Tuesday, 20 March 2012

20th March 1812: The trials of the 'Luddite burglars' Pierce Cook, James Tomlinson & John England at Derby Lent Assizes

 The Nottingham Review of 27th March 1812 had extensive coverage of the trial of the Derbyshire 'Luddite burglars' whose trial took place on Firday 20th March 1812:
On Friday morning the Court was crowded to excess, when James Tomlinson, alias Fruz, [the prisoner obtained this appellation having large whiskers,] Perceval Cook, and John England, were put to the bar, charged with committing a burglary in the house of Mr Samuel Hunt, at Ockbrook mill, early on the morning of the 23d December, 1811. They each to the least five feet nine inches high, and were all fine looking young fellows; Cook being 26, Tomlinson 27, and England 29 years of age. England protested against being tried with the other two, saying, if he were, and was found guilty, he should consider himself a murdered man. The Court, however, took no notice of his protest, and proceeded to call

Elizabeth Walker, an interesting young woman, sister to the prosecutor’s wife, who resides with him in the capacity of a servant. She stated, that she got up to wash at two o'clock of the morning named in the indictment, and when she had been to the kitchen about an hour, had a strange voice call “hallo;” that she then went into the house to listen, and heard some people whispering on the doorstone. They then lifted up the latch several times, and she proceeded upstairs to call Mr. Hunt, who bid witness go down stairs and ask what was wanted, which she did, but received no answer. Mr. Hunt then went down and asked the same question, when he was answered, that they were Ned Ludd’s men; that they wished him to sign a paper to sell his corn and flour at a reasonable price; that they had left off breaking frames, and now intended to break human souls, if their grievances were not redressed. Witness then stated that several of the persons went to the windows, the shutter of which was then open, and demanded admittance; that one person had his face close to the glass, and another looked over his shoulder. On being told to look at the prisoners, and state whether any of them were the men, she immediately pointed out Cook and Tomlinson, and said Cook was the man who had his face close to the glass, and that Tomlinson looked over his shoulder. She was positive as to the identity of their faces, in consequence of having had so clear a sight of them, which she was enabled to have from the light of a large fire and having a candle in her hand, and from their standing conversing whether in that position at least a quarter of an hour. She further stated, that Cook had a black handkerchief on, which reached up to his ears and covered his chin; and that Tomlinson had something under his hat like the ears of a cap, which came down by the side of his face. [It was inferred that this was a cap to conceal his whiskers.] In the meantime, Mr. Hunt had been upstairs to fetch his gun, and on being pressed to open the door, he positively refused; when one of the depredators said if he did not, he would be dead if he should not see his mill and house burnt before his eyes. He then asked permission to dress himself; but they swore they would have him as he was. He then lifted up his gun, when one of them said, “he has a gun! we have fire arms as well as him.” Mr. Hunt replied that he had twenty guns up stairs, and that he would discharge them all before he would be robbed. She admitted that this was a [illegible] to drive the depredators away. Witness then said that she asked her brother where the trumpet was with which she might alarm the village, which was not more than a quarter of a mile from the house; but that while she was thus preparing to defeat their purpose, a brick-bat came through the window, which induced her to open it and call out murder; she then received a blow on the mouth from another brick-bat, which cut her upper lip and caused her to bleed profusely. Witness then went on to state, that a man set his foot against the door and sprung it partly open, when another said “stop a bit;” then they shortly after forced it open; and Mr. Hunt went up stairs with his gun; saw two men on the first or second stair, the first of whom was Cook; saw them quite plain with pistols in their hands, and observed Tomlinson have bits of flannel on the side of his face proceeding from under his hat; and saw other men in the house. One of the prisoners then said, what makes this man so stupid? why dont he come down and sign the paper? if he dont we will have vengeance! Mr. Hunt said, he would shoot the first man that attempted to advance another step. Mrs. Hunt had by this time dressed herself, and came to the top of the stairs with a child in her arms; and on seeing witness bleed so profusely, begged most tenderly of her husband to surrender himself, lest they should be murdered, which induced him to set his gun down and come downstairs. They then demanded his money, and he gave them his purse, containing a little silver and the key of his bureau. Witness saw five men in the house, some of whom had their faces disguised: saw three go up stairs, two of whom were Cook and Tomlinson; followed them, and saw them in Mrs. Hunt’s sleeping room; saw them at the drawers casting the things upon the door; went to them and laid hold of Cook’s arm, to whom she said, “justice will overtake you in this world, for this crime, and vengeance from an offended God in the next.” Witness then went down stairs, and saw them take three shirts from among the dirty linen. On her cross-examination she re-stated near the whole of the foregoing, and added, that she was quite sure that she knew Cook and Tomlinson, as they stopped in the house half an hour, and besides the light of the fire, there were six or seven candles burning in the house; and that she saw Cook take away Mr. Hunt’s gun.

Miss Hunt being then sworn, he stated himself to reside at Ockbrook mill, and confirmed all the material parts of the last witnesses testimony. He was positive as to the persons of Cook and Tomlinson; sure he was not alarmed until, at the tender entreaties of his wife, he surrendered himself, and that then he was afraid they would have murdered him from the resistance he had made. He further stated, that, besides his gun, which Cook had carried away, they took thirty-five one pound and guinea notes, which lay in his drawer under two suit of clothes, with sundry other articles; and that, when they were going away, he begged most tenderly that they would leave him a little money, to which Cook answered by shaking a pistol at him, and said, “We will remember you another day.”

Thomas Draper, an accomplice, aged 22, the same who swore against William Wells, alias Black Tom, at the Nottingham assize, was called as a witness: and, after receiving a caution from Counsellor Clarke to speak nothing but the truth, he deposed, that he had known Cook and Tomlinson about two years, and England about six months. He likewise knew Ockbrook Mill, Andrew Scott, a Scotchman, and Howett. He stated, that on the night preceding the burglary, the whole six met at England's house who gave them four black crapes for face cloths, and a flannel cap to Tomlinson to cover his large whiskers; it being agreed the Ockbrook Mill should not go [illegible] house in his own neighbourhood, therefore he did not want a face-cloth. [This accounts for only five persons being seen in Mr. Hunt’s house.] Witness went on to state that England furnished them with five loaded pistols, and advised them to go first to Brentnall, at Locko-grange, whom he knew bred many horses and sold them, and did not put his money in the bank, consequently, that they would there “get a good life” that they went out of England's house two by two; that they went to Brentnall's house, and got defeated; that they had forgot to bring their powder from England's; that for want of priming to discharge the pistols, he drew his own to prime the others with; but they all discharged their pistols in a close, except Cook, who he believed had not a sufficient quantity of priming; that they did not wish to do murder; that they then went to Mr. Hunt's house and robbed, as described by the two foregoing witnesses, (the circumstances attending which robbery he particularly described;) and that Tomlinson was the man who forced Mr. Hunt’s door, a panel of which he kicked out, and then entered through the hole, unlocked the door, and let in the rest. He further stated, that on their return they found England's back-door open, according to agreement, that England was gone out a brewing, and that when he came home to breakfast they gave him Hunt’s gun, and two one pound notes. On his cross-examination he admitted, that he had been charged with stealing his indenture from his master when he was an apprentice at Sheepshead; that he was a deserter from four regiments, but denied having received £111 14s. bounty money in one year.

The evidence against Cook and Tomlinson here closed, but then it was necessary to corroborate Draper’s testimony against England, to prove him an accessary, and to accomplish this, Mr. Whiston, clerk to Dr. Forester, a magistrate for the county of Derby, was sworn. He stated, that having taken down the deposition of Draper, and when he was reading it over to England, and came to that part which says, that they went out to commit the robberies in question with five pistols, “nay, says England, you had six.” “I think they [obscured] Draper,” “Yes,” replied England, “you know, Cook had two!” Witness further deposed, that when he came to that part of Draper’s testimony, which says that England received Mr. Hunt’s gun, and two notes, England said ”Nay, the notes were given to my wife!”

William Jowett, game-keeper to Lord Harrington, deposed, that some time ago he gave England a blue coat. The object in calling this witness was to prove that the coat which Cook had on Mr. Hunt’s was the one thus given to England; but as the latter part of the circumstance was not clearly proved the Judge struck out the whole of it from his notes.

Cook had an excellent character given him from his childhood down to the year 1807, by persons of high respectability from Nottingham; Tomlinson’s character stood high in the estimation of a creditable housekeeper of Belton, with whom he had lodged for a considerable time back down to 9th of January, 1812. But when he was asked, whether Tomlinson had not sometimes been absent for several days at a time, he said yes; but suppose that such absence might be accounted for by him going to Leicester with his work. And England had a fair character given him by several people up to May 1811.

The Learned Judge bestowed infinite pains in summing up the evidence; and the Jury, almost without hesitation, pronounced the prisoner Guilty.

Cook and Tomlinson were again indicted for having, in company with others, entered the dwelling-house of John Brentnall, of Locko Grange, on Sunday night the 22nd of December, 1811, it being the same night that the robbery at Mr. Hunt’s was committed; and England was again indicted for being an accessary to such forcible entrance.

Joseph Brentnall, son of the prosecutor, stated, that at eight o'clock, on the night stated in the indictment, his father's door being shut, two men rushed into the house; and that on him rising up in attempting to force them out again, he received a violent blow on the head with a pistol, while another was snapped at his breast; that he through the first man down; that three or four others rushed in: that the servant girl with a brush, and his father with a long bill-hook came to his assistance; but one of the ruffians cried out “murder; that they then got the whole of them out; that his father pursued them into the yard with the bill-hook, and was then knocked down by one of the villains throwing a large piece of wood at him; that he ran to his father's assistance as soon as possible, got him into the house and shut the door; but on missing the servant girl, he opened it again to seek for her, when he met her returning towards its and one of the villains pursuing her; and that on him appearing, the latter retreated with all possible speed.

John Brentnall deposed to the foregoing, and further stated, that when, in the yard two or three pistols were snapped at him; that he found two buttons, part of the tricker-guard of a pistol, and a hat; and that when the depredators entered his house, his family which was just rising from prayers.—We should have stated on the former trial, that Miss Walker deposed to one of the villains being without a hat, and having a handkerchief tied round his head; and that Draper declared himself to be the man. On this trial, this wretch deposed that he and Andrew Scott were the men who entered Mr. Brentnall's house; that he struck young Mr. Brentnall with a pistol, and Scott snapped the other at his breast; that he lost his hat in the scuffle; that he believed that Tomlinson was the man who knocked Mr. Brentnall down with the wood; and that on their disappointment here, they went and robbed the house of Mr. Hunt.

Mr. Whiston, Clerk to Dr. Forester, deposed on this trial, as he had done on the former, respecting the expressions made use of by England.

The Judge, in summing up the evidence, particularly stated, that a man who had furnished the means for the commission of a crime, became equally guilty, in the eye of the law, with the perpetrator of it, and consequently merited the same punishment.

The Jury found the business Guilty, and the Judge immediately proceeded to pass the awful sentence of the law upon them, and more than once enjoined them not to expect mercy.

These two trials lasted eight hours, during which time the prisoners conducted themselves with becoming deportment.
NB: John England's death sentence was later reprieved by Judge Bayley.

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