Wednesday, 13 June 2012

13th June 1812: The last declarations of Job Fletcher, condemned to die at noon

On the morning of Saturday 13th June 1812 at Lancaster Castle, the chaplain - Joseph Rowley - and the governor - John Higgin - took two declarations from a prisoner, Job Fletcher. Fletcher had been convicted of attacking Westhoughton Mill on 24th April and sentenced to death - he was due to hang at noon that day. Job Fletcher's reasons for giving this declaration were no doubt influenced by his impending fate more than any lofty moral reasons given by the dubious characters of the chaplain and gaoler.

Rowley later communicated these declarations to Colonel Ralph Fletcher, the Bolton Magistrate in a letter of 15th June 1812. What the declarations contained would have delighted and horrified Colonel Fletcher, a right-wing Loyalist zealot:
Lancaster June 15th 1812.

Dear Sir,

A sense of public duty impels me to lose no time in communicating to you, & through your means to any other Magistrate, whom you may think it proper so to do, the following declarations of Job Fletcher, who, according to his sentence, suffered death on saturday morning.

“I Job Fletcher know of a truth, that Richard Warwick* is the head man of the men that as taken the sacret oath in the township of Atherton. I hard him say that the Combination of them raught 300 Miles long and that a set time wood be fixed when it wood take place to be put in execution and George Saleø whas the man that set fire to the factory and that Richard Warwick was the man that tooke and brought orders betwixt Chowbent and Bolton as that night that I whas with them he said we must give him every man one penny to goe the next day for orders but there was not any money given that night that I was with them. When I come to call to mind it was John Shuttleworth that took mee that night to take the oath and as I came back I told him I did not like of their gowings on but he said that the oath was the most secretest oath that ever whas took so he said he had taken oaths before magistrates but they was nothing in comparison with that oath for heaviness and Richard Parr was the man that broke the door the factory open with a large axe that he carried on his Sholder. this is all the true a Count I can give you”

(Signed) “Job Fletcher”

* or Seddon, he is likewise called the delegate
ø or France

The above was committed to writing by himself at the desire of Mr. Higgin & myself.

The following was communicated to me verbally, & written nearly in his own words; & was signed & dated by him on the morning of his execution.

“I Job Fletcher, to confirm by this my signature, that I have voluntarily declared, that Mr. Davis, the Presbyterian Clergyman at Chowbent is considered an encourager of the tumults which have lately taken place in the neighbourhood;—that he did on the evening of 23rd of April, namely, the evening before the West Houghton factory was set on fire, assemble among the crowd, & converse with the people respecting the factory being set on fire, & run about from place to place laughing & rejoicing. The crowd of people that evening might consist of several hundreds. I was quite near him, I could not be possibly mistaken.”

“I do likewise declare that Mr. Canon of Chowbent is a principal encourager of our meetings. He has been in the habit of frequently assembling among the people & talking with them most seditious things both against the Ministers of the Country & the Royal Family. I cannot say, that either of these persons has been twisted in, that is, sworn in.”

(Signed) “Job Fletcher”

Lancaster Castle
June 13. 1812.

The above declarations were likewise confirmed by Charleston & Smith, & were made in their presence, as well as in the presence of Mr. Higgin & myself. These facts I thought it my duty to communicate to you. His reason to making them I shall likewise give you in his own words, “he thought it might perhaps be the means of saving the lives of many hundreds, & might prevent much bloodshed.”

I am, Dr Sir, with much respect
Your’s most faithfully,
Joseph Rowley
Chapn. of Lancr Castle.

P.S.I have sent Mr. Parke, the Attorney General for this County, a copy of the above declarations


Rowley's letter can be found at HO 40/1/1.

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