Document B - Report of the trials for rioting at Ely and Littleport 1816, reprinted 1877
JOHN DENNIS, RICHARD JESSOP, WILLIAM ATKIN, AARON LAYTON, SARAH HOBBS, JOHN PRICKE, JOHN COOPER, JOHN FREEMAN and JOHN JEFFERSON, were indicted for having, on Thursday 23rd of May last, put W. Cooper, of Ely, shopkeeper, in bodily fear, and feloniously stolen from him several books and canister, and £10 in promissory notes, his property.
Mr. GURNEY addressed the Jury:- He had then to lay before them an outrage and plunder committed by the mob who entered Ely, on Thursday the 23rd of May. The prisoners Dennis, Freeman, Jessop, and Jefferson, resided at Littleport: all the others at Ely. Every one of them took an active part, but Dennis was the ringleader. He struck at the window shutters with a gun which he had in his hand, and received part of the money for the Littleport rioters: Atkins and Layton took the other part of the Ely men. When the object was effected, Dennis held up his gun as a signal, which the mob obeyed. The learned counsel mentioned this, because Dennis had stated yesterday, that he was forced to join the mob: but it must now appear that he was afterwards very active. This was the only case in which a woman was indicted; but it was not the only case in which women had been guilty of great violence, and they must no understand that they could not engage in things of this kind without being responsible for the consequences. She was the wife of a solider, and had been very active in persuading the mob to go to Mr. Cooper's, saying, that he was a bigger rogue than Rickwood; and she assisted in breaking the windows of the house.
Wm. Cooper was called, and examined by MR. BOLLAND.- He kept a shop in Ely, and dealt in flour and grocery: hearing that a mob was coming to his house, he withdrew from hear of violence, leaving Mr. Watts in it to do as well as he could with them. He was absent about ten minutes, and could not see what was passing. On his return, he observed a large assemblage of people before his house; there were near 200. He went in by the back door; they were then very still, but all the windows were broken. When they saw him, some called out "five pounds, five pounds!" He had five 1l. notes which he gave to the Rev. Mr. Metcalfe, who was outside of the house against the window. Mr. Watts had sent him a message, that they would have ten pounds or pull the house down. He gave the money to Mr Metcalfe to hand to the mob, for fear of his house being pulled down. He had no other fear at that time, they did not seem to have any design against his person. When Mr. Metcalfe had given the money, Layton and Atkin said, the Littleport people had got that, and the Ely people had a right to have as much. He then got 5l. more in promissory notes, and handed them to Mr. Metcalfe, to give to the Ely people. He saw Layton receive them. The mob then gave three huzzas, and went away.
Mr HUNT stated, that he was counsel for Dennis, Jessop, Pricke, Cooper and Freeman.
Mr. HART was counsel for Layton, Atkin, Jefferson and Hobbs, at Ely. Went to Mr. Cooper's after he had seen the mob at Mr. Rickwood's, and said to him, if you have any thing valuable you wish to preserve you have now an opportunity.
Mr Justice ABBOT, - What reason had you to think the mob was going to Mr. Cooper's? A. I received information that they were going there.
Examination continued, - Saw the mob approach: Mr. Cooper withdrew, and in about a minutes they arrived: there was at least fifty, several of them armed with bludgeons, and Dennis with a gun: he met them at the door, and asked what they wanted: the first words he heard were "501. we will have." There were uttered by some person in a threatening tone. He said, "it was a large sum." A stone was then thrown against the window, which broke it. He said to four or five about the door, "honour, honour; it is no use agreeing for any sum, you can't restrain your multitude." They then began to break the windows; some with stones, others with bludgeons: after some time he said, "gentlemen, what will you have to desist?" Some person answered 301. He said he was not the master of the house: they asked "where is he?" He replied, "gone up town." They answered, "that will not do, it is all a scheme." He assured them that Mr. Cooper was not connected in trade with Mr. Rickwood; they continued breaking the windows: he addressed them again, and said, "what will you have now?" Some person answered, "101." He desired them to call a parley for a minute or two, or they should not have the 101: if they would stop that time, he would undertake to find Mr. Cooper. The front men held up their bludgeons and guns, and cried, "halt." He left the door open, placed his wife there, found Mr. Cooper, told him they wanted 101. and that he might then return, he had no need to fear them. Mr. Cooper went into the shop; they were then quite still. After the first 5l. was given, which he saw Mr. Metcalfe pay to Dennis, he heard Atkin say, "the Ely people had as much right to 51. as the Littleport people;" and added, "that witness had agreed to pay 101." He said, "yes, he had agreed." Saw Mr. Metcalfe with the second 51. in his hand.
The Rev. Mr. Metcalfe examined by Mr. GURNEY.- Was a magistrate, residing in Ely. On the 23rd of May, about five o'clock in the morning, met the mob three-quarters of mile from Ely, coming from Littleport. There were about 250 of them; they were almost all armed with fowling guns and common guns, pitch-folks, bludgeons, clubs, a hatched, and one or two spikes. A large waggon with three horses preceded them: it contained four large fowling- guns, placed so as to clear the way, if any opposition should be made. They marched in a body, but he did not see any standard. Had heard what had taken place at Littleport in the night, and applied to various parts of the mob to dissuade them from entering Ely: they proceeded and came into the town. They remained about a quarter of an hour, all greed to go, but many remained, and were joined by the Ely people. Saw them at the house of Mr. Edwards in a riotous state: heard they were gone to Mr. Cooper's, and followed them as fast as he could: found the windows broken, and they were taking goods out of the shop window. Many were armed at that time with bludgeons; one man with a gun. Heard them call for a crow or mattock to pull the house down. Supported by the Rev. Mr. Law, another magistrate, he got through the mob, and endeavoured to protect the house. Mr. Cooper came with some notes in his hand, in evident trepidation, and desired him to hand them to the mob: they appeared to him five11.promissory notes, which he gave to Dennis. Atkins called out, that the Elymen were to have as much. Mr. Cooper then brought five more 11. notes, which witness delivered to Layton, who said he also was an Ely man, and tenant to Mr. Cooper: the mob then gave some cheers, and went away.
William Aspey, Esq. examined by Mr. BOLLAND.- Resides at Ely: saw the mob at Mr. Cooper's: they had been breaking the windows. Saw Mr. Cooper hand the second 51.note to Mr. Metcalfe. Could not say whether Atkin or Layton received it. Saw Dennis hold up the first 51. to Mr. Metcalfe, and heard him say, "I will get them away - they will follow me." He held up his gun - they cheered and went away. Saw Jessop at Mr. Cooper's; he is a Littleport man, and was breaking the frame of the window with a hatched. Saw him take a book out of the shop, and throw it across the road. Saw Freeman there: he had a stable fork, on which he rested. Saw John Cooper there: he was drunk; and as Mr. Cooper was too slow in bringing the money, he said "We will let the front of the house down with a pick-axe." Saw Jefferson there: he was armed with a large willow stick, but did not see him do any thing. Witness saw the mob afterwards at his brother Stevens's: heard Dennis then say, he had 101.from Mr. Cooper. Witness said, it was only 51.. Dennis took the notes from his pocket, which turned out to be but 51.
John Magee and Mr. Hills proved the breaking of windows by Dennis, Pricke and Hobbs.
John Bacon is a constable at Ely. Saw the mob opposite to Mr. Edwards's: saw Hobbs come from a great many people fronting the door, and heard her say, "come along, come along," (waving her hand to the mob) "we will go to Cooper's, he is a bigger rogue than Rickwood. She ran forward, and numbers followed her. Witness did not go to Mr. Cooper's at all.
Thomas Spooner, Esq. of Ely, saw Dennis very active with his gun; he appeared to be the leader of the mob. Saw Jessop with a hatchet and part of a flail, but did not see him use them. Saw Cooper, but he was not armed.
Mr Hurlock, of Ely, saw John Cooper in the mob: did not see him do any thing, but heard him say, "Well done, my lads, down with the front of the house, stick and stone." They mob were then riotous. Saw Pricke there; he destroyed things as they were handed out of the windows.
Cross-examined by Mr. HUNT.- Cooper had no weapon.
Thomas Walton, of Ely, saw Jefferson in the mob: he had a bludgeon, and said to witness, "d-n your eyes, if you don't get out of the way, I will knock your brains out: I won't be reconciled by any one," and then struck at the frame of the window. Witness fell back, and came out of the crowd.
Samuel Heynes, and James Hightingale Rayner, saw Dennis and Jefferson in the mob at Mr. Cooper's
The prisoner Dennis again contended, that he had been forced to join the mob; but called no witnessed to prove that fact.
John Cooper said, he was very much in liquor.
Mr. Justice ABBOT charged the jury at great length upon the evidence as it applied to each of the prisoners; and the jury, after retiring about a quarter of an hour, brought in a verdict of guilty against all the prisoners, with the exception of Freeman, whom they acquitted
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