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Ceremony held to remember man hanged 182 years ago for rioting

Brien Beharrell

Kintbury 2
THE memory of a man hanged 182 years ago for rioting was honoured recently, the anniversary of his execution, by a short ceremony at his graveside in Kintbury churchyard. William Winterbourne (also known by his mother’s name of Smith, which appears on his gravestone) was the only Berkshire man to hang for taking part in the Swing Riots of 1830, in which hundreds of agricultural labourers protested against low wages and the introduction of threshing machines, which threatened their livelihoods. Last Friday’s gathering to remember him was organised by Keith Jerrome, a historian of the trades union movement, and included Rod Holmes, a descendant of William Winterbourne, who said that the story of his ancestor’s harsh treatment by 19th-century justice had been handed down through the generations in his family. He recited from memory the biblical verses that were on the gravestone, although they have long been made illegible by weathering and lichen. Historians rarely agree, but on the subject of William Winterbourne they generally concur that the capital sentence on him was unwarranted. The Swing Rioters broke machines and demanded money, but nobody was assaulted. Even the vicar of Kintbury, the Rev Fulwar Craven Fowle, pleaded for Winterbourne’s life and, after the hanging, had his body brought back to Kintbury and buried in a prime position in the churchyard, an unusual honour for a hanged man.

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