Sunday, 18 March 2012

18th March 1812: The trial of William Barnes at the Nottingham Lent Assizes

The Nottingham Review of the 27th March 1812 continued with its coverage of the trials of the Luddites at Nottingham Lent Assizes:
William Barnes, one of most respectable men in Basford, was arraigned on suspicion of conniving at the breaking of three frames in his workshop, on the 26th of January, 1812, belonging to Messrs. Haddens, Hosiers, in this town.

Mr. Bodill, Constable, stated, that he took an order from Mr. Hadden to the prisoner, on the day named in the indictment, directing him to deliver up to such Constable the three frames belonging to Messrs. Haddens the next day; but it was thought necessary the plant two of the Berkshire Militia in the house, to protect them during the night from the violence of the Luddites. Accordingly, the witness took two soldiers with him to the house, and when he gave the prisoner the order, he said, “God Almighty damn the Hosiers, they are a pack of dammed scoundrels altogether;” wished the soldiers to be taken away, and would not suffer any of his family to fetch them any refreshment.

Henry Huggins, a soldier, deposed that he was placed in the prisoner’s house, for the purpose above specified; that the prisoner went out in fifteen minutes, as the admittance of himself and comrade, to fetch his daughter, for fear she should be frightened when she came at the sight of soldiers in the house, on whose account he seemed very uneasy. He described the prisoner as going out and in several times, and at length he entered in silence with eighteen or twenty persons at his back, in disguise, who immediately secured the soldiers and their arms—threatened them with instant death if they made any resistance, and sent the prisoner up stairs while they demolished the frames belonging to Messers. Haddens. The soldier described one person as a gentleman, who seemed to have the command of the rest, and who said to the men, ”Ned, do your duty, or you shall not be paid.” Witness further stated, that the frame-breakers remained in the house eighteen or twenty minutes; and that when they went away, the prisoner came downstairs, and exclaimed, “Oh dear me! this will be laid upon me! these frames would not have been broken, if the Constable had not come here.” Witness went on to state, that the priosner stated himself, during their conversation, to have been forced into his own house by two men, each with a pistol at his head, threatening, in a low tone of voice, instant death if he created the least alarm; that a table was broken in the house, and three frames in the shop, while three remained unbroken; and asserted most distinctly, that he did not fall a sleep before the frame-breakers entered the house.

Thomas Osborne, the other soldier, who had been present during the last witness’s examination, confirmed, in a hesitating manner, what his comrade had stated; admitted how much he was alarmed while the frame-breakers help their pistols to his breast; that he had not slept before they entered the house; and that they gave him and his comrade their arms back when they had completed their work of spoliation.

After Mr. Alexander Hadden had proved the demolished frames to belong to the firm of Alexander, John, and George Hadden, and that he had sent an order to the prisoner to deliver up the said frames, as stated by the witness Bodill,

Barnes was called upon for his defence, when he declared his innocence in the most solemn manner; that, so far from his having acted in the outrageous manner as stated by the witness Bodill, that he had not sworn an oath during the last seven years; that he thought it hard work for Mr. Hadden to send for his frames at so short notice, as it was not only contrary to established custom, but that he had worked him ten years, without ever an angry word having passed between them. He further stated, that if the soldiers had not slept before the entrance of the frame-breakers, that they had done something very much like it, for that he saw them hanging down their heads, and heard them snore; and that when he awoke them, they exclaimed bitterly against the Hosiers for being the cause of having such hard duty imposed upon them, and that it would be better to use violence to their persons than their frames.

Mr. Hadden voluntarily rose up and confirmed the testimony of Barnes respecting the length of time he had worked him, and the purity of his character after which,

Robert Elliott, a neighbour of the prisoner’s deposed, that he was in conversation with him at half-past six the evening the frames were broken, and that he had not parted with him at his (the prisoner’s) own door many minutes before he saw the frame-breakers enter his house, and heard the hammers go in the shop. Several highly respectable persons were ready to speak to the character of the prisoner, but the Judge thought their testimonies unnecessary; and after an impartial address to the Jury, they returned a verdict of Not Guilty.

No comments:

Post a Comment