Friday 27 September 2013

Lesley Kipling: 'Luddites in My Life', a tribute

Lesley Kipling with an authentic 'Enoch'
I was saddened to hear of the death yesterday of the Huddersfield historian and author Lesley Kipling. Lesley has done more than most to raise the profile of the real story of the Luddites over the past 30-plus years, and her meticulous research and work in chronicling the history of the West Riding Luddites, alongside her co-author Alan Brooke, is unparalleled and deserves much more attention and consideration than she has received. Indeed, the monumental work 'Liberty or Death' is in my opinion the finest work on the West Riding Luddites, finer than any other work by 'professional' academics I can think of. Without it, and the indispensable 'On the Trail of the Luddites' co-authored with Nick Hall (sadly, long out of print), this website would not exist in the same way and my work would have been much more difficult.

Due to ill-health, Lesley was conspicuously absent from many of the events held in Huddersfield during the 2012/2013 part of the bicentenary commemorations, although she was present at the official republication launch of 'Liberty or Death' in May 2012. Although I got a brief chance to say 'hello' to her, I did not then and will not now be able to talk with her in depth about her work and my appreciation for it, which will be a lasting regret.

Alan Brooke has written a wonderful obituary about Lesley, which is featured on his website here.

The article below, 'Luddites in My Life', was first published in 1988 in the bulletin of Huddersfield Local History Society, and I am republishing it here as a tribute.
'Luddites in My Life'

One way or another, a great deal of my life seems to be taken up by Luddites - talking about them, reading about them, thinking about them, writing about them. Even as I travel to and from work on the bus I regularly pass John Wood's Cropping Shop, Fishers Shop, the site of the Horsfall murder, Dungeon Wood or Milnsbridge House (Yes, Metro Kirklees do have some odd bus routes!). And each time I pass these places, I find myself thinking once again about the men involved. I often feel that if I ever bumped into them I would know them instantly, so much do they seem like living people to me.

You have probably come to the conclusion by this time that I am completely potty, and you may well be right, but there have been periods of my life where I have breathed, slept and eaten Luddites, metaphorically speaking, and this has left its mark.

My most frequent Luddite activity (not to be misconstrued I hope!) is to go out and give talks, which I do very frequently. The groups which I visit vary from the well informed and keenly interested, through to the less informed but interest to those who quite frankly would prefer me to give a talk on the most inexpensive way of buying disposable nappies. The reactions of various groups are obviously different. To some extent my views on the Luddites are not conventional, and many would disagree with some of them. However, after many years of researching the Luddites and their background and thinking of them both in the context of their own period and the present day, I have come to conclusions which I believe firmly, and would argue with anyone who held other views, putting my own case in as reasoned a manner as possible.

So, on the occasions I am heckled I am quite prepared for this, indeed I expect it, and without saying anyone else was incorrect, I would simply state the reasons for my own views. Frequently I am asked questions which I cannot answer. Sometimes this is because there is no answer, or at least none that I know of, at other times it is because the question is so unexpected that I have never thought of it myself. In either case, I do try to discover the answer if it is possible, because research never ends, and I am constantly adding odds and ends to my store of knowledge. For this reason I am also always grateful for any snippets of information or tradition that any of my audience may have to offer.

Because of my views, I often approach an audience with some trepidation - with some groups I can expect a sympathetic hearing, some I am unsure of, and with others I tend to anticipate a touch of hostility. However, I've never had an audience walk out on me yet, though there's always a first time! More commonly, people will nod off - I don't mind, as it is easy to do if you are sitting in a warm room listening to someone droning on, and often feel like it myself after a hard day at work - the only difference is that I have something to keep me awake! I always say that I never show slides for this reason - turning out the lights only encourages people to nod off quicker! Often when booked to give a talk, I feel as I stagger home from work that the last thing I want to do is set off again, usually in foul weather. But I have never lost my enthusiasm for my subject, no matter how often I repeat my talk, and I soon shake off my lethargy - after all, it is new to my audience if not to me.

Normally when giving a talk there is only a limited amount of time, so I always concentrate on giving the background to the Luddite risings, rather than talking about the events of the year. It may be less interesting but I feel that this is one of the least understood aspects of Luddite history and also one of the most important. I always point out that there are numerous books available which record events and those who are interested can read more for themselves.

The other main aspect of my life with the Luddites is working with the Media. That sounds very grand - much grander than it is! I occasionally manage to supply stories for the local newspapers, though naturally enough they prefer to write these up themselves. I have also done two broadcasts for Radio Leeds, both of which, unknown to myself, went out live - on the second occasion I was told it was to be recorded, but they changed their minds at the last moment, which unnerved me somewhat! Both were reasonably successful, but alas, I have no recording of them. I'm not sure whether it was more disturbing to sit in the Town Hall Cellar speaking into space, or to have the interviewer walk around Red House with me complete with microphone, cable and earphones!

Television is of course the most glamorous medium to be involved in - or so they say! I quickly learned from them all the jargon - particularly the need for 'visuals' - these are very important! So important that the presence of Marsden stocks close to Enoch Taylor's grave inspire an urge to have Luddites filmed in the stocks. No, I said, there wasn't any actual record of this. Disappointment all round! It is very difficult to curb the enthusiasm of television crews for this kind of theatrical effect. Real life is never quite exciting enough. My general observation is that BBC2 are the most upper class, ITV have the most money, and Look North are on a tight schedule and a tight budget.

The programmes I was involved with were a "Chronicle" episode on Riots, shot in the snow: during which I dined with Simon Winchester, later to languish in an Argentinian jail during the Falklands War (very distinguished conversation about Nannies and Public School life, and the meal was a disaster) and more recently Thames Television's "The Luddites". This was quite fascinating, as I worked with them over a period of months and they kept on phoning with awkward questions like 'What did the Luddites do in their spare time?' I think my answer was 'not a lot'. I also watched them do some of the filming, which was quite an experience, and very enjoyable. They did tell me I would object to some things they had done in the final film, and they were right, but on the whoIe I approved of the programme and, felt that they had captured the spirit of the times. My other experience was a brief item for 'Look North' when I had the distinction of being interviewed. This was very nerve racking and the interviewer had such beautiful blue eyes that I kept mine firmly fixed on the ground in case I dissolved into giggles. This was made all the more likely by the sight of the sound engineer with his furry microphone creeping round my feet! The questions were tough too, and to a large extent quite unexpected, so I had to think fast! Alas, I have no record of this historic recording either, so I am lost to posterity. However, the crews were quite charming and a lot of laughs!

Finally, I am involved in writing about the Luddites. "On the Trail of the Luddites" was published in 1982 (hence the chance for "Look North" viewers to see a film of me staring at my feet.) It was based on my original historical notes, but Nick Hall had the idea of turning it into a trail format and it was he who walked and biked the route, as I am no athlete! Despite vigorous protests at proof reading stage, the first edition came out with glaring errors which made me shudder, but these were corrected in the reprint. The book has been a great success, I believe, but sadly, despite what was said at the time, the publishers at Pennine Heritage do not pay Royalties. So neither Nick nor I are a penny better off, and of course, we have nothing in writing, to my Solicitors' regret!

My latest venture has been to write the introduction to the reprint of D.F .E. Sykes' Luddite novel 'Ben O' Bill's'. This wonderful little book was becoming very scarce, and a group of friends decided to mount a rescue attempt by publishing a reprint. I was honoured to be asked to write an introduction to such a marvellous book, and as someone said, I did come cheaper than most. As with all publishing ventures it was a risk, and so far none of the Lambsbreath Publications have even made back their original investment. An awful lot of our friends will be getting 'Ben O' Bill's' for Christmas! Having said that the venture has been fun, and an interesting experience for all of us, and a fascinating book has been returned to circulation. So, my most recent Luddite activity is giving publicity to Ben O' Bills and selling as many copies as possible. All who have read it have thoroughly enjoyed it, so here comes the plug - available from the publishers at Old Vicarage, Scammonden at £12.50 plus 25p p&p. It would make a wonderful Christmas present, as many of my friends and relatives are about to discover, so bear it in mind when writing your Christmas shopping list!

Why Lambsbreath publications many have asked? It's a long story, out of Cold Comfort Farm via homemade wine to the name of a publishing group, but it meant something to all of us, and my kitten, born shortly after publication date, has been named Lambsbreath in commemoration!

Luddites have led me into many fields, I often wonder where they'll lead me next! But I still find the subject as fascinating as ever, and will continue to pursue my enquiries and activities as long as I can. And who knows, one day, when I finally meet up with George Mellor and his comrades in the Happy Hunting Ground, I shall be able to discover the final answer to all my questions, and I shall at last know for sure. The only trouble is, I don't suppose they'll let me come back to tell you all the answers from my ultimate piece of research!

Lesley, with Alan Brooke, at the re-launch of 'Liberty or Death' in May 2012

Wednesday 25 September 2013

25th September 1813: Joseph Radcliffe is made a Baronet

On Saturday 25th September 1813, Joseph Radcliffe, the West Riding magistrate and Luddite-baiter was made a Baronet. Nine months earlier, General Maitland had essentially blocked the possibility when it was openly mooted by Earl Fitzwilliam, but with the West Riding bourgeoisie lobbying for recognition for Radcliffe and Maitland out of the way in Malta, there was now no impediment to bestowing the title upon Radcliffe.

It was widely reported that the title was official recognition for his efforts to suppress Luddim in the West Riding, but less so that the government waived Radcliffe's 'expenses' that would usually be due: with the Lancaster Gazette stating that 'this is the only patent passed gratuitously for civil services for a century or more'.

A Baronetcy is an hereditary honour, and the current Radcliffe baronet is Sebastian Everard Radcliffe, 7th Baronet.

Friday 13 September 2013

13th September 1813: The trial of William Beston, at Chester Lammas Assizes, for burglary

William Beston was the brother of Simeon Beston, who had been convicted 3 days before of Burglary at Chester Lammas Assizes. It was he who the Chester Chronicle had erroneously accused of being a Luddite, on account of an involvement in rioting at Stockport in April 1812. In fact, it was his co-accused, James Renshaw, who had been convicted thus.

I have included this trial on account of this slip, and also because William Beston shared the same fate as his brother and Renshaw.
[William Beston] alias Basnett, aged 42, a weaver from North Etchells, was indicted for a burglary and felony, in the dwelling house of Samuel Harding, of Swettenham, on the 6th of June last, and stealing cash, notes, &c. to the amount of 100l. and upwards.

The circumstances of this case bore all the alarming features which characterized the trial of Simeon Beston and James Renshaw, on Friday.

Lucy Harding, wife [of] the prosecutor, stated her husband to be a cripple. I went to bed (said she) between 10 and 11 o'clock, together with my daughter and son-in-law. Between 1 and 2, I was alarmed by a noise in the shop, and the light of a candle. A man entered the room, (another standing at the door) and said he wanted some bread and cheese. I said there was but little in the house. One of the men had a black face, and he said to the other, "You may go down."—He went down stairs. They afterwards rifled the boxes; and the man at the head of the steps said, if I did not get into bed, he’d blow my brains out!—They had both of them pistols. When they were going into the adjoining room, the man with a black face, presented a pistol to my husband's head, and demanded his money. He said there was no more; there might be some in the adjoining room, but it did not belong to him. He then came to me, demanding the key, saying if I did not surrender he would blow my brains out! The man without his face backed, came to me, with a candle and pistol, and insisted on me getting out of bed, and delivering the money. I did so; and the man with a black face said, "Is there no gold?" I told him the other man had got it out of the desk. I then went into bed again, and they followed me, saying, if I did not lie still they would blow my brains out, as they were guarding the house. At this time I heard somebody below in the shop. On examining the house after they were gone, I found they had gone out, through the door, but had entered at the window. They had broken the stanchion and cut out the glass.—They were in the house about 20 minutes, and the man without the blackface is the prisoner at the bar. He held a candle in his hand; I knew him when he was a boy, for he had not changed his face although he had changed his clothes. A man had come to the shops for half an ounce of tobacco, and I judge the man with a black face to be the person. They took 14 guineas, a half guinea, Bank of England Bills, Local Notes, some silver coin, nineteen shillings in copper out of the shop, tied in a handkerchief, and twenty shillings or more in copper out of the drawer—altogether about one hundred pounds.

On cross-examination by Mr. D.F. Jones, she said she had no doubt of the prisoner’s identity.

The daughter of the last witness corroborated the testimony of her mother. She had fastened all the doors and windows. The prisoner at the bar was the man who rifled her trunk—he took some silver in a purse.

The husband of the preceding witness gave a similar testimony.—When the men were in the room, he said to the man with a black face, "You've taken all the money;" the robber replied, "If you don't hold your noise, I'll blow out your brains."—Saw the prisoner at the Bar distinctly. Knew him again at the justice’s; had seen the man before at Wilmslow.

Another witness deposed she had seen the prisoner and two other men in the road, at Carrington Heath.

James Gardner said he had seen the prisoner and two others at Bowden, at 5 o'clock on the morning after the robbery; the prisoner was drinking, but the others were at the the door tossing for two shillings, half-a-crown, and five shillings at a time.—Beston had some copper in a handkerchief behind him, and he paid the shot out of it.

Thomas Hall deposed, that on Whitsun Monday he saw the prisoner at the Round-about at Altrincham; he was lying on a sofa, apparently asleep. A pistol was hanging out of his pocket. A man present took the pistol gave it to witness, who drew the ramrod, in order to discover whether it was loaded; but there not being a screw to it, he got a skewer, and knocked the charge out on the table. It was heavily loaded, and had five large slugs at the top!—The prisoner pulled out a purse there, in which was about 12 or 14 shillings or guineas; he could not tell which.—[A purse was handed to witness, which he said was similar as to color and make, to the one produced by the prisoner]

Robert Oldham, a publican of Chester, said the prisoner was at his house on Sunday the 13th of June.—On Monday he asked for change for a guinea. Witness thought he was joking, from the great scarcity of that coin; but the prisoner produced a guinea, and witness changed it. On Wednesday or Thursday following, he changed another.

Anne Foulkes, of the Livre, Chester, remembers the prisoner being at her house the 14th June last, when he changed a 5l. Macclesfield note.

Mr. Lloyd, Solicitor, of Stockport, was examined as to the distance from Swettenham to Bowden, which he stated to be about 12 or 13 miles the nearest way, but by way of Knutsford it was probably more than 13 miles.

The examination of the Prisoner was here produced. In it the prisoner denied being from home the particular nights in question, &c.

One of the Jury stated the distance between Swettenham and Bowden to be about twelve miles.

The Prisoner being asked for his defence, replied "I have nothing to say."

His Lordship then recapitulated the whole of the evidence, and the Jury immediately found the prisoner—Guilty.
William Beston was later sentenced to death. A later edition of the Chester Chronicle commented on William Beston's reaction to the sentencing:
Immediately after sentence was passed upon them, William Beston, holding up his fist in a threatening position, said, "[Damn] thee, [Lloyd] I may thank thee for this?" pointing to a respectable attorney in court, who had been the principal means of apprehending the desperadoes!

Tuesday 10 September 2013

10th September 1813: The trial of Simeon Beston & James Renshaw at Chester Lammas Assizes, for burglary

At Chester Lammas Assizes in 1813 two trials took place which have not, up until now at least, been deemed relevant to the chronicles of Luddism in the north of England. Upon reading about them, one may ask why this should be any different. However, two factors demand their inclusion.

The first is the involvement of the Stockport solicitor, and Luddite-baiter, John Lloyd. He seems to have been behind the prosecution of the three men. The second factor is that the local press, chiefly the Chester Chronicle, focused on the fact that one of those on trial was (regarded as) a Luddite, and had been before the court at the Chester Special Commission nearly 16 months previously. In fact, they named the wrong man: William Beston. It was in fact James Renshaw who had been charged with riot and robbery in Stockport in April 1812, and had pleaded guilty, but had been discharged on recognizances.

The trial of Simeon Beston and James Renshaw took place approximately on Friday 10th September. The Chester Chronicle's report of it follows:

The former aged 26, a weaver from Ringway; the latter aged 30, a weaver, from Wilmslow, for a burglary and felony in the house of Joseph Harding, of Henbury, in the night of the 28th of April last.

Joseph Harding stated, that on the night of the 28th April last, he went to bed about 9 o'clock; about a quarter of an hour afterwards, his wife followed, having previously secured the doors and windows.—He never heard the robbers till they came to his bed,—He awoke, and perceived "two men, one at each side of the bed with a candle in one hand and a Pistol in the other!" They had "black faces, and were disguised in shirts over their clothes!" Another man was guarding the door; One only spoke; he demanded my money, and said "if I did not deliver he would blow my brains out in a minute!" The other man then spoke a good deal, he demanded where my money was? I said I could not tell. They then went down stairs, leaving the other man guarding the door with a pistol in his hand—Those down stairs, opened the door, and whether any others came in or not, I do not know. They were in the house a long time, having plundered every place, and taken the windows out before I knew. I had two clocks in the house, both going, but they stopped them. They took the clothes off the bed to look for money, and broke open a box. They forced my wife to unlock all the drawers and cupboards, and they took a 40l. bill. They brought the money up stairs, and looked it over; and whilst they were bending down opening a box on the stair landing, I cropped under his arm, and jumped through a window. One of the men, Beston, put the note in his breeches pocket; I said it would do him no service; he replied "You don't know that." On getting out of the window, I went to Peter Gaskill's, and we got some other of the neighbours up, in all seven. As soon as the robbers missed me, they ran away. We went in search, and after a while we found them, Beston and Renshaw, sitting under a hedge, about 5 miles from my house. This was about 5 or 6 o'clock. We started in pursuit about 3. They lay as if asleep, one of them reading a piece of paper; I said they must go with us to Butley Ash. They had a very large bundle. We told them the house had been broken open. When a little way from Butley Ash, one of the men (Beston) jumped aside of the road, and pointed a pistol at me, saying, "Stand-off! " I had a pikel in my hand, and immediately knocked him down, got hold of his foot, secured him, and took him to Butley Ash with the other prisoner; they were searched there, and on Beston was found a lot of silver, and some copper. I discovered 2 shillings that were mine, one a lettered shilling, the other a Queen Anne’s shilling; on Renshaw was found the 40l. bill; I've seen it about a week before, when I locked it up in a drawer; it was the same I saw upon the box—I found some tax papers and mill bills—In the bundle were found a black crape, which belonged to one of the Prisoners, some sugar, soap, &c. I said at the time, ‘look for a shirt in the bundle and you will find it, torn a little on the left side,’ they had shirts over them. It was Beston who had on the torn shirt. The Bundle were examined at Mr. Downes’s. The house window was cut across the casement, which was taken out, large enough a man to get through—the iron stauchions were broken.

On his Cross-examination by Mr. Barnes,—We slept up two pair of stairs—my family consists only of myself and wife. I could not call them by name at first, I was so fluttered at the time. We had traced steps along the dew; the men were found about 5 miles from the house.

Examined by Mr. D.F. Jones—the men were dressed in shirts—there were three in all as I saw. I was much alarmed; so much so, that I sprang out of the window. Could not name the prisoner to the men at the time, but recollected afterwards. I saw a little of one of their cheeks when he stooped down. Cannot say what they did in the house place, as I was not there. We pursued the men as far as Hollingsworth’s-smithy, about two miles from which we found them—we went that far, having overshot them. We saw two more men up in the field, and pursued them, they dropped some sugar. I lost some sugar, and sugar was found there.

Re-examined by Mr. Benyon—No doubt every thing was fast. The night was very rough; but had any body taken the window out before we went to bed, I must have heard them. Was very much frightened when the men were in the room; but am quite positive Beston was one.

To questions by Judge Richards—I knew Beston before, but he spoke in a feigned voice. I said to the men, I thought it was Beston who had the torn shirt on, and told him where he lived and every thing else.

Isaac Woodall, I live about 6 miles from Beston’s house—I get up early to work; about a mile and a half off, saw two men sitting under a hedge. I stopped and looked at them, wished them good morning, and asked whether they were resting themselves? told them a house had been robbed, and that we had a suspicion of them. Renshaw was reading a paper. The other turned round, and said "What's the matter?" They came with us. Renshaw, when we came to a gate, drew a pistol from his pocket; I heard a snap—and then Harding knocked him down. The other I got and secured, and took him in custody, but in a little while he privately drew a pistol from his side, and snapped it at my groin! We then got possession of the pistol, and they became quiet. They were handcuffed.—Beston dropped two half pounds of sugar, which I picked up.

Cross examined by Mr. D.F. Jones—At this time it was quite light. The pistols were loaded within three quarters of an inch of the muzzle.

John Oldham—picked up a steel to strike a light, which fell from the pocket of one the prisoners. Wm. Robinson corroborated the testimony of the preceding witnesses.

The pistols, crape, sugar, silver, &c. were here produced in court.

The articles were identified. The prisoners were asked what they had to say in their defence?

Renshaw—My Lord, we found the bundle.

Beston—My Lord, I'm innocent of the robbery, as God is my judge!

An attempt was here made by Renshaw's father, Joseph Beston, (the prisoner's brother,) and James Worsencroft, to prove an alibi. We think we are consulting decency and propriety, by withholding from the public the tissue of inconsistencies, and falsehoods, which were disclosed by these witnesses.—Renshaw, the father, said, that he had slept at his son’s the night of the robbery, and that he was not out of the house till the following morning at four o'clock!—Beston's brother stated that the prisoner had slept at his house also the night of the burglary, and did not leave till four o'clock in the morning! Worsencroft was called to corroborate the last witness; whilst the examination of Beston, taken before the Magistrates, stated, that he had left home about 6 o'clock at night, and went to Macclesfield—that he found his brother in bed; that he went into a field, and fell asleep under hey till morning, &c. !

To the the production of this document, Mr. D.F. Jones objected, on the ground of impropriety, the evidence for the prosecution being closed.

Mr. Attorney General combatted what had been advanced by Mr. Jones; he said he had equal rights to produce the examination, as to produce another witness to invalidate what the last witness had stated. If such a proceeding was not to be allowed, Justice would indeed be shut out from our Courts.

Mr Jones, in support of his argument, cited a case of child murder, tried before Mr. Justice Buller, in which it was refused to receive evidence as to the sex of the child (stated in the indictment) because the case for the prosecution was closed.

Judge Richards—I think the evidence admissible—it has nothing to do with the case set up by the prisoners. The prisoners have both attempted to put up an alibi, and surely the crown has a right to answer such evidence.

His Lordship then addressed the Jury, recapitulating the whole of the evidence adduced; and observed, "With the result of your verdict, you have nothing to do—you are before God and your country, and I have every confidence you will do justice to both."

After a few seconds deliberation, the Jury found a verdict of GUILTY–against both the prisoners.

This trial commenced at two o'clock, and was above half-past eight before the Court adjourned.
The Chester Courant noted that Renshaw also stood trial for another matter during the Assizes, and commented on John Lloyd's role:
Renshaw was tried for another burglary, in company with others, in the dwelling-house of George Burgess, at Colshaw, Fulshaw, and was convicted on the clearest evidence. Renshaw and the two Beston's appear to have been the principals of a most desperate gang of robbers, who infested the neighbourhood of Stockport and Macclesfield, last winter; and too much praise cannot be given to that respectable gentleman Mr. Lloyd, solicitor, of Stockport, to whose indefatigable exertions the county is indebted for the conviction of these desperate wretches.
Renshaw and Simeon Beston were later sentenced to death.