Saturday 28 January, 2023
At 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM
Free Local History Talk by Prof Steve Poole at Yeovil Library, King George Street Yeovil BA20 1PY
Please register and open the link for further details: https://gck.fm/flnqf
(Please note that the event is full but a second talk is planned for interested persons)
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. 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. After a closely fought race, marked by widespread claims of corruption, Ashley was victorious. Immediately after the result was announced, disturbances broke out in a series of Dorset towns, including Blandford and Sherborne. These riots were serious events with significant damage to property and were put down only after the intervention of Yeomanry and regular Cavalry units.
This talk will consider the two days of rioting in Yeovil in detail with particular emphasis on who the rioters were, their targets and interaction with the authorities. Why did local magistrates find it so difficult to control and disperse the crowd? And why, in any case, were labouring class men and women rioting in support of a Reform Bill that was never likely to enfranchise them?
The last major incident in this regional wave of riots occurred in Yeovil in Somerset over 21 and 22 October demonstrating the close social and economic ties between the town as a centre for the gloving trade and several Dorset towns within its orbit. Indeed, some Yeovil men held sufficient freehold franchise across the county border to vote in the Dorset by-election, whilst several lawyers acting as Lord Ashley’s election agents lived in the town.
This lecture is part of the ESRC funded project Intergroup Dynamics within the 1831 reform riots led by the University of West of England. More information about the project is currently on display at the Museum during October.