Saturday, 3 December 2011

3rd December 1811: Luddites raid Crich - anatomy of an attack

On the evening of Tuesday 3rd December, Luddites raided Crich in Derbyshire. 6 days later, Thomas Stafford of Holborn Hill in London, a former resident of Derbyshire, forwarded to the Home Office an extract of a letter from a friend in Crich who had witnessed the attach and raised other concerns. The extract read as follows:
I suppose you have seen one [illegible], from your papers, the accounts of rioting and frame breaking, in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, and I am sorry to say they are now spreading their very alarming depredations to our County, and even within a few houses of mine. On Tuesday evening last a number to the amount of 50 or 60 with fire arms, faces blacked, and otherwise disguised, came, called up every family, where they supposed any work was going on contrary to their plan & demanded the doors to be opened to them. If refused they directly used force, and would not suffer more than one person to come down stairs to them; they then examined the frames and if they were of the obnoxious sort, immediately broke them to pieces; in some instances they divided whatever they found of valuables in the houses. A neighbour of mine being asked for some drink for them, he told them that he had nothing better than water, and if they pleased, he would fetch them some from the spring; he was actually going, when their leader, who styles himself Secretary Lund, put a pistol to his head, and told him, if he stirred out of the house, he would blow his brains out. So alarmed are some of our neighbours that they dare not go to bed at all. I think it is a great misfortune that some speedy method is not tried by government to stop them, as other companies are also forming to destroy Locks upon the Canals, to prevent the boats taking the corn down from these parts, as also to destroy every sort of machinery that is calculated to reduce labour.

Mr Joseph of Butterley has been threatened by having a threshing machine. It appears that if a speedy stop be not put to them, that many such disposed persons will take advantage of these practices, and commit all sorts of depredations under the color of frame breakers. —Highway robbers, are become very numerous as such as House breakers; and I much fear we shall have a dreadful winter, if something is not hit on, either to give us a trade, or stop these evil disposed miscreants.

The letter has been transcribed verbatim, and can be found with the covering letter from Thomas Stafford at HO 42/118. Particularly interesting is the mention of threats to the Locks and Canal, which the Magistrates were aware of (see forthcoming entry on 6th December) and also the mention of threats to Threshing Machines.

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