Sunday, 11 May 2014

11th May 1814: George Coldham proposes new curbs on freedom of assembly in Nottingham

Nottingham 11th May 1814

My Lord,

This is the day appointed for holding a General Sessions of the Peace for Licensing the Publicans within the Town of Nottingham. It is usual for the Magistrates to assemble on the preceding day in order to determine upon the general System of proceeding to be adopted. At this previous Meeting it is the constant practice for the Magistrates of the Town Nottingham the press for a full Attendance of the whole Body of Magistrates entitled by Law to act for the Town in order that they may avail themselves of the knowledge experience & counsel of the whole collective Body. Report is made of the Complaints which each Individual Magistrate has received against every Victualler comprized in the Jurisdiction for the past year; such of them as are of so serious a nature as to forbid the renewal of the Licence are so recorded & such of them as appear to merit animadversion or circumstance are inclined to be rejected in the first or reserved for reprimand their Licences being suspended during the pleasure of the Magistrates. The Mayor & Aldermen met on this Business yesterday without having had the pleasure of meeting any of the Magistrates of the County acting within the Town the Clerk of the latter Magistrates however brought the Minutes of their proceedings relating to Publicans within this Jurisdiction & the whole List of Publicans was gone thro’ & Memorandum were made against every Name corresponding [thereto] whether it involved the Forfeiture or the Suspension of the Licence.

Upon this occasion a very important consideration presented itself to the minds of the Magistrates, whether in the present State of the Town of Nottingham expressed as it is to a most formidable & illegal combination of the labouring Classes the Meetings of which Combination are almost exclusively held at Publick Houses it would not be very important to endeavour to make the present Season of renewing their Annual Licences the means of obtaining from the Publicans every possible Information relating to the Societies or Clubs which may meet at their Houses. For this purpose it is proposed that every Publican and shall be called upon to give an Account of every Club or Association meeting at his House a detail of the nature & design of them & their Stewards, Clerks or Secretaries a Register of which it is intended to be inscribed in a Book for the use of the Magistrates.

The Mayor & Aldermen feeling that this course of proceeding was not wholly without doubt or difficulty, & anxious to shrink from no exertion of their authority from which it was likely that the publick should derive benefit determined to communicate with your Lordship before they prevailed themselves to act in so delicate a Business upon the Suggestion of their own minds: They are fully aware that your Lordship from the main Sources of Information open to you will be enabled to form a more accurate Judgement than themselves—upon the probable utility of this measure & may be in particular circumstances not within their knowledge entertain a decided opinion upon the Subject. Under this Impression they have adjourned the General Sessions for granting Licences until Wednesday the 18th Instant in order that this may in the mean time enjoy the Honour & Advantage of obtaining your Lordship’s Judgement & advice which they entail that you will have the Goodness to afford them & which they are determined to make the rule & Guide of their Conduct upon this occasion. I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship Mr Beckett’s very kind & flattering Letter to me of the 1st of May written by your Lordships directions in reply to a former communication on my part. Nothing can be more flattering to me than to possess the good opinion & confidence of your Lordship [in the] publick Situation in which I am here placed.

I am [etc]
Geo Coldham
Town Clerk

[To Lord Sidmouth]

This letter can be found at HO 42/139.

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