The Riots

Bad news travels fast

Whilst the Bawdens sweated in their cells on Moor Street and the grapevine thrummed with tales of police brutality, a date and location for their trial was set. CT1 states that the hearing was to be on Monday the 6th, in Redruth. It never took place.

Before the Bawdens could be taken from the station and conveyed to their trial, a large, angry, and intimidating crowd gathered at Moor Street. How many were present is unclear, but it must have been sufficiently large and sufficiently threatening to suggest to the outnumbered officers inside the station that attempting to get the prisoners to their trial was a risky proposition. William Bickford-Smith, local magistrate and JP for Cornwall, wisely diffused the situation, resetting the trial for Tuesday, to be held in the courtrooms of Camborne Town Hall (CT1). Whether he addressed, and pacified, the crowd with this decision is unknown.

It was at this point that the authorities realised something was badly wrong. This trial was going to be unpopular. The townspeople were angry. Matters might get out of hand. A few heads might be broken. Thus forewarned, someone (and we’re never sure who, but it was probably Bickford-Smith, who would have had the necessary clout to do so) decided it was best to be forearmed too:

A disturbance being apprehended, Col. Gilbert, the Chief Constable, was communicated with, and all the policemen immediately available were despatched to Camborne (WB1).

Numbers vary, but by Monday night, between thirty and fifty police officers were present in the town, to bolster the Camborne force. Colonel Gilbert was their commander (WB1, RCG1). They must have been briefed to expect trouble. Were they there to intimidate, or antagonise?

Tuesday, October 7, 1873

11am. WB1 estimated that three thousand people lined the roads from Moor Street to Trelowarren Street. If Camborne’s total population in 1873 was around 15,000 (see the “Background” page), then a fifth of its inhabitants were out that morning. And this was no peaceful protest. These people were armed with whatever came to hand, if CT1’s correspondent is reliable. He further observes that all the shops in this part of town were closed, boarded up.

Trouble was brewing. And it’s not even high noon.

Shortly after 11am, Supt. Stephens’s conveyance, flanked by thirty or so policemen who were guarding the shackled Bawden brothers, arrived in Market Place, where the Town Hall is situated. It can’t have been a particularly edifying walk; CT1 and WB1 report that, while no attempt at a rescue was made or any missiles thrown (yet), the procession endured all manner of taunts, insults, and shouts. A slow walk of a half mile through a baying mob of several thousand crudely armed, angry locals. The reinforcements must’ve wondered what they’d signed up for.

Somehow, the majority of this party entered the Town Hall, yet a dozen or so policemen are left on guard out the front. What they’d done to deserve this is anyone’s guess. Although WB1 observes they were armed, the same could be said of the populace, who let them have it. Abuse and stones were hurled their way, constantly. Sgt. Currah, one of those unfortunate enough to be part of this little detachment, later testified to be frequently hit by stones, but also said, curiously, that the crowd “did not want to hurt strange policemen”. He said their wish-list was stated to him as including Burton, Stephens, Bartlett and Osborne (CT2). However, failing their appearance, it seems the mob took out their frustration wantonly on any policeman. PC Bartlett also claimed to have been on guard and hit by stones, and PC Opie saw plenty of missiles being heaved about too (CT2).

Mrs Gamp

Picture the scene. Twelve besieged policmen, ducking and wincing as rocks, stones, and god knows what rattle into the doors above their heads. Every now and then a missile finds its target, which doubtless gets a hearty, malicious cheer from the hundreds of onlookers near Town Hall. Loud abuse and mockery accompany the physical threat. Further back, people chewed the fat over the “stories of wrongs at official hands” of Mrs Bennetts and the Bawdens. By repetition, “nothing was lost”. Inside Market Place there was a “seething of the cauldron soon to boil over” (CT2).

WB1 records a “serious disturbance” when, on his arrival in an unguarded van provided by John Clemo (who the census lists as a van proprieter on Chapel St), the wretched PC Harris was set upon by an old lady with an umbrella. CT2 notes she wished “she were a man to follow up her Gamp-like assault by her fists”. Both ‘papers record that male assistance from the crowd quickly came to her aid, and that Harris endured yet another hiding.

Harris was rescued by none other than Bickford-Smith, who acted in an “heroic manner”, and took a stone over the eye for his troubles. At or around this time, Richard Holloway, counsel for the prosecution, was hit by a rock also (WB1).

The situation, then, whilst the trial was in progress, was deteriorating. The crowd was becoming increasingly emboldened.

So why wasn’t the Riot Act read?

The Riot Act

If read, it meant that any group of twelve or more persons gathered for unlawful purposes could be ordered to disperse within an hour. If they did not, physical force was authorised to be used against them; any injuries or deaths committed by the forces of law and order while the Act was in force were indemnified against legal consequences, and any rioters arrested faced harsh sentences. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riot_Act

With the benefit of hindsight, WB1’s “County Notes” criticises the authorities: “They might have proceeded further, by swearing in special constables and reading the Riot Act”. RCG1 and CT2 reach similar verdicts, with RCG1 offering a caveat that many would have refused to be sworn at all, as “prejudice against the police force was by no means confined to working miners”.

So why wasn’t it read? There are several instances of the Riot Act’s successful deployment, along with the use of Special Constables, in Cornwall’s history (see John Rowe, Cornwall in the Age of the Industrial Revolution. Second revised edition. Cornish Hillside Publications, 1993, p103-5, 142-3). But these measures were extreme, and came at a cost. As John Rowe observes, “the fear that judicial prosecutions and punishments might only provoke worse incidents was a powerful deterrent to the gentry” (p105), and E.P. Thompson in Customs in Common makes a similar claim (p240-1). Bickford-Smith lived in Camborne and knew the character of the town; he would have also had to live with the fallout from any fatalities, convictions, and mass resentment a reading of the Riot Act would have incurred. The last thing he would have wanted was to make a bad situation worse – if he’d made the wrong call, today history books might have made mention of the “Camborne Massacre”, as well as the Peterloo Massacre. Allied to that, his forces were obviously vastly outnumbered, the populace were reluctant to aid the police and, as we shall see, by the time the “true” riot began, he was the only figure of authority left in the town: even if he had proclaimed the Riot Act, he had no one with which to enforce it. The policemen were left leaderless and scattered, and the military was hours away in Plymouth. Bickford-Smith’s situation was rapidly becoming an impossible one, and that he emerged with credit from the disturbances says something about the man, and was recognised at the time. WB2 observes that he “did all he could to restore quietness”. For the Peterloo Massacre (and some other instances of civilians being killed by the militia) see Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution 1789-1848, Abacus, 1977, p257.

Acts of a riotous nature

The case lasted for three hours and a half, and during the whole of this time the Market Place was so full of people that ingress to and egress from the magistrates’ hall were exceedingly difficult. Indeed, it was very dangerous to be anywhere near, for stones were thrown and sticks used with great freedom (RCG1)

One of the people who braved the gauntlet to give evidence was Anthony Cock. RCG1’s reporter also records the “sensation” in the court room caused by his testimony that the unresisting Bawdens were assaulted when inside the station; and while the journalist dismisses this alleged illegal conduct as “improbable”, perhaps “ninety-nine out of every hundred persons in the crowd” believed Cock, including many tradesmen.

Supt. Stephens’s evidence was thrown out on a technicality. He refused to leave the court when all the witnesses were ordered out, and the defence quickly protested against his evidence being taken. After some “smart repartee” between the opposing lawyers, Stephens, and his statement, was dismissed (WB1, RCG1).

The crowd were becoming aware that the trial was drawing to a conclusion. Not only this, but it wasn’t looking good for the Bawdens. Hodge, Luke, Goninan, Sowden and Richards had all testified in the brothers’ favour, Cock had sworn on the Bible they’d been assaulted when under arrest, but to no avail. The “mob had become more daring and excited…and probably contemplated a rescue” (WB1). And this desperation wasn’t merely confined to the tinners. As observed earlier, Camborne was united in its prejudice against the police.

I’d love to write that the Town Hall was stormed like a Cornish Bastille, the Bawdens set at liberty, and the authorities thoroughly routed. But it didn’t happen like that.

4pm. Suddenly the doors of the Town Hall fly open, and out rush a half dozen PCs. Joined with the heavily battered group already outside, and no doubt screaming like banshees and waving their staves, they fall on the crowd. Taken by surprise, the mob falls back but rapidly regroups to recommence hurling stones at their assailants (WB1, CT1).

But this is only a feint, a bluff, a distraction. The wily Col. Gilbert sent the officers out the front whilst, quietly and around the rear of the Town Hall, the now-sentenced Bawden brothers, with Gilbert, are slipped away in a carriage, up to Treswithian Turnpike and on to Bodmin Gaol (RCG1, LFP). Consult the “Key Characters” page to learn of their fate.

Church Street leading to Market Street, c1900. The Town Hall is on the right, showing the entrance which the constables would have guarded, and where they would have charged from, under a hail of rocks. The carriage on the right of the picture illustrates the direction the Bawdens would have been conveyed after the trial. Image courtesy Kresen Kernow, ref. corn05070

Sgt. Currah was involved in the subterfuge; when confronted with bal-maidens (female mine employees) launching stones at him, he claimed to have told them, “For shame, young women; if you were men I’d cut you down” (CT2). Currah was a man of his word; when he saw a “tall youth in dark clothes and a billycock hat who was also throwing stones”, he “cut him down with my staff, right enough” (CT2). There were around fifteen other officers in the crowd, doing similar things.

Bal maidens, from the Camborne area, c1908. Probably handy with a rock. Image courtesy Kresen Kernow, ref. corn00363

Richard Holloway, prosecuting, must have realised that the man who’d sent the Bawdens to prison and come from Redruth to do so was in serious danger; he took no chances and escaped by running through a garden and climbing a wall (CT2).

Where’s Supt. Stephens? He was briefly seen by the open doors of the Town Hall, but beat a hasty retreat when met with “a yell and a discharge of stones” (CT2). This was the last anyone in Camborne saw of their hated police chief. He escaped, with the badly injured Harris, in a van borrowed, or hired, from Abraham, the landlord of Tyacks (WB1). In short, he abandoned his post, and his men. This led WB2 to denounce him as “great a coward as he was a tyrant”. (Stephens was later examined by a GP in Hayle, George Vawdrey, who described him as “delirious” and in shock (CT2).)

From this point on, the police in Camborne were leaderless, with only a handful of constables familiar with the town, maybe as few as six out of the fifty present, reckoned WB1. Their reporter believed that, had Stephens stayed, “he would have lost his life”.

Positively dreadful

After this first skirmish it became quickly apparent that the Bawdens were already halfway to Bodmin and beyond the reach of any rescue. This outraged the masses assembled outside the Town Hall, and, their blood up, let out a yell in unison that was “positively dreadful” (CT2). What followed can only be described as carnage.

Toughing it out in the Town Hall was quickly abandoned as unfeasible for the besieged, injured, and debilitated police force. Youths and mine girls in their dozens destroyed the windows of the Hall with stones, showering shattered glass over those cowering inside (WB1). These apprentice rioters, notes WB1, “intimated in wantonness what their elders had done in vexation…” In other words, when they saw their elders having a grand old time fighting the forces of authority and vandalising property, they decided to join in. Maybe they were told to; maybe they needed no encouragement.

The beleaguered officers had no choice but to make a run for it to the relative sanctity of Moor Street station. And this meant charging through an armed mob thousands strong under a hail of rocks. Gathering themselves (and any weapons), they hurtled out of the Town Hall and met the townspeople head on. Staves striking flesh. Stones finding their mark. Screams of pain and anguish. Grunts of masculine effort. Fists pounding faces. Claret spilled. This maelstrom of a brawl continued up Market Place and into Trelowarren Street; nowadays we would identify it as having happened between The White Hart, JJ Kebab, and USA Chicken (WB1).

Market Square, 1905, where the pitched battle took place. Tyacks Hotel is just out of shot on the right. The remaining policemen would have charged up here in an attempt to reach the station on Moor Street. Image courtesy Kresen Kernow, ref. corn05068

Bonnetted

Here and there, through the haze of battle, individuals can be discerned. Inspector Pappin, pressganged into coming to Camborne that day (and probably regretting it), was struck on the head by a rock. His alleged assailant, a man called James Kent (and more on him later), felt the full force of law and order when Pappin cracked him one in retaliation over the face with his stick (CT2). Similar instances must have happened all over. Dr Angove, who seems to have set up some kind of field station on the fly in the yard of Tyacks, tended to Kent’s bleeding head. PC Bartlett showed no sympathy whatsoever to Kent, telling him his injury served him right for throwing stones (CT2).

Bartlett later stated he cautioned another youth for throwing stones, one Cornelius Burns, which Burns denied (CT2). Like Kent, Burns appears again in the story.

Bartlett then ducked down Centenary Street, where he was met by what he later estimated to be over a thousand people, who shouted in unison,

Here’s one: we’ll kill the b____r. That’s Bartlett (CT2)

Being a Camborne man, Bartlett knew the streets and was able to get away and hide.

Sgt Bowden (or Bawden, according to some newspaper sources) stated that he was the last to leave the Town Hall, at around 5pm. He said, with brilliant understatement, that there was “plenty of company” (CT2). Bowden may well have been the officer who “hewed his way through the maze” (CT2) with his stave, scattering rioters left and right with heavy blows. Who he hit, how hard, and what damage he caused is unknown. This man was soon felled by a burly miner of similar pugilistic accomplishment. Bowden was formerly an officer in Camborne before transferring to St Erth, and enjoyed a certain reputation amongst the locals. RCG1 reckons he was “never interfered with in the streets”, which might be taken to read that he was physically intimidating enough to be only interfered with by people of an equal stature, rather than his safety being guaranteed by any sentimental memories the populace might have had of him.

PC Oliver’s normal beat was Devoran. He must have harboured no fond memories of his day in Camborne. After escaping from the Town Hall he either had no idea where the station was, or decided it was all too dicey for him to make it there unscathed, so he hid in a van. Badly. He was quickly spotted, dragged from his hiding place, and given a thrashing by an unidentified gang of brutes. Somehow he got to the friendly house of Walter Pike, a mine purser originally from London, and now living on Basset Street, according to the 1871 census (WB1, CT1). (Pike features later.) Oliver then made his escape from the town, and was later examined by George Vawdrey in Hayle. His injuries were chilling. Oliver was concussed, and had a heavily bruised back, legs and shoulders. One leg was lame, and an eyeball was seriously inflamed. It was Vawdrey’s learned opinion that the man was lucky to be alive (CT2).

Another, anonymous, policeman was found hiding under a bed in an upstairs room of a restaurant by members of the mob. He was dragged out, screaming one imagines, and beaten up in the street.

PC Opie, stationed at Gwinear, “like the Second Charles, took refuge in a tree”, according to RCG1. Opie himself later downplays this in his statement, saying he hid in a field. Opie’s evasive action, wherever it was, meant he got out relatively unscathed (RCG1, CT2).

PC Dingle, from Hayle, suffered several blows but, like PC Oliver coming across Walter Pike, proved that not all residents of Camborne were out for policemen’s blood. He was given shelter in a private house, whose owner repelled any assailants of his charge by the simple and effective expedient of standing in his doorway, and brandishing an axe (RCG1).

These were either acts of genuine charity, or the realisation by some of the more forward thinking residents in Camborne that, the more serious the damage suffered by the police force, could result in even more draconian measures levelled at the populace as a whole.

Opie later came to Dingle’s rescue (who to me actually sounds quite safe, protected by a man armed with a filthy great cleaver), and they both ran across the railway line at the top of Basset Street, taking cover in a goods shed (CT2).

PC Lyle, from Ludgvan, was another to escape lightly. He ran down Fore Street and Vyvyan Row, in the opposite direction to the epicentre of the riot, and made a roundabout route to Moor Street (CT2).

Sgt Currah and three companions were fortunate enough to come across Captain Josiah Thomas on the streets. Thomas was the manager of Dolcoath Mine and a highly respected figure; he advised against the men making for Moor Street, as the rioters were certain to target it. They thanked him (profusely, one suspects), and made their escape.

And so it went on. Eight PCs ran down Gas Street, pursued by a large number of attackers. So desperate were they to make their escape, the officers nobly abandoned two of the slowest among them to their fate; one of whom, alleges CT1, fought off two hundred rioters with his stave. They dashed pell mell through a cobbler’s shop – one can picture them upending stock in their panic, the stooped, bespectacled cobbler narrowing his eyes at the intrusion – and got to Moor Street.

PC Burton was one of the Camborne officers and so detested the mob is said to have demanded “severe treatment” for him (WB1). He got it. Thomas Hutchinson, a surgeon, advised him to escape to Redruth on the Redruth-Helston conveyance. Hutchinson even went so far as to advise the driver to take an alternative, quieter route. At least, that’s what LFP reports Hutchinson did. The carriage was rapidly suspected of harbouring a policeman. The carriage was halted, Burton was found on board. The carriage was badly stoned and its windows smashed. Burton was dragged out. Burton was given a hammering. He then escaped, to the Railway Inn, where he was once more discovered, by a different group, and the pub’s windows destroyed, he again manhandled into the street and battered (LFP, WB1).

Burton was described in RCG1 as being badly beaten about the body and cut on the head.

Thomas Hutchinson elsewhere stated that he had “spoke to several miners…and pointed out the impropriety of rioting” (CT2). Well, so he said. Obviously little heed was taken of his advice.

Another PC, possibly from Gwinear, bumped into a more agreeable group of rioters and was able to joke his way out of trouble. His ability to make his enemies laugh (did he crack one about Supt. Stephens?) was rewarded with him being able to go on “unmolested” (LFP).

Other officers who names have come down to us are PCs Manhire, Basher, Hill, Mitchell, and Skewis. All were assaulted or injured in some way (RCG1).

Disarray

What can we make of all this? Quite simply, the Camborne force was in complete disarray. They didn’t know whether to make for Moor Street or quit the town completely. Several of them obviously weren’t sure how to get back to the station. They couldn’t be sure if anyone they came across was going to attack them or offer them shelter, or, if their erstwhile protector might have a change of heart and turn them over to the rioters. Every bend in the road, every new street, might result in fresh dangers. They can’t have been aware of the fates of their colleagues, if, indeed, they knew who their colleagues on the day actually were.

And, to be honest, we don’t actually know who all the policemen were either. We only know the names of those mentioned in the ‘papers: Stephens, Burton, Osborne, Harris, Bartlett and Nicholls from Camborne; Pappin, Currah, Bowden, Treberry, Dingle, Lyle, Hill, Opie, Oliver, Manhire, Skewis, Basher and Mitchell from elsewhere. Six Camborne men, thirteen reinforcements: if there was as many as fifty additional constables in the town that day, that means the fate of possibly thirty-seven officers are unknown. Maybe they all escaped; maybe some got back to Moor Street. Maybe they all fought like demons on the streets. God knows what punishment they might have dished out. Maybe they were all victims of the rioters’ wrath. Who knows what punishment they endured? We’ll just never know.

None of the rioters, obviously, gave statements to the press or anyone else. Alas, we’ll never know who they were, simply because none of them were caught. No CCTVs or mobile phones captured any footage for posterity. We only have the statements given in court by the police officers, the more well-to-do townspeople, and the opinions of the press, which were inevitably hostile. WB1, for example, described the riot as “disgraceful and desperate”, regardless of the alleged wrongdoings of the police force.

But, on the whole, the people of Camborne were sick of their policemen. They wanted them kicked out of town. And in this, they were victorious. They’d taken back the streets. Their opponents were completely down and out. CT1 notes that, at one point, a policeman’s helmet was jammed onto a stick or broomhandle and paraded about the place, in celebration. (Few riots or popular disturbances in 18th and 19th century England were seemingly without this trope: that of the object of the mob’s anger being symbolically paraded before them, be it a loaf of bread or ear of corn in a food riot or, as here, a policeman’s helmet. See E. P. Thompson, Customs in Common, 1991, p257.)

WB1 grudgingly concedes:

…the whole town, was from about five o’clock in the afternoon until about four o’clock the following morning at the mercy of the mob.

To the victors, the spoils

The detested station on Moor Street was next. Like a Norman keep oppressing the Saxon peasants in its shadow, the capture and ownership of this building must have represented to the rioters the final transfer of authority and justice in Camborne from the police to themselves. Think of the animals entering Jones’s cottage in Animal Farm; and, like Napoleon, Boxer, and their cohorts, the mob quite simply trashed the place.

Hundreds would have gathered here in the early evening, hundreds of armed, breathless, slightly battered figures, fresh with the arrogance of victory. Anything’s possible. They would have shouted insults, waved their weapons, issued threats, and made earthy jokes. Surely there would have been ringleaders, locals, hard characters. Surely their names would have been known. And it’s just as sure that their names will never be discovered. But they were there.

8pm, or probably from around 6pm (WB1). The walls were scaled, the gates opened from the inside. The windows at the front of the station were smashed. The doors to the stables were broken up. A trap, identified in LFP as belonging to Stephens (and the chances of him returning to collect it were slim), was dragged out and paraded by a detachment of the mob through the streets of Camborne. It was then summarily smashed and hacked to pieces, the debris littering the roads.

Cowering inside, watching the degradation, was Sgt Bowden, seven other PCs who he only describes as “strangers” (CT2), Bowden’s wife, and the spouses of Stephens, Burton, and Bartlett. The women, Bowden said, were scared witless. Bowden and his colleagues can’t have felt too clever either. Hysterical women, screaming and sobbing. Glass smashing. Shouts. The knowledge that the uncountable mass outside wish you ill. Bowden also said, as recorded by CT2, that the PCs understandably wanted to escape, with Bowden talking them down, allegedly saying “it would never do to leave the women”. Well, he was married to one of them after all, and surely the thought of leaving females (and wives of brother officers at that) to the mercy of a gang of rioters would be unthinkable for a policeman!

As the senior officer, he had to act, though his superiors hadn’t dealt him a generous hand, and he addressed the mob from a (broken) window. (Whether his colleagues urged him to, or the women entreated him, or the throng outside threatened him, Bowden never said.) Negotiations followed. Deals were struck. But this was gunboat diplomacy. The multitude made their usual (claimed Bowden) demand that they wanted to “murder” (CT2) Stephens, Burton, Bartlett and Osborne, but it was agreed on that the men, women, and the station’s sole prisoner, an unidentified woman from Gwinear, could leave the building with safe passage…but Moor Street Station was the mob’s (CT2). Who was their spokesperson?

The women, gingerly picking their way through a forest of armed brutes, one or two of them snivelling. The men, beaten, heads down, deserting their post, maybe jumping aside from the occasional prod with a piece of lumber, or pretending not to hear a crude jibe (it must be said no ‘paper makes mention of any ill-intentions on the part of the mob toward the officers’ wives, and no doubt would have done if there had been, so their behaviour in this instance must have been sound). The prisoner from Gwinear, scarcely believing her luck, melting away.

One officer was fool enough to be drawn in to this uneasy truce. On being given assurances that, if he did so, he wouldn’t be assaulted, he removed and handed over his police jacket. Emasculated, a rabble fell on this hapless individual and dealt him sound punishment (LFP). That his colleagues failed to come to his rescue goes to show how thoroughly distraught they must have been.

And the truce was incredibly uneasy. It can only have lasted minutes. Upon their leaving the station (it’s unclear where the women went), the officers were given chase by a second horde of rioters, whom, Bowden believed, had been involved in wrecking Stephens’s cart (CT2). One of these officers was later discovered in Trelowarren Street, beaten unconscious, lying on the ground, amidst the kindling that had been made of the Superintendent’s conveyance. He was carried to a surgery (WB1). Bowden himself was threatened almost immediately he handed over the keys to the station, and was spirited to a safehouse (CT2).

WB1 is stating the obvious when it says that “violence offered to members of the force not usually stationed at Camborne was prompted…because they represented the same power”. Come one, come all. It’s equally obvious that, with every success the mob enjoyed, it encouraged them to further outrages. At 11am that day, no one dared attack the force as they paraded the Bawdens through the streets. By the evening, anarchy reigned.

The interior of Moor Street was completely vandalised, reported WB1. Furniture destroyed, clocks smashed…there isn’t much detail, but we can imagine the rampage of the mob through the building. Anything and everything must have been fair game for ruination. Money and belongings of the Bawdens were recovered. The mob must have been jubilant. Camborne was theirs.

Not quite. Bickford-Smith suddenly appeared at the entrance of the station, CT2 noting this flagrant “exposure to danger” by the JP. We can go further and say it must have taken real balls on his part to do this, with his town and men ripped to shreds in just a few short hours. The residue of his authority, and undoubted courage, must have protected him, but his attempt to justify to the rioters the court’s decision on sentencing the Bawdens must have fallen on deaf ears. Maybe a person in the throng justified their taking the law into their own hands, but what the rioters said to the JP (if anything) went unrecorded.

The Reynolds Arms

At a similar time to all this happening on Moor Street, a pub, The Reynolds Arms, on the corner of Trevenson Street and Stray Park, was receiving unwelcome attention. In fact, it appears to have been on the rioters hit-list for most of the afternoon. CT2 carries the statement of the landlord, William Newming, who paints himself in a rather heroic light.

Upon returning to his pub at half four (he doesn’t say where he’d been), he discovered the windows of his alehouse smashed and surrounded by children. What he said to them, what the brats said to him (wasn’t us, mister…), or how he shooed them off, isn’t clear. However, come 6pm a multitude of, in Newming’s estimation, two thousand people, were gathered outside the pub. They demanded that Newming hand over to them the PC hiding in the building or, quite simply, “we’ll murder you”.

Newming, so he said, refused, and comforted his terrified wife and niece. Whether a policeman had even been anywhere near The Reynolds Arms that day is never mentioned.

Time passes. It’s about 7pm now. Suddenly Newming hears the voice of a man he identified as George Pascoe, which he’d know “amongst ten thousand” demand entry to the pub, and then, alleged Newming, he heard Pascoe say “Now boys, be at it”.

(Newming made these statements at the trial of the suspected rioters. As we shall see, George Pascoe didn’t stand in the dock at this trial.)

Suddenly, the door was charged down, and a gang of men surged into the tavern. A man hit Newming with a stick, while another tried to whale him with an iron bar. Somehow uninjured and unimpeded, Newming then ran upstairs for his gun, but, he said, the door to the room containing said gun was locked. Really? Why didn’t he, therefore, have a key? Did he even own a gun? If he did, might he have threatened its use before the mob forced entry? So, armed with only a poker, he ran back downstairs to tackle twenty armed rioters (presumably the rest of the two thousand are still outside), who were still baying for the illusive PC. Newming remained defiant, and his bar was broken up, he himself being coshed. Presumably his wife and niece remained hidden.

WB1 notes that, besides the bar being smashed, a barrel of ale was dragged outside to provide some welcome refreshment for the multitude. Some enterprising young spark decided to daub the exterior of the pub with the following legend:

A Camborne mob, its mark (CT2)

Perhaps this was a warning: shelter the police, and we’ll get you. The attack on The Reynolds Arms perhaps justifies the “County Notes” statement in WB2 that some of the community feared reprisals if they shopped any rioters. Against this it must be said that while most of the population was hostile toward the police, and indeed though The Reynolds was sacked, there was no mob “reign of terror” (RCG1). There was no random looting or sacking of buildings. The only reign of terror was the one exacted against the police.

Night shift

As night fell over Camborne, the reporting becomes less accurate. WB1 has it that three hundred people went to Bickford-Smith’s residence late on Tuesday night, with decidedly vague intentions. This same rabble apparently visited George Smith’s (the lieutenant of the local volunteers) house where, somehow, he harangued all 300 of them off. RCG1’s reporter believed Smith was actually at Bickford-Smith’s house. The mob, continues WB1, then tore the railings off the house of C. W. Reynolds, a magistrate who’d been present at the trial. RCG1 was informed by the police, however, that the railings weren’t forcibly removed – but LFP and CT2 reports they were. Who knows? The police force, if there was one, must have been a shambles in the short days after the riot (RCG1 hit the newsagents on October 11), and any information from that quarter must be treated with suspicion. Then again, picture three hundred people hacking and sawing away at some iron railings in the dead of night – surely smashing a magistrate’s windows would have been an easier way of making feelings felt?

Some other rioters (or maybe the same group, considering the short distance from Bickford-Smith’s house on Beacon Hill) were said to have gathered at the railway station expecting soldiers to arrive from Plymouth, but when none appeared, they left. This obscure group can’t have been very resolved, or observant, for it seems several PCs spent the night sleeping (probably in much discomfort and fear), near the station or under the railway arch (WB1). If the mob did go to both Bickford-Smith’s house and then the station, they must have seen the officers, unless they bedded down under the arch on Stray Park Lane, further up the line. And why, one wonders, did any stray policemen not seek sanctuary with Bickford-Smith? Possibly because, being strangers to Camborne, they had no idea where he lived. Equally likely, Bickford-Smith had no idea how many officers were in the town, if any, nor where they were.

Beacon Hill, Camborne, 1910, showing the entrance to what was Bickford-Smith’s mansion. Image courtesy Kresen Kernow, ref. corn00049

Another figure of authority had returned to Camborne by the evening, notes WB1. This was Colonel Gilbert, Cornwall’s Chief Constable, fresh from delivering the Bawdens to Bodmin Gaol. Where he stayed however is not known.

Surely, though, he and Bickford-Smith must have conversed. And if they did, they must have concluded that enough was enough.

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