The Day The Fen Tigers Revolted

By Roger Rudderham, on behalf of The Littleport Society
An extract from an article by the late James Wentworth-Day

“A farm wagon, drawn by four black horses lumbers towards the city of Ely. Four muzzle loading punt guns, each eight feet long and loaded with a pound of swan shot, stick fore and aft out of the wagon like the long guns in a battleship’s turret. Behind the wagon march along the rugged peaty road, a hundred or more rough fenmen in highlows, moleskin waistcoats, round otter-skin hats, carrying guns, scythes, pitchforks, turf beckets, seven foot long eel spears, hedge-hooks and bludgeons, all roaring riot and rebellion. A parson stands half-clad in the vicarage doorway, a loaded pistol in his hand, while his wife and children fled in their nightclothes through the dark. A young lawyer on a 16 hand hunter rides hell for leather through the night to the far off town of Bury St. Edmunds. Meanwhile the small fen town of Littleport is in the hands of a drunken mob. Windows are shattered, doors are beaten down. Women screaming. Shops pillaged. The graveyard littered with broken glass and china. Beer is being ladled out from buckets.
And the cry goes out from a hundred throats. We want Henry Martin! Kill Martin! Kill Martin!

You can add to this a picture of dragoons, pipe-clad and shining, bits jingling, sabres clattering, cantering through the sweet dawn with an officer who says with a laugh: “last year we were in the Battle of Waterloo. Now I think we’re going to fight the Battle of Hullabaloo!”

You can add to that the picture of a man shot dead, another cut down by a sabre, a third driven mad by terror and a fourth dying later of fright. The picture ends with five wretched fenmen, whose greatest crime was that they rioted because their children staved, swinging in the wind, while another batch of their mates were battened down on their way to the convict settlements in Australia.”

To commemorate this momentous event in the history of our town, The Littleport Society has planned a series of talks and an exhibition to coincide with the other events taking place in May.

3rd May – Village Hall 7.30 pm THE LITTLEPORT RIOTS, an illustrated talk by David Sherwood.
17th May – Village Hall 7.30 pm The Fighting Parson and The Mutineer’s Brother – The men who smashed the Littleport Riots, an illustrated talk by Mike Petty
21-22nd May – at the The Barn 10.00-4.00 each day an exhibition FROM WATERLOO TO HULLABALOO, The true history the Littleport Riots, also an opportunity to see if your ancestors were involved.


  • Rod Read

    Having met some of the organisers at Adams Community Market I have been writing an account as a retired criminologist with an historical perspective from today.
    It was an important culminating event of the widespread 1816 East Anglian Food Riots.

    Any info gladly received at

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