Thursday 10 March 2016

10th March 1816: The Town Clerk of Nottingham reports the arrest of an important Luddite activist, John Dann, to the Home Secretary

Nottingham March 10.  1816.


In my Interview with you last November, I told you, that the Secret Channel of Information as to the proceedings of the Luddites, which Mr. Coldham so happily & so judiciously availed himself of, would be continued (notwithstanding his lamented Death) to be [possessed] by the "Secret Committee" – &, that they would make me the future Organ of Confidential Communication for his Majesty's Government—

I have now the Satisfaction to acquaint you, for the Information of Lord Sidmouth, that one of the most desperate, most Sanguinary, of the above Gang of Offenders, was, yesterday, apprehended & committed for Trial at the next Assizes for the County of Nottingham for a Highway Robbery — He & three others, disguised & armed, Stopped a Miller on Friday Night last on his way from the Fair & robbed him of a Silver Watch, Money &c.—The Attention of the Secret Committee has long been closely & constantly directed to the Conduct of the man now in custody; & they Congratulate themselves & the County that [their] perseverance & Exertions, aided by the zealous Co-operation of the Magistrates of Nottingham, have at length arrested his murderous Career—This is the man of whom you will find [such] important mention made in the Secret Informant’s Reports transmitted to you by Mr. Coldham in June 1815, & in Mr. C’s letters of that period—He is John Dann, alias Allwright &c &c, who according to the Secret Informant’s reports shot Mr. Trentham in 1812, who was one of the most active leaders in the attack upon Garton's House in October 1814, Shot & killed Gylby (as the party were returning from Garton's premises) & meditated the cold-blooded assassination of Mr. Coldham—I would request you to turn to the reports & Correspondence, if the Circumstances be not still in your recollection—The Conviction (& the capital Conviction) of a man of this Character is important – I scarcely know [how] to use the word desirable – but it is very important his example must appall—& tend to stop these dreadful enormities of Crime—I entertain Doubts however of a capital Conviction, because of the difficulty of identifying the prisoner’s person under the circumstances of the Robbery—I have nonetheless advised his being Committed upon the Capital Charge—if we fail Capitally, we shall assuredly Convict him of the Simple Felony, the Watch having been found upon him, at a pawnbroker’s, whither he took it early on Saturday morning to pledge it—but whither also we (thanks to our Secretive informant) had previously been, & taken the necessary steps—

I am writing this immediately to you under the presumption that, possibly, Lord Sidmouth may think it right to make [firm] communication to the Judge of Assize.

Mr Coldham's correspondence upon these confidential Subjects was, I find, addressed by him to yourself – I hope that I am right in also doing so—

I am Sir
Your most obed Servt.
H. Enfield
Town Clerk

[FAO Lord Sidmouth]

This letter can be found at HO 42/149.

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