Sunday, 15 January 2012

15th January 1812: Magistrates break up nocturnal croppers meeting near Leeds

At 9 o'clock on the evening of Wednesday the 15th of January, Magistrates in Leeds received news they must have been dreading. An informant gave them information under oath about a conspiracy to destroy machinery in the area. Croppers were to gather en masse that night and then make their way at 11 o'clock to a new Mill at Sheepscar to "proceed to the work of destruction".

The Magistrates assembled at the office of the Town Clerk to decide what to do. They proceeded with mounted troops towards the proposed location of the attack, the meeting point being a bridge close to the Mill. Once there, they observed a number of people, who were passing the meeting place, and then returning to pass it by again, as if they were unsure of what to do. They seemed reluctant to gather, and when they finally dispersed at 1.00 a.m., the Magistrates and troops apprehended one of their number. The man had his face blacked, and carried a hammer and chisel. He also carried a large piece of burnt cork in his pocket.

The Magistrates had acted just in time to prevent what would have been the first Luddite attack in Yorkshire.

This story appears in differing versions in the Leeds Mercury of the 18th January 1812, the Leeds Intelligencer of 20th January 1812, and the Leicester Journal of the 24th January 1812. The quote is from the former publication.

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