Wednesday, 29 February 2012

29th February 1812: Birstall Manufacturers & Middle Class petition Joseph Radcliffe for aid

To Joseph Radcliffe Esquire one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the West Riding of the County of York—


We, the undersigned, Inhabitants of Heckmondwike and Liversedge in the parish of Birstall, have received information that several acts of violence and outrage have lately been committed in the Neighbourhood of Leeds and Huddersfield, particularly the destruction of Machinery used for the dressing of Cloth, and buildings containing such machinery, by Bodies of persons lawfully assembled in the Night, and acting on a systematic plan; — and we are induced to apprehend that there is a design formed by these misguided or ill-designing people and their adherents, to carry their destructive plans to still greater lengths; as well from the Extent to which the Frame-Breakers in Nottinghamshire (whom they seem to copy as their Model) have carried their mischievous Operations, as, also, from the arrangement, the secrecy, and the dispatch, with which they have conducted themselves near Leeds, and recently in your immediate Neighbourhood. The Tenor of an anonymous letter this day addressed to the older of an Establishment containing the kind of Machinery above mentioned, threatening the Destruction of such Machinery, and the life of the owner in case his resistance should injure any of the assailants; and, moreover, a threat thrown out very lately in Liversedge, intimating that the principal Inhabitants are in danger from the number of pistols in High Town (in Liversedge) which seem to us to manifest the same spirit, and to bear upon the same point.

These and similar considerations induce us, the undersigned, to think that every prudent precaution ought to be used, and every measure pursued by the Neighbourhood to prevent the spread of the mischief, and to detect and apprehend offenders against the public Peace & security, and [obscured] would greatly tend to this salutary purpose if a body of cavalry could be stationed in Heckmondwike Liversedge and Cleckheaton all in the same Parish, as the presence of a few regular soldiers would encourage and strengthen the defence of Property, which the owners with their confidential servants may be enabled to make.

We therefore beg leave to request that you will be pleased to take into your consideration the exposed state of the machinery and property of this Neighbourhood, and, if you should think it advisable, to give directions that a small Body of Cavalry may be stationed, for a while in Liversedge Cleckheaton, and Heckmondwike for the defence of property there, and for the expeditious pursuit and apprehension of any misguided persons who may attempt to violate the Laws by which property is intended to be secured. Such a measure, we presume, might be of use in facilitating the communication with, and the support of the military in Leeds.

Saturday 29. Feb 1812.

[Signed by the following]

Jeremiah Firth
John Oates
Franc Popplewell
Robert Clifford
[W] Child
Thos Brooke
Alist Thompson
Hammond Roberson
Thos Cockill
John Smith
JW Wadsworth
James Lister
Thos Lister

This document can be found at HO 42/121. Some of the names will be recognisable, some less so. The entries for Birstall in Pigot's directory for 1829 identify many of them as follows:

Jeremiah Firth (Blanket manufacturer, butcher & merchant in Heckmondwike)
Francis Popplewell (Boot & Shoemaker)
Thomas Brooke (Blanket manufacturer in Heckmondwike; also Shopkeeper & Mill owner in Little Town – Coxhill, Brooke & Co – a slubbing, scribbling & fulling Mill, also listed as a ‘Gentleman’ in Cleckheaton)
[Reverend] Hammond Roberson - Liversedge Priest, a notorious 'Church & King' Tory & Luddite baiter.
Thomas Cockill (A Dyer in Little Town)
John Smith (Linen & Woollen draper, Heckmondwike)
JW Wadsworth (an Attorney at Mill Bridge)
James Lister (proprietor of the Shears Inn – at the time the Clothworker's Arms – also Auctioneer, Appraiser & Sherriff’s officer for High Town)

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