Being one of the oldest acting Magistrates for the County of Leicester I have taken the liberty of addressing your Lordship upon a painful subject which is now rising to a very alarming state and without some very vigorous measures are surely adopted there will be no living in the country.
There is at this time a Society existing in Nottingham called the Union Society consisting of several thousands of people each Member paying weekly three half pence and there are also several other auxiliary Societies in different parts of the country.
On Sunday the 10th of last month there the hour of twelve at night there were a party of Armed Men whose number are unknown attacked the Workshops and premises of Mr. Orgill of Castle Donington in this County who is a Manufacturer of a Patent Lace Nett and destroyed the whole of the Machines to the number of twelve with all the work upon them in different stages of forwardness and also the Cotton yarn with which these Machines were employed and which was principally of an expensive kind of not less than six Guineas a Pound. They were observed through the Windows by some neighbours in an adjoining House to go from one Machine to another and fired the work whilst others of the party were employed in breaking the Machinery, they then collected the remains of the unburnt Nett, and placed it under the warping mill which was loaded with Cotton yarn with an evident design of firing the premises and which was only prevented by the Timber being of very old hard Oak. Whilst the party were then committing their depredations Mrs. Orgill was alarmed by the noise and put up the Sash of the Windows to enquire the cause when immediately she was fired at by one of the party who was keeping watch on the outside and after having finished the destruction of the Frames on their leaving the premises they fired two pieces into the Lodging room of Mr. & Mrs. Orgill by which more than twenty shot or slug holes were made in the Window. The damages done by the destruction of the Frames and materials are estimated at upwards of £1000 and although every endeavour hath been used to trace out the offenders yet at present no satisfactory information hath been obtained upon the subject but there are abundant reasons to suppose that it was done by some of the Union Society and particularly as several of the late Workmen of Mr. Orgill are become members of that Society and who have (previously to the destruction of the Frames) endeavoured to entice away others of his workmen which appears by the voluntary examination taken upon Oath of one William Tunnicliff, a Copy of which I have the honor to annex Viz
"County Leicester to wit. The examination of William Tunnicliff of Castle Donington in the said County Frameworkknitter taken and made before me Philip Story Clerk one of his Majesty Justices of the peace in and for the said County the second day of May 1814 Who upon his Oath saith that on the fifth day of January now last past he was informed by his Wife a person had been there who wished the examinant to go to the House of William Shepherd as he wanted to speak to him that upon his going to Shepherds he was informed that the person was gone to the House of John Harris and the examinant was wished to follow him that on his going to Harris's House there was a person who called himself Thomas Smith at his Wife and Family resided at Silsby and that he worked at Nottingham that he called at the request of the Committee of the Union Society to know whether the Examinant meant to leave Mr. Orgill who answered that he did not know what he was unless Mr. Orgill made some little alteration. He wished the Examinant to leave Mr. Orgills employment as he considered that he was doing a serious injury to the Trade. The Examinant replied that he did not altogether consider it in that light, if he did, for that Mr. Orgill had a patent for his business and that it worked different to what they did in Nottingham and that they could not expect the same prices that they had in Nottingham. Smith said that from what he had heard that he understood that it was no improvement and that they could work as quick at Nottingham as they could at Mr. Orgills but the Examinant and said that in case he should leave Mr. Orgill that he should not go to Nottingham and Smith then said that he wished that he could leave for that it was injuring the Trade very much, to which he replyed that if he did not work it somebody else would And also said that there was a person there that would if Mr. Orgill and he could agree and that he thought that it was his duty to do the best that he could for his Family. Smith said that he hoped that he would take it into consideration for the good of the Trade that it was the Committees intent to stop all Manufactoring in the country and if he altered his mind he hoped that he would let him Smith know before he went in the morning, but the Examinant saw him no more he not thinking it proper. And this Examinant saith that on the ninth of January James Statham and William Wootton called at his House saying that they were authorised by the Committee to call upon him and Thomas Lees, that they had brought money for them both if they're finished their work that they had under Mr. Orgill and would join the Committee, He told them that he had not finished his. Wotton said that he was Authorised by the Committee to say that if he would leave Mr. Orgill and take a two Needle Frame that they would make it up to him what would be sufficient to maintain his Wife and Family. And that the Committee would be very glad to assist all that would turn out on account of Wages, And the Examinant then told Wootton that they had laid themselves open to combination Act for offering him money before that he had finished his Work in Mr. Orgills employment. And he then enquired what the Committee consisted of, how it was conducted & for what end. They Statham and Wotton could not give him any direct answer but said that it was for the better regulation of the Trade and to confine it more to Nottingham because the original Manufacturing of Lace sprung from there and they thought that they had the greatest right to conduct it in such a manner that they should not be imposing upon one another by working at an under price That if he would go to Nottingham they would do every thing in their power to procure him a Frame that he could do well in, but he replyed that he believed that he should continue with Mr. Orgill for that they had nearly agreed and then ended the conversation on the subject.
Before me P. Story.
I have [etc]
May 4th: 1814
[To: Lord Sidmouth]
This letter can be found at HO 42/139.