Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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Ryde Election Riots 1851

At the recent election for the Isle of Wight, a Riot at Ryde so terrified Mr Cole, agent for Captain Hammond, the Protectionist candidate, that he fell dead. It seems he was chased along several streets, pelted with rotten eggs and turf, pulled by the hair, and knocked down; he rushed into the house of Captain Christian, to escape his persecutors, and dropped down. It was stated at the inquest, that a post-mortem examination showed marks of disease of the heart; and there was an effusion of blood between the scalp and the skull; but these things would not account for the death.
The jury gave this verdict: “Manslaughter against divers persons unknown.”

Extract from the The Household narrative of current events (June) 1851 edited by Charles Dickens.

The Full Story

In April of 1851 Mr John Simeon who had represented the Isle of Wight in Parliament since 1847 as a Liberal announced his intention to retire. He had always been a member of the Church of England, but events in the previous year had forced him to reconsider his allegiance and he was now seeking admission into the Catholic Church. Realising he would not have received the support of the electorate had he originally stood as a catholic he felt that the only honourable thing to do was to offer his resignation.

Initially Charles Cavendish Clifford, son of Admiral Sir Augustus Clifford, considered accepting a nomination to stand as a Liberal candidate in Mr Simeon’s place. However he soon realised that he would not be able to bear the expense. Captain Hammond was standing as the Conservative candidate stating that he was “a firm protestant, determined to resist the papal aggression, a strong supporter of the agricultural interest, and opposed to unlimited free trade”. He was supported by landed interest and the ultra-evangelical party.

Many people were keen that Captain Hammond should not stand unopposed and a meeting was held at the Town Hall in Ryde in early May 1851 to consider the nomination of Mr Edward Dawes of St Helens on the liberal ticket. Mr Dawes was a landowner with a deep interest in the prosperity of the agricultural classes and he also felt that free trade produced a higher degree of happiness and contentment among the people and country. He was supported by many tenant farmers.

Mr E Marvin, Mr R Yelf, Mr Ellyott, Mr Thurlowe, Mr J Johnson, Mr S W Clayton and other highly respected and influential gentlemen of Ryde addressed the meeting in support of Mr Dawes.

At the election which took place on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 May Mr Dawes won by a majority of 46 votes.

On the first day of polling, Monday 26 May, there was a great deal of rioting and disturbance at Ryde and a large mob gathered. Captain Hammond was obnoxious to the angry mob. At about one o’clock Mr Thomas Frederick Cole, agent for Captain Hammond, left the polling booth at the Town Hall and went down the road. He was followed by a large mob that hissed at him, called him a “Rat!” and pelted him with tufts of grass and rotten eggs.

Just as Mr Cole got to Brigstocke Terrace a man knocked off his hat and another violently pulled the hair at the back of his head. He made his escape from the mob and ran down the steps of No 2 Brigstocke Terrace, the home of Captain Christian. He got inside and bolted the door then ran up the steps leading to the parlour in a great state of terror, shouting “Bolt the door, bolt the door!” On reaching the top of the steps he collapsed. He was attended by Elizabeth Biddlecombe, the lady’s maid living at No 2 Brigstocke Terrace. She reported that he was bleeding from the mouth and nose and that he drew one or two breaths but did not speak. A doctor was sent for immediately but Mr Cole was dead by the time he arrived.

An inquest held on Friday 30 May 1851 heard from Mr Bloxam (surgeon) who had carried out a post mortem with Mr Phene that morning. He said that although they had found some signs of heart disease, the lungs were healthy. There was a lot of blood between the skull and the scalp which may have been caused by the violent pulling of the hair as there were no signs of a blow to the head. The blood however was not enough to produce death and they had concluded that the cause of death was a shock to the nervous system.

Inspector Martin of the local police informed the jury that three persons had been apprehended on suspicion of taking part in the riot. The coroner summed up and instructed the jury to decide whether Mr Cole had died a natural or violent death. After consulting the jury returned a verdict of “Manslaughter by divers persons unknown.”

During the course of the riot the local police had vigorously tried to control the mob and the following people had been injured by the police:

C Saltern, broken head;
A man from Sandown, name unknown, back much injured;
Joseph Hollis, broken head;
William Hollis, broken head;
Charles Gover, hand disabled;
James Grey, broken head;
Henry King, elbow damaged;
Harriet Seymour, arm, head & back badly injured;
Ann Hardy,* broken head (patient at infirmary);
Charles New, broken head;
David Gaiger, arm much bruised;
Henry Cook, broken head & disabled arm;
Jane Sheppard, arm beaten severely;
Reuben Read, broken head;
John Meader, bruised arm;
Unknown woman, broken head;
Richard Winter (12 years old), fractured skull (patient at infirmary);
Joseph Reynolds, broken head & contused arm;
Edward Butler, bruised back and arm;
Edward Jackman, bruised head and arm;
J Heward, bruised head, back and arm;
William Fowler, loins much injured
Henry Wheeler, broken head and bruised shoulder;
Edward Sheppard, disabled hand.

* The woman Ann Hardy, with the “broken head,” had a child in her arms at the time she was struck by the police.By June 5 the local magistrates had committed fourteen individuals to Winchester gaol to await trial for riotous conduct.At the Hants Quarter sessions at Winchester in early July a number of men were indicted for the riot at Ryde on May 26 and after a lengthened investigation the jury acquitted all of them. A week later Alfred Pressley was indicted for “having on May 26th feloniously killed and slain Thomas Frederick Cole”. After consideration the jury returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’, the Judge then addressed the prisoner at some length on the dangerous and mischievous effects of riotous proceedings.Mr DawesMr Edward Dawes served as MP for the Isle of Wight for a short time and did not seek re-election again at the general election in the following year. He was succeeded by Francis Venables-Vernon-Harcourt in 1852. Mr Dawes died on January 27 1857 at Sidmouth.1851 was not the first time there had been riots in Ryde relating to an election. In 1837 there had been riots when the Tory, Mr Holmes, was elected. You will be able to find out more about these earlier riots by listening to the Ryde Heritage Audio Trail which will be launched on 15 May 2010.Thankfully Ryde is much quieter these days!



Researched and typed by Janette Gregson
Sources: Hardwicke’s Annual Biography, Manchester Guardian, Daily News & News of the World.