JUNE 17th 1867

10.00 A.M: A crowd gathers around the church site. However they are quiet and good natured . A rough minority has gathered in Freeman Street and Park Street and are being kept under police surveillance.

10.30 A.M: An emergency meeting of the borough magistrates convenes over the possible consequences of a further lecture being given this evening. It is decided that the commander of the 8th Hussars be asked to summon his forces to use as reinforcements.They are informed that only 70 men are able to comply with this order, ther others being indisposed elsewhere. It is therefore decided to approach the Manchester division who can supply a hundred men and also to dispatch the regiment currently stationed in Coventry to the City center with immediate effect.

A number of special constables are sworn in and a telegram is sent to the Home Office informing them of the situation and the steps being taken to deal with it. A telegram is received back approving their actions.

A deputation from the Protestant Electoral Union arrives to address the assembled magistrates. They include a Colonel Brockman (President of the London branch) and a Mr Whalley (M.P. for Peterborough).They claim to be Murphy’s employers.

Whalley tells the magistrates that he had come from London to determine whether Murphy had said anything inflammatory as a deliberate incitement, which would lead him to believe that the lectures should be cancelled. So far he had heard nothing to suggest that it was Murphy’s intention to incite violence amd could see no reason why the lectures should cease. It was, after all, the “Papists” who were causing the disturbances. Murphy had the right to freedom of speech, and his associates would do anything in their power to help the magistrates with their onerous task of keeping order. The mayor tells him that he s not prepared, at this juncture, to engage in a debate about freedom of speech, blood had been spilt, and by the unanimous decision of the assembled magistrates the legal responsibility lay on Murphy’s shoulders and those who supported him.

12.00: A large wooden cross decked with a green ribbon is supported by a group of men in Freeman Street. They dispute the passage of anybody who does not pay respect to the emblem. The cross is to disappear later in the day and the men involved with its erection are arrested and taken to the lock-ups.

2.00 PM: A party of policemen go down Freeman Street in pursuit of two men ( A brass caster called Pilkington and a glass blower named Taylor) believed to be involved with earlier disturbances. When confronted, Pilkington hits one of the constables with a brick, seizes his cutlass and hits him around the head with it before breaking his arms with the hilt. Both men are apprehended and the policeman is taken to hospital. Early reports of the incident say that the policeman died in hospital. Murphy declares this to be a “pious fraud” and later reports state that the policeman is still alive.

3.00 PM: Troops and police are all in place. Running skirmishes take place between them and the crowd.

5.00 PM: By now some 22 arrests have been made for assaults on police officers. There are still three hours to go before the talk is due to be given.

6.00 PM: A further 12 arrests have been made in the past hour. Murphy arrives in a cab accompanied by a magistrate who escorts him to the church door and is thanked for doing so.

6.30 PM: Murphy ascends the platform inside the building and is greeted by a loud cheer from those assembled.

Murphy: “My friends, I ask you to be patient and not be disturbed by the events taking place outside. Rest assured, come what may, the lecture will take place as advertised. Indeed I will carry out my lectures if they walk over my body as a dead corpse: and I say to the Mayor of Birmingham that he is my servant while I am here and, as my servant, he must do his duty and protect me. Indeed I understand that, earlier today, he himself had a stone thrown at him. Surely that must now open his eyes to the reality of the situation. Now I must ask you all to be patient until 8.00 when the service will start.”

7.00 PM: A riot breaks out in Park Street. Houses are torn apart to make cudgels, and stones and brickbats are thrown from the roofs making it impassable.The rioters are reported to be all of Irish descent. The police and Hussars are reported to have been aided by English civilians. (1)

8.00 PM: The chairman of the evening (Rev. Dr Armstrong, Rector of Burslem) opens the service:

Armstrong: My friends, I feel I should start by saying that on various occasions recently I have been threatened with having my brains blown out should I attend tonight’s gathering. However I feel it is my duty to attend anyway, as by doing so I am taking a stand as a minister for Protestant truth and liberty and I would rather die a martyr than quietly in bed. Murphy has already spoken of the iniquity of the Confessional and I have nothing to add except, if I may, draw your attention to the case of Don Garlino, some seven years ago.There we have a case of a priest charged with seducing some 23 women in his confessional. Not one of those charges was proven to be a falsehood.”

Mr Whalley takes the stand and tells the assembly of the meeting he had with the city magistrates and the outcome of it. He is followed by Murphy who now takes the stand:

Murphy:”Tonight I propose to address the subjects of “Scapulas”, “Purgatory”, and “The Virgin Mary delivering souls out of Purgatory.” Before I do, however, I wish to express my very deepest regret over the injury of the policeman earlier on today. I should also make it clear that the fault likes with the authorities for not doing as I asked in letting me have the town hall. Needless to say, I shall not give up my principles for the sake of Popish Thimblenippers.”

The topic of the “Scapula” is dealt with in high spirits by citing from Catholic texts “would be miracles” where its power as a charm against danger has been cited. “Purgatory” is a “doctrine of the pocket”:”High Mass for high money, Low Mass for low money, No Mass for No money.”

Murphy: “Some people have taken me to task for declaring that Catholic priests are all cannibals, murderers, pickpockets and liars. Well, not only do I stand by this statement, I will expound it at some length tomorrow night, so don’t forget to buy your tickets as you go out. After all, I might as well have the money as the Pope.”

A young man called Thomas Kain ascends the platform and declares he intends to reply to Murphy’s charges. however he is greeted by such a great tumult of discontent that he goes largely unheard. He is asked to justify the Catholic doctrine of stealing bread if hungry but is given no further hearing as he tries to explain it. Not put off, he declares his intention to return the following evening.

11.00 PM: A pawnbrokers in Lichfield Street is sacked by Rioters, as is the Rose and Crown Public House.

12:00 Midnight: Since Midday some 70 arrests have been made Park Street is a desolate ruin with the whole front parts of every house removed.Smashed furniture and other debris lies scattered across the road.People known to be associates of Murphy have had their homes destroyed and Thomas Aston is in hiding after the lecture after having been ruthlessly intimidated.


(1) There was, it must be said, a fair amount of controversy over the press reporting of the incidents described. Murphy, himself, repeatedly claimed that his lectures had been selectively quoted so as to provoke outrage. Much of the press at the time had a distinct anti-Catholic bias anyway. So reports like the one above saying the rioters were all Irish, and the police and Hussars were supported by wholly English civilians should be taken with a pinch of salt.


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