The suggestion of a memorial to the Captain Swing Riots at their forthcoming bicentenary deserves serious follow-up (Edward Fennell’s Chronicle letter, March 28).

There is time for a properly informed public debate about the form this might take and what would be an appropriate means of expression for remembering events of this kind in the 21st century. Next time around in Winchester, please can we avoid automatically falling for the tired old late Victorian trope of a ‘statue’ – pace Greta Thunberg, Licoricia and Jane Austen. Hamo Thorneycroft’s Alfred the Great is a glorious example of this tradition at its apogee in 1901 but this form of celebration has surely now lost its normative appeal. There are compelling reasons why Holocaust memorials have favoured abstract solutions. Stories about our past should continue to inform our present yet Winchester still lacks proper commemoration of the important local events of 1830 (as it also does of the Bloody Assizes of Judge Jeffreys after the battle of Sedgemoor in 1685).

A memorial to the Swing Riots calls for something different to the representational style of a past era of ‘great men’, locked within its then political culture structure. Micheldever Parish Council and PCC to their credit in 2009 erected a memorial plaque commemorating the life of the young local agricultural labourer, Henry Cook, hanged in Winchester for the apparent offence of knocking off William Baring of Northington’s hat. The Riots had a significant influence on the Whig government during the period of major domestic unrest and repression following the Napoleonic Wars. They helped generate the progressive mood that led on to the Great Reform Act of 1832 and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 (the latter opposed by Bishop Charles Sumner, voting in the House of Lords en bloc with 25 other Anglican bishops).  

Christopher Gordon,

Former Chairman , Hampshire Sculpture Trust and Hampshire County Arts Officer (1977-86),

Cornes Close,


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