‘Fife, Drum and Flag’: The Sherborne ‘reform riots’ of October 1831

Audience in Digby Memorial Hall for the talk on the Sherborne riot of 1831

In early October 1831, the defeat of the Second Reform Bill in the House of Lords led to a wave of pro-reform public protests and disturbances across Britain and Ireland. Concurrently in Dorset, a microcosm of the national struggle over electoral reform was being fought out in a county by-election which posed Lord Ashley an anti-reformer against the pro-reform candidate William Ponsonby. In a close fought race, marked by widespread claims of corruption, Ashley was victorious. In the immediate aftermath of the result, disturbances broke out first in Dorchester followed by Wareham, Poole, Blandford, Sherborne and Yeovil and several other locations. The latter three ‘reform’ riots were serious events with significant damage to property and involved the intervention of Yeomanry and regular Cavalry units.

This talk will consider the three days of rioting in Sherborne in detail, with particular emphasis on the targets of the rioters, who the rioters were and their interactions with the authorities. From this evidence an attempt will be made to understand the motivations of the rioters, the majority of whom were not going to be enfranchised by the Great Reform Act of the following year.

If you want to listen to the talk then the audio and presentation is here:

This lecture was organised by Sherborne Museum as part of their 2022 winter talks programme and given by Dr Roger Ball (UWE) on 6th October 2022 in Digby Memorial Hall, Sherborne. Our thanks go to Luke Mouland and the Sherborne Museum volunteers for facilitating the event, and George Tatham for his help with the research.

First outing for the travelling display on the 1831 reform riots in Dorset and Somerset

This public lecture is part of a the ESRC funded project Intergroup Dynamics within the 1831 reform riots led by the University of West of England. Please take part in our public survey What do you know about crowds and riots?