Wednesday, 7 December 2011

6th December 1811: Stocking-frames broken at Holbrook

The next target of the Derbyshire Luddites was one of the biggest Hosiery firms in the County, that of Padget & Byng. They owned hundreds of stocking frames in many of the Derbyshire villages, which they valued at £12 to £14 each.1

At Holbrook, a master stockinger called Henry Walker had several of Padget & Byng's frames in his shop. Between 2 and 3 a.m. on the 7th December he was roused from his sleep by a loud knocking at his door and voices demanding to be let in. He quickly got out of bed, but before he had time to dress himself the Luddites assembled outside began to smash his windows and eventually open the door. Posting several of their number to keep watch outside, the Luddites climbed the stairs of the workshop to the upstairs room where the stocking frames were kept. They were disguised with blackened faces and wore large great coats and frocks. All were armed with different types of firearms as well as swords. They had brought hammers and crowbars to destroy the frames, and once all the frames had been removed from the building, they proceeded to smash them to pieces in the road.

The commotion had woken people at neighbouring houses, but those who appeared at their windows and lit candles were threatened with violence lest they put out their lights and returned to bed.

1.This is equivalent to £664 - £774.

This account has been compiled from a letter written by Mr Byng, the owner of the frames, to Derbyshire Magistrates which appears at HO 42/117. The Leeds Mercury of 14th December contains an account of the same raid which varies with the letter, but I have chosen to use the account in the letter since it is a primary source. It is possible that they are two separate raids, and the Mercury account does make it clear that frames were broken at several houses in the same row that night.

The Leeds Mercury account states that 5 Luddites entered the workshop, and enquired as to the owner of the frames, noting that they were only interested in frames belonging to particular owners. The master stockinger was held at gunpoint in his bedroom while the remaining Luddites carried out 3 of the frames, and the leader of the party ordered them to be destroyed. The Luddites then proceeded to other houses in the same row and repeated their actions, breaking another 4 frames (a total of 7). By 3.15 a.m., the Luddites had dispersed.

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