Wednesday, 12 September 2012

12th September 1812: A 'Luddite' burglar confesses to Joseph Radcliffe

Earl Parkin & John Swallow were two coalminers, who were out after dark near Flockton in the West Riding when they were taken up by a military patrol on 7th September for being unable to give a good reason for being out at that hour.

They were both kept in custody by Joseph Radcliffe and were interrogated at some point over the next 5 days by the Stockport solicitor John Lloyd and General Maitland's aide-de-camp, Captain Thornhill. Whatever Lloyd did or said had a greater bearing on Parkin than Swallow. By Saturday 12th September 1812, while Swallow denied everything in a deposition taken by Radcliffe, Parkin provided several pages of information.

Parkin told a tale in which Swallow had initiated him into a gang of housebreakers, led by another man called Joseph Norton, from Horbury. They had first acted together at the home of Benjamin Tolson in early June, demanding a gun and then money when none was offered, taking away a Guinea note. They spent the money on ale the same night at the Cross Keys in Horbury Bridge, and were joined by John Batley. By 11.00 p.m. they had no money left and decided to sleep out in a barn.

The next day, they were joined by the gang leader, Joseph Norton. They decided to use Parkin's watch as collateral against more ale from the Cross Keys and drank all day.

The next robbery that Parkin took part in was at the home of Abraham Moore near Netherton in mid to late June. After taking Moore's gun, they demanded and were given money, and proceeded to plunder the house of a pie and some ale in a pitcher. Parkin's watch was still behind the bar at Cross Keys, and although the stolen money was supposed to be used to release it, it didn't happen at this time.

Parkin next took part in the robbery of a man called William Moxon at Whitley Upper, along with Swallow, Batley and two other men, Joseph Fisher and John Lumb. In the way of Luddites, they wore their shirts over their other clothes and blackened their faces with ash. Arriving at Moxon's, they demanded a gun, and when this was declined, proceeded to rob Moxon, issuing death threats. They took a Guinea note, 8 lbs of butter, some beef and some of the clothes of Moxon and his wife. This time, some of the money was used to release Parkin's watch from the Cross Keys.

The last robbery Parkin admitted to was of a man called Richard Crossley at Thornhill. He was joined by Swallow, Batley & Lumb. The pattern was the same - demand a gun and then rob the house, only this time, a window had to be broken and a burglary happened as Crossley and his family would not let the men in. They took a Guinea note, two pound notes, two shillings and a penknife. Before the plunder was divided up, Lumb got cold feet and ran away.

Parkin also confessed that there had been discussions about the possibility of robbing Wilson's bank at Mirfield, but the plan was rejected as it would require at least 20 men.

The authorities struck a bargain with Parkin - admit evidence for the Crown and receive immunity from prosecution. He accepted the deal.

Earl Parkin and John Swallow's depositions of 12th September can be found at HO 42/127, as can the Government's case against them from 23rd September 1812. The date of the arrest of Parkin and Swallow is in a letter from General Acland to General Maitland of 8th September 1812, which can be found at HO 40/2/7.

No comments:

Post a Comment