Saturday 15 October 2016

15th October 1816: A man from London writes to the Home Secretary in support of the Luddite turned informer, Benjamin Walker

It was over 2 years since the former Luddite turned informer, Benjamin Walker, had himself written to the Prince Regent requesting payment of the reward who thought he was entitled to for turning King's Evidence against his former comrades in Huddersfield. Now, a man from London wrote in support of Walker's claim after having encountered him on the streets of London:

My Lord

I trust the subject upon which I now take the liberty of addressing your Lordship will plead my excuse for thus trespassing on your Lordship’s time

Some week since I will was accosted by miserable looking man who earnestly requested I would recommend him to an Attorney, and upon my desiring to know his motive he made the following statement to me

He say’d his name was Benjn Walker, that he served his apprenticeship to and afterwards worked at the shearing of woollen cloth near Huddersfield in yorkshire, previous and up to 1812. That he was one of the misguided men who suffered themselves about that period to be sworn in as a Luddite and mixed much in the dreadful occurrences that took place there at that time That during the disturbances a Gentlemen of the name of Horsfall was shot and great exertions were used to discover the murderers—That the Government and the magistrates and Gentlemen of Huddersfield and its neighbourhood joined in such exertions—the former by offering the Prince Regent’s pardon to any accomplice (except the actual murderer) who should be the means of convicting the others concerned &c., and the latter by forming themselves into a Society and individually subscribing certain sums (and particularly a part of the Family of Mr Horsfall the Gentleman who was shot subscribing £500) and constituted Mr Peace an Attorney of Huddersfield their Secretary and treasurer and annexed to the proclamation in the London Gazette of 1st May 1812 wherein the pardon before mentioned was inserted the following memorandum "And as a further encouragement a Reward of £2,000 will be paid to any person (except as excepted in the Gazette) who shall give such information as shall lead to the conviction of the murderers to be paid by Mr John Peace of Huddersfield" That he, Walker, together with a great many other persons were taken up on suspicion of being concerned in the many Outrages that time and were repeatedly examined by Mr. Ratcliff Mr. Lloyd and several other magistrates and Gentleman relative to such disturbances. That the reward of £2,000 as also the pardon were repeatedly mentioned and promised to him, Walker, and others if they would discover what they knew respecting the murder and other transactions it was suspected they were engaged in, but-that-no-discovery were then made and he, Walker, and many others were after such examinations liberated—That he was afterwards again taken up with a number of other persons and after repeated examinations as to his knowledge of the said murder and other crimes he was induced from the promised pardon and reward made to him, Walker, by the magistrates on such examinations to confess that he was one of the four persons present when Mr Horsfall was shot but was not the person who shot him. That immediately upon such confession and his naming his accomplices all other persons then in confinement on suspicion of the said murder was liberated and his three accomplices fully committed to York for trial and were afterwards upon his Walkers evidence corroborated by others whom he Walker produced tried convicted and executed—That from his having been the means of discovering and convicting his accomplices he has since then been unable to get any employment in his own trade or to remain with personal safety in that part of the Country—That he has made many applications to Mr Peace and those who promised him the reward to pay it him or to get him some employment but they refuse saying he was not the first informer—Altho they do not say who was nor have they yet pay’d the money, which he, Walker, understands is in the Treasurers hands as before mentioned, to any one—That he Walker can prove that he alone is entitled to their Reward and is only prevented from asserting his right to it by his present poverty.

The above therefore my Lord is the substance of Walkers statement and upon hearing which I caused an application to be made by a professional Gentleman to Mr peace of Huddersfield and the answer returned by that Gentleman was to the same effect as stated by Walker—Viz. that he Walker was not entitled not being the first informer this however my Lord from Walker’s evidence on the trial of his accomplices as also from the statement of several other persons referred to by Walker does not appear correct—and my Lord, from the enquiries I have made I am satisfied that his claim is just. Walker therefore requests that I will humbly implore of your Lordship that as he was induced through the faith of the promises of the before named Gentlemen backed by the proclamation and Reward offered in the London Gazette to give the required information whereby the discovery and conviction of his accomplices was affected, that, your Lordship will be pleased to refer him to some Gentleman who shall see that the Reward (if his due) shall be paid to him, or that some employment is provided for him to rescue him from the dreadful state of poverty and wretchedness he is now in arising from the before mentioned circumstances

I am my Lord
your Lordships most
humble Servant

T Broughton

No 3 Philip Lane
London Wall
15th Octr. 1816

my Lord
Walker also stated that Mr. Justice park—whom at the trial of his accomplices was leading Counsel for the Crown as also Mr Baron Thompson who tried them would if applied to say he Walker was entitled to the Reward

This letter can be found a HO 42/153.

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