Wednesday, 5 September 2012

5th September 1812: Two spies meet a would-be Luddite with plans to blow up Rawfolds Mill

On Saturday evening, the 5th of September 1812, James Robertson, a private in the Stirlingshire Militia and George Ashworth, a Special Constable were undercover at the Globe Inn at Millbridge in West Yorkshire.

At one point, Robertson went to leave and a man who had come in earlier followed him out. The man stopped him and said "I wish I was a Ludd!" - Robertson took the opportunity to lead him on, telling him he 'wouldn't wonder if he was'. The man motioned into the distance, and said "there's a damned rogue who lives up there, his name is Roberson, he's the Parson" - the man went on to complain that Roberson had 'made himself very busy' at the time of the Luddite attack on Rawfolds Mill, and that the two men killed there should be revenged. The man then pointed out into the distance towards Rawfolds and said "there is another damned rouge lives up there and they ought both to be shot". Robertson carried on the conversation, and the man revealed he had dreamed up a plan to blow up Rawfolds Mill using a barrel of gunpowder with a long fuse.

The two men moved inside to drink, and were joined by the other spy, Ashworth. The man revealed he was a weaver and then revealed his plans again to Ashworth, and Robertson then suggested they move to a more private room. The man said his motivations were that William Cartwright had thrown men out of work in order to work his shearing machines, and also vengeance for the two men killed at Rawfolds, who he said he knew well. He went on to say that on the night of the attack on Rawfolds, he had stood on a nearby bridge and watched - his master would not let him join the Luddites. The man then revealed that he knew that at least 3 different houses in the neighbourhood had guns, and he revealed plans for stealing them, but that he had no pistol which he wanted the two men to acquire before it could be attempted.

The man said he could obtain the barrel of gunpowder from Halifax, but would need the two men to fund the purchase of it. If they did that, he would sort out Rawfolds, with the help of some Colliers that he knew.

The men continued drinking after moving to the Black Bull nearby. Later, the man showed the two men his house and asked them to call on him tomorrow before noon, when he would show them Rawfolds and explain how his plans would work. Before they left him, he told them his name - James Starkey.
This is from the deposition of James Robertson and George Ashworth, which can be found at HO 42/127.

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