User:Lord Cornwallis/Hexham Riot

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The Hexham Riot occured in March 1761 in Hexham, Northumberland when a crowd protesting the introduction of a new recruiting system for the British militia were fired on by members of the North Yorkshire Militia with heavy casualties. It is also sometimes known as Bloody Monday or the Hexham Massacre.


By 1761 Britain's involvement in the Seven Years War had seen its forces engaged in conflict since 1754, placing a heavy strain on the nation's military resources as Britain was fighting in a number of theaters on several continentals. Following the passage of the 1757 Militia Act large numbers of militia were raised to free up regular forces for service overseas. This process increased further during the Planned French Invasion of Britain during 1759 when the British defenses were stretched while troops took part in a number of offensives around the globe. In spite of the failure of this plan, British officials had to consider prospect of further invasion attempts by either France of Spain.

There was great resistance to enlistment in the militia for a variety of reasons. Many feared that it meant they would be forced to serve overseas, or at least away from their homes. There were also suggestions that an element of corruption was involved in the selection of the ballots for enlistment whereby people with influential connections .[1] Previously no recruiting had been done in the area, but in 1761 it was decided to begin gathering names for the ballots. The market town of Hexham was to become one of the major recruiting centers in the north east of England.


The first enlistments were due to take place on 9 March 1761. Anticipating trouble, the local magistrates arranged for a detachment of North Yorkshire Militia to be present.

Protesters came from across neighbouring parishes to Hexham and a large number of demonstrators assembled in the square in front of Moot Hall, where the enlistments were to take place. After four hours of angry protests and the refusal of the crowd to disperse led to the Riot Act being read. After this, the protestors advanced on the Hall, carrying staves, and in the scuffles that followed two of the militia were killed or wounded. The Magistrates then gave the troops' commander the order to fire on the protestors in line with the provisions of the Riot Act.

The milita opened fire on the crowd, and in the packed space their shots did a large amount of damage. The square was soon clear except for the dead and wounded. Many other wounded were carried off by their friends and relations.

In total 49 civilians were killed [2]while estimates varied for number of the wounded but it was likely to be at least several hundred. It was the largest number of casualties inflicted by troops on civilians in a protest of the eighteenth century.[3] The savagery of the authorities indicates their deep fear of the 'lower orders' in an area of deep-rooted Jacobite sentiment but perhaps more widely of the growth of politics by riot, apparently the only recourse for a population devoid of representation.[4]

Protestors who died from Hexham were Sarah Carter(pregnant), Thomas Levestone's wife (pregnant), John Dodd (shoemaker),David Turnbull (labourer), Thomas Usher (servant, Delgate Hall),David Marrow (labourer), Christopher Johnson (son of Robert Johnson) and John Armstrong (of New House, Hexhamshire). From Slayley (Slaley) Parish: Matthew Carr, Michael Burdess, James Robson's son, Andrew Lamb, Matthew Fairlam. From Broomley: Henry Leighton (tailor), Robert Brown (servant). From Corbridge: Ralph Shotton, Thomas Richardson. From Bywell Parish and Whittonstall: - Brown, - Brown (his son), Humphrey Brown (his son). From Prudhoe: - Heslop (pitman). From Simonburn: John Mintaff, James Young. From Blanchland: George Suddle of Crook Oak. From Newburn: William Crow (weaver). From Fourstones and Newbrough: William Watson, Henry Hoggart (pitman). From Haydon Bridge: Nicholas Foster (of Staward). From Hollings in Derwentside: Mr Thomas Forster. From Ryal Town: Henry Dun (son of Richard Dun), William Rutherford. From Heddon on the Wall: - Pescott, John Cutter. From Chollerton: Jacob Coulson (Gunnerton), John Charlton (Birtley), William Hepple (Birtley), Thomas Dodd, William Scott (Swinburn). From St John Lee: Thomas English (Anick), Anthony Brown (Sandhoe), George Johnson (Wall). From Stamfordham: Joseph Dodd, John Elliot, Thomas Hudspeth, John Proud, John Appleby. From Hartburn: John Row. From Walwick: Thomas Forster. From Kirkheaton: Robert Atkinson.[5]


On hearing of the riot Earl of Northumberland observed that although he had "not been informed of any further particulars" he worried that "from the riotous disposition of the Colliers and Keelmen in that part of the country I fear greater mischiefs".[6]

For a number of years after this the North Yorkshire milita became known as the "Hexham Butchers".


The incident is cited as a sign of growing war weariness by the British population. This became a factor in Britain's eventual decision to negotiate peace with the French during 1761 and 1762 that led to the signing of the Treaty of Paris which ended the war returning a number of captured French and Spanisg colonies.

See also[edit]


Charlton, John. 'A brief history of radicalism in North East England'. North East Labour History Society, 2013

  • Colls, Robert. The pitmen of the northern coalfield: work, culture, and protest, 1790-1850. University of Manchester Press, 1987.
  • Ehrman, John. The Younger Pitt: The reluctant transition. Stanford University Press, 1983.
  • Hirst, F.W. The Political Econominy of War.
  • McLynn, Frank.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ McLynn p.225
  2. ^ Charlton p.11
  3. ^ Ehrman p.103
  4. ^ Charlton p.11
  5. ^ Charlton p.11
  6. ^ Colls p.210