The Bull Ring Riots

Detail from Hansard recording debate on the Birmingham Bull Ring Riots, 1839

Following the rejection of the Chartist petition, rioting occurred throughout the country.  This included serious riots in Birmingham which are known as the Bull Ring Riots.

A National Convention of all interested Chartists from around the country, begun in London in February 1839, moved to Birmingham in May.  Following the move, large Chartist meetings were held at the Bull Ring, sometimes twice a day.   

The Petition was presented to Parliament by Thomas Attwood on 14 June. Birmingham’s local magistrates were concerned at the risk to public order.  They tried to ban the meetings, and enrolled 2,000 to 3,000 special constables, as well as readying troops.  Meetings in the Bull Ring restarted in July and police from London were sent in to disperse the crowd and arrest the speakers.  The crowd fought back and drove out the police.  On 12 July, Attwood proposed that the petition be considered, but was defeated by 235 votes to 46.  The petition was rejected.  

The rejection caused great anger amongst the Chartists, and rioting followed throughout the country.  In Birmingham, the Metropolitan police were again sent in to disperse the crowd in the Bull Ring.  Houses were attacked and burned, and claims for property damage totalled £20,000.  The Riot Act was read and troops moved in.  Cavalry and artillery were on standby in the streets, whilst police and troops patrolled the streets.  Arrests, imprisonment and transportations followed. 

To read a verbatim account of a debate in the House of Lords on the Bull Ring Riots, please click here. 

One of the results of the riot was the formation of a permanent police force in Birmingham.