Date Of Execution: 28 Jun 1816
Execution Place: Ely (xxThe Littleport riotersxx)
Isle of Ely
The Ely and Littleport riots, also known as the Littleport riots, began in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, on 22 May 1816, against a background of similar unrest throughout the country following the Napoleonic Wars. A group of 56 Littleport residents met at The Globe Inn to discuss the high unemployment and rising grain costs. Fuelled by alcohol, the mob began intimidating wealthier residents, demanding money and destroying property.
The riot spread to Ely on 23 May, where magistrates attempted to calm the protests by ordering poor relief and fixing a minimum wage, see printed bill pictured. The following day, encouraged by Lord Liverpool's government, a militia of the citizens of Ely, led by Sir Henry Bate Dudley and backed by 18 men of the 1st The Royal Dragoons, rounded up 82 rioters. In the ensuing conflagration at The George and Dragon, Littleport, a trooper was injured, one rioter was killed and at least one went on the run.
Edward Christian, brother of Fletcher Christian, was appointed Chief Justice of the Isle of Ely in 1800 by the Bishop of Ely. As the Chief Justice, Christian was entitled to try the rioters alone. The government, in this case via the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, nevertheless appointed a Special Commission, consisting of Justice Abbott and Justice Burrough. The rioters were tried in the assizes at Ely during the week commencing 17 June 1816.
Twenty-three men and one woman were condemned. Nine men and the woman had their sentences commuted to twelve months imprisonment; another nine men were commuted to penal transportation for terms ranging from seven years to life, and five were hanged on 28 June 1816. General unrest and riots such as that at Littleport may have been a factor in the government passing the Vagrancy Act of 1824 and subsequently the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829.