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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Though the trowmen unable to defend the vessel


A

reputed highwayman, and noted deerstealer, named William Stallard, living on the Upper Purlieu, above the Hawthorns, is stated to have been the instigator of these outrages, and others of a similar kind on Mr. Prince's flour-mill at Longhope. His lawless career, however, brought him to the gallows at Gloucester for horse-stealing, at the age of forty, on the 16th August, 1800, as appears by the records of that gaol. The decline of the market in Mitcheldean is said to date from the above disturbances, which naturally deterred the neighbouring farmers from sending their grain thither for sale. {85}

Nor were the bread riots confined to the northern side of the Forest, as upon "the evening of the same day, November 9th, many persons assembled at Hanstell, in the parish of Awre, in this county, where a vessel belonging to Eversham, and bound to Bristol with a cargo of pease, oil, flour, leather, and wheat, was waiting for the tide. About twenty men boarded her, examined the lading, and, upon discovering the flour, gave loud huzzas, when the bank was instantly covered with their comrades, who had many horses in waiting, with which they proceeded to carry off the flour, though the trowmen (unable to defend the vessel, and menaced with instant destruction) had offered to sell it to them at a reasonable price. About 7 o'clock one of the trowmen contrived to slip ashore, ran to Newnham, and sent off an express to Gloucester for immediate military aid;

but fortunately that assistance was nearer at hand. In consequence of some apprehension of a disturbance at Mitcheldean, an officer, with a serjeant and ten file of the Essex Fencibles Cavalry, had marched into the place early in the morning, and upon the arrival of the express from Newnham instantly set forth for the scene of depredation, under the command of Lieutenant Wood, and headed by Mr. Pyrke, a magistrate of Little Dean. The freebooters fled in every direction, but five men, named Thomas Yemm, Thomas Rosser, Richard Brain, George Marfell, and John Meek, being the most active ringleaders, were apprehended, some in the act of conveying away the flour upon packhorses, some had sacks of it upon their shoulders, some were just landed from the vessel; and many were busied on the bank, which was strewed with flour, dividing the sacks into smaller quantities to render it more portable, for even women and children were of the number." The five men already named were fully committed on the following Tuesday to Gloucester Castle, there to be tried at the Spring Assizes, being guarded thither by one hundred of the Surrey Fencibles, who had arrived in Newnham at 3 o'clock previously. Shortly afterwards, the serjeant of the military, called out on this occasion, was desperately bruised by a stone thrown at him by some desperadoes as he was riding near Mitcheldean, and, on a subsequent Thursday, some villains fired a piece loaded with slugs into the bed-chamber of Mr. Pyrke. At the ensuing Assizes, Thomas Yemm and Thomas Rosser were left for execution, which, although, from the excellent character they previously bore, some gentlemen of the Forest, and of the Grand Jury, interceded with his Majesty on their behalf, they underwent on the 11th April, 1797, acknowledging the justice of their sentence. The extraordinary scarcity, and consequent high price of provisions about this time, were so acutely felt in this neighbourhood, that the Crown distributed 1,000 pounds worth of grain amongst the distressed Foresters.


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