Thursday, 23 February 2012

23rd February 1812: The Manchester spy 'B' reports on Nottingham & Birmingham contacts and a secret oath

On Sunday 23rd February, Colonel Fletcher's spy in Manchester, 'B', finished another report for his master.

On the 17th, he had come across his contact from Nottingham, Williamson, who he had met previously in November. Williamson said that Nottingham had acted too soon, and that a general rising across counties would be preferable, and were this to occur, Nottinghamshire could contribute 3000 men. He implied that contributions from England, Ireland and Scotland had lessened the hardship of people in Nottingham and also that many of the Special Constables recruited in the county were sympathetic. Williamson told B that an illegal oath was in use by which 40,000 people in Nottinghamshire were sworn in. B wrote out that oath for Fletcher in his report:
I A.B. of my own free will do most Sincerly promies & sware that I will keep the secrets that which I ham about to Receive & that Nither fear hope or Reward Shall in duce me to declair the same and that I will do my Best in helping hading and asisting in forwarding the same Business with persion and property & that if I declair the same to any persion with an intent to inger the Cause or any person their to be Longing under no less a pennalty then Being Exterminated with all my familey so help me God. 
On the 19th, B had attended a meeting on the Manchester Committee of Trades at 8 p.m. 26 delegates attended and elected a secretary called Yarwood. Yarwood was tasked with writing to the various committees in the vicinity to try to coordinate activity. The subject of the requisition to the Borough Reeve was discussed again, but left unresolved - it was felt that as many districts as possible should attend another meeting in 7 days time, and the meeting resolved to 'warn' particular districts to attend - Royton, Oldham, Glodwick, Saddleworth and Eccles. The meeting resolved to print 200 fliers to distribute to others to aid attendance.

On the 21st, B had been to Wilmslow and reported the lack of work, hardship and ill-feelings among the people, saying they felt "they had better die in the field of battle than starve as they are". B reported that seditious, anti-monarchy talk was commonly heard in public.

B broke out of his report to compare and contrast 2 magistrates in Stockport - Charles Prescot and the factory owner, Peter Marsland. B said the former was "in faver" with the people, and more likely to "satisfy" them than Marsland.

On the 22nd, B had met a man called Taylor from Leeds, who he had been in contact with 9 years before. Taylor predicted that something would happen in West Yorkshire in the summer, and that the people there were ready to withstand troops, although there were concerns about the possible use of Welsh Militia.

On the 23rd, B had met a man called Leighton, who was in contact with a Committee in Manchester, evidently not one that B knew about as he passed on the general location of their meetings - Newman Street off Oxford Road. Leighton was in town because he had missed his coach to Birmingham, where he was headed for on his ultimate destination in London. He held disdain for the Manchester Committee of Trade's efforts in petitioning. B tried to find out the details of the London Committee from Leighton so that he could call on them, but Leighton refused to divulge anymore as he had sworn an oath of secrecy. Leighton was evidently well-to-do: a Porter had brought him to B's house.

At the bottom of B's report, and in a different more literate handwriting, is a description of Leighton:
"Leighton is rather slender—about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high a smart looking man dressed in Black, and short Boots His Eyes Dark—and his Hair short and rather dark"

This report, as well as a more easily legible Home Office copy, can be found at HO 42/120, enclosed with a covering letter from Colonel Ralph Fletcher dated 25th February.

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