Riding the Stang

Five young, unnamed men were brought before the Sheffield magistrates on Tuesday 13 August 1867 charged with the assault of a man called George Ollerenshaw of Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield. Apparently on the night of Thursday 8 August, the five men along with others, had threatened Ollerenshaw’s life. Therefore the police had been compelled to bring them into court. Mr Roberts, the solicitor who appeared for Ollerenshaw told the court that his client lived alone with his daughter, after his wife had died 13 years previously. The fact that she had five illegitimate children whilst still living under his roof, had caused neighbours to assume that the children were his.

Ollerenshaw had protested his innocence, but it had not dispelled the rumours which were rife in the village. On the night in question, straw effigies had been set on fire and thrown into his garden, stones had been thrown at his door and all his windows were broken. Mr Roberts said that looking out his client had seen a great mob, including the five prisoners assembled in his own garden. They were all shouting and making a great clamour. Another magistrate, Mr Rogers stated that ’notwithstanding any immorality on the man’s part, a crime had been committed and that it was not lawful to assault or threaten him.’ He told the court that this behaviour was known as ‘Riding the Stang’ and was an ancient custom which simply had the intention of shaming the person involved.

Mr Rogers pointed out that Ollerenshaw’s life had never been in any danger and therefore in his eyes, no crime had been committed. He also claimed that the demonstration had been sanctioned by the elders of the village, and it was a case of public scandal that Ollerenshaw had been living with his daughter, who had several children despite the fact that she was unmarried. The problems started because the name of the putative father of these children had never been brought before the magistrates, so conjecture had been rife as to who was the actual guilty party.

After some more discussion between the members of the bench, all the men were all bound over to keep the peace in their own recognisances of £10 each for six months.

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