"Hidden Ely" - Part 1
The Littleport Riots

compiled for Ely OnLine by Bob Wrightson

When gazing at St Mary's church, Ely, from the green it fronts, it is hard to imagine that such a scenic vista can also hold a terrible warning of the perils of rampaging and killing that lead 6 men to their deaths by hanging and others to transportation to Australia.

The story of the Littleport Riots begins after the victory over Napoleon in 1816. England was left in a very poor condition following the Wars. Hundreds of people across the country were not only poor but at the point of starvation.

On 22nd May 1816 a group of disgruntled Littleport residents gathered at the Globe Inn (no longer there). After some heavy drinking their anger at the prices of bread and wheat, and their alleged mistreatment by a local landowner and farmer, William Martin, spilled over onto houses and shops in Main Street, where much damage was caused. The mob stormed through the village breaking windows and smashing furniture and goods. The vicar of the parish stood at the door of the vicarage and threatened to "shoot dead the first man who entered."
He did not, however, and fled from the house with his family, to walk to Ely, leaving the mob to eat, drink, break or steal whatever they could.

Their gaze now turned towards Ely. Mounting a cart, and arming themselves with punt guns, shovels and pitchforks they set off to vent their anger. In Ely they caused more disruption and drank more ale before returning to Littleport.

(Sounds like a normal modern day weekend..! Editors Quip)

The vicar however had raised the alarm in Ely. Troops (Royal Dragoons from Royston Troop of Cavalry and Militia Staff stationed in Ely) were brought in and marched to meet the rioters...
They soon brought the situation under control, although In the battle for control several people were shot or maimed.

By this time unrest had spread to the surrounding areas such as Downham, and it was as late as June 10th before all of the stragglers were brought in.

The plaque, set into the wall at the rear of St. Mary's Church Tower, reads - CLICK FOR NEXT PAGE