Monday, 12 March 2012

12th March 1812: Luddite raids in South Crosland, Honley & Lockwood

In the early hours of Thursday 12th March, the scene was set for yet more attacks by Luddites in the vicinity of Huddersfield.

Between midnight and 1.00 a.m. George Roberts of South Crosland awoke to a violent knocking on his door, and the sound of many voices in the dark, some of them demanding entry. He got up and stood behind the door and asked what they wanted - a reply came back "we'll let you see what we want!" and the knocking continued. Roberts decided to open the door to prevent it being damaged and a number of men immediately pushed past him: their faces were either blacked or covered in crude masks of black cloth with holes for the eyes and mouth. By now, the rest of the family was awake, and the Luddites moved to guard them. One of the Luddites whose face was covered by a white napkin said to Roberts' wife, Sarah, "tell your father that if he does not take his frames down I'll go to Marsden next week with 400 men." Sarah's maiden name was Armitage, and her father Joseph owned Woodbottom Mill at Marsden.

Roberts tried to reason with the Luddites - he explained that he had taken down all his shearing frames and begged them not to break his conventional shears when one of them gave the order to "go forward". Roberts was desperate and then one of them said "if you have taken your frames down we'll not injure your shears". Meanwhile, a group of the Luddites broke away to search the premises, with another Luddite grabbing Roberts and placing a pistol next to his head and ordered him not to move but to sit on the floor. The Luddites returned from upstairs angry at having found nothing - they demanded to know where his frames were. Roberts conceded that his frames were kept in his barn and urged the Luddites to take his keys rather than break open the door. He heard the men go to the barn and shortly after the sound of hammers splintering the wooden frames in fury.

The Luddites called Roberts to go out into the yard: 4 pistols were levelled at his head and the Luddites gave him a stern warning "if you put your frames up again we'll blow your brains out". Roberts was shattered, and agreed not to do so.

Finally, the Luddites formed themselves into ranks, whilst another led a roll call, but with numbers rather than names. Roberts later estimated there were 30 of them. The roll called, one of them raised a pistol into the air and a loud shot rang out. Thereafter they disappeared into the night. The operation had taken 15 minutes.

At 1.15 a.m., John Garner of Honley was awoken by a a violent hammering which seemed to be coming from his workshop next to his house. He got up. He distinctly heard someone say "watch the windows, take care of the windows!". Garner decided to stay put.

Between the hammering blows in his workshop, he heard someone loudly say "if thou cannot use that Maul, better give it me". Eventually, the noise ceased. He heard footsteps at the steps of the cellar, which led from the workshop to his house, and then he heard the door give way, they were inside his house. He heard them moving around inside when one of them said "there's nothing here, nor nobody, quick!" and they went back into the cellar and to the workshop.

Some time later, someone called "all out!" and the men assembled outside. A gun was fired into the night, and them marched off in a veritable hubbub, shouting and talking loudly.

Garner made his way downstairs. He went to fetch his gun, but found it had gone, stolen by the intruders. He rushed to his workshop and surveyed the toll of destruction left by the Luddites: 3 shearing frames and 7 pairs of conventional hand shears had been smashed and destroyed, and the door of the workshop badly damaged.

Clement Dyson was away at York Assizes. Between 2.00 and 2.30 a.m. his wife, Hannah, was awoken by many voices talking. David Crowther, an apprentice of Dyson's who was staying there was also awoken. He got out of bed and went down to see what the fuss was, but was shocked to hear some loud shots ring out. Someone demanded entry, but when Crowther went to open it, but was told to move back or he would be shot. He decided to go back upstairs, pausing to look through a hole in the wall which adjoined the workshop. Hannah could hear the workshop door being broken and from his vantage point, Crowther could make out almost 40 men who immediately moved to smash the shearing frames and hand shears there with large hammers.

Their work done, the Luddites grouped around the front of the house. They broke all the windows in the house and began to break down the door, and when the door yielded, one of them called out "house! house! bring out your other shears!". By now, both Hannah and Crowther were downstairs and 5 men had entered the house. Crowther explained that there were no more shears on the premises as they were away being sharpened at the grinders.

The Luddites demanded something to drink, and Hannah sent Crowther to fetch some water. But then a shot was fired outside and the Luddites turned and left, not waiting for Crowther, who returned with the water to find himself alone again with Hannah.

Crowther and Hannah went to the workshop to see what the damage was: the Luddites had destroyed 2 shearing frames, a brushing machine and 7 pairs of hand shears, as well as 2 barrels, 2 tubs, a churn and a watering can.

This has been compiled from the despositions made by George Roberts, John Garner, Hannah Dyson and David Crowther before Joseph Radcliffe on 13th March 1812. They can be found at HO 40/1/1. Authors like Reid (1986) and Brooke & Kipling (1993) have given the wrong date for these attacks, presumably basing it on the date the depositions were sworn (13th March) rather than the date referred to in the depositions ("yesterday morning" i.e. early hours of 12th March). I am indebted to Alan Brooke for providing the information about Sarah Roberts/Armitage.

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