Tuesday, 8 November 2011

8th November 1811: Fletcher's spy 'B' reports on the Manchester Secret Committees

On the 4th November, Colonel Fletcher's informant 'B' began writing another report about underground activities across Lancashire and Cheshire, and in particular in Manchester.

'B' first related a meeting he had that day at the Falstaff Hotel with a contact from Nantwich in Cheshire, who informed him that the underground there was 1000-strong and familiar with the use of Arms whose 'General wish was a revulation' and who believed that 'a parlimentry reform is of no use to us'.

On the 5th, 'B' reported attending the same Manchester Committee he had documented being constituted the previous month. A delegate from Royton reported that 'the Royton people is worne out with petitioning and his Ready at a days warning to Come forward if they had a Leader', noting that other delegates who had been elected to the Committee in October reported their areas shared these sentiments.

On the 6th, 'B' reported he had attended yet another meeting at the Falstaff Hotel representing different trades and chaired by an un-named Cobbler. The meeting seemed to be concerned with organisational matters and the informant admitted 'most of the Committee are str(a)ngers to me will give their names in my next'. They were due to meet again on Friday the 8th November.

On the 8th, 'B' reported he had travelled to Stockport to meet a contact there only to find that he had absconded to Dublin, taking the subscriptions of an un-named group with him - the funds amounted at £61, 3 shillings and 8 pence. 'B' expressed hope to Fletcher that this would have the effect of making people reluctant to contribute to the funds of Secret Committees across the whole country. Returning home at midnight meant that the informant had been unable to get to the Manchester Committee meeting at the Falstaff, but he reported that he had heard it had been inconclusive in its attempts to arrange a general meeting of the trades, and had set a date for another meeting on Wednesday 13th November at 8 p.m.

'B' closed his report with an expenses claim for 22 days of activity, which included his Committee subscriptions. Deducting an overpayment left him requesting £5, 14 shillings and 9 pence.

A postscript was added: referring to the address to the Lancashire Weavers posted in Manchester in October, it is claimed the author was a Mr Knight.

The letter is at HO 42/117, and unlike the letter from October, it is not clear when it was posted or received by Fletcher. The quotes from the letter have been transcribed verbatim, hence the interesting spelling. 'B's expenses claim amounts to £317 in today's money.

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