Thursday, 29 March 2012

29th March 1812: A Secret Committee is formed in Manchester

In Manchester on the morning of Easter Sunday 1812, 4 men awaited the arrival of a coach from Stockport: they were Humphrey Yarwood, the Secretary of the Manchester Committee of Trades who had been elected on 19th February, John Buckley Booth, aka 'The Parson', a lay preacher, George Royles, an Irishman partially-sighted in one eye, and George Haworth, a Yorkshireman who lived at the time in Pillings Buildings. All four were weavers, and active in workers' committees in and around Manchester.

When the coach arrived, a young, smartly-dressed man called Joseph Wright met them. Wright was a delegate from the Stockport Committee of weavers. The group retired to a quiet room somewhere in town. They discussed the development of secret workers' organisations in Stockport, and their chief aims: the destruction of Steam Looms, the collection of funds to purchase arms with a view to using force if necessary. As their conversation developed, Wright explained to them that it would be necessary for them to form a Secret Committee and be sworn into an illegal Oath  - an obligation of secrecy - which was by then in use in both Stockport and Bolton. He explained that it would be necessary for the three towns to be in contact with each other, but the necessity of secrecy meant documentation would have to used to facilitate correspondence and communications. Being the most confident of the group, Buckley Booth suggested that he Royles and Haworth should form the Secret Committee.

Wright suggested that a delegate from Bolton should visit Manchester on his way back from Stockport in the next few days and leave the documents with them. The ever self-assured Buckley Booth volunteered to met the delegate.

Within 2 days, the delegate had met Buckley Booth and left with him the paraphernalia. It consisted of a transcribed copy of the Oath the four men had taken, and two indented cards, the purpose of which was to act as tickets which would only match with similar cards held by the other Secret Committees at Bolton and Stockport, so that a delegate system could be used. The underground in the North West now included Manchester, the newest of the Secret Committees.

The details of this meeting come from a statement made by Humphrey Yarwood to John Lloyd in June 1812, and also a memorandum of a conversation with Yarwood made by Lloyd in the same month. Both documents can be found at HO 40/1/1.

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