Monday, 14 November 2011

14th November 1811: The funeral of the Luddite John Westley

In the afternoon of Thursday the 14th November, an almost palpable air of tension existed in the village of Arnold. Up to 1000 people had gathered for the funeral of John Westley, the Luddite shot dead in the early hours of the previous Monday morning.

The funeral cortege was preceded by former colleagues of Westley "bearing black wands, decked with knots of crape"1 and a band played solemn music. The authorities had turned out for the occasion: the High Sheriff, the Under Sheriff and six of the County Magistrates no less. They were joined by Special Constables as well as 30 Mounted Dragoons. At one stage, the Riot Act was read, and the crowd was given an hour to disperse. To make matters worse, the hour elapsed when Westley's body was being lowered into the grave and the crowd was then ordered to disperse immediately by the High Sheriff, Thomas Wright, the same man who had acted as Coroner at the Inquest into Westley's death. Two who refused were taken into custody (but later released) and at this point the tension dissipated and the crowd dispersed quietly.

1. Leeds Mercury, 23rd November 1811.


  1. Do we know the location of the cemetery in Arnold in 1811? Arnold's not really a village any longer, it's a sprawling suburb of it's hard to locate where this would have been. St Mary's church has some old graves but it's a very small churchyard.

  2. I'm assuming it's St Mary's, as it was there - unless there are other churches that have been demolished?

    Best place to start is with the Parish records. They should have a burial entry. The church people should also be able to tell you if there have been changes to the existing graveyard in the past - it sounds likely given that you say it's now a suburb. Old maps may also show have the area has changed.