top of page

1830: The Swing Riots - Cuckfield teenager charged with writing threatening letters to landowners

The term Swing Riots refers to the general uprising of agricultural workers from the eastern and southern parts of England in 1830. Rioters, impoverished and landless peasants, sought to put an end to the wage reductions brought by the advent of threshers on farms by attacking the workhouses and buildings, burning crops, destroying the threshers and sending threatening letters to the authorities.

John Pagden was accused of writing such letters in the Cuckfield area...

Threatening letter from 'Captain Swing'

Brighton Gazette - Thursday 23 December 1830


John Pagden, cordwainer, 17, committed by J. P. Cherry. Esq. was charged with sending to Faulkner Best, a letter with a fictitious signature, threatening to burn his barns and stacks of corn. Also charged with sending several persons in the neighbourhood of Cuckfield, letters of the same import.

There were no less than six several indictments against this prisoner.

Mr Adolphus addressed the court on behalf of the prisoner, in a powerful and ingenious speech, contending that he had only written the letters in a freak; that having seen similar letters in the newspapers, he took the fancy to send some of the same nature; that it was altogether a boyish trick; he concluded by imploring that mercy might be extended to the prisoner, on account of his tender age, and by directing him to plead Guilty. This plea was recorded, but sentence will not be passed till to-morrow, (Thursday.)



bottom of page