Tuesday, 24 April 2012

24th April 1812: Westhoughton aftermath - the Bolton Local Militia run amok in the town

When Colonel Fletcher, the commanding officer of the Bolton Local Militia, wrote to the Home Office 2 days after the attack on Westhoughton mill, he gave an account of how his force proceeded to Chowbent at 9 p.m. to make arrests afterwards. What he did not give an account of was what the same Militia did in Westhoughton itself after the attack.

James Hall was planting potatoes in his garden when he was confronted by 10 members of the Bolton Local Militia. They demanded to know who was in his house - Hall explained that his wife was away and no one else was present, when one of the militiamen struck him across the arm with his sword and called him a "damned liar", the other soldiers hurling insults: one of them said "he's a damned liar, run him through". Another grabbed his spade and smashed a window in the house, along with the frame. The soldiers gained entry and ransacked his home. Hall was terrified for his life throughout. Afterwards, he was unable to work for a month, and his wound had still healed 2 months later.

William Gregory had just attended a funeral when he was confronted with a Bolton Militia member who made a lunge at his head with a sword, which almost split his hat in two. Gregory only just managed to avoid another swipe of the militiaman's sword.

Ten Militiamen caught up with Margaret Hodgkinson at a row of 12 cottages a mile and quarter distant from the mill at Westhoughton that she and her husband owned. They proceeded to break windows and earthenware along the row. Hodgkinson asked them to stop, and told them she would let them in if they wanted to go inside. The militiamen threatened to stab her and proceeded to break and enter the houses and ransack them.

Henry Platt had been to Wigan to on an errand, and between 5 and 6 p.m., he had returned and was drinking in the Red Lion Inn. One of the Bolton Militia came alongside a window and struck it with his sword. Despite this, Platt left to head home and was then confronted by another member of the militia on horseback, who said to him "God damn your blood, where are you going?" - Platt explained he was heading home and then the soldier struck him with his sword, ordering him to move on. Platt continued on, but the militiaman returned, repeatedly hitting him with the sword. Platt eventually fell under the horse but managed to get up and make it home. His back was covered with minor wounds.

These accounts can be found at HO 42/132.

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