Wednesday, 28 March 2012

28th March 1812: The Manchester spy 'B' meets a contact from Leeds and Irish rebels in Stockport

Colonel Fletcher's spy 'B' filed another report for his master on 28th March 1812.

On 25th March, after a meeting with another agent L.F., he was visited at home by a man called Welch from Leeds. B tried to get as much information as he could from Welch, establishing that there were 3 grand committees or 'heads' in the British Isles: London, Glasgow and Ireland, who communicated by delegates and had the final say on any plans. They were secretive and cautious - new recruits could only join if 2 existing members proposed them, with one of those members being prominent. They also had an oath which was sworn on the Bible:
I do most solemnly promise and swear that I will be faithful and keep all things entrusted to me on the business now carrying on and I furthermore do swear that I will do all in my power to forward the same and that neither hope fear or reward shall induce me to declare the same directly or indirectly but rather have my head cut off with both my hands and all my family served the same if I have so help me God

Welch told B that Jacobins ('old jacks') were not permitted to be involved, as they had been 'suspected' of late, and also favoured rash action.

B then asked Welch about Leeds and the surrounding area. Welch estimated that about 700 people could be counted on to act in the event of any uprising, but admitted they were very careful about recruitment. Meetings were not convened in public houses, as private houses and even fields were preferred if the weather was clement. Leeds was waiting for orders from London.

On the afternoon of Friday 27th, B went to Stockport to meet with his contact Wilson. At 8 p.m. they went to nearby Edgeley and met a dozen Irishmen, and proceeded from there to a field in Cheadle. Five of the men kept watch while the others held a discussion. B was expecting the men to all be part of the Stockport Committee, when in fact only 4 of them were. They had concerns that 'the business' was being conducted too openly, which they found alarming. Their meetings were announced at short notice, no more than five days. Wilson revealed that their delegate who had been to Ireland had been in touch, and he planned to visit more towns than had been the plan. He had managed to recruit 50 'converts'.

B also learned that the Stockport men also had an oath and did his best to make it plain than he could be of use to them. They told him that 700 were sworn in the area and they had links with London, and a regular correspondence with the 'Knights of the thimble' (i.e. Tailors) there. B gave his impression of the Stockport men for Fletcher:
"I find these men most of them dengers dering fellows and no Les than fore of them had be[en] in the Rebellion in Ireland and no doubt but the[y] wish to be at the same game again"

On the 28th, B had gone to Hollinwood to see his contact Taylor, but he was not at home, having gone to Oldham. B couldn't find him there, but spoke to other contacts he knew about 'the business' there.

B had missed the meeting of the Manchester Committee of Trades, which had supposed to have taken place on Tuesday 24th March as 'the Masons' had their usual room on that night. B heard the meeting had been adjourned to another venue, but did not know where or what had been discussed.

The report can be read at HO 40/1/1.

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