Sunday, 1 May 2016

1st May 1816: The Rev WR Hay expresses concerns about discontent in Manchester to the Home Secretary

New Bailey Court House, Manchester. 1 May 1816

My Lord,

It becomes my duty, in obedience to the directions the Magistrates who met this morning in Quarter Sessions to state your Lordship that on Monday Information was received by the Boroughreeve and Constables of Manchester that from conversations which had been overheard, & other circumstances, there was reason to believe that it was not improbable that some disturbance might shew itself in this neighbourhood. It appears that the Weavers, & some other branches of the Manufacturers are for the most part out of employ; and those who are so, talk boldly, and in conversations which have been overheard, they seem to lay great stress on the small number of men in the barracks, which they represent to be only one hundred. I cannot help saying that on coming into Manchester I particularly remarked that parties were assembled in groupes, in the same manner as I have observed in former times of disturbance, in each of which some one seemed to be talking to the crowd around him. The Boroughreeve & Constables early on Tuesday informed me of what they had heard, and I lost no time in communicating with Mr. Evans the Magistrate here, in their company I instantly, as was then settled, wrote in Mr. Evans's name and my own to General Barlow, who we understand to command at Liverpool, informing him generally of the circumstances, & requesting to know, in case of necessity, what force could be brought to bear on this neighbourhood.

The opening of the Sessions I laid the subject before the Magistrates in sessions, where it was of course resolved that these particulars should be laid before your Lordship – It so happened that Major Brice who has the command at Liverpool was today in Manchester. In the name of the Court I communicated with him and with Col Holmes of the 3d (or Princes) Regiment of Dragoon Guards, part of which Regiment is now in the Barracks here. We learn from them that the forces of Cavalry in Manchester Barracks is Rank & file 151 – horses 95 – in Liverpool 261; horses 227 – The infantry under Major Brice does not amount to 500. These particulars I am also directed to lay before your Lordship. How far discontent may spread, and whether it will assume a more serious shape, we cannot judge. But I am desired to state, that in the opinion of the Magistrates, should any commotion take place in this manufacturing district, the force at present here would be found inadequate to the public service.

The Sessions here, from the weight of business, are likely to continue far into next week. Any communication, with which your Lordship may honour the Magistrates will probably arrive during our sitting. At any rate Mr. Evans will be authorized, should the Sessions have finished, to open any letter from your Lordship on the subject.

I have [etc]
William Robert Hay.

To The Rt Honble Lord Viscount Sidmouth
One of H.M’s principal Secretaries of State &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/150.

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