Hexham Market Place was the setting for a violent
demonstration against the Militia Law that ended when
troops fired on the crowd, and about fifty people died.
The Cobblestones appearing
in the nineteenth-century photograph were awash with
blood. Next day, the rain cleared it all away.
The memory of the riot
and massacre faded quickly, except in Hexham. Even Hexham
had no visible memorial to the disaster until 2004.
RIOT is based on contemporary
sources, which give a vivid account of the tragic day.
It explains why the riot broke out, why the ruling gentry
were determined to suppress it, why it was easily forgotten.
It sets the whole story in its national and regional
context. The British government was embroiled in war
overseas and feared subversion at home. Country gentlemen
needed a citizen army to protect the country from invasion
and to keep order. But when they proposed to recruit
the militia by ballot, independent craftsmen, labourers
and farmers protested. It was to stop the balloting
that a crowd said to be 5,000 strong demonstrated in
Hexham Market Place. The story of what followed is told
here, with many illustrations.