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Riot Prevention and Control in Early Stuart London

  • K. J. Lindley
Extract

The notion that London conforms to an urban crisis model in the seventeenth century has recently been challenged in a bold reassessment of how the City adapted to change and coped with its problems at a grass-roots level. Too much stress, it is argued, has been placed upon disorder in the capital, wrongly depicted as constantly prone to rioting and criminality, to the neglect of its ordered and stable features which enabled London to weather a period of unprecedented political upheaval without a popular uprising. Yet has disorder in seventeenth-century London received too much emphasis, and just how effective were the endeavours of municipal and other authorities to maintain peace on the streets? This paper will attempt to gauge the seriousness of the problem posed by periodic rioting in the capital, and the efficacy of measures of riot prevention and control, in the period from James I's accession to Charles I's departure from London, allegedly driven out by uncontrollable tumult and sedition, in January 1642. No answer to these questions would be complete, however, if the investigation were simply confined to the area under the lord mayor's jurisdiction, for disturbances which began in the suburbs could soon cross over the City's limits or the citizens themselves could participate in disorders outside those limits.

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1 Pearl Valerie, ‘Change and stability in seventeenth-century London’ in The London Journal, v, no. 1 (1979), passim; id., ‘Social policy in early modern London’ in History and Imagination: essays in honour of H. R. Trevor-Roper ed. H. Lloyd-Jones, V. Pearl and B. Worden (1981), passim.

2 Burke P., ‘Popular culture in seventeenth-century London’ in The London Journal, iii, no. 2 (1977), 144–6. There is documentary evidence of Shrove Tuesday disturbances on the following inclusive dates: 1606–9, 1611–14, 1616–21, 1623–4, 1628–9, 1632–6, and 1641. The evidence is to be found in the Middlesex sessions records, the repertories of the court of aldermen, privy council registers and state papers domestic.

3 Greater London Record Office (henceforth G.L.R.O.), MJ/SR. 457/58–62, 76–7.

4 Ibid., 517/140; 519/20,65–6,73; 529/6–9, 20, 78, 98; ibid., MJ/SBR. 1/490–1, 586–90; 2/50, 56; ibid., MJ/GBR. 1/214, 216–7; 2/16.

5 Acts of the Privy Council, James I (henceforth A.P.C.) iii. 175, 193–4; PRO., SP 14/ 90/105–6, 135, 143; Dingle A. M., ‘The role of the householder in early Stuart London, c. 1603-c. 1630’ (M.Phil, thesis, University of London, 1974), 51.

6 G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 418/132; 575/142; 649/59; 808/437; 809/33–6, 39–41; 893/50; 912/312, 315; Corporation of London Records Office (henceforth C.L.R.O.), Rep. 44, f. 229; ibid., sessions of gaol delivery, 25 May 1615.

7 C.L.R.O., Jor. 26, f. 218; 28, ff. 18, 84; 29, f. 375; 30, f. 228; 33, f. 129; 36, f. 286; 39, f. 95; ibid., Rep. 27, ff. 64, 66; 36, f. 185; 42, ff. 57–8; The court and times of Charles I ed. Williams R. F. (1848), i. 311–14.

8 P.R.O..SP 16/455/7–8.

9 There were relatively minor affronts offered to the Imperial ambassador in 1605, the Spanish ambassador in 1612, the Venetian ambassador and two of his servants in 1635 and servants of the Persian ambassador in 1636 (C.L.R.O., Rep. 27, f. 51; 50, ff. 14, 294; The court and times of James I, ed. Williams R. F. (1848), i. 191–2; Cal. State Papers Venetian, xxiii, 437). Foreign nationals working in London were also subjected to abuse—for example, Spanish subjects and their servants in 1608, 1615 and 1618, and French factors in 1642 (C.L.R.O., Rep. 28, f. 279; 32, f. 118; Analytical index to the series of records known as the Remembrancia, ed. Overall W. H. (1878), 260; P.R.O., SP 16/488/81).

10 P.R.O., SP 14/119/90; A.P.C., Charles I, i. 451.

11 C.S.P. Vm., xv. 281–2; Court…of James I, ii. 81–2; P.R.O., SP 14/98/18.

12 P.R.O., SP 14/111/22.

13 Court…of James I, ii. 247–9.

14 P.R.O., SP 14/152/4; C.L.R.O., Jor. 32, ff. 256–7; C.S.P. Vm., xviii, 262.

15 P.R.O., PC 2/41/119; ibid., SP 16/295/37; C.S.P. Ven., xxiii, 437–8.

16 C.S.P. Vn., xix, 350; xxv, 145–6, 148–9,203, 214; P.R.O..SP 16/485/50; C.L.R.O., Jor. 39, f. 193.

17 C.L.R.O., Jor. 33, f. 319; 34, ff. 52, 227.

18 G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 649/53–8.

19 Court … of Charles I, i. 141–2, 175–7; C.S.P. Ven., xix587; PRO., SP 16/35/44; ibid., 39/78; C.L.R.O., Jor. 34, f. 27.

20 Court… of Charles I, i. 189, 191, 194; C.S.P. Ven., xx, 119.

21 C.S.P. Ven., xx, 606–7; G.L.R.O., MJ/SBR. 4/626, 649; A.P.C., Charles I, iv. 354.

22 B.L., Sloane MS. 1467, ff. 114–15; Commons Journals, ii, 143; G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 891/2.

23 P.R.O., STAC 8/49/6; ibid., SP 16/148/9, 18, 20, 35; B.L., Hargrave MS. 283, f. 8; Remembrancia index, 452; C.L.R.O., Rep. 41, ff. 8, 30, 171–2.

24 P.R.O., PC 2/49/265, 292, 313, 331, 337, 346, 358, 372, 380; ibid., 50/184.

25 Ibid., SP 14/104/37–8, 38I; A.P.C., James I, iv. 333; Court…of James I, ii. 114.

26 Remembrancia index, 455–6; P.R.O., SP 16/136/40, 40I; A.P.C., Charles I, v. 333–4.

27 P.R.O., SP 16/386/74, 93; ibid., PC 2/49/46–7.

28 Ibid., PC 2/50/19; G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 866/32; 864/70, 166; 960/153; ibid., MJ/GBR. 4/330, 332, 334.

29 Court… of Charles I, i. 364–5, 367–8; D.N.B., xi. 442–3; Rushworth J., Historical Collections (1721), i. 618, and ii. 145–6; C.S.P. Ven., xxi, 157; P.R.O., SP 16/528/78; ibid., 107/78; ibid., Baschet's transcripts, 31/3/72, f. 151.

30 Court… of Charles I, ii. 24–5; P.R.O., SP 45/10/113; ibid., 16/146/62; ibid., 147/74; ibid., 148/20; C.L.R.O., Rep. 43, ff. 281–2, 302, 328; 44, ff. 37, 74, 115, 200, 296.

31 A.P.C, James I, v. 239–40, 243, 259; P.R.O., PC 2/50/382, 422, 697–8; ibid., 51/ 360; ibid., SP 16/421/162; ibid., 422/39, 39I; ibid., 424/65.

32 Pearl V., London and the outbreak of the Puritan Revolution (Oxford, 1964), chap. 4; Manning B.S., The English People and the English Revolution (1976), chaps. 1– 5.

33 The extension of the lord mayor's jurisdiction over Whitefriars, Blackfriars, Coldharbour and other liberties in 1608 did not entirely eradicate this problem. The bailiff of Whitefriars apparently remained a powerful figure who might delay taking action without instructions from his patron, and a tenant in Blackfriars who refused to pay his rent in 1614 believed that no constable would dare come to distrain, or a sheriff to effect an arrest, for nonpayment where he lived (Pearl , London, 38; Dingle A. M., ‘The role of the householder’, 20–1; P.R.O., STAC 8/112/4; ibid., 295/2).

34 Brett-James N. G., The growth of Stuart London (1935), 215–16, 223; Pearl , London, 17–3; id., ‘Change and stability’ 7; Harleian Miscellaný, vii. 505–6.

35 For all its relative sophistication, the system could sometimes break down when livery companies failed to furnish the market with their set proportion of wheat meal, and the poor did occasionally die of starvation in the City's streets and lanes. Professor Pearl's discovery of a relatively humane social policy in operation in seventeenth-century London has acknowledged limits—vagrants received the same harsh treatment in London as elsewhere (Pearl, ‘Social policy’, passim; C.L.R.O., Jor. 33, ff. 144, 304; 34, ff. 165, 311; 35, f. 262; 37, f. 172; 39, f. 14; ibid., Rep. 43, ff. 9, 160–2.

36 Above pp. 110–11; C.S.P. Ven., xxi, 337.

37 C.L.R.O., Rep. 31 part I, ff. 38, 94; ibid., sessions of gaol delivery, 18 Mar. 1612; Rushworth , Historical Collections, i. 618; Court…of Charles I, i. 311–14; C.S.P. Ven., xxv, 97, 145–6; P.R.O., SP 16/485/50; B.L., Add. MS. 11,045, ff 122 3.

38 Court…of James I, ii. 81–2.

39 Dingle A. M., ‘The role of the householder’, 65–6, 93–4, 132, 236; C.L.R.O., Jor. 31, ff. 73, 317–18, 353–4; 39, ff. 140, 262; ibid., Rep. 31 part I, ff. 38, 94, III; 31 part II, f 317.

40 A.P.C., Charles I, v. 333–4; C.L.R.O., Rep. 43, ff. 120–1.

41 Manning , The English people, 77–8; House of Lords Records Office, main papers, 15 Jan. 1642 petition of Peter Scott, one of the constables of St Martin-in-the-Fields; C.J., ii. 382.

42 PRO., STAC 8/160/16; C.L.R.O., Rep. 42, f. 306; A.P.C., Charles I, iv. 354.

43 A.P.C., Charles I, iv. 492, 505.

44 C.L.R.O., Rep. 42, ff. 57–8.

45 Dingle A. M., ‘The role of the householder’, 151, 158, 217–21; C.L.R.O., Jor. 27, ff. 19, 168; 28, f. 18; 29, f. 14; 33, f. 267; 35, f. 438; ibid., Rep. 31 part I, ff. 33, 38; 31 part II, f. 317; 51, f. 354.

46 C.L.R.O., recognisance 11 May 1620; G.L.R.O., MJ/SBR. 6/6; ibid., MJ/SR. 807/ 10–12, 14. Cf., C.L.R.O., Rep. 33, f. 165.

47 G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 877/2. A local watchman had also been one of the besiegers of the French embassy in 1619 and had assaulted one of the ambassador's coachmen with his watchman's bill (P.R.O., SP 14/111/22).

48 P.R.O., SP 14/96/23; ibid., STAC 8/215/23; ibid., 62/13; Court…of Charles I, i. 313–14.

49 G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 960/153; C.L.R.O., Rep. 27, f. 169; 46, ff. 44–5.

50 Court…of James I, ii. 248; Court…of Charles I, i. 186; P.R.O., SP 14/152/26.

51 P.R.O., PC 2/52/482–3, 493–4.

52 Ibid., SP 16/488/17; C.L.R.O.Jor. 39, ff. 262, 264.

53 C.L.R.O., Rep. 43, ff. 281–2, 302, 328; 44, ff. 37, 74, 115, 200; Court…of Charles I, ii. 25.

54 Dingle A. M., ‘The role of the householder’, 58, 233; C.L.R.O., Jor. 30, ff. 48, 192; 31, f. 317; 32, f. 221; 33, ff. 52, 129; 39, ff. 79,84, 253, 262; ibid., Rep. 35, f. 146; P.R.O., SP 14/120/97; ibid., 16/453/16; ibid., PC 2/52/482–3.

Threats to call masters to account for the unruly behaviour of their apprentices were sometimes carried out. A number of masters were bound over for allowing their apprentices liberty to commit riots on Shrove Tuesday 1611, and fines were imposed on masters upon other occasions for breaches of the peace by their apprentices and servants (G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 498/55–63; C.L.R.O., book of fines 1517–1628, ff. 246, 259). But occasionally they themselves were culpable, as in 1616 when a Shoreditch apprentice, arrested as a suspected instigator of a Shrove Tuesday riot, was rescued from the headborough by his mistress (G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 547/87).

55 The office had originally been a military post for maintaining discipline within the army but became a peace-time appointment towards the end of the sixteenth century, with a special responsibility to deal with vagrants and establish control over riotous London apprentices and servants (by martial law executions if necessary) in the 1590s (Williams P., The Tudor Regime (Oxford, 1979), 202–3, 204, 229, 388; B.L., Lansdowne MS. 66, ff. 241–2).

56 P.R.O., SP 16/455/7–8, 102; ibid., PC 2/52/483; C.L.R.O., Jor. 39, f. 141; ibid., Rep. 42, f. 213; A.P.C., Charles I iv. 505.

57 Court… ofJames I, ii. 85, 248.

58 C.L.R.O., Jor. 36, ff. 37, 50; Rushworth , Historical Collections, ii. 145–6.

59 Court…of James I, ii. 247–8.

60 Ibid., pp. 81–2. Riotous sailors in 1626 were beguiled by promises of wages (Court…of Charles I, i. 141–2, 175, 189; C.S.P. Ven., xix, 468, 587). A provost marshal calmed rioters intent on demolishing a brothel on Whit Tuesday 1640 by feigning cooperation with them and eventually managed to arrest a prime offender (P.R.O., SP 16/455/7).

61 Boynton L., The Elizabethan militia 1558–1638 (1967), 210, 216, 217, 255; C.L.R.O., Jor. 29, ff. 296, 342; 30, ff. 47–8, 60; 31, f 293; 33, f. 162; 34, f. 269; 37, ff. 73, 79, 92; 38, f. 212; ibid., Rep. 35, f. 120; B.L., Egerton MS. 2541, f. 400; C.S.P. Ven., xvii, 433.

62 A.P.C., Charles I, vi. 126.

63 C.L.R.O., Jor. 30, f. 128; ibid., Rep. 37, ff. 105–6; A.P.C., James I, v. 377–8; ibid., vi. 152–3; A.P.C., Charles I, i. 346–7, 451; C.S.P. Dom., 1635–36, 196.

64 There were periodic complaints of absenteeism. Large numbers of men absented themselves from the 1615 muster and fines were levied upon absentees from the 1618 muster and Shrove Tuesday service in 1623 and 1632. But the deterrent effect of fining in the case of the 1618 and 1623 absentees must have been weakened by the subsequent return of the fines (C.L.R.O., Rep. 32, f. 183; 33, f. 418; 34, f. 68; 37, ff. 108–9,: 114, 145, 233; 46, f. 126; 51, f. 210).

65 P.R.O., SP 16/53/10; ibid., PC 2/50/382; ibid., 51/360; C.L.R.O., Rep. 41, f. 102.

66 P.R.O., PC 2/52/483–4; ibid., Baschet's transcripts, 31/3/72, f. 150; Rushworth , Historical Collections, iii. 1085.

67 P.R.O., PC 2/52/491–2; B.L., Add. MS. 11,045, f 117.

68 P.R.O., PC 2/53/108–9; ibid., SP 16/486/99; C.L.R.O., Jor. 39, f. 185; ibid., Rep. 55, ff. 162, 368; C.J., ii. 143.

69 Pearl , London, 104–5, 108, 119–20.

70 P.R.O., Baschet's transcripts, 31/3/72, f. 156; ibid., SP 16/468/139.

71 Ibid., SP 16/454/12. Some of the one hundred Middlesex musketeers sent to guard the Queen Mother also expressed great reluctance to perform that service (Rushworth , Historical Collections, iv. 267).

72 C.S.P. Ven., xxv, 272.

73 C.L.R.O., Jor. 40, f. 10; Pearl , London, 173; B.L., Add. MS. 14827, ff. 10–11; Rushworth , Historical Collections, iv. 484.

74 Seven or eight months of effort by messengers, for example, resulted in the arrest of only eight of the twenty persons sent for by privy council warrant for their part in the 1638 Holborn incident (P.R.O., PC 2/50/184). In an attempt to overcome this problem, surgeons were sometimes enjoined to inform the authorities about any suspects they might have treated, and information gained in this way led to the arrest of one of the Lambeth palace assailants (P.R.O., SP 45/10/113; ibid., Baschet's transcripts, 31/3/72, f. 168).

75 A.P.C, James I, iii. 175; Court… of Charles I, ii. 23–4; P.R.O., PC 2/49/292, 372; ibid., 53/47; ibid., SP 16/453/811; B.L., Add. MS. 11,045, ff. 130–1; ibid., Sloane MS. 1467, ff. 114–15, 123–4; C.L.R.O., proceedings on a commission of oyer and terminer, Aug. 1618.

76 C.L.R.O., session of oyer and terminer, Aug. 1618; G.L.R.O., MJ/GBR. 2/114–15; P.R.O., SP 16/454/39.

77 G.L.R.O., MJ/SR. 444/98–100.

78 James I was said to have wanted the execution of arrested Shrove Tuesday rioters in 1617 to set an example, but had to rest content with fines and imprisonment in irons, and after the attack upon the Spanish ambassador in the following year summary execution by martial law was threatened against future offenders (P.R.O., SP 14/90/106; ibid., 187/59).

79 The Southwark glover racked to extract information was rumoured to have been shown mercy. Those who had invaded the court of high commission also risked execution for it was judged a capital crime to attack a court of justice (B.L., Sloane MS. 1467, fF. 114–15; ibid., Add. MS. 11,045, f. 130).

80 Three or more Shrove Tuesday rioters died in the storming of a playhouse in 1617; watchmen were reported to have killed two sailors in 1627 and another two were shot down by the trained bands as they advanced on the Tower in May 1641; a besieger of the White Lion prison in May 1640 was killed; and Sir Richard Wiseman died of wounds sustained in Dec. 1641 (P.R.O., SP 14/90/105; B.L., Sloane MS. 1467, f. 111; Court…of Charles I, i. 186; Manning , The English people, 80).

81 Pearl , ‘Change and stability’, 56.

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