Tuesday 27 December 2016

27th December 1816: Joseph Allen confesses to frame-breaking in Leicester in 1815

The 3rd January 1817 edition of the Leicester Chronicle carried an article about a Luddite called Joseph Allen who had confessed to breaking frames in Leicester in June 1815 after approaching a constable in Loughborough on Friday 27th December 1816:
Friday last, a young man, of the name of Joseph Allen, a native of Melton Mowbray, and who has for some time past lived in Sheepshead, came to Mr. Edward Bilson, one of the constables of Loughborough, and voluntarily confessed, that he was concerned in the breaking of two wide-glove frames, at Mr. Mason’s, Belgrave-gate, in this town, as far back as the 17th of June, 1815, and that John Ross, a shopmate of his at that time, assisted in the transaction. Mr. Bilson therefore conveyed Allen to this town for examination, when it turned out that the account was correct, so far as to the frames having been then broken—that Allen and Ross worked in Mr. Mason’s shop at the time—that Allen absconded the next day, and although diligent enquiries were immediately made after him he eluded detection—and that his now coming forward and surrendering himself, of his own accord, was with the view of escaping punishment for an offence which he had recently committed at Sheepshead, together with the idea, that transportation itself could not make him more miserable than he had latterly been, from the pressure of the time. He is fully committed to prison for trial, and Ross, who has since been taken up and examined, is out upon bail, the magistrates finding that he was not implicated in the business in the way that Allen had represented.

Saturday 24 December 2016

24th December 1816: 'Song for the Luddites' by Lord Byron

On Tuesday 24th December 1816, Lord Byron was in Venice, Italy. In a long letter to his friend, the Irish poet Thomas Moore (which can be read in full here), he inserted a spontaneously-composed poem, which has been subsequently called "Song for the Luddites". The poem was unpublished during his lifetime.
... Are you not near the Luddites? By the Lord! If there's a row, but I'll be among ye! How go on the weavers—the breakers of frames—the Lutherans of politics—the reformers? 
As the Liberty lads o'er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will die fighting, or live free,
And down with all kings but King Ludd! 
When the web that we weave is complete,
And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,
We will fling the winding-sheet
O'er the despot at our feet,
And dye it deep in the gore he has pour'd. 
Though black as his heart its hue,
Since his veins are corrupted to mud,
Yet this is the dew
Which the tree shall renew
Of Liberty, planted by Ludd! 
There's an amiable chanson for you—all impromptu. I have written it principally to shock your neighbour * * , who is all clergy and loyalty—mirth and innocence—milk and water...

24th December 1816: An extraordinary letter is sent to the Home Secretary from an Overseer of the Poor in Derbyshire

Melbourne near Derby Decr 24

My Lord

Permit me to lay before you a statement of the deplorable situation to which this ruined Parish is now reduced, I state no more than plain facts—There are upwards of 2000 Inhabitants 600 of whom have been employed in the Hosiery manufacture the whole of whom are now totally destitute of employment

The master manufacturers having mostly become Bankrupt; the few others have been compelled to relinquish Trade from want of means to carry it on

I myself for one have employed upwards of 200 men but through loss of property have been compelled to decline—The Poor Rates are upwards of 20 Shillings in the pound, and are daily increasing—last week The Overseers were obliged to seize the effects of no less than 40 Houskeepers for arrears of the poor rate, these 40 families of course are becoming claimants, the Workhouse cannot contain the people who apply for admittance—it has been enlarged considerably and still much too small, in fact, unless some means of relief be speedily adopted the whole parish will be reduced to a general state of Pauperism and Beggary—the few Farmers who are left are totally unable to bear up any longer—and must relinquish the cultivation of the soil, The Overseers are totally at a loss how to proceed—we ask advice? we claim assistance and it is from a motive of humanity alone I write to your Lordship, for, to see the distresses of my poor starving Workmen, of the poor in general is sufficient to rend a Heart of stone, the people are quiet, they are Loyall, but surely there is a point of suffering beyond which, it is not in human nature to endure as far as regards myself it is not material whether we have relief or not, I have still the means left of abandoning the Country; which I must shortly do if relief is not given. I have been in the habit of Travelling through most parts of the Kingdom and I can assure your Lordship this is pretty generally the case in the Manufacturing Districts—

His Majesty's Ministers delude themselves in supposing the evil only temporary, it is increasing and will increase unless the master manufacturers can replace their lost property, in short whether you believe it or not Bankruptcy and Beggary is like a Deluge rapidly overspreading the whole Land—

By shutting your eyes and ears against the Cries of all suffering people, you dont get rid of the evil, it is not by stifling stifling complaint, that a remedy is applied! although the bad Harvest has aggravated the evil it would have been little better had that not being the case—Something sufficient must be done soon too.

If I might be permitted a remedy, it would be to enable the poor to cultivate the soil, by giving them permanent employ and compelling Land owners to Allot a small portion of Land to each Cottage, where this is the case poor rates are trifling, but where they are driven by Rapacious Land holders & owners from the cultivation of the Soil to engage in manufactures, there the evil is pressing—if a heavy Tax were laid on all occupiers of Land above 100 Acres it would do much towards a remedy, one Family perhaps occupies 500 or 1000 Acres, this if divided would support 20 Families in comfort

Trade is overdone from it nothing can be expected—

I am
my Lord your Obdt Servt
An Overseer

24th December 1816: A Nottingham magistrate informs the Home Office of the attack on George Kerry

My Lord

I am sorry to inform your Lordship, that on Sunday night last the 22d Inst, a little before eight O'Clock, two men, one about five feet ten, the other about five feet Six, in brown Coats, with handkerchiefs tied over their faces, entered the house of George Curry a frameworkknitter at Aspley, in the parish of Basford, about two miles and a half from Nottingham, armed with pistols. Curry was sitting by his fire, with his wife, her mother, & another woman. The taller man immediately without saying anything fired a pistol at Curry, but fortunately missed him, & the Slugs with which it was loaded, went into the fireplace. Curry immediately advanced to close with him, when the smaller man fired his pistol at Curry, & wounded him in the head with shot, & under the eye with powder. The shot has been extracted, & the man is likely to recover. There was a third man at the outside of the door to keep watch. They then immediately went away without either breaking his frames, or robbing the house, & no trace can be made out concerning them. Their faces were so concealed, that neither Curry, nor the women can swear to them. Curry has not the least Idea who they are, or what could be their motive; he says he is not working at a reduced price, nor on a machine obnoxious to the Luddites: that he has not had any disagreement with any one, nor the least suspicion of any Individual. He lives at an odd house, about an hundred yards from Aspley Hall, the seat of Mr Willoughby member for Newark; who very kindly sent of his servant immediately that night, & I immediately sent off three Constables well armed from Nottingham that night to protect the man; & I have now placed a confidential Constable in his house, well armed, to protect him during the night, but I have not the least expectation that they will return. I thought it my duty as a magistrate for the Town & County, to give your Lordship a correct statement of this transaction, that in case Government should think it proper to take any public notice of it, they might be in possession of the particulars. If any discovery is made of the perpetrators of this atrocious Act, your Lordship shall have the earliest information.

I remain my Lord
Your Lordship’s most Obedt Servant
Charles Wylde D.D.
Rector of St Nicholas in Nottingham

[December] 24. 1816

Thursday 22 December 2016

22nd December 1816: Assassination attempt on George Kerry, at Aspley, Nottinghamshire - the final Luddite raid?

On the evening of  Sunday 22nd December 1816, an attempt was made on the life of a framework-knitter called George Kerry, in the village of Aspley, Nottinghamshire. The attack was probably the final Luddite raid, at least that we know about.

The attack drew limited coverage in the press at this point, with both articles getting Kerry's name wrong. The Leicester Chronicle of 27th December 1816 carried a brief Nottingham Review article:
It is with the greatest concern we feel it our duty this week, to record one of the most atrocious attempts at murder, that ever disgraced Nottingham. On Sunday evening last about a quarter before eight, as George Kenney and his family (who reside at a lone house by the road leading from Bobber’s Mill, to Bilborough,) was sitting by the fire-side, at supper, their house was entered by two men in disguise and armed with pistols. Kenney in attempting to seize the foremost man, was shot at by him, but without effect, and during the struggle the other man fired, but fortunately the slugs only grazed his head. The murderers thinking their object attained, instantly departed. The most prompt assistance was rendered by the neighbours, and the Police from Nottingham, but owing to the frost, and extreme darkness of the night, no trace whatever could be made of their retreat. Nottingham Review.
The Morning Post of the 28th December also ran an article:
Accounts have been received of another most atrocious attempt on the part of the Luddites to commit murder. On Sunday night last, as a weaver of the name of CURRY was sitting with his wife and a relation, two men knocked at the door and desired admittance. When they entered, they immediately made up to CURRY, and one of them discharged a pistol at him. The ball did not touch him. CURRY immediately made an effort to close with the villain, when the other man immediately five, and wounded him under the eye, but it is hoped not mortally. The men then retired, and made their escape. Their faces were completely disguised. CURRY does not know in what way he could have made himself obnoxious to the Luddites. He has not been working with machines, which are the objects of their hostility, nor has he been working under price. The magistrates took all possible steps, as soon as the event was known, to discover the assassins. A Constable was placed in CURRY'S house for his protection, but it is not supposed the villains will make a second attempt.

22nd December 1816: The death of John Blackner - a 'General Ludd'?

A mezzotint of John Blackner, after an original by R Bonington.
On Sunday 22nd December the Nottingham Review journalist & historian John Blackner died at his home & business, the Rancliffe Arms in Turn-Calf Alley (latterly Sussex Street) in Nottingham at the early age of about 47.

Originally from Derbyshire, Blackner occupied a unique place in the politics and society of Nottinghamshire during the Luddite period. Born in 1770, a native of Ilkeston in Derbyshire, Blackner’s original profession was an apprentice framework-knitter, before turning to lace-making when he moved to Nottingham in 1792. A heavy drinker throughout his life, Blackner was not averse to illegalism, having frequently turned to poaching to make ends meet when the drinking left his family short of money. Previously illiterate, after his arrival in the Town Blackner set about learning to read and write, and a few years later had become eloquent enough to publish political pamphlets. A political radical, Blackner was a regular contributor to the Nottingham Review newspaper from 1808, but his political engagement went beyond words in print and into industrial organising: in 1810, he was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment for conspiring to resist wage reductions in the lace trade.

Blackner also represented the trade at the highest level, when he took part in making submissions to Parliament as part of the Committee on the Petitions of the Framework-knitters, alongside Gravenor Henson and others. He was interviewed on 15th May 1812. Two months later, he became editor of Daniel Lovell’s London-based newspaper ‘The Statesman’, although this was short-lived due to increasing ill-health. Thereafter, Blackner returned to Nottingham to write for the Review again, and run a public house, the Rancliffe Arms (previously the ‘Bull’s Head’), which he had taken over in 1813.

In the last few years of his life, Blackner was no stranger to controversy. In 1814, the target of an attack by Luddites in Leicestershire, Simon Orgill, all but accused Blackner of orchestrating the raid (though not directly by name). Blackner responded furiously to the accusations in an article for once bearing his name, but Orgill was not satisfied and even took his concerns to the neighbouring authorities in Nottinghamshire, who passed them on to the Home Secretary.

Possibly the most serious affair Blackner was concerned in led to the jailing of his employer, the proprietor of the Nottingham Review, Charles Sutton. Again in 1814, the paper published a satirical  letter from ‘General Ludd’ to the Editor (i.e. Blackner). The letter posited that the General’s son, Ned, had enlisted in the army and has been sent to fight in the colonial wars in North America, and was now being lauded for destroying Washington, ironically by the same people who had decried his lawless efforts in Nottinghamshire but a few years before. The government, at the behest of the Nottingham solicitor Louis Allsopp, decided to prosecute Sutton as the publisher of the letter, and he was eventually jailed for 12 months for ‘seditious libel’. Throughout all of his, Blackner was never identified as the author of the satirical letter, even by biographers, who seem to have overlooked the parallel fact that his eldest son, John, was a soldier who was killed in America whilst taking part in the operation against Washington.

Perhaps Blackner’s longest-lasting legacy is his work as a historian, having published the epic ‘History of Nottingham’ in 1815. In the last 18 months of his life, the years of heavy drinking had finally taken their toll on him and he became particularly unwell before his untimely death.

Blackner’s position in relation to Luddism is uncertain. Whilst the Review (and therefore, arguably, Blackner) had always been critical of the methods of the Luddites, their attempts to illustrate the predicament of the framework-knitters had lead to widespread criticism and perhaps go some way to explain the relentless attempts to prosecute Charles Sutton. It’s likely that he was to a degree involved, and many aspects of his life suggest connections: his advocacy for the trade at the political level, his deep involvement in the Union leading to his prosecution & imprisonment, and his days undertaking illegal activity (i.e. poaching) leave it hard to imagine he didn't move in those circles and knew some of those involved. Then again, other than over the Simon Orgill affair, his name never crops up in the correspondence between the local authority and the Home Office, and the infamous Nottingham spy never mentions him once. However, one of Blackner’s biographers, John Crosby, wrote this fascinating passage:
At the commencement of "Ludding" he assisted the deluded men with his advice and in other ways, thinking that the system of terror they sought to establish was more likely to operate on the minds of the hosiery masters than cool dispassionate reasoning, but he lived to see the folly of the attempt, and was sorry for the part he had acted.
It is likely that Blackner penned the article in the Nottingham Review that gave birth to the ‘Ned Ludd’ mythos, at least outside of the Luddite milieu: the article was published almost 5 years prior to his death and is the earliest example in print of the use of the name Ned Ludd. Seven days prior to this, Blackner had written a leading article introducing ‘General Ludd’ to the world. Perhaps, after all, Blackner was indeed a ‘General Ludd’ of a sort other than the one he gave fictional voice to in 1814? We may never know, but this fascinating character is surely long overdue a more lengthy and serious biography than those that already exist.

Saturday 17 December 2016

17th December 1817: John Wheatley tells the Home Office that frame-breaking is 'falling into disrepute with the Workmen' in Nottingham

Wollaton Park Nr Nottingham
December 17.. 1816


In consequence of an Interview I had with my Lord Sidmouth, in the middle of October I take the the liberty, by his directions of addressing myself to you; on the state of the Public tranquillity in our neighbourhood.

Since I had the honor of speaking to his Lordship on the above subject, we have been sufficiently tranquil, & I [waited] the result of what has been styled the Spa Fields meeting to see if possible, if any commotion should subsist between the disaffected here & in London and as far as my information goes & opinion, I think there was none; & I have conversed with the frameworkknitters, round these parts not only in our County but that of Derbyshire & Leicester in particular; & I am sure no explosion is likely to happen in these parts at present; tho I must confess that a more regular system of meetings is evident, than ever were, for the last twenty five years—(as is termed for Parliamentary Reform) & very strong observations are made upon Public Men & Measures; Which I fear has another meaning. The time of the meeting of Parliament is looking to, with apparent anxiety & if no revival of Trade takes place in two months (which I see no prospect of) I dread the consequence; for there will most assuredly be so many Idle Men loose, that they will defy the Laws & proceed to outrage & their system here is far more regular than what appears to me, the system of the Londoners—besides they have so much local knowledge how to be troublesome to the Peaseable dispos’d and also the Military.

I think I am aware of the plans of the styled Ludites, so as to anticipate them; & to protect the Neighbourhood from disorder, & as I mean to be in London in [about] a week, I shall have the honor to wait on you, & Lord Sidmouth, to state the same & if my services can be useful to assure you of the same for it will be as agreeable to my own Principles, as it is my wish for the tranquillity.—

Should you require any particular information or any definite [point] & will state the same, as early as possible I am only three Miles from Nottm you may rely on my prompt attempting previous to my coming up.—I mention’d a particular Person in the neighbourhood of very violent sentiments against his Majesty's Government, this person is very frequently going to & from here, Birmingham & Manchester & those populous parts is, in my mind for rather mysterious objects.

There will be no more frame breaking here I think, if mischief ensues, it will be of a worse character: that system is falling into disrepute with the Workmen themselves; reasoning to themselves, the objects which I have before stated.—

Wanting the honor of your answer

I am very respectfully
Sir your most obt humble Servt
John Wheatley
Wollaton Park nr Nottingham
17th Decr 1816

Tuesday 13 December 2016

13th December 1816: The Home Office responds to Louis Allsopp's letter

Decr: 13th 1816.


I am much obliged to you for your Letter of 9th: inst, and the two Inclosures. The Purpose of enforcing the Provisions of the Watch and Ward Act at Nottingham appears to be accomplish’d.

Towle’s last Confession is very curious, and interesting, but the Particulars which he stated in it was but it was not likely that to be confirm’d by Corroborating Evidence, could have been procured: which it would have been possible to procure and his own unsupported Testimony, as King’s Evidence would have answer’d little [illegible] Purpose.

I remain therefore perfectly satisfied that the good done by the Execution of this Man is far greater, than any which could reasonably have been hoped for by sparing his Life.

I have directed a Copy to be made of Towle’s Confession, which I receiv’d some weeks since from The High Sheriff, and I hope to send it to you by tomorrow's Post.

It does not appear from any Information, of which I am possessed that there are sufficient Grounds of Suspicion against the Persons, whom it is proposed to apprehend as having been concern’d in the Attacks at Heathcoat’s to justify such a Proceeding: but this is a Point which will be best decided on the Spot.

I have referr’d to Mr: Beckett’s Answer of 26:th of November to Mr: Enfield's Letter of 23:d, and am unable to account for the Impression, which that Answer appears to have made on the Gentlemen of the Committee, whom it has been always my wish to treat with the Attention, and Confidence, to which they are so well entitled.

The good Effects produced and Nottingham by the instantaneous Suppression of the Disturbances in London on Monday se’nnight, gave me great Pleasure, and I am happy to acquaint you that they are not confined to that Place.

I am present much press for Time, Mr: Beckett being out of Town, and my Brother confined to his House by Illness.

I am, Sir,

your most obedient
humble Servt:

[From: J H Addington]

[To] L. Allsopp Esqr.

Friday 9 December 2016

9th December 1816: Louis Allsopp continues to use his back-channel to the Home Office

9 Dec. 1816.—

My Lord—

I only returned last night, & have lost no time in making the necessary applications to obtain for your Lordship Towles Confession, which I have procured from Mr Hooley, who received it of Lockett, thro Enfield, & I send it to your Lordship herewith; as well as a copy of some private Information, which has been obtained, to shew your Lordship the benefits received from the Watch & Ward Act. I could perceive from Mr Hooley, that the Gentleman here thought the Answer received by Mr. Enfield, to the letter he wrote yr Lordship, in consequence of Towles Confession, rather strange & mysterious, however I set it right by informing Mr Hooley, your Lordship had desired me to make communication of the Confession you had received. I took down the names of the parties alluded to by Towle in the Confession sent to your Lordship, but did not make a copy, & it [would] be very satisfactory if yr Lordship would send me down a copy, to communicate to Mr Hooley that he & the Gentlemen, who act with him, may compare it with their Sources of Information; this will please them, & destroy any notion they may have of your Lordships want of Confidence in them & if hereafter yr Lordship [should] wish it, I will obtain an account of the different Characters employed in Luddism.

The Execution of Towle has done great good, & caused much alarm, they say they dont mind Transportation but that Death is awkward—Mr Hooley informed me that the decided measures, taken by your Lordship to put down the Spa field meeting have very much dispirited the disaffected here.

Mr Hooley & his Friends want Heathcoat to apprehend some of the men concerned in the Attack upon his Factory, on Suspicion, with the hope that they will speak out, & that some of the others may be got at; now your Lordship has all the papers before you, you will be good enough to signify your pleasure to me, & I will accomplish it, if in my power—If your Lordship has any private points to instruct me upon, you will probably not think it too much Trouble to state them in a separate Letter, & to write me also such a Letter as I can shew Mr Hooley, that it may communicate to the Secret Committee, this will please them & by shewing the letter satisfy them of yr Lordships Confidence in them; but your Lordship need not write privately unless yr Lordship has any thing to say, not to be communicated to them.

I have [etc]
L: Allsopp

I hear the highest Character of Mr. Mundy as a magistrate

[To] Lord Sidmouth

9th December 1816: Henry Enfield suggests to the Home Office that the Luddites named by James Towle are arrested

Nottingham Decr. 9. 1816


Enclosed I transmit you, for the Information of Lord Sidmouth a copy of our last Secret Report

I thought that Lord Sidmouth had received thro’ Mr. Lockett a copy of the last Declarations of Towle—to-day I have given to my neighbour, Mr Allsopp, a copy of them—& he will I understand forward it to his Lordship—The re-perusal of it confirms the opinion of the great Advantages likely to result from apprehending at one & the same time all the persons there named as parties engaged in the Loughbro’ outrage—with the exception of course, of Slater & Badder

I have [etc]
H Enfield

[To] Rt Hble J. H. Addington

Tuesday 6 December 2016

6th December 1816: Informer's report about Nottinghamshire Luddites

6th December 1816.

I was at Basford on Sunday & when I got home about nine I learnt that Badder & Adam had been to see me—I saw Badder at Scattergoods on Tuesday night & he told me he had been to my house to get me to assist them to do Braley’s Factory because he is paying weekly wages instead of paying by the piece & making them do as much for about 18 [shillings] as they should have 3 or 4 £ for, but he said the time had gone by that the Job was intended to be done—They intended to have done the Job about 6 in the morning of Monday or Tuesday but were prevented from attempting it on finding they were better guarded than was supposed—He said the Watch at the Factory continued on longer than they thought viz. till 6 in the morning & they thought of doing it after the Watch & Ward went off—He said the Rules of the Watch & Ward were to go on at 6 at night & continue till six in the morning but he said they went off at 4—He said they meant to shhot Brayley as he was the cause of hiring for wages he advised me to get rid of the Watch which I had of Young Jas Taylor about 12 months since for he was committed & was telling—He said Brayley’s Job must be done but there would be a Revolution before next Spring or before & then many in the Town would be struck level with—He mentioned the Magistrates & Constables as amongst the proscribed.—There is such strict order kept in Bulwell Basford & Arnold by the Watch & Ward nothing can be done there at present—They go on duty at 6 at night & stay till 6 in the morning & shut up the public houses at 10—Two have been convicted the suffering tipling after 10—Reed of Bulwell one of them about a fortnight ago & Robertson of Bulwell the other last Wednesday—Two were convicted on Wednesday for abusing the Watch & Ward—The Watch go to the public houses about 9 to see who are there & if any stranger be there one of the watch stop till he goes away.—When Badder & Adam were at the 3 Crowns, Gent’s, on Sunday night, they were watched till they went.

6th December 1816: An Exeter man suggests moving woollen manufacturing from the disturbed districts to Devonshire

My Lord

If I am wrong in addressing this letter to your Lordship I hope the intention will be received as my apology; I will not however take up your Lordships time by more introductory matter but proceed at once to the point.—The Woollen Manufacture of Devonshire has ceased to be profitable, and has therefore in a great measure been abandoned.—The manufacturers of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire cannot find a market for their goods at prices adequate to the cost of manufacturing them by the old machinery.—Messrs Heathcoat & Boden of Loughborough feeling a existing restraints applied to me, a year ago, to purchase a suitable situation for them in Devonshire to erect improved machinery and I obtained for them the five Mills of Heathfield Melford & Co. at Tiverton—The Luddites learned the intention of Heathcoat & Co. to depart from Loughborough and destroyed their Machinery, for which offence Towle lately suffered the penalty of the Law

Application has lately been made to me by upwards of wtenty of the principal manufacturers in Devonshire to sell their Mills for them, and the point upon which I am anxious to receive information is, the policy, in the present state of the country, of advertizing these Mills and offering them directly to the Manufacturers in the disturbed districts—I have a duty to perform to my Employer, but that must give way to considerations of a higher nature, and I cannot but feel that the offering of these Mills may be productive of some alarm but whither that alarm would operate favorably or otherwise I am not competent to decide; It is possible that the dread of losing their employment might quite the Luddites, it is also possible that it might stir them to greater act of desperation—Thus circumstance and before I take any final step I am anxious to receive better information and I know no where to apply for it but to your Lordship as Minister for the Home Department—Your Lordship may rely that any communication which may be made to me shall go no further than I am authorized to communicate it, and tho’ in the midst of Manufacturers from the north of this House I have not communicated to any one the step I have deemed it provident to take

I intend to remain in London one week and to remove to private lodgings No. 1 Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane in the course of tomorrow—I have the honor to subscribe myself

My Lord
Your Lordships most humble Servt.
James Dean

Of Heavitree near Exeter
Parliamentary agent and
Land Surveyor

Castle and Falcon
Aldergate Street
6 Decr 1816

[To] Lord Viscount Sidmouth

Thursday 1 December 2016

1st December 1816: Jeffrey Lockett writes to Louis Allsop about James Towle's confession

Derby Decr 1st 1816

My Dear Allsopp

In the night before his execution Towle made a full confession to Mr Mundy, who was sent for to Leicester upon his request, of everything [within] his knowledge relative to the Outrage at Loughbro’, & the parties concerned in it.—He acknowledged the justice of this sentence—and lamented most bitterly that he had not availed himself of the opportunity which was afforded him becoming a witness for the Crown—Mr Mundy has [reduced] the confession into writing and I am in possession of a copy of it;—In some matters relative to himself, it does not agree with the evidence on the trial—but as to [Slater] it is a complete confirmation of it—and I have no doubt of its accuracy with respect to the names of Towles other associates—

The High Sheriff was present during the whole of Mr Mundys interview with Towle—you may have heard that after the conviction he would not permit any one to see the prisoner.—But he himself visited the gaol almost daily;—and it now appears that Towle, very soon after the assizes, evinced a disposition to discover whatever he knew relative to the outrage at Loughbro’ and the Luddite conspiracy.—You who know the High Sheriff will not be surprized, tho’ it must appear strange to any one not acquainted with him, that he did not think proper to acquaint Mr Mundy (to whose exertions the detection & conviction of Towle, were principally owing—and who was not well informed in everything relative to the Loughbro’ affair) with what was going on between him & Towle—and request Mr Mundy's cooperation & assistance. However he certainly opened a correspondence with Lord Sidmouth and reported to him from time to time, Towles discoveries—and it appears that the pardon of Towle in order that his information might be made use of against other offenders, was once contemplated by [illegible] his Lordship. The High Sheriff attended a meeting at his Lordships chambers at which the attorney general and I believe Lichfield were present when this point was considered.

Soon after the assizes I addressed a letter to Mr Beckitt in which I suggested a plan of operation which subsequent reflection & events have convinced me would have been completely successful. I received on this, as on all occasions the most kind attention from Mr Beckitt,—but I found that if I asked it must have been on my own responsibility.

The statement which I have received from Mr Mundy and the intelligence which I now possess respecting Towles previous confession to the High Sheriff leave no room whatever for a doubt, but that if Mr Mundy or any other person acquainted with the [business] had known what was going on between the prisoner & the High Sheriff and had been permitted to see the prisoner, the most desperate leaders of the Luddite conspiracy would have been brought to punishment—and the conspiracy itself perhaps broken up.

Enough, I think, some of the gang who were concerned at Loughbro’ might be brought to the Gallows—but there is but little encouragement given to Police Officers—but little discretion used in the [detection] of them—and but few magistrates who are disposed and told enough to exert themselves sufficiently to succeed against these desperados—you do not know Mr Mundy—He has all the energy and fortitude of his father—and with a little more experience will make a most valuable magistrate. He is the only one that I have yet seen who is qualified for this service.

I am likely to be in London about the 9th or 10th inst. I hope I shall find you there, when I can give you more particulars if necessary—I can depend upon your secrecy.

[Final paragraph obscured]

I am Dear Allsopp
Most truly Yrs
W. J. Lockett