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Cinderloo Uprising
Date 2 February 1821 (1821-02-02)
Location Coalbrookdale Coalfield
  • Riot
  • massacre
Deaths 2 (plus one hanged subsequently)

The Cinderloo Uprising took place at Old Park in the Coalbrookdale Coalfield (Present day Telford) on 2 February 1821, when the Shropshire Yeomanry confronted a crowd of 3,000 mostly striking workers who had gathered to protest the continued lowering of their pay.[1][2]

When requested to disperse following the reading of the Riot Act, the workers refused to do so, and pelted the Yeomanry with stones and lumps of cinders. In response the Yeomanry, led by Colonel Cludde, opened fire on the crowd.

The uprising resulted in the deaths of three miners, two of whom were killed outright whilst another, Thomas Palin, was hanged for his participation in the disturbance on 7 April 1821.

The name Cinderloo derives from the similar Peterloo Massacre which had taken place in Manchester just 18 months beforehand. Peterloo had itself been named after the Battle of Waterloo which had ended the Napoleonic Wars.

Background[edit | edit source]

The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 brought with it a period of economic depression across the United Kingdom. Twinned with this, the Coalbrookdale Coalfields had begun to enter into a period of industrial stagnation and suffered competition from the iron works and coal production industries of South Wales.[3][4]

Facing industrial decline and competition from more productive coalfields, local ironmasters, including men such as Thomas Botfield, made an illegal pact to reduce the pay of their workers by 6d per day in order to compensate for their losses.[5]

Collier Strike[edit | edit source]

In response to the lowering of their wages, colliers across the Coalbrookdale Coalfields went on strike on 1 February 1821 in order to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the reductions being made to their pay. Production across the area was halted.

The following day saw the strike continue. Striking colliers, many armed with sticks and bludgeons, left the ironworks at Donnington before moving on to halt the production of the furnaces at Old Park. Following this the crowd moved on to the ironworks in Lightmoor, Dawley, and Horsehay.[6] The striking colliers had intended to end their march at Coalbrookdale yet word of the strike had reached the Shropshire Yeomanry. Instead of continuing on to the ironworks of Coalbrookdale the crowd returned to the furnaces at Old Park. By this point the size of the strike had swelled to over 3,000 people including many women and children.

Arrival of the Yeomanry[edit | edit source]

By the mid afternoon the Shropshire Yeomanry arrived to break up the crowd which had gathered at Old Park near two industrial spoil heaps known as the 'Cinders Hills'.[7] As the magistrate, Thomas Eyton, began to read the Riot Act out to the crowd, ordering that they dissipate, the strikers responded by hurling rocks and cinders at the troops that had arrived to assist in their dispersal.[8] An hour later the Yeomanry moved forward to arrest the ringleaders of the strike yet came under continued assault from the crowd. At this point Colonel Cludde, the commanding officer in charge of the Yeomanry, gave the order for 'the cavalry to advance, to endeavour to disperse them'.[citation needed] The advance made by the cavalry resulted in the arrest of a number of strikers who were removed from the crowd and were prepared for transportation to nearby Wellington in order to stand trial. Yet when the Yeomanry began to transport those detained away from the strike they came under a relentless shower of stones and cinders. In the confusion two of those being transported away managed to escape. In retaliation Colonel Cludde gave the command for the Yeomanry to open fire on the crowd.

The Yeomanry opened fire on the crowd instantly killing William Bird, an 18 year old collier. By the time the crowd dispersed the Yeomanry had arrested eight strikers.[9] Another collier, Thomas Gittens, would later die as a result of the wounds he received. Thomas Palin, singled out as the ringleader of the disturbances by the authorities, would later be arrested after he sought treatment from a local doctor for bullet wound he received.

An unknown number of strikers were wounded following the response of the local Yeomanry to the unrest. The Shropshire Yeomanry reported a number of injuries as a result of the rocks and cinders hurled at them, however the most serious injury suffered by the Yeomanry came as a result of a misfired pistol going of in the holster of a cavalryman injuring his leg.[10]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

On 4 February military presence in the area was increased to prevent any further outbreaks of violence. Three troops of the Shropshire Yeomanry were stationed in the coalfields alongside a troop of the 6th Dragoon Guards.[11]

The initial dispute which had caused the riot was resolved soon after, with some ironmasters agreeing to reduce the daily pay of the workers by 4d instead of 6d.[12]

An inquest in to the deaths of William Bird and Thomas Gittens resulted in a jury returning a verdict of Justifiable Homicide on 6th February. Of the nine arrested, seven were sentenced to nine months hard labour whilst Thomas Palin and Samuel Hayward were sentenced to death by hanging. Hayward managed to secure a reprieve and avoided the death sentence.[13]

Thomas Palin was executed for his role in the strike on 7 April.[14]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

The Cinderloo Uprising has been the subject of a number of songs. Notably the event forms the basis of the song "We've had enough" by local band Savannah.

A bridge connecting Telford Railway Station and Telford Town Centre has also been referred to as "Cinderloo Bridge" by some residents of the town.[15]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Disturbances Near Wellington". Salopian Journal. 7 February 1821. 
  2. Growcott, Mat (6 October 2018). "The riot that Telford forgot: New group trying to raise awareness of Cinderloo uprising". Shropshire Star. https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/local-hubs/telford/2018/10/06/the-riot-that-telford-forgot--new-group-trying-to-raise-awareness-of-cinderloo-uprising/. Retrieved 18 June 2019. 
  3. Raistrick, Arthur (1989). Dynasty of Iron Founders: the Darbys and Coalbrookdale. Coalbrookdale: Sessions Book Trust/Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. ISBN 1-85072-058-4. 
  4. Trinder, Barrie (2000). The Industrial Revolution in Shropshire (Third ed.). Chichester: Phillimore. p. 159. ISBN 9780750967877. 
  5. "Fatal Riot". Shrewsbury Chronicle. 9 February 1821. 
  6. Mercer, A. C. B (January 1966). "Cinderloo Affair". Shropshire Magazine. 
  7. Gladstone, E.W. (1953). Shropshire Yeomanry. Manchester: Whitethorn Press. pp. 20–23. 
  8. Trinder, Barrie (2000). The Industrial Revolution in Shropshire (Third ed.). Chichester: Phillimore. pp. 232–233. ISBN 9781860771330. 
  9. "The Wellington Rioters". Shrewsbury Chronicle. 30 March 1821. 
  10. "Disturbances near Wellington". Salopian Journal. 7 February 1821. 
  11. Talbot, Phillip (Spring 2001). "The English Yeomanry In The Nineteenth Century And The Great Boer War". p. 48. 
  12. Trinder, Barrie (2000). The Industrial Revolution in Shropshire (3 ed.). Chichester: Phillimore. p. 233. ISBN 9781860771330. 
  13. "Trial of the Colliers". Salopian Journal. 28 March 1821. 
  14. "Execution". Salopian Journal. 11 April 1821. 
  15. Growcott, Mat (26 February 2019). "'Cinderloo Bridge'?: Campaigners call for Telford's new £10 million footbridge to be named after 1821 uprising". Shropshire Star. https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/local-hubs/telford/2019/02/26/campaigners-call-for-telfords-new-10-footbridge-to-be-named-after-cinderloo-uprising/. Retrieved 18 June 2019. 

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