Tuesday, 24 May 2016

24th May 1816: Crowd of 200 people intent on machine-breaking in Essex

On Friday 24th May 1816, and having been successful in destroying a Threshing Machine at Finchingfield the evening before, a crowd of 200 people had mixed success with machine-breaking in nearby parts of Essex.

In the morning, they visited the farm of Robert Smith, of Byton Hall and destroyed a mole plough there. They then proceeded to Great Bardsfield (to destroy a threshing machine belonging to a Mr. Messent, according to the Morning Chronicle of 27th May 1816). The Bury & Norwich Post of 29th May 1816 described what happened:
On Friday last a tumultuous and riotous mob of nearly 200 persons, armed with axes, saws, spades, &c. entered the village of Great Bardsfield, in the county of Essex, with the avowed intention to destroy thrashing machines, mole ploughs, &c.—They made their attack on the premises of Mr. Philip Spicer, who fortunately for the place where he lived, as also for the villages and towns on that side of the county, had spirit and resolution to defend his property, and being assisted by about 20 of his neighbours, who were entirely unarmed, they determined to resist the attack of the rioters, and by a Waterloo movement, got between the mob and the barn where the machine was deposited, and dared them to advance: when perceiving the determined manner of their opponents, they wisely resolved to make a precipitate retreat.

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