The Swing Riots, 1830
‘The lane down to your farm is dark. We will light it’.
A ‘Swing’ letter sent to a farmer in Kent, c.1830
The Enclosures Acts of the late 1700s enabled large land owners to acquire common land. The agricultural workers lost this important source of income, forcing them to sell their labour to these very same landowners.
Many families became dependent on local relief, the Poor Law. They also had to pay the tithe, a tax, to the Church. Mechanisation threatened jobs. Rural families faced abject poverty.
In 1830 the agricultural workers confronted land owners with demands, often signed by “Captain Swing”, and used arson and sabotage to reinforce their case. This invented character, regarded as the figurehead of the movement, may have been inspired by landowners’ threats that protestors would ‘swing’ (be hanged) for their actions.
One of a set of eight images from Red Saunders’ Hidden Project.
The Hidden project
The Hidden Project recreates great moments in the long struggle of working people for democracy and social justice. The aim of the project, through reimagining those events, is to reproduce important historic scenes involving the dissenters, revolutionaries, radicals and non-conformists who have so often been hidden from history.
Tony Benn, Patron of the Hidden Project, says “Those who see these photographic representations will then be able to identify with past generations and gain confidence from the knowledge that they are part of a world-wide movement that has always existed and must be sustained.”
Red Saunders is a professional photographer who combines his photographic practice with cultural, musical and political activism.
Images copyright Red Saunders 2011. Retouching by Adrian Hayes.
Further information, reading list and full credit list of supporters and volunteers on ‘The Hidden Project’ go to the website: www.redsaundersphoto.eu.