Tuesday, 31 July 2012

31st July 1812: A would-be Luddite assassin is found dead in Newton, Cheshire

In his memoirs, Captain Francis Raynes related an incident that took place in the evening of Friday 31st July 1812 at Newton, near Hyde, Cheshire. The Cooper referred to is William Cooper, Raynes' informer, who had been uncovered by Luddites and whose life had been threatened previously. Raynes had taken him under the protection of the military:
About five o’clock in the Saturday morning ... Ashworth, my special constable, came to inform me, a man had been murdered in Newton, at a short distance from the back of Cooper’s house, and his body horribly burnt and disfigured. I immediately hastened to Newton, accompanied by some soldiers and the special constable, and found there a spectacle too shocking to describe. On examining the body and the place where it was found, I had no doubt in my own mind, but the deluded men, bent on the horrid purpose of murdering Cooper, had assembled at the back of his house, with determined resolution of executing it. But it appeared to me, that Samuel Crabtree, the young man found shot, after loading his pistol, had put it into his pocket, where it had accidentally gone off, several bullets having entered his back, and the fire communicating with a quantity of powder he had about him, produced the dreadful appearance the body assumed: a powder flask burst, and a leathern bag, containing upwards of sixty bullets, some of which were melted, were found with the body.
Raynes went on to state that there was no formal inquest into the death. The incident was later related in the press, although there was no mention of Cooper. Crabtree was 18 years old.

The quote is from Raynes (1817, pp.55-56). The Lancaster Gazette of 22nd August & 19th September mentions this incident, although they date the incident as 30th July. This is clearly wrong, as Raynes is consistent with the dates.

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