Dorset: Radical Dorset

Black and white photograph of three women protesters and a baby outside the Hotel Alexandra
  The Lyme Regis cement workers strike. Courtesy of the Lyme Regis Museum
Portrait of a lady dressed in black

When

1594 to present

Where

Dorset

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.

A fictional social media page with photos, comments, ’friends’, ‘groups’ and a ‘trending’ timeline.
One of 10 pages of the Radbook.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

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.

1594

Blessed John Cornelius, Catholic priest, was executed in Dorchester after refusing to convert to Protestantism.

1598

Sheepe have eate up our meadows and our downes

Our corn, our wood, whole villages and townes

poem by T.B. protesting against land enclosures

1600s

Continued protests by Puritans against May Day processions.

1605

South Perrot

Joan Guppy, accused by neighbours of being a witch, petitioned the King.

1626 – 28

Radbook entry by riot leader Henry Hoskins about the Gillingham riots on 1626 and 1628, protesting against land enclosures; and response from the Privy Council, sending in troops.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

1630

Holnest

Divers boyes, young men and unmarried persons within the parish of Holnest do live loosely, frequenting alehouses …

1630 Quarter Sessions

1640s

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.

Portrait of a lady dressed in black
Portrait of Lady Bankes, née Mary Hawtrey (by Henry Pierce Bone, after John Hoskins)
Public domain
Fictionalised Radbook entry by Mary Bankes, pleased she has supplies and defenders and is successfully holding out.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

Mary, helped by her maidservants and a few soldiers, managed to hold off several hundred attackers …

Further Radbook entries by Mary celebrating beating back the attackers.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

…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.

Fictionalised Radbook entries from Parliament and from Colonel Pitman who betrayed Mary.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

1750s

John Toogood (Sherborne)

John Toogood was an observer rather than a protester. His diaries recorded food shortages and riots in 18th century Sherborne.

1757

High price of corn causes riots in Sherborne. John Toogood’s diaries recorded these riots and food shortages.

Fictionalised Radbook entries by Toogood commenting on the riots and the price of wheat, and a poll asking people whether the price of corn should be lowered.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.
Fictionalised Radbook entry with threat to burn down the barns of wheat suppliers.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

1764

Beaminster corn riots.

1790s

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.

Excise they put on all things,

Double as much or more,

And yet these hell-bred covetous kings

Are needy as before.

Mary Stiff, 1649
Fictionalised Radbook entries showing smugglers’ ‘sponsors’ (wigmakers, arms dealers and estate agents) and ‘smuggling hacks’.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.
Fictionalised Radbook entries showing smugglers’ ‘sponsors’ (wigmakers, arms dealers and estate agents) and ‘smuggling hacks’.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

1803

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.

Photograph of a gravestone in a churchyard, inscribed ‘To the memory of … Mary Way who was Shot by some of a Press gang on the 2nd of April 1803. And died of the Wound the 21st of May the same year.’
The grave of Mary Way, aged 21.
By Simon Palmer, CC BY-SA 2.0
 Fictionalised Radbook entries by friends and relatives mourning Mary Way’s death.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

Wolfe and three other officers went on trial at Dorchester Assizes but were acquitted.

Fictionalised Radbook entry by Mary’s sister, angry at Wolfe’s acquittal.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team

1820s

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.

Fictionalised Radbook entry by Wedderburn, pleased to be leaving Jamaica as a free man.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.
Black line drawing of a mixed heritage man
Robert Wedderburn from The Horrors of Slavery, 1824.
Public domain
A photograph of a double-page spread from a prison ledger. The paper is yellowing and the writing is tight cursive.
Dorchester Prison entry showing admission of Robert Wedderburn.
Reproduced by permission of the Dorset History Centre.

1830s

Tolpuddle Martyrs

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.

1830

Swing Riot update: 10 ricks on fire! Riot Act read the Swing rioters at Winfrith Newburgh.

1834

Seven Dorset labourers transported to Australia. 100,000 march in London for release of Tolpuddle men.

Fictionalised Radbook entries including the names of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the 1797 Unlawful Oath Act and quotations from Thomas Hardy (on threshing machines), the Union Hymn and Home Secretary James Frampton attacking trade unions as ‘contrary to the law of nature’.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.
A photograph of a double-page spread from a prison ledger. The paper is yellowing and the writing is tight cursive
The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ names entered in the prison registry by the prison clerk.
Reproduced by permission of the Dorset History Centre.

1840s

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.

Colour photograph of a stately home.
Kingston Lacy
Vauxford, Creative Common licence
Head and shoulders painting of a white man.
William John Bankes
Public domain

1862

Election riots in Dorchester – troops storm crowds after Fordington ‘toughs’ overturn Tory coaches.

1910s

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.

Fictionalised Radbook entry by Bridport women workers quoting the Suffragette song ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’: ‘Let no ancient custom bind you, Let one bond of suffering bind you, Leave unrighteous laws behind you, Soon you shall be free.” – with ‘likes’ from Emmeline Pankhurst and Ada Newton.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

Justice for the workers was seen by them as retaining their jobs … but there was another side, the people of Lyme not connected with the cement works … were fed up with the air pollution the works generated … which blew on the prevailing wind over the town and beach, affecting the tourist trade … So it was really an early example of jobs [versus] the environment as well as jobs for the workers [versus] the rights of the rest, including the posher parts of town most affected by the nuisance.

Richard Bull, Lyme Regis Museum
Black and white photograph of  of strikers in the town centre with banners saying ‘Live and Let Live’ and ‘Give us work’
The Lyme Regis cement workers strike.
Courtesy of Lyme Regis Museum.
Black and white photograph of marching strikers led by a brass band
The Lyme Regis cement workers strike.
Courtesy of Lyme Regis Museum
Fictionalised contrasting Radbook entries by cement workers and environmentalists, and the Council’s poll.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

1930s

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.

Fictionalised Radbook entry announcing an anti-fascist talk by John Cowper Powys calling for aid to Spain; and an ‘expression of interest’ by George Orwell.
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

1926

Sylvia Townsend Warner writes pro-feminist book Lolly Willowes.

Fictionalised Radbook entry by Sylvia Townsend Warner quoting from her novel asking why single women should be treated “like a piece of family property forgotten in the will.”
© Journey to Justice, with thanks to the Radical Dorset team.

It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.

Thomas Hardy

1930

Sylvia Townsend Warner moves to Chaldon Herring with partner Valentine Ackland

While I slept we crossed the line between May and June;

The morning came, gentle walking down from the hill,

And by the time I stirred it was full day

And she had brought summer with her into my room.

Valentine Ackland

2008

DART demonstration against wind farms.

2014

ASDA milk protests.

2017

Dorchester Love Parade.

With special thanks to all the Radical Dorset volunteers.

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