Tuesday, 17 April 2012

17th April 1812: Secret weavers meeting held at Dawes Field, Bolton

On Friday 17th April 1812, weavers in Bolton held another secret meeting in 'Dawes Field', a field belonging to a local brewer called Matthew Corr Dawes.

Up to 42 weavers were present that night. One weaver who was present, called William Winterbottom, recognised 4 others that he knew - Samuel Ratcliffe, John Hirst, Hugh Brown and John Garrett.

Colonel Fletcher's spy, John Stones, was there again. He conducted the meeting, and formed everyone into a circle. They were assigned numbers and the roll was called around the circle from the right of each man present.

It's not clear whether or not Stones was happy with the numbers present, but he told everyone present that they should attend another meeting in 2 days time, and that they be disguised so that "the devil himself would not know you."

Stones stated intent would be that this meeting would be to culminate in the destruction of Westhoughton Mill.

This has been compiled from the depositions of William Winterbottom, Oliver Nicholson, Peter Gaskell, Samuel Mee, Robert Long and Michael Bentley, which can be found at HO 42/128. It's possible that Thomas Gregory and Thomas France were also in attendance, but it is not clear from their depositions which meeting in Dawes Field they are referring to.

Three weavers - Nicholson, Gaskell and Mee - state that 42 were present. Robert Long stated that 'about 40' were present, and Bentley states '30 to 40'.

Nicholson attests to the presence of John Stones.

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