Saturday 2 June 2012

2nd June 1812: J.A. Park, Attorney-General for Lancaster, informs the Home Office of the outcome of the Special Commission

Preston, June 2d — 1812

Dear Sir,

I have thought it my duty, as Attorney General of the County Palatine, before I leave Lancashire, to give you the general result of the Trials which have taken place at these Special Sessions which closed yesterday, that you may lay before Secretary of State. Four prisoners for arson in burning a Mill & Warehouse at West Houghton – Three from breaking & entering a dwelling house & Shop at Manchester, & riotously stripping it of most of its contents, butter, cheese, bread & bacon: and one woman for a most violent Robbery on the highway, by means of a Mob compelling a man to sell upwards of 300 weight of butter at an under price,= eight persons in all, received sentence of death, & are all left for execution by the Judges on Saturday the 13th of June.

Eleven were convicted of administering or taking unlawful Oaths – & were sentenced to seven years Transportation — Two more convicted of Larceny in riotously stealing Flour out of a Mill — were also ordered for Transportation — One other for a similar offence, but under very favourable circumstances & a female, to six months hard labour in the House of Correction.

Six other Persons had being riotously assembled with a very wicked mob, though these six certainly did no violence, but were found guilty, on account of their being present, & thereby a very useful lesson held out, Six months Imprisonment: but these latter I think the Judges would have no objection to being pardoned in a short time hence, when the peace of the County is a little restored; for they are chiefly young females.

I wrote to General Maitland yesterday, & I take the liberty of repeating to you, that, quiet as the Country has been during the present Sessions, yet it is absolutely necessary to keep an armed force for some time to come in the Town of Lancaster: & that a guard should be mounted every night round the gaol till these executions are over, & till the persons, ordered for Transportation, are removed out of the County. I know the learned Judges concur in the propriety of what I have written.—Before I knew of Mr Justice Gibbs’s promotion, I wrote to him every day with the result of each day's proceedings: & enforced upon the necessity of removal of the transported felons out of the County.

The summary is this –

Sentence of Death on — 8
Transportation — 13
Imprisonment — 7
[Total] 28

There were six others acquitted of the clearest case of Arson, to the utter dissatisfaction of the whole Court, Mr Ewart a Merchant of Liverpool the foreman of the Jury, & the sole cause of the Mischief, having kept the Jury out an hour, before he could bring them over to his opinion. But I immediately, to the great satisfaction of the Sheriff & Grand Jury, presented a fresh Bill against them to the Misdemeanour of rioting &c. & would have proceeded instantly to try, & openly said so. But when brought up, they chose to traverse—however the Judges required 2 Sureties for every Prisoner in £100. each, which bail they probably will not obtain, so that there has not been triumph expected—& Mr Ewart was so looked down upon, that he never was seen in Court or at Lancaster afterwards.

I shall be in town on thursday.

I am, Dear Sir,
Very faithfully yours
J A Park

This letter can be found at HO 42/124.

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