The Fugitive: James Jewell: A Prologue to Part Five of the Food Riots of 1847

Reading time: 5 minutes

Bodmin Gaol in the 1850s1

Unlike his less-fortunate compatriots, George Stapleton and William Francis2, James Jewell chose not to wait around at his home in Crowan, so the authorities could issue him with a summons3. As the military surrounded the rioters in Higher Fore Street, Redruth, on June 4, he slipped town. Unlike the many hundreds, possibly thousands, complicit in the looting of Warmington’s Stores that were able to melt anonymously away, Jewell must have realised his foremost role in the events made him a marked man.

We don’t know what route he took, whom he talked who, or who gave him shelter. Quite possibly, he slept rough. Maybe he begged shelter in the mining districts he came across, or at remote farmsteads. Perhaps, as a baptised Methodist4, he sought succour among a kind of underground railroad of fellow Bible-Christians. What we do know, is that he was most definitely a wanted man, and that a warrant was out for his capture.

By June 11, two constables had traced their man to St Austell, but enquiries there realised nothing. The elusive Jewell had escaped again, but not for long. Saturday June 12 saw him captured, in Liskeard, and returned to Bodmin Gaol to await trial. He was sentenced alongside Stapleton, Francis, and the others who had been arrested in the wake of the tumult in Redruth. He received nine months hard labour5, but not before acquiring a certain notoriety.

It was believed at the time that Jewell was one of

…the leading men…with others from the west [who were] amidst the disorderlies…

Royal Cornwall Gazette, 18 June 1847, p2

The ‘disorder’ under discussion here was not events at Pool or Redruth, or even Helston or Penzance. Jewell, possibly with others from the ‘west’, was believed to have been fomenting unrest in the east of Cornwall too: namely, the riot that took place in St Austell, on Friday, June 11.

Alas, whether or not Jewell (or others) stirred up the miners on his sojourn through Clay Country is unknowable. It’s more likely he kept his head down, and his mouth shut. In fact, it turned out there were plenty of people in the area desperate enough, and hungry enough, to defy the authorities…

The final part of The Food Riots of 1847 will be posted on Sunday February 6:

Trouble in Clay Country

Thanks for reading


  1. From the Bodmin Jail website:
  2. See my previous post, Hellfire Corner, here. Jewell told a flour merchant that he’d be “d____d” if he left the town empty handed. Royal Cornwall Gazette, 9 July 1847, p1.
  3. According to the 1841 census, Jewell was born in around 1829, in Crowan.
  4. See: England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1936 for James Jewell, Piece 0559, Helston (Methodist), 1804-1837,
  5. Kresen Kernow, Quarter Sessions Rolls 1847, QS/1/14/284.

2 thoughts on “The Fugitive: James Jewell: A Prologue to Part Five of the Food Riots of 1847

    1. Hi Bryan, my mother’s line goes back to Temby via James Richards Palamountain, find me on fb or briancurnow@ my wite and my mum both have Jewell as family from Crowan so found this very interesting.


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