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A Riot in Tempsford Church

The church from the south-west February 2016
The church from the south-west February 2016

There is often an assumption that yobbish behaviour is a modern phenomenon. A palliative to this view is provided by a notice in the Cambridge Chronicle of 30th March 1832.

“WE, whose names are undersigned, hereby make a public apology to the Rev. G. OTTER, Curate of Tempsford, for our riotous conduct on the evening of Tuesday the 20th of March, in obtaining possession of Tempsford Church, drinking beer there, refusing to leave the belfry upon his remonstrances and using violent language to him upon the occasion: and we hereby also express our sorrow for the same, and acknowledge ourselves thankful for his having waived any further proceedings against us”.

The names were: R. Bennett, J. Bradshaw, J. Butterworth, I. Ekins, R. Medlock and W. Richardson. None of these names appear in any of the gaol registers for 19th century Bedfordshire with the possible exception of Bradshaw. A John Bradshaw of Tempsford appears on three separate occasions as follows:

  • 1827: for stealing wood he was fined 12/6 or sentenced to one month’s imprisonment - he paid the fine [QGV10/1]. He was 5 feet 6½ inches tall, with brown hair, a fair complexion and aged 22;
  • 1835: for stealing potatoes [QGV10/1]. The description tallies with that of the man above. He was given six months’ hard labour and the register entry noted: “This is a bad man but for fear of punishment he kept himself in order”;
  • 1855: for assault he was given six weeks’ imprisonment, the entry noting that he had been imprisoned: “16 years ago for stealing potatoes”.