Wednesday, 6 March 2013

6th March 1813: Thomas Shillitoe visit Joseph Radcliffe and also the families of Joseph Fisher & John Swallow

On Saturday 6th March 1813, Thomas Shillitoe concluded his visits with Joseph Wood, to the families of executed Luddites, first calling upon the magistrate, Joseph Radcliffe:
The magistrate and his wife received us very courteously, with whom we had a free, open conversation of near an hour and a half. I gave him, as far as memory furnished me therewith, some account of our proceedings in the visits, and the state of mind we found the poor widows, and those we met with, who had been liberated on bail: on assuring him we heard nothing from any we had thus visited, in the least degree reflecting on him, or any one who had taken a part in apprehending the sufferers, he appeared to receive it as satisfactory information. I then laid before him the suffering situation of the widow Hill, against whose son his warrant was issued; detailing the good character the young man uniformly bore, in the neighbourhood where he had resided before his escape; and that it was the first, and only night, he had been out with the rioters, and then, more by constraint than inclination. Our remarks exciting in his mind feelings of tenderness towards the young man, we requested him to consider his case, and the case of his mother, and to afford them all the relief in his power; to which he replied, the young man must come before me and surrender himself up, at the same time giving us authority to inform his mother, if he thus proceeded, he should not remain in custody, but have his liberty to return home, and not be disturbed, so long as he continued to conduct himself in a quiet, orderly manner. His mother being informed to this effect, the young man surrendered himself, and was liberated: since that time he has married, and is comfortably settled in life; and, from good authority, we understand he continues an exemplary religious character. I felt truly thankful this point was thus so far gained; but there was another, which, to me, appeared of equal importance, which I also laid before the magistrate, which was the deplorable situation of the widows and children; there appearing no other prospect but that they must, by degrees, sell their household furniture to procure subsistence, they informing us, none would employ them; some refusing through prejudice, and some through fear of being suspected to countenance the proceedings of their husbands; whereby the parish workhouse must soon be their only resource, if no speedy remedy was applied. This, from the view I had of the subject, was to be dreaded; the children, from the company they would associate with, being likely, on every slight offence, to have reflections cast upon them, on account of the conduct, and disgraceful end of their father: thus held in contempt, the danger was, the minds of the children would, by degrees, become hardened, and they, thereby become unfitted for usefulness in society. After thus expressing my views, and my desire that some mode should be adopted to educate, and provide for the children, until they attained to an age fit for servants and apprentices, and to aid the earnings of the widows whilst they remained single, and proposing for his consideration a plan for these purposes, which had suggested itself to my mind almost daily of late, I felt discharged from these subjects, which had pressed heavily upon me. At our parting, he took us by the hand, and, in a very kind manner, bade us farewell.

We proceeded to Berrisfield, where the widow of Joseph Fisher, and other families of the sufferers, lived: they, having no regular place of settlement, were collected into one cottage. The opportunity with them was a favoured one, leading us to hope, the labour would not all prove in vain. The state of mind of a woman whose husband was transported, called for much sympathy; she viewed her own case to be a more trying one than that of the poor widows, who, she said, had seen the end of their husbands' sufferings in this life. The scene of distress this opportunity presented to our feelings, is not to be described. We then went to Halland-moor; sat with a widow and six children of John Swallow, who suffered for robbery: her mother, brother, and a sister of the sufferer's sat with us. Words would fall short to attempt to describe the state of distress her mind appeared to be in. We had largely to hand out to her encouragement to look for support where alone it was to be found, and where, we had reason to hope, her poor mind was favoured at times to know a centering: she received our visit with expressions of gratitude, and with it our services of this nature closed.

This is from Shillitoe (1839, pp.190-191). According to Pamela Cooksey (in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of the Huddersfield Local History Society) who is researching Shillitoe's companion on these visits, Joseph Wood, Shillitoe and Wood also visited the families of John Batley and also John Lumb, who had reprieved from his death sentence but sentenced the transportation for life. Lumb's wife and five children were homeless at that point.

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