Wednesday, 18 July 2012

18th July 1812: The York Summer Assizes commence

Sir John Bayley c.1808
On Saturday 18th July 1812, the Summer Assizes commenced at York before Baron (Sir George) Wood & Sir John Bayley. Bayley was the Judge who presided over the Nottingham Lent Assizes, who was perceived as lenient by many members of the ruling class.

The Grand Jury included Henry Lascelles (as Foreman) and Joseph Radcliffe, amongst others.

A number of cases were connected with the Luddite disturbances:
James Wolstenholme, William Rodger, Mary Gibbons, John Rowans, Thomas Wilson, William Denton, Charles Parker, William Shirtcliffe, and William Groom were charged with rioting in Sheffield on 14th April 1812.

James Haigh, of Dalton, cropper, was charged with being strongly suspected of having been involved in attacking Rawfolds Mill on 11th April 1812.

Betty Wood, of Horbury, charged with riotously assembling, theft and incitement to riot at Horbury on 17th June 1812. Mary Ellis and Marty Wright were also charged with riotous assembly, assault and robbery on the same date.

James Oldroyd, of Dewsbury, clothier, charged with confessing his involvement in the attack on Rawfolds Mill on 11th April 1812.

Robert Grimshaw, labourer, charged with feloniously entering and setting fire to the cotton mill of John and Arthur Armistead, of Clapham on 20th May 1812.

Patrick Doring, aka Patrick Bell, late of Scholes, surgeon, charged with having threatened to shoot Mary & Joseph Culpin for their giving evidence against James Haigh.

There were also 2 cases of stabbing and shooting soldiers - Ann Gardner & Robert Dick respectively - although it is not clear if these were directly related to the disturbances.
In his address to the Grand Jury, Judge Bayley made comments about some of the cases which are worthy of publication:
No. 13, in the calendar, (James Haigh) is the case of a person committed on strong suspicion of being concerned in an attack upon a mill. On this I would remark, that if the evidence amounts only to what may be called a conjecture, or slight presumption, it would be advisable to throw out the bill; but it often happens that more evidence is laid before you than is contained in the depositions handed to me. You will consider the amount of the evidence, and if he be but slight, it would be better to reject the bill, unless you have reason to believe that you have all the evidence before you that can be collected on the case, because if you find the bill, and the party is tried and acquitted upon it, he can never be tried for that offence again, whatever evidence may come out; but if the bill is thrown out, he would be still amenable to the law, if subsequent evidence should render it expedient to apprehend him. I make these observations because it appears, from the depositions, that some persons refused to enter into recognizances to appear and give their evidence. It gives me concern to observe a disposition in any person to obstruct the course of Justice; and the Magistrates would have been justified, and I wish they had so acted, in committing the persons, thus refusing, to prison.

In No. 25, (James Oldroyd,) the evidence will probably mainly rest on the confession of the party, you will, therefore, inquire what corroborating circumstances there may be in the case, and whether the confession rests under the suspicion of being made by the undue influence of promises or threats.

With respect to the disturbances of which we have heard so much in this and the neighbouring counties, I do not observe that there are any cases in the Calendar of persons charged with being concerned in any recent outrage; and I am happy to find that the vigilance exercised by the Magistracy of this county, has already so materially checked and repressed this disposition to outrage, and I trust the exertion of the same vigilance will be effectual in totally suppressing those disorders. I feel, as an individual, no alarm on the subject. The machinations of those deluded and misled persons cannot ultimately succeed; they may produce for a time uneasiness and alarm, but must at length be put down; yet though on the ground of the public safety there is no ground of apprehension, it is highly desirable that the most prompt measures should be adopted to suppress these outrages, as their further continuance must bring down upon the persons concerned in them the most heavy and serious punishments.

If the labouring classes suffer from the high price of provisions, or have any other just ground of complaint, I am sure there will be found, in you and in the country, a disposition to afford them relief and redress. In no country (and I am proud to think I live in such a country) are the comforts of the poor more attended to, or more instant attention paid to their distresses than in this; and I am sure every practicable mode will be resorted to, to diminish the pressure they must feel from the high price of the necessaries of life. Gentleman, if, by submitting to little privations ourselves, we can contribute to this, we shall have the satisfaction of reflecting, that we have done nothing to increase these troubles, nay more, that we have done all in our power to remove them; and if those people should be so unwise and so ungrateful as to persevere in their measures of hostility, we shall have the consolation of having done our duty.
The trials would take place over the next few days.

As reported in the Leeds Mercury of 18th & 25th July 1812.

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