Friday 11 November 2011

10th November 1811: Attack on Edward Hollingworth's frames at Bulwell & the death of a Luddite

Edward Hollingworth, a Hosier at Bulwell in Nottinghamshire knew they were coming.1 Prior to the Sunday evening of 10th November, he had removed some of his frames to Nottingham2, barricaded his house, and enlisted the help of his brother-in-law and several friends3, all of whom had firearms. All they could do now was wait for what would come.

Late at night on the 10th, between 20 and 30 frame-breakers had left Arnold to meet up with 40 more at Bulwell Forest. They were formed into a line by a man calling himself 'Ned Ludd' who tried to instill confidence in the group, pointing out that they had 21 firearms amongst them. The Luddites then marched in single file to their destination.4

They arrived at Hollingworth's house at around 1 a.m. the following morning. They demanded entry to the property, or that Hollingworth surrendered the frames inside. Hollingworth refused to comply at all, and in the darkness, an exchange of fire broke out. After nearly 20 shots had been fired, the Luddites began to try to break in, using hammers. It was at this point that one of the attackers was mortally wounded by gunfire, and the shock and resulting alarm caused the attackers to briefly pause their attack and retreat, carrying the wounded man with them.

But it was not over: the anger the Luddites no doubt felt over the death of their comrade strengthened their resolve, and they returned to Hollingworth's house to renew their attack. Hollingworth and his men retreated upstairs and the two groups exchanged fire, up and down the stair-well. By now, the attackers had started to pull down the partition wall which supported the floor of the room the hosier and his men had fled to, and being in a hopeless situation, Hollingworth and his men decided to escape through a window at the back of the house.

Now undisturbed, the Luddites set about what they came for: all the frames in the property (5 wide frames and 2 warp-frames)5 were destroyed, along with the doors, window-frames and household furniture. Their work done, they retreated and dispersed.

1. Although there is no absolute proof of a direct link, it is likely that the threatening letter to 'Mr H at Bulwell' was sent to Hollingworth. Contemporary reports state that Hollingworth had been threatened (Leeds Mercury 23rd November 1811, Derby Mercury 21st November 1811).
2. Conant & Baker's report at HO 42/119
3. The Derby Mercury report tells us he was joined by his Brother-in-Law. Conant & Baker are precise about the number who had joined him ('seven'), while the other reports are vague.
4. The details here are from the deposition of an informant, John Amos, at HO 42/125.
5. Hollingworth's deposition is at HO 42/125. Two of the warp-frames in Hollingworth's house belonged to Messrs Redfern, Stevenson & Blatherwick, and one of the wide frames to a  Mr. Harvey.

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