Friday 30 November 2012

30th November 1812: General Maitland writes to Acland about his report of new Robberies

30th November 1812

Dear Acland

I have just received yours & am not much surprized at its contents, we

We must expect & naturally some of these things but what is most material to attend to is, the facts which you state, how far this is a New Gang on a principle of Plunder or how far it is the old Set beginning a new System.

I therefore request that you will do your utmost to set every engine at Work “to Wit” Allison & Lloyd to trace this to the utmost extent & forthwith

In regard to yourself I know you will do it [full] as well & better than any of them, but when we are enquiring into the thing it is extreme material too that we should be aware, what system this Deighton is under, & how far the orders of the Lieutenancy for their associating & Patroling has been carried into effect.

Write me upon this Subject as soon as may be, for whatever you & I may think upon the general State of the Country it is impossible to hold out for one moment that we can protect Individuals against Robbery, if these Individuals will not protect themselves.

Ever Your’s
T Maitland

I will write you tomorrow about the change of Cavalry from above

[To] Major Genl Acland
&c &c &c

30th November 1812: General Acland informs General Maitland about the Robberies at Deighton & Fartown

Huddersfield 30th November 1812.

My dear Sir,

On my return from Halifax this afternoon it was reported to me that Seven robberies were committed last night at Deighton & the neighbourhood (about two miles from hence) from 2 of the houses about 100£ appears to have been taken, the other five owners have not come in to give any account, but I hear near 70£ were suppos’d to have been taken from one of them

The Gang from report appears to be a new set [unsystemic] & without the organization of those we have hitherto heard of — they have the [illegible] of this country but the persons robbed neither suspect any of their neighbors or know those who came into the houses, which were five in number, & some others remain’d without—

I shall enquire more particularly to-morrow & will inform you if I get any fresh intelligence

All is quiet about Halifax the Stirling got possession of the Barracks this day—

The Barracks here are ready, but the bedding is not come down—

Capt. Mc Dougal writes that everything is going on well about Staley Bridge, & he does not hear that any thing particular is going carrying on among the Luddites at present—

Wroth: P Acland

[To] Lt General
The Rt Honble
T. Maitland

Alan Brooke on the intended recipient of George Mellor's letter - Thomas Ellis

George Mellor’s letter from York Castle was addressed to Thomas Ellis, a woolstapler, of Lockwood. Whether the survival of only copies indicates that the original was allowed to reach its destination is not known. The Home Office copy also names the intended recipient as ‘Hellice’. This spelling may have been used on the original if, as seems likely, the letter was passed by Mellor to someone on the outside with verbal instructions as to the address.

Ellis’s role is highly significant. He was regarded by the magistrate Joseph Radcliffe of being so deeply implicated in Luddism that he was suspected of firing the shot at Joseph Mellor (in December 1812), intended, if not to kill, at least to intimidate him into making sure that members of his household did not appear as prosecution witnesses. George Mellor clearly saw Ellis as someone to be relied on to help organise the Luddite defence and not just with regard to Joseph Mellor. Ellis himself appeared as a witness in the trial of those accused of the Rawfolds attack, testifying that he had seen James Brook in Lockwood at quarter to twelve on the night in question. He also gave an excellent character reference for all the Lockwood Brooks who had been charged. George Armitage, a Lockwood blacksmith, (who also appeared as a defence witness for Mellor), corroborated Ellis’s evidence and it is clear that they were well known to each other. James and John Brook were acquitted, while Thomas was found guilty and subsequently hanged.

Not only was Ellis not a cropper he was a woolstapler, a dealer in wool, and therefore of a ‘respectable’ profession. It was not an occupation which would have brought him into direct contact with cloth finishers and therefore his relationship with Mellor and the Brooks was of choice, even though he must have known of their sympathy and perhaps even involvement in Luddism. Ellis is an example of the broad community support that Luddism enjoyed. Most of the other defence witnesses, like Armitage, were artisans or tradesmen not confined to cloth dressing.

Mellor’s letter also refers to Ellis’s involvement in collecting signatures for (Major) John Cartwright’s petition for parliamentary reform. This underlines the fact that there was no political compartmentalisation of Luddism. Luddites, even those who perhaps had insurrectionary inclinations, saw no paradox in supporting parliamentary reform. The following eight years, in the Huddersfield area more than anywhere else, showed how easily people could swing from mass agitation for reform to insurrectionary conspiracy and back again as the waves of repression dictated.

- - -

As a coda to Alan's comments, our own research has brought up a curious figure seemingly forgotten by historians of Luddism who may have connections with Thomas Ellis. John Ellis, a 22 year-old Tailor & member of the Huddersfield Local Militia was convicted at the Chester Special Commission in May 1812 of breaking 7 shearing-frames at Tintwistle (then in Cheshire) belonging to Thomas Rhodes on 21st April 1812. Aside from what he was convicted of, it's not clear what else he was doing in Tintwistle, and it may be that there was nothing remarkable about him, as he doesn't appear to be mentioned in any of the Home Office correspondence around this time. But whilst a common surname does not necessarily indicate a direct connection, the link with Huddersfield is clear and the fact that these were the only shearing-frames broken outside of West Yorkshire is also remarkable. John Ellis was sentenced to death at the Special Commission, but had this sentence respited, meaning he was transported for life. Was he a Luddite 'on the run' and hiding in Cheshire who was subsequently caught up in popular disturbances in April of 1812? Was he a delegate between Luddite organisations across the Pennines? Whoever he was, he is an interesting figure who demands further research.

30th November 1812: 'A Soul is of more value than work or Gold' - George Mellor writes from York Castle

I now take the Liberty of informing you that I am in good health as by the Blessing of God I hope they will find you all Pl. to give my respects to my cousin and tell him to stick fast by what he [swore] the first time before Rattiffe and I hope his wife will do the same, that I left there house before five oClock and I did not leave any thing at their House and if the Boy swore any thing tell my Cousin to contridict him & say he told him a different Storey that there had been a man and left them & he did not know him and as for the Girl she cannot sware any thing I know that will harm me and tell the Boys to stick by what they said the first time if not thy are proved forsworn tell him and his wife I hope they will befrend me and never mind thier work for I if I come home I will do my best for them Remember a Soul is of more value than work or Gould— I have heard your are Potitioning for a Parlimenter Reform and I wish thees names to be given as follows — G.M. Mark Hill James Haigh Josh Thornton Wm Thorp Geo Rigg Saml Booth John Hogdin C. Cockcroft Jas Brook Jno Brook Geo Brook James Brook C.Thornton Jonathan Deane Jno Walker Joshua Schorsfiend Jno [Schersfield] Thomas Smith James Starkey — Anthony Walker Joseph Greewood Thomas Green Benjamin Sigg Geo Ludge Wm Hodgson Geo Brook William Barnard Geo Beamont David Moerhouse William Whitehead Joseph Fisher Jon Batley Jon Lum Jon Shore Benjamin Hinchliff Geo Hanlin Jon Laild Jon Fawset James Whitehouse give my respects to all enquiring Friends and acccept These few Lines from your Friend—

[To] Mr. Thomas Hellice
Wool Stapler
Nr Huddersfield

[Post Mark York 30th November]

This letter from the cropper George Mellor was smuggled out of York Castle and posted from York on 30th November 1812, before being intercepted by the authorities, presumably at Huddersfield since it bore a York postmark. It is one of a very small number of letters known to be written by an identifiable Luddite (another earlier one being from the Nottinghamshire Luddite William Carnell to Judge Bayley).

George Mellor clearly thought his best chance in the trial he was facing lay with his cousin Joseph Mellor and others in his household sticking to the version of events they had given to Joseph Radcliffe previously. Of interest is his comment that the evidence of 'the Girl' (i.e. Mary Dyson) could not harm his case: by this time, Dyson had left the household of Joseph Mellor in mysterious circumstances, but George Mellor clearly did not know about this. Neither Dyson nor her evidence featured at his subsequent trial, which tends to support George's statement that her evidence could not do him any harm, and may have been very important for his defence.

The letter was not used at Mellor's trial, and it's existence was not widely known, although it was mentioned seven years later at a meeting of the York King & Constitution Club in February 1819, presented as proof that reformers had ulterior motives similar to Luddites. Curiously, the Guardian greeted the coming new year of 2012 with an editorial that absurdly posited that the letter demonstrated that Mellor & the Luddites were becoming reconciled to Liberalism through constitutional methods.

Two copies of this letter exist - one in the Home Archive at HO 42/132, transcribed from the original by the Treasury Solicitor Henry Hobhouse (which this version is based on), and another in the Radcliffe MSS at West Yorkshire Archives (ref 126/127a). It is not known what happened to the original, or even if it still exists elsewhere, which is a tragedy, as it is real treasure.

Thursday 29 November 2012

29th November 1812: Multiple Arms Raids & Robberies at Deighton & Fartown, near Huddersfield

In the evening of Sunday 29th November 1812, a series of robberies were committed in the area of Deighton & Fartown, near Huddersfield.

At 9.15 p.m., a number of men with handguns entered the house of a Cloth Manufacturer called William Walker, of New Hall, near Fartown. The men demanded and were given Walker's gun - a pistol - and also took a powder horn. They then demanded money and were given £15 in notes but offered to trade them back for a golden Guinea - Walker agreed and took out his purse: it was a ruse, and the men seized all the coins in the purse, which amounted to five Guineas. The leading man - the lower half of whose face was covered with a black handkerchief - then proceeded to go through Walker's papers whilst the others levelled guns at the Manufacturer. Upon leaving, Walker and his family were warned not to leave the house for at least 2 hours on pain of death.

Next visited by the gang was a shopkeeper at Fartown named George Scholes. Scholes was liberated of a gun, up to 40 shillings in silver, a £5 note, up to 10 £1 notes, a pair of silver tea tongs and two silver teaspoons. The gang also inspected Scholes' cellar and took away a bottle of Rum and some other provisions. Scholes and his family were again warned not to leave for two hours, and that a guard would be left outside. After the group had left, Scholes noticed they had left behind a blunderbuss and a hatchet.

At 10.30 p.m., the gang arrived at the house of a farmer called Joshua Thornton of Jilley Royd, near Fixby. Four men entered the house - two armed with blunderbusses a third with a rifle and another with a pistol. They demanded arms from Thornton, and were told that he had neither. The gang then called out orders "Enoch, Captain, Sergeant and Hatchet-men to enter", and 2 other men entered - Thornton's wife then promised to find some money, and the 2 men were ordered back outside. The gang took a pocketbook containing £5 in notes from Mrs Thornton, who also received a blow to the head with the butt of a gun. One of the gang fired at Thornton himself, but the gun mis-fired. On leaving, the men told Thornton that they intended to use the money to buy weapons, which were to be used to shoot the Huddersfield Magistrate Joseph Radcliffe, and that when this was accomplished, they would return the money.

The next house visited belonged to James Brook of Brackenhall. The gang took away a silver watch, a £1 note and 4 shillings in silver.

At the house of John Woods, doors and windows were broken, but nothing worth taking could be found. The roll was called in Luddite fashion from 1 to 9 before the gang left.

The next destination was the home of William Radcliffe at Woodside: they made off with £11, 10 shillings and 6 pence in notes, six Guineas in gold and up to £3 in copper coins, as well as a silver watch. They also took some tea, loaf sugar and liquor, as well as some plates.

The last visit was paid to Moses Ball at Jilley Royd, where they obtained £2 & 10 shillings in silver coins.

Later, both Joshua Thornton and George Scholes believed they recognised two of the raiders and named them as Samuel Robinson and Joshua Fielding of Elland.

29th November 1812: The Solicitor to the Treasury, Henry Hobhouse, gives his view of the cases for the York Assizes

Nov. 29. 1812.


Having concluded my Enquiry undertaken by the Directions of Lord Viscount Sidmouth into the Cases of the Prisoners committed to the Gaol at York for Trial on Charges arising out of the disturbed State of the West Riding, I have the Honour to lay before you for his Lordship’s Information the Result of that Enquiry.

The most prominent & important Case that of the Murder of Mr. Wm. Horsfall, for which Offence three Prisoners, Mellor, Thorpe, & T. Smith, are committed on the Evidence of an Accomplice Benjm. Walker. It appears to me to be very satisfactorily established that these four men were the only ones immediately concerned in that Murder; & as the Testimony of the Accomplice is concerned in material points both prior to & posterior to the Murder, I think there is no room to apprehend any Failure in this Prosecution. As B. Walker is a Prisoner at Chester, & I of course could not examine him myself without going to Chester for the purpose, it became matter of Consideration whether or not I should travel so great a Distance for that sole Object. The importance of his Testimony at first inclined me to do so. But as his Confession is in itself very perspicuous, & I had a concurrent opinion of several Persons with whom I separately conversed that he gave his Evidence with respect to this Offence without reserve, & I had no doubt of the Truth of his Narrative, I finally determined that an Extension of my Journey to Chester would probably not be attended with any good Effect.

The same three Prisoners appear to have been the principal Actors not only in this, but in the greater part of the other Offences committed in the immediate Vicinity of Huddersfield, for they are implicated more or less in no fewer than thirteen other capital charges of breaking machinery & stealing arms.

Sixteen of the Prisoners, including the three before mentioned, are charged with a felonious Attack on the Mill of Mr. Cartwright in April last, when the mob were repulsed. Against the majority of this number the sole Evidence is an Accomplice named Wm. Hall, but he is confirmed as to some of them so materially that the Conviction of at least three or four may I think be reasonably expected.

The same Witness Hall, who certainly took a very active part in the Disturbances, is also the principal Witness in most of the other cases in which Mellor & Thorpe were the Ringleaders, as well as in some where they were not present. On his Evidence will principally rest eleven Cases of breaking Shearing-Frames, in each of which more or fewer of twelve Prisoners* are charged. In some of these he is wholly unsupported by other Testimony; in others there is corroborative Evidence against some of those whom he charges, but it consists chiefly of the Account given by B. Walker (the Murderer) another Accomplice, & therefore I can not venture in any one of these Cases to look for a Conviction without any great degree of Confidence; more particularly as I understand that Walker though he gives his Testimony freely with regard to the Murder, shews great Reluctance in giving it in any other Cases, on the ground (as I am told) that next to Mellor & Thorpe he feels himself to be one of the worst of the Gang, & therefore considers the his fellow delinquents to have been brought into their present situation in great measure by himself.

[Brooks Beaumont & others)

Another Gang, consisting of [number] Prisoners who were committed before the Judges left York at the last Assizes, can only be convicted upon the Evidence of an Accomplice named Barrowclough, who gives his Testimony is so unsatisfactory a manner, that I very greatly doubt whether it will be adviseable to prefer any Indictment upon it. He prefers four Charges, in only one of which is there any other Evidence as to the Identity of the Prisoners except Barrowclough. In that one case the Accomplice Hall fixes the same Offence on other Prisoners, which might at first sight appear rather to invalidate Barrowclough’s Story, but upon Enquiry I find the two Accounts to be consistent, because Hall & Barraclough belong to separate Gangs, who met on the night in question; & though they had a common Object, werel not well acquainted with each others’ Names & Persons.

Against two the Gang impeached by Barrowclough, there has been discovered since their Commitment a Charge not spoken to by him, which at first promised to be a good Case, but the Description given of the Persons of the Offenders by a witness whom I examined while at Huddersfield throws much Doubt on the Identity of one of them; & unless this Doubt can be cleared up by the Reexamination of the Witness by whom the charge was first referred (whose Attendance I was unable to procure while I remained in Yorkshire), this Offence can not be made the subject of Prosecution.

[Swallow & others.]

Five other Prisoners, making part of a Gang from Horbury near Wakefield, stand charged with six Robberies upon the Evidence of an Accomplice named Parkin, whom I was unable to examine, because he was prevented by a broken Leg from coming to me, & my going to him might have exposed him to the observation of his Enemies. In one of the Cases, implicating four of the five Prisoners, some material corroborative Evidence can be given, which I think is likely to lead to a Conviction. In the others of this Set of cases no material confirmation of Parkin has yet been obtained, but I have left directions that it shall be sought for, & am not without hopes that it may be found. Upon this set of cases I think it right to observe, that the Robberies appear to have been committed rather by a Gang to avail themselves of the popular Prejudices of the Country to commit general Plunder, than by those who confine themselves to the stealing of Arms.

[Baines & others.]

Five Prisoners from Halifax have been committed from administering an unlawful Oath prior to the Act of the last Session, upon the Evidence upon of two men who were employed to procure Information. And two of them are further charged on the like Testimony with ripping Lead from the Roof of a House and stealing it.


One other Prisoner is charged with administering unlawful oath to a man of very bad Character, who came forward to take the Benefit of the Indemnity held forth by the Act of the last Session, & from the secret manner in wch the Oath was administered it is impossible there should be any other Evidence.

[Schofield, John.]

One Prisoner is charged with maliciously shooting at one Hinchliffe, whom he suspected of having given Information against him. The Prosecutor is a very reluctant one, & at first denied all Knowledge of the Prisoner. There are strong Circumstances of suspicion against him, but no direct Evidence except that of the Prosecutor, & therefore the result of the Prosecution must mainly depend on the manner in which Hinchliffe shall conduct himself at the Trial.

[Moorhouse & anr.]

There is a charge of Burglary against two other Prisoners, resting entirely on the Proof the Prisoners’ Identity given by the Prosecutor & his Son, of whom the former swears to one & the latter to both of the Prisoners. They set up an Alibi before the Magistrate, which was discredited by him; but as the Prisoners were both disguised, it is possible the Jury may not equally rely on the Testimony of the Witnesses.


A Prisoner who is committed for Felony in stealing Flouer by forcing the Prosecutor to sell it at an inferior Price, certainly can not be proved guilty that Offence; & if indicted at all, must be indicted for a Misdemeanour in inciting a Mob commit the Felony.

[Joseph Brook]

Against one other Prisoner, charged with Burglary the Proof appears to me likely to produce Conviction. It depends on positive Evidence of Identity given by the Prosecutor’s Servant Girl, assisted by some slight Circumstances of Suspicion against the Prisoner.


The only remaining Prisoner from the Vicinity of Huddersfield is one, who is charged with inciting two Soldiers of the Stirlingshire Militia to assist in a Scheme the blowing up Mr. Cartwright’s Mill with Gunpowder since the Failure of the Mob’s Attack on that Building.

[Eadon.] [Cookson.]

It only remains to me to mention two Prisoners from Barnsley, one of whom is charged with administering an unlawful Oath under the old Act, & both of them with a similar Offence under the new Act. The Witnesses having been removed into Shropshire for Security, I have not seen them, & I can therefore can only judge of the Cases from the Depositions, which appear to me to afford the Probability of Conviction.

I have [etc]

H Hobhouse

*most of these are also implicated in the Felony at Cartwrights.

[To] J Beckett Esq
&c &c &c

29th November 1812: A poorly Thomas Holden write from his transportation ship, The Fortune

On board the fortune November 29th 1812

Dear and loving wife I take opertunity of Righting a fue lines to you hoping they Will find you all in good helth but Dear wife I am very Sorry to inform you that I am Very Bad of the yellow Jandes and has been for a fortnight and I am still getting Worse and if I Very Soon do not get some Relif I am afrade I shall not Recover and dear wife I think it is with being so Close Confined and I have taken to my Bed – and dear wife I am Very unhappy Concerning I have Sent a letter and never Recevid no ancer and you knowing we may Saill any Day as Dear wife It is all the Confert I have in this world to hear from you Dear Wife I have no frend hear but John Fisher and he wates upon me and Lookes after me like a Brother Dear wife I have hard you have pititioned to go with me and Dear wife I Could wish to know if you have any prospect of going with me or getting me off

Dear wife you know it would not be too late to get my Sentance Mitgated if we were oute of the Contry as I would have you to do all you Can for me and Dear Wife the Capn dose not open the letters as the Capn dose at Langston harbour and dear Wife I Could wish to know if you have any Prospect of Coming to me and I would have you to Right amedintly by the Return of Post and Give my love to your sister Nancy and So no moar at Present from your Ever Loving and Effecned Husbant til Death Thomas Holding 

Dear Honored father and Mother I think it Propper to inform you what Situation I am in as you desired to know Dear father and Mother the Plase that I am in is like unto that which Mr Fletcher put me and my Brother and my Uncel [    ] into my Beddin is as Bad or worse -- and here are alowed to go on Deck aboute one hour Per Day and Some Times more & many Bolt[oun] [Donyours]

Dear Honored father and Mother we have Beene 7 weeks withoute Cleane Shorts and we asked the Capn for Shorts and he Said they Could not be Durty yeat – and I weare Irones on boath kegs as we did Before at the hulks Deare Honored father and mother if you Cannot Do nothing for me and very Soon I am Sure you will neve See me alive agane and give my love to my Brother and I I have Eaten nothing for 3 days not on[e] penny worth of meate – and so no moare at present from your Ever loving and Effecned but unfortunate and unhapy Son til deat for Ever Ever moare

Thomas Holding

29th November 1812: General Acland reports the arrest of a Stockport man for threatening to kill Joseph Radcliffe

Huddersfield 29th November 1812.

My dear Sir,

A man by name Harling has been sent from Stockport by the Revd Mr. Prescott & committed to York, by Mr. Armytage a Magistrate acting for this Division for threatening Mr. Ratcliffe's life—

It appears at a Public house in Stockport after much abuse of Mr. Ratcliffe, he said he had a Pill in his Pockett, which should do his business in a very short time — this is the whole of the circumstance as related to me Mr. Ratcliffe this morning, which you may probably wish to be acquainted with—

Nothing further has occurr’d here—

Wroth: P: Acland

[To] Lt General
The Rt Honble T. Maitland

Friday 23 November 2012

23rd November 1812: a shot is fired into the house of a man at Clifton

The Monday 30th November 1812 edition of the Leeds Intelligencer featured a letter to the editor which described an attack on an individual at Clifton who had been, along with others, the subject of an arms-raid 4 months previously.
MR. INTELLIGENCER,—Can you explain to the public the end the Faction have in view in telling us, with reference to the neighbourhood of Huddersfield, that “all is now perfectly tranquil in that district.” Can they be ignorant of the fact that on Monday night, the 23d instant, about ten o'clock, a shot was fired into the house of John Wilkinson, of Clifton, cardmaker, which shot passed thro’ the window-shutters, struck the back of the chair in which Mr. Wilkinson usually sits, and broke some glasses on the opposite side of the room. Mr. Wilkinson, by accident, (I say by Providence) was not at that moment sitting in his chair, or he would have received the ball in his body.—Is Clifton not in the Huddersfield district? or is a transaction which upon the face of it has all the appearance of a cool malicious determinate intention to take away the life of a quiet respectable member of Society, sitting by his own fire side, no interruption of perfect tranquility?

It is not a little remarkable that these same men, who pique themselves upon the accuracy, their penetration, and their early authentic information, took some pains to persuade us that Luddism was nearly, if not totally extinct, about the time when that systematic attack was made on the inhabitants of Clifton, by which they were deprived of their fire arms, and when Mr. Wilkinson’s gun was violently taken from him.—It is not easy to guess what is Mr W's. offence, except that he thinks, and has expressed an opinion, which every body else entertains, that the feat of arms-stealing, performed at Clifton in the summer, was not the work of “foreigners”


Thursday 22 November 2012

22nd November 1812: Luddism returns to Nottingham

After a hiatus of 8 months, frame-breaking Luddites returned to Nottingham on the evening of Sunday 22nd November 1812.

At 7.00 p.m., a Mr Glue and two of his friends were smoking pipes by the fire at Glue's house in Earl Street when six armed and disguised men burst in. Some of them had drawn swords and lunged at a candle that stood on a table, slicing a portion off and extinguishing the flame. The Luddites insisted one of the men show them where a lace frame was kept, whilst a guard was kept on the other two men. The frame was destroyed and the men left carrying away the remains.

The Luddites alleged that the frame was working for 'half-goods and half-money' which meant it had to be destroyed.

22nd November 1812: The Luddite convict, Thomas Holden, writes fom his transportation ship, the Fortune

By Sunday 22nd November 1812, the Luddite convict Thomas Holden, had now been moved from the Prison Hulk Portland to the Fortune, the ship that would eventually deport him to Australia. He wrote from the ship to his wife:

on board the Fortune November 22

Dear and loving wife I take this opertunity of Righting a fue lines to you hoping to find you and my Dear Child in a good State of helth and Dear wife I have been Very poorly Ever since I Came on Board this Ship But thank God I am getting a deal better and Dear Wife I Receved your kind and welkum letter on the 22 and dear Wife you say you Could wish to go along with me you little know how I am soled it is a long voyeg of six months and my Brother Said he wished he was in my sted But he little knowes my Sircumstance and dear wife if any thing Should happen any of us from Boulton we let know with all speed

Dear wife you desire me to Right at all opertunitys and you may Depend I Shall But it is a great Deal of truble and Difficulty to get to Right a letter hear Dear wife it dose not troble me to much Being Confined hear as Being parted from you and my dear Child Dear wife we are among a deal a differnd Soarts of peple But If I live to Serve my time oute as I trust In god I Shall you may depend upon it I Shall Returne to Ingland and then I hope we Shall Spend the Remander of our Days in this world in love and happyness togater Dear wife if you Send me any moar money I Beg you will Send it in a Noat and not a post office order and Pay the poastidge

Dear wife as Soon as I reach my jorneys End I Shall Right to you and if thear is any prospect of you Coming to me and us doing well I will send for you and shortly so I would have you to get all the money Gathered togater as you Can Dear father and Mother I hope you will never Seace doing all you Can to get my Pardin or to get me to Stop in Inglond you might get my pardon Sooner But if I go I hope you will do all you Can to fetch me Back agane to you and I hope you will keepe Sending up Pertisones to Government to get me off or to get my Sentance mitegated dear if think I do any moar I hope you will Right and let know by Return of post for we may Sail any Day or we may Stop a month we do not know and So I must Conclude and so no moar at Present from your Ever Loving Efecned husband and Son til Death Thomas Holdin

Please to give my love to my father in low and
Mother in low and Nancy Barret and Thomas
Baret and all inquiring Frie[n]ds

[To] Mary Holden
to be Left at the
Golden Lion Church
Gate Bolton Lee
Moars Lancshire

Wednesday 21 November 2012

21st November 1812: Robbery on a shopkeeper at Luddenden Foot, near Halifax

At 8.00 p.m. on Saturday 21st November 1812, a robbery was conducted at a shop in Luddenden Foot.

Five men forced the door and, upon entering demanded arms and money. The shopkeeper's wife told the men there were neither, but she would give the men a bag of meal if they agreed to leave. Four of the raiders then began to search the premises, whilst the fifth held a blunderbuss to the shopkeeper's head, issuing the customary threat to 'blow his brains out' if he offered any resistance.

Throughout the raid, the men made use of military expressions, and although they searched the whole premises, after 15 minutes they left with only seven shillings and sixpence.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Alan Brooke's review of 'Ned Ludd & Queen Mab' by Peter Linebaugh

"Ned Ludd & Queen Mab – Machine-Breaking, Romanticism and the Several Commons of 1811-1812", Peter Linebaugh (Retort Pamphlet, 2012)

The bicentenary of the Luddite risings has produced disappointingly little new academic research on Luddism. However, this booklet of only 40 pages goes some way towards filling that vacuum. Based on a lecture he delivered to a conference to mark the bicentenary held at Birkbeck College in 2011, Peter Linebaugh sets out not only to rescue the Luddites from the ‘condescension of posterity’ but also place them firmly in an international context. 

As Ned Ludd is the mythic symbol of Luddite resistance to unwelcome industrialisation in England, so Queen Mab, through her personification in Shelley’s poem of that name composed in 1812, becomes the symbol of a radical critique of western civilisation as a whole. Although Shelley later dismissed the poem as naive juvenilia, his passionate denunciation of monarchy, militarism, the church and capitalism remained an inspiration for working class radicals into the Chartist period and beyond.

From the vantage point of 1811-12, Linebaugh launches a sweeping survey of the processes underway which were dispossessing not only the Luddites and the English common people of the means of production, including the land, but were also impacting on traditional communities across the world. And, as with the Luddites, such communities responded with acts of resistance, which, while often ending in defeat, nevertheless helped shape the modern world.

From Ireland to Egypt, through Creek and slave risings in the US, the insurrections of Hidalgo and Miranda in Latin America and the reactionary backlash following the Ratcliff Highway murders in England,  Linebaugh links the increasing exploitation of producers and the expropriation of the means of production to the development of global capitalism. Inevitably, in such a broad brush approach, the details of such interconnectedness is sometimes assumed rather than demonstrated and there are some omissions. Particularly, since he takes the Luddite response to mechanisation in the woollen industry as one of his main points of reference, there is no mention of the clearances in the Scottish highlands and islands, where whole communities were swept away to make room for sheep.

Also, in following E.P. Thompson’s effort to assign the Luddites their proper role in history, Linebaugh has also reproduced one of Thompson’s historiographic errors in placing too much reliance on the late 19th century writer Frank Peel. Consequently Linebaugh suggests that the Luddite, George Mellor, could have been influenced by the utopian socialism of Robert Owen, even though Owen was not a socialist in 1812. Another reference to Mellor also claims that he was a veteran of the Egyptian campaign, for which there is no contemporary evidence, apart from the fact he would only have been about ten years old at the time!

However, such factual errors, and the inevitable omissions inescapable in such an ambitious synthesising work, should not put the reader off. The booklet is extremely thought-provoking and provides a backdrop to the Luddite risings which has not really been explored previously, since Luddite studies have tended to focus-in on the local rather than stand back and observe the global. It also adds a new dimension to English working class history as a whole and helps counteract some of the parochialism which still affects this field both academically and in orthodox ‘labourist’ approaches which concentrate on the supposed deference of the English working class, dominated by a trade union consciousness steeped in constitutionalism. Linebaugh brings to life the other tradition expressed by the Luddites and by Shelley’s damning philosophical condemnation of the British state in all its manifestations.

The final paragraph of the work contains one of Linebaugh’s most valuable insights encapsulated in a single word. Here he refers to the ‘poesis of the Luddites’. This concept is one which requires elaboration for all those who consider themselves the heirs of Luddism.  Instead of the ‘praxis’ of political struggle, an often mechanistic action born of a preconceived theory, the concept of ‘poesis’ implies, as its shared root with poetry suggest, an act of creativity, imagination, intuition and spontaneity. The Luddites have often been dismissed by orthodox Marxists and labourites because their actions did not fit in with the ideal course of class struggle. Linebaugh’s global panorama shows that they had a better grasp of what was at stake than those who claim to be guided by scientific theory. This work is a fitting bicentennial tribute to the Luddites and, notwithstanding its brevity, an important contribution to Luddite research.

Alan Brooke

You can buy a copy of 'Ned Ludd & Queen Mab' from our amazon astore here. An mp3 of Peter Linebaugh's lecture at the 2011 Birkbeck Luddite conference is embedded below.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

13th November 1812: The Government authorises prosecuting one of the Manchester 38

Lincoln's Inn
13th Novr 1812


In pursuance of the directions contained in your Letter of the [illegible] inst transmitting (amongst others) copies of Informations agst Edmund Newton now confined in Lancaster Castle, I have laid a case before the Attorney and Solicitor General which I have the honor to inclose with their opinion thereon.

I am [etc]


[To] J. Beckett Esq
&c &c &c


The King agt. Edmund Newton

Among the 38 Persons who were tried at the Last Lancaster Assizes for administering an unlawful Oath to Saml. Fleming and acquitted, was Edmund Newton against whom some of the persons that took the benefit of the Indemnity Clause in the Act of the last Sessions escaped before the conclusion of the assizes that he had administered the like Oath to them. The Magistrates before whom these Depositions were made therefore retained Newton, and the Depositions have been transmitted to the Secretary of State, and are now laid before the Attorney and Solicitor General for their consideration and advice.

If the Acts of twisting in the several Persons stated in the Information were distinct from those for which Newton has been tried and acquitted, we think he seems a very proper object to be prosecuted for the offences stated in these Informations, but endeavours should be used to obtain confirmatory Evidence.—

Thos. Plumer
W Garrow
Lincoln's Inn
12 Nov: 1812.

Monday 12 November 2012

12th November 1812: Concerns are raised about the billeting of troops in the West Riding


There are 16 Soldiers of the Stirling Militia quartered in a small Village, Sowerby — there are only Three Alehouses one has a large Family, but in good Circumstances, his House a very old Building, and very convenient for lodging so many—a Second is kept by a Labouring Man, who has Nothing but what he gets by his own Industry, he was a Husbandman to a Gentleman and got married, his Master lent him Money to buy the Furniture and Fixtures of this House about 3 years ago, his Wife has been to give in her Licence, and must give up the House if all these men are constantly billeted upon them—the other is also in such a Situation as not to be able to carry on with this encrease to their House—There are in the said Township several other Houses, at have a great Return, and can afford to do something—There are 2 Houses very near together at the Triangle in the Turnpike Road leading from Halifax to Rochdale where they will find good Accommodations and these Houses are in the township of Sowerby also, and more convenient in Case of any Disturbance—The Publicans in the Village are very willing to take them by Turns, and will without Objections take the Men again when they have been as long at the Triangle Inn, and at the White Bear contiguous—I wish you wou’d consent to this temporary Change—As the Soldiers came for the Defence of the Country I wish them to have every Comfort possible, and I cou’d wish to have your Consent for this Change

I am
Your most obedient Servant
Joseph Priestley—

one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace
and a Deputy Lieut for the West Riding
of Yorkshire

White Windows Novr. 12th. 1812—

[To: General Acland]

Sunday 11 November 2012

11th November 1812: Government legal advisers give their assessment of the cases for the York Assizes

My Lord

We have very attentively considered the evidence, upon which the several Prisoners have been committed to the Castle of York for Trial: and we have the honour to report your Lordship that there appears to us to be satisfactory evidence against the Men, charged with the Murder of Mr. Horsfall, and probability of conviction: and it is not probable that, by delaying the trial, any new light can be obtained upon this case.

There seems to be probable ground for expecting convictions in the cases of those concerned in robbing Moxon's house, Savage’s house, & of those also from administering unlawful Oaths to McDonald, although this latter case, it is to be observed, is attended with some very singular circumstances.

We are sorry to observe that in most of the other cases, the evidence is extremely slight. In all of them, there is strong ground of suspicion, upon which, in the perturbed state of the County, we do not wonder the Magistrates acted, but few of them furnish any proof, except the testimony of accomplices, unconfirmed by other witnesses.

There is no evidence whatever against the 14 persons charged with the attack made upon Mr Cartwright’s Mill; nor against the 10 persons charged with breaking the Shears of Mr Vickerman & of Mr Hirst, except that of Hall, the accomplice; and therefore it would be impossible even to expect the Grand Jury to find a Bill upon his unsupported testimony: and yet both these offences are of so serious a nature; & naturally excited such alarm in the County of York, that a conviction of the Perpetrators of them would produce the most salutary effect.

We therefore think it advisable to send from London a Gentleman of experience, & well acquainted with criminal business, who might direct enquiries of the Agents, who might be able to give accurate information to Government of the probability of procuring better evidence at a future time, & who might also cause the witnesses to be more accurately & minutely examined.

If no better evidence can be procured (and if it cannot be procured within a month, there is no great probability that it ever will) there seems to be a hardship in keeping these men confined till the General Gaol Delivery in March, if they must then be discharge for want of prosecution: & we are not aware of any other mode of liberating them before that time, but by a Special Commission. If, on the other hand, better evidence can be procured, it is most fitting that they, as well as the others, against whom the evidence is more complete, should be brought, from the peace & security of the County, to immediate trial & punishment.

Under all these circumstances, & taking also into our consideration, the present overloaded state of the Castle of York, it appears to us that a Special Commission should issue.

We have [etc]

Thos. Plumer.
W Garrow
J A Park
Lincolns Inn
11 Nov: 1812.

[To] Lord Viscount Sidmouth
&c &c &c

11th November 1812: Whitehaven magistrates report huge foods riots in the Town

Whitehaven 11 of Novr 1812

My Lord,

We are extremely sorry to have occasion so soon to trouble your Lordship respecting the Mutinous disposition of the lower order of the People of this Place… Yesterday, early in the Morning, several Hundreds assembled in the Market Place, and proceeded to one of the Quays, where Potatoes were Shipping, and pushed some Carts into the Harbour, also took possession of Carts laden with Flour going for the use of the Inhabitants of the new Town,

With great difficulty we got the Flour restored to the Owner; The Mob also sallied forth in different directions in the neighbourhood, and did considerable mischief to those who had Shipped Potatoes, particularly to several of your Lordship’s Farmers by demolishing Windows, throwing large Stones &c, one of the Servants received a dangerous Wound in his Head; Milligan the Farmer at the Black Cock, as stated the particulars to Mr Bowness, who we understand will inform your Lordship the Particulars, and to whose Letter, we beg leave to refer your Lordship.—

We prevailed on the Farmers to bring in large Quantities of Potatoes for the use of the Inhabitants this Morning, and we hoped the Town, wou’d have been perfectly quiet, but towards noon, the Mob assembled at the Bulwark, and broke into the Vessel that the Potatoes had been Shipped on board, taking a great Quantity away without paying for them, and we are apprehensive will deter the Farmers from bringing the usual supply to the Market day Tomorrow.—We therefore entreat your Lordships attention, to obtain us an immediate Aid, as without a Military Force it will be impossible to prevent the most alarming consequences to the Town and neighbourhood, and in the mean time a Stop is put to all Exportation to the great prejudice of the whole Country—

We take leave also to call your Lordships attention to the Anonymous Letter enclosed for the Secty of State, and to mention we have obtained two Letters of apparently a corresponding hand writing, by which, we hope to be able to trace the writer and will trouble your Lordship to return the original one to us, if it is of no farther service, the result of which information, we shall take the earliest opportunity of transmitting your Lordship — We are

My Lord
your Lordships
Most Obdt. Servts

[Illegible] Kimbley
Miles Ponsonby
Jas. Steel
Robt Wilkinson

[To] Earl Lonsdale
K.G.& H.

Friday 9 November 2012

9th November 1812: Earl Fitzwilliam fears the Luddites in York Castle will try to escape

Milton nov 9th 1812

My Lord

it having being intimated to me, that there were not fewer than 60 or 70 persons confined in York Castle on criminal charges, & the generality of these being Luddites, or of one organized Gang, having a numerous fraternity, implicated in many of their crimes, still at large, I have felt it my duty to enquire of the Gaoler, if he felt himself confident in his power of keeping preventing rescue, either by rising within, or attempts from without, or by both combined, an event within the reach of possibility. His answer is, that he is by no means confident, but on the contrary, that he is in constant apprehension of some disagreeable occurrence.

Under the circumstances I think it my duty to state the case to your Lordship, & in the meanwhile I shall write to Gen: Maitland to prepare him, should your Lordship have instructions for him on this subject

I have [etc]

Wentworth Fitzwilliam

[To] Viscount Sidmouth
&c &c &c

Thursday 8 November 2012

8th November 1812: Whitehaven Magistrates ask for troops, fearing unrest in the Town

Whitehaven. Novr 8th 1812.

My Lord,

Mr. Pouley a respectable Corn dealer in this Town to whom the enclosed Letter was sent, hath consulted us what would be the best method to adopt for the discovery of the Author.

We were unanimously of opinion, that it would be most prudent to take no notice of it, trusting that the threats contained in it, are made solely with a view of deterring him and others from shipping grain, flour, and potatoes from this Port.

At the same time, we think it would be highly proper and adviseable to have twenty or thirty horse quartered here during the Winter. For the lower orders of the people have already shown a disposition to promote and encourage tumult and riot in consequence of grain and potatoes being shipped.

Should this meet with your Lordship’s approbation, we hope that you will have the goodness to make application to the Secretary of State for whatever number of Cavalry, (or Infantry,) your Lordship may think necessary.

We are [etc]

Tho Hartley

M Kimbley
M. Ponsonby
Jas. Steel
Robt Wilkinson
Richd Armistead —

the Earl of Lonsdale
&c &c &c

Wednesday 7 November 2012

7th November 1812: Captain Francis Raynes reports that the 'turbulent spirit' of the West Riding 'is greatly abated'

Mills Bridge near Leeds
7th Novr 1812

I have the Honor to enclose a Letter from Clough, and James Robertson which I did not receive till Thursday accounting for their delay in Manchester

Cloth saw Penrick at the time he expected but could learn nothing more than that a man from out of Saddleworth who Clough knows by sight, but not by name, was the person who spoke to Penrick on the Subject of the Mail Coach Robbery, Clough says he can find him out at any time if necessary—I have not given Clough any orders as to his future proceedings, as I wish Sir, to have instructions from you respecting him, his expenses and Robertsons during the last week have been very considerable. Clough seems an intelligent man, and I think may be useful in that Country, where I am afraid they will require watching to keep them in order; some of the thirty eight, who were in Lancaster, are at this time very active in their endeavours to stir up the spirit of disaffection, but there is want of confidence in each other, which I hope will always prevent their efforts becoming of serious consequence.

Captain McDougal has requested me to mention to you Sir, that he finds very little occasion for the Services of Zachariah Derran, the Special Constable, and begs your orders respecting him.

I am happy to have it in my power to state, that a material alteration seems to be taking place amongst the people in the part of the Country where I am now stationed, for the reports made to me, and what I have myself observ’d of the turbulent spirit which so much prevailed on our first arrival, is greatly abated; the Public Houses are become tolerably orderly and the inhabitants in general are more inclined to be civil.

I have the Honor to enclose my account and take the liberty to ask if any allowance can be made me for Forage for my Horse (which I purchased and keep entirely entirely on account of the service I am employ’d upon) and I was informed on being ordered into Cheshire my Party was on the Corps establishment, and that I might claim the Forage, which I have done but have not been able to obtain it through the usual mode

I have [etc]

Francis Raynes Captn
Stirlingshire Militia

Major General Acland
&c &c &c

7th November 1812: The Leeds Mercury reports many more Luddites committed to York Castle

The Saturday 7th November 1812 edition of the Leeds Mercury featured a report about the large numbers of Luddites committed to York Castle within the last 7 days:

Charged on the oath of William Hall with assembling on the night of 11th April 1812 and riotously and feloniously attacking Rawfolds Mill:

Charles Cockcroft, George Brook, James Brook and John Brook of Lockwood

Charged with assembling at Marsh on 23rd February 1812 and feloniously entering the workshop of Joseph Hirst and breaking and destroying shearing frames:

Samuel Booth, George Lodge and George Brook, of Dalton

Charged on the oath of William Hall and Joseph Drake with feloniously attacking and beginning to demolish Rawfolds Mill on 11th April 1812:

John Walker, Thomas Brook and Joshua Schofield, all croppers. A day prior to this, John Hirst was similarly committed for the same offence.

The following day, Charles Thornton was committed to York Castle for an arms raid at Wooldale on 1st May 1812.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

6th November 1812: Spies report that 'hundreds' of soldiers have been Twisted-in

Staley Bridge Novr 6th 1812


I have the honor to report that during the week, I have heard from Hayfield, New mills and the different quarters of the Circuit on which I have been lately moving with my Detachment, and I am happy to say, that every thing continues quiet. Clough & Robertson, left this place for Huddersfield this morning, Robertson has some information respecting the Edinburgh Militia, he says, that some hundreds of them were Twistedinn, while the Corps was quartered at Nottingham, this information, I am inclined to receive, with great caution, I cannot help thinking more favorable of them, than that their fidelity to their King & Country should be shaken, by the Nottingham weavers—

Derwent, the Constable, I mean to discharge in a few days, as Captain Raynes & myself thinks, that he is of little service, on this quarter, I will take care to do it in as pleasant a way as I can, but should you have any objections, have the goodness to inform me

I have the honour to be


Your Most obedient &
humble Servant
Peter Macdougal Capt
Stirlingshire Militia

[To] Major General Ackland
&c &c &c

Monday 5 November 2012

5th November 1812: The Government's law officers sanction the case against George Mellor, William Thorpe & Thomas Smith

On Thursday 5th November, after viewing all the statements and correspondence collected thus far about the case against the three men accused of assassinating William Horsfall, the senior law officers of the government sanctioned the proceedings against them in one paragraph:
The prosecution must go on against all the three Prisoners who have been committed, and Walker must be admitted a Witness for the Crown.—

Thos. Plumer
W Garrow
Lincolns Inn
5 Nov: 1812

5th November 1812: The Town Clerk of Leicester asks the Home Office to pay for the failed prosecution of Thomas Allsop

Leicester Novr 5 1812.


By direction of the Magistrates of Leicester I send you the Bill of disbursements &c in the prosecution against Thos Allsop for sending a threatening letter to Mr. Henry Wood, one of our principal Hosiers. The prosecution was instituted by the Magistrates, & was loudly called for by the state of the times, and, tho’ the evidence failed in producing a legal conviction, it left no doubt in the mind of the Public as to the Prisoner’s Guilt. In cases of this description great difficulty is always experienced in getting proof of the Handwriting, and in this case those difficulties were greatly enhanced by the system of terror which then prevented persons in this Neighbourhood from coming forward to speak to the fact. Recourse, therefore, was obliged to be had to distant parties, & great expenses were, in consequence, incurred in seeking, and bringing to the Assizes, Witnesses from different and very distant parts of the Kingdom—. The public safety, however, required that no expense nor exertions should be spared, and subsequent experience has proved that very salutary effects have resulted from them in this particular instance.

I had the the honor to wait upon you, respecting this subject, when in Town last March, accompanied by Mr. Keck, who joined me in requesting that the Government would take the prosecution into their own hands. You stated that you should be furnished with a copy of the Evidence before the attention of Lord Sidmouth could be drawn to the subject, but the vast importance of the case as affecting the peace and tranquillity of Leicester and its neighbourhood, and the shortness of the interval before the then approaching Assizes, made it impossible for the Magistrates, consistently with their duty, to suspend their preparations until Lord Sidmouth’s directions could be taken, and they consequently determined to proceed with the prosecution, and afterwards to submit the fax to the consideration of Government.

Mr Justice Grose, strongly commended the prosecution, & allowed 53£ towards the expence of it, to be defrayed out of the Borough Rate, but this leaves a surplus of £112..5s..8d still due – which the Magistrates think ought to be paid by the Treasury. They have directed me to request that you will be kind enough to lay this statement before the proper department & favor me with the directions which may be given upon it.

I have [etc]

Tho: Burbridge
Deputy Town Clerk

[To]—Beckett Eqre
&c &c

Sunday 4 November 2012

4th November 1812: Dinner held for Captain Francis Raynes in Mottram-in-Longdendale

On Wednesday 4th November 1812, a dinner was held in Mottram-in-Longdendale, Cheshire to pay tribute to Captain Francis Raynes, the special forces commander who had previously been stationed in the area.

Held in the Angel Inn at Mottram, which was also the local Orange Lodge, the dinner was attended by the local bourgeoisie and ruling class. William Rhodes, a local manufacturer, presented Raynes with an engraved silver plate with the Caledonian Mercury described as 'a tribute of respect to his merit'. An inscription on the plate read:
“Presented, November 4th, 1812, to Capt. Francis Raynes, of the Stirlingshire Militia, by the inhabitants of Mottram in Longdendale and its vicinity, as a testimony of their gratitude, for the eminent services rendered them, in his indefatigable and successful efforts to suppress the spirit of disaffection, rapidly extending itself through that country.”
The plate was valued at 100 Guineas (£105).

4th November 1812: The Stockport solicitor, John Lloyd, seeks a pardon for the informer William Hall

Stockport [near]
Manchester Nov. 4, 1812


A circumstance yesterday came to my knowledge which will require consideration, and, altho’ you may not deem it of sufficient importance to occupy your attention, it is nevertheless my duty to make it known.

Wm Hall, a principal Witness against the murderers of Mr. Horsfall has declared to me that he was twisted in (as they term it) prior to any outrage being committed by the Luddites in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield by a man of the name of *Bottomley, who took him to the Cross Keys in Huddersfield, along with Thomas Smith, one of the murderers, and there in the presence of Jno Walker+, he administered the oath, which Hall recollects to be the same I read over to him (the common oath) but he can state sufficient particulars from his own memory. Bottomley said they called it twisting-in, as they durst not call it swearing-in. Now at the same time that it is extremely desirable to get at Bottomley, who is the person the Murderer, Wm Thorpe, relies upon to prove an alibi for him, and because Hall says he was at the Head of 10 that were sworn & every one sworn was to swear in a like number & B at the Head, still it wou’d be risquing the credibility of Hall, I fear, to take his Information in writing—Since he did not avail himself of the proviso in Act of Parliament within the limited time—

He feels that he is now obliged to declare every thing but I have cautioned him in this respect till I can know your sentiments—If he is silent it might may not be known by the Counsel who may have to cross-examine him — & it wou’d be singular to question him upon the trial with a view to his criminating himself — It is true that Hall stands already in the situation of an accomplice, in different felonies & in accepting in the murder but he can be corroborated and will be received no doubt — if the taking an unlawful oath and conceiving it will not affect his competency.

Cou’d a pardon now be obtained to him and some of the Witnesses under similar Circumstances upon a complete Confession being given? If this were allowed Bottomley may be fixed for the oath, and Hall corroborated & confirmed by the Landlord or some others of credit seeing them together.

You will perhaps honor me with your advice in a day or two addressed to me at Stockport.

I will endeavor to send my observations upon the Cases for trial herewith & trust you will not be offended at the Liberty I shall take in making remarks, which will naturally arise to be made by those more competent before whom they will have to be placed.

As I understand it will be suggested to the Secy of State by Genl. Maitland to send the Treasury Solr. down to make up & select the Cases for Prosn at York, I venture to offer a journey to Town to prevent that trouble, if inconvenient on the one hand, or at all advantageous to the Solr. on the other.

I have [etc]

J Lloyd

[To] J Beckett Esqr.

*The same whose Examn I have transmd taken in defence of Thorpe
+now at York Castle

4th November 1812: General Maitland tells the Home Secretary 'the whole of our Situation has improved'

4th November

My dear Lord

I wrote to you [shortly] yesterday, on the Subject of the State of the Country, and it gives me very great satisfaction to be able now to state my complete conviction that the whole of our Situation has improved up to my most sanguine expectation.—

I have seen and conversed with all the Agents whether Civil or Military, employed in the worst Parts of the Country, and they are perfectly unanimous in their Sentiments that confidence is reestablished on the part of the Loyal and that despondency is the prevailing principle among the Disaffected.

The whole language of the Country is totally changed, and the Seditious have now the same dread of speaking to one another, that the Loyal formerly had of giving any Information.

The great Principle that has operated this change, independent of the Military Force in the Country is, the conviction now entertained that the administration of Illegal Oaths though may for a time screen Offenders from Public Justice, will not in the lang run protect them against the offended Laws of their Country.—

It appears to me if I am correct in my present View of the Subject that this is the time when it would be exactly most fitting to consider whether Government might not by some Act give considerable efficacy and consistency to the present feelings of the People, and whether this would not be a most fortunate moment to renew for the time by Proclamation a Pardon to those who had taken Illegal Oaths.

Judging from what happened in Cheshire and the Borders of Lancashire and looking at the similar Spirit that now prevails here, as did prevail there when they came in and took the Oath of Allegiance, I cannot help thinking that this might be a measure highly expedient to be adopted, and that it would most probably be attended with very favorable results if adopted without delay.—

The occurrences that have taken place here, and the general View I have the whole of this Subject, leads me strongly to suspect, that I was not mistaken in my original supposition that there is no real bottom in all this Luddite System, as it is now breaking up here exactly as it broke up in Cheshire and Lancashire, when ever the Loyal found they were safe, and the Disaffected found they were in danger.—

Had we been more fortunate in our Harvest, or had the American Ports been now open to us, I should not entertain a doubt that the whole of this unpleasant Scene was near a close, but undoubtedly so long as the Price of Manufacturing Labour is so low, and that of Provisions so high, we must still contemplate with a considerable degree of anxiety, to the result of the present Winter, and that I apprehend any thing serious but the natural effect of such pressure must in prudence demand to be looked at with a cautious and jealous Eye.—

Your Lordship will perceive that Lord Fitzwilliam in the letter I sent to you yesterday states they are still robbing in organized Gangs in some Parts of the Country.

This is particularly the Case in the neighbourhood of Halifax, but I do not conceive this to be at all connected with any general System, and however unpleasant, I cannot look at it in a very serious point of View.

On the whole if we make good our Cases at the ensuing York Assizes and do not attempt too much I think the Spirit of the late combinations will be completely broken.

It will be necessary to be on our Guard all the Winter, but I am sure I do not go too far in stating distinctly to your Lordship that the whole of our Situation here is infinitely ameliorated.

I am
My dear Lord.
Your’s truly
T Maitland

[To] Lord Visct. Sidmouth
&c &c &c

4th November 1812: Earl Fitzwilliam describes the Luddites as 'terrorists' to the Home Secretary

Wentworth novr 4. 1812

my Lord

your Lordship is already apprized of the great number of Prisoners (nearly 50) in York Castle, on charges emanating from the combination & system, now commonly denominated Ludditism: your Lordship is likewise aware what a great length of time, this description of crime has prevail’d, & gone uncheck’d, because unpunish’d. Not a week passes, but fresh instances of alarming outrage occurr, committed by irresistible numbers, well arm’d, & organized under a system little short of military discipline. That this system should so long continue in such force & efficacy, must be imputed in a great degree to its having gone so long unpunish’d. This circumstance cannot fail to impress those engaged in the combination with a confidence in their own security under the system establish’d, affording thereby strong inducement to others to enlist into the Gang, whilst at the same time, it not only dumps all spirit of resistance in the peaceable Inhabitant, but it deters him from coming forward with evidence against the Criminals, which under present appearances he considers as unavailing for any good end, but as productive of increased danger to himself.

These considerations have long made All, who are witnesses of what is passing, most anxious, that whenever any cases can be brought home against the persons charged, that they should be brought to trial as early as possible, every one considering the conviction of some of the Offenders, as positively necessary for the restoration of tranquillity in these parts, & for the safety of the peaceable Inhabitants—this is not the opinion of the last-mention’d description of person alone, but equally so the body of the Magistrates, & particularly of those most actively engaged in attempting to suppress this combination—I am empower’d to stick it likewise, as the decided opinion of Gen: Maitland, with whom I have most recently corresponded on this point, & who joins with the Magistrates in opinion, that it is most desirable that the Trial of these persons should not be delay’d a day, whenever any of them cannot be brought to conviction—

Offenders under this system, may be class’d under four different heads— 1st Murderers & Terrorists — 2d — Destroyers of machinery — 3d Housebreakers for Arms, or mere plunder — 4th Twisters-in, or the administrators of Oaths—

Under the first class, come the Murderers of Horsfall, against whom, I am given to understand, the evidence is most complete — likewise Schofield for attempting the life of Hinchliffe — evidence more doubtfull, but from what I have heard, likely to become much more strong, if confidence can be inspired into the witness—

2d Class — the attack on Cartwrights mill — evidence agst some of the parties, said to be strong — other cases of this class, evidence said to be strong.

of the 3d Class I know little — of the 4th, I believe there are not more than two cases, both from Barnsley — one of which I believe, will be brought home —

But it is wasting time to attempt entering into particulars, the whole body of evidence in all the various cases being before your Lordship. From that body of evidence the Att & Solr Genl will select such cases & such only, as afford reasonable ground for supposing acquittals will not be consequence — Undoubtedly if among these cases, none are to be selected, which promise a moral certainty that conviction must ensue, it would be very inexpedient, because it would prove most mischievous to have an extraordinary Assizes held: it would stamp the system as invulnerable; the dangerous consequences of which, under the certain pressure of scarcity, no one can estimate. In urging therefore the consideration of a Special Comn, I do it, in the full confidence, that it will not be granted, but upon the decided conviction of the Law Officers, that some of the cases cannot fail to be brought home to the some of the Parties accused — On that presumption, but on that only, I state it to be the opinion of Gen: Maitland, the Magistrates, most actively engaged in this business, & my own, that early Trial will conduce, & is essential to tranquillizing these parts: they will not be secure, untill exemplary punishment has been inflicted, & great must be the danger, considering the pressure of the times, should nothing be done before the Lent Assizes

I have [etc]

Wentworth Fitzwilliam

[To] Viscount Sidmouth
&c &c &c

Saturday 3 November 2012

3rd November 1812: General Maitland gives Earl Fitzwilliam his view of the cases for the York Assizes

3rd November

Dear Lord Fitzwilliam

I have returned from Scotland where I was forced to go about some Election business the day before yesterday, and have since been principally occupied in making myself master of the Cases that had occurred during my Absence.—

There can I think be no doubt that there is full Food for a Special Commission and that the sooner it takes place the better.

The number of Persons now committed including the Barnsley People are about 48, but I much fear there are many of these Cases it will be impossible to bring home to a Jury.

There are some however I think most fortunately of a very different nature and of these stands pre eminent the Murderers of Horsfall.

The Case against them is as strong and as well supported as any one I ever had occasion to see or read of, and if we merely succeed in bringing them to Punishment of which I have no doubt we have done the greatest good I hold that can be done to this part of the Country.

In respect to the Case of Schofield, it by no means strikes me to be so fully made out, though it is still the Case that I think ought to go to trial.

There are too, three of the Cases of the Horbury Gang where there is very strong Evidence and such if I am rightly informed as will lead to conviction, and latterly there are 16 Men taken up for Shear breaking &c against at least Six of whom where there is unquestionable Evidence.—

Against the rest generally speaking I own the Evidence appears to me, to be extremely doubtful, though in some Cases it may probably be brought home.

Through then I must perfectly agree, with Your Lordship in the propriety of bringing to early trial the Prisoners now in York Castle, it appears to me to be most important that the gravest consideration should be given by Government to the Point of what Case it will bring forward and what it will allow to drop.

We have I hold quite enough of certain Cases to answer every purpose of Public Justice. We have the Case of Horsfall, in point of Murder, We have the Case of the Horbury Gang in point of Plunder and House breaking. We have the 16 Men lately taken up, in point of Shear breaking and destroying Machinery, and lastly, we have the Barnsley Men and one or two others in point of Illegal Oaths.

With these nearly certain I cannot help thinking it would be highly impudent to press to ultimate trial many other Cases of which we ourselves are doubtful, and what I think of doing upon the whole of the Subject is to recommend to Government in the strongest manner to send down forthwith to Huddersfield, some Government Solicitor in whom they have confidence, to revise and examine minutely into the real nature of each Case and into the Character and discription of the Evidence, and having so done to decide what Cases shall be pushed and what shall be allowed to drop—

Independent of any general reasoning upon the Subject, my Opinion is very much formed from a perfect knowledge of the Parties who have been principally employed in bringing forward those Cases, and though I certainly do not mean to mention them with disrespect, still I much fear their over Zeal unless it be corrected by the calm and considerate Judgement of some disinterested Person may lead to numerous Acquittals which I think Your Lordship will agree with me is a thing extremely to be avoided.

On talking this Subject over I find it would not be possible for any one to go through all this in less than a fortnight, and I understand it will take nearly the same Period to prepare the Cases to be brought forward to ultimate trial and under this impression I apprehend the earliest possible time the Court could meet, would be in the beginning of December, to which time if I am not misinformed, the present Commission is adjourned.

Whether they ought to be tried under the old Commission or under a Special one, is a Subject upon which I can form no Opinion, and I have only to add though no Man is more thoroughly convinced than I am of the propriety and necessity of bringing the Prisoners to speedy Justice, still I would be sorry indeed to see that Measure carried into effect, till all the Cases were maturely weighed and considered in all their Points and Bearings.

From all the Accounts I have the State of the Country is daily improving, but upon this Subject I shall write more fully to Your Lordship in a day or two, and am

Dear Lord Fitzwilliam
Your’s most truly
T Maitland

[To] Earl Fitzwilliam
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3rd November 1812: General Maitland gives the Home Secretary his view of the situation in the West Riding

3rd November

My dear Lord

I arrived here the day before yesterday, and yesterday received your Lordship’s letter communicating to me what I own I was most happy to hear that all confidence in Lawson was perfectly at an End.—

I had a letter yesterday from Scotland stating he wanted to proceed to Carlisle, was detained by not being able to procure a Place in the Hayes, which makes me hope they may be able to get hold of him there, should he turn up in this Quarter I shall send him to Chelmsford under a similar letter to that sent to Scotland from General Acland.

Since my arrival here I have been making myself thoroughly master of the Cases that have occurred during my Absence, and of the present State of the Country.

In regard to the first I have read with much attention, all informations taken in the Case of Horsfall’s Murder, and I own if it be permitted to make use of the term on such an occasion, the satisfaction I felt upon their perusal was infinite, as I have not the smallest doubt the Evidence must go home to the feelings and Verdict of any fair and impartial Jury.—

In the numerous Cases of Shear Breaking &c, the Evidence too in many, is very strong and such as must I think lend to conviction.—

In respect to the second, the Situation of the Country, I have great satisfaction in saying, I think a great change has been produced by confidence being regenerated, and People been no longer afraid to speak out.

The supposed Magic Charm of the Illegal Oaths is completely done away, and that general system of Terror which prevailed is I trust fast subsiding.

Under the circumstances a most material point for consideration is the expediency of bringing the Prisoners in York Castle to an early trial, and upon this I received a letter this morning from Lord Fitzwilliam a Copy of which I have now the honor to enclose together with my Answer.

Your Lordship will perceive if you will do me the honor to peruse that Answer, that I have expressed to Lord Fitzwilliam my sentiments pretty fully, which will save me the trouble of intruding further upon Your Lordship than to express my extreme solicitude that a Person be sent down for the purposes I have mentioned in that letter without any delay.—

It may be said that sending up the Cases would have a similar effect, but I hope I may be permitted to say that no written Informations can be thoroughly relied on without the whole circumstances of the Case being investigated on the Spot, and due enquiry being made upon what grounds these informations were given.

I own I feel deeply anxious upon this Subject, because convinced as I am we have enough of good Cases to bring forward, I should be sorry indeed to see the General Cause suffer from over Zeal and mistaken anxiety of our own People.

Neither can there be the smallest objection I apprehend to this course of Proceeding, it can excite no Jealousy, and in its results I am convinced will be attended with an infinity of good.

It seems to me to be the natural course of proceeding on such an occasion.

I shall write you more fully in a day or two relative to the general State of these Districts, and am

My dear Lord
Your’s most truly
T Maitland

[To] Lord Visct: Sidmouth
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3rd November 1812: A farmer from Whitehaven receives a threatening letter

Whitehaven    [Society]    Death

Sir Pouley you have Gone on this Long time with your Rogish tricks But your time is up at Last So  mind your self for by God your House your Warehouse and your Self Shall Suffer what a damt rogue your body Shall be Hakd to Peaces befor a week be Past we will Larn you to ship Corn & Grain of All Sorts of you Damt Tiarant Mind your Self for by God as you Get This you Shall Suffer Death Dath you Theaf is your Doom and Soon So Mind your Eye Dam you to Hell

For Roque
Pooley [illegible]

[On reverse: “Received this Novr 3 1812”]

Friday 2 November 2012

2nd November 1812: The Stockport solicitor, John Lloyd, urges restraint in capturing further Luddites


2d Novemr. 1812

Will you excuse me when I trouble you with my own private opinion on two questions; viz as to the propriety of a Special Commission, and whether it is now necessary to proceed extensively in apprehending persons connected with the Luddites, not being leading Parties.

The first I have heard suggested as Desireable by Mr. Radcliffe but I cannot conceive it necessary: for, the cases are strong enough (some of them) to lay before any Judges — however they may be disposed to look upon the Offences — for Mr. Justice Bailey’s designating a particular Instance of arms-stealing, a Frolick seems to have been the Cause of such an inclination wish in the Magistrates here. Besides it does not appear likely when adjournments have been fixed so conveniently — and, it strikes me, it wou’d be an insult upon those Judges to solicit a fresh commission. Excuse the liberty I take in making these remarks — as for myself — in getting up the Cases, I will be ready any time with a fortnight's previous notice.

With regard to the 2d point I have continued my opinion here & urged it before I left to go home on 24th Oct. that none shod be taken up but notorious Ring leaders and those of the most desperate class. I fear some of the last apprehended cannot be convicted for want of the accomplice receiving the requisite confirmation, and then we may be doing

[Obscured] here I have seen the [obscured] Letter from your Office to Mr. Radcliffe,—which gives me reason to believe I have not hazarded my opinion prematurely. I have been repeating the same & shall be happy to be honored with your private sentiments addressed to me at Home (Stockport) to which place I shall return tomorrow.

I am [etc]

J. Lloyd

[To] J. Beckett Esqr

2nd November 1812: Captain Francis Raynes writes of a Luddite plot to attack a Mail Coach

Old Hall near Mottram
2 November 1812


I have the Honor to inform you, I was not able to see Clough till last night. The account he gave me of an intended attack upon the Mail Coaches, is as follows. He was in company in Manchester with a man of the name of William Penrick, he said to Clough “a Blow will soon be struck, they (the Ludds) intend to enter into a new plan. The Mail Coaches are to be stop’d” Clough replied, “what will the Guards be doing.” Ah, they are the same as us, they are Brethren. As soon as the information reach’d Manchester Clough saw Penrick again; the latter said, “well was not I right? you see the Leeds Mail has been stop’d. Clough says whatever this man has told him, it generally proved correct. I consider Sir, Cloughs information to be of the utmost consequence and have sent him to Manchester, to throw himself (as if by chance) into the company of Penrick. He will probably return to me tonight, should he, I will instantly forward the particulars of his conversation with Penrick.

I have [etc]
Francis Raynes Captn
Stirling Militia

Major General Acland
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2nd November 1812: Earl Fitzwilliam seeks General Maitland's opinion on a Special Commission to try the West Riding Luddites

November 2nd. 1812

Dear Sir

Since I had last the pleasure of seeing you, many committals to York Castle have been made, for divers of those Acts, which have been considered as of the most serious and atrocious nature. Mr. Radcliffe is now of Opinion, that he has evidence to convict both the Murderers of Horsfall, and the Assailants of Cartwrights premises, there is likewise strong presumptive nay positive evidence against Schofield for the attempt on Hinchliffe's life. It is possible likewise that Twisting in may be brought home against those committed from Barnsley.

At all events York Castle is full of Luddites: Mr. Radcliffe has alone committed 43, and when I last heard from him, had Warrants out against others.

The Evidence to be brought forward in the principal Cases, has been transmitted for the consideration of the Crown Law Officers, should it in their Opinion, be sufficient for convicting any of the Parties, or rather should they think, there was no risk of failure in every Case, the question then arises, whether it will not be adviseable to petition for a Special Commission to be sent down as early as possible. This is much the Opinion of All the Magistrates and Gentleman I have seen, the long dark Nights are now fast approaching; daring attacks on Houses by most considerable numbers, (manifestly from their modes of proceeding in a State of organized discipline,) have been very frequent of late: it is true, their chief object now appears to be Plunder; Arms they take, if they fall in their Way, but they appear no longer their first and ultimate object, as they did when the Luddite system first sprung up.

Hitherto the Luddites have in this Riding appear’d invulnerable: the system of Oaths seems to render the Parties concern’d, secure, and out of the reach of the Law, An appearance leading to an extreme danger to the peaceable part of Society, who have no Protection, but what the Law affords.

To restore therefore to the Law its efficacy, by bringing under its lash those, who set it at defiance, is indispensable, and that this should be done immediately is the anxious wish of All I see; but the restoration of tranquillity is so much placed in your hands, and you have done so much towards it, that without knowing your Opinion respecting the propriety of petitioning for a Special Commission I cannot think of making that request.—

Have the goodness to let me hear what you think on this point.—

I have [etc]
Wentworth Fitzwilliam

[To] Lt: Genl
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2nd November 1812: 'Combination among Journeymen' - Scottish workers prosecuted for organising

The Leeds Intelligencer carried this story about the State's response to workers organising in Scotland
Combination among Journeyman.—A prosecution was lately brought at Kelso before the Justices of the Peace of the County of Roxburgh, at the instance of the Procurator Fiscal, against a number of journeymen Shoemakers, for having entered into a combination for regulating the wages to be paid by the masters. It appeared that such a combination had been entered into—that money was subscribed and collected for the members who refused to work below the wages fixed by the society, and for the support of their families—that they were connected with similar societies at a distance, both in England and Scotland— that when any of the journeymen belonging to such societies left their place of residence, on being refused the wages they demanded, they were furnished with tickets, entitling them to support from the societies in the towns they went to, so long as they remained out of work, and in the case of prosecutions being brought against them for their conduct as members of such societies, relief was to be afforded them from other societies with whom they were connected, to enable them to pay the fines expences incurred. In a Court holden on the 9th ult. four of the defendants, namely, William Lillie, John Ormston, Alex. Buchan, and John Bell, being found guilty, were committed to the county gaol for 14 days. John Pringle another of the offenders, had absconded, and has not since been heard of. The Justices, on pronouncing judgement, pointed out the illegality of such combinations and the bad effects of them even to the delinquents themselves, and at times intimated, that should a similar instance again come before them, they would inflict a more severe punishment.