Saturday, 10 May 2014

10th May 1814: George Coldham expresses suspicions about the recent frame-breaking incident to the Home Secretary

Nottingham 10th May 1814

My Lord,

I am sorry to be again obliged to inform your Lordship that the System of Framebreaking has again been commenced in this Town & there cannot in my mind & in that of the Magistrates by whom I am Directed to communicate with your Lordship be a Shadow of Doubt but that it has commenced under the Direction of the executive Committee of the Union Society. I inclose your Lordship Copies of the Depositions taken by the Mayor Mr Alderman Ashwell Mr Alderman Swann and Mr Alderman Coldham at the Police Office on the Afternoon of yesterday of the Account given by a Man of the Name of Matthews of four Frames broken at his House on Sunday Night. Your Lordship will perceive that according to the Statement of this Man all of whose Family were at Home & have been Examined by the Magistrates that great suspicion of connivance may be entertained. The House was not barred or bolted—no resistance was made no questions asked it is stated indeed by Matthews that the two Men who committed this Outrage were armed one with an Axe & one with a pistol & it is also asserted that a very alarming threat proceeded from an Assemblage at the Door but the whole making every possible allowance wears an appearance of mistery & it is difficult to comprehend if we imagine that Matthews and his Family were honestly Dispose to defend the Property entrusted to them but is perfectly intelligible if we are to suppose them intentionally winking at the perpetration of the mischief. On the other hand we are without any sort of Testimony to fix this Imputation upon them by any the minutest circumstance independent of themselves. Two Circumstances afford however a strong corroboration of our Suspicion Matthew states that he spent the greater part of the Evening of Sunday at the Dog & Drake a Public House which the Magistrates have always suspected to have been a place of Meeting the Persons engaged in these Luddite Associations & where they believe the Society amongst the [Skilled] Hands still associate. It also appears that there being 4 Frames destroyed in Matthew’s House out of 7 that the remaining three are Glove and footing frames in which Mrs Matthews & her Daughters occasionally work & in the well being of which they are interested whereas no part of the family work in the other Frames & they would sustain no personal Injury by their Distruction. With regard to the Cause of these Frames being broken it appears that all the Men working in them are paid their full price of work & that they all pay the Union Society. It appears however that Mr Bullock the Master of these Frames has been charged as a Master and refused to pay as such & that he has been asked to collect the Subscription to the Society of his Men & to pay them collectively to the Secretaries of the Club. He produced to the Magistrates a very important written Document on the subject which the Magistrates intend should undergo further Investigation. In the meantime this part of the subject has undergone very considerable Discussion & has produced a Determination on the part of the Mayor & Alderman to use the approaching Licensing Day which is appointed for this Week to obtain from every Publican within their District an Account of the Names of every Society or Association which meets at their House and an Account of their Stewards President Secretary & other Officers which they are Determined to have registered in order that it may be tried how far this Investigation may furnish precise Information & be of future use in trying the accuracy of such Intelligence as they may afterwards acquire in respect of these Societys. I have the pleasure to inform you that the utmost cordiality subsists between all the Town Magistrates & a full Determination to sift the matter to the Bottom & that they can rely upon the vigilance & activity of the Constables employed by them. As soon as anything further occurs you may depend upon hearing from me

I am [etc]

Geo Coldham Town Clerk

[To Lord Sidmouth]

This letter can be found at HO 42/139.

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