What were the Gordon Riots?
In 1780, a law was passed giving greater equality to Catholics, including lifting the ban on joining the army.
A Member of Parliament, Lord Gordon, tried to force the government to withdraw it. He gave rousing speeches at mass rallies and incited (stirred up) Protestants to acts of violence. Rioters attacked anyone who was suspected of being Catholic, burned down houses and destroyed their businesses.
This door from Newgate prison became a symbol of protest. The prison was meant to be escape proof. However, some of the rioters managed to break the door down with sledgehammers and crowbars and took control of the prison as part of their siege of the city. These were the Gordon Riots.
For six days London was ungovernable. Eventually the army was brought in to restore order. Around 700 rioters were killed, including 21 who were publicly executed.
The future poet and artist William Blake was in the crowd that broke into Newgate prison.
- What were the Gordon Riots? (this page)
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- What was the Chartist movement?
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- Further information
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