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Riot At Ormskirk

Riot At Ormskirk

Ormskirk Town Hall, with the Town Crest on the gable.

Ormskirk Town Hall, with the Town Crest on the gable.

The Historical Market Town of Ormskirk was rocked to the core on Wednesday 20th October 1824 when a riot broke out in the town and shots were fired.

The trigger which led to no less that 2000 of the townsfolk taking part in the riot was the appointment to Deputy Constable at the Court Leet by the Jury Foreman, Harvey Wright, of Mr Thomas Howard, instead of the re-elected Deputy-Constable, Mr Derbyshire.  The Earl of Derby, as Lord of the Manor, was the Steward over the Court Leet and seemingly the remainder of the 12 man jury took the dismissal of their elected Deputy very badly. (The High Constable of Ormskirk in 1824 was Robert Barton).

The Jury were dismissed but as is the custom, the name of the new Deputy Constable was announced at the door of the Town Hall and all those who heard the announcement immediately responded with hisses and groans.

The Town Regalia including the Constables Staff, javelins and standard measure

The Town Regalia including the Constables Staff, javelins and standard measure

Jury Foreman Harvey Wright ordered the outgoing Deputy Constable. Mr Derbyshire, to give up his Staff of Office to Mr Howard.  Derbyshire refused to obey the order at which point Wright ordered the newly appointed Deputy Constable, Mr Howard, to take the staff by force.

The court was dismissed and Harvey Wright left for his home on Aughton Street  but he was followed by a huge mob shouting and hissing after him. Wright was being bombarded with rocks and stones and had to take refuge in the store of Mr William Garside down Aughton Street. The only person who was there to help Wright escape the mob was town Surgeon Mr  Henry William Ellis, (later to marry Wright’s second Daughter Mary) who himself was hit and injured by a rock and managed to drag Wright into the Garside shop.

Garsides Druggist and Grocery, Aughton Street.

Garsides Druggist and Grocery, Aughton Street.

The mob remained outside the shop and continued to yell and hurl missiles into the store and at one point a shot was fired which narrowly missed hitting Mr Wright in the chest.

The noise and shattering of plate glass must have woken Mr Garside who was sleeping above his shop,he came down and bravely confronted the mob begging them to consider his home and his family. The mob moved away but only to set fire to a barrel of tar and roll it further down the street to Wright’s house where they placed it against the front door.

The barrel burnt quickly however and caused little damage, but the mob continued to march through the streets with blazing torches with the deposed Deputy Constable Mr Derbyshire raised on the shoulders of a few of them.

Squibs, a type of fire cracker

Squibs, a type of fire cracker

The rioting carried on for a good length of time, with local shopkeepers supplying the rioters with shot, crackers and squibs to keep the uproar going. None of the Jury, nor the town officials nor the newly elected Deputy Constable Howard made any attempt to calm the offenders. (Crackers and squibs were small sticks of explosive or fire crackers, the term ‘damp squib’ meaning one which didn’t work properly due to moisture.)

It was Saturday, 3 days later, when the town Constable and new Deputy finally made between 20 and 30 arrests, including Mr Derbyshire, the ex Deputy Constable. All were bound over to the Quarter Sessions to answer to the charge of rioting.


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