1594 to present
From the Swing Riots in 1830 to the Asda Milk Protests in 2014, Dorset has had a turbulent history of riot, rebellion and protest. When people felt that the law was not listening, they have found different ways to make themselves heard.
Using the language of social media, a group of young volunteers looked at some of the radical people, groups and events in Dorset over the last 500 years. After researching from archives, books and online, the group decided to present their findings in the fictional social media pages of Radbook, reflecting the crucial role that technology has played in recent protests around the world.
Here we present the factual stories as a timeline, in the group’s own words, illustrated with extracts from the fictional Radbook presentation.
Early Dorset saw some very strange protests, from a petition to save a woman from witchcraft accusations to protest poetry about sheep.
Blessed John Cornelius, Catholic priest, was executed in Dorchester after refusing to convert to Protestantism.
Continued protests by Puritans against May Day processions.
Joan Guppy, accused by neighbours of being a witch, petitioned the King.
1626 – 28
Mary Bankes (Corfe Castle 1603-1661)
During the Civil War, the majority of Dorset was Parliamentarian. Dame Mary Bankes declared herself a Royalist and fended off two sieges of Corfe Castle before being betrayed.
Mary, helped by her maidservants and a few soldiers, managed to hold off several hundred attackers …
…until betrayed by one of her own side. She was forced to give up the castle but, due to her bravery, was allowed to keep the keys.
John Toogood (Sherborne)
John Toogood was an observer rather than a protester. His diaries recorded food shortages and riots in 18th century Sherborne.
High price of corn causes riots in Sherborne. John Toogood’s diaries recorded these riots and food shortages.
Beaminster corn riots.
Dorset Black Market
Not all protests were public. Many Dorset locals used smuggling as a way of protesting against high prices from taxes on foreign goods.
The Easton Massacre.
Throughout the Napoleonic Wars, coastal Dorset was in constant fear of press gangs forcing local men into the Navy. Mary Way was one of those tragically killed in a shoot out between a press gang and locals in Easton, Portland.
Wolfe and three other officers went on trial at Dorchester Assizes but were acquitted.
Robert Wedderburn (imprisoned in Dorchester Gaol, 16 May 1820 to 11 May 1822.)
Robert Wedderburn was sent to Dorchester Gaol after calling for slaves to be free to kill their masters. His father was a Scottish Jacobite rebel and his mother was his father’s slave. He was born free.
Working conditions and pay in rural Dorset were very poor after the Napoleonic Wars. The Swing Riots (1830) were followed by the Tolpuddle Martyrs (1834). Both groups wanted fairer conditions but protested in different ways.
Swing Riot update: 10 ricks on fire! Riot Act read the Swing rioters at Winfrith Newburgh.
Seven Dorset labourers transported to Australia. 100,000 march in London for release of Tolpuddle men.
William John Bankes (1786-1855, Kingston Lacy)
William John Bankes was exiled from England because of his homosexuality. If he had stayed, he would have risked the death penalty. His legacy is the beautiful Kingston Lacy.
Election riots in Dorchester – troops storm crowds after Fordington ‘toughs’ overturn Tory coaches.
South West strikers
West Dorset experienced two strikes in two years, just before the First World War broke out. One was by women in the rope making factories and the other was by the cement workers of Lyme Regis.
9 Feb 1912
Wildcat strike: Gundry’s rope factory, Bridport.
Sylvia Townsend Warner
The famous twentieth-century writers of Dorset used their fame and writing to bring about change, from promoting women’s rights to supporting Republicanism in the Spanish Civil War.
Sylvia Townsend Warner writes pro-feminist book Lolly Willowes.
Sylvia Townsend Warner moves to Chaldon Herring with partner Valentine Ackland
DART demonstration against wind farms.
ASDA milk protests.
Dorchester Love Parade.
With special thanks to all the Radical Dorset volunteers.