Wednesday 8th October
The early hours. Whoever took the decision is unclear, but we can posit Bickford-Smith or Col. Gilbert. Time to pull things back. Time to send a hasty telegraph message.
At 4.20am just over a hundred soldiers of the 11th Regiment disembarked at Camborne rail station, under the command of a Major McCausland. They’d been stationed at Raglan Barracks, Devonport. (The shadowy gang of townspeople who had apparently heard the military had been summonsed and went to the station to see for themselves had vanished by dawn.) So rapidly had they been mobilised, the Redcoats had no idea what their destination was, and speculated nervously that a surprise posting to Africa and a role in the current Ashanti war awaited them.
But Camborne suited them fine (WB1, RCG1, CT2).
Tyacks Hotel became their HQ. Inspector Pappin, his head swaddled in bandages, arranged billets in consultation with McCausland. CT2 notes that Pappin looked “very much an invalid”. Possibly concussed, hungry, and having slept roughly outdoors, nevertheless he was on duty early, and “out and about” (CT2). He might have had half an eye on Stephens’s job.
RCG1 notes that all the officers on duty after the riot were looking “none the worse”, and attributes this to the supposed evenhandedness of the rioters. Maybe the journalist was being kind. Maybe he didn’t see Pappin.
By 8am, the soldiers were parading about the streets, en route to their various billets (RCG1). In other words, they made sure as many people as possible knew the army was in town. Curtains twitched. Doors locked. Miners hurried to their shifts. Glances were exchanged.
We know that no shots were fired. No one was killed. But, in the riot’s aftermath, the townspeople can’t have known this. They had no idea what the Redcoats’ intentions were. Maybe they were on a watching brief. Maybe they’d been ordered to shoot on sight.
Whoever had a prominent role in yesterday’s events assumed the worst, and acted with discretion.
Camborne was put on lockdown that day. All the pubs were ordered closed, and probably a few shops remained shut as well (WB1, LFP). CT2 noted a “peaceful aspect” to the town.
Well, “shellshocked” might be a more accurate description. Shards of glass on the streets outside the Town Hall. The Reynolds Arms covered in graffiti and vandalised. Moor Street station a sorry wreck. Detritus of the events of yesterday spread over the streets. Soldiers tramping about. Taverns boarded up. Few people outdoors.
Come the afternoon, plainclothes policemen were abroad, poking about the place, hoping to identify rioters, engaging locals in conversation, hoping one of them would slip up. They didn’t have much joy. Who’d sought them out, where they’d come from, and who they were is a mystery (CT2).
Camborne also experienced an influx of the curious: visitors, having heard something of the previous day’s tumult, decided to come and see for themselves. Perhaps this is the first instance of the town as a tourist attraction. RCG1 said that these voyeurs had come with their ears ringing of greatly exaggerated tales of destruction and were ultimately disappointed by the spectacle on offer. They can only have been a nuisance to all concerned.
They didn’t hang around. The Redcoats, however, were to stay put until Saturday (CT2).
Nothing much happened on Wednesday and much of Thursday. Rumour replaced action. Gossip supplanted tension. Was anyone going to be arrested? Names were known? Who? Warrants had been issued? Who for? Who the hell talked? Who was paying for the damage? Were the police coming back? Were they going to swear in Special Constables? How long were the Redcoats staying? (WB1, RCG1, LFP, CT2.)
Camborne must have looked like a town under occupation by an enemy force, with soldiers guarding their respective billets, taking drills in the streets, patrolling the thoroughfares, or just eyeing the locals. But no “regrettable incidents” occurred.
By far the wildest (and most interesting) rumour was noted by WB2. Apparently the St Ives men had let it be known that they were ready to come to the aid of their brothers in arms from Camborne. Not only that, but Redruth’s men were ready to come out in force also, with the proviso that Camborne’s toughs aid them in dynamiting Redruth County Court, a building unpopular with miners thanks to “frequent summonses…for small debts”.
No rebellious horde from St Ives materialised. Redruth County Court wasn’t blown to smithereens, like a bank in a spaghetti western. No longer a court, it still stands, on Penryn Street. Cornwall never broke out in open revolt. This wasn’t 1497, and there was no An Gof.
Fantastical bravado? A tantalising opportunity for conjecture? Journalistic embellishment? Or a kernel of truth, somewhere in the bombast? Whoever the desperados from St Ives and Redruth may have been, they knew who their equivalents were in Camborne. Those wanting them brought to account didn’t.
Thursday, October 9th, 1873. The authorities, convening in the Town Hall with its “riddled” (CT2) windows, are clawing back control and normality. PC Burton, in what became one of his last duties as a policeman, with a colleague called on the principal townspeople and tradesmen, summoning them to be at the Town Hall by 4pm to be sworn in as Special Constables by the magistrates (CT2).
(The magistrates are listed in CT2 as Messrs W. B. Smith, G. L. Basset, W Harvey, C. W. Reynolds, and B. Mitchell. Col. Gilbert was also present.)
35 men were sworn in on the Thursday, and a further 28 on Friday. See the “Key Characters” page for some names. Their deputising was for a month, with instructions “to proceed instantly, in case of any outbreak, to the police-station in Moor-street…” (CT2). Clearly the authorities had little confidence in retaining order after the departure of the Redcoats.
A double-edged sword
On that Thursday, if not before, the magistrates realised they would be conducting two enquiries.
The first one was a straightforward man-hunt. Mission find-the-rioters. Hence, in the absence of a working police force and the imminent departure of the militia, the need for Special Constables. In regards to this investigation, CT2 optimistically reported that
There were no arrests late on Thursday evening, but they are hourly expected, and it is stated that a good many names of rioters are known.
Who stated this? How many rioters had been identified and, if so, who were they? Did the reporters ever ask these questions?
The second enquiry was a slightly more delicate affair. The authorities discovered they would have to be, to some extent, investigating themselves. The allegedly heavy-handed, tyrannical conduct of Camborne’s policemen couldn’t be brushed under the carpet.
CT2 tells us that a petition was presented to the magistrates, by Thomas Bishop, a mercer, and signed by himself and sixteen other tradesmen. Bishop and the undersigned were “very strongly” of the opinion that an inquiry should be made “as soon as practicable into the whole of the circumstances”. The circumstances they had in mind were:
i) The “unnecessarily harsh” dealings of the police “in this neighbourhood”;
ii) That the police have “apprehended persons when a summons would have been amply sufficient”; and
iii) The petitioners believed “that some prisoners have been improperly dealt with after being conveyed to the police-station”. Regarding all this,
We believe that some of the charges can be partially, if not wholly, substantiated.
The petition was the silk glove of respectability around the mob’s fist.
The magistrates must have looked at each other. The lower orders griping about the forces of law and order was nothing new, but respected tradespeople? The new middle classes, bastions of bourgeois Victorian society, rejecting the protection of their businesses granted by the new agency of law enforcement? The conclusion was obvious: the great majority of Camborne’s population had lost faith in the police.
Time to restore trust. Col. Gilbert gathered himself. He stated that he would
in a spirit of fairness…investigate any charge, and also the general charges, brought against the police.
Some of the complaints Gilbert heard were banal, petty even. Anyone with a minor grudge against the police weighed in with their gripes. For example, someone complained that a PC was alleged to have been “staring into the face of a master-mason and speaking impertinently” (CT2). Whatever next!
Come what may, Stephens was already out. Col. Gilbert had already sent for a new superintendent by Thursday (CT2).
A flavour of the intransigent nature of these proceedings can be ascertained from the swearing-in of Joseph Vivian, on Friday afternoon, reproduced here verbatim from CT2:
Capt. Joseph Vivian, jun., said he supposed he must be sworn, but he took the oath with considerable reluctance. There was a dreadful bad feeling amongst the miners and it would lend to their leaving the neighbourhood. Their migration was bad enough now – indeed men were going away as fast as they could – and these arrests would drive them away faster than ever.
Mr. T. Cornish (clerk to the magistrates):- That is no reason why you should not be sworn to assist in the preservation of the peace.
Capt. Vivian:- But I say the whole proceeding is unnecessary. The police have been most arbitrary in the discharge of their duties. How is it-
Capt. Bickford-Smith:- What is the object of your address?
Capt. Vivian:- The object of it is to justify my dislike to taking this oath, and to state that I do it under protest – in fact I would not do it at all were I not compelled to.
Mr. Cornish:- But you are compelled to. As to the police, were you in court yesterday when Col. Gilbert promised the fullest inquiry into their conduct?
Capt. Vivian:- No. But Burton and Stephens have done all this mischief. Burton was drummed out of the parish he left to come here, and there is not a man more disliked in the world than Stephens.
Capt. Smith:- Are you prepared to make any specific charge against any one?
Capt. Vivian:- Only this – one of the most respectable inhabitants of St Germans told me that Burton was drummed out of that parish.
Capt. Smith:- I don’t think that has anything to do with our efforts to preserve the peace in Camborne, or that we can recognise what has taken place elsewhere.
Capt. Vivian:- I think it has a great deal to do with it!
Friday, October 10, 1873. At the conclusion of the none-too smooth process of deputising townspeople, two handcuffed suspects were brought before the magistrates. This must have reassured them somewhat; the stresses of having to launch an internal investigation could now be tempered by the probability that some of those riotous lowlifes would be brought to book also.
James Kent, of Tuckingmill Foundry, and Cornelius Burns, “a tall youth of 19 or 20”, were the men in the dock (CT2). We’ve met them before. Kent allegedly flung the stone which felled Inspector Pappin and got cut down himself during the melee’, and Burns we know was identified as another stone-flinger.
Kent was asked if he needed a lawyer, him stubbornly answering “that he had not done anything so as to require one” (CT2). Burns said nothing, but must have looked pretty sullen. Eventually both secured professional aid, that of John R. Daniell, a lawyer from Camborne. Mr Budge, of Truro, appeared for the prosecution. They were charged with, on Tuesday October 7, in the parish of Camborne, having
been concerned in a riot, in which the windows of the Court-house, the police-station, and other houses were broken and several police-constables assaulted (CT2)
The wind still blew through the windows of the Court-house whilst the accused pleaded not guilty, then stood there, as various witnesses presented their testimonies, all of which were published in CT2.
Inspector George Pappin
It’s not recorded, regrettably, if Pappin’s head was still bandaged, or, for that matter, Kent’s. Did their eyes meet? Did the magistrates lean forward in anticipation of the inspector putting the finger on him? If they did, disappointment rapidly followed. Pappin stated that
I am a stranger to Camborne, and only knew a few of the mob…My men reached the narrow part of the street just outside Tyack’s hotel when we were surrounded. Stones flew in every direction and…I was struck senseless. When I recovered I found myself in Dr. Harris’s surgery.
At face value this is an honest, impartial testimony. Pappin didn’t know Kent from Adam, or anyone else in the crush, and he was rapidly knocked silly. He could have easily put Kent on the spot had he so wished. How impartial?
Pappin also stated that he and his brother officers “endeavoured to persuade the mob to cease from throwing stones”, and that he “ordered the advance of the police, so as to form a passage through the mob”. What methods of “persuasion” outnumbered, armed policemen used to form a passage through an aggressive press of men he neglects to mention, but we can draw our own conclusions.
In any case, Pappin’s assurances to the magistrates of him and his colleagues’ relatively peaceful procession in front of Tyack’s is contradicted by the statement of John Mills, a builder, which he presented to the bench on Saturday the 11th: Mills
…saw Pappin cut down Kent, and thought it a mistake. Pappin assured the court that he never struck man, woman, or child for the day.
Mills added that he was unable to identify any rioter. But he was able to identify Kent and Pappin, and someone struck down Kent after all! Perhaps, just perhaps, Pappin didn’t point out Kent because he wanted his own activities on the day airbrushed out. An internal investigation into allegations of police brutality was imminent, after all.
Currah was more forthright than Pappin. Police brutality or not, his act of striking down a youngster with his staff was done “right enough”. He then heard the alarm raised that Pappin had been “nearly killed” and ran to assist. The chaos of the riot in Market Square is evident in his words:
Stones repeatedly struck me…[the men] were scattered…We tried to gain the police-station…it was impossible to get there…We were powerless…driven in all directions…had to run to save their lives…
He did, he claimed, see the “two prisoners” in the crowd. Kent “was cut down”, and Currah observed that “I did not see either of them doing anything”, even though they were amongst a phalanx of stone-throwers.
Abraham was the landlord of Tyack’s, and therefore had a box seat for the battle in Market Place. Surely he, a local in a prime spot, would have seen, and been able to identify, any wrongdoers in the battle?
I did not see a man throw a stone for the day – boys and girls were the principal offenders. There was…ill-feeling…when [Kent] rose after being knocked down. Many children threw stones…It was difficult to identify anyone…I can’t identify either of the prisoners.
It might be argued that Abraham over-eggs it. No man threw a stone for the entire day? It’s also strange that he could identify Kent when he was knocked down, but was unable to identify the prisoners, one of whom was Kent after all. Abraham’s livelihood depended on the goodwill of the locals, and he wouldn’t have forgotten the fate of The Reynolds Arms in a hurry.
Opie, from Gwinear, had better eyesight than Abraham. He saw Kent, but he was doing “nothing”. He also saw Burns, and immediately contradicts Abraham when he says that
Burns threw a stone over another man’s head…in the direction of some constables. I don’t think it struck anyone. I called Burton’s attention to Burns.
Later, when Opie was hiding in a field from the mob, he saw Burns throw “a large stone wickedly”.
Finally! A suspect throwing a stone, albeit one flung loosely in the direction of some PCs which failed to find its mark. Is this “rioting”? Tenuous at best. And then Opie, hunkered down in a field, scared, listening to the threatening sounds of his pursuers. Did he really stick his head over the grassy parapet, and then at the same instant Burns supposedly heaved a generously-sized rock wickedly? Could a policeman from Gwinear identify two men from Camborne so positively?
Burton, we know, was not a popular man. He almost revels in his notoriety:
I was pelted with stones, at times very severely…[a crowd] shouted “Where is Burton? We’ll kill him!”
He makes no mention of the ambush he endured in the Redruth-Helston bus (LFP), but that he escaped a group of assailants courtesy of a lift in George Vawdrey’s carriage. He was eager to please the magistrates:
I can identify others when I see them, and I know any offenders well. I served the notices to close the public-houses by myself…
You might expect someone like Burton, then, who perhaps had an inkling that any investigation into police conduct may not go well for him, to be enthusiastic when telling what he knew of Kent and Burns. But not at all:
I saw Kent in Mr Abraham’s yard after he was knocked down – he was bleeding: he did not say he had done nothing.
Blank sheets of paper on the magistrates’ bench. Is it too early to suggest that exasperation might have been setting in?
Bowden was the PC who had been holed up in Moor Street when the mob arrived; beforehand he had experienced the capricious nature of the Camborne populace. Some cried to “Let him alone, it’s not him”, whilst more vicious souls shouted “Never mind who he is, give it him”. Bowden had previously been stationed at Camborne for three to four years, his regular beat now being St Erth. Even though he’d only been away from Camborne 16 months, he fails to name any rioter. He clearly never saw Kent or Burns, and couldn’t name anyone who he addressed at the station: “Some one said…The mob said…” Indeed, he couldn’t even name the other six officers besieged in the station with him.
Bowden’s testimony is perhaps of greater value to the historian than to the magistrates.
Bartlett saw the station shortly before lunchtime on Wednesday, so, like Bowden’s, his statement is of some import to us as a record of the destruction wrought on that building. All the windows were smashed, Stephens’s apartment was vandalised, other items of furniture had been hacked up and/or stolen, money stolen, clothing was missing (presumably taken for souvenirs), sticks and stones were everywhere, and the yard was a graveyard to Stephens’s cart. Ruination.
Unlike Bowden, though, Bartlett saw something of greater interest to the magistrates. He witnessed
Burns throw several stones…[Bartlett] told Burns he had better stop that, and prisoner replied “I have not thrown any stones”…[I] did not see whether the stones struck any one. Burns threw several stones after he was cautioned, and Kent threw several after the prisoners were gone.
Bartlett then came across Kent when his head was bleeding, and Kent said to Bartlett
This is a pretty state of things, policeman, you ought to stop it.
Kent may have been implying he’d been a bystander hit by a stray stone. Bartlett, doubtless affronted, replied,
Serve you right, you’ve pestered us with stones enough today.
Kent denied throwing anything, Bartlett maintained he had. (One wonders how many expletives Bartlett omitted in his statement.) This tit-for-tat might have continued indefinitely, had Bartlett not sprung to action to help Pappin up, who had just then been grounded by a stone. Therefore, in Bartlett’s version, Kent could never have injured Pappin, though he was allegedly seen throwing stones, as was Burns.
On that more encouraging note, it was decided to wrap things up for the evening, around 6pm, but not before two other promising pieces of news.
The new Superintendent
Henry Miller was announced in CT2 as the new police chief of Camborne. WB2’s journalist asked him, en route presumably, if he was fearful of entering the town. He replied that he was “perfectly confident there was not a man in Camborne that would hurt him “. Well, he had to say something positive, regardless of any personal reservations.
His appearance at Moor Street was greeted with “regular” applause (WB2). Regular isn’t exactly enthusiastic, and one wonders on the state of Miller’s new digs: it’s not recorded if any repairs to the station had been carried out.
It’s also not mentioned if the militia were nearby when Miller presented himself. They can’t have been far away.
James Bryant is arrested
Miller was earning his corn straightaway. James Bryant, a Dolcoath miner, 17, but a “tall stripling” who could pass for 20 (CT2), was arrested at Dolcoath by Miller, Captain Josiah Thomas, and another Special. Word was got to Bryant deep underground, and he took the option – or allowed himself to be persuaded – that ascent and surrender was the better choice. Otherwise, in the subterranean depths, he could lurk “undiscovered for months”, but CT2 reckoned this existence was probably worse than one in a prison cell. They were probably right – the hard place was better than the rock.
Saturday, October 11, 1873
11am. Bryant joined Kent and Burns in the dock. Daniell was representing all three men – Bryant too had pleaded not guilty. The statements continued, as recorded in CT2.
PC John Lyle
Lyle normally patrolled the streets of Ludgvan, but apparently knew Camborne and its inhabitants well. He “saw Kent in the Market Square throw a stone and strike a policeman”, and could identify others “by face though not by name”. His powers of observation were far superior to Michael Abraham’s, whose establishment, Tyack’s, overlooks Market Square.
The innkeeper of The Reynolds Arms must have wanted vengeance for the damage wrought on his business. Thus his statement is more fulsome than Abraham’s, but equally as curious, as we considered earlier. His pub, surrounded by two thousand people. When a member of this mob hammered on the door, Newming called out, “Who’s there?” To which the answer came as “George Pascoe”,
…and he knew the voice of George Pascoe, for he could identify it amongst ten thousand.
He didn’t need to; for some inexplicable reason George Pascoe had helpfully identified himself, at the head of a menacing mob, to the man whose property he was attempting to force entry. Newming however couldn’t identify the three men in the dock, but did say that Pascoe had cried out “Now boys, be at it” just before his pub door was kicked in and his place vandalised.
It’s not recorded, but the search for George Pascoe must have been on. Four suspects. Three thousand people had been out on the day of the riot. Could any more locals furnish some evidence?
Captain Josiah Thomas
I cannot recognise any rioter – I did not know one in 100, and the ones I know were not rioting.
Why, then, did he arrest one of his employees, Bryant?
Thomas Hutchinson, surgeon
I cannot identify anyone who was actually rioting.
Charles Corin, grocer
Could not give any information as to any one in the riot, for he didn’t know any one in the crowd…Boys mostly threw the stones…
Walter Pike, mine purser
Saw…a great deal of rioting…walked backwards and forwards through the crowd…saw a great many men…whom he could recognise…but they took no part in the rioting…
W. H. Rule, mine-broker
Saw…rioting in the Square, at the police-station, and at Newming’s, but could not give the Bench the name of any one who rioted.
I state that I did not know any of the rioters. I dressed the wound of the prisoner Kent.
Mrs Charity Newming, innkeeper’s wife
Saw…the crowd coming [to The Reynolds Arms] and locked the door…she thought she saw Bryant…but she could not swear positively.
The collective vagueness of the Camborne townspeople’s statements raises several questions. Did they know who the principal rioters were and neglect to name them out of disrespect to the authorities? Or, did they know but had been “got at”, or threatened, and sworn to silence before testifying? Or was the ominous display of strength by the mob enough to guarantee the staying of tongues?
Or was it more simple: maybe they genuinely didn’t know who the rioters were. Can we believe this? What did the magistrates believe? Was the wall of silence frustrating?
Benjamin Matthews, bank manager
Matthews did dare to name names, but with the proviso that “I cannot tell by name any one whom I saw rioting”. He names Pascoe, a “shoemaker”, and a shadowy youth called Pidwell, whom he both saw throwing stones.
Nothing more is known about Pidwell. But the 1871 census lists a George Pascoe as a cobbler on Union Street: this has to be the same George Pascoe identified by William Newming.
Perhaps George Pascoe was a key figure in the riots. Perhaps he knew he was in trouble. Which is why he, and Pidwell, notes CT2, had already absconded. But for how long did they skip town? By the 1881 census, George Pascoe was back in Camborne, on Union Street.
He and Pidwell, whoever Pidwell was, were never brought to trial.
Bryant is acquitted
John R. Daniell, counsel for the defence, must have heard enough. He stated that, when Mrs Newming “thought” she saw Bryant running towards The Reynolds Arms, he had in fact been at 230 fathom in Dolcoath (that’s four hundred metres underground) until 6pm, and “was quietly engaged” at home until going to bed at 9.30. To a round of applause, Daniell “asked for Bryant’s immediate discharge”.
The magistrates, one imagines, gave each other resigned looks. They had nothing on Bryant. He was let off, to yet more applause from those observing. Whether the crowd was at all loud and raucous, isn’t recorded. Probably attendance was wisely kept to a minimum.
One down, two to go. Daniell must have sensed he had the whip hand.
Daniell stood before the Bench and stated, with calm authority,
…that there was a tittle of evidence against Burns…[and] no case whatever to go to a jury as against Kent…in the confusion and excitement, it was most unlikely that Bartlett saw Kent throw stones. P.C. Lyle…was labouring under a misapprehension [when he thought Kent was throwing stones].
To “set up a reasonable doubt” as regarding whether or not Kent did in fact throw a stone which knocked down a policeman, Daniell called his star witness.
William Bailey, accountant
Bailey claimed he knew Kent well, and even claimed he saw him in the crowd by Tyack’s (and Kent must have been there, enough people saw him). However, Bailey “did not see him take any part in the riot”, and Bailey should know, he was standing beside Kent at the crucial moment:
…a stone flew between witness [Bailey] and Kent from some one behind them. It hit a policeman’s helmet, and a constable stepped forward and struck Kent twice over the head with his staff. Witness at once exclaimed that the policeman had struck the wrong man…Kent…had no stone in his hand…witness did not see P.C. Bartlett speak to him at all.
Others vouched for Kent. John Mills, quoted earlier, thought like Bailey that the coshing of Kent was an error. Then John Wales, butcher; William Pascoe, clerk; Stephen Williams, agent; William Henry Tangye, mine agent. All were examined. None of them saw Kent riot, nor any policeman speak to him.
Kent’s gaffer at Tuckingmill Foundry, Captain Charles Thomas, was also called, and “gave him an excellent character”. Needless to say, he didn’t see him rioting either.
There could only be one decision. The Bench was out for forty-five minutes before bowing to the inevitable. Both men were discharged. The manhunt for the rioters had failed. Now they were going to have to investigate their own. It must have been hard to stomach. Against Kent the evidence was “insufficient” at best. Burns they couldn’t convict for “the serious offence of rioting”: he’d thrown a stone or two, that was all. There must have been applause, though it went unmentioned. The magistrates, however, tried to have the last word:
The BENCH was sorry to observe the unwillingness of all classes to furnish information as to the real offenders, but hoped others would come forward to assist in the detection and punishment of the rioters.
This sentiment was echoed by Sir Colman Rashleigh, JP for Cornwall, when he addressed the Grand Jury concerning the riots:
Not a single person has been punished for the offence, nor does there appear at present any likelihood of their being so (WB2).
No one was ever convicted for the rioting, in Camborne, back in October, 1873.
The level of complicity between ordinary townspeople and the actual rioters has never been proven either. But the magistrates, obviously, had their suspicions. So must we.
The Camborne Police Force, on the other hand, didn’t get off so lightly. By October 18, 1873,
…with reference to the late Camborne riots, the Chief Constable of Cornwall has decided upon careful inquiry that the police exceeded their duty. All the men will be removed.
This from The London Graphic of the same date, p363. Similar was recorded in RCG2. The “Key Characters” section makes it clear that all the Camborne constables were either transferred to another district, or thrown off the force.
Supt. Stephens’s conduct came in for much opprobrium. The magistrates had to report on the riots to the Home Secretary, Robert Lowe. Stephens shouldered practically all the blame for “the cause of the outbreak” and, in deserting his post, the failure of the riot’s “suppression” also (WB2).
Though its journalist admits to being “wise after the event”, WB2 gives a clear-headed analysis of how the riot spiralled out of control. It was not lack of men, but “lack of leaders”.
Stephens had escaped Camborne before the serious business kicked off. Col. Gilbert went to Bodmin with the Bawden brothers, though he returned by the evening. The various magistrates, barring Bickford-Smith, returned to their homes.
The Camborne force was without guidance. So why not swear in Special Constables on the day of the riot? Writes WB2,
…there is the obvious reply that if a disciplined force was useless without leaders, what would have been the efficiency of a number of inhabitants, some of whom, when they came to be sworn, did so under protest, because of their objection to the conduct of the police, if not sympathy with the doings of the mob.
Why not send for the military earlier then?
Such an extreme measure is only justifiable under the most pressing circumstances, and before resorting to it, it is usual for the chief of police to notify to the magistrates that the force under his command was in his estimation insufficient for the maintenance of the peace.
While the riot was going full gas, the chief of police, Gilbert, was in Bodmin, unaware of the seriousness of the situation.
And, as for the question of the non-reading of the Riot Act,
To threaten a man with pains and penalties which you have no power to inflict is only to play the part of a fool. When the Riot Act is read there must be a force ready to act, and in this case there was none.
So there you have it. The matter was “now in the hands of the Home Secretary”. WB2’s reporter was hoping for a Government enquiry into the events, which must also include special praise for the conduct of Bickford-Smith, who indeed frequently put himself in harm’s way and did all within his power to quell the tumult. “Should such an enquiry take place”, continues WB2,
…it should go further and enquire into the whole police system. People are beginning to have grave doubts that the police force of the country is becoming too military, and in more senses of the word than one is not sufficiently civil.
It hardly needs saying, but how often have we heard similar sentiments expressed?
But it seems the Home Secretary did nothing. The Standard (London) of 21 November 1873 tells us that the Secretary, Mr Lowe, “declined to accede to the prayer of a petition for remission of the sentences passed on the Camborne rioters” (p3). As no rioters were ever sentenced, this can only refer to the Bawden brothers.