Saturday, 11 February 2012

11th February 1812: Stockport solicitor John Lloyd writes from the New Bailey prison, Salford

11 Feb.y 1812

My Lord

As much may be said about one part of the Country connecting itself with the principles of the Nottingham rioters or Luddites, which there was every reason to expect when your Lordship was down in the Country – I think it my duty, as I have a few minutes time here to give your Lordship a sort of prelude to what may (or may not) happen —

Anonymous Letters have been sent to the Magist Mr Prescott threatening to destroy the Machinery employed in weaving by steam rotary motion and a paper signed by a number of Weavers in the nature of a Requisition has been handed to the Rector; by which it appears they desire to meet the Manufacturers

— Information has been given that subscriptions have been solicited in this part of the Country for the Nottingham Rioters — Mr Prescott wishing to consult the parties interested fixed to meet them at my office at 8 o'clock this Evening — but finding myself here at 9 o'clock in the Evening without the least nourishment since Breakfast owing to the circumstances. I will mention I found it would be impossible to get home time enough to act in any way at that meeting – especially as I had to return further to attend the Justices at 9 o'clock in the Morning –

Mr. Marsland's extensive factory on Oxford road has been attempted to be fired but was timely discovered & preserved. Suspicion fell upon certain persons & they have been taken into custody and are now at the New Bayley here & the whole of my day since 9 o'clock this Morning has been occupied in the investigation & I have not the smallest doubt but the magistrates will be induced by what I have & can lay before them to commit some of the parties to Lancaster to take their trials at the Assizes — I have very strong proof of its being wilfully set on fire – & I dare in my conscience fix on the very person that did it & that person is now in custody – and I have had him under Examination this day —

A very serious fire took place in the Town on Sunday in a extensive warehouse in High St belonging to Haigh Marshall & Tideswell & this was threatened in March last by letter signed C.P. Clonmell which I have this day seen in the Police office — It is consequently supposed to have been wilfully set on fire. There were goods to the amount of 100,000l in the Warehouse but only a part were consumed the insurers therefore (being 30,000l) will cover the loss to the owners.

The first act of irregularity or rather of hostility on the part of the weavers in our Town I will take advantage of, if I am permitted, & proceed decisively against them for I am persuaded by reflection and experience that it will not answer to the Country the Governmt or themselves to use a temporizing policy — Perhaps I may not approve the measures that will be adopted this night & I am well away from taking a part but I beg your Lordship will not notice this expression for I may not be so capable of Judging properly as others —

I have taken a national & political view & find that the more we advance our country in arts & improve our manufacturing the better able are we to cope with the common Enemy – whom we can meet in the Market (as well as in the field) with fair competition and keep the Market by the excellency of our Improvements. And shell a set of obscene Individuals who possess no interest or feeling for their Country’s honor dare to dictate to a Government or to the proprietor of a Manufactory of this sort what they shall do or what Machinery they shall use?

But your Lordship I am sure will forgive me if I conclude rather abruptly with a promise to renew the subject when there is something fresh to communicate — for the time for the post office is arrived –

I am my Lord

Your Lordship's very
obedient & very
humble servant

J Lloyd

The letter can be found at HO 42/120. In the sixth paragraph, Lloyd hints that the prisoners held at the prison are being tortured in some way, and although he distances hismself from these methods at this point, it is suspected he used similar methods himself in the months to come. In any case, no one was charged or brought to trial for the arson at Peter Marsland's factory.

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