1715 Riot Act

The 1715 Riot Act was an attempt to strengthen the power of the civil authorities when threatened with riotous behaviour. The act made it a serious crime for members of a crowd of twelve or more people to refuse to disperse within an hour of being ordered to do so by a magistrate. One of the problems for magistrates was actually reading the Riot Act during a serious disturbance. For example, after the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, most of the demonstrators that were convicted claimed that they had not heard the Riot Act being read. The Riot Act was unsuccessful in controlling a series of disturbances including the 1743 Gin Riots, the 1768 St George's Massacre and the 1780 Gordon Riots.