Tuesday, 29 May 2012

29th May 1812: The trials of Thomas Brookes, Hannah Smith & more Middleton rioters at Lancaster Special Commission

On Friday 29th May 1812, three more trials took place at Lancaster Special Commission.

Thomas Brookes (aged 27) was accused of entering, with up to 100 other people, the house of John Cooke at Pendlebury, near Salford and robbing Cooke of two £1 notes. He was acquitted.

Hannah Smith (aged 54) was accused of multiple offences alleged to have been committed during the three days of food-rioting in Manchester.

She was held to be the woman that had approached Charles Walker, who was selling butter in Ardwick on the 22nd April 1812, and informed him that he could sell his butter at reduced prices or see it taken from him. After Walker was afterwards pursued by a crowd to the outskirts of Manchester before being stopped, it was said that Smith was the woman who climbed onto his cart to help deliver out the butter and collected the proceeds of auto-reduction. This was regarded as highway robbery by the prosecutors, a highly unusual charge for food rioting. Smith gave no defence to the charge.

Smith was also accused of grand larceny for her alleged actions in Manchester on the second day of food rioting there on 20th April 1812.  She was accused of stealing potatoes with a crowd of others at Bank Top in town from a James Radcliffe, as well as inciting many to join in this and other actions during that day. In her defence, she denied ever touching the potatoes.

Smith had no witnesses to counter the accusations, and was found guilty of both offences.

Following this, 6 prisoners, all but one of them women, were put to the bar accused of riot in Middleton on 21st April 1812. The accused were Ann Butterworth, daughter of Robert (19), Samuel Howarth (17), Alice Partington (42), Millicent Stoddard (28), Ann Butterworth, daughter of William (19) and Ann Dean (20). A witness attested that the 6 accused were part of a 200-strong group of armed men and women who had proceeded to the houses of two employees at Burton's Mill, Benjamin Cooke & James Kay, who were suspected of being amongst those who fired on and killed people the day before outside the mill. The houses of Cooke & Kay were ransacked, with Cooke's furniture being broken and burned in the street. Although alibis were given, all six were 'without the least hesitation' found guilty.

This has been compiled from: the Lancaster Gazette of 30th May & 20th June 1812; Grimmett & Thomis (1982, pp.43-45 & 47). The 20th June edition of the Lancaster Gazette has the Hannah Smith and Middleton trial taking place on Saturday 30th May, but the earlier 30th May edition is clear in it's chronological summary of the trial. At the time of writing, it has not been possible to consult Treasury Solicitor sources to confirm the exact date.

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