Thursday 10 April 2014

10th April 1814: Attack on a lace factory at Castle Donington

Number 3-5 Borough Street, Castle Donington - numbers 7-9, which compromised Simon Orgill's factory, are to the right of the picture (Google Street View, January 2009)
Simon Orgill was an entrepreneur in the Leicestershire lace trade. He was notable in the lace trade for pioneering the adoption of the 'Dawson Wheel' into warp lace frames around 1807, essentially mechanising operations that had previously been undertaken by hand.

By 1814, he was the sole owner of a business that rented a number of former farm buildings off Borough Street in the Northwest Leicestershire village of Castle Donington, for use as a factory. No doubt as a consequence of his innovation, the prices (or wages) that Orgill paid his workmen were much less than was the norm in neighbouring Nottinghamshire, and unsuccessful attempts had been made by the Framework-Knitters Union members in Nottingham to enrol Orgill's workmen into the Union and shut down Orgill's business.

In the evening of Easter Sunday 10th April 1814, Luddites had decided to use other methods to achieve these ends, and mounted an attack on Orgill's premises. Arriving around midnight on the 11th, they forced their way into the back of Orgill's house, and went through an internal door into the workshop. Once there, they completely destroyed 11 of the patent warp lace frames kept inside, and partially damaged another. Expensive cotton yarn and most of the lace already completed in the workshop was either cut, burnt or stolen by the Luddites, and they tried to start a fire with the remnants of the yarn on the warping mill, but this did not take hold before it was extinguished later.

Meanwhile, Orgill and his wife had been woken by the noise, with Orgill's wife being first to open the bedroom window and look outside. A Luddite keeping watch on the outside spotted her, and fired a pistol straight at her, the shot missing her by inches.

At the end of the raid, and as the Luddites left, one of them called out "Old Simon, before we leave you, I will have another peg at you" and 2 shots rang out, penetrating the bedroom windows and lodging in the ceiling. There were no injuries.

The value of the lace stolen by the Luddites, and possibly other goods in the house, was estimated at £70, with the damage to the frames being estimated to be between £400-1000. Orgill's business never subsequently recovered.

A number of sources have been used to create this article: Felkin (1867, p.148); Castle Donington Museums Trust Newsletter 66 (February 2011), p.3; the Nottingham Review of 29th April 1814; the Derby Mercury of 21st April 1814; and a letter from P Storey to Lord Sidmouth of 4th May 1814, which can be found at HO 42/139.

The building that contained Simon Orgill's factory at Castle Donington is one of the few former sites of a Luddite attack that still exists today. It can be found at 7-9 Borough Street in the town. Although it is a grade 2 listed building, which the listing says was remodelled in 1830, no mention is made of the connection with Orgill or the events of 10/11th April 1814.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to read the dark shifty deeds that have happened in Castle Doningtons past.