Tuesday 14 October 2014

14th October 1814: Armed attack on the home of Thomas Garton leaves a Luddite and bystander dead

The home of Thomas Garton had been raided, and six knitting frames had been destroyed, on 4th September 1814. Shortly afterwards, a framework-knitter called James Towle had been arrested and placed in custody awaiting trial following Garton identifying him as was one of the Luddites involved in the raid.

Since that time, Garton's life has been threatened. The Town Clerk, George Coldham, had an informant involved with the Luddites, and he had been alerted by this person on Thursday 13th October that an attack on Garton's home would take place on Sunday 16th, with a view to killing him to prevent evidence being given against Towle at his trial. On Friday morning, Coldham summoned Thomas Garton and his brother and explained to them what he knew. He suggested that Garton should be moved to a safehouse on Saturday morning and measures taken to secure the house with a view to arresting any attackers.

But Coldham received more news from the informant at 6.30 p.m. on Friday 14th that the attack on Garton's home had been brought forward to 8.00 p.m. that evening. Coldham wasted no time and dispatched a constable to move Garton to safety at the Police Office in Nottingham, as well as other constables to go to Garton's house and another to alert Garton's brother to come to his aid.

Constables Benjamin Hall and John Flude arrived at Garton's house at 7.30 p.m. Three of Garton's journeymen and 2 apprentices were there, one of them armed with a stick, the rest unarmed. Shortly, 4 more constables from Nottingham arrived, armed with cutlasses and guns. Finally, Garton's brother and his son and two servants arrived, bringing more weapons.

After 2 hours, nothing had happened, and two constables - Griffin and Barnes - were dispatched to fetch some food and drink.

But within 10 minutes, those inside heard what sounded like a hammer banging on the front door of the house, and voices could be heard in the passageway at the side of the house - someone later estimated 10 men were outside. The door being forced open, 3 men rushed in, with one of them calling out "damn him! where is he? where is he?" - this was followed by 3 or 4 shots being fired into the house by the intruders. The force of the shots was so great that soot fell from the chimney, almost putting out the fire in the hearth in the parlour, with candles going out. One constables said "be steady lads, give them a volley" and the constables returned fire - one of the intruders dropped to the ground, and others fell outside in the passageway. All was then quiet.

However, the noise and commotion had excited interest elsewhere. A neighbour of Garton came to his front door, but was swore at and threatened by a man who threatened to 'blow his brains out'. Mrs Garton was at the house of a neighbour, William Kilby, who lived only 30 yards from Garton's. Mrs Garton had heard the noise and became alarmed - Kilby rushed out to his door, but was hit by  a bullet from a gun. He fell down dead. Later reports accused the Luddites of killing Kilby, but one constable present - Robert Lineker - later gave a statement which clearly stated Kilby was shot at the time they returned fire - it was possible, but not acknowledged, that a stray shot aimed at the Luddites had killed him.

The constables in the house expected another attack to be made and set about reloading their weapons. A light was found, and it was then clear the intruder that had fallen was dead - his head being shattered by shots. No trace of any remaining intruders could be found, but it was apparent that Garton's brother was injured in one hand, and one of the men he had brought had minor wounds in his stomach. Mrs Garton then arrived and told the constables what had happened outside.

An hour passed without incident, and the two constables that had left returned, bringing with them six dragoons. The whole group didn't leave until it was almost dawn.

The raiders had escaped into the night. The raider who was killed in Garton's house was later identified as Samuel Bamford, originally from Basford, but latterly living in Nottingham.

This report has been compiled from reports in the Nottingham Review of 21st October 1814; the depositions of Benjamin Hall, Robert Lineker, John Rainbow and James Lawson dated 15th October 1814, at HO 42/141; letters from George Coldham to the Home Secretary dated 15th & 16th October 1814 at HO 42/141.

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