Thursday, 5 April 2012

5th April 1812: Delegates from many North West towns meet at the Kings Arms in Salford

The Kings Arms, Salford in the 1970s. Image copyright Salford Pubs of the 70s on Flickr.
At 6 p.m. on Sunday 5th April, an important meeting was held at the Kings Arms (previously the Good Samaritan) on what was then Oldfield Lane in Salford. Evidence from one participant exists in the Home Office archive - that of one of Colonel Ralph Fletcher's spies, John Stones, mediated through his handler, James Warr of the Bolton Local Militia. The weaver Humphrey Yarwood also mentions the meeting, although he was not present, as did a weaver from Stockport, Thomas Whittaker, in a statement later taken when he was in prison.

The delegates present came from a number of different towns in the North West. According to John Stones, there were 10 present, including 1 from Stockport, 3 from Manchester, 1 from Eccles, 1 from Blackburn and 1 from Bolton. Stones also tells us that the Bolton delegate was a man called Waddington (probably Robert Waddington), who had introduced him to the meeting. Yarwood tells us that a member of the newly-formed Manchester Secret Committee - John Buckley Booth - was there, and that delegates were also present from Saddleworth, Ashton-under-Lyne and Oldham, with a delegate from Failsworth no doubt being counted by Stones as being from Manchester. Thomas Whittaker names the Stockport delegate as Thomas Miller.

Stones reported that the delegates all stated their Towns were 'ready', and that were now waiting on Bolton. Delegates gave numbers for those 'twisted in' in the townships: 823 in Stockport, of whom 250 had arms or other weapons; 2000 in Manchester, which as well as workers included Manufacturers, Publicans and Shopkeepers; even Eccles - which had only been recruiting for a fortnight - had managed to raise 183 and had access to 200 stand of arms because a Local Militia sergeant had been twisted in. According to Stones, all were clear that their aims were no longer limited to an advance of wages - they wanted to 'put the great men down that had trampled them under for so long'.

According to Stones, the meeting set a date for the 'Firing of Factories' to take place in each of the Towns that had sent delegates - the evening of Monday 13th April between 12 midnight and 1 a.m. Waddington said that Bolton was not ready, but the other delegates said that something had to happen in that area and soon - it was suggested that the steam loom factory at Westhoughton should be included in the factories to be attacked, unless another arrangement was made at a meeting due to take place on Wednesday 8th April. Yarwood states that the towns were given autonomy to 'choose what mischief they thought proper' for the 13th, but that the Manchester districts had to agree to it.

Whittaker stated that Thomas Miller had reported that a Bolton delegate (either Waddington or Stones) had brought a scale model of a pike along to the meeting. He describes how Waddington placed the constituent parts of the model pike on a table, with everyone puzzled as to what this was and what he was doing. Waddington then assembled the parts to demonstrate that what looked inoffensive could be made into a deadly weapon. Given that Stones was a member of the Bolton Local Militia, and that Waddington knew this, it would seem to be likely that Stones was the man with the pike, even though he doesn't mention it in his report.

Yarwood tells us that the next meeting was due in a fortnight, 19th April.

Stones left the meeting with Waddington to return to Bolton, presumably on foot because Stones relates how they met a man in Swinton and engaged in conversation, persuading him to join their cause. They were ready to twist him in there and then, but they did not have a copy of the oath on them, and directed the man to get the Eccles delegate to arrange this. The Swinton man estimated he could get 100 other local men involved.

On their journey home, Waddington told Stones that he believed figures such as Lord Cochrane, Sir Francis Burdett and Samuel Whitbread would join them when the country was ready. There was an intention to seize the arms and ammunition belonging to Bolton Local Militia, and he had invited Stones because he trusted him, having heard how he and his father were so active. Waddington told Stones that the secret committee at Bolton had arranged to procure 6 artillery pieces, under the direction of a man called Ratcliff who had used them in the military. They also knew where to get hold of Pikes.

Both Stones' report and Yarwood's Statement are at HO 40/1/1. Thomas Whittaker's report is at HO 42/121.

Despite being 195 years old, the Kings Arms was demolished in 2000 to make way for 'improvements' to the area that have still to take place 12 years later. The Pubs of Manchester blog has further details.

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