Oxted & District History Society - Talk
Oxted & District History Society

Bernard Winchester gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society on ‘The Gordon Riots of 1780’.

In 1780 Britain was at war with America, France, Spain and the  Dutch.  Paranoia about a Catholic invasion was fomented by Protestant Associations and the aristocracy and royal family were distrusted.  The 1778 Papists Act for Catholic Relief had been passed in Parliament with unanimous support in both Houses.  Lord George Gordon, an eccentric aristocrat, became an MP and President of the London Protestant Association.  He was the leading light in the fight to repeal the Papists Act.

On 2nd June Gordon led a march on Parliament with a massive petition to repeal the Papists Act.  The peaceful march was infiltrated by troublemakers from the City and converged on Parliament Square, attacking Lords and Bishops and harassing MPs arriving at Parliament.  Over the next few days Catholic chapels, churches and the houses of Catholics , Law Lords and prisons were looted and burnt,  prisoners released and even the Bank of England attacked.  Magistrates were reluctant to read the Riot Act and without this the troops could not act. On 7th June the King demanded that the military act without reading the Riot Act and troops and armed volunteers took control.  700 to 800 people were killed in suppressing the riots


The Gordon Riots of 1780 by Bernard Winchester