Sunday, 11 December 2011

11th December 1811: The spy 'B' reports on a Sheffield contact and delegates heading to Yorkshire

Colonel Fletcher's spy 'B' sent another report headed the 9th December about his activities in the political underground of Lancashire and Cheshire's secret committees. On that day, he was called upon by a contact from Sheffield, Wilkinson. Wilkinson told 'B' about the secret committee there, who were very cautious about who they admitted to their meetings but had a large fund for expenses. Wilkinson's estimate of the men available for any kind of uprising was 'twelve to fourteen thousand'. Wilkinson told 'B' that Nottinghamshire folk resented people in Sheffield for not acting in concert with them over the past month since disturbances commenced.

'B' went on to relate Wilkinson's words about the strong levels of discontent in the Northern counties, saying that even "their Children not forteen years of eage Reals against this present Government".

Wilkinson wished to know the state of the Manchester committees but, like one of 'B's Irish contacts Cannovan, was frustrated at their failure to 'exert them selves'. He left 'B' the following day, Tuesday 10th December, promising to relate information about goings on in the Manchester area.

On the 10th, 'B' had been to attend a committee at Mottram in Cheshire. The meeting agreed to send a delegate into Yorkshire, to ascertain how things were there, but also to make clear that Manchester was not as 'ready' as they may think. The delegate would leave on Monday 16th December, would report back every 4 days, and have 10 shillings per day for expenses, payable upon his return.

On 11.00 a.m. Wednesday 11th December, 'B' attended a 'very respectable' meeting at the Exchange Buildings in Manchester. attended by 270 gentlemen and clergy, with 'B' being particularly complementary about a clergyman, Ethelston. Though 'B' is vague about the purpose of the meeting, it clearly was not secret and indicates the differing social circles he moved in.

Lastly, 'B' reported he had visited the Stockport committee, who still met despite the theft of their funds, but no longer collected contributions. He related that Cannovan had been in touch with them to find out what he could, but gave little information in return, saying he was headed for London.

The letter can be found at HO 42/119. The expenses of 10 shillings per day is the equivalent of either £27.70 (RPI) or £334 (average earnings). The Manchester Mercury of 17th December contains a report about the 'very respectable' meeting 'B' attended: held in the Exchange Dining Room, and chaired by the Boroughreeve Richard Wood, the meeting proposed a school system on the principles founded by the Reverend Dr Bell, and the local institution was to be called 'The Manchester and Salford Cooperating National Society'.

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