Wednesday 10 August 2016

10th August 1816: The trial of James Towle, Benjamin Badder & John Slater, for the 'Loughborough Job'

The Nottingham Review of 16th August 1816 carried the most complete version of the second trial of the most notorious figure in Midlands Luddism, James Towle, along with his co-accused, Benjamin Badder and John Slater:


Trial of Towle, Slater, and Badder.


About seven o'clock this morning, the trial of the above-named persons came on before the Hon. Baron Graham. The indictment charged James Towle with having, on the night of the 28th June, or early on the morning of the 29th of same month, entered the premises of John Heathcoat and John Boden, of Loughborough, and having discharged a pistol loaded with a ball or slugs at John Asher, with intent to kill him the said John Asher; and John Slater and Benjamin Badder, with being accessary thereto.

JOHN BODEN is partner with John Heathcoat in a bobbin-net lace manufactory, at Loughborough; left the factory at eleven o'clock on Friday night, the 28th June last, when all was safe—six framesmiths, besides men who were at work and three other men as guards, were on the premises when witness left; there were fifty-five frames upon three floors, viz. in setting-up shop, two unfinished; first floor, twenty-three; second ditto, thirty—was alarmed and apprised of the outrage at a little before two, but did not go to the factory till about five o'clock, when he found the whole of the machines and some of the windows broken—witness saw some blood in a box on the floor, and some splashed against the wall; the greater part of the lace upon the frames was quite destroyed; estimates the injury done at 7 or £8,000—have been prevented going on with their business ever since. Witness dispatched Benjamin Silvester, Joseph Sherwin, and Cumberland, the Loughborough Constable, to Nottingham Police-Office, that morning.

Cross-examined by Mr. Balguy.—When he left the place, about eleven o'clock, there might be eight or nine men in the factory besides the smith—did not take particular notice of the exact number, nor of the persons of the workmen who were then present; he only knew one or two of them.

ELIZABETH SILVESTER said, her husband was overlooker of the smiths at Heathcoat and Boden’s factory; went up stairs to bed; it was a quarter past twelve when she stepped into bed; lives in a house opposite and situate near, the factory, in Mill-street; she was alarmed "by a great muttering of talking," which was so loud, that it appeared to proceed from a considerable number of persons; her candle was not then put out; she got up, immediately opened the window, and looked out for a few moments, but saw nobody except a neighbour, (John Sour), who was standing at his own door, which is next to witness’s; he went towards the factory; shortly after witness heard the same noise, and a whistle, with a threat, that if she did not put out her light, her brains will be blown out, when, being very much frightened, she retreated towards where the candle was; witness did not see whence they came; when there was a whistle, they seem to come from all roads, in great numbers; heard a gun discharged at her window; in the mean time, heard them say, "All’s well!" and then whistled; thinks a gun was fired at Rushworth’s house, which is opposite witness’s, as she heard them threaten him in the same way as they did her; having left the house door unlocked, witness went down stairs to lock it, and being very much agitated, she fell down three steps; heard them say, "Fire through the key-hole," but did not hear them fire at her. Soon after, she heard the machines and some of the windows broken, and then a firing, which appeared to be at some distance. The frame-breaking did not continue more than half an hour by witness’s watch, after which there seemed to be great numbers pacing the street, occasionally exclaiming, "All’s well!" Heard somebody say, "Don't break windows, there is friend Kilburn’s there," and also, "That all was done, and one man was killed." Thinks their feet move towards the Ashby Road; heard firing six or seven times, when all was over.

JOHN ASHER—is a framesmith and was in the employ of Messrs. Heathcoat and Boden on the 28th of June—was on guard that night as a watchman to the premises—watch ought to have consisted of five or six smiths but two were gone out—Thomas Ironman, Webster, and witness, were on duty, and Silvester and German were out, they had three pistols and a musket with a fixed bayonet—is not sure whether there was more—witness sat opposite the door in casting shop—was first disturbed at a quarter past twelve with a noise, and footsteps coming up the yard to the door, by hearing the report of a pistol, and directly after seeing three of four men stand in the door-way—witness took a pistol off the shelf pointed it at them and turned his head another way—when some one ran into the shop, and witness was shot in the back of the head and fell down insensible, but soon recovered his recollection, and found himself on his face under a bench, with his head adjoining Webster’s shoulder and bleeding profusely—at this time heard them breaking machines—had one and sometimes two men placed over them as a guard, who threatened to blow their brains out if they looked up; after laying about twenty minutes, witness said, "I wish you would send for a doctor, or I shall bleed to death,"—there was no answer, but the man who guarded them, seemed to speak to another man on [illegible] [illegible]. In ten minutes or a quarter of an hour afterwards, a man came from the yard to know how the wounded man was—he said "How are you," "Very bad," I replied. He then asked me if I could do a bit longer. I told him I could if he would not be long—he said he would not,—five minutes after they left the premises;—as they were going, one said to another, "shake hands with the wounded man"—Webster put his hand out and shaked hands—another man said, "that's not the man."—He then said—"Put your hand out" and shook hands with witness, who thinks the hand was a small one—witness was three weeks before he was well of the wound.

Cross-examined by Mr. Balguy.—Witness crawled home between two men—was much agitated when the men entered, so much so that he forgot to cock his pistol—is not certain who the person was that shook hands with him—nor can he say whether the person came from the yard or not.

MR. PALMER is a surgeon, at Loughborough; were sent for at twenty minutes past one—found Asher laying wounded on the floor in casting room; he had received a wound from a slug in back part of the head, which was afterwards extracted—[witness here produced it]—it had not penetrated the skull; Asher was three weeks or a month under his hands.

JOHN WEBSTER was a workman at Heathcoat and Boden’s factory on the 28th June—at a quarter-past twelve was in the casting-shop, along with Asher and Ironman, expected some of their fellow workmen's return; witness was not above the yard from the door—there was a blazing fire and a candle burning when the assailants entered; it was a short-eight candle; the casting-shop is a small room—three came first; one of them a little man, rather before the other; the little man had a pistol in his hand, and passed witness’s right hand, and went forward—witness attempted to escape from the premises, but was stopped at the door by several of the party, who surrounded him and presented pistols; three of them were put close to his head, while one man held an axe in the same position—the former saying, that if he moved, they would blow his brains out, and the latter, that he would knock them out—the man with the axe was a tall man; had light enough to see his face when looking up at the axe—is sure, quite sure, that Slater, the prisoner, is the man—hearing a pistol go off by witness’s head, he gave up and lay down on his face, thinking resistance unavailing—witness observed Towle’s features particularly, as he passed him—so much so, that he knew him again when he saw him—Towle passed as near to him as possible, so as not to touch him; he was only disguised by having a handkerchief over his chin, not so high as his mouth—did not particularly notice the third man, but he had some sort of the steel weapon in his hand—saw no firelock when first man entered, nor a long piece of any description, in any of their hands; there were two muskets at the far side of the shop, one with a fixed bayonet, the other without—thinks more than twenty persons entered—before "the business was done," heard somebody come from setting-up to casting-shop, and asked Asher, "if he was mortally wounded"—he replied—"he did not know, he was very weak"—he then required Asher to give him his hand; but witness, understanding he meant his, extended it for that purpose, and thought the hand a very small one for a man.

Cross-examined by Mr. Denman—Was not so much frightened until he heard the pistol fired; has seen Towle in custody, and at the gaol, several times; knew him again "directly he clapped his eyes upon him." Only saw Slater once in gaol, and never saw Towle from that night till he saw him in custody; witness picked Slater out of the three, on the Wednesday week after. Witness gave his evidence before he heard of the reward; saw a PART of the hand-bill the day after posted in Loughborough, "but not the FULL of it;" knew there was a reward of five hundred pounds, but thought it applied only to those concerned in the outrage. Witness described Towle before the magistrates. Does not know George Woollerton, but saw Mr. Ayres, his employer, on Saturday morning. Did not think it prudent to tell every body all he knew of the affair; never gave him any reason to suppose that they were disguised. Witness knows John King, and admits that he told him, and several others, that he could not recognise the prisoners; he was advised so to do by the magistrates, to avoid unnecessary questions daily put to him; witness did say that he thought he could swear to two voices; never said to Samuel Kilbourn that they were in disguise, and it was impossible to recognise them; he told William Burson, on Sunday morning, that he knew none of them.

Re-examined by Serjeant Vaughan.—Witness felt himself much injured, and would give himself no trouble to satisfy any body on the subject. He has no doubt of Towle being one of the men that entered the premises; he knew him when he first saw him in custody; and is equally confident as to Slater being another, he recognised him also when he first saw him after the outrage, which was at Leicester.

JOSEPH SHERWIN worked with Messrs. Heathcoat and Boden on the 28th June last, as a framesmith—he was in the top room, on the night in question, and was alarmed by pieces firing off—and soon after hearing somebody exclaim, "blow their brains out"—heard a "large muttering of talking outside the factory," and a noise in the room below, proceeding from breaking the frames—thinks he was got out of his frame at that time—looked for the fire arms, but did not find them—went down stairs and found a pike, but it was too long to use on the staircase—then procured a large file, and taking a candle out of the stick, went to the top of the stairs where somebody was chopping at the door check, and soon after observed the door open, and again put to—he then went down stairs, and forced it open with the file, but had scarcely done so, than a man presented a firelock at his breast, saying—"D**n your blood, stand fast, or I’ll blow your brains out," on which witness said—"Stop my friend, I can use a musket as well as you can,—when the man cried out, "Ned, come forward with those four blunderbusses, and directly came forth a man armed with two pistols, followed by another with an axe upon his shoulder, who turned his face back, and desired witness to go up stairs to the top shop, which he did, accompanied by three men, who commanded him and the other men at work, "to lay down on their faces, or they would blow their brains out," which summons the witness and his companions instantly obeyed—there was four lights with reflectors, burning at the time, which enabled witness to observe the faces of two men minutely; saw Towle first, he had an handkerchief on his face, which fell below his chin while witness was stooping; is "quite certain sure" the prisoner at the bar is the man, as he was only three or four yards from him; Towle had a musket in his hand. Saw Slater first in custody at the Anchor, in Loughborough; thinks he was one of the men, as there was a large limbed man, but cannot swear to his face. Supposes there were sixteen or seventeen men in the room at the time of breaking the machines. Heard some of them say, as he lay on the floor, "Blow their brains out, if they stir," and others said, "No! Do not hurt them," if they lay ten minutes and do not move. Having broke the machines, they set fire to the lace, when one said, "Ned, have you done your duty well?" "Yes," replied another, "we have;" then went towards the stair-case, but observing two other machines in another part, they said, "There are two more," and so broke them, and went away. About two hours after, witness was dispatched to Nottingham, in a post-chaise, and arrived there before six o'clock, and saw the police-officers, to whom he gave a description of all the three men he saw on the stairs.

Cross-examined by Mr. Balguy.—Four of the men were upstairs with him; Powell, Streets, Squires, and Smith—Trueman, Webster, and Asher were below,—the gun was not quite up to Towle’s shoulder—he had not a candle in one hand, and a musket in the other—he was about a quarter of a minute on the stair-case, but cannot swear how long—it might be longer than a minute—he saw part of that man’s face who had the axe, but not enough to know him again—when witness went from the top shop, he believes there were no lights but those in the frames,—the shiner or reflector is used to throw light on the works, but it does not make the room lighter—he could not take particular notice of the third man's face, but could swear to him if he were in the same dress. He cannot tell when he first heard of the reward—he never thought of it, when he was examined before the magistrates—he does not expect any of it to his knowledge—never thought of the reward till people told him he should have a part of it—he believes he shall have a part of it—does not know William Henshaw to his knowledge—Robinson married witness’s sister; he went to Robinson’s house soon after the frames were broken—his sister and Robinson were up—every body was talking about the frame-breaking—did not say that he did not know any body that came into the factory—does not remember saying any thing about the disguises—he never said any thing about the men having their coats turned—cannot say any thing at all about what he said about them having their faces blackened—cannot tell whether he said so or not. John Rose was in his company the same day at the Talbot, but witness never told him, that neither he nor any body else, could swear to any of them—acknowledged that he said to Bilson that he did not know any of them, but at that time his life was threatened—admits that he has said, "that he could not swear to any, but should like to swear to two, because they would have taken our lives, if it had not been for the other Ludds"—has been at Leicester several times—saw Badder in gaol; has also seen Towle in the gaol-yard several times; he attended on the examination of prisoners—Mr. Munday and Mr. Lockett told witness not to say any thing about what he knew.

ANN MACKIE is wife to -------- Mackie, who works for Heathcoat and Boden—she was held a prisoner by the Luddites a short distance from the factory, upwards of forty minutes; during which a man came up with an axe, and lifting it up over her head, said, "It will not do or us to let her escape we had better do for her,"—the man that guarded her replied, "No, if she will stand still her life shall be spared"—the man with the axe was a broad-set man—there was not light enough to see his face—he only remained a little time.

JAMES LAWSON, is a police-officer of Nottingham; has known Towle some time; recollects seeing him at a public-house in Nottingham on the Tuesday preceding the outrage at Loughborough, and had a deal of conversation with about his having been tried for frame-breaking, which Towle observed would have been a job with him, if they had found him guilty. Witness advised him to leave off that kind of life. A confusion arising in the house, witness and Towle went out together into the street, where they resumed their conversation. Towle said he was out of employment, and when he went round and was asked his name, they immediately said, "Oh! it is you that was tried for frame-breaking!" He said, "He was over-persuaded, and felt so much hurt, he hardly knew what to do with itself," many of their SET were doing well, while he was used ill, and he had a good mind to SPLIT upon them. Witness’s wife coming up at this time, he said, "He would be d----d if he would trust a woman with a secret," and so stopped speaking for a moment, and then resumed by saying, "There was something brewing, and there would be a job before it was long—it would happen next Friday night, unless put off, and then it would take place on Saturday night!"—"we then parted, and I bid him good night." Having communicated this intelligence to the Mayor, numbers were employed on the look-out in Nottingham; witness was one engaged on the occasion.

Cross-examined—Towle well knew that he was a Police officer.

BENJAMIN BARNES is Nottingham Police officer—saw Sherwin on the morning of the 29th June last—in consequence of his description of one of the men seen by him at the factory, he looked after James Towle that morning—about seven o'clock he set out towards Beeston through New Basford, where Towle lived, and having arrived about the middle of the former place, he observed prisoner coming from towards Loughborough—it was about eight o'clock in the morning—Towle seeing witness approach him, made a stop, and turned his face to the hedge, on noticing which witness rode on a little, and then turned again, and on overtaking him, he endeavoured to avoid letting witness recognize his face, by appearing to look at something over the hedge—witness however spoke to him, saying, "James, how are you, you seem very fatigued this morning?"—"Yes," he answered, "I am very unwell." Witness asked him if he would take a glass, to which he assented, and they went to a public house door, where Towle had a glass of gin, and they parted—his shoes seemed wet, and the dust had settled upon them. On Monday, July 1st, I had a warrant to apprehend him—"went to his house at New Basford and took him, handcuffed him to myself—on arriving at Nottingham, we went to a public house to until a chaise could be got ready—when there he wished to go in the yard, which I permitted him to do, handcuffed to White, a constable, from whom he contrived to escape, by slipping his hand out of the handcuffs, (which were the smallest sort to be met with,) but was re-taken soon after in the Market-place. When employed to take Towle to Leicester, he said to witness, in coming down Red-hill, (the place where criminals were formerly executed,) "Well, I shall have a ride as far back again as this hill, I suppose." On witness asking him "what he meant by that," he said," he was sure to be hung, and hoped witness would call upon his mother, and say, that he desired, in case he should be hung, that she should would beg his body, and let it be placed alongside Bamford, at Basford." Witness said, he would not deliver such a message; but he would take an note for him—Towle then observed, "it was through seeing him (Barnes) at Beeston, that he was apprehended. The axe was found at Badder’s, and a hammer at Slater’s, in the coal cupboard.

MR. DENMAN here observed, that the Counsel ought to make their election on which set of counts they mean to stand, Towle being charged both as a principal and accessary.

MR. BARON GRAHAM said, it was not a case of that description.

MR. DENMAN then took an objection to the wording of the indictment, owing to the word "feloniously" having been omitted before the words "entered the premises," &c. and contended, that such an omission must proved fatal to the indictment, since it was not according to the act of parliament, under which the prisoners were indicted.

SERJEANT VAUGHAN, on the other side, maintained, that as the words, "felony aforesaid" came shortly after, the omission complained of, was of little consequence, and therefore opposed the acquittal of the prisoners on that ground.

The Learned Judge observed, that it appeared to him at present, that there was no ground upon which the indictment could be done away; but if hereafter, it should appear otherwise, the prisoners should certainly have all the advantage of the omission; but he must say, he felt pretty confident at the present moment, that the objection could not be sustained.

The Learned Judge here called upon Towle and Slater for their defence; both observed, they left it to their Counsel. Budder was not called upon for his defence, upon which his Counsel requested he might have his irons taken off, but it was not allowed; he was permitted, however, to sit down.

JAMES POWELL, was employed as watchman to Heathcoat and Boden, on the night of the 28th of June last. [It being observed that this witness was in a state of intoxication, his evidence was not permitted to be taken, he was therefore ordered from the bar.]

SAMUEL STREET worked at Heathcoat and Boden’s factory on the night of the 28th June last—thinks thirty or forty men entered the upper shop—he counted them by their steps, as he lay down—could only see one distinctly.

SAMUEL KILBOURN asked John Webster if he knew the frame-breakers—he said he did not, they were so much disguised—he even did not know one of them.

JOHN ROSE knows Joseph Sherwin—he told him at two o'clock on the Saturday morning, he could not swear to any of the frame-breakers.

WILLIAM BILSON has conversed with Sherwin—he told it was impossible to know them—their coats wee turned.

JOHN RICHARDS lives at New Basford, within seventy or eighty yards of Towle’s—saw him at nine o'clock on Friday night, the 28th of June—he had a paper cap on, and was getting potatoes in his garden—witness spoke to him, and observed "what fine potatoes they are"—Towle answered, "Yes they are."

JOSEPH MELLOR, is a carpenter and builder, lives at New Basford; had been at a rearing supper at the Robin Hood and Little John, in Nottingham, on the 28th June last; left it after 11 o'clock—knows James Towle; saw him between eleven and twelve o'clock the night in question; there was a light in his house, saw prisoner come to his door, and throw something out—said, "Hallo, Towle!" and he replied, "Hello, Joseph, where have you been?" to a rearing, said witness, and then passed on—got home about twelve—heard of frame breaking at twelve next day—has no doubt of Towle’s person.

Cross-examined by Mr. Clarke—Lives half a mile from prisoner’s house—witnesses has known him since he was a child—is now twenty-one.

JOHN BRADLEY lives at Basford; remembers being at Towle’s house at half-past eleven o'clock on the Friday night; went to borrow a candle for his wife to seam stockings by, in order that he might set out early in the morning to Nottingham, in search of work—resides only a few yards from Towle’s—saw him soon after eleven in his (Towle’s) own house—witness went to bed at half-past eleven, or thereabouts; got up next morning about ten minutes past four, to go to Nottingham—saw Towle at work in his frame at half-past four—Basford is seventeen miles from Loughborough.

Cross-examined by Mr. Clarke.—Witness applied to Mr. Beardmore for work—saw him at half-past six—Towle was nursing his child at half-past eleven the night before—thinks he was stript.

PETER JENKINSON lives at Old Basford; is a paper-maker—he got up between three and four o'clock on Saturday morning the 29th June, to call up his fellow-wormen, that they might leave off an hour or two earlier in the afternoon—saw Towle at work in his frame between four and five o'clock as he passed by to call up Harrison—on his return, stopped and spoke to Towle for a minute.

Cross-examined by Mr. Clarke.—Witness lives half a mile from Harrison's—it struck four when he got up to give him the key.

Re-examined by Mr. Denman—It is a rule among his shop-mates the first up calls the rest.

THOMAS MELLOR is a butcher; got up at four o'clock on Saturday morning the 29th of June to go to his shop, which is behind Towle’s house; saw prisoners and his wife at work in the frame at half-past four o'clock.

GEORGE ARCHER knows Slater; he worked with him in June last; left him at work at eight o'clock on Friday night, at witness’s house; returned at nine, but he was gone; saw him the following morning at seven; he assisted him to get up work; always considered Slater as an honest and industrious man.

THOMAS PALMER lives in Nottingham; has a garden a short distance from the town; was returning from it on Friday night, the 28th of June, about half-past nine; observed Slater in his garden, which is near witness’s, and held half an hour's conversation with him, then went into town together, where they parted, one going to the right, the other to the left.

JOSEPH SMITH is a brass-cock maker, and lives in Narrow-marsh, Nottingham; remembers being at the Leg of Mutton public-house on Friday night, 28th of June last; on hearing the clock strike eleven, he were left the house, and as he was coming home he met with Slater, whom he has known more than two years, and spoke to him; he was a few paces from his own door, without his hat, and said, "How did you do, John?" he replied, "Very well." Witness thinks he was going towards the privy.

SAMUEL HAYNES lives at Nottingham; recollects leaving the Duke of Wellington public-house in company with S. Fletcher, about eleven o'clock on the Friday night; saw Slater standing beside his door, when passing his house with Fletcher.

SAM. FLETCHER, is a framework-knitter; was with the last witness at the Duke of Wellington public-house on the night of the 28th June last, and came away about eleven o'clock; parted with Haynes at his entry end; saw Slater at his own door, and had a few minutes conversation about the state of trade; met a person named Rhodes, and stood talking with him a few moments. Witness made no secret of having seen Slater.

DENNIS RHODES remembers seeing Slater on the Friday night, conversing with Samuel Haynes, and a another man, a stranger; they were standing at Slater’s door. Witness asked Haynes the news of the day; did not stop long, but went on.

THOMAS BEE, lives next door but one to Slater; has known him six years; he is a very honest and industrious man.

WILLIAM SHARP is a miller and baker in Nottingham; has known Slater nine years, "never knew his character to be impeached with dishonesty."

AARON BOWLER has known Slater a long time; believes him to be an honest and industrious man.

JOHN SMITH lives at New Basford; has known Towle fifteen years; never heard any particular harm of him; considers him to be a man of "tolerable character."

GEORGE BINGHAM lives in Millstone-lane, Nottingham; has known Slater seven years, sometimes worked with him; never knew of this character being any but a good one.

THOMAS SANDERS "is an independent gentleman," and lives at New Basford; has known Towle several years; he has been a quiet good character and neighbour.

MR LOCKET here produced the deposition made by Towle before the magistrates; from which it appeared, that the prisoner dined and supped at home on the Friday; that at half-past nine he was in his garden, getting a few potatoes for supper, and that in the morning he got up early and went to Long Eaton, from whence he returned the same morning.

The Learned Judge then recapitulated the evidence, impressing upon the Jury the importance of the matter submitted to their consideration, and calling upon them to weigh the different circumstances which had been detailed before them, with all that deliberate attention, which the subject required.

The Jury, after a few minutes consultation, gave their verdict—Towle, Guilty of aiding and abetting, but not of firing the pistol.—Slater and Badder, Not Guilty.

Counsel for the Prosecution—Serjeant Vaughan, Serjeant Copley, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Reader, and Mr. Reynolds.—Solicitor, Mr. Lockhart, of Derby.

Counsel for the Prisoner—Mr. Denman and Mr. Balguy.—Solicitor, Mr Wilkinson, of Nottingham.

When the court broke up, it was between nine and ten o'clock, the trial having lasted upwards of fourteen hours.

We cannot withhold that need of praise which is so justly due to C.W. Pochin, Esq. the High Sheriff, for his admirable precautions to prevent any kind of riot or disturbance, which at one time was seriously apprehended. Not being possessed with that military mania which is too prevalent in the present day, he proceeded in a truly constitutional manner, to collect together the civil power of the county, and as we are informed, upwards of 600 constables were in attendance; these proved themselves abundantly sufficient to preserve peace and tranquillity, in the midst of a greater multitude of people, than was ever before assembled together on one such occasion in Leicester. We should like such an example to be more generally followed, for in that case, we should not behold the military called in on every trifling occasion.

In it's report, The Tory Leicester Journal of 16th August 1816 gave the following on the composure of Towle:

[Towle] had a determined aspect throughout, and received sentence without any apparent emotion whatever.

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