Tom Palin, Hung for Riotous Assembly at Shrewsbury Jail 7th April 1821. Time for a pardon

In Uncategorized on April 7, 2021 by kmflett

Tom Palin, Hung for Riotous Assembly at Shrewsbury Jail 7th April 1821. Time for a pardon

200 years after his death there are calls for a posthumous pardon for Tom Palin who was hung at Shrewsbury jail on 7th April 1821 for felonious riot.

Palin had been, or at least was alleged by the authorities to have been, the leader of a group who attempted to free prisoners held by the local Yeomanry at Cinderford on 1st February 1821.

The occasion known as Cinderloo in an echo of Peterloo in 1819 involved local miners and others protesting at wage cuts by an aggressive local employing class.

The riot act had been read and Palin was one of those who failed to disperse. As the call for his pardon notes little is known about him, and there is no memorial.

It seems clear however that he was singled out by the authorities for reasons which remain unclear. Calls for his sentence to be reduced to imprisonment-a common occurrence at this time- went unheeded.

Palin was one of just 58 people to be hung at Shrewsbury jail in the entire nineteenth century and he was the only one to receive the death sentence for anything even remotely like a ‘political’ offence.

Strangely the record I can find of those hung at Shrewsbury records his crime as one of Luddism. The activities of the Luddites had concluded by 1817 or so, but this may be an indication that Palin’s activities had been known to the authorities over a much longer period.

Palin might have considered himself unlucky to be hung for riot, but in fact it was far from unknown for this to occur under what was known as the ‘Bloody Code’. The range of offences for which hanging could be the penalty was extensive including cutting down trees, and writing threatening letters.

As E P Thompson argued the counter weight was that the legal system did allow the possibility of genuine challenge to harsh sentences, although not in Palin’s case.

By the 1840s the range of offences for which the death penalty applied had been vastly reduced and no longer included riot. At the same time the use of an armed Yeomanry to keep order had been replaced by the introduction of police forces. They had truncheons rather than sabres or guns.

It seems appropriate to pardon Palin. It would be as appropriate to erect some form of monument to mark his role in defending workers rights and, if possible, to find out more about who he was.

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