Captain Swing Riots 1830 to 1831
Captain Swing Riots
Background The population growth after the Napoleonic Wars increased significantly due to the soldiers returning home, and by the 1830's many of the villages in Kent and East Sussex were filled with people living on the edge of starvation. The poor relief that had been started in previous centuries could not keep pace with the growing demand, and the corruption of officials only added to the disatisfaction. The invention of the threshing machine to help farming only added to the problem by reducing the need for farmworkers.

Riots The riots started in East Kent and reached the Weald area by November 1831 , the main reason for the riots were the low wages paid by farmers, which in turn meant that the merchants were also effected, by limited sales. The name "Captain Swing" riots came from the threatening letters which were often signed Swing after people swinging from the gallows, the leaders were known as "The Captain" or "Swing" to try to hide their identity.

The major landowners were concerned for their own farms and due to their influence were able to get military assistance in putting down the riots. Invariably the soldiers arrived at the riots after they had died down, but where they met the rioters they used force to stop them.

Many churches and farms within the area were damaged by the rioters, and quite a few landowners were obliged to give in to the rioters demands.

To illustrate the problems a labourer from Henfield showed his itemised expenses and income. His food and rent came to 14 shillings and one and a halfpenny (about 70.5 pence in current coinage) his income was 12 shillings and thrupence (about 61.5 pence) for seven working days in the summer, the parish added 1 shilling and six pence (about 7.5 pence) relief per week which bought his total to 13 shillings and 9 pence (about 69 pence) for the week. The cost of clothing, footware and heating added on meant that he was getting deeper in debt with no way out.

Outcome The riots continued sporadically until 1831 when those arrested were sent for trial. In East Sussex 9 men were sentenced to execution, 457 to be transported to the colonies mostly for arson, and 400 were imprisoned for varying periods.

Some of the landowners felt sympathy to the plight of the poor, and raised wages or offered more employment but in general nothing changed until the advent of prosperity in the mid 1850's when manufacturing started to provide employment and draw the population away from the rural areas.
Villages Mentioned
Alciston (Fifty thousand tiles on the Barn)
Aldington (The Aldington Gang)
Alfriston (Smuggling and Ghosts)
Appledore (Danes invade England)
Arlington (Peaceful Saxon Village)
Ashburnham (Last Iron Furnace in Sussex)
Ashurst (Miraculous Carving)
Barcombe (Village in three places)
Battle (William the Conqueror prevails)
Beckley (Alfred the Great and Guns !)
Beddingham (At the base of Mount Caburn)
Bells Yew Green (The ruins of Bayham Abbey)
Benenden (One of Englands Top Girls Schools)
Berwick (Sharpen your arrows on the Church)
Biddenden (The Maids of Biddenden)
Bilsington (The Priory and Obelisk)
Bishopstone (Largest Tide-Mill in Sussex)
Blackboys (Charcoal and Soot)
Blackham (Roughs and Prize Fighters)
Bodiam (The finest ruined castle in the Country)
Bodle Street (White Horse on the roof)
Bonnington (Saint Rumwold the child saint)
Boreham Street (Picturesque village on top of the Ridge)
Borough Green
Boughton Monchelsea (Miraculous vision)
Brasted (Doctor to King George III)
Brede (Edward I inspects the Channel Fleet)
Brenchley (A beautiful Kent village)
Brenzett (St Eanswyth a saxon princess)
Brightling (famous for Mad Jack Fuller)
Broad Oak (Smallpox at the Academy)
Broad Oak Brede (On the Crossroads)
Brookland (13th century wooden spire)
Broomhill (Swept away by the Storm)
Burgess Hill
Burmarsh (The fortress in the Marsh?)
Burwash (The home of Rudyard Kipling)
Burwash Common (Roughest pub in the South East)
Burwash Weald (Roughest pub in the South East)
Buxted (The first Iron Cannon in England)
Cade Street (Jack Cade and the Kentish rebellion)
Camber (Sands and Holidays)
Catsfield (Iron, Railways and Clocks)
Chailey (The Heritage and Bricks)
Chalvington (The miniature church)
Chelwood Gate The Forest entrance and President Kennedy
Chiddingly (Walking on Cheese ??)
Chiddingstone (A perfect Tudor village)
Chiddingstone Causeway (Penshurst Station ??)
Clayton (Jack and Jill Windmills)
Colemans Hatch (Church on the edge of the forest)
Cooksbridge (Simon de Montforts cook)
Coxheath (Soldiers and Duels)
Cranbrook (Christmas Cards and Union Mill)
Cripps Corner (Home Guard surprises the Army)
Crockham Hill
Cross in Hand (The Crusaders Assembly)
Crowborough (The home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Crowhurst (Village devastated by the Normans)
Dallington (Custers Last Stand!)
Danehill (Stopping point between London and Lewes)
Denton (Earl Godwins Manor)
Dungeness (Fishermen and Lighthouses)
Dymchurch (The Romans and the sea wall)
East Blatchington (Mutiny and the Edge of Space)
East Chiltington
East Dean (Fishing and Wrecking)
East Guldeford (Barn-like Church)
East Hoathly (Another Sussex Cannibal?)
East Peckham (Centre of the Hop Industry)
Edenbridge (Roman Crossing to Victorian Bridge)
Eridge Green (The home of the Neville Family)
Etchingham (The oldest Brass Weather Vane in the country)
Ewhurst Green (Great Fire of London contributions)
Exceat (Alfred the Great's Naval Base?)
Fairfield (The Isolated Church)
Fairlight (Firehills and Views)
Fairwarp (Charcoal and the Army)
Five Ashes (Vast collection of rock plants)
Fletching (Simon de Montfort and Jack Cade)
Flimwell (300 local people beheaded)
Folkington (Teasles and Badgers)
Fordcombe (Paper Mill and the Field Marshal)
Forest Row (The Kings hunting party)
Four Elms
Framfield (380 years without a church tower)
Frant (King Johns hunting lodge)
Friston (Home of the Railway Children)
Frittenden (The Search for the Treacle Mines)
Glynde (Home of English Opera)
Goudhurst (Smugglers, Iron and Forests)
Greatstone (Parabolic Sound Detectors and PLUTO)
Groombridge (Home of the Groombridge Gang)
Guestling (Changing guards at Buckingham Palace)
Hadlow (Mays Folly - 150ft tower)
Hadlow Down (Wealden Cannons and Charcoal)
Hailsham (Ropes and Napoleon)
Halland (Ancient Slaughter)
Hamsey (Abandoned Saxon Island)
Hamstreet and Orlestone (The Start of the Ordnance Survey)
Hartfield (A.A.Milne and Winnie-the-Pooh)
Hastings Bulverhythe (Landing place of the citizens)
Hastings East Cliff (Beautiful Views and peaceful Walks)
Hastings Harbour (The Harbour and Fishing)
Hastings Old Town (The ancient Cinque Port)
Hastings Ore (Iron and the Turnpike)
Hastings Sea Front (Modern amusements,pier and promenade)
St Leonards on Sea (an Edwardian family's gentile resort)
Hastings Town Center
Hastings West Hill (Ancient Norman Castle)
Hawkhurst (A Notorious Gang of Smugglers)
Haywards Heath
Headcorn (King Johns Oak)
Heathfield (19th Century Natural Gas)
Hellingly (Only remaining Ciric in Sussex)
Herstmonceux (Castle and Observatory)
Hever (Anne Boleyn and the Castle)
High Hurstwood
Hooe (The Haunt of Smugglers)
Horam (Which Station do we get off at ?)
Horsmonden (The largest Wealden Iron Works)
Hurst Green (The Youngest Highwayman on record)
Icklesham (Paul McCartney's Recording Studio)
Ide Hill
Iden (Sheriff of Kent and Jack Cade)
Isfield (Simon de Montfort and the Lavender Line)
Ivychurch (The burial ground on the Island)
Jevington (Smugglers and Churchill Tanks)
Kenardington (Danes destroy Saxon Fort)
Kilndown (Charcoal for the Furnace)
Lamberhurst (Scotney Castle and Gardens)
Langton Green (Modern village and Old Quarry)
Laughton (Knight captures King of France)
Linton (Cavalier loses House)
Litlington (Secret marriage of George IV)
Little Horsted
Littlestone (The Genteel Resort)
Lullington (destroyed by Cromwell ??)
Lydd (The Cathedral of the Marsh)
Lydd on Sea (Bungalows and Fishermen)
Lympne (From Roman Castle to Tigers)
Marden (Broadcloth and Agriculture)
Maresfield (Soldiers and Iron)
Mark Cross (Policeman arrests eccentric landowner)
Matfield (Largest Village Green in Kent)
Mayfield (Saint Dunstan and the Devil)
Mereworth (The First Victoria Cross)
Mersham (Founder of Ashford Grammar School)
Mountfield (17th Century Coal !!)
Netherfield (Village at the top of the Hill)
Newchurch (The Church Tower with a kink)
Newenden (Alfred the Great's Fort)
Newick (Killer Cricket and Dirk Bogarde)
New Romney (Cinque Port and Storm)
Ninfield (Last of the Iron Stocks)
Normans Bay (Last Invasion in 1066)
Northiam (Prime Ministers D Day inspection)
Nutley (Edward III and the Post Mill)
Offham ( Chalk Pit and the Battle of Lewes )
Old Romney (Sheep and Wool Smuggling)
Old Winchelsea (Abandoned after the Great Storm)
Paddock Wood (Railway brings prosperity)
Peasmarsh (Black Death moves village)
Pembury (The ghost of Hawkwell)
Penhurst (Beautiful yet Remote)
Pett (End of the Royal Military Canal)
Pevensey (Ancient Roman Fortification)
Pevensey Bay (Fishing and Martello Towers)
Piltdown (The Piltdown Man hoax)
Playden (Saltcote and fish)
Polegate (Fine old Tower Mill)
Punnetts Town (The Windmill on the Hill)
Reading Street and Ebony (Priory and Shipbuilding)
Ringmer (Poor Roads and riots)
Ripe (Earl Harolds estate)
Robertsbridge (The Home of Modern Cricket)
Rolvenden (Witches stealing Holy Water)
Rotherfield (Source of the rivers Rother and Uck)
Ruckinge (Smuggling and Traction Engines)
Rushlake Green (Open Village and Nuclear Bunker)
Rusthall (The Toad Rock)
Rye (On the Island)
Rye Harbour (Nature Reserve and unspoilt beaches)
Salehurst (Richard the Lion Heart's Gift)
Sandhurst (Escape from the Great Plague)
Seaford (The cormorants or shags)
Sedlescombe (Best gunpowder in Europe)
Sellindge (Oliver Cromwells Horse)
Selmeston (Tomb to store the Contraband)
Sevenoaks Weald (Lower the tower by twenty feet)
Sevington (Saxons and Dual Carriageway)
Sheffield Park (Capability Brown and the Bluebell Line)
Sissinghurst (The magnificent garden of Vita Sackville-West)
Smallhythe (The Ellen Terry Museum)
Smeeth (The Scott Family)
Snargate (Sluice Gates made by Royal Order)
Snave (the Remote church)
South Heighton
Speldhurst (Nobleman captured at Agincourt)
Staplecross (Mothers grudge hangs son)
Staplehurst (Charles Dickens train crash)
St Mary in the Marsh (Ancient Celts)
St Marys Bay (Holidays and Beaches)
Stonegate (Ancient Roman Cross Road)
Stone in Oxney (Roman stone altar)
Sundridge (Last Peer of England to be hanged)
Sutton Valence (seized from Simon de Montfort)
Tarring Neville (The Chest from the Spanish Armarda)
Telscombe Cliffs
Tenterden (Centre of the Broadcloth industry)
Ticehurst (Anne Boleyn and Pashley Manor)
Toys Hill
Tudeley and Capel (Iron Industry and Hop Pickers)
Uckfield (Traction Engine destroys bridge)
Udimore (Angels move the Church)
Upper and Lower Dicker (Michelham Priory)
Vines Cross (Cannons and Doodlebugs)
Wadhurst (Last bare fisted Prize-Fight in England)
Waldron (Fullers Earth)
Warbleton (The Iron Man)
Warehorne (A good place to explore the Marshes)
Wartling (World War II defence centre)
Westerham (James Wolfe captures Quebec)
West Farleigh
Westfield (Bonfire Boys under suspicion)
Westham (Enclosure for the Castle)
West Malling
West Peckham
Whatlington (King Harold's Manor)
Wilmington (The Long Man)
Winchelsea (Inland Cinque Port !!)
Winchelsea Beach (Holidaymakers and Henry VIIIs Fort)
Windmill Hill (Largest Post Mill in Sussex)
Withyham (De La Warrs and Sackvilles)
Wittersham (Park your Airship here ?)
Woodchurch (Dragoons capture Smugglers)
Wrotham Heath
Yalding (longest medieval bridge in Kent)
Firle (Home of the Greengage)
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