Farm riot at Newchurch – 20th August 1821

smuggler.gifAfter the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815, smugglers were targeted by the revenue men in an effort to reduce the trade. Gangs formed and violence increased dramatically. The notorious Aldington gang was the led by George Ransley.

In February of 1821 a battle between the gang and a Royal Navy party resulted in a naval officer and 4 smugglers being killed and 3 officers, 6 seamen and 16 smugglers being injured. Six months later the farm riot took place at Newchurch, no doubt influenced by this violence (and possibly including some of the Aldington gang), as well as the lack of work and low pay and the reducing income from the smuggling.

Henry Kingsnorth of Bilsington made a deposition that he saw about 12 persons with large sticks or bludgeons. One he knew was George Horne of Aldington Frith who went to reapers in the cornfields to persuade his workers to join them as they went towards Newchurch. He heard voices calling to his labourers to strike. He asked them what they were doing and he replied swearing, “we are come to fix the price of cutting the Wheat in this field”. Another said “he would be dead if he would not fix the price, and he would bring down 200 men”. Some of those gathered were recognised and named. They then went away towards the cornfield of James Watts.

Mr. Edward Flattery of Newchurch saw a number of persons, and one Gilham said that they, the mob, would kill them if they did not leave the fields. So he locked himself with his wife and child in Mr. Piddlesden’s granary. He saw 40 to 50 persons approaching and forced open the door and they were thrown out from about 9 feet, when he was kicked and two ribs were broken and then threw him in a hole of dirty water.

riot.jpgJosiah Rolphe saw a person lying prostrate with his head downwards in the dung in the yard, fearing the consequences he slipped away, unperceived from the crowd assembled. He further declared he saw Thomas Hart in a very menacing manner shake the tail over the head of Archibald Stokes who was there in his position as constable endeavouring to disperse the rioters.

Clifford Pope of Newchurch saw a number of people armed with Bludgeon or Faggott bats pursuing their course over the marshland towards the dwelling house of his Master William Piddlesden, Farmer at Newchurch, and as they were passing along he heard many voices call out to the different labourers in the Harvest Field, if they did not quit their work they would murder them. Richard Lucas with a large fence pole breaking upon the granary door and throwing out from 8-9 feet 2 men, their wives and children, beaten and lying dangerously of their wounds. He named some of the mob.

Jane Ashman wife of Thomas Ashman of Brabourne, on oath said that as she was coming out of The Bull Public House at Newchurch with her husband and upon going back again to take her daughter’s part who was stopped by a mob or party of men in the House, she was accosted and assaulted and beaten and two of her teeth were knocked out by one of them named John Harris with his fist and upon her husband endeavouring to interfere he said he would do the same to him if he did not hold his tongue for that they were Pikeys and he would not be driven by them and if he could have his will he would have them murdered.

Sarah Ashman the daughter of the above named Jane Ashman made a deposition that Woodland and Tups took violently hold of her, tore her cap off her head and swore before she went out of the room they would know what she was made of and upon her father interfering they let her get up and turned them both out of doors into the street and replied if they said a word more they would murder them.

In 1830 the Swing riots started on Romney Marsh (though not severe in Newchurch) and escalated to many other parts of the country when it was seen that mechanization in farming would result in fewer jobs.

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