Monday, 29 May 2017

29th May 1817: A writer to the Home Office tells of a Middleton man visiting the late Luddite trials

My Lord

I take leave to acquaint your Lordship that on the 15th March, in passing from Coventry to Birmingham by Coach, I accidentally got into the company of a man whose name I afterwards understood to be Bedford from a place called Middleton near Manchester

I again saw and had much conversation with the same Person on 21st and 22nd March at Leicester, and from whom I then understood that he was directed by his associates (the disaffected in and about Manchester) to attend the Trials of the Luddites there to collect any useful information that might transpire on the Trials of these men.—I appeared to have got entirely into the confidence this man, who told me that he intended going from Leicester to Nottingham and Sheffield, that at both of which places they had many Friends particularly at Sheffield, and at which place I appointed again to meet him, where he promised I should be introduced to some "good Fellows, friends to liberty"—So far I consider not worth troubling your Lordship about, but this man at Leicester shewed me the model (turned very neatly in wood) of a most ingenious Pike or Dagger, one part of which was intended to form the Head of a walking stick, and the other part a distinct Knife, and the very great facility with which it could be converted from Knife to Pike or Dagger was well conceived—he said that they had got several hundreds of the Head part manufactured at Birmingham, and at Sheffield they intended to have the Knife part manufactured, and that he intended when in Sheffield to get a few Friends together and to whom I was to be introduced.—

I remained at Sheffield from 25th to 31st March, and then went to Nottingham, and enquired for Bedford at the House he said he should be at there, but could hear nothing of him.—I returned to Sheffield on 5th April, and remained there until the 9th, but have not seen any thing more of this man, and am entirely unable to account for his not calling on me at Sheffield—I had a very good deal of conversation with him, particularly at Leicester, and which if it is at all desirable to your Lordship to be made acquainted with, I shall have great pleasure in communicating, if your Lordship will permit me to have a line addressed to me at Mr. Gwynne’s Solicitor’s office—Stamp office Somerset House, with your Lordship's commands on the subject

& I have [etc]

J Johnston

29th May 1817.

[To] Ld— Viscount Sidmouth

This letter can be found at HO 42/165.

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