Today in London’s radical past: Tax riot in the City, 1648

On 13th January 1648, there was a tax riot in London; after an attempt to levy a special tax on salt in the City, to pay for arrears of pay for ‘army supernumeraries’, there were disturbances in protest. A soldier was beaten by a crowd, and sheriffs trying to restore order were driven off with shouts of “the king and no plunder!” Anger at the high cost of the war effort, hardship and hunger, and such random financing of the army in this way, was merging with a resurgent royalism against the parliamentary regime… or the royalists were using the crowds for their own agenda…

In response the House of Commons asked General Fairfax to send troops to occupy Whitehall and the Mews for the protection of Parliament and indirectly to coerce the House of Lords. This had the added beneficial effect of subduing conservative opponents, of the more radical House of Commons, who were making trouble in the House of Lords… The power of the army as a separate (and politically radical) force in its own right was making its mark in London as it never had so far in the Civil War. So maybe there was a bit of a set-up here?

Source: History of the great civil war, 1642-1649 / by Samuel … v.4. Gardiner, Samuel Rawson, 1829-1902. Online at:;view=1up;seq=75

NB: I’m not sure if this ‘riot’ is what the following Report in Parliament on January 14th 1648 refers to:

‘Sir J. Stowell an Judge Jenkins to be tried this Term.; Lord Mayor and Justices to procecute Reports in Fleet street.

That the Lord mayor and Justices be required to prosecute at this Sessions in the Old Bailey effectually, the late Rioters in Fleetstreet, and other Parts in the City of London, that so the Offenders may be brought to speedy Punishment, according to the Law.’

But the order to quarter troops near to the Houses of Parliament is mentioned just afterwards:

“The General to Quarter Soldiers in whitehall and Mewse.

It was likewise this Day, upon further Debate, Ordered, That the General do take Course for the Safety and Security of the Parliament; and that he send some Number of Horse and Foot to be quartered within the Liberties of Westminster; and to prevent the Quartering of them upon the Inhabitants of Westminster, they ordered the Foot should be quartered in Whitehall, where they will be the least Trouble and the greatest Ease to the Inhabitants, and the Horse in the Mewse, near Charing Cross; and all Accomodation of Bedding, and otherwise, was ordered to be provided for them.”

Proceedings in Parliament from January 3. till January 29. 1647.

An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out:


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