Thursday, November 05, 2015

"The 5th now is considered a holiday by the lower classes"

A few notes from the archives about events on the Fifth of November in the early nineteenth century in Lewes.

Where it sounds like they had a right good time.

 Deposition of James Burridge, constable:

“I also was upon duty as police officer in the Town of Lewes upon the night of the fifth day of November instant and saw a great mob of persons unlawfully assembled together and making a great noise & disturbance, letting off fireworks and having lighted tar barrels through the high street. About ten o’clock I was violently assaulted by the mob who hustled me and threw stones at me and gravel and dirt into my eyes whereby my eyes were much hurt and painful.” 

Deposition of Stephen Clarke, constable:

“I saw a great riot and disturbance in the town with persons letting off fireworks, rolling lighted tar barrels and throwing lighted fire balls….Many of the persons in the disturbance were in disguise having masks and some having their faces black red and white and many of them had very large sticks.” 

Henry Powler Mackay deposed that he saw the tar-barrels fireworks and riotous mob:

“I have not joined in such occasions, there was more than ever I have before. I have not let off fireworks since I left school…The 5th now is considered a holiday by the lower classes. I do not think the town would have been quiet if the police had not been there.” 

Deposition of William Bennett:

“…I have seen bonfire nights in Lewes and it was similar to the one last time, I saw tar barrels last year and windows broken.” 

 According to reports, many of the police were violently assaulted with sticks and clubs.

 Feeling nostalgic for the good old days yet?

(Source: The National Archive, ASSI 36/4 Sussex assizes 1841. These were among the sources I used in my first book, Violence and Crime in Nineteenth-Century England: The Shadow of Our Refinement, which is soon to be available as a paperback.)

No comments: