St Mary Bourne Revisited


Mobbing in Hampshire (Swing riots)

The distressed state of the labouring population from insufficient labour, and from the lowness of wages, which had for some years been the cause of chronic discontent, about the year 1831-32, culminated in open rioting. But the labourers, miscalculating the cause of the distress, attributed it chiefly to the introduction of machinery lowering the demand for manual labour. In consequence, throughout the south of England an attack was made on thrashing and other machines by bands of men bearing huge hammers, bars of iron, etc, Berkshire was in the same condition, particularly around Lambourn, where incendiarism largely prevailed. I was at school at Lambourn at that time, and witnessed the destruction of two machines from a meadow used as a playground. But similar scenes were transacted in Hampshire; hardly a night passing without the sky being illuminated by the burning of farm produce. Active measures were taken to suppress the outbreak. Special constables, mounted and on foot, paraded the country, and many of the upper classes volunteered their aid in the emergency. Of the leaders in the mobbing at, and around, St. Mary Bourne, seven were transported from Winchester. They were convicted among other offences, for entering houses, notably that of Rev. Wm. Easton, the vicar of St. Mary Bourne, and demanding food and drink, and using intimidation. I am not aware, save in one instance that any of these men returned. About twenty five years after these occurrences, and when all memory of them had well nigh faded, I was returning from a neighbouring hamlet one Sunday afternoon, when I observed an aged man cross a field and pass into the road in front of me towards St. Mary Bourne. He was tall and erect, and habited in a coarse white canvas suit. I lost him in the village; but in the evening, in passing along the street, I recognised the man sitting in front of an old cottage, and several women, his children whom he had left quite young, sitting on his knees and around him, and a host of villagers occupying the road to welcome him. It was old Sims, who had been convicted of mobbing, and who had returned after a lengthened period from penal servitude. I knew him afterwards till his death, and he was always a civil, well behaved man.

Dr. Joseph Stevens

The Morning Post London Saturday December 25th. 1830

Special Commission for Hants

December 23. John Sims, William Sims, Daniel Sims, and John Tollard, were indicted with having, on the 22nd. Of November, in the parish of St. Mary Bourne, feloniously made an assault on one Lucy Easton, and put her in bodily fear and danger of her life, and stolen from her person one half sovereign, the money of William Easton, clerk.

William Easton jun.---- I live in St. Mary Bourne with my father, the Rev. William Easton, I recollect the 22nd. of last November. About eight or nine o’clock of the morning of that day I saw a mob of 200 persons or more coming to my father’s house; they carried sticks, bludgeons, pickaxes, and one of them had a draw chain. (This was explained to be a very sharp and formidable instrument used by carpenters). I saw William Sims, and John Sims were in that crowd. I know all the prisoners. They belong to our parish. Daniel Sims and Tollard were also there. The three Sims had sticks, but Tollard had not. When they came to our wicket they found it fastened. I went and asked them what they wanted, they said “They wanted to come in” I told them that they should not. They said they would. William Sims then called for the pickaxes. The door was then opened, but I don’t know how; it flew back, as if forced. When I got into the parlour I found William Sims demanding money of my mother.

My mother said that she could not afford to give it. William Sims then said “money or blood” she would not give them any. The mob then cried out, “we are all of one mind”; we will have money or blood. My mother then asked William Sims how much they wanted. He said a sovereign. My mother offered three shillings; Sims said “we must have a sovereign”. My mother said she would never give it. They again cried out, “We’ll have money or blood”. My mother then sent my sister Lucy upstairs for half a sovereign, I then went into the passage to the kitchen, and there I saw three persons surrounding my father. My father was that morning up stairs confined by a cold. I heard Daniel Sims say to my father, “Damn you, where will your text be next Sunday?”. I then went up to them and said, “This is too bad, I’ll mark some of you for this.” Daniel Sims said, “You mark me!” and held up his stick at me. I replied, “Yes I’ll mark you.”

Miss Lucy Easton corroborated the testimony of her brother. She fetched down half a sovereign and gave it to her mother. Her mother gave it to the elder Sims. The money fell out of his hands on the ground, when the mob saw that it was only half a sovereign, they said it was not enough; they would have more.

Henry Bunce was then called on behalf of William Sims. Before he was examined, Mr. Justice Alderson cautioned him very particularly not to answer any questions, unless he pleaded, which would place either his life or his liberty in danger. Though repeatedly cautioned on this point, the witness consented to be examined.

Henry Bunce.---- I was present with the mob both before and after they went to Mr. Easton’s, and whilst they were there. William Sims did not say, “Blood or Money”. That expression was used, but it was by other persons.

Mr. Justice Alderson.-----It is now my duty to order you into immediate custody. You were cautioned as to the effect of your answers, and yet you have confessed yourself implicated in this outrage.

The prisoner immediately sprung over the bar into the dock with his former comrades, seemingly unaffected by the decision of the learned Judge.

Mr. Justice Alderson, in summing up the case, told the jury that this was a case of a very serious description indeed.

He called their particular attention to it, as it was accompanied by circumstances of great aggravation. He hoped, therefore, that they would weigh the evidence with great attention before they pronounced a verdict of guilty, if such should be their verdict, against them. If they could only form one opinion regarding it, it was not the consequence which might follow their verdict that ought to deter them from giving it. The Jury returned a verdict of guilty against all the prisoners.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal Saturday January 1st . 1831 Winchester, Thursday December 30th.


Joseph Mason, Isaac Hill, sen. Thomas Berryman, Joseph Carter, John Sims, William Sims, John Tollard, Daniel Sims, Matthew Triggs, Henry James, James Painter, Thomas Harding, John Heath, Aaron Harding, W. Smith, and Jacob Turner, who had been convicted of breaking machinery, were then placed at the bar. Mr. Baron Vaughan then said, that with regard to Mason, he had been a man in a better station of life than many of the other prisoners; he was one of the mob of which Cooke had been the leader, and for which he had just received the severest sentence of the law. Society would cut off all communication with such men forever. As to William Sims, for robbery in the house of Mr. Easton a sick person in his house; alarming an unfortunate woman in the house, from which fright she had not yet recovered, his Lordship said that their cases were very bad; still he hoped that the example made would be sufficient to put a stop to those scenes of violence which had lately taken place. Judgement of Death would be recorded against them, so that their lives would be spared; but they would have to leave this country for the rest of their lives

The Salisbury and Winchester Journal Monday march 10th . 1834

The British Peasantry

We say to our Ministers and our Legislators, if you would put down those incendiary fires which you cannot quench with blood; if you would bring comfort, peace, and content to the villages and the hamlets where they have long been unknown; if you would lessen the parochial burden by touching the manly spring of independence in the minds of the English peasantry; if you would stay the march of debasing intemperance in beer and gin shops, and restore the labourer to the virtuous influence of the household gods for domestic life is the nurse of every virtue; if you would diminish the grievous and growing expenses for the prosecution of crime in the rural districts; if you would surround the stacks of the farmer with the best protection against the torch of the nocturnal incendiary the affections of a domesticated, a moral, and contented peasantry; if you would make the foundations of society as secure as they are now obviously insecure and rotten; shut your ears to the inhuman and degrading doctrines of the worshippers of wealth, the philosophers of mammon; give back to the labourer his domestic habits, and with them the virtues that once made him walk erect among his kind; give back their gardens, their roods of ground to the rural labourers , which were taken from them when the rages of the rich for “adding field to field” stripped the peasant of that bit of ground which gave ornament to his homestead, and healthful recreation to his leisure hours with subsistence when deprived of employment; repeal the duties which deprive him of his domestic comforts, and sacrifice not to state extravagances and fiscal rapacity the morals of the people. Then will you find it is difficult to make thieves, incendiaries, and paupers of the rustic population of England, as you now find it to make them honest, peaceable, and independent cultivate such arts of Government instead of relying upon the ineffective barbarism of blood shedding laws, and the flower of your peasantry will no longer breathe the noisome atmosphere of your gaols, but the happiness of the many will be the security of all.

(From M. Herald. a Reader)

The Hampshire Advertiser December 20th . 1873

St. Mary Bourne

The fifth annual distribution of warm clothing took place at the national schoolroom, on Saturday last, when 146 articles were divided among 127 poor parishioners. Viewing the work of this society since its institution the members cannot but be gratified at having been the means of alleviating such distress, and adding materially to the comforts of the poor of this village.

The Hampshire Advertiser Wed. 18th . 1874

St. Mary Bourne farm Labourers Strike.

The farm labourers of this village, on Saturday night last, applied to their employers for an advance of 2s. per week, from 12s. to 14s. This, with only one exception, that of Mr Medhurst, was refused. The result being that the men decline to resume work under the old scale. On Monday morning the men again applied for the advance, but met with the same answer, and at the present time upwards of 100 men are upon the funds of the Labourers Union. A meeting is to be held shortly to consider what steps are to be taken in the matter. How it will terminate is a matter of doubt, as the men are determined to hold out, the farmers being as equally determined not to give the advance. The men, however, have the union at their backs, and by this means hope to succeed. The affair is causing some little excitement in the district, as this is the first strike that has occurred. If the men should succeed no doubt we shall here of further applications in other villages.

The Hampshire Advertiser Sat. March 21st . 1874

The Labourers Strike.

The strike among the farm labourers still continue through the majority of the farmers have given the advance asked by the men of 2s. and the boys 1s. per week. Meetings have been held during the week, at which it has been resolved that the men should accept the Union pay of 9s. per week until they got their advance. There are about thirty men out, and half that number have put their names down for removal to the north of England. The women have also stuck up for their rights, and intend to have a voice in the affair as well as the men. For this purpose they have formed a union of their own, settled the amount of weekly contributions of each member, and have resolved unammously not to work under 1s.6d. per day. The latter step has caused some little amusement in the village, but whether they will be successful in their agitation is a matter of doubt. It will however, do no one in particular any harm, and, if it pleases them, they will soon prove that Artemus Ward was correct when he said, “When women undertake to play the man they play the devil, and are an emphatic nuisance.”

The Hampshire Advertiser March. 28th . 1874

The Agricultural Labourers Strike

Certain parts in this district are still in an unsettled state, and at St. Mary Bourne there are still some cases where a satisfactory arrangement has not yet been arrived at. It is reported that some 30 men left the Andover station last Wednesday morning en route for the colonies, and the number of empty cottages in this and other villages is said to be remarkable.

William Sims and his two sons Daniel and John were found guilty of taking part in the 1830s swing riots, William was cited as being the leader of 200 men and demanding money from Mrs. Easton the vicar’s wife. They accused the vicar of preaching against the poor the three of them were transported to Australia for seven years. William was pardoned and returned to England. (Kevin Holdway).