Friday, 14 December 2012

14th December 1812: James Hey confesses to robberies at Deighton & Fartown, implicates others

On Monday 14th December 1812, Major Hankin of the 2nd Dragoons took the confession of a man recently arrested under suspicion of being involved in the robberies at Deighton & Fartown on 29th November last.

James Hey was a 25 year-old wollen-spinner from Skircoat. Hey admitted to being involved in the robberies with 3 others only: Joseph Holroyd (alias Carter), Joseph Crowther (a 31 year-old cotton-spinner from Sowerby) and Nathan Hoyle (a 45 year-old weaver from Skircoat). He deposed that after the robberies had taken place, they had planned to divide the cash and goods at the house of Holroyd, but decided against when Holroyd said his mother was living with him. Instead, they went to Hey's house. The two watches seized were old for 40 shillings, and this money was divided equally.

Hey went on to discuss how the group of Luddites he said he belonged to was organised: in groups ('classes') of ten men, with one 'head man' over them - that his 'head man' was Job Hey, a man seized five days previously. That although he belonged to a larger division of 200 Luddites, the 'head man' never 'communicated particulars' to the ten men, only when they were needed, and what for, and what role they would play on that occasion. Despite describing himself as a Luddite, James Hey stated that he had never sworn an illegal oath, nor been assigned a number.

A day later, Hey added to his confession, stating that the gunpowder found at the 'head man' Job Hey's house was for use by his class of ten men.

Aspects of Hey's evidence contradicted that given by those robbed on 29th November: in particular, Joshua Thornton was clear that 6 men had entered his home that night, and John Woods had desposed that 9 men had been involved, and that afterwards each of the Luddites had given their number when the roll had been called. We do not know what pressure was brought to bear on Hey, but one of those he implicated, Joseph Holroyd, was later to crack and turn King's Evidence against the other 3.

This has been taken from James Hey's confession at HO 40/2/3.

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