On the night of the 4th June 1813 the Wymondham Troop of the Norfolk Yeomanry Cavalry under the command of Captain Darell were celebrating the birthday of King George III. The King had been declared insane a couple of years previously and England was being ruled by the Prince Regent but they were not going to let that stand in the way of a good feast. In any case Wellington was doing well, the Peninsular War against Napoleon was nearing its conclusion and the military was no doubt enjoying popular approval. The Troop had enjoyed a good dinner and had no doubt drunk a good deal.
At about 11 o’clock that night, inhabitants of the town were woken by the discharge of firearms in the street. One of those who came out to see what all the noise was about was a Mr Morris. According to his statement, a number of yeomen galloped up the street and one of them deliberately fired at an upper window. Another wheeled his horse round at about 40 yards from Mr Morris and fired his pistol at him, the ball penetrating his waistcoat & shirt and fracturing one of his ribs.
The occurrence was reported to the Commanding Officer who inserted a notice in the Norfolk Chronicle ordering the whole Troop to parade on 16th June with the threat that anyone absent without a satisfactory excuse would immediately be dismissed.
On the 17th June Captain Darrell announced in the Chronicle that after a most strict and indefatigable scrutiny it appeared on the best possible evidence “that no pistol loaded with ball had been fired by any men of the troop and that the pistols fired had been in an elevated position ..” In short, it was a whitewash.
Mr Morris however did not allow the matter to rest and on the 19th of June published his own view of the case. He said that one of the troopers had admitted bringing ball cartridges on parade and distributing them to others and that certain members of the troop had confessed to firing their pistols. Comparison of the ball that had hit Mr Morris with one produced by Capt. Darrell confirmed that they were of the same size and weight.
The troopers alleged that if the shot had been fired from one of their pistols at such a close range then the ball would have gone right through Mr Morris. He in turn countered that if the trooper had been drunk he might have spilt much of the powder or not rammed the ball down properly, either of which would have reduced the force of the shot.
Unfortunately for Mr Morris the evidence of the whole Troop was against him and neither the production of the bullet nor his broken rib persuaded the authorities to take further action.
The incident, however, seems to have angered Robert Priest a clerk with Mr John Mitchell a Wymondham Solicitor and led him to write a satirical poem about it. He was apparently prone to such pursuits and although this piece was not reckoned to show his abilities at their best it did run to 72 verses, was printed and sold for a shilling a copy. A transcript is held in the Wymondham Town Archive. For those who might like to read it a copy can be found on the Heritage Society web site at www.wymondhamheritagemuseum.co.uk
WYMONDHAM TOWN ARCHIVE
Published in Wymondham Heritage Society Newsletter