Kent, the seat of Chas. Milner Esq., his death at the age of 76 being the effect of a severe accident. But to my story of Bristol riots which though a sorrowfully long one in details, shall be dealt with as concisely as possible.

By an ancient charter the Commission of Assizes has to be held by a Recorder who is also to be a skilful and experienced lawyer, together with the magistrates of the city. This commission at Bristol was opened on the 29th of October 1831, for Chas. Wetherall, M. P. being the Recorder as chief judge. There were more than 100 prisoners for trial and Sir Charles was very unpopular in consequence of his unmeasured language in opposition to the Reform Bill. A few days before the opening of the Assizes, a placard was posted on the walls, of which the following is an extract;

The Council of the Union has heard with feelings of surprise that the Corporation have obtained the assistance of armed troops for conducting Sir Charles Wetherall into the city...The Council think that a man clothed in the robes of magistracy ought not to be a politician, as such a magistrate cannot be expected to possess the public confidence, without which he will always be found incompetent to preserve the public peace. They would therefore recommend to the Corporation the immediate resignation of Sir Charles Wetherall as recorder, such being the best means to prevent riot. At the same time the Council earnestly recommmend members of the Union and Reformers in general at all times of popular excitement to use their most strenuous endeavours for the preservation of the public peace, as it is only by such a course that they will be able to obtain the right they seek"

At this time two troops of light Dragoons had been quartered at Clifton and one troop at Keynsham. On the morning of the 29th, they marched into the courtyard of the gaol and the interior of the Cattle Market. Sir Charles Wetherall was met by an escort of sherrifs, city officers and other persons on horseback. He was also attended by about 300 constables. He was followed by a considerable crowd, who hissed and hooted him all the was to the Guildhall, on leaving which for the Mansion House, the signs of displeasure became even more manifest. Towards evening, the crowd increased, when the Mayor appeared and threatened to read the Riot Act, which was responded to with a shower of missiles. The said Act was then read, and the troops sent for, which instead of allaying the tumult only served to increase it. The mob drove the constables [ 49 ]into the Mansion House, tore up the railings in front, and broke the windows and battered in the doors. On the arrival of the soldiers, the people withdrew from the attack and received the military with cheers. The lamps were afterward put out and the whole of Queen's Square was in darkness.

During the evening, Sir Charles Wetherall escaped from the Mansion House by clambering over roofs, and it was given out at noon on the next day (Sunday) that he had left the city: During Saturday night the rioters went back to the Council House and smashed the windows. The dragoons charged them and were met with showers of stones. On Sunday morning, while the soldiers were withdrawn from the partially wrecked Mansion House for refreshments, the mob pushed into all the rooms, threw the furniture into the street, and carried away or destroyed clothes,linen and all other things of value. The Mayor and some eight or ten other persons escaped over the roofs, as Sir Charles had before done. When the cellars were invaded, casks of wine were staved and bottles were emptied of their contents.

The dragoons quickly returned, but the mob, then inflamed with liquor, sought to revenge the death of one of their men the night before, and again attacked the soldiers with stones. The officer in command withdrew them to their quarters; but as they continued to be pelted with stones and bricks, the rearmost ones being provoked beyond endurance, turned and fired on their pursuers, several of whom were killed or wounded. After that the commanding officer withdrew his men to their quarters at Keynsham, a village five miles from Bristol thus leaving a much less number of the other division to protect the city. These, not having fired on the mob, were received with cheers, and waved their hands in token of good will, but being afterwards commanded to charge, they did so, resolutely, the result of which was to drive the rioters to the prison to set the inmates free. On their way, they broke into an anchor-smith's and ironmonger's shop, there obtaining crowbars, sledge-hammers and other implements. With these formidable instruments, they took the heavy prison gates off their hinges, battered off the locks and bars, let the prisoners out, and set the prison known as the Bridewell on fire.

At about the same time, another party attacked the new prison, built almost of massive stone and iron at a cost of nearly £100,000. The rioters forced their way into the governor's house, carried off the furniture, the prison books, the caravan and the gallows, and threw them into the river. The prisoners, 170 in number, they released and burnt everything that could be set on fire within the massive walls. Some of the leaders of the political union who had first placarded the walls did their utmost to quell the riot and stay the destruction, but the mob refused to desist, and their next proceeding was to burn down four toll-houses, followed by the firing of the Gloucester County prison. Three prisons were then burning at the same time. From the County Prison, the rioters proceeded to the Bishop's Palace and set that also on fire. The sedition had now reached a terrible height, but the act in which the lawless assembly appeared most to boast of was that of setting the prisoners free as a retaliation upon Sir Charles Wetherall's fervid denunciation of the Reform Bill. "He has come to try the prisoners, but we will save him the trouble" they were frequently heard to shout. After the Mansion House had been destroyed, the rioters, with the ready help of the released prisoners, paused and burnt all the houses adjoining. A party also forced their way into the Custom House, and there ate and drank while the building was burning over their heads. But a sudden collapse of the premises buried many of them in the ruins. Having destroyed the north side of the square in which the Mansion House stood, the rioters proceeded to west side, beginning with the Excise Office, and thence conveying fire and destruction [ 50 ]from house to house like the track of a torrent of burning lava. Two sides of the square were now in a blaze amidst the frantic yells of the dissolute incendiaries.Plate and other stolen goods by the liberated gaol-birds were conveyed to receiving houses in the neighbourhood, while bottles of wine were held up for sale at 1d or 2d each.

Men, women, boys and girls were seen swallowing the liquors till they fell senseless, and some of them fatally so. Thus were the Saturday and Sunday spent, and on Monday morning, the first house of the south side was attacked, but just as it was begun to be plundered and burnt a troop of the 3rd dragoon guards appeared, when numbers were cut down or ridden over. Some were driven into the burning houses never to return and about 120 were variously killed. But still the rioters continued their pillaging and incendiary work, and it was found necessary to ride with all speed a distance of five miles for the squadron of the 14th, who immediately set out, joined by the Bedminster Yeomanry. They soon arrived and charged the several bodies of rioters, who defended themselves with stones, broken bottles and guns. The carnage was now immense and by the time that the riot was quelled, it was estimated that nearly 500 had paid the penalty of insubordination by death - many by drunkeness and burning, but most by the sword. The number of fatalities, would, perhaps have been less, had the Mayor and military offices been less forbearing.It was only after three days pillaging, burning and otherwise destroying of public and private property that extreme measures were taken, when at least 70 or 80 soldiers charged and pursued the offenders, and about 200 more were on their way from Cardiff, together with a brigade of artillery from Woolwich.Order was restored by Tuesday morning, but not the devastation. Some of the criminal leaders were convicted and hanged, while others, not less guilty were never apprehended.

Thus much of the scene of riot and bloodshed that appears to have had its origin in the avowed hostility to the Reform Bill of he who had previously been a representative of Hastings in Parliament.

Hastings Members vote for the proposed Reform Bill

The two Hastings members performed their promise of voting for the Reform Bill which passed the Legislature in the following year as did Col. Evans, who several times spoke in Hastings in favour of such a measure. He whom was afterwards known as Sir De Lacey Evans was born in Ireland in 1787, entered the British Army at the age of 20, and after several years in India, as did the Marquis Wellesley, returned to Europe and took part in the Penninsular Campaigns of 1812 to 1814. He also fought at the battle of Quatre Bras and Waterloo. After his varied discomfiture and successes at Rye, he in 1835, volunteered to command the British Legion in Spain, where he distinguished himself against the Carlists, and was invested with British and Spanish Orders.In 1854, he again distinguished himself at the battle of the Alma as Commander of the Second Division. At Inkermann? he rose from a bed of sickness to join his Division, but finding how well Gen. Pennefather[b] was handling his men, he declined to deprive him of the merit that he considered was that general's due. He returned to England in 1855, and received the order of the Grand Cross of the Bath.

To return to Mr. North, much as was said against him by the Radicals and the Radical press in consequence of the anti-reform proclivities of his family, I have no doubt that during his first year of Parliamentary life, he used his influence with the Mayor and jurats of Hastings to grant the demands of such as had previously claimed their freedom, but which he, when Mayor, was obliged to refuse, by not departing from long-existing usage. [ 51 ]

The invitation and rush to be made freemen

It is also possible that the serious riots both at Rye and Bristol influenced the Hastings Corporation in yielding to popular demands, lest the peace of the borough should in some measure be broken. In any case, on the 5th of December, 1831, at a meeting of the Corporation, it was resolved "That whereas the number of freemen is very limited, and it being expedient to increase the number for the advantage, the peace and the prosperity of the town and port, the following persons being permanent residents, are admitted and sworn as freemen of the said town and port by the unanimous consent of the Mayor and jurats, pursuant to the decree of 1725, by paying their fine of 40s each[c]:-

Wastel Brisco, Esq.; Rev. George Griffen Stonestreet; Robt. Montague Wilmott, Mr. D. William Camac, Esq; Horatio Nelson Williams, cordwainer; Thos. Daniel, victualler; Benj. Standen, carpenter; Wm. Bailey, merchant; Jas Breeds, merchant; Joseph Jeffries, gent; Francis Smith, banker; Thos. Breeds, merchant; Sol. Bevill, jun, comptroller of customs; William Edwards (late Chamberlain), carpenter; Thos. Tichborn, grocer; J. K. Emary, victualler; John Latter Woodhams, upholsterer; William Amoore, grover; William Duke, surgeon; Jas. Dutton, surgeon; Thos. Wickes, grocer; Thos. Brown, wine merchant; Stephen Welfare, bricklayer; Geo. Jackson, draper; Wm. Hill, hatter; Wm. Hoare, chemist; Geo. Jennings, mariner; Richard Styles, draper; Benj. Bossom, painter; Alfred Amoore, grocer; John Sargent, custom-house officer; Wm. Ransom, jun., shipbuilder; Anthony Harvey, jun., attorney's clerk; Francis Emary, victualler; 'Eli' West Stubbs, chemist; John Bryant, victualler; Geo. Clements, draper, John Samworth, gent; (non-admitted through having died); Edward Fermor, brewer; John Coussens, victualler; Arthur Jackson, draper; Geo. Scrivens, banker; Geo. Bennett, draper; Wm. Carswell, baker; John Hone Glaisher, chemist; Robt. Ranking, surgeon; Henry Lee, chemist; Henry Thwaites, butcher; Thos. Allwork, accountant; John Smith, banker; Edmund Weekes, greengrocer; John Inskipp, jun., painter; John Eaton, upholsterer; Richard Harmon, overseer; Robt. Kent, jun., mariner; Hy. Lawrence Weatherman, customs officer; Geo. Wingfield, victualler; Geo. Viner, grocer; Samuel Glaizer, carpenter; John Russell, baker; John Mannington, gent; Wm. Hy. Honess, cabinet maker; Wm. Chapman, gent; Nicholas Wingfield, cordwainer; Wm. Scrivens, jun., solicitor; Jonathan Mose, grocer; John White, fisherman; Thos. Catley, surveyor; Chas. Lock, tailor; Jas. Walmsley, hatter; Samuel Duke, glover; John Wheeler, confectioner; Richard Nash, mariner; Zebulon Harman, fisherman; Robt. Deudney, yeoman; James Stewart, painter; John Gill, loding-house keeper; Jas. Toage, jun, wine merchant; John Crouch, butcher; George Haste, fisherman; Thos. Page (son of "Barrel"), fisherman; Jas. Hutchinson, ship-carpenter; Thos. Diton, fisherman; Samuel Chester, grocer; John Baldock, ripier; William Breach, fishmonger; Jas. Furby, victualler; John Plumber, carpenter; Edward Tyhurst, tailor; Geo. Wooll, stationer; Richard Selden, grocer; John Hide, jun., fisherman; James Risby, book-keeper; Jas. Rock, coachmaker; Wm. Winter, shipbuilder; Hugh Penfold, ironmonger; Jas. Mann, victualler; Hy. Reeves, bookkeeper; William Thorpe, solicitor; William Rose Chapman, surgeon; Hy. Tindall, brewer; Jas Hart, butcher; Jon Best Foster, carpenter; John Dungate Thwaites, ship-carpenter; Richard Baldock, fishmonger; Chas. Jno. Jendwine, grocer; Geo. Tutte, tailor; Benj. Homan, builder; Moses Masters, shipwright; Jas. Homan, builder; Hy. Thwaites, gent.; Hy. Bishop, solicitor; Geo. Robinson, jun., tailor; Jos. Binns Hart, organist; Benj. Tree, carpenter; Wm. Waghorne, plumber; Isaac Bell, draper; Wm. Ransom, printer; Jas. Foord, merchant; Edward Noakes, mariner; Wm. Ridley, ship-builder; Jas. Roper, mariner; Wm. Picknell, carpenter; Wm. Edwards, jun., carpenter; Geo. Wm. Ashburnham, gent.; Geo. Duke, solicitor; Peter Malapert Powell (non-admitted, he having left the town); Jas. Harman, tailor; Jos. Brown, painter; Wm. Furner Ditch, carpenter; Geo. Rubie, schoolmaster; Edward Stevens, riding-master; Jas. Emary, bookkeeper; John Laver, stationer; Wm. Blivers Wallis, gent.; Thos. White, mariner; Thos. Curtis Hutchinson, mariner; John Phillips, jun., solicitor; Hy. Barry Phillips, attorney's clerk; Robt.Weston and Jas. Bayley, chamberlains; Mercer Waghorne, butcher; Wm. Gallop, fisherman; Geo. Clarke Jones, carpenter; Thos. Mann, mariner; Wm. Ransom, shipbuilder; Richard Chandler, victualler; Thos. Pollard, grocer; Thos. Baker Baker(sic), solicitor; Wm. Longley, gent.; Samuel Stace, blacksmithe; Geo. Robinson, sen., gent; John [ 52 ]Campbell, bricklayer; Wm. Wellerd, butcher;Chas. Hogsflesh, draper; John Adams, gardener; Thos. Jas. Breeds, merchant; Sol. Bevill, sen., gent.; Jas. Buchanan, nurseryman; Norman Buchanan, hairdresser; John Breach, mariner; Mark Breach, mariner; Edward Burchatt, retired cornwainer; John Boys, milkman; Robt. Boreham, mariner; John Bevins, parish clerk; Chas. Bumstead, mariner; Boykett Breeds, merchant; Jos. Bowmen, blockmaker; Jas. Burton, Esq.; Rowe Carswell, baker; Benj. Coffrett, saddler; Richard Cramp, mason; Thos. Coppard, mariner; George Carpenter, mariner; Robt. Carr, schoolmaster; Thos. Cobby, bather; Wm. Duke, jun., surgeon [physician]; Arthur Deudney, victualler; Edward Turner, gardener; Matthew Fagg, gent; Thos. Foord, cooper; John Foord, ditto; Wm. Foord ("Busy"), marriner; Rickman Godlee, ironmonger; Richard Peter Rickman, ironmonger; Chas. Gilbert, stationer; John Guy, fisherman; Richard Gallop, fisherman; Thos Glayzier(sic), pork-butcher; Thos. Hutchinson, sen., boatbuilder; Richard Harman, victualler; Anthony Harvey, gardener; Sam. Hide, fisherman; Wm. Harwood, physician; Walter Inskipp, architect; Jon [illegible], painter; Thos. Jenner, [illegible - middleman?]; Wm. Jex, ropemaker; Wm. Jones, farrier; George Knight, cordwainer; Matthew Kelland, draper; Phillip Kent, mariner; Jas. Lock, tailor; Chas. Lavender, [illegible]; Tom Leave, surveyor; Michael Martin, cordwainer; John Muggridge, baker; John Murray, jeweller; Stephen Milstead[d], plumber; Samuel Nash, mariner; Jas. Nash, mariner; Jos. Naylor, grocer; Richard Crouch Penfold, wine-merchant's clerk; George Prior, fishmonger;, Wm. Payne, baker; John ("Tott") Phillips, gent.; Thos. ("Tott") Phillips, gent.;Chas. Jas. Pearce, gent.; John Phillips, gent.; Rich. Piper, victualler; Wm. ("Bing") Pillips, mariner; Jos. Prior, gent.; Jas. Ryall, music-master; Jos. Reeves, warehouseman; Wm. Richardson, jun., mariner; Edw. ("Squirter") Ridley, mariner; Hy. Richardson, mariner; Thos. Ross, gunner; Hy. Sinden, butcher; Ger. Slade, engraver; Thos. Sinnock, yeoman; Thos. Slatter, butcher; Wm. Spice, fisherman; Wm. Lucas-Shadwell, Esq.; William Standen, jun., tailor; Thos. Smallfield, butcher; John Strong, draper; John Satterly Savery, surgeon; Wm. Standen (son of Benj.), carpenter; Robt. Springett, saddler; Samuel Sinden, ropemaker; Robt. Shepherd, gent; Geo. Strickland, corn factor; Jas. Thorpe, schoolmaster; Thos. Thwaites, grocer; Stephen Thwaites, sen., gent.; Thos Tassell, fisherman; Richd. Tutt, tailor; William Tutt, carpenter; Thos. Tutt, tailor; Wm. Tassele (son of Thos.), fisherman; Thos. Thwaites, sailmaker; John Tonge, gent.; Major Vidler, stonemason; John Vine, fisherman; John Weekes, druggist; John Waghorne, butcer; Nicholas Harrison Wimble, carpenter; Thos. Breeds Williams, miller; Idy Early Wyatt, Esq.; Jas. ("Brooker") White, fisherman; Thos. ("Duncan") White, fisherman; Austin White, baker; Hy. Wood, baker; Geo. Wenham, gent.; Mark White, fisherman; Hy Wingfield, cabinetmaker; Rev. Wm. Wallinger, clerk; Sir Wattien Waller, Bart.; Jas. Wellerd, carpenter.

At this time (1831) the population of Hastings was 10,231, and by the foregoing list one sees that out of that population 276 of the male inhabitants became freemen on payment to the Corporation of 40s each. The total of these payments must have been a considerable addition to the borough funds, whilst the making of freemen in so wholesale a manner with the near prospect of the Reform Bill being passed, clearly indicated the wisdom of the Corporate body in thus forestalling the said measure in that particular feature. As regards the rush thus made for the coveted boon, if those who were so eager to get it had been endowed with as much foresight as the Mayor and jurates who granted it, they might have saved themselves the expense. But even as it was, it might have been a gratification to the new freemen of Hastings to have thus obtained their voting power by peacable means, sooner than did the men of Rye by a riotous attempt. But as regards the concession of the Corporation in return for which they demanded "40/ pursuant to a decree of 1725," that decree was as follows:- [ 53 ]

The year 1725 decree for the election of freemen. The town lighted with gas

1725. April 8. At an assembly in the Common Hall, Whereas this Corporation consists of a Mayor, 12 jurats and an indefinite number of freemen, which freemen are chosed by the Mayor and jurats for the time being, but that of late divers(sic) disputes have arisen relating to the method of electing such freemen, to prevent the inconvenience of such disputes for the future, it is this day ordered, pursuant to the Powers given by the Charters, that the following shall be strictly adhered to All persons intended to be elected freemen shall at least, 14 days before the election, cause notice to be given to the Mayor who shall appoint the time thereof, and send notice thereof seven days before such time to every jurat, with the names of such persons. And no one shall be elected unless by a majority, or unless the votes be equal, and in such case the Mayor to have the casting vote.

Nothing is stated about fees in the above decree, but, two years later, it was further decreed by the Mayor and jurats that "in future 20/ shall be paid by the eldest sons of freemen on claiming their freedom and not less than 40/ by other persons." In that same year, however, Thos. Webb and Ben. Carswell were elected freemen, the former by paying 13/4 and the latter, 6/8. Although these were the fees demanded on several other dates, both before and after that year, there were 13 new freemen made on the same day in 1730, one of them paying 20s. and the others 40s. each.

The reader will remember that in 1830 the Hastings Commissioners appointed a committee from their number to examine into the general condition of the town and to report thereon as to necessary improvements; also that the said committee reported that it was expedient to apply to parliament for extended powers for providing water works, a new market, the removal of obstructions, &c. The discussion on this report was continued at the meetings in the present year, and a new Local Act was determined on. In framing the bill, the probable cost of the improvements was duly considered, as was also the probable revenue to be derived by a new supply of water, the poor of All Saints being exempt from forcible payment, and permission being given for the hawking of fish as theretofore. But as this Act was not obtained until 1832, further remarks thereon are relegated to that year.

The Gas Works which were started last year under the direction of Mr. Bryant were sufficiently forward for the town to be partially lighted on New Year's day, 1831. Although not so brilliant as it was a short time later, a large display of light from a standpipe at the top of the town enabled a man to read from a newspaper and some boys to play a game of marbles. Mr. Hugh Penfold had laid the pipes with great expedition, and several shops were using the new light.

Amongst the proceedings of the Corporation in 1831 were the following:- On the 24th of April, C. S. Crouch, surgeon was elected Mayor and J. G. Shorter, Town Clerk. The ground at Mercer's Bank on a part of which the Watch-house stood was re-leased to Daniel Gill, the principle Officer of Customs for 21 years at a rent of £10. The Corporation declined to grant to Edmund Strickland a piece of ground, 30 feet wide on the west side of Mr. Camac's stables, and in front of Breeds Place. On the 5th of December, the Corporation received the resignation of William Ball, Esq. as a jurat in consequnce of his being then a non-resident. They apprenticed Edward, a son of Edward Fisher, a journeyman butcher, to John Inskipp, a painter with the half-yearly fund from Saunder's Charity; also George Wood, an orphan, to John Bevins, a tailor.

Concerning church matters there is little to notice beyond the fact that on the 16th of January, the Bishop of Chichester consecrated an addition to the All Saints burial ground, the land having been given by Mr. Edward Milward. [ 54 ]

Summary of Events in 1831

The more casual events of the year may be summarised, thus:-
A new-year's ball was given by the Misses Milward at Torfield House to a large number of fashionables.
On the 9th of March, a fire occurred at Mr. Edwards's house in Croft road, from which 3 children in bed were rescued unharmed.
-Frosty nights and cold days occurred in the middle of May, which seriously affected vegetation.
- On the 13th of June, a smart schooner named Isabel was launched from Ransom and Ridley's Shipyard.
-On the 18th of the same month, a boy,12 years of age, while taking birds' nests on the face of the East Cliff, fell a distance of 100 feet and escaped with a severe shaking and a broken leg.
-On the 3rd of August, a child 18 months old, belonging to Mrs. Osborne, of George street was run over and killed by a timber-tug.
-On the 18th and 19th of May several barns were burnt down in the neighbourhod of Hastings by incendiaries.
-On the 27th of the same month, John Luckley, of Hastings, aged 20, was drowned at Brighton and brought home to be buried at All Saints.
-Also was buried in the same ground, a week previously, the remains of Thoma Hobness, who had been sexton for 44 years. His age was 83.
-On the 21st of August, a large barn at Guestling belonging to Thos. Breeds, of Hastings, was fired by an incendiary, and for which, as it was discovered when too late, a man named Buffard was innocently hanged at Lewes. The real offender confessed, when dying to having taken and worn Buffard's boots.
On the 24th of November, shops were closed during the interment of Mr. William Gill, the resident director of the Hastings old Bank.
- The coronation of William IV. was celebrated by ringing of bells, firing of guns, and partial illumination [See also Chap. V. St. Leonards.
-The annual regatta took place on the following Friday.
-On the 2nd of December, the Literary and Philosophical Institution was established.


  1. a b Brett's spelling varies between Ottway and Otway, the correct spelling being the latter with a single 't' Wikipedia: Robert Otway Cave
  2. See Wikipedia - Crimean War - Transcriber
  3. A number of these names were difficult to read, so there may be some errors in transcription - Editor
  4. Brett would appear to have got the spelling of this chap's surname incorrect - Editor (thanks to HW)