Wednesday, 29 June 2016

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]

This letter can be found at HO 42/151.

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