Thursday, 26 January 2012

26th January 1812: Frame-breaking at Basford - anatomy of an attack

In Basford on the night of Sunday 26th January, a Hosiery firm - Messrs Haddens - had arranged with the authorities for 2 soldiers from the Berkshire Militia - Henry Huggins & Thomas Osgood - to guard some of their frames at the home of an employee.

Osgood & Huggins received their orders from Corporal Stephen Allen who, along with a Special Constable Thomas Bodill, accompanied them to the home of the employee, William Barnes, a framework-knitter.

Upon their arrival at 7.00 p.m., Bodill handed Barnes a note from Haddens which explained the arrangement with the military. Barnes was extremely annoyed by this, and insisted the frames were perfectly safe left unguarded in his home. When Bodill gave the soldiers some money for refreshment, Barnes refused Bodill's requests to fetch some food for the soldiers, saying they should go themselves. Bodill and Corporal Allen then left.

Barnes was extremely agitated. Only 10 minutes after their arrival, and whilst Osgood and Huggins warmed themselves by the fire, Barnes left the house, returning again five minutes later. As the soldiers relaxed, they heard a footstep outside, and leapt up seizing their muskets. Barnes told them to rest easy, as it was his neighbour returning home. Within 15 minutes, Barnes had left again, pausing outside to speak to someone who the soldiers assumed was his neighbour.

Upon his return 5 minutes later, he flung the door open and was followed by 20 Luddites, many of them carrying sticks, and some of them armed with pistols. Huggins and Osgood were rushed by the Luddites, with Huggins being knocked to the floor, his musket being seized in the process. Up to 4 Luddite dealt with Osgood, who was presented with pistols aimed at his head, and threats to 'blow his brains out' if he moved.

Posting sentries outside, the Luddites then commanded Barnes and his wife to go upstairs, which they did. They then set about smashing 3 stocking frames kept in Barnes' workshop, making sure they targeted those belonging to Messrs Haddens. 3 others that belonged to Barnes were left untouched.

Their work finished, the Luddites fired the soldiers muskets into the air outside the house, confiscating the bayonets. They returned the now empty muskets to the soldiers, insulted them and left. Barnes was still annoyed, telling them that the frames had only destroyed because the soldiers were present, and that the Luddites would target any properties where frames were being guarded.

This account has been compiled from the reports in the Nottingham Review of the 31st January 1812 & the Nottingham Journal of the 1st February 1812 and also depositions given by Osgood, Huggins, Bodill and Allen which can be found at HO 42/119. Two of the latter accounts differ with regard to the words of Barnes upon receiving the notes from Constable Bodill: Bodill maintained that Barnes said "Damnation seize all the soldiers to Hell, they are a pack of Damn'd thieves and deserve Hanging altogether", whilst Allen said the remark was "Damn all the Hosiers I wish they were all hanged up by the neck, blame me if I don't".

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