Saturday 28 April 2012

28th April 1812: The assassination of William Horsfall

The most famous representation of the shooting, an etching by renowned Victorian artist 'Phiz'
By Tuesday 28th April 1812, there already had been 3 attempted assassinations in the West Riding on those directly involved in, or with strong links to, the manufacturer's war against the working class in the Huddersfield area.

On that day, one of the major manufacturers to make use of shearing frames, William Horsfall, undertook his regular journey to the Huddersfield cloth market, on horseback across the coach road from his mill at Marsden. That day, the mill was in the process of finishing its first ever order for black cloth.

He headed back in the late afternoon, in the company of Edmund Eastwood, another manufacturer from Slaithwaite, and a friend of Horsfall. At 17.45 p.m. they stopped at the Warren House, an Inn on Crosland Moor for a drink with 2 ex-employees. Horsfall only stopped for 15 minutes, whilst Eastwood stayed and watered his horse. The Leeds Mercury described what took place next:
"when he had come within about 300 yards of the Warren Inn, a distance of about a mile and a half from Huddersfield, on the Manchester Road, four men, each armed with a horse pistol, who had just before stepped out of the small plantation, placed the barrels of their pistols in appertures in the wall, apparently prepared for that purpose; the muzzel of two of these pieces Mr. Horsfall distinctly saw, but before he had time to extricate himself from his perilous situation, they all four fired, and inflicted four wounds in the left side of their victim, who instantly fell from his horse, and the blood flowed from the wounds in torrents. A number of passengers both horse and foot rushed almost instantly to the spot, and, after disentangling his foot from the Stirrup, he was some difficulty got to the Inn."
Another representation of the shooting from 'York Castle in the Nineteenth Century'

Of the assassins, the Mercury had the following:
"after they had perpetrated the sanguinary deed, walked to the distance of some yards, and soon after briskening their speed, they ran towards Dungeon Wood, and entirely escaped undiscovered, no pursuit or search having been made after them, till the arrival of a troop of the Queen’s Bays, about three quarters of an hour afterwards. One of the Assassins is described to us as about six feet high, another as a low portly man, and the two others as about five feet six or seven inches high, rather slender; they all wore dark coarse woollen coats, and appeared to be working men."

Edmund Eastwood had by then re-mounted his horse to catch up with Horsfall, but the horse threw him at the time the assassination took place. Though he himself was injured by the fall, the Mercury later reported that he ran back to Huddersfield to get medical help.

Horsfall lay in the road, badly injured & bleeding profusely. But according to a letter written 2 days later by Colonel Campbell, the reaction of most people nearby was far from helpful:
"as soon as he fell after being wounded the inhuman populace surrounding him reproached him with having been the oppressor of the poor — they did not offer assistance — nor did any one attempt to pursue or secure the assassins who were seen to retire to an adjoining wood."

Another manufacturer who was nearby helped Horsfall back to the Warren House. Some time later, a surgeon belonging to the Queen's Bays, Mason Stanhope Kenny, arrived to do what he could for Horsfall. Eastwood, who had returned with the help, offered to run another errand for medical supplies. He mounted his horse and rode back to Huddersfield, but his mount again threw him at the corner of the churchyard in Huddersfield, and he suffered yet more injuries.

By night-time, Horsfall was still lying in the Warren House, clinging on to life.

The following sources were used to write this article: the Leeds Mercury of 2nd & 23rd May 1812; a letter from Colonel Campbell to Lieutenant-General Grey dated 30th April 1812 which can be found at HO 42/123; the deposition of Mason Stanhope Kenny of 30th April 1812, which can be found at HO 42/122; Brooke & Kipling (1993, p.30); Howell (1823, pp.1008-1010).

The building that was once the Warren House Inn still stands at the junction of Blackmoorfoot Road and Charles Street on Crosland Moor.
A view of the former Warren House Inn from October 2008, via Google Street View
The assassination itself took place roughly at the junction of Blackmoorfoot Road and Dryclough Road, several hundred yards up the hill. Approximately 50 yards further up the hill is 'William Horsfall Street'.

William Horsfall Street, Crosland Moor, via Google Street View

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