Monday, 14 May 2012

14th May 1812: Local Militia take part in Loughborough food riot

On Thursday 14th May, a food riot erupted in the marketplace at Loughborough.

The riot began with a row over the price of potatoes - 14 pence per peck was the asking price,  but a group of women wanted to offer 1 shilling. When this was refused, the women began to empty the bags of potatoes, with many of them being stolen, and others thrown about the market. At around 10.00 a.m., autoreduction then commenced in earnest, with lowered prices being offered for butter & eggs.

A magistrate, Richard Hardy, proceeded to the marketplace and was horrified to find that around 30 women were being supported by an equal number of off-duty members of the Local Militia: the militiamen had previously excused themselves from duty owing to sickness. Hardy was unable to summon Militia forces to quell the riot, even though there were only half a mile away at the time.

The riot eventually began to subside, but it had attracted a large group of people to gather nearby. At around 2.00 p.m., Hardy witnessed a woman seize a leg of pork from a stall and throw it into the air. The crowd then proceeded to play with the pork, taking it in turns to throw it to and from each other.

Later, the shops were all shut up, and with the main body of the Local Militia attending, the crowd eventually dispersed. Hardy later commented in a letter to the Home Office that:
I certainly cannot persuade myself that the Local Militia is, at any time, force calculated to suppress Riot, especially when the ostensible cause of that Riot is the high price of Provisions, & in a Town too, where most of the Men have Relatives or Families
This has been compiled from the Leicester Journal of 15th May 1812 and a letter from Richard Hardy to the Home Office of 15th May 1812, which can be found at HO 42/123.

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