Friday, September 02, 2011

Deptford Bread Riot 1867

In January 1867, at a time of high unemployment, the hungry crowd in Deptford were told that the depot which dispensed food to the poor had run out of bread. What happened was reported in one local paper under the headline 'The Unemployed Riots':

'On Wednesday evening some 300 or 400 of the unemployed perambulated the principal streets completely clearing out the bakers and other shops on their way. They commenced at the bottom of Church Street and by the time they reached the Broadway, most of the shops, including the public houses, were closed, and a large body of police on the place, who soon succeeded in restoring comparative quiet, though some bakers’ and other provision shops in High-Street have been since entered and denuded of their contents.

Business in the town is at a complete standstill, armed mounted patrols and police on foot are to be seen in every street, whilst crowds of hungry-looking, worn-out artisans saunter about the pavements, presenting a most heart-rending picture. The shops in the town are closed, and the whole district presents a restless feverishness not witnessed for many years… there is no doubt that the poor men, worn out by cold and hunger, their tools pledged, and nearly every article of furniture gone to provide food for their wives and children, have been gradually verging into not caring what becomes of them'(South London Journal, 26 January 1867).

There were a number of arrests, including Henry Clubb of 5 Blackheath-Hill, who was charged with throwing stones at mounted police in Church Street (SLJ, 2.2.1867).

The day after this outbreak of desperate looting, people marched on a meeting of the Poor Law Guardians in Greenwich. The riot did result in some improvements – a Deptford General Relief Fund was 'founded on the occasion of the late bread riots' (SLJ, 4.5.1867).

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