Tuesday, 23 October 2012

23rd October 1812: The solicitors Lloyd & Allison visit John Wood's cropping shop, and a new informer emerges

John Wood's cropping shop, in a photorgaph before demolition in 1891.
In the evening of Friday 23rd October 1812, the two solicitors at the heart of the opposition to the Luddites in West Yorkshire took the bold step of visiting the workshop that was fast becoming, at least in their minds, the headquarters of Luddism around Huddersfield.

John Lloyd from Stockport and John Allison from Huddersfield visited the workshop of John Wood, the step-father and employer of George Mellor, to question all the others who worked there. Before they left one of the croppers, Joseph Sowden, took Allison to one side: it is not known what was said, but Sowden subsequently swore a statement the following day before Joseph Radcliffe at Milnsbridge House.

Sowden deposed that at 5.00 p.m. on the day of William Horsfall's shooting, James Varley had told him that George Mellor, William Thorpe, Thomas Smith & Benjamin Walker had gone to lie in wait for Horsfall in order to shoot him. He went on to say the he learned of the shooting at 7.00 p.m. from a colleague, William Walker, and that 30 minutes later, he saw George Mellor in Wood's kitchen. A couple of mornings afterwards, Sowden said that William Thorpe had come to him in the workshop and made him swear an oath of secrecy on a Bible:
The purport of it was that if I revealed any thing concerning the Murder of Mr Horsfall that I should be put out of existence and should be pursued with unceasing vengeance to the verge of nature or something to that effect
Sowden said George Mellor came in at the end, and that afterwards, Thorpe brought in Thomas Smith, Benjamin Walker, John Walker, William Walker, William Hall and James Varley - Sowden said that Thorpe made him administer the oath to all of the others on pain of death.

Sowden went on to say that all of those accused of shooting Horsfall had 'related to me the circumstances attending it with a degree of exultation'. His statement does not contain any of those details that he said were related - Lloyd and Radcliffe were clearly satisfied that they had another witness and that was enough.

A letter from John Lloyd to John Beckett of 24th October 1812 has details of the visit to John Wood's premises, and can be found at HO 42/128. Joseph Sowden's statement can be found at HO 42/129.

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