Saturday, 7 April 2012

7th April 1812: Manchester Secret Committee members borrow money from the spy 'B'

On the evening of 6th April, the Manchester Executive Committee had cancelled the plans of the General Delegate Committee to launch attacks on factories in the surrounding towns over the following week. After the meeting had broken up, two members of the Secret Committee that had been delegated to inform Bolton & Stockport - George Royles & George Haworth - had approached another member, the weaver Humphrey Yarwood, explaining that they could not afford to travel.

Yarwood had reminded Royles and Howarth of someone present at the meeting who had the means to make them a loan. He asked them to call on him the following morning and they would visit the man tomorrow.

The next day, Yarwood took Royles and Howarth to the warehouse of a John Bent, apparently a buyer and seller of cotton waste, and a well-known face at both public and secret meetings of weavers, spinners and those of other trades.

Bent agreed to lend Royles and Howarth sufficient money to fund their trips out to Stockport and Bolton. He had to get change for a £10 note, and when he returned he gave them 19 shillings each. They agreed terms of repayment - Bent was flexible, but wanted regular payments whatever period they chose. The men agreed to repay the money within a month.

The 3 men then went to meet the other member of the Secret Committee, John Buckley Booth, at the Prince Regent's Arms, where he gave them the tickets that would enable them to meet & converse with the Secret Committees at Bolton and Stockport and they made the trips out the same day.

The three men were not to know that the cotton trader John Bent was in fact Colonel Fletcher's spy 'B'. We know this because 'B's' report to Fletcher of the 7th April mentioned their visit:
"three of they Committee Came to me to Borrow one pound I lent them 19 shillings they will pay me in the Cors of a month"

Information about the meeting of Bent and the Manchester Secret Committee can be found in Bent's report and Yarwood's statement, both of which can be found at HO 40/1/1.

Bent was evidently very wealthy. A £10 note from 1812 at 2009 values is the same as £6,700 using average earnings. Similarly The 19 shillings Royles & Howarth each ended up with is the same as £637, which is quite a well-funded round-trip!

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