Friday, 24 August 2012

24th August 1812: Convictions at the Chester Summer Assizes

Some of the less well-known convictions for Luddism took place at the Chester Summer Assizes, on or before Monday 24th August 1812. William Cooper, a spy/informer from Newton in Cheshire employed by the Stockport Solicitor, John Lloyd, played an important part. Cooper had been uncovered by the local Luddites prior to the Assizes, and an unsuccessful attempt had been made on his life in July.

Daniel Garside (around 23 years of age) was found guilty of being present at and consenting to the administering of an illegal oath to Cooper, although another man called John Hollingworth charged with a similar offence was acquitted after taking the oath of allegiance. Two other men, George Dernally & Joseph Horsefield, were found guilty of taking the oath, and were acquitted after admitting evidence for the crown and taking the oath of allegiance.

Thomas Schofield was convicted of inciting Cooper to steal a barrel of gunpowder, and also taking an illegal oath.

Although the newspaper reports do not contain details of the subsequent sentences, the Home Office records show that Garside was sentenced to 7 years transportation, with Schofield receiving 4 years imprisonment.

A report in the Lancaster Gazette states that evidence was given about both men convicted, that alleged they had collected money for delegates, and also to pay for Counsel for the 'Manchester 38', whose trial at the Lancaster Summer Assizes was imminent.

The firmness of these convictions, and Cooper's role in it all, is as yet unclear to this historian.
Full details of the offences & sentences are at HO 27/8. The Lancaster Gazette of 19th September 1812 has some sparse details of the trial, as does John Lloyd's letter to the Home Office of 24th August 1812 at HO 42/126.

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