Document D - The Riots in Cambridgeshire (Littleport & Ely) 1815-16, reprinted 1890
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 canisters, and 10l.in promissory notes, his property.
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WILLIAM COOPER was called. He keeps a shop at Ely, and deals in flour and grocery. Hearing that a mob was coming to his house, he withdrew for fear of violence, leaving a Mr. Watts in it to do as well as he could with them; her was absent about ten minutes, and could not see what was passing. On this return he observed a large assembly of people before his house; there were about 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 it to the mob, for fear of his house being pulled down; he had no other fear at the 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 gave three huzzas, and left them.
WILLIAM WATTS is a schoolmaster at Ely. Went to Mr. Cooper's after he had seen the mob at Mr. Rickwood's, and said, to him, If you have anything valuable you wish to preserve you have now an opportunity. C. immediately withdrew, and shortly after the mob arrived; there were 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 "50l, we will have." These were uttered by some persons 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 and others with bludgeons. After some time he said, "Gentlemen, what will you have to desist?" Some person answered, 30l. 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, 10l. He desired them to call a parley for a minute or two, or they should not have the 10l; 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 10l, and that he might then return, he had no need to fear them. Mr. Cooper went into the shop, they were then all 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 5l, as the Littleport people," and added "witness had agreed to pay 10l." He said, "Yes, he had agreed." Saw Mr. Metcalfe with the second 5l in his hand.
The Rev. Mr. METCALFE stated that he was a magistrate at Ely; that he went and met the mob three quarters of a mile from the town, about five o'clock in the morning. There were about 250 of them; they were almost all armed with fowling guns and common guns, pitchforks, bludgeons, clubs, a hatchet, and one or two pikes. A large waggon with three horses preceded them; it contained four large fowling guns, placed so as to clear the way should opposition be made. He attempted to dissuade them from entering Ely, but they proceeded into the town. Heard they were gone to 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 with a gun. Heard them call for a crow of matlock to pull the house down. Supported by the Rev. Mr. Law, another magistrate, he got through the mob, and endeavoured to protect the house. This witness then corroborated the statement of Mr. Cooper relative to his having given the money to the prisoners.
JOHN BACON is a constable at Ely. Saw the mob opposite to Edward'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 Cooper's at
SAMUEL HAYNES and JAMES NIGHTINGALE RAYNER saw Dennis and Jefferson in the mob at Cooper's.
Several witnesses deposed to the activity of Pricke, Hobbs, and John Cooper in the mob.
The prisoner DENNIS again contended that he had been forced to join the mob; but called no witnesses to prove that fact.
AARON LAYTON said that he was dragged into the mob by force; and called three witnesses who confirmed the statement.
JOHN COOPER said he was very much in liquor.
The Jury after retiring for about a quarter of an hour brought in a verdict of Guilty against all the prisoners except Freeman, whom they acquitted.