Sunday, 29 April 2012

29th April 1812: Huddersfield bourgeoisie petition the government for help

To the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Memorial of the secret committee for the preventing unlawful depredations on machinery and Shearing frames in the Town and neighbourhood of Huddersfield in the west Riding of the County of York.


That the Town and neighbourhood of Huddersfield have been greatly disturbed by the nocturnal depredations of Shearman and other lawless Characters, associated under the pretence of destroying certain shearing frames worked by machinery – but which your memorialists believe to be only a cover the much deeper designs.

That such depredations, having succeeded in destroying nearly all the Shearing frames which are not connected with establishments on a large Scale, proceeded on the 12th inst. to commence a regular attack upon a large mill at Rawfolds in this neighbourhood, occupied by Mr William Cartwright & used entirely free shearing with the obnoxious frames; but, after having kept up a brisk and well directed fire for a considerable time, & attempted to force the doors & windows by large sledge hammers, without effect, they were repulsed; and left two of their party desperately wounded upon the spot, who are since dead.

That the depredators finding themselves unable to destroy the large establishment by force, have changed their plans, and now avow their intention to accomplish their purpose by means of assassination; and that your memorialists have obtained credible information that parties associated for these diabolical purposes, bind themselves by the following Oath,

“I. AB. do swear in the presence of Almighty God that I will be faithful to the Object to which this Oath is taken – moreover that in Case of failure in point of fidelity by any person, I will pursue him to death, and the Verge of nature”. So help me God”

That in pursuance of their new System, the above named Mr. Cartwright strongly suspects he was fired at within a quarter of a Mile of Huddersfield in broad Day, on his way home from the market, but happily without effect - And, but yesterday Mr. William Horsfall of Marsden near Huddersfield, who was one of the principal proprietors and a strenuous supporter of the shearing frames, on his return from the Market early in the Afternoon was waylaid by four persons within a mile and a half from this Town, who fired at him on the Turnpike Road, and lodged four slugs in his Thighs and the lower part of his Body, and he is now lying alive indeed, but without any hope of recovery—

That the respectable and loyal Inhabitants of the Town & neighbourhood are generally deterred from coming forward in support of the outraged Laws of the Country, by threats of assassination, which are held out to all who are acting, or are suppose likely to act in opposition to the designs of these lawless men. And already Joseph Armitage Esqr. the Son of the neighbouring Magistrate, and an active Special Constable has had his Lodging Room twice fired into. And one Mr George Whitehead another active Special Constable has been shot at when going to bed with a candle in his hand, and two slugs and a large piece of Bone lodged in his Apartment. And one Allen Edwards another special Constable in Huddersfield had his low house & Hay Loft set on fire last Monday Evening; and during the fire various reports of the assembling of mobs in different parts, were propagated, and the firing of musquets, sometimes singly, and at other times as if in Vollies, were heard in various directions & appeared to have been intended to divert the attention of the military and call them out of Town, that the Town and prison might be left unprotected in order to afford an opportunity of rescuing several prisoners confined therein, on suspicion of being concerned in the attack on Mr Cartwright’s mill - And some of the military Officers also, have been knocked down in the Streets, and the most violent threats been held out against the whole of them—

That one Betty Armstrong who was suspected of having given information against one of the wounded Men in Custody was assaulted by a mob in a most inhuman way last friday night in the Town of Huddersfield, at the door of an Inn where a piquet of Horse is regularly station, & was rescued from destruction by dragoon at the Hazard of his life – And on the following morning as she was on her way to a magistrate she was again assaulted by a mob at midday, who stand her in such a manner that she now lies languishing at an Inn & her life is despaired of

That while these alarming occurrences have been taken Place the neighbourhood Villages have held meetings (which have been attended by nearly the whole Population) to petition the magistrates not to enforce the Watch & Ward Act, and even the people of Huddersfield have themselves petitioned against it: and, tho’ it may not have been openly declared to the Magistrates, it is well known and openly avowed to be General determination among the lower and middling Classes is to oppose its being acted upon; and hitherto it is not enforced—

That in all the depredations committed by these designing men they have taken away all the fire arms they could collect, and within the last week several Houses have been forcibly entered by armed men and arms taken away, which they have tauntingly said “they would bring back when the wars were over”. And they now boast that they shall soon be able to meet their Enemies in the open day, and in various anonymous Letters they boast their numbers to be nearly 30,000, and possess a connexion with the Roman Catholics of Ireland.

That is such a state of things, the ordinary means of maintaining peace are all together insufficient – the extraordinary ones are not submitted to, and the intended Actors in them scarcely trustworthy — information of the plans of these diabolical men is not to be procured – no rewards a large enough to tempt them – and even unwilling witnesses are in danger of their Lives – the courage of the bold is useless – the timid are terrified – and every loyal man feels himself in jeopardy –

Having disclosed these facts, Your Memorialists leave it to the Wisdom of Government to adopt such measures as it shall think prudent under the existing Circumstances; but your Memorialists cannot conclude without suggesting that any measures short of a general search for Arms, or subjecting the Town neighbourhood to a lenient exercise of military Law, will not have much Avail —

29th April 1812

Thomas Holroyd
Thomas Allen
W W Stables
Jno. Battye
John Whitacre
Jas. Crossland
Jo: Haigh
Jno. Allison
Francis Vickerman
Thos. Atkinson

This document can be found at HO 40/1/1.

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