Thursday 30 June 2016

30th June 1816: Journeymen Clothworkers of West of England appeal to the Prince Regent for aid

June 30, 1816

That Wee the Journiman Clothworkers of the west of England do humbly beg that your Royal Highness will be so good as to take into Consideration the Distresses of your Petitioners wich are now labouring under the greatest Distress owing to Mechinery and that your Petitioners that have for so many years been out Fiting for your Royal Highness and old England do feel them selves greatly Injured by the use of Mechinery and that your Petitioners was greatly in hopes that when it Pleased the Allmighty to send a peace that we Should have a Trade to Come home to but how shocking was the Change when we Came to our nation home to find so many Poor Pepol out of Employ and it is Distressing to see so many out of work and are now at this Present moment lying in the streets of Bradford and Trowbridge and its Neighbourhood and in time of war there was no giggs nor Frames at Trowbridge but [illegible] to relate it is now Increasin Every Day and that your Petitioners have nothing to support themselves and their Familys but the small sum the Parish will alow and that is but very little Indeed and it was agreed [illegible] to your Petitioners when they Heard the sound of Peace but now they are Compelld to wish for another war to keep from Starving wich will be certainly be the Case if your Royal Highness and the Royal House do not take it into Consideration so we your humble Petitioners do most humbly beg of your Royal Highness to do something further as your Petitioners requires nothing but to live BY their Labour after serving Seven years Aprenticeship

[To] His Royal Highness
The Prince Regent

With Speed London

30th June 1816: M Babington writes to Thomas Babington, the MP for Leicester, about the 'Loughborough Job'

Leicester 29 June 1816

My Dear father

Last night a most violent and successful attack was made upon the Lace Machinery at Heathcoat & Boden at Loughbro & the whole has been destroyed to the amount of about £10,000 as report says. The persons attacking party were organized with the utmost system & secrecy & are supposed to have been assisted by a band from Nottingham. The whole of them answered to numbers instead of names, & were disguised with painted faces, high cravats &c.

Perhaps about 100 persons might be engaged on the whole but it is very difficult even to conjecture, One of the watchmen appointed to guard the premises was shot thro’ the head, tho’ he is still alive, & another was struck with a hatchet with a view of killing him. There were certainly favoured either by treachery or by unaccountable good fortune. The whole destruction was affected in little more than ½ an hour & there is not at present any clue to the guilty. This has thrown more than £300 hands out of employee at Loughbro in one day. The town of Loughbro is in great consternation & even Leicester has been a little on the qui vive this evening but all is quiet at present.

The recurrence of such events is so pernicious & alarming that Government if acquainted with it might perhaps think it necessary to renew the frame breaking act. The effect of that act is thought here to be considerable.

It is said to have been currently reported today amongst the lower orders that Government will not dare to execute rioters at Ely. There have been many meetings of [Stockingers] in different parts of the county, & the result has seemed generally to be perfectly harmless, but it is difficult to know entirely what passes. I am in no apprehension of any mob keeping a head at Leicester as they did in some parts, because I am sure we have strength to put them down but there may be silent frame breaking.

Burbridge is in London now to Mansfields discomfort & you may perhaps [illegible] him.

One of the leaders in this affair was on horseback.

Love to all

Yours most [affectionately]
M Babington

Sunday morning 7 oclock. I have heard of no disturbance.

[To] Thomas Babington Esq M.P.
Downing Street

Wednesday 29 June 2016

29th June 1816: The executed rioters are buried in Ely

The memorial plaque, on the south wall of the tower of St Mary's Church, Ely, to the five executed Ely and Littleport rioters, executed on 28 June 1816 & buried the following day (Photo: John McCullough, cc license)
In the evening of Saturday 29th June 1816, the five Ely rioters who had been executed the preceding day, were buried in the churchyard of St Mary's Church at Ely. The Bury & Norwich Post of 10th July 1816 carried a brief report of the funeral:
The bodies of the five unhappy sufferers for the late Riots (whose execution was noticed in our last) were committed to the care of the Chief Constable, who, at the express wish of their relations, provided a house to deposit them in, where they were decently and respectfully laid in their coffins, attended by four constables until the funeral took place on Saturday evening, when they were carried to church in the following order:—A company of singers from Littleport walked before, singing the 104th Psalm through the streets to Church: next the Chief Constable and Mr. Barlow, keeper of the prison, with their staves of office, covered with black, and themselves also dressed in black; then followed the corpse of Beamiss, he being the elder; next his relations; the other four were carried two abreast, with their respective relations following each corpse.—From the great concourse of spectators, it was thought necessary to have the attendance of several constables.—The bodies were all deposited in one grave, by the side of each other, in the church yard of Ely St. Mary's, in the most decent and respectful manner.—The reports circulated of disturbances on this occasion, and the further mischief committed in the Isle, are all unfounded.

29th June 1816: The under-sheriff writes to the High Sheriff of Nottingham about the 'Loughborough Job'

Nottingham 29 June 1816

Dear Sir

I am sorry to inform you that the organized system and practice of Luddism appears still to be in full force in this Town & Neighbourhood—Last night a considerable body attacked a valuable Lace Manufactory at Loughborough where they shot the watchman through the neck and having previously stationed regular guards at all every neighbouring house and avenue proceeded to destroy all the valuable patent frames to the amount of some thousand pounds—After this they called over their men & marched off—It is pretty well ascertained that this Band came from N & return to Nottingham but at present altho’ the Town Magistrates are on the alert there is no prospect of any being discovered & laid hold of—They were armed with fire arms & to some of their Guns bayonets were attached—There are serious apprehensions that some general movement may be expected as it is not a mere quarrel of masters & workmen but the evil seems to extend very wide and it is thought that the removal of the Troops at the approaching Election is looked forward to as a proper time—We have had a communication with the Commanding Officer at the Barracks—It is I think by no means improbable that she may be called upon to act in your Capacity of the principal officer of the County and it would be by no means improper for you before you leave Town to have a Communication with the Secretary of State for the Home Department and with the Lord Lieutenant—You can form no idea of the dreadful spirit which is at work amidst the lower Classes generally of all descriptions and which I am persuaded the utmost vigilance & strongest measures alone can prevent bursting forth with most mischievous energy—Small Bodies of men have been collecting money from house to house in the neighbouring villages under pretence of applying for support to the Framework knitters in an application made by them to Parliament against a particular sort of work their petition against which having been received by the House of Commons is made an Argument—These men the Villagers dare not refuse & much money has been so collected; how to be employed remains to be seen – but this is a repetition of what passed previously to the former commencement of Luddism—

I have had communication with the Town Clerk & know that every thing bad is expected and that the presence of a strong body of Troops is absolutely necessary and scarcely sufficient to prevent an explosion—Excuse my thus troubling you and believe me to remain Dr Sir

Yours obliged hble Servt
Robert Leeson
partner to the under Sheriff

P.S. Mr Jameson the Under Sheriff was not here when your Letter yesterday arrived—It is expected I believe by the County that the Sheriff shd. preside at the Nomination—

[To] Sir R.H.Bromley Bart.

29th June 1816: The solicitor William J Lockett, sends a report about the 'Loughborough Job' to the Home Office, implicating James Towle

Loughbro’ June 29th 1816

My Lord

A very alarming outrage was  committed last night, upon the property of Messr. Heathcoat and Boden of this place, makers of Bobbin lace by patent Machinery. The magistrates will transmit to your Lordship, copies of the depositions of witnesses, relative to the transaction, and I have been directed in the mean to lay before you the following particulars.

Messrs. Heathcoat & Boden's Factory is situate at the northwesternedly extremity of the town of Loughbro’, near the turnpike road to Ashley de la Zouch. It contained about fifty three patent Bobbin Lace frames, all of which were worked in the day time, and a certain number in the night. On Friday night nine or ten persons were at work in the frames, and at eleven oclock six other persons were left by Mr Boden in the factory, as a nightly watch and guard. These men were provided with arms, and their duty was to have remained, with the doors properly secured, within the Factory. But four out of the six, that night left the premises about half past eleven oclock, and went drinking in a public house in the town, during the whole time of the outrage being committed.—It appears also that they left the doors unlocked.

About a quarter, or half an hour past twelve oclock a number of persons (one hundred and upwards) assembled from various quarters, but in great order, about the Factory. They immediately formed themselves into divisions, and took their stations, as guards in the street at the end of which the building is situate.—at all the [corners] communicating with the street,—and that the back of the premises.—They forced every person appearing in the street into their houses, & fired at several persons in the street, and that their chamber windows, previous to and during the outrage.—

One of Messrs. Heathcoat and Boden's workmen was coming to his work at the Factory. He says, that four of the mob came to him,—asked him where he was going, and afterwards forced their way with him, into the outer yard and from there into the building.—They were followed immediately by fifteen or sixteen others.—These men, all but two, were disguised,—having their faces blacked, silk handkerchiefs over their mouths, & their coats turned and they were armed with pistols, hammers, and other weapons. Then The room on the ground floor, into which they first entered is a Smiths Shop; and cashing house.—Here they were opposed by one of the guards, who presented and would have fired his pistol at their first man, but it was not cocked.—The man at whom it was aimed, immediately fired at the guard, and wounded him in the head with a slug, or flat piece of lead, but did not kill him, and he is likely to recover. The wounded man fell, and they insisted upon the others lying down with their faces to the floor.—A sentry was left in charge of them;—and the rest of the mob, then went up stairs, where, after little resistance, they forced all the workman from their frames, insisted on their lying on their faces,—and afterwards demolished every frame in the building—destroyed the lace partly by fire, and partly with their [implements] and did the damage. They then went out, and marched off in divisions, apparently in the same order, in which they assembled.

They were employed in this work of destruction about forty minutes, communicating with their associates on the outside of the premises by the discharge of pistols, when they entered the Yard,—when they got into the building,—when they begun, and finished the demolition of frames, in each apartment, when they left the building, and when they assembled before their separation — A party of them at the end of the town on the road to Derby met an invalid soldier, and they abused and fired a shot at him but without effect.

It has been ascertained that at least Seventy of the party are notorious framebreakers from Nottingham and that neighbourhood;—as they were seen at exactly four this morning on their return in different parties and [deceptions]. James Towle who was tried at the last summer Assizes was one of this number.

Messrs. Heathcoat & Boden,—and Mr Lacy who is the proprietor of the only other lace Manufactory in this place, about six weeks ago, reduced their workmens wages, which of course created great discontent, amongst a description of men, never satisfied, and of the most furious dispositions, tho’ the workmen admitted of these [illegible], without extraordinary [exertion], from 30 [shillings] to £3 per week. About a week ago, Mr Lacy was intimidated into an advance of the wages of his men. Messrs. Heathcoat & Boden, [persisted] in keeping down theirs and they have suffered. Their loss in Machinery and Lace and [illegible] of a most valuable trade, will not be less than £10000—they propose to offer a reward of 500 [guineas] for the apprehension and conviction of the offenders—and the Magistrates direct me to request your lordship to offer a reward on the part of Government

The men from Nottingham were probably the perpetrators of the mischief but it is clear that they have had the Co-operation of many of Messrs. Heathcoats servants. Without such Co-operation such an extraordinary combination of circumstances favourable to the Commission of the offence could not have happened

I have the honor to be My Lord
Your Lordships Most obedt humble Servt
Mr Jeffrey Lockett

[To: Lord Sidmouth]

29th June 1816: The MP for Leicestershire, George Legh Keck, writes to the Home Office about the 'Loughborough Job'

Stoughton Grange

My Lord

The Information which your Lordship will of [course] have received respecting the late destruction of the Lace frames at Loughborough renders it unnecessary [to say] more on that lead than that the precise [Arrangement] & dispatch manifested upon that Occasion prove a mischievous Activity of spirit & a System which require the earliest & most decided attention, & under this conviction I beg to recall & your Lordships [Recollection] past [scenes] which originated there a [illegible] – for probably Nottingham may be regarded as the Head Quarters of General Ludd who, it seems is neither dead nor sleepeth – but the General state of the Hosiery Trade is now such as to preclude the Employment of its workmen, & they are consequently doubly open to [reduction] by hundreds at this time.

In truth their distress is very great & as I mentioned to Beckett before I left Town the urgent Expediency of sending some dragoons at Leicester so I can not feel to press this Suggestion on your Lordships earliest consideration as the [essential] means of preventing disturbances which the absence of any force at the moment like the present seems about to merit.

The [Adjutant] of our Yeomanry Corps informs me that he was yesterday requested to be at home in case he should be [wanted], & I need not point out to your Lordship how impossible it would be at this Season of the year to expect any continued [Service] from a Yeomanry Corps without the most serious Sacrifice of their Individual Interests, to which I am confident your Lordship does not mean to expose them—

The Local Authorities in Leicester & [throughout] this Instant are doing all which zeal & prudence can do, but the times are really  such as require not only every measure of [Precaution], but the immediate means of meeting the Evils which at any moment may occur—

Deeply impressed with the [Conviction] I can not but communicate the same to your Lordship & remain

My Lord
Yours Very Truly
[Legh Keck]

June 29th

The Viscount Sidmouth
&c &c &c

29th June 1816: The Mayor of Leicester informs the Clerk of the Peace about the 'Loughborough Job'

Leics June 29

My dear Sir

I think it advisable to send to you a parcel by to day's Coach hoping you may receive it in Time tomorrow to represent to the Secty of State a transaction which took place last night at Loughboro’ and which has caused a considerable sensation in this place

About 1 oClo this morning a party of frame Breakers broke into Heathcoats’ Lace Manufactory at Leicester after shooting & dangerously wounding the Watchman who guarded it, & compelling a party of night Workmen whom they found in the Mill occupied in their business, to lay flat on their faces, threatening to shoot them if they stirred, while some of the party destroyed Lace & Demolished Frames to the extent of many thousand pounds. In less than ½ an hour the whole party having completed their michievous intention, dispersed

300 men are immediately thrown out of work by it – and the System with which the outrage appears to have been conducted was not the least alarming part of it—There are many Groupes about the Streets talking of the affair & I shall not feel surprised if some disposition to outrage is manifested this Evg, especially as I understand there is a kind of rumour spread about that the men condemned at Ely are not to be hanged, for the reason as the report says that Govt. dare not do it.

The falsehood of this only adds to my suspicion that Dark report is set about by some who mean it to have Effect—

Now under these circumstances I cannot help thinking a small party of [Dragoons] might prevent mischief which a large force afterwards sd have difficulty in Stopping—If you are of the same opinion you will see Mr Serjt [Vaughan] or some of the members & use your own discretion.—I shd not like them to come by forced marches – because I do not suggest the idea from alarm, but merely a precaution

I have not time to add more but remain

Yrs very Sincerely
Mr Mansfield

[To Thomas Burbridge]

29th June 1816: Mass Luddite attack on Heathcoat & Boden's factory at Loughborough

The former factory that belonged to Heathcoat & Boden, in an image from the 20th Century. The building has since been demolished, and an Iceland supermarket stands on the site on Market Street (formerly Mill Lane) (image: Anthony Jarram)
In the early hours of Saturday 29th June 1816, a large group of Luddites undertook a large-scale frame-breaking operation against the Loughborough factory belonging to Heathcoat & Boden. It was the largest operation undertaken in the midlands counties, and the events of that night & the attendant consequences would reverberate throughout the coming months. The Nottingham Review's extensive report of what took place (carried in the Leicester Chronicle of Saturday 6th July 1816) is carried below:


We have this week the painful task of recording an outrage of the frame-breakers, which, very far, exceeds any thing of the kind that has ever before happened, since enormities of this description first spread terror amongst us in March, 1811; and being well aware, from the rumours that have been afloat for several days, that our readers would feel the utmost anxiety to learn the particulars of this deplorable catastrophe, we have spared no pains in endeavouring to satisfy them as much as we possibly could, "neither extenuating, nor setting down aught in malice." About a quarter-past twelve o'clock, on Friday night, or rather on Saturday morning last, a number of men, perhaps about thirty, some of whom were armed and disguised entered a small room, called the casting shop, immediately attached to the rear part of Messrs Heathcoat and Boden's lace factory, (formerly Mr. Douglass's worsted factory,) situate directly at the entrance into the town of Loughborough from Ashby-de-la-Zouch. In this small room were John Asher, Thomas Hyman, and John Webster, three of the men belonging to the factory, the former of whom snatched up a pistol, (kept in the room for the purpose of defence,) and pointed it at the Luddites, as they were coming in at the door, but it did not go off. Some of them, in return, instantly fired at Asher, apparently with a blunderbuss, and wounded him in the back of his head, which either caused him to fall, or he was otherwise knocked down. Hyman, being also at the same moment laid prostrate by his side, and Webster, who got out of doors, in the confusion, to try to escape, was quickly brought back again and placed along-side of his two companions. Sufficient guards were then put over the three, and the residue of the gang, with lights in their hands, proceeded, without loss of time, through the large room, called the setting up room, to the bottom of the stair-case, where meeting with a youth named Ambrose Woodford, they knocked down, placed a guard over him, as they had done to the others and then rushed up stairs into the first floor, which is divided into three parts, or shops, containing altogether twenty-three frames, the whole whereof they broke to pieces, having previously secured, in one of the said three shops, James Powel, (commonly called uncle,) William Soars, and John North, in the same manner as their companions below. Ned’s band then directed their attention to the large room above, in which were thirty frames and five men, viz. Joseph Sherwin, Samuel Street, William Squires, John Langham, and Thomas Smith, the first of whom expressed to his associates, a determination to resist the entrance of the invaders into their room, which determination was properly overheard by the latter, for they advanced to the foot of the stairs with terrific boldness, a stern voice calling out, "advance with the blunderbusses—more blunderbusses here." Sherwin's comrades, now fearing that his opposition might endanger the lives of the whole five, prevailed upon him to change his intention, and let them come up quietly, which they then did without delay. No sooner was this accomplished, than the said five were imperiously commanded to prostrate themselves with their faces to the floor, and not to look about them lest death should be their portion, and at the same time guards were fixed over them, as in the former instances of the like nature. This preliminary being settled, demolition itself was then let loose, until to it went the furies. 
After toiling for the space of perhaps seven or eight minutes, they all stopped on a sudden, as if to listen whether all was right below,—the strictest silence reigned for a few seconds: and afterwards one of them vociferated, "All is well, Ned Ludd do your duty well—it's a Waterloo job by God," when instantly they renewed the work of havoc as before, and continued it for almost the same space of time, thus finishing the destructive scene, except their breaking two incomplete frames, in the setting-up room, as they returned through it upon their retreat. Just before quitting the upper room, one of the Luddites said aloud to his comrades, "Ned go round and see that you have done your duty well," and almost immediately afterwards, the prostrate five were thus addressed, "Now men, if you can tell us of any machines that are working under price if it be one or two hundred miles off, we will go and break them." Receiving a negative to this question, they directly quitted the factory, enjoining the men belonging to it, with terrible threats, not to stir for the space of ten minutes, and offering to shake hands with Asher, the wounded man; telling him withal that they hoped he would soon get better, or words to that effect; and we are happy to inform the public that he is now quite out of danger, and fast approaching complete recovery. They have not only thus destroyed the machines, but even the lace that happened to be upon the respective rollers is mostly hacked to pieces. In one instance they tore it away and set fire to it upon the floor, the flames whereof coming near to Street, he shifted a little; whereupon one of them gave him a kick, and bid him lie still as the fire would not hurt him; Squires too, who once rather changed his position to avoid danger, received a violent blow near his left eye; and Langham, and North were likewise struck from somewhat similar motives. In fact, it seemed a particular maxim with them, as we have before remarked, the deterring as much as possible any one from having a glimpse of their proceedings. Independent of the supposed number of nearly thirty who were actively concerned in committing these excesses in the interior of the factory, it is confidently believed that there were not less than fifty or sixty others stationed on the outside in the manner of sentinels or patroles, in every direction, and even along the Mill-street, to within a few yards of the very Market place of the town. Some of these patroles called aloud, warning the inhabitants to keep in their beds, and not to exhibit any lights; in disobedience of which, one person, who endeavoured to go out amongst them, had eight panes directly broken, in one of his windows, and was threatened with death if he did not keep within. About a dozen panes were also broken in the windows of the factory. 
According to the best information we can collect, this daring outrage occupied the space of about forty minutes, and some of the neighbours go so far as to say that the posse were headed by a man on horseback, who halted his men, and called over his numerical list, when they had quitted the premises about 200 yards, as if to ascertain if any were missing; and that shortly afterwards several shots were fired; either denoting triumph, or by way of defiance as they eventually marched away. We have not heard of any thing having been carried off except some fire arms belonging to the factory. On the other hand, we understand, they left two of their own ramrods behind them. It is very difficult, at present, to form any estimate of the amount of the damages, even by the proprietors themselves; we have however been told, by an experienced workman, that he thinks each of the fifty-three complete frames will require, on an average, 80l. to put them in the same state again; this, of course, would make 4240l.—to which if we add, 60l. more, for the injury to the two incomplete frames to make round numbers, the account would then stand at 4300l. Thus, even admitting it to be any thing near the truth, is a serious sum; and yet, it is scarcely worth mentioning in comparison with the general loss: in the first place to the firm by the great delay to their business, whilst the frames are repairing; and in the next place, to near four hundred men, women, and children, thrown out of employ. It may not be amiss to add, that about two months ago, the workmen at the factory received notice that their wages would all be lowered, which caused, what is called, a general turn-out.—Some of them however soon relented this, and went in again at the reduced prices, whilst others were not permitted that privilege. These proceedings had engendered considerable discontent, and it is not improbable, but they may have had some influence with the perpetrators of the deed in question. Certain it is that until this circumstance very few manufacturers, of an equal extent, were carried on, in this part of the kingdom, where the masters, and men more cordially accorded that they did at this. The Magistrates of the division have almost incessantly been since occupied investigating the affair, and endeavouring to bring to justice the authors of it. The town crier even went round with his bell on Sunday morning warning the inn-keepers against keeping their homes open, later than nine o'clock in the evening. Six men, have at different intervals, been taken up, on suspicion, one of whom has since been set at liberty; three remain in custody at Loughborough, & the other two were yesterday at noon sent under an escort from that town to Leicester. Some implements supposed to be used in destroying the machines, have been seized, and are likewise in the possession of the constables employed by the Magistrates in this business. The Magistrates and police-officers in Nottingham, have also been very active, and many houses in this town have been searched on the occasion. A reward of five hundred guineas is offered in the London Gazette, for such information as will lead to the conviction of the perpetrators.—Nottingham Review.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

28th June 1816: General Byng reports his plans for the military in East Anglia

Ely June 28th 1816—

My Lord,

As I did not attend, and as Sir Henry Dudley has fully informed your Lordship of the particulars of the awful ceremony which took place this day, it is unnecessary for me to occupy your time by any further by any further statement of it—It will I am sure be satisfactory to you, that the Military were not present, nor required, those quartered here, were under Arms and at Exercise, near, but out of sight, and the Cavalry was in its march from Littleport, to reoccupy their Quarters here—Those at Newmarket, Brandon, Cambridge, and Downham, were out in marching order on the road, to whom, when the multitude had quietly dispersed, I sent orders to return—

I propose to direct the Troops quartered at Brandon, and Downham to join their squadrons next Tuesday the 2d July at Newmarket and this place, the Two Companies of Infantry also to join their Regiment at Colchester—and would recommend that no further movement should take place before the 6th or 8th when the 13th Dragoons could be moved on to Grantham, Stamford, Huntingdon & Peterborough occupying these Quarters a few days, they could if all remains quiet in this district, move on to their destination in the North of England, and when they move from hence, a Troop of the Royal Dragoons can replace them at Bury and at Ely—

I have taken the liberty to submit this for your Lordships consideration—it is not that I anticipate any fresh disturbances in these parts, but it is evident to me, that much alarm prevails among the gentry, and much dissatisfaction among the poorer class—it is on that account I recommend to gradually withdraw the Troops—and for the same reason, it may perhaps be advisable, I should continue ten days or a fortnight longer to superintend these movements, and observe upon the effect they produce—I am however entirely at your Lordships disposal, you are so much better able to judge where the presence of the Troops, as well as my own, is most requisite, that I must trust to your goodness to pardon, what perhaps may have an appearance of presumption—but which I am far from meaning in communicating my opinion—I have wrote to Sir Willoughby Gordon by this Post respecting these movements—and as I do not see that my stay here is that all requisite, I propose returning to Colchester tomorrow—

I have [etc]
John Byng—
Major General

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


28th June 1816: The prosecution solicitor, H. R. Evans, writes a report about the Ely executions

Dear Sir

The awful Business is over! The five unhappy wretches behaved with the greatest penitence and submission—acknowledging the Justice of their Sentence, and cautioning their neighbours against the said Effects of Riot under misrule—They have left a paper behind them to that Effect which you shall have a Copy of as soon as I can procure it from Sir H. B. Dudley, to whom it was delivered by the person (a dissenting minister) who drew it up. Sir H. B. Dudley has anticipated my Intentions of writing an account for the Public which he has sent off by this Days post to Lord Sidmouth—

Nothing could exceed the Solemnity, and the silence of the Scene. I was attended by 200 of the Principal Inhabitants on Horseback & by another Hundred on foot. Not a Soldier was present at the Execution or formed any part of the Cavalcade. They had paraded the Town in the morning and then retired from Public View—Genl. Byng was in his plain Cloaths—The Concourse was prodigious—but most orderly—Scarcely a word was heard—we had a Drop made which answered our fullest Expectations, and the unhappy men were launched into Eternity without the horrible pause attending the usual mode of Execution here from a Cart—Every thing that could produce Effect was done. But most of all the Anguish the heart rending cries – the loud mournings and prayers for mercy—and the solemn Appeals of the Prisoners to the populace, contributed to the awful Solemnity of the Scene and which can never be forgotten; while not a murmur was heard against the Justice of the Sentence—The Town is full of Strangers who form themselves into Groupes, and talk over the Business with a Solemnity of Voice and manner, that convinces me that the Impression is indelible – may this necessary but dreadful Act of Justice prove to be a most merciful measure and put a Stop for ever to the Practices that rendered it unavoidable—

The Prisoners had nothing to communicate as to the Authors of the Riot, or the property Stolen, They were too busily employed themselves to know any thing about others—and the Pilfering that took place after the Entering of the houses were committed by women & Children—part of the money taken from Dennis is what he received of Mr. Edwards—Harley said he died the Death he Expected—South confessed, that his Case could not have been pardoned—Crow denied any Intention of murdering Mr. Martin; but he was checked by Dennis who said "yes, yes, he would have been murdered had he been found." meaning by this, that he saw the temper of the mob and which he declared, he Endeavoured to restrain;—and he added that he gave Mr. Martin warning to keep out of the way—Beamiss acknowledged his general Guilt but denied the words imputed to him by Tansley, "make the old fellow lug out." and at the gallows he called out "I forgive Mr. Tansley, tho’ he swore falsely against me." The Drop fell as he was pronouncing these words, Dennis and he were the most awakened, South was the most violent in his Gesticulations. But all were resigned.—

I am &c.
H. R. Evans

Ely. 28 June 1816

28th June 1816: Sir H.B. Dudley sends Lord Sidmouth a report of the Ely executions

Ely College
Friday noon [28th June 1816]

My Lord

The concluding scene has passed, with a [illegible] & impressive solemnity. Many of my brother magistrates, with the principal Inhabitants of the Isle preceded the ceremonial on horseback with white wands; and having a numerous band of Peace Officers Sir John Byng thought with me that it [would] be better that the execution should take place without any appearance of military [among]: but the troops were properly stationed so that immediate access might have been had. The behaviour of the Sufferers has been contrite every one of them acknowledging the Justice of their sentence.—

Your Lordships intention of removing the other convicts from hence has given great satisfaction to the Inhabitants of the City—

The friends of the Sufferers having sent Coffins to the Gaol to remove the bodies for internment with great parade, on Sunday at Littleport, we have thought it our duty to direct the internment to be here in the parish where they died, to prevent the dangerous assembly of the Fen People [that] [would] otherwise take place.

May I request the favor of your Lordship to attend one of your Servants to deliver a small packet to the person to whom it is addressed who will call for it

I have [etc]

[To: Lord Sidmouth]

28th June 1816: The 5 Ely rioters are executed in the city

On Friday 28th June 1816, the 5 rioters sentenced to death at the Ely Special Commission were executed in the City. Two East Anglian newspapers subsequently carried contrasting articles about the spectacle, and these can be found below:

From the Bury & Norwich Post (3rd July 1816 edition):

J. Dennis, I. Harley, W. Beamiss, T. South, and G. Crow were executed on the New Drop, near Ely, on Friday last, pursuant to their sentences, in the presence of many thousands of spectators.—They had shewn the sincerest penitence and contrition since their condemnation, and met their fate with becoming firmness and resignation. Dennis, who was better educated than the others, was continually exhorting them to fervent prayer.—The following is a copy of an acknowledgement which they made and signed at the gaol on the morning of execution:— 
"We, your poor unfortunate suffering fellow-creatures, beg leave to present the public with this our dying acknowledgement of the justice of that sentence which has condemned us to die, for the violent outrages we have committed; and hope it will be a warning to all who may see or hear of us, to avoid the like courses. 
“We acknowledge and confess our sins in general, and we most sincerely beg of God to pardon our sins, fervently hoping and trusting, that God Almighty will, for the all-atoning merits of the Redeemer, receive our precious and immortal souls in his favour, though we have delayed their interests to this late hour, most earnestly entreating, that the Almighty may grant us all our sufferings in this world, and none in the next. 
“We most sincerely warn you all to avoid those sins which have been the cause of bringing us here. By all means avoid irreligion, and vices of every kind, particularly those of swearing, drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, and that of a shameful neglect of the means of Grace, the only means (through the merits of Christ) of our souls salvation. 
“We sincerely recommend to you, that you attend the public worship of God, particularly on the Lord's Day; and most sincerely pray, that all our friends and relations will not put off their repentance to a death-bed, lest that God, whom they have neglected to serve whilst in health and strength, should say unto them at length, as he does to every neglecter of salvation to the last, ‘Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hands, and no Man regarded; ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh.’ Isaac Harley, Wm. Beamiss, Thos. South, John Dennis, Geo. Crow.” 
At the place of execution, J. Dennis addressed the multitude as follows:— 
"All you who are witness to this my disgraceful end, I exhort you, in the name of God, that God before whom I must shortly appear, to avoid drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, whoremongery, and bad company; oh! beware of these sins. I pray you also to avoid rioting! and in every respect refrain from breaking the laws of your country!—Remember the words of the Judge, that tried us for the crimes for which we are now going to suffer, who said, ‘The law of the land will always be too strong for its assailants, and those who defy the law, will, in the end, be subdued by the law, and be compelled to submit to its justice or its mercy.’—We stand here a melancholy example of the power and justice of the law. I freely forgive those who gave their evidence against me: and may the God of mercy forgive me, and have mercy upon my soul!" 
Harley and Beamiss also addressed the people to nearly a similar effect.—Harley said he died the death he expected; South confessed that his case could not have been pardoned; Crow denied any intention of murdering Mr. Martin, but was checked by Dennis, who said—"Yes, yes, he would have been murdered had he been found"—meaning by this that he saw the temper of the mob, which he declared he endeavoured to restrain; and he added, that he gave Mr. Martin warning to keep out of the way. Beamiss acknowledged his general guilt; but denied the words imputed to him by Tansley.
From the Cambridge Chronicle (5th July 1816 edition):
At nine o'clock on Friday morning last, the Ordinary (the Rev. Mr. Griffith) performed his last religious offices in the gaol with the prisoners under sentence of death, and about half an hour after the great bell of St. Mary's tolled the signal, when John Dennis, George Crow, William Beamiss the elder, Thomas South the younger, and Isaac Harley, were brought out with white caps on their heads, tied with black ribbands, and ascended a cart with elevated seats on each side, covered with black cloth, to be conveyed to the usual place of execution. Several of the Magistrates attended in person, accompanied by not less than three hundred of the most respectable inhabitants of the isle, on horseback, with white wands. All the peace officers, with additional ones sworn in special on the occasion, headed by Mr. Edwards, and three other chief constables, with their staffs of office covered with black crape, forming a large body, preceded and followed the melancholy procession, which was conducted without the necessity of any military aid. 
The unhappy sufferers demonstrated the most sincere contrition, and signed an acknowledgement of the justice of their sentence, which they gave to the Ordinary before they left the prison, hoping that their fate would prove an example to the country, and deter others from the perpetration of such crimes for which they were about to die, and particularly their confederates, who had so mercifully escaped being made partakers in their sufferings. 
The procession reached the place of execution about eleven o'clock, where a platform was erected, with a drop, which they ascended. The spectacle was awful and impressive on the surrounding multitude. When they reached the platform they knelt down severally, and prayed fervently for a considerable time; the Ordinary then went up to them and assisted them in their last devotions; after this John Dennis addressed the multitude as follows: 
"All you who are witness to this my disgraceful end, I exhort you, in the name of God, that God before whom I must shortly appear, to avoid drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, whoremongery, and bad company; oh! beware of these sins. I pray you also to avoid rioting! and in every respect refrain from breaking the laws of your country!—Remember the words of the Judge, that tried us for the crimes for which we are now going to suffer, who said, ‘The law of the land will always be too strong for its assailants, and those who defy the law, will, in the end, be subdued by the law, and be compelled to submit to its justice or its mercy.’—We stand here a melancholy example of the power and justice of the law. I freely forgive those who gave their evidence against me: and may the God of mercy forgive me, and have mercy upon my soul!" 
Harley and Beamiss also addressed the people to nearly a similar effect.—Harley said he died the death he expected; South confesses his case could not have been pardoned; Crow denied any intention of murdering Mr. Martin, but was checked by Dennis, who said—"Yes, yes, he would have been murdered had he been found,"—meaning by this that he saw the temper of the mob, which he declared that he endeavoured to restrain; and he added, that he gave Mr. Martin warning to keep out of the way. Beamiss acknowledged his general guilt; but denied the words imputed to him. 
The whole then prayed again for some time, when, on a signal given, the drop fell, and they were launched into eternity almost without a struggle. 
After hanging the usual time, the bodies were put into coffins, given to their respective friends for interment in St. Mary's Church-yard, on Saturday. 
The following is an authentic copy of their voluntary confession:— 
"We, your poor unfortunate suffering fellow creatures, beg leave to present the public with this our last dying acknowledgement of the justice of that sentence which has condemned us to die, for the violent outrages we have committed, and hope it will be a warning to all, who may see, or hear of us, to avoid the like courses. We acknowledge and confess our sins in general, and we most sincerely beg of God to pardon our sins, fervently hoping and trusting, that God Almighty will, for the sake of the all-atoning merits of the Redeemer, receive our precious and immortal souls into his favour, though we have delayed their interests to this late hour; most earnestly entreating, that the Almighty may grant us all our sufferings in this world, and none in the next. We most sincerely warn you all to avoid those sins, which have been the cause of bringing us here. 
“By all means avoid irreligion, and vice of every kind, particularly those of swearing, drunkenness, Sabbath breaking, and that of a shameful neglect of the means of grace, the only means through the merits of Christ, of our souls salvation. We sincerely recommend to you, that you attend the public worship of God, particularly on the Lord's Day; and most sincerely pray that all our friends and relations will not put off their repentance to a death bed, lest that God, whom they have neglected to serve whilst in health and strength, should say unto them at last, as he does to every neglecter of salvation—‘Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hands, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh.’ 
The Marks of  
In the presence of BENJ. BARLOW, Gaoler. 
A true copy.
Acting Magistrates for the Isle of Ely.

28th June 1816: The Treasury Solicitor writes to the Home Office about prosecutions for rioting at Brandon

Lincolns Inn
28th June 1816


In answer to your note of yesterday, transmitting a note from His Grace the Duke of Grafton, in which His Grace requested to be furnish with a List of persons the county of Suffolk, who are to be prosecuted by Government, together with a Specification of their respective crimes; I beg leave to acquaint you that I have not received any Depositions from County, Except with respect to the persons implicated in the Riot at Brandon on the 16th & 17th May, whose names are contained in the inclosed List; and from those Depositions it does not appear, which are the persons implicated remain at large, have been admitted to Bail, or have been committed for Trial.

I beg leave therefore to suggest that if there are any other prisoners whose offences may be presumed by the Magistrates to fall within the description of those, which Lord Sidmouth has directed to be prosecuted at the Expence of Government, it is highly desirable that the Depositions against them should be transmitted to this Office without further delay, for the consideration of the Attorney and Solicitor General.

I have [etc]


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

Offenders charged with Riot at Brandon
16 & 17. May. 1816.

Clarke William
Dyer Helen
Field Robert
Peverett Willm
Rampling Mingay
Spendlove Henry
Talbot Porter
Wigger James
Folkes Ann

Monday 27 June 2016

27th June 1816: Thomas Gooch MP informs the Home Office of arson at his property

Milford House
nr. Godalming
June 27th 1816.

My Lord.

Understanding that my Brother “MP for Suffolk” has communicated to your Lordship's Office, the unfortunate fire that happened on my premises last Saturday; I think it right to inform you what steps have been taken in the business—In the first place, it is the opinion of all who were present at the fire, that it was done on purpose, L Taunton from Bow Street is of the same opinion—a reward of £500 is offered for the apprehension of the person or persons who committed the act—

a Person is this day committed by Lord Midleton, to jail from on suspicion of setting fire to the Wharf at Godalming last November, which he confessed to have done to a man at Godalming, but which he denied this [morning] before Lord Midleton;—

This same person having asked respecting the fire at my Barn said positively he never heard of it, & afterwards that he believed he had—Taunton who was present strongly suspects him, as he could give no account of himself last Saturday, the day my premises were [burnt]

I should have mentioned to your Lordship, that it is generally supposed, that the cause of the fire, was my having a Thrashing machine, & I have myself in no doubt of it.—If Government should think proper to offer a pardon to any accomplice I think it might have a very good effect, as the reward of £500 might then have more effect weight—

I have [etc]
Thomas Gooch

Sunday 26 June 2016

26th June 1816: Former Bolton spies appeal to the Home Secretary for financial aid

Bolton-le-Moors 26 June 1816

My Lord

It is with extreme reluctance that the following lines are offered to your Lordship’s notice, unaided as they are by any recommendations of persons of wealth or fulfilling the Offices of civil authority; the peculiarity of our situations however we trust will insure to us your Lordship’s pardon for the intrusion and obtain for us a due consideration of the contents of this letter—

We are three of those, we may say unfortunate persons, though very fortunate for this part of the country that some such men were to be found in it, who are the great hazard of our lives and to the detriment of our bodily health were mainly instrumental by the assistance of some others, in discovering and disclosing to the Magistracy of this Division all the horrible plots and designs of a set of disaffected men, calling themselves Luddites and illegally assembling at various hours in the nights and at various places in the vicinity of his town in the early part of the year 1812, with a view to promote in the end, nothing less than anarchy and confusion in the country and if possible, by their ill advice and example to excite in this kingdom open rebellion and overthrow of His Majesty's Government; we say such were their designs, however inefficient might be their means—With the sole view of obtaining information we attended numerous of the said meetings and disclosed immediately the proceedings thereof to the civil authorities as above stated and by means of an active magistracy and our exertions in the manner described, much rioting and disturbance in this neighbourhood, to say the least, was surely prevented—We afterwards attended at the Special and August assizes for this county in the said year 1812 to give evidence against several of ringleaders and abettors of the horrible plans we had used our endeavours to check most of whom were found guilty and sentenced to such punishments as the offended laws of their country warranted or prescribed—

We were fairly remunerated for the time we spent in these services by the Civil Authorities and we should never have appealed to your Lordship for any farther remuneration if all had ended with the destruction of the Ludding system; but as we from attending at the assizes necessarily became known pretty generally, as well as the services we are performed in the spirit of disaffection at that time running very high in this neighbourhood, popular opinion and prejudice became very strong against us and the losses we have since sustained in consequence had been very great and we are reduced to extreme necessity—

Your Lordship will easily conceive that we must have suffered grievously on being assured that owing to public prejudice, we sometimes have been unable to obtain any employment at all, and that at other periods we have been obliged to turn to such employment as has not suited our abilities or capacities, because it was not of that kind which we had been accustomed to or brought up in—One of us (Wm Orrell) through his wife became possessed of a moderate sum of money early in the year 1813, and at that time with the money he was possessed of, entered into the business of Public Victualler or Innkeeper, with a view as he thought of obtaining frizz numerous offspring a comfortable subsistence, but public prejudice was so strong against him, that with all proper exertion on his part, he has been obliged to retire from this situation, with his little capital lost and in great distress—Besides these disabilities which we have laboured under the insults offered us and the dangers to which we have been exposed have been serious and alarming, nay our lives have been plotted against and by chance alone have been prevented proving fatal to us.

We have often seen advertised in the public prints His Majesty's governments offering rewards to persons who should discover the authors or abettors of various felonious acts &c as was lately the case with respect to Norfolk, Suffolk &c & though we do not conceive that such voluntary offers of Govt. entitle us any more to claims beyond the just merits of our services and the awful predicament in which those services have thrown us, yet here we may remark that in consequence of our information and the evidence we bore against them at Lancaster, several were found guilty of felonious acts, and were accordingly transported, imprisoned &c—

Under all these circumstances we have determined to make an humble appeal through your Lordship as Secretary of State to the liberality of His Majesty's Government for some compensation for the losses we have sustained in consequence of, we trust meritorious, services in the cause of our country in the year 1812—We have long ago, finding ourselves so much injured meditated a memorial to your Lordship, whom we believe Julie appreciate our services and have a considerable time since applied to the magistracy to support it for us, but it never got done, they not seeming willing to encourage it Col Fletcher however one of the most active magistrates at the critical period alluded to best knows our services & circumstances and we have no doubt he would give every information in his power which your Lordship might wish & if your Lordship could wish any further particulars of our individual cases we should very willingly furnish them—

Humbly begging your Lordship will excuse the liberty we have taken and the favor of a reply addressed to Wm. Orrell on behalf of us all we beg to subscribe ourselves

My Lord

Your Lordships very
humble & Obed. Servants

Wm. Orrell
Ellis Schofield
William Hardman

[To] The Rt. Honble Viscount Sidmouth
Secretary of State for the
Home Department

Direct Willm. Orrell
Late Inn Keeper Greate Bolton..le..Moors—

26th June 1816: General Byng informs the Home Secretary of military preparations for the executions at Ely

Colchester June 26th 1816

My Lord.

I am Honoured with Your Lordships Letter of Yesterdays date, and have also received my orders from the Horse Guards to proceed to Ely tomorrow—It is my intention to be there by four o'clock, at which hour I have wrote to the Commanding Officer of the Troops to meet me—I have also considered it my duty to write to the Bishop, and to Sir Henry Dudley to inform them of what I propose.

I had always intended that the Troops stationed at Ely and Littleport should be under Arms on Friday morning, and to station them near, though not actually at the place of execution, in addition to the security they may thus afford, it is desirable they should be employed at that moment.

I will consult with Sir Henry Dudley as to the place most adviseable to station them, and can assure Your Lordship nothing like any disagreement will occur between as.—

I have sent my letters by Orderly Dragoons, they will therefore reach Ely this morning—The Troops, from Newmarket, Cambridge, Brandon, and Downham, will be in motion on Friday morning, as I proposed Your Lordship when in Town—

I shall do myself the Honor to write to You from Ely on Friday

I have [etc]
John Byng
Major General.

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

Saturday 25 June 2016

25th June 1816: John Lloyd writes to the Home Office about distressed weavers in Stockport

Stockport 25 June 1816


In my last letter relating to the situation of the people in Stockport, I think I informed you that I had recommended to the Gentleman of the Town to make enquiry after Cases of distress thro’ want of employment, and to report them for relief—I have now the honor to inform you that a certain number of the Weavers delegates by the Body first made a return of the number and names of the Weavers with the number of Looms employed & unemployed, the total of which they made out to be — For Stockport

Looms employed 775 unemployed 1117 – no. of Families [illegible]         3410
For Edgeley [adg.] 208 unemployed 475 – [ditto]                 1070
For Heaton Norris 254 unemployed 241 – [ditto]                 913
also adjoining
[Total] 1237 unemployed 1833 – [ditto]                      5393

A Committee of [Gentlemen] were approved to go round the districts after them & yesterday [illegible] to report—The result was a very general distress amongst the Weavers but exaggeration had been practised—Indeed this I know for I attended the Committee & took a District myself & found the first statement extremely incorrect—The Committee have recommended to the magistrates about [110] objects for Relief—which it is intended to grant from the Poor rates, as no adequate Subscription can be raised to the purpose—but this is not all the busy & meddling part of them (few in number) want. They suggested that radical relief cou’d proceed only from the Government, & they urged the Committee to address a memorial to the Prince Regent; but of course that was not countenanced—I reminded them of the Letter answer they had received from Mr [illegible]—I expect to see a publication from the pen of a Gentleman formally in the Silk Trade who has got the cacoethes loquendi et scribendi—because I will not suffer him to harangue upon their favorite Topic of Exportation of Cotton Twist & a minimum price for wages—He addressed the note yesterday to the [meeting] of which the following is a Copy—"Preparing for Publication a Letter to John Lloyd Esqr. Detailing the Author’s Plan for the Relief of the Poor of Stockport &c and opposing the fallacy of Mr. Lloyd's representations or rather misrepresentations at the Public meeting on Thursday the 20 instant. By W. Dawson He who offers a plan for public adoption should observe it at once useful seasonable & practicable” L’Esprit de Loix—

“To prevent the idea of Collusion the Outlines of this plan are already sealed up & dated & deposited in the hands of respectable Neighbour" addressed

"To the magistrates on the Committee"

We paid the Weavers for making out the return and those who attended at the Inn where the meeting was held, appeared well pleased with the attention & solicitude of the Committee & magistrates—& they were paid for all the trouble they had taken but acquainted that they must not expect any more money whatever they took upon themselves to do—

My clerks are now extracting the names of those reported to be in extreme Distress, & the next difficulty I shall experience will be with the Overseers of the Poor, who cannot collect the rates sufficiently to answer the extra demands thus brought upon them—And I anticipate the greatest vexation from their Conduct, for their humanity is not natural and when they are not in any office they are very untoward, and aggravate the distress of the Poor.

I have [etc]

J Lloyd

P.S. We have had considerable vexation owing to a resolution amongst the Shopkeepers not to receive the plain silver Coinage – and your Letter was particularly seasonable—Things are now going on better—

25th June 1816: A Suffolk magistrate forwards a threatening letter to the Home Secretary

My Lord: I beg to hand to your Lordship a paper I received this morning from Mr. Booty Farmer at Worlington in Lackford hundred in the County of Suffolk. The paper was found nailed to his barn on Sunday last. A part of the threshing mill had been destroyed by some person or persons unknown who had set fire to it on Wednesday night in an enclosure belonging to Mr. Booty.

I have [etc]
J Barker

25th June 1816

[To: Lord Sidmouth]

25th June 1816: The Chief Bailiff of Ely complains about the overcrowded Gaol

Ely June 25th 1816


You will excuse my troubling you with this Letter, merely to say, how necessary it is, that an application should be made to Government to request they will favour us with an early Order for the removal of the Transports from our Gaol. (nine in number) more particularly, as we are much over burthoned for the size of our Prisons, as we shall then be left with Fourteen Prisoners, with great probability of more coming in. independent of these Riots, we rarely have had so many at one time as eight.

Government having so readily relieved us in all this Business, I doubt not they would be equally so in giving an Order for their removal, upon application being made, that with the Interest and influence you have with them, we don't know any one so likely as yourself, and being upon the spot, to get it done for us. If you will have the goodness—

I have [etc]
F Bagge Chief Bailiff


everything is properly arranged & ready for The Execution on Friday—

Thursday 23 June 2016

23rd June 1816: Threatening letter sent to a farmer at Worlington, Suffolk

A Caushen for Worlington farmer that youse the threshen Meshien for whe are determined to seet fier to every one that comes to worlington and if the required part are not made away with we will fier the Bilding whare whare it is in

Wednesday 22 June 2016

22nd June 1816: The Ely Chief Justice, Edward Christian, delivers a monologue at the end of the Special Commission

The Bury and Norwich Post of 3rd July 1816 carried the full text of the Ely Chief Justice, Edward Christian's long, self-aggrandizing monologue that he delivered at the end of the Special Commission on Saturday 22nd June 1816:


After Mr. Justice Abbott and Mr. Justice Burrough had finished all the business in the Special Commission at Ely connected with the Riots, they took leave, in a very gracious manner, of Mr. Christian, the Chief Justice, who proceeded to try a poor boy of 13 years of age. He had taken a handkerchief with some money in it, from the basket of a little girl, who was sent upon an errand by her mother. He was found guilty by the Jury, and the Chief Justice then addressed the Court to the following effect:—

"Before I pronounce judgment upon this poor boy, found guilty of a trifling theft, I cannot but take this opportunity of observing to the Court, that he would have been the only prisoner we should have had for trial, if our calendar had not been filled with the recent commitments for crimes of enormous magnitude. I trust they have arisen from a transient and temporary cause, which has made a short progress into the heart of the isle: it includes a space nearly 40 miles square, containing a very numerous population. At several of my assizes I have not had a single prisoner to try, and have had the pleasure and triumph to come into the Court to charge, and at the same time to discharge the Grand Jury in white gloves, presented to me as the emblem of the innocence and purity of the Isle. Most of the unfortunate criminals, till the commission of these brutal outrages, have had the best characters, as peaceable and honest men.

“This induced one of the Learned Judges justly to observe, upon the evidence of character, ‘that former good characters ought to have less weight upon the present occasion, because the crimes we are called here to repress, have originated from some great impetus or impulse, bursting forth in a manner inconsistent with the general habits and characters of the people.’

“In my enquiries into the original cause or motive of these extraordinary crimes, I find certainly that they cannot be attributed to a spirit of disaffection to the Government prevailing in this Isle. Since I have had a knowledge of it, I have never heard that a seditious meeting, publication, or expression, has existed within that time, or ever did exist before my connection with it: all hitherto have coccurred in one sentiment of loyalty and reverence to the constitution of their country.

“The conduct of the rioters cannot be attributed to want or poverty; the prisoners were all robust men, in full health, strength, and vigour, who were receiving great wages; and any change in the price of provisions could only lessen that superfluity, which, I fear, they too frequently wasted in drunkenness.

“The great sums these deluded men levied by their shocking robberies, were not intended to afford assistance to their families; but were to be spent in liquor, and thus to be applied as fresh fuel to the flames of their fury.

“I have now had the honour of presiding here as the Chief Justice of the Isle for 16 years, and in the course of that long period, I have been called upon to pronounce judgment of death upon 16 prisoners only; four suffered the execution of their sentence, 10 were recommended to mercy by myself, and the other two, from the notoriety of their crime, would have suffered death, but by the recommendation and interference of others, they obtained from the Royal Clemency that lenity which was refused to them by myself.

“I trust I have convinced the inhabitants of this Isle, that upon my no occasion have I shrunk from a faithful discharge of my duty: they have frequently heard from this bench, that ill-timed and misplaced lenity is cruelty, and that just severity is mercy and tenderness.—All punishment of the guilty is intended for the security and protection of the innocent; and a well-measured degree of it, upon a just occasion, precludes the necessity of the infliction of it to a much greater extent in future, which the indiscreet indulgence to criminals would inevitably be found to demand.

“I most sincerely congratulate the Isle upon the great decorum, propriety, and dignity, with which every part of the solemn business of these Assizes has been conducted. Every one has been inspired with an ardent emulation to discharge his duty with fidelity upon this awful occasion. It was particularly pleasing to me to see the Judges every day escorted to and from the Court by a numerous body of independent gentleman, as civil officers, with white wands; among whom I recognized a gentleman of great property, who last year filled the office of High Sheriff for the counties of Cambridge and Huntingdon. Many of them I had not the pleasure of knowing, but all equally have deserved the thanks of Isle and of their country. Before I left London I thought it my duty to assure men high in office, that for the 16 years I had presided in this Isle, I had never met with a single finding of a Grand Jury, verdict of a Petit Jury, or a commitment by a Magistrate, which had not met with my perfect approbation. To these men of high rank, and to the Learned Judges with whom I had the honour to be associated in this commission, I pledged my confident belief that each of the Judges, upon their return to London, would be able to make the same declaration.

“I have not been disappointed—all ranks, the Chief Bailiff, the Deputy Bailiff, the Magistrates, the Grand Jury, the Petit Juries, the Constables, the Officers, and I may add, the Counsel of the Court, have not only deserved my applause, but have commanded the respect and admiration of the Learned Judges with whom I have the honour to sit upon this Bench.

“It was suggested to me in London (I trust from the best of motives, though the author of the suggestion has industriously concealed his name) that it would be more conducive to the great object of the commission, and would be more respectful in me, if I declined my rotation of duty, and left the trial of all the prisoners to them. I was of a far different opinion, and no power on earth would have compelled my compliance with a wish or suggestion which I conceived so degrading to myself, and so injurious to the administration of justice in this place. It would have amounted to a confession by myself, that the present misrule was owing to the incapacity of your Chief Justice, and that he was insufficient to try such offenders in future. The senior Judge in the commission, according to the established rule, began every morning, and I have followed the other Learned Judge every day, I trust with no impediment or detriment to the public interests. By this line of conduct I have convinced the people of this Isle, and his Majesty’s Judges, that if instances of such atrocious wickedness should ever again occur, I alone am prepared, and armed with sufficient power to inflict a punishment commensurate with the enormity of the guilt.—Here I think it my duty to declare, that the Learned Judges have treated me in particular, and every one with whom they have had communications, with a courtesy and kindness equalled only by the learning and abilities, and the dignity of their characters.

“But a great responsibility now rests upon myself the Magistrates of the Isle. Every Magistrate who had an opportunity of approaching this furious mob, has shown all the discretion, firmness, I may say heroism, that men could possibly possess, in endeavouring to restrain such violent outrages.

“The melancholy and lamentable scene just now exhibited in the Court—the solemn and impressive judgement pronounced upon 24 miserable and deluded men—the awful examples which must soon be made, will, I hope, for ever extinguish all attempts to excite insurrection and rebellion within this Isle.

“I am trusted with the high, transcendent, and extraordinary powers of holding an Assize whenever and as often as I please. If, therefore, gentleman, Magistrates of the Isle, you ever apprehend and commit to your gaols, prisoners for those crimes which are most likely to be repressed by a prompt execution of the laws, upon a few days notice I shall attend you here or at Wisbech; and with the co-operation of the intelligent and discriminating Juries, and the firm and steady Civil Officers of the Isle, I am confident we shall soon restore security and tranquillity to its inhabitants.

“The Gentleman of the Isle, who with so great honour to themselves, and benefit to the country, unite in their own persons the characters of the Magistrate and the Divine, I am sure will never fail to instil into the minds of all who hear them, that the great principles of all law, equity, and good government, are to be found in the sacred code of our religion.

“A Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, in the reign of Henry VI advanced from the Bench this great and incontrovertible truth, ‘that the Scriptures are the common law, upon which all other laws are founded.’ Let it then be the duty of all us, in our respective stations, to recommend, upon all occasions, the study of that law, where we find the duty of every good subject comprised in a few words, viz. ‘to fear God and to honour the King.’

“Prisoner at the bar,

“Your commitment and imprisonment, I hope, will have taught you this useful lesson—that honesty is the best policy, and dishonesty the worst: you will pay a fine of one shilling to the King, and then be discharged.”

The Magistrates then present, thanked the Chief Justice for his Address to the Court, and requested that he would permit it to be printed.

22nd June 1816: Prisoners receive their sentences at the final day of the Ely Special Commission

The Bury & Norwich Post's concluded their coverage of the Ely Special Commission (from the 26th June edition of the newspaper):

SATURDAY, June 22.

This morning, at nine o'clock, the Court re-assembled, when judgments of death was passed on the 24 prisoners capitally convicted.—Mr. Justice Abbott addressed them to the following effect:—"Prisoners at the bar, You stand here, 24 persons in number, a melancholy example to all who are here present, and to all your country, of the sad effects of indulging in those brutal and violent passions by which you all appear to have been actuated in the commission of the crimes of which you have been convicted. You seem to have thought, that by your own strength and your own threats, you should not only be able to oppress and intimidate your peaceable neighbours, but even to resist the strong arm of the law itself.—How vain that thought, your present situation shows. It was suggested abroad, that you had been induced to perpetrate these violent outrages by hard necessity and want; but after attending closely and strictly to the whole tenor of the evidence, which has occupied the attention of the Court for several days, there has not appeared in the condition, circumstances, or behaviour of any one of you, any reason to suppose that you were instigated by distress. By what motive, or under what mistaken advice or disposition, you began to act in the way that you did, is best and perhaps only known to God and your own consciences. The preservation not only of the good order and peace of society, the preservation of life itself, imperiously calls upon the Court to declare, that many of you must expect to undergo the full sentence of law. It is some consolation to the Court to be able to say, that in attending to and distinguishing the cases of each particular individual, we are found in many of them circumstances which will warrants us in giving to many of you a hope that your lives will be saved. The gentlemen of the jury have pointed out some of you to our attention, and in doing so they have acted with that merciful disposition and accurate discrimination which they have shown throughout the whole of your trials.—Such of you whose lives may, perhaps, be saved by the Crown (that power alone on earth who can save them) must not expect that you shall be dismissed from your offences without undergoing some severe punishment. Many of you must expect to be sent away for a greater or less portion of time, and a few even for the whole period of their lives, from that country whose peace they have thus disturbed, and which they have thus disgraced. Human justice, however it may be administered, as it always is in this country with mercy, requires that some of you should undergo the full sentence, in order that others may be deterred from following the example of your crimes. You William Beamiss, the elder, you George Crow, you John Dennis, you Isaac Harley, you Thomas South, the younger; that me exhort you to prepare for that sentence: let me entreat you to apply yourselves, during the short remainder of the time which can be allowed to you in this world, by prayer and penitence, to appease that Almighty power whom you have offended: address yourselves seriously and fervently to that Throne of Grace from which hereafter you may expect to find that mercy which cannot be extended to you here.—You William Beamiss, the elder, are a person whose condition in life ought to have taught you to restrain any unruly and turbulent disposition in your less enlightened neighbours, instead of becoming one of the most forward in the perpetration of those offences which placed your town for several days in a state of trepidation and alarm. You boasted, however, of your situation, and took with you your own son to be the partner of your crimes. Considering his youth, and the influence which your evil example may be supposed to have had upon him, he is placed among those who are recommended to the mercy of the Throne.—You George Crow were one of the number who, at a late hour of the night, broke into the dwelling-house of two peaceable individuals against whom you had no cause of offence. One of them, whose age and infirmities were entitled to protection and respect, was subjected to your violence and plunder: the other had the good fortune to escape fully by flying from you. Your offence, therefore, is not merely that of which you had been convicted; you came there, not with that intention alone, but to destroy the life of one person.—You John Dennis are also a person whose condition life might have taught you to restrain the wicked passions of others. You endeavoured, on your first appearance in this place, to represent to the Court, that you had been compelled by force to leave the place of your dwelling, and give your assistance in plundering the inhabitants of this city. The jury to whom this misrepresentation was referred, did even, on that occasion, repudiate the evidence: two other trials followed, and you were found standing forward as the leader of that lawless band which entered this city for the purpose of plunder and violence, and armed with a more dangerous weapon than the rest of your associates.—You Isaac Harley were the first person who assaulted the Reverend Minister of your parish at his own door: you stood first of that wicked assembly and demanded money of him; and having refused that moderate sum he offered, you enforced from him the delivery of his money by your own bodily strength, forced your way into his dwelling, and compelled him and his family to fly at that late hour for their lives.—You Thos. South, the younger, appear to have been one of the most active in those wicked transactions which took place in your town: you took from one of your neighbours the savings, perhaps, of many years; and then proceeded to another, and forced him to part with such sums as you and your lawless companions demanded. With a deadly weapon in your hand, you afterwards went to the house of an aged woman, and shook it over her head. In addition to these outrages, there are no less than four other cases in which the grand jury of your country have found bills of indictment against you.—You, then, the five whom I have addressed, let me again exhort you to apply yourselves by penitence and prayer, to obtain from Heaven the pardon of your crimes.—It now remains for me to pronounce on each and every one of you the awful sentence of death: and that sentence is, that you and each of you be taken from hence that the place from whence you came, and from thence to some place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck until you are dead. And as to you William Beamiss the elder, George Crow, John Dennis, Isaac Harley, and Thomas South the younger, apply to the God of mercy that he would have mercy on you."

During the whole of this awful sentence, the prisoners were deeply affected, and were taken from the bar in an agony of grief.

Joseph Lavender, who had been convicted of stealing some silver spoons, the property of the Rev. John Vachell, was then brought up, and prayed the benefit of Clergy, according to the statue.

Mr. Justice Abbott addressed the prisoner. He told him that he had been found guilty of stealing a part, altho’ a very small part, of the property of the Rev. John Vachell, which was carried away by a most violent and outrageous assembly. It had not appeared, however, that he was one of those who first broke into the house. Had that fact, or any thing leading to that conclusion, been proved against him, the Court would have been called upon to pronounce a sentence as severe as the case required. Considering, therefore, all that had been brought against him, and drawing a favourable conclusion, they sentenced him to be imprisoned in the gaol of Ely for 12 calendar months.

The prisoners who were allowed on Friday to enter into recognizances for their good behaviour, were then brought up and discharged.

The remainder of the prisoners being put to the bar, Mr. Gurney stated, that he was instructed on the part of the Crown not to prefer any prosecution against them. They were, therefore, immediately discharged by Proclamation. The Court then rose, and the Special Commission concluded.

Of the 24 prisoners capitally convicted, 5 were left for execution, viz.—Thomas South, jun. for stealing in the dwelling-houses of J. Dewey and R. Speechly; John Dennis, for stealing from the persons of Wm. Cooper, R. Edwards, and G. Stephens; Isaac Harley, jun. for stealing from the person of the Rev. John Vachell; Wm. Beamiss, sen. for stealing from the persons of H. Tansley and R. Cheeswright; and George Crow, for stealing in the dwelling-house of Rebecca Waddelow and Henry Martin.—They are to suffer at Littleport on Friday next, the 28th inst.

19 Reprieved; sentences mitigated as follow:

5 to be transported for life, viz.—Joseph Easy, for stealing in the dwelling-house of J. Dewey; A. Chevell, for the same offence, and also stealing from the person of Henry Tansley; Richard Jessop, for stealing in the dwelling-house of J. Dewey, and also from the person of W. Cooper; John Jefferson, for stealing from the persons of Wm. Cooper and Robt. Edwards; and James Newell, for stealing from the person of the Rev. John Vachell.

1 to be transported for 14 years, viz.—Richard Rutter, for stealing from the person of R. Edwards.

3 to be transported for 7 years, viz.—Mark Benton, for stealing in the dwelling-house of J. Dewey; John Easy and John Walker, for stealing from the dwelling-house of Rebecca Waddelow and H. Martin.

10 to be imprisoned 12 months in Ely Gaol, viz.—Wm. Dann and Robert Crabb, for stealing in the dwelling-house of R. Speechly; Aaron Layton, W. Atkins, Sarah Hobbs, John Pricke, John Cooper, Wm. Beamiss, jun. and Jas. Cammell, for stealing from the persons of H. R. Evans, Esq. W.Cooper, G. Stevens, and R. Cheesewright; and R. Butcher, for stealing from the dwelling-house of Rebecca Waddelow and Henry Martin.

The under- mentioned abstract is taken from the Calendar signed by the Judges, and left in the hands of the Chief Bailiff of the Isle of Ely:

24 Condemned, 5 of whom left for Execution, and the sentences of 19 mitigated, as above stated.
1 Convicted of Larceny. 
5 Acquitted.
10 Discharged by Proclamation.
36 On Bail for good behaviour.

Total 76.

It is a remarkable circumstance, that every bill sent to the Grand Jury was returned true.

Fifty of the principal inhabitants of Ely regularly attended the Judges as an escort during their stay there, and accompanied them a short distance out of town on Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

21st June 1816: Henry Hobhouse writes his final letter from Ely Special Commission

Shire Hall
June 21.1816.

Dear Beckett

We have brought the Session to a most satisfactory Conclusion.

Being of opinion that Justice had been satisfied, we determined to adopt the same course as at York. Gurney addressed the Court in an extremely neat appropriate & touching Speech, explaining the Grounds on which the Crown was acting, & Mr Justice Abbott exhorted the Prisoners to improve the Lenity, which had been shewn to them, to their own Advantage & the public Peace.

The Court is now about to adjourn till tomorrow for the purpose of taking Bail of the Prisoners, who are discharged, for their appearance when required, & for their good Behaviour in the Interim.

There are 24 capital Convictions, & one for Grand Larceny. If there is time before the Post goes out, I  will send you a Calendar with the general Result.

We this morning convicted 4 of the Felony at Rob. Waddelow’s, on which our Failure took place at the outset of the Session.

I write in great Haste—
Bolland is also writing—

Yrs truly
H. Hobhouse

21st June 1816: William Bolland writes his final letter from Ely Special Commission

Dear Beckett.

Since I wrote yesterday James Camell & Wm: Beamiss the Elder have been convicted of Robbery, & John Easy, Robert Butcher, George Crow, & John Walker of Stealing above 40 [shillings] in a dwelling House (Waddelow’s) making in all 24 capital convictions and one for Larceny. We have here thought right to pause and all the other prisoners 39 in number are at this moment at the Bar and Gurney is in the Act of rising to state our intentions to the Court of writ at [present] putting them on their Trials; but of holding by recognizance each of them bound to appear at any future Assizes if called upon by the Crown.

Gurney has just finished I may truly say a most excellent address. Abbott is now speaking to the Prisoners.

Abbott has ended, and his address was well calculated to produce upon the minds of the Prisoners the best effects.—

The form of our recognizance is the form as was useful in York.

Sentence will be passed tomorrow.—

Thus is our duty as Counsel for the Crown finished and I hope we have performed it in a manner that will meet the approbation of those, who considered us worthy of so important, and confidential a trust.

I have just requested Mr. Gurney to write out his brother’s Speech and if he can finish it in time I will enclose it.

We mean to reach London tomorrow night. I will call upon you on Saturday morning – as I find by Hobhouse's letter of this morning that his account & mine differ I have given you below an accurate list

[List of prisoners and results]

Altho I have classed the offences under the general head of Robbery they are to be divided into Robberies on the Highway and in the dwelling House. The list certainly comprehends all the worst offenders, and there are some in it who may be entitled to favourable Consideration.—

I have procured the Speech.

In haste
Very Sincerely
W. Bolland
Ely June 21. 1816.—

[Gurney's speech:]

My Lords My learned Friend and myself have had informed upon us a very painful but a very important duty that of presenting to the consideration of your Lordship and the Jury those lamentable Cases of outrage and of plunder which have occupied this Court for several days last past

My Lord there now stand at the Bar nineteen prisoners charged with capital offences—four who are charged with Larcenies and two who are charged with assaults with intent to rob—In the transactions which have been the Subject of your Lordship’s consideration there were I fear not fewer than three hundred persons engaged—of those about eighty were committed for trial and we have preferred Indictments against about seventy and in every instance the commitment of the Magistrate has been justified by the finding of the Grand Jury

It is been the anxious wish of His Majesty's Government not to call for justice in more instances than there was absolutely versus necessity and my very learned Friends and myself have been invested with a discretion to pause whenever we thought a sufficient number of instances of the various kinds of cases had been brought under the [consideration] of the Court and the Verdict of a Jury pronounced upon my them

My Lords we have been anxiously looking for the limit to our very painful labors and to those of your Lordship and the Jury and we trust that in pausing here we have not been inattentive to the interests of the public on the one hand or on the other to the claims of humanity—With your Lordships permission we shall consent that as to the Prisoners who now stand at the Bar they shall not be put upon their Trial—that they shall be enlarged upon such small security as they may be able to give for the their appearance at a future time if they [should] be called upon by the Crown to appear understanding that if they make the proper return to the lenity of the Crown by their future good conduct they will not be called upon to answer with their lives as their associates have been for the crimes with which they stand charged—we trust my Lords that enough has been done in this case to reach the Inhabitants of the Isle the necessity as well as the propriety of obedience to the laws and respect for the peace of the Country and for the property of Individuals—We trust that if such excesses as these should again occur well disposed infinitely the larger part of the Inhabitants will see that it is as much their interest as it is their duty instantly to associate and to put down any riotous assemblages as they now find that they acquire encouragement and strength from compliance and submission and that they are then led on to greater excesses and to greater crimes—My Lord I hope too enough has been done to teach those who are not to be taught but by such awful lessons as have been read here of the danger of mixing in such transactions as they find that mixing with a mob at first perhaps intending only a violation of the peace they are led on to the commission of the blackest crimes and that those crimes inevitably lead to destruction

My Lords I have thought it necessary to say these few words in the present stage of this business and I trust that we shall never have occasion to repeat the having shewn clemency to the unhappy misguided men who now stand at the Bar—

21st June: Day 5 of the Ely Special Commission

The Bury & Norwich Post's coverage of the Ely Special Commission continued (from the 26th June edition of the newspaper):

FRIDAY, June 21.

John Easy, John Walker, George Crowe, Richard Nicholson, William Jefferson, Wyburn Wilson, and Robert Butcher, were placed at the bar, and arraigned for having on the night of 22d of May last in the parish of Littleport, feloniously stolen various articles of grocery and drapery, together with three promissory notes of the value of one pound each, from the dwelling-house Rebecca Waddelow and others.

Mr. Gurney, as leading counsel for the prosecution, addressed the jury for the purpose of reminding them that the prisoners were the same persons who had just been put upon their trial, as charged with having committed the crime of burglary, and in whose favour a verdict of acquittal had been necessarily given, in consequence of an error in the frame of the indictment, which described the house in question to be the property of Rebecca Waddelow, whereas it appeared by Mr. Martin's evidence, that it was the joint property of her and of Mr. Martin.—It was the same case to which he had now to direct their attention, but presented in a new form; and to prevent any possibility of mistake, three different counts were introduced, charging it to be the property of Mr. Martin and of Mrs. Waddelow, and the joint property of both. In the charges, as originally framed, other persons were included; but as they have been convicted of other capital crimes, it has been deemed advisable to dissembarrass the present prosecution as far as they were concerned.

The witnesses were then examined, and the cause occupied a great portion of the day; but as the evidence very little from what was given on the former trial, it is unnecessary to enter into a more minute detail.

The jury, after five minutes’ consideration, found a verdict of guilty against Easy, Walker, Butcher, and Crowe, and acquitted Nicholson, Wilson, & Jefferson.

Henry Benson, a considerable farmer, who was out on bail, was then put to the bar, and indicted for exciting and instigating divers person to commit riot in the town of Ely. The court ordered him to find surety for himself in 400l. and two others in 200l. each, to appear for trial at the assizes.

Richard Cooper, the elder, and Richard Cooper, the younger, were also bound in recognizances to appear at the next assizes, in order to take their trial for riotous conduct in the town of Ely.

William Beamiss, the elder, William Beamiss, the younger, were then put to the bar, and indicted for having, on Wednesday the 22d day of May last, felonious assaulted Robert Cheesewright, the younger of Littleport, in the Isle of Ely, and put him in bodily fear, and with having taken from his person a bankers cash note of the value of 1l. The indictment contained two other counts, charging the prisoners with an assault on Robert Cheesewright, the elder, and with having feloniously taken the said note from him.

Mr. Gurney addressed the jury.—It had been impossible to consider the several cases which had come under their consideration without very melancholy [emotions]; but none could be more afflicting than to see father and son standing indicted together for a robbery. They had both engaged in the riot in the town of Little port, which produced so many excesses. The note in question was demanded by Beamiss the son, and taken by his father.

The prisoner Beamiss, the elder, in his defence said, that he did not recollect taking any money from Mr. Cheesewright.—The other prisoner made no defence.

Several witnesses gave them a good character, and when Mr. Justice Burrough shortly addressed the jury who immediately returned a verdict of guilty against both.

After this, 24 prisoners were several put before the bar, 19 of them charged with capital felonies, and five others with larcenies, when Mr. Gurney interposed on behalf of the Crown, and said he should consent to [the] discharge of all other prisoners upon slight securities, with an understanding that they should not be called upon in future, if their good behaviour entitled them to such indulgence; and he trusted they would be found worthy of the clemency of the Government.—Enough, he hoped, had been done to teach the inhabitants of this isle the necessity of obedience to the laws, and of respect for the peace and property of their neighbours. They will find, that if unlawful assemblies should ever again spring up, it will be so much their interest as it is their duty to associate and put them down, since patience and indulgence only encourage greater crimes.

Several other prisoners entered into recognizances in Court, and they were about to retire, when Mr. Justice Abbott desired to make one other observation to them. He exhorted them, on their return to their houses, to avoid all excess of liquor, and not to drink and tipple at public-houses. Such practices were most pernicious to themselves, and injurious to their families [illegible] appeared that these transactions had arisen from [illegible] issuing out of a public-house: this was the origin of the present mischiefs, and others of the like nature. He cautioned them, therefore, to avoid such meetings [illegible] such conduct for the future.—