Event from: Miscellaneous 2019

Burning Bristol: the 1831 ‘reform riot’

Event Details
Date: , 2019
Time: to
Price: Free
With: Roger Ball
Series: Miscellaneous 2019
Note: This event was not organised by BRHG.
Page Details
Section: Events
Subjects: Radical Bristol, Riots & Disturbances
Tags: , , ,
Posted: Modified:

This talk is part of the above event at Cardiff Museum, The Old Library, The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1BH

In 2006, The Guardian newspaper ran a series of articles in a search “for the most overlooked moment in British radical history”. The 1831 ‘Bristol riot’ featured in the top ten because of its historical obscurity, somewhat surprising considering the scale of the destruction and the human cost. The reason for this obscurity is related to the pathologized characterisation of the event as the random actions of a lower class, irrational and uncontrolled ‘mob’. However, the Bristol event has also proved difficult to situate within the context of the Reform Act protests that swept the country that autumn. This talk outlines what happened on the streets of Bristol in October 1831, how that has been represented and uncovers the contradictions which have taunted historians ever since. In addition, evidence of actions in solidarity with the Bristol rioters in South Wales and elsewhere provides a fascinating new angle to the rising.

Precision strikes by the riotous mob of 1831 (W. J. Muller: Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery)
Precision strikes by the riotous mob of 1831 (W. J. Muller: Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery)


  1. Very pleased to add one more reference to the 1831 Reform Riot in my soon to be published book of British Ballads of Political Reform from 1768 to 1968.

  2. you may be aware Satsymph (Bristol-based immersive media collective) and collaborators made ‘1831 RIOT – The ReMake’ as a downloadable app for the smartphone with Steve Poole of UWE. You can get it on your phone by going either to google play or the apple store and searching ‘1831 Riot’. You then go to Thunderbolt Square (King St end of square), stick your headphones on, open the app and … experience the riots! Follow the link below…

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