Friday, 20 April 2012

20th April 1812: Delegate meeting of Manchester Executive Committee at Ardwick Green

The next General delegate meeting of the towns around Manchester took place on Monday 20th April. The disarray that was displayed in the convening of the meeting was reflected in what occurred later at the meeting itself, and against the backdrop of widespread & escalating disorder in the North West. It would also herald the beginning of the end of the system that had been maintained up until that point by the committees of trades. We know about the meeting because of two sources: the weaver, Humphrey Yarwood, and Colonel Fletcher's spy, 'B' alias John Bent.

John Buckley Booth, of the Manchester Secret Committee, felt that it was not safe for him to attend at the original intended Venue, the King's Arms at Oldfield Lane, Salford. He suggested to another Secret Committee member, George Royles, that delegates should be directed to the Shakespeare at Ardwick Green and deputised him to go to the King's Arms and direct people there. Yarwood said that Royles did not stay long enough to direct all the delegates, and several who had arrived at the public house a 3.00 p.m. did not know where the meeting was. One of them, the treasurer of the Spinners committee called Burslem, took some delegates with him to Yarwood's house to make enquiries, who directed them to assemble at the Plough in New Islington for 4.00 p.m. where he would meet them and inform them where to finally go.

Meanwhile, according to Bent, Buckley Booth had convened some of the delegates at a public house in John Street, Ancoats before adjourning to the 'Place & Park' in New Islington. They were proceeding to business when the pub was entered by a party of Special Constables & some Scots Greys, who proceeded to clear the room. It's likely that they moved onto the Prince Regent's Arms in Ancoats, as that is where Yarwood caught up with them later in his efforts to find out the final meeting place.

When the meeting was eventually convened at the Shakespeare later that evening, Buckley Booth was surprised at the numbers of delegates present. Bent reported to Colonel Fletcher that delegates came from Saddleworth, Ashton-under-Lyne, Newton, Droylsden, Hollinwood, Stockport, Withington, Northenden, Stretford, Urmston, Eccles, Worsley & Astley Green. Yarwood heard that delegates were also present from Stalybridge and even Huddersfield. It is notable that that there was no delegate from Bolton that night, something that Bent pointed our to Colonel Fletcher in his report. Bent was not to know that the Bolton delegates to the previous meeting, John Stones and Waddington, had been traversing the countryside around Bolton and Atherton in the early hours of that morning.

The meeting set to business, and elected Bent as treasurer. Colonel Fletcher's spy now had a firm foothold in the regional organisation, and presumably access to personal details of the delegates.

But Buckley Booth was dismayed that the town of Manchester itself could not raise enough subscriptions to support it's own Committee, and proposed that the town should drop out of the association altogether. The meeting was to be rescheduled for just over a fortnight's time, 4th May at 11.00 a.m. in the Three Crowns at Failsworth, when subscriptions would be due. The proposal was to use the subscriptions to fund a delegate to travel to London. Following the disorder that had taken place in and around Manchester that day and the days before, there was an agreement to recommend that the people 'be peaceable' and that anyone involved in rioting would not be twisted-in.

A sign and countersign were agreed, and noted later by Bent in his report to Colonel Fletcher:
The sign to be admitted is: to clasp the forefinger of the right-hand into the right eye; the answer by the left in the same manner.

This has been compiled from the report of 'B' aka John Bent to Colonel Ralph Fletcher ending 23rd April 1812 and Humphrey Yarwood's deposition of 22nd June 1812, both of which can be found at HO 40/1/1.

The Shakespeare at Ardwick Green no longer exists. The Pubs of Manchester Past & Present blog has more details here.

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