Wednesday, 21 March 2012

21st March 1812: The trials of Samuel Sellers & William Elliott at Derby Lent Assizes

The Nottingham Review of 27th March 1812 ended its coverage of the Derby Lent Assizes with the trial of two alleged frame-breakers on Saturday 21st March 1812:
Samuel Sellers and William Elliott, charged with frame breaking within the precincts of Swanwick, in Derbyshire, were brought to the bar; and Samuel Hill, framework-knitter, who resides at Swanwick Delve, deposed that he knew the prisoners; and that on the 9th of December, some persons passed by his house, when one of them said to him, “we shall come again some;” that he met a man disguised soon after; that he sat up till half past two in the morning, when he went to bed, thinking all was safe for that night; that his wife said, (he being hard of hearing) they are break two frames; got up and opened the door half-char, to peep; went out and saw two men with guns in their hands; said “you are all neighbours, and break the frames and be damned!” He then stated that he found three frames upon the common. On his cross-examination, he said that he could not tell how the men were dressed; nor did he know whether their faces were black.

George Hill deposed, that he saw three men stand on the causeway on the evening of the 9th December, with their faces blacked, and having on smock frocks; that he did not know them, but thought two of them were Sellers journeyman; watched Sellers house; saw four men come out of it; went home; mets three men on the causeway, one of whom was so disguised as to frighten him, and another was Sellers, who walked behind the other two, and was not disguised. On his cross-examination, he admitted that it was one o'clock in the night when he met the men, and that it was not a moonlit night.

Hannah Hill, wife of the first witness, remembered that the night alluded to; was disturbed at three in the morning; informed her husband; heard a particular voice when the men were going away; knows Sellers, and thought the voice was his. She then stated that she looked through the window, which was some distance from the road leading to Swanwick; but she heard a gun let off; went out, and found one frame in the road, one in the sink-hole, and one in the gutter. She admitted that the night was very dark, and that she only heard a word or two, which were, “damn it, stop a bit.”

Ann Jackson, sister to the first witness, deposed, that she resides in a small house adjoining to her brother’s workshop, the window in the sleeping room of which is hold up with barrel [illegible], through one of which is a bung-hole, which, to keep out the cold, is stuffed up with rags. She was alarmed about three in the morning alluded to, and said to the man who lodges with her, “are they breaking cinders in the road so soon?” She then pulled the rags out of the bung-hole, and pept, when she exclaimed, “O Lord! I wish I had not looked!” To which her lodger replied, “prithee what’s the in there?” “Why, I know them all!” “hold thy tongue, (replied the lodger,) or we shall all be hanged!” She then went on to state, she saw three men, two of whom, with black faces, were breaking frames with hammers in the road, and one standing on the causeway with a candle and lanthorn to light them—Knew that the prisoner Elliott and George Bacon were the men who broke the frame, and that Sellers, the other prisoner, was the man who held the light; was quite sure it were them; and no body else; knew them all; heard the sound of their voices; but did not understand a word they said, on account of the wind; went to bed again, and said she had seen enough. On her cross-examination she said, she slept with John Folding; that he got up first; that she saw Sellers from head to foot, but did not see his face, only by a side view, and that she worked in spectacles.

John Folding deposed, that he lodged with Ann Jackson; that there were but two beds in the house, and that the children slept in one, and himself and Ann Jackson in the other. He then proceeded to stay, that on the morning named in the indictment, he heard a noise; got up first took the “clouts” out of the bung-hole; saw seven or eight persons breaking frames, but did not know them; formed no judgement that Sellers was one, though he had known him about a year, and was reacquainted with his person, and had resided with Ann Jackson eighteen months; was distant from the frame breakers twelve or thirteen yards.

Sellers said, that Folding had known him many years ago; to which the other replied, “you was then a boy.”

Mr John Bing proved the property of one of the frames, whose testimony closed the evidence on the part of the Crown.

Job Berisford stated himself to be a farmer at Swanwick; he gave Sellers an excellent character, and stated, that in his opinion, Ann Jackson ought not to be believed on her oath; that she was a reputed liar and tale bearer, and bore a general bad character. He further stated, that on the 14th of December, he had a conversation with her at her brother’s, when he, witness, called, out of curiosity, to see the broken frames, and likewise to inform Hill, that in consequence of him having his frames broken, he had better have pay from the parish. On this occasion, Ann Jackson was washing at her brother’s, and witness asked her if she knew any thing about the matter, when she replied, that John got up first, pulled the rags out of the bung-hole, saw three men breaking frames, but did not know them. Witness said, “it was what she did not know some of them;” to which she replied, “Aye, bless you! they were all in disguise.” Susan Mather lives at Swanwick; knew Martha Orange, and had seen Ann Jackson with her; remembered hearing the former say to the latter, “I thought you had been at Derby to day?” (the day on which her brother Hill, went to the magistrates about his frames,) “Indeed! what must I go for? I know nothing about it! I was not up till our folks called me up for a light.”

Martha Orange stated, that she had a conversation with Ann Jackson shortly after the frames were broken, and that she said to witness, “why, they have broken Samuel Hill’s frames! Did you know any thing of them? No, for I was not out of bed—John was up, but if all Swanwick had been there, he would not have known any of them.” This witness concluded by giving it is her opinion that Ann Jackson ought not be believed.

Ann Robinson, whose husband is a Collier, remembered the frames being broken; went and saw them; saw Ann Jackson there, and heard her say, “God, I know nothing about them! I was not out of bed till they were broken.”

Francis Mather deposed that he kept a huckster’s shop at Swanwick; and that he would not believe Ann Jackson either on her word or her oath. On being asked to state his reason for having formed so bad an opinion of her, he replied, that by a continued form of falsehoods, she had gotten into his debt. He was then asked whether Sellers was not also in his debt; “yes, he owes me a few shillings, but he is an honest man, and will pay me.”

Jane Elliott, widow of the prisoner Elliott’s father, deposed that the prisoner Elliott came to her house at Swanwick about a month before Christmas to lodge, on account of his work calling him from Nottingham; that on the night the frames were broken, he went to bed with her son David about eleven o'clock; that she slept in the same room with them; that she got up in the night to turn her son’s flannels, that they might be dry for him to go to the pit in the morning; that she heard the clock strike three while she was up; that she saw the prisoner in bed at that time; and that he did not get up till eight in the morning. The unaffected simplicity with which this witness gave her testimony, excited the Judge’s attention.

David Elliott, with equal simplicity, confirmed the greater part of his mother’s evidence.

Luke Cartledge, lives next door to Jane Elliott, and remembered going into her house at eleven o'clock the night Hill’s frames broken, and saw the prisoner Elliott sitting by her fire. This witness was asked whether he had not been a collector for the frame-breakers, to which he answered, that he had been a collective the stocking-makers out of employment, and thought he was not doing any harm.

Another witness was called, who produced a plan of the houses of Hill and Ann Jackson, to prove the impossibility of the latter person seeing any part of Sellers below his shoulders, when she said she was peeping through the bung-hole; but as he rendered his own evidence of no avail, by stating, in is cross-examination, what he probably never intended to say, we shall not enlarge upon it.

Folding was again called on the part of the Crown, who stated, that the witness Berisford promised, if he would not appear against Sellers, that he should never want money. His testimony, in this respect, standing unsupported, the Judge thought it of little worth.

Elliott had an excellent character given him by a gentleman of high respectability from Nottingham.

When the jury, after a trial of six hours, Acquitted both the prisoners without many minutes hesitation.

Mr. Copley and Mr. Balguy advocated the cause of the prisoners and we never witnessed two gentleman do their duty better.

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