Illustrated Catholic Family Annual – The “No Popery” or “Gordon” Riots

New Catholic Dictionary illustration of the Gordon RiotsArticle

These terrible riots took place in London in the month of June 1780. Some of the outrageous disabilities inflicted upon Catholics – a small minority of the population in England—had been removed, and it was proposed to pass an act for the relief of the still less numerous class in Scotland. The measure stirred up all the bitterness of Protestant intolerance. The agent for exciting the ignorant masses of the people was the notorious “Protestant Association,” headed by a member of the House of Commons, Lord George Gordon, brother to the Duke of Gordon. The mob had control of London for nearly a week, and Catholic chapels, the houses of Catholics, and other buildings were sacked and burned. A distinguished Scotchman, Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of England, although not a Catholic, lost his house, and with it his library of books (upon the burning of which there are two poems by Cowper), his manuscripts, private papers, pictures, and everything it contained. The brutal rioters had 210 killed, 248 wounded, and 20 executed after trial. Two curious circumstances are connected with these infamous riots—one, that by a just retribution St. George’s Fields, where nearly 60,000 Protestants met on 2 June, the day when the disturbances began, is now occupied by a Catholic cathedral; the other is that the Gordon family, which was Seton by male descent, had been one of the staunchest adherents to the Catholic faith in Scotland, and was a continual source of anxiety to the English Government on this account all along the seven teenth century. Lord George’s father, the third Duke of Gordon, had been brought up in Protestantism through the agency of his wicked mother, an Englishwoman, who was rewarded for the act by a pension of £1,000 a year.

MLA Citation

  • “The ‘No Popery’ or ‘Gordon’ Riots”. Illustrated Catholic Family Annual, 1875. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 January 2017. Web. 30 March 2017. <>