Sunday, 22 April 2012

22nd April 1812: Third and final day of food rioting in Manchester

Charles Walker, a farmer, had left his home at Wootton in Staffordshire on Tuesday 21st April 1812 to sell a 3 1/2 cwt load of butter in Manchester the following day. He stopped overnight at Bullock Smithy (now Hazel Grove) near Stockport, before heading into Manchester the following morning.

Having sold some of his butter in Manchester, he was at a shop in Ardwick trying to sell some more when he was surrounded by about 10 people. An older woman spoke to him, enquiring how much he sold his butter for: he told her, 15 pence per pound. The woman made it clear that that was too high, she wanted less. Walker asked her what she would be prepared to offer, and she told him 1 shilling (i.e. 12 pence). Walker felt intimidated and agreed to sell her a pound. He got in his cart, and started to drive away to the outskirts. He soon noticed he was being followed - when he looked around, he saw about 100 people running after him.

After travelling a mile, the crowd caught up with Walker and stopped him. By this time, 200 to 300 people were surrounding his cart. They all wanted his butter at a shilling per pound. Walker offered only the contents of one basket - around 30lb - but the crowd wanted the lot, a threatened to upturn his cart if he didn't comply. He sold all of the butter in the cart at 1 shilling per pound. At one point, the woman who had challenged him in Ardwick earlier had got onto the cart to assist. She later carried off 20lb of butter into the crowd to sell it at the autoreduced price. The crowd later allowed Walker to drive his by now empty cart away.

Reaching Bullock Smithy again, he found that he had £14, 12 shillings - £9, 18 shillings short of what he had wanted to sell his butter for.

This has been compiled from the Lancaster Gazette of 20th June 1812 and Grimmett & Thomis (1982, p.44).

Walker's loss is the modern-day RPI equivalent of £6640.

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