Dorset in the 1830s saw massive political and social change. From the foundation of the Political Unions in the 1830s to the collapse of Wellington’s government, the parliamentary system needed reform.

This seven-panel display, presented by the University of the West of England and funded by the ESRC Project, explores the importance of the Dorset by-elections, where riots in Dorchester, Poole, Blandford, and Sherborne showcased the national struggle for improvements to the electoral system.

‘Riot 1831’ studies the narrative of these riots, along with discussing common myths around rioting, analysing them using contemporary social and psychological understandings of crowd behaviour.

To accompany this, Shire Hall Museum is delighted to be welcoming Professor Steve Poole and Dr. Roger Ball, from the University of the West of England, to discuss the 1831 riots in deeper detail. Tickets for this talk are available here.

For more details about the project, please visit


Image courtesy of ©Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives.