Gunton June 5
I beg now to lay before your Lordship the result of the communications that have been made to me by the Magistrates acting for the several Hundreds within this county. Of Thirty Three Hundreds Twenty Eight have remained in a state of tranquillity.—
Of the remaining Five, the Town of Downham in the Hundred of Clacklose and bordering on Cambridgeshire, has been more seriously disturbed than any other in this County,—I understand that Mr. Dering, one of the Magistrates waited on your Lordship to acquaint you with the disorderly state of that neighbourhood, it is the opinion of Mr. Place one of the Magistrates acting for Downham and its vicinity that the riot was occasioned by the sudden increase of the price of Flour, and the inability of the Farmers to employ the Labourers. On the day the disturbance began the Magistrates had ordered the overseers of all the parishes to attend their Meeting at Downham.—
In the Hundred of South Greenhoe a considerable number of Labourers assembled on the 26th [or] 27th of May at Castleacre & Sporle, to obtain an advance of wages and a reduction in the price of Bread, no violence was offered by them, and conciliatory means being adopted, they dispersed quietly. The causes of dissatisfaction were, the lowness of wages, want of employment, and the high price of Bread—
In the Hundred of Grimshoe, the parish of Feltwell was in a very disorderly state for one day, but nothing very serious occurred—
In Hundred of Mayland, the Labourers of some of the Parishes assembled in bodies and shewed a disposition to be riotous but by the interference of the Revd. Mr. Barker of Caston they dispersed without doing any mischief.
In the Hundred of Happing on the day of a meeting of the Magistrates at the House of Industry, a number of people assembled demanding relief in a very disorderly manner but on the Magistrates remonstrating with them, and threatening to read the Riot Act, after a short time they went peaceably away.
In the Hundred of Shropham Four men were committed to the Castle at Norwich on the 27th of May for breaking a Threshing Machine a rescue was threatened, but was not attempted
I hope your lordship will excuse my troubling you so much at length, but I have had some reason to think that this County has been represented to your Lordship as more generally disturbed that has actually been the case. I am of the opinion that the inability of Farmers to employ their usual number of Labourers has been the chief cause of the late riotous proceedings, and which cause, I regret to say, still exists.—The sudden rise of the price of Wheat added much to the discontent.—
To the vigilance and activity shewn by the Magistrates throughout the County I conceived it to be owing, that the Evil has not been of greater magnitude, and I also feel it incumbent upon me to state that your lot to your Lordship, that much [illegible] is due to the different Corps of Yeomanry Cavalry, for there alacrity in assembling and their excellent conduct when called upon to assist the civil power—
I have [etc]
[To] Viscount Sidmouth
&c &c &c
This letter can be found at HO 42/151.