Sunday, 5 February 2012

5th February 1812: One frame broken in Eastwood - anatomy of an attack

Sarah Wilde was a framework-knitter from Eastwood in Nottinghamshire. She rented her stocking frame from William Howitt of Heanor in Derbyshire and lived with her mother.

On the evening of Wednesday 5th February, she was asleep in a ground floor room where the stocking frame was also kept. At around 11.00 p.m., she was woken by her mother, who also slept in the same room. Her mother had thought someone was outside the door, and shortly afterwards she heard a noise - she had left some thorns near the window which would act as an alarm to warn of intruders, and clearly heard the sound of someone disturbing them. She called out:

"Who's there?"

a man replied, "is there a Colt works here?"

"No" she replied

then came the threat "if you do not get up and open the door, I will burst it open!"

Sarah was very alarmed, and she pledged to open the door if the man allowed her to get dressed. There was no response, but she heard sounds of movement, and soon enough, the man had gone around to the back door where he again demanded she opened it. Sarah quickly retrieved a set of tongs from the fireplace and banged on the chimney breast, hoping to alert her brother who lived next door.

Outside the house, the man now knew that time was of the essence and he proceeded to break some of the glass windows and the window frame with the iron bar he had brought. The gap he had created was not large enough for him to get through, but he did his best and could get his arms and torso through - he lashed out at the stocking frame with the bar, but could only managed 3 blows at it, doing some damage.

The fire was still burning in the grate, and the light from it allowed her to get a proper look at the man, who was not disguised. Sarah couldn't believe what she was seeing: she had spent several hours in the company of this man, John Osborne from Heanor, on Christmas Day and had only known him for six weeks and now he was here in a way she least expected. She shouted out to him "I know you - I'll make you repent for this one day!".

The man was startled, realising he now had to leave without finishing the job, he leaned back out of the broken window frame and ran.

As Sarah and her mother comforted each other, her mind raced back to to earlier that afternoon. She had seen Osborne and a group of other people from Heanor following some waggons which carried stocking frames bound for Nottingham, and they had briefly spoken to each other. She couldn't believe he could have done this to her.

This has been compiled from the deposition of Sarah Wilde, which can be found at HO 42/120. In a letter to the Home Office of 6th February (also at HO 42/120), the Bow Street Magistrate Robert Baker stated that 2 frames were broken in Eastwood on 5th February, bu this is the only reference I can find to frame-breaking that night.

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