The Dripping Riot of 1865

The Dripping Riot (1865)
Park Square
Eliza Stafford worked as cook to the surgeon and magistrate Henry Chorley. He discovered she was stealing dripping from his kitchen and brought charges against her. She was found guilty and imprisoned for a month in Armley Prison. The case brought much public sympathy for Eliza and on February 22, the day of her release, a huge crowd gathered at the prison gates to greet her. Eliza had already left the prison and, once the crowds discovered this, a large portion made
their way to Chorley’s house on Park Square. Here, the crowd grew in size and the police presence grew accordingly. Windows were smashed, with stones and bricks thrown at the police who had sent for reinforcements. One man was trampled by the police and later died of his injuries, while several others were arrested.

Eliza Stafford worked as cook to the surgeon and magistrate Henry Chorley at 8 Park Square. He discovered she was stealing dripping from his kitchen and brought charges against her. She faced local magistrates on 23 January 1865 and was found guilty of stealing 2lb of dripping from her employer. She was imprisoned for one month in Armley Gaol.

Undated. Postcard view of Armley Jail taken from the recreation ground in front. (c) Leeds Library and Information Service, www.leodis.net

The case brought much public sympathy for Eliza and ill-will towards Mr Chorley with chants of ‘dripping, dripping’ following him whenever he appeared in public. On February 22, the day of her release, a huge crowd of thousands had gathered at the prison gates to greet her. Her sympathisers had arranged music and other demonstrations but unbeknownst to them, Eliza had left the prison at 7am by a back door and made her way to Scarborough. The local police had rightly feared a disturbance on her release and, once the crowds discovered she had gone, a large portion made their way to Chorley’s house on Park Square.

11th January 1951. View looking north east along east side of Park Square. The building with the triangular roof is 8 Park Square, home to Henry Chorley. In the 1870s this was also the home of Dr. Edith Pechey, the first woman to practice medicine in Leeds. This view dates from 1951. (c) Leeds Library and Information Service, www.leodis.net

Here, the crowd grew in size and the police presence grew accordingly. Several of Chorley’s windows were smashed and stones and bricks were thrown at the police. Mr Bell, the Chief Constable, succeeded in clearing space in front of Chorley’s house but accidentally fell and fractured his arm in doing so.  Superintendents Senior and Hunt then took control and successfully managed the crowd until noon, however the crowd then swelled in size due to local workers taking their dinner hour. Frequent attempts were made to break the line which protected Mr Chorley’s house from the front and from the back on Park Cross Street. Fearing the situation becoming out of control the Mayor met with magistrates and the police force in Bradford was asked to send as many officers as could be spared to assist. The Lord Mayor of York was also telegrammed and asked for military assistance. Placards were placed in the area of the Town Hall cautioning people that if they did not disperse they would risk arrest and prosecution. By 1pm the crowd had shrunk in size again as workers returned to their places of employment. Shortly afterwards the police charged at the crowd and drove them out of Park Square entirely. In the rush a man called George Hodson, a potter living on Dewsbury Road, was knocked down and trampled upon. He was taken to the Infirmary and later died of internal injuries.

Leeds Mercury, 23 February 1865

Once the crowd was forced from the square the people quickly dispersed and the Bradford police reinforcements and 8th Hussars from York were deemed unnecessary. That evening a crowd again gathered in Park Lane and the surrounding streets but the heavy police presence ensured no further disturbances. Several men were arrested in the course of the day and were charged with riotous conduct and two police offices and two civilians reported head wounds from stone throwing.

To find out more about the ‘Dripping Riot’ take a look at our collection of 19th century newspapers, freely available online to anyone with a Leeds library card.

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