Tuesday, 20 December 2011

20th December 1811: The Origin of Ned Ludd


There are few persons in this part of England who know any thing of the History of the Stocking Frame, and who probably have not heard that it was the invention of William Lee, of Calverton, in this county, a student in the University of Cambridge. This gentleman, it is said, being in love with a young lady, found that her incessant occupation in knitting, left her no leisure to receive his addresses; and that resentment for slighted love, prompted him to invent a machine, which should supersede the necessity of knitting.

At present, a person named NED LUDD, is become more famous, by the destruction of this machine, than William Lee, by its invention. Ned Ludd is not, as many people suppose, an ideal personage; but is, or lately was, an inhabitant of Anstey, near Leicester, where he was apprenticed to learn the art of framework-knitting. Ned being rather averse to the confinement of the frame, did not exert himself to the satisfaction of his master, who complained of him to the Magistrate. As a remedy for Ned’s disorder, the Magistrate, it is said, recommended a little whipping. This, however, was so far from curing the patient, that he took the first opportunity of getting a great hammer, and entirely demolishing the machine, which he considered as the occasion of his punishment.

Hence the persons who have lately repeated Ned’s operation, on a very extended scale, in this and the neighbouring Counties, have thought proper to assume his name, and conceal their own.

This short article was published in the Nottingham review on Friday 20th December 1811. It is the earliest reference to the origin of the Luddite's use of Ned Ludd (or variants) I have found.

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