Saturday, 8 September 2012

8th September 1812: An informer from Liverpool warns Lord Fitzwilliam about an arms raid in Halifax

My Lord

On the 19th Ulto I took the liberty of addressing a Letter from Leeds to Mr. Litchfield (Solicitor to the Treasury) on the subject of the disturbances in part of Yorkshire and Lancashire and the depredations committed by the Luddites there, and on the 21st I was favored by a letter from Mr. Hobhouse acquainting me that he had laid my Letter before your Lordship.—First I must beg leave to refer your Lordship to that Letter, and to acquaint you that from information I have received, I am certain the Luddites intend (when the Nights get a little more dark) attempting to take the Depot at Halifax by surprise in order to get possession of the Arms and Ammunition—For the better information of your Lordship I have endeavoured on the other side to give your Lordship a sketch of the depot—your Lordship will observe that there is a cottage described the occupied by an old woman (which cottage forms part of the square upon which stands the Depot)—with a large window opening into the Depot yard, this window has not a single bar or any thing else to prevent any person going into the Depot.—The plan of the Luddites is to get this old woman sent out of her cottage under some trifling pretext and when she is out to detain her and then for a party of the Luddites to take possession of the Cottage armed and enter the Depot by the cottage window and take the Guard (which never consists of more than five or six Soldiers constantly sitting over a good Fire in the Store Room) by surprise and secure them, and to carry of such of the Arms and Ball cartridges as they can and destroy the remainder—this plan of those Fellows can very easily be prevented by the Depot taking possession of the Cottage (which can be had at any time) and converted it into a Guard Room—the Rent is only 3£ a year and it would be no inconvenience to the old woman who would only want to be provided with another Tenement—would it not also be better my Lord if the Stoor-keeper had a Bell at the top of his House, in case of attack it would immediately bring to his assistance the Soldiers in the Town.—As your Lordship has not done me the honor to notice my first Letter I will not trouble your Lordship with further particulars, conceiving your Lordship may probably consider it officious in one, but if I may be permitted I would strongly recommend making some alteration as to the security of this Depot, for though those Fellows appear pretty peaceable at the present moment, be assured my Lord they are far very far from being tranquilly disposed—I much fear they'll waiting only to be favored by dark nights—

I am also acquainted with two or three Houses in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield to which these Fellows constantly resort and hold their meetings, and I conceive if the information I already possess and could acquire (with the aid of a confidential person) was properly managed, it might reasonably be expected to lead to the detection and apprehension of some of the most notorious of these Depredators—for the reason I have already assigned I shall forbear entering into further particulars and can only assure your Lordship that I should feel great satisfaction in being at all instrumental and lending my aid towards putting a stop to these wicked and disgraceful transactions—If your Lordship should feel at all inclined to know who I am, I beg leave to acquaint you that I reside in Renshaw Street Liverpool and also to refer your Lordship to Mr. Hanson in Chancery Lane (Solicitor to the Stamp-offices) a Gentleman of great respectability and well known to Mr Litchfield—

& I have [etc]

J. Johnston

Renshaw St.
Liverpool—8th Sept. 1812

[To: Lord Fitzwilliam]

This letter can be found at HO 42/127.

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