Wednesday 29 July 2015

29th July 1815: Simon Orgill's compensation case comes before Leciester Assizes

On Saturday 29th July 1815, Leicester Assizes heard the case of Simon Orgill, a manufacturer from Castle Donington, whose Mill had been attacked by Luddites the previous year. He had brought a compensation claim against the relevant local authority. The Nottingham Review of 4th August 1815 carried a report of the case:


Orgill v. Smith and Draper.

At these Assizes came on the trial of an action brought to recover a compensation in damages, to the amount of £512, by the Plaintiff, Mr Simon Orgill, resident at Castle Donington, in the County of Leicester, from the Defendants, Smith and Draper, as two of the inhabitants of the hundred of Westgoscote, in that county, for the injury done to the lace machines of the Plaintiff, by a number of persons called Luddites, on the night of Easter Sunday, 1814.

Mr. J Balguy opened the pleadings.

Mr. Serjeant Vaughan, leading Counsel for the Plaintiff, in an energetic and energetic speech to the Jury, went through the whole of the facts, and in very strong terms reprobated the frame-breaking system which had so long disgraced the town and neighbourhood of Nottingham. The learned Counsel then called evidence to prove, as in the first instance, the observance of the formal requisites of the statues, then the particulars of the demolition of the Plaintiff’s property, and afterwards the amount of the damages; these were established to the satisfaction of the Learned Judge, leaving some very respectable witnesses un-examined, and the case, on the part of the Plaintiff, closed.

Mr. Clarke, in addressing the Jury on the part of the Defendants, wished to impress upon their minds that the machinery in question did not come within the meaning of the Act; and he also called evidence in mitigation of damages. The first witness called on part of the defence was Thomas Wagstaff, whose evidence was confined to the value of the frames; the next was Benjamin Clarke, a resident of Nottingham, but who had formerly been in the employ of Mr. Orgill for eleven years; when cross-examined by Mr. Serjeant Copley, he was obliged to disclose the cause of his leaving the Plaintiff’s service, his having been apprehended on suspicion of breaking the machines, &c. and he evinced great reluctance to answer such questions as were put to him, but the Court directed them to be answered, as being relative to the cause in question. The next evidence called on the part of the Defendants, was William Tunnicliff, a resident of Castle Donington, and also formerly in the employ of Mr. Orgill. This witness was called to state his opinion of the amount of the damage done to the machines. He underwent a severe cross-examination by the Plaintiff’s Counsel, as to the cause of his leaving Mr. Orgill’s service, his signing a paper addressed to Mr. Orgill, demanding an advance of wages, &c. and his further cross-examination was prevented by his suddenly fainting away. This closed the case on the part of the Defendants.

Serjeant Vaughan then, in a speech fraught with his usual eloquence, addressed the Jury on the part of the Plaintiff, and animadverted most keenly on the nature of the evidence produced on the part of the Defendants. He took occasion to observe, that had his Learned friend, Mr. Clarke, chosen to have posted up a notice on the nearest toll bar to the town of Nottingham, he might have been supplied with shoals of evidence equal to such as had been called in on the part of the Defendants.

His Lordship, in summing up the evidence, expressed the Jury, in very strong terms, his decided opinion that the case on the part of the Plaintiff had been fully established in point of law, and that the Plaintiff had a clear right to recover from the hundred the amount of his damages.

The Jury retired a few minutes, and returned a verdict for the Plaintiff—Damages 400l.

However, the case did not conclude here: the judgment was appealed by the local authority, and would re-appear at the Court of Kings Bench later in the year.

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