In 1829 Charles Goode of Ampthill, Special Constable had received a warrant to arrest Charles Cartwright and several others, all labourers for setting fire to and destroying five parish wheelbarrows and hempen bags. Whilst Goode was searching the houses of the offenders a mob formed outside the property. After leaving, Goode was followed by the mob and ‘ … insulted and hooted by about 20 or 30 in a most gross manner by expressions that ought not to be mentioned.’
By the time Goode had reached the house of another offender the mob, reached upwards of 100 people who then began to throw stones. It wasn’t until the constables presented their unloaded pistols, previously concealed in their pockets that the mob drew back. Charles Goode reflected on the incident stating that“…I never saw such a Riot in my life…”
Cartwright was later charged with rioting at Millbrook on 12th May 1835. In the deposition made by James Osborn of Cranfield, the Relieving Officer of the Western District of the Union of Ampthill, stated that he went to Millbrook to enquire into the state of paupers and to make attempts to arrange work for them. Whilst there, he was met by a crowd of thirty men who demand monetary relief. When Osborn refused, the bridle of James’ pony was seized. At this point James Osborn jumped off and ran to the house of Mr Cardale for safety whilst chased by the mob. At 7 o’clock James tried to recover his pony at the public house, but was attackedby the mob. James Osborne identified Charles Cartwright as amongst those who had pushed him down. The mob did not disperse until the Overseer gave the mob a shilling piece each.
Charles also participated in the riot at Ampthill Workhouse on the 14th May 1835. Richard Abbis, Constable, was on duty at the time. He estimated that there were approximately 200 people in the workhouse garden all making cries of ‘Knock them down. Break their heads’ and ‘Blood and bread’. The mob proceeded to vandalise the building and forced their way into the workhouse. Abbis identified Cartwright as being ‘very active’ in the mob. In this instance, Cartwright received a sentence of 15 months hard labour.
Unfortunately, Charles had one too many brushes with the law. After he was charged with highway robbery in 1837 he was sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived in New South Wales in 1838 on board the Lord Lyndoch. Bedfordshire Archives hold two letters sent from Charles to his family in Millbrook. In the first letter dated 8th April 1842 Charles recounts the work tasks he has carried out such as building a gaol for female convicts in Parramatta and stone cutting in Wollongong. Missing his family he states that the separation is “painful in the extreme’ and asks his family to emigrate. Two years later, he writes again in 1844 stating that “I sospose they [his youngest children] forgot me now…”
Although Charles Cartwright didn’t leave a record accounting for his behaviour. Observing his status as a labourer and the fact that his actions were directed towards the authorities responsible for local welfare. It may be possible to place his actions in the wider context of increased tensions between the community and the Poor Law relief system brought into focus by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.
- Bedfordshire Gaol Register Database