Bradford Public Disorder and Riots.

Chartist Movement

In 26th and 27th January, 1836, two night watchmen had been captured and held against their will by members of the chartist movement. The Chartists were armed with pikes and were gathering at Green Market.

The authorities, in the form of the Deputy Chief Constable William Brigg immediately brought 40 special constables on duty alongside the watchmen and seized the Chartists and released the watchmen. Military contingents, including artillery, were sent to Bradford to support the police.

On February, 23rd a gathering of between 18-20,000 Chartists gathered in military order in Bradford to demand political rights for the working classes.

In June 1848, it was reported that between 2-3000 men were openly marching and training and bearing arms around Bingley and Keighley. It was also reported that Isaac Jefferson (nicknamed Wat Tyler) the notorious chartist armourer was on the loose in the town and manufacturing weapons. The police responded by swearing in significant numbers of Special Constables and arming the police with cutlasses.

Fearing the worst, various military contingents were despatched to Bradford. A combined force of 1000 special constables, 250 police with cutlasses, 200 infantry with fixed bayonets and 200 dragoons confronted a large force of chartists in Manchester Road.   The force was strongly resisted by heavily armed rioters with stones, bludgeons and pikes. The police drew their cutlasses and the specials their staves and a desperate fight ensued. The police were eventually driven back and sustained serious injuries. Had it not been for the intervention of the Dragoons there was a strong likelihood that the police would have been totally overwhelmed.

By September, 1848, a number of men had been arrested and charged with conspiracy to disturb public tranquility and would be severely dealt with by the courts.


Industrial Strife

Dyers Strike 1880.

This was probably one of the first examples of strikers actively seeking support from other workers.

On the 20TH February, 1880, two thousand dyers stormed the works of Messers Oats Ingham and Sons with a view to persuading the workers there to come out in sympathy with their strike. They had been in dispute with their employers Messers Pottergill. Fifteen of the strikers had previously been arrested for disorder offences

The Chief Constable Mr Withers along with fifty constables attended the premises and drove off the ‘mob’.

Interestingly Denby Dye workers were to go on strike some 80 years later and recruited large numbers of ‘flying pickets from other dye works across Bradford to support them. The strike lasted 12 months and ultimately broke the Dyers and Bleachers Union.


Fenians in Bradford 1880s

During 1880s there was considerable concern that a cell of Fenians ( The Irish Republican Brotherhood) – movement had been formed in Bradford.   It had first been established in the 19th century with a view to establishing an independent Irish state.

In December 1867 a bomb planted by the Fenians exploded at Clerkenwell Prison killing several Londoners.   There were also several armed attacks on prison establishments and a policeman was killed in the same year during an armed rescue of a Fenian prisoner.

Bradford had significant number of Irish immigrants. By 1851, Bradford had the highest proportion of Irish-born people in Yorkshire – around 10% of the city’s population. With such high concentrations of Irish residents the authorities were wary of any indications of Fenian ( Irish Republican Brotherhood) sympathisers. In 1881 firearms and ammunition were discovered at a Manningham address and the occupier arrested on suspicion of being involved in a Fenian armed plot.  The leading Detective was Det.Ch.Insp Dobson who was credited with breaking up the Fenian’s organisation.


Bradford Victorian Police
Bradford Victorian Police

Bradford Riots Manningham Mills 1891

In April, 1891, Bradford experienced its first serious riots following an industrial dispute at Manningham Mills. The situation escalated when a challenge was made to police tactics and perceived unlawful restrictions to the rights of assembly. Some police officers were on horseback including Detective Martindale who was struck by a missile and thrown from his horse which was killed.

The Chief Constable and Chief , Superintendent Scott and Chief Inspector Dobson had also been struck by stones before the Lord Mayor read the Riot Act empowering the authorities to use lethal force. The services of the 1st Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry were called upon to assist the police.

Forty rounds of ammunition were issued to each man and cutlasses were issued to the police.


 The Bradford Riots 1891 Detective Martindale

Article from Bradford Telegraph April, 1891.

‘Considerable excitement prevails in Bradford owing to last night’s writing, and large crowds have gathered on the space, the defence of which has caused so much trouble. The troops are still under arms, ready for emergency. The prisoners in custody were allowed to have breakfast brought early this morning. At the Manningham Mills a number of workmen persisted in following “blacklegs” had to be disbursed by the police, and their names and addresses were taken.

Nine charges arising out of last night’s riots came before the Bradford Police-court this morning. Ralph Daymin, agent of Leeds-road, Bradford, was charged with assaulting a policeman by hitting him on the leg with a walking-stick. Prisoner, call the witness to prove that the stick produced was not his. Find £5 and costs, with the alternative of one months imprisonment, with hard labour. William Lambert, a joiner, aged 37, of Bradford, charged with throwing stones, was sent to prison for three months with hard labour, without the option of a fine. He had been 11 times previously before the court. John William Howard, 15, mill hand, throwing stones was fined 5s. and 8s. costs, his youth being taken into consideration. Arthur Skelton, mill hand, 16, was charged with throwing stones.

One stone hit Detective Martindale on the back of the neck, and he was caught as he was about to throw another. Fined 5s. and costs.

The Town Clerk stated that there were many claims this morning for damage to private property, which would have to be met out of the rates.’






Article from THE TIMES. TUESDAY APRIL 14. 1891.

Strike Riots at Bradford.

After about 10.30 on Sunday night all was quiet in Bradford in connexion (sic) with the Manningham Mills strike. The people went to their homes, and the police were sent on their ordinary beats. Councillor Saunders, of Rotherham, who was arrested for addressing a meeting in the Dockers-square, after the authorities had refused to grant permission, declined to leave the Town Hall after his name and address had been taken. He insisted on being locked up and brought before the justices, in order that the right of the public to hold meetings in the square might be contested. The police declined to gratify him on this point, and accordingly he remained in the charge office all through the night. Even yesterday morning he did not leave the office until the white-washers commenced operations therein, and then he ramained in the area of the Town Hall untill 11 o’clock, when the court opened.

Meanwhile, he and his friends had obtained legal advice, and, after the stipendary magistrate (Mr Skidmore) took his seat, Mr Waugh, barrister, applied for a summons for assault on Mr Saunders. He detailed the incidents leading up to the arrest of that gentleman, and said that until the action of the two constables who took Mr Saunders into custody was justified, there was an assault in law. He therefore applied for summonses for assault against the two officers, and that would raise the question of the right of the public to hold meetings in the Dock-square, and whether the officers were acting within the scope of their duty and according to the law in doing what they did. The stipendary magistrate granted the summonses, and made them returnable to-morrow.

All was quiet yesterday until about 2.30 in the afternoon, when the square, in the absence of the police, was again taken possession of by some persons calling themselves Social Democrats, from Leeds.

A large crowd soon assembled, and the speakers defended the right of the public to hold meetings in the disputed sqaure. The people were requested to remember what the Socialists had done in Trafalgar Square, London, against troops and police; but on the appearance of the chief constable, Mr Withers, and a small body of policemen, the meeting was brought to an end and the square cleared. Those assembled were evidently in bad humour, however, and lingered in considerable numbers about the place. They declined to attend a meeting in another part of the town, and repeatdly called on the speakers to again mount a platform constructed of a couple of boxes. The Socialists did not attempt to do so during the afternoon, but the behaviour of the crowd was such that other arrests had to be made. Ther promoters of this meeting were in no way connected with the strike. The directors of Messrs. Lister and Co., had a meeting yesterday morning, to consider the proposal of arbitrating made by the hands. Up to last night the results of their deliberations had not been made public; but it was understood that the directors would decline to submit the dispute to arbitration.

A later telegram states that, as feared, the disturbances which commenced yesterday afternoon became serious during the evening, so much so that throughout the whole of the night the town was one scene of disorder and uproar. The military had to be called out, and the Riot Act read by the Mayor, Mr E. W. Hammond. The beginning was an attack on a constable, about 7 o’clock, after which the mob assailed half-a-dozen officers. Stone throwing followed this, and the the large plate glass windows of an adjacent clothier’s shop were broken.

Repeated attempts were made to clear the space around the Town Hall, but the people came up again as fast as the police retired. At five minutes past 9 o’clock 106 rank and file of the Durham Light Infantry, under command of Major Woodhead, with Captain Robb and Lieutenant Platt, arrived at the Town Hall from Bradford Moor Barracks, each having 40 rounds of ball cartridge.

They were at once quartered in the spacious area, and the authorities set about preparing for finally clearing the square and the adjoining streets. The Mayor, Alderman E. W. Hammond, attended by the chief constable and several members of the council, crossed the surging crowds at the New Inn, at Thornton-road corner, and there he read the Riot Act.

Soon after this the military paraded the streets, and charged the people in various directions. The mob soon got used to this, and grew bolder. Eventually a baton charge by the police was was found necessary. Many slight injuries were inflicted, but only one man was so seriously hurt as to necessitate his removal to the Town Hall, where he was medically attended. His name was Maloney. He sustained an ugly wound on the left side of his head, and bled profusely. The chief constable and other officers sustained injuries about the head and body. Detective Martindale was knocked off his horse with a brick, and Superintendent Scott’s horse was stabbed in the breast, and had to be taken to a vetinery surgeon. Open knives were thrown at the police at times. Up to midnight the streets were crowded, and the military were making charges with fixed bayonets, the stone-throwing then ceased.