Wednesday 13 June 2012

13th June 1812: The 37 prisoners at the New Bailey become the 'Manchester 38' and are committed to Lancaster Castle

Between 4.00 and 5.00 p.m. on Saturday 13th June, the 37 men arrested at a meeting at the Prince Regents Arms on 11th June were in court again, this time facing an examination before the magistrates. By now, they were 38, having been joined by Thomas Broughton, a man who had left the meeting early on the fateful night.

The prisoners had taken their positions up at the bar of the Court, when the Deputy Constable Joseph Nadin spent some time re-arranging them in different positions from those in which they had already stood. Prison officers in plain clothes - 'Turnkeys' - also stood amongst them, and John Knight noticed that Nadin tried to position one of these men next to him. He later managed to slowly move to a different position.

Another man was facing them, Nadin's witness called Samuel Fleming, a man who had left the Prince Regents Arms early on the night of the meeting. Nadin asked Fleming if he knew one of the prisoners, William Washington: Fleming said that he didn't, and Nadin proceeded to point at Washington, saying "That is him, in the striped waistcoat and spotted handkerchief; swear to him first."

Washington realised he was being set up for something, and appealed to the magistrates. When no notice was taken of his plea, Washington appealed again, and this time, Nadin was ordered to move away from Fleming. Fleming then proceeded to swear than Washington had administered to him, and two others, an unlawful oath at 10.00 p.m. on 11th June.

On being asked who else had taken the oath, Fleming pointed out a Turnkey called William Evans, the same man who Nadin had tried to place next to John Knight at the bar. Although he was said he was sure it was Evans, the governor of the prison said it was impossible, since Evans had been at the prison all that night. On being asked to point out the other man who had taken the oath, Fleming pointed to another prisoner, Isaac Birch.

The magistrates refused permission for the solicitors for the prisoners to question Fleming, and the 38 men - from now on know as the 'Manchester 38' - were committed for either administering, or being present at the administering of an illegal oath to Samuel Fleming. The Turnkey, William Evans, was not committed.

This has been compiled from Knight (1812, pp.iii-v).

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