Friday, 27 January 2012

27th January 1812: Town Clerk of Nottingham writes to the Mayor of Leicester on methods used to suppress Luddism in Nottingham


I have received your favour of the 23.d instant which I would have answered sooner but from Indisposition, a very great pressure of Business upon such attention I was capable of giving it – You enquire how the expences of Special Constables are paid, they have always within the Town been paid where the Magistrates have proposed to themselves, in consequence of the nature of the Service, to remunerate them by a quarterly order upon the Treasurer in their favor. In many instances such orders have been made as it does not occur to me that there is any well founded objection in point of Law to such application of the Funds of the County rate.

In the present Instance to far greater number of the Special Constables for the Town have not received and are not intended to receive any remuneration whatever from the Town either for their time or Expenses.

The Magistrates have made about 600 Special Constables whom they have called out nightly by rotation and they have distinctly stated to these Gentleman, who have been selected from the most respectable Inhabitants of the Town that it was expected they took the duty upon them without a payment even of their expenses.

The magistrates have independant of these unpaid Special Constables added to their usual number of Constables, an additional force of Special Constables, to whom with their Ordinary Constables they made an allowance for their time which has been after the rate of 4/ – per night, and as much more if employed in the daytime, – This has been paid by orders upon the County Rate.

Prior to our last plan of providing the Security of the Town we adopted a double watch for the night one of 12 and sometimes on more urgent occasions 24 of the Special Constables who are not paid and who perambulated, under the superintendance of a Captain of the Night; the Town in small divisions of 2, 3 and of 12 Common Constables paid for their services who separately did the same duty and who distinctly made their Report of the Town and of the other Division of Constables to the Magistrates in the morning.

The magistrates attend every night to give Instructions and and place the men upon their duty and one was regularly appointed to receive their nightly morning Report.

Two Guard rooms were appointed at two distinct parts of the Town in which a strong Guard of Infantry were posted ready to turn out at a moment’s notice. At one of these Guard rooms a Constable was placed during the whole night to take the Command of any party who might be called out, and the other Guard room is in the immediate presence of the Police Office where some of the Constables are kept up the whole of the night for the same purpose.

Notwithstanding all these precautions Frames were still broken in the Town, and in consequence the Magistrates applied to the Military for, and organized a System of Military Patrole under the direction and control of the civil power,– They increased their Guards at the two Guard Houses, and divided the Town into 5 Districts, and appointed the unpaid Special Constables, to furnish out of their twelve one man to take the command of the 5 divisions of the patrole guard who consist of five men who are capable of attacking any body of Men who might attack a House for breaking Frames to go on guard 2 or 4 hours, and to relieve such guard by another Special Constable as often as it is itself relieved The other parts of its body forming a Body of Observation to perambulate the Town as does also the number of the Common Constables put upon duty which have been diminished since the employment of the Military.– No Patrole is sufficient to come off its ground till it is relieved by another Guard coming actually upon its duty.

It has been concerted between the Military and the civil parts of this patrole, that it should occasionally change its period of relief and its order of patroling the District beginning it at one time at the one end at another time in the middle and at another time at a different part of the District.

It is relieved every 2 or 4 hours, the Individuals who compose it cannot so easily be known, it consists of two distinct Orders of men, who are a guard upon each other and who are not kept upon this particular duty longer than they can command their complete attention to it, and cannot be in any other concert and in furtherance of their duty.

It has answered here completely hitherto as not a single Frame in the Town has been broken since it has been set on foot, and I have the most decisive evidence that it has struck great Fervour into the Framebreakers independent of the experience of its good effects.— It is now about ten days since this system has been put into practice.

I have no hesitation in saying that I think the system we are acting upon, the best adopted to the Protection of a large Town like Nottingham or Leicester.

I can easily imagine that it is not so easy to introduce such a practice in the Country, I have no doubt also that it is the cheapest system that can be put into execution because it can in the main be supported by an unpaid force of Special Constables with some comparatively speaking small addition of regular Constables, and that with more security for the true and faithful performances of duty on the part of the Military and Constables, than can in my Judgement be likely to result from any separate employment of either of these species of force, without a regular deposit of men in one or more guard rooms I consider either of the systems we have adopted inefficient but the system of protecting the Town merely by Constables perfectly ridiculous.

If the efforts of the Framebreakers should ever attempt to assume increased activity and vigour of the Town, there is but an Improvement of which I think our present system capable independant, of the more increase of the numbers forming the guard, and that it is to to increase the number of our Districts and to provide, that each guard should be supplied from a deposit of twice or thrice its own number kept stationary in a guard room, as much in the centre, as possible of every district, at which Constables should be stationed to turn out to single moments notice, to do any Service which the emergency at the moment might require.

In this case every District acting upon its own Centre would increase the activity of its forces, to such a degree as to render its efforts more powerful and instantaneous and I conceive, that then an energy could be given to this plan capable of meeting any conceivably in the disposition of the Framebreakers.

I have explained whatever I thought could be useful to you in a manner I fear may be tedious, I hope however it may be found useful,– any further Information in my power is at your command.

I am [etc]

Geo. Coldham
Town Clerk, Nottingham

to John Stevenson, Mayor of Leicester

The letter can be found at HO 42/119.

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