Sunday 13 November 2011

13th November 1811: Mass Luddite attack at Sutton-in-Ashfield

Sutton-in-Ashfield had been chosen by the Luddites as the next place to be subject to frame-breaking. According to Darvall, the town was a "great centre for manufacture of 'cut-ups' and payment in 'truck'."1

Arnold was the main assembly point for the Luddites that afternoon, and in particular an Alehouse called 'The Hut' where 100 local men had already gathered, with contingents arriving thereafter from Hucknall Torkard, Kirkby & Bulwell. A local militia Sergeant called Jackson allegedly handed out gunpowder to those with firearms. Having mustered, the force then marched alongside the road between Nottingham and Mansfield, stopping for those armed with guns to fire off a few rounds to determine who was the best shot and, therefore, who should be in the vanguard. Their immediate destination was the seventh milestone on the same road2, where they waited to be joined by others there, and then set off en masse via Kirkby - stopping to solicit arms from houses along the way - and headed for Sutton-in-Ashfield, arriving there at dusk (approximately 5 p.m.).

The Luddites halted at a distance of 200 yards from the house of the hosier Francis Betts, their main target that night.Three men had been given the task of approaching Betts directly, demanding he surrender his frames, but the waiting group were given an order to advance 10 minutes later; it seemed Betts would not yield to their demands. The numbers given for frames broken in the resulting attack that night vary3, but up to 70 were destroyed, including all of those owned by the Betts, with the frames being hauled from houses and smashed in the street to cries of 'Roll Up Ned Lud's Family' and 'Hey Luds!'. All kinds of weapons & tools were employed in the attack, including Hammers & Coal Hammers, Hatchets, even Hedge Stakes, as well as the proverbial bars of iron, bludgeons and sticks. One reference tells us that some frames belonging to a Mr Gadsby were also destroyed4. The group then moved on to Woodhouse, to attack more of Betts' frames, along with some belonging to a Richard Nailor. According to William Felkin, the attack left Betts deranged and he died soon after (1867, p.232).

One report in the Leeds Mercury mentions that a Corn Mill was also attacked. But the Luddites did meet some resistance that night from the military: the Mansfield militia & a handful of dismounted Dragoons in the town caught between 8 and 12 of the Luddites: four of them were later remanded in custody to be committed for trial at the next Assizes, these being John Bradbury, Gervas Marshall, George Green & John Clarke5.

1. Darvall, p.68. See here for a description of cut-ups and truck. The vivid description that follows has been compiled from witness and participant legal depositions at HO 42/117 & HO 42/124, newspaper reports from the Derby Mercury (21st November 1811) and Leeds Mercury (23rd November 1811) and Conant & Baker's report at HO 42/119.

2. Today, The Seven-Mile house stands near this spot on the A60, the road between Mansfield and Nottingham.

3. From 37 frames (Derby Mercury, 21st November 1811) to 53 frames (Leeds Mercury 23rd November 1811), to 'between 50 and 70' (Conant & Baker's report at HO 42/119).

4. Letter from Thomas Hayne, Lace Manufacturer, to Home Office, 12th February 1812 at HO 42/120.

5. Legal depositions of some of those apprehended on the 13th November 1811 appear at HO 42/117, all sworn before John Need, a JP, the following day. They name many people who allegedly took part in the raid, some of whom we know we later charged and/or tried. Below is a list:

Deposition of George Jeffrey (a participant) of Hucknall Torkard:

Joseph Butler of Hucknall Torkard
George Rhodes (son of William) aged 26, of Hucknall Torkard
Joseph Brackney, aged 18, apprentice, of Hucknall Torkard
Joseph Buck of Hucknall Torkard
Joseph Kettledon
Benjamin Hancock aka 'Checker' of Hucknall Torkard
Henry Richards of Hucknall Torkard
Joseph Hutchison of Hucknall Torkard
William Fell of Hucknall Torkard
Matthew Limb of Hucknall Torkard
Mr Low of Hucknall Torkard
'Jannock' or 'Johnnock' of Hucknall Torkard
Mr Legg of Widdowson's Buildings, Hucknall Torkard (apprentice to Edward Boot)
John Hayes of Hucknall Torkard (employed at Robinson's Cotton Mill)
Master Henson (a boy) of Widdowson's Buildings, Hucknall Torkard
Mr Clarke
Gervas Marshall

Deposition of Robert Hodges (a participant) of Hucknall Torkard:

William Greaves of Hucknall Torkard
Joseph Hooks (apprentice to William Kirk)
George Clarke 'late of Hucknall')
Thomas Shipley of Hucknall Torkard
Thomas Webster of Hucknall Torkard
John Clarke
William or John Leather aka 'Ned Ludd'
(also names Joseph Buck, Benjamin Hancock, Henry Richards, Joseph Hutchison, John Hayes)

Deposition of Robert Grant (a participant) of Hucknall Torkard:

Thomas Day of Hucknall Torkard
George Spray of Hucknall Torkard
William Shorter of Hucknall Torkard
Joseph White of Hucknall Torkard
John Brinnington of Hucknall Torkard
Luke Rhodes of Hucknall Torkard
Robert aka "The Scotchman" late of Hucknall Torkard
Samuel Wilmott of Kirkby
William Hodges of Hucknall Torkard
George Barker of Arnold
George Wilkinson of Hucknall Torkard
Johnathan Butler of Hucknall Torkard
Jeremiah Jacklin of Hucknall Torkard
William Allcock of Hucknall Torkard
George Shaw of Arnold
Sergeant Jackson of Arnold
Joseph Falconbridge aka Josiah Smalley of Bulwell
(also names Thomas Webster, Joseph Brackney, Joseph Hutchison)

Deposition of Mary Robinson (a witness) of Sutton-in-Ashfield:

Samuel Allen of Hucknall Torkard
(also names George Spray, Johnathan Butler, Benjamin Hancock, Samuel Wilmott

Deposition of John Cooper Kirk of Arnold (a participant):

George Lovat of Arnold
Mr Lovat aka 'Lord Lovat' of Arnold
Samuel Evans of Arnold
Benjamin Martin of Arnold
Samuel Jevons
Joseph Slack of Arnold
William Jeffrey
John Jeffrey
George Clay
Charles Shepherd
Thomas Pearson
Thomas Butler of Hucknall Torkard
John Bonnington of Hucknall Torkard
Abel Smith of Arnold
(also names Thomas Day)

In addition, another document drawn up the authorities (at HO 42/118) has a list of those committed or at large after the Sutton attack, which adds:

William Bellamy of Bulwell of Basford
Thomas Shooter of Hucknall Torkard
Thomas Hooley of Hucknall Torkard
Joseph Hook of Hucknall Torkard
Henry Richards of Hucknall Torkard
Thomas Bramley aka 'The One-Eyed Man' of Hucknall Torkard
Thomas Shelton of Hucknall Torkard
Anthony Ball of Hucknall Torkard
Mr Lowe of Hucknall Torkard


  1. I landed here doing a search for Joseph Buck of Hucknall Torkard. My 4th great-grandfather is Joseph Buck 1782-1832, of Hucknall Torkard. George Green was a witness to his wedding in 1801.

    Since both of these names are mentioned, I have a feeling this is my Joseph Buck. Have you run into his name any where else? Would appreciate any info.


  2. Hi Leslie! Well that's amazing isn't it? All I can say at the moment is keep reading. I'm writing all of this about 5 weeks ahead, and I haven't come across Buck again yet - but there were Nottinghamshire Luddites tried at Assizes other than the most well-known one in March 1812. If I find anything, I'll let you know. If you'd like a PDF of the document with his name in it, then send an email to the email address above.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Hi there, I've just discovered that Francis Betts was my 5x Great Grandfather. This is all very fascinating to read. What's also curious is that Francis daughter Sarah married a Marshall and one of their sons mother in Law was a Green. They lived in the same area for a long time, my grandmother being the first born outside Sutton-in-ashfield in the 1930s. I need to do some digging here I think.