Friday, 11 March 2011

11th March 1811: the first Luddite attack at Arnold, Nottinghamshire

What became the first instance of Luddism in the year 1811 began during the daytime on Monday 11th March. Hundreds of stockingers gathered in the market place in Nottingham, where "angry speeches were made and the crowd was ‘vociferous in condemning their Employers and clamouring for work and a more liberal price' "1. Thomis continues "constables were called out and a troop of Dragoons paraded until nine o’clock in the evening"2. The crowd then dispersed, but continued on to march to Arnold, north of Nottingham. Once there, they set about frame-breaking in earnest:
"between dusk and dawn, no less than sixty stocking frames were broken by the mob, swarming around the town, entering the houses of unpopular stockingers, and breaking the frames of special, hated hosiers. The general populace so far from preventing actually aided and abetted the disturbance, cheering on the frame-breakers and obstructing the authorities. It was necessary to call out the Dragoons the following morning in order to clear the town. The whole neighbourhood had been fired by these riotous outbursts."3 
The Nottingham Journal of 16th March carried a report about what had taken place:
We are sorry to observe, that a disposition to riot and tumult has manifested itself amongst the most operative manufacturers in this neighbourhood, owing to the present depressed state of trade, which has occasioned an abatement in the workmen’s prices, and reduced them to the greatest distress. A number of individuals from the adjacent villages in this town on Monday last, with a view of representing to their employers the hardships they were subject to, and of intimidating others into a compliance with their demands, by which alone they would be enabled to obtain a subsistence for themselves and families. The assembling of such numbers induced an apprehension on the part of the Mayor and Magistrates, that some violation of the public peace was intended. They, therefore, adopted the most prompt and vigilant measures, by calling out the civil power, and ordering a troop of horse from the barracks, to be in readiness to act in case of necessity. But happily, in the evening, these precautions were rendered useless, by the whole retiring quietly to their homes. 
In the neighbourhood of this place, however, we are concerned to say, that considerable mischief has been done, and the folly of a deluded multitude was, perhaps, never more conspicuous than at Arnold on Monday; when they proceeded with a premeditated determination to destroy some stocking frames employed there, by hosiers of this town, and rented by them of Mr. Bolton, who had retired from business above two years since, & had let his frames on a lease, and engaged to keep them in repair at his own expence; consequently the loss, which we hear will amount to several hundred pounds, will fall entirely upon Mr. Bolton. The avowed motive of these people to commit acts of so flagrant a nature, was to injure the hosiers who rented the frames; but though they were told by the workmen, in whose hands the frames were, that they belonged to Mr. Bolton, whose name were stamped on the front bars, they persisted in their determination, and nearly demolished upwards of fifty frames, intending by so doing, to suspend the manufactory until the frames could be repaired, to the prejudice of the hosiers who had engaged them to rent: whereas the fact is, that it will have quite a contrary effect, and be to their advantage, by enabling them to refrain from manufacturing more goods than are really wanted, until the demand for them shall increase.
The Journal clearly identified that the hosier who had particularly suffered from the attacks - actually the ex-hosier, Bolton, who had previously written to the Journal in January to state that his frames were rented to Brocksopp & Parker, and warned anyone against frame-breaking. The stockingers were clearly not intimidated by this.

The Morning Chronicle of  Friday 15th March 1811, contains more details about the numbers  of people involved (emphasis added):
RIOTOUS EXCESSES AT NOTTINGHAM.—It is with the deepest regret we have to communicate the occurrence of alarming disturbances and outrageous excesses in the neighbourhood of Nottingham. Letters from the place state, that on Tuesday last the workmen, to the number of one thousands, assembled in the market place, and from thence proceeded in a body to Arnold, a distance of about five miles, when their numbers were increased to between two and three thousand. Thus augmented in strength, they shortly evinced a determination to adopt measures of violence, and parties proceeded to enter the houses and destroy frames of several of the manufacturers. The cause assigned for these afflicting outrages was the extreme distress suffered by themselves and families, in consequence of the stoppage of work. With any further particulars we are at present unacquainted, but we have to express our sincere hopes that these mistaken men must have been made sensible that by the destruction of the property of others, they not only could not alleviate their own misery, but that, on the contrary, they must materially increase it.
Direct action in the form of frame-breaking was back.


1. Conant and Baker in Darvall (1934, p.65)
2. Thomis (1970, p. 103)
3. Darvall (1934, p.66)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article - for a rubbish article see:

    It's a shame they are still getting a bad press after all these years especially after the hardships they went through