Linton in Pictures
A History of Linton
in Photographs
Available here

In December 1832 there was a serious riot in Linton followed six months later by a major outbreak of violence in Hildersham. There were no County Police forces at this time and each village relied on appointing a handful of Special Constables to keep order.

The early 1830’s were a time of huge social and economic discontent in England, especially in rural areas. Rick burning was commonplace, unemployment was widespread and the poor were close to the bread line. In Linton, over three quarters of the householders were unable to pay the Poor Rate which funded the local distribution of food and provided monetary support for the poor and the unemployed.

The system of making up the wages of workers to a basic level, led not only to very high rates but also to a truculent work force which demanded hand outs as their right. The ruling classes feared a French style revolution and were increasingly subjected to verbal abuse by the younger males in the village. Young men no longer dependent on local farmers for an income, lost their respect for the ruling classes and were free to vent their anger without fear of any financial penalties.

The Riot of 1832 took place by the entrance to the Crown Inn behind the 1937 view of the telephone box by Holttum’s shop.

An attempt to enforce Sunday drinking laws in Linton sparked off the riot. The landlord of the Crown Inn (number 35, High Street today ) was prosecuted by Constable Mason for serving drinks to labourers during Divine Service. Please note that the present day Crown Inn was not a pub at this time.

The Linton magistrates held their Petty Session Court at the Crown Inn and the two magistrates on December 6th 1832, Lord Godolphin of the Gogs Mansion House and Henry Adeane of Babraham Hall found the landlord guilty as charged.

Meanwhile, a huge crowd had assembled outside the Inn and were incensed when the guilty verdict was announced. They tried to seize and manhandle Constable Mason as he emerged from the Court, so the two magistrates hastily enlisted additional Special Constables to escort him to safety. The scuffles grew more violent and both magistrates were severely manhandled. A badly shaken Lord Godolphin managed to retreat to the safety of the Inn, and the solid gates of the courtyard arch were slammed shut.

The rioters used mud and gravel from the unsurfaced High Street to throw missiles at the retreating forces of law and order. The beleaguered Constables rushed towards the bridge and sought safety in the courtyard of the Reverend Fisher’s house (the present day residence of Dr. Bertram at Linton House).

The crowd smashed down the stout gates of the house and Mr. Adeane was hit by some large stones whilst sheltering in the yard. One cut his scalp and a second inflicted a deep wound above his left ear. He was very fortunate in having the local doctor, Mr.Holmes, in close attendance.

Fortunately the Vicar was a highly respected gentleman and he managed to restrain and pacify the worst elements in the crowd. The ringleaders retreated and a large reward of £100 was offered by the authorities for any information which led to the conviction of individual rioters. Villagers responded to this monetary bribe and a large force of Constables arrested the eleven leaders at their homes the following day.

The ringleaders were all charged with public order offences at the County Assizes held at Cambridge Castle in March, 1833. Local names featured amongst the prisoners:

Elijah Pammenter 22 years of age, Samuel Pammenter 38, William Brown 27, Richard Hill 25, George Whiffin 25, Thomas Turner 25, William Pammenter 29, Thomas Crane 25 ( the stone thrower ), Charles Brown 25, John Wright and William Whiffin, 43.

The last was accused of urging the mob to fetch guns. Ten men were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms with hard labour of between one and two years. There was no question of sentence remission in those days. Surprisingly, Whiffin was the only one acquitted due to lack of solid identification evidence.

The Hildersham affray involved a crowd of over one hundred men who assembled outside Mr. Mabbutt’s beer house, but the incident was nowhere near as serious as that in Linton. Two workers from Bartlow had tried to secure reaping work in Hildersham and this was naturally resented by local farm workers during a time of high unemployment. No members of the ruling classes were assaulted and so the magistrates dismissed the case against the four young Hildersham men who had been charged with assault.

Both incidents demonstrate the precarious nature of society at this time. Inequalities of wealth were so great that periodic breakdowns in law and order were inevitable. Even after the Great Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832 there were only 56 qualified voters in Linton out of a population of over 1700 people. The Abingtons had a mere 11 voters, Hildersham 6, Horseheath 19 and Balsham 27.

A County Police Force was finally established by 1850 and this helped to bring greater order to rural communities. A Police Station was built in Symonds Lane in 1855 to serve Linton and the surrounding villages, and no further riots took place in Linton after that time.