1832 Reform Act

Reform riots, 1831

In 1831 there were riots in England when Parliament decided against reform to give Britain's industrial cities and towns better representation.

In Nottingham people attacked the castle, home of the Duke of Newcastle. Protestors were arrested and some were executed.

In Bristol protestors threw stones at the Mansion House, broke in and destroyed it, and three protestors were killed by police. The Bristol goal and Bishop's palace were also set on fire. In total an estimated 70 people died in the violence.

People believed that something similar would happen in London unless Parliament reformed the voting system.

The 1832 Reform Act

Partly in response to the riots Parliament passed the 1832 Reform Act.

The act stated that:

  • One in five men - those who owned property and earned more than £10 per year - got the vote
  • Seats must be created for MPs in new industrial towns such as Birmingham
  • Seats for MPs from rotten boroughs had to be removed

There was a mixed reaction to the new political changes.

The middle class was happy about the changes, but the working class still could not vote.

Elections remained corrupt and the country was still run by the rich. MPs in the countryside continued to have more power than those in industrial towns.