Worcester Reform Riots

Saturday 1st April - 1:00pm-2:30pm and 4:00pm-5:30pm

In early October 1831, the defeat of the Second Reform Bill in the House of Lords led to a huge wave of pro-reform protests and disturbances across Britain and Ireland. Major disorders in the East Midlands, Dorset and Somerset were followed in Bristol by the most serious riot in nineteenth century England. In early November, less than a week after the events in Bristol, Worcester was to experience a riot of its own.

This talk will consider the rioting in Worcester in detail, with particular emphasis on who the rioters were, their targets and interaction with the authorities. We will also try to answer the following questions:

  • Did the events in Bristol influence Worcester?
  • In Worcester, how did the political divisions between a largely pro-reform populace and an anti-reform Corporation play out?
  • 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?

Self-guided trail leaflets will also be available afterwards for those interested in following this story around the city centre.

Book your FREE place:

1:00pm - SOLD OUT

4:00pm - Book here

The event will also include supporting exhibition on Level 2, which outlines the political context to the rioting, as well as considering the nature of the mass public disorders in Bristol, Bath and Worcester in Autumn of 1831. Along with the display will be a collection of maps, manuscripts and artifacts related to reform and riots from the Worcester Archives and the City Museum.

Steve Poole is professor of History and Heritage at UWE, Bristol and Director of the University’s Regional History Centre. He has published widely on histories of popular protest, criminality, public disorder and radical politics in the Hanoverian era, including (with Nick Rogers), Bristol from Below: Law, Authority and Protest in a Georgian City (2017).