Sunday, 22 January 2017

22nd January 1817: The confession of the Luddite William Burton

A Copy of William Burton's confession January 22d 1817:—

I lived at Arnold in June last. on the Sunday before the Loughborough Job I was at Old Basford to see my Parents. William Towle of Parsons flat Old Basford came & asked me if I could make one in a bit of a Job I asked what Job he said framebreaking I asked what frames he said Twist frames and that there would be plenty of money for it I said what good would money do me if I lost my work through it but that I did not mind for once. Towle told me I must come to Basford & go with him on friday morning following—On Thursday night I went to Basford. Towle told me to get up about 5 o'clock
Next morning and go by where he lived—I did so and walked on towards Nottingham. Bill Towle overtook me—we then stopped in a place called [Dawson’s] Meadow for James Watson of Basford F.W.K. whom Towle had engaged to be of the party. when Watson came we crossed over the Forest to go to Nottingham down Lark Dale. at bottom of Lark dale we met a man whom Bill Towle knew. the man gave Bill Towle four Pistols. I did not know the man a Jolly looking Man. I don't know that I have ever seen him since. this man left as after having had some talk with Bill Towle which I did not hear.—I did not see him give Bill the Pistols but as soon as the man was gone Towle shewed me the Pistols and said the man gave them to him. we three then went to the Peach Tree in Nottingham. Many People were there I cannot recollect any but Christopher Blackburn gave me five Shillings and Watson five—before we got to Nottingham Towle had told me we were to go to Loughborough I went with Towle Watson and Chris: Blackburn to get on the Loughborough Coach but were too late & walked. Towle & Blackburn went first out of Nottingham and waited for as at the Bridge over the Cut between the Town and the River. when we came up to them they again went on before us and we overtook them at the Coach & Horses at Bunny. we had some bread & cheese & a Cup of Ale each there. then I & Towle went on first we got to Hoton where we went into the Bell Public House & called for some Ale. soon after Blackburn & Watson came in and called for Ale by themselves—we pretended not to know each other—after some time one of the parties ordered some Mutton Chops and invited the other to join. Watson could not eat as he was Sick & Vomited. Towle was [badly] also. before we got to Hoton Towle had lent Blackburn his great Coat to cover his blue sleeves which his Waistcoat had & also gave him two of the Pistols. they loaded them with Blank Cartridge & let them off to try them—did not load again till they got to Loughborough. Towle put one of the Pistols into a Side pocket on is it on the inside of his Jacket gave one to Watson who put it under his Smock frock. he gave the other two to Chris: Blackburn who put them into his side pockets under the Great Coat. while we were at Hoton there was a Gardener there who lives at Hoton they called him Spencer, who was [leaving] with his wife. the Landlord of the Bell seemed like a Butcher before we got to Hoton we saw man [mowing] who asked us where we were going. we told him we were Bleachers going to Chester

after leaving Hoton about 4 or 5 o'clock we went on the road to Loughborough when we got to a bridge over the river near a Water Mill Towle & Watson turned through a gate into a Meadow lay down & went to sleep. I went to a man that was fishing. Chris: staid in the road and after about a quarter of an hour we wakened Towle & Watson and all went together towards Loughborough—when we got to Loughborough I and Towle went into a Public House sign Seven Stars the Landlord is a Taylor think the name over the Sign & over the Taylors Shop is Staples. we have some Porter—about nine o'clock Watson & Chris: Blackburn came in. we staid drinking till about ten. the room was very hot. we sat sometime at the door on account of the Heat. when it grew late we went into the House the room was still very Hot. there was a large fire a Soldier who was there complained of the heat, & asked a young man who look like a Stocking Maker how he could stand it. Blackburn kept his great Coat on notwithstanding the heat about ten o'clock the Landlord said he always shut up at ten and desired the Company to go we four went and walked about the Streets. while we were walking about a Tallish man in a light Coat came to us and took hold of Chris: Blackburn and spoke to him I could not hear what he said they then called me and the man took us down the street some way and then left us saying he must go home I had heard Towle & Chris: said they expected a man to meet them and shew them where to go and were wondering he did not come for some time before this man came—after the man left as we went a little way on a road they said it was Ashby Road. we turned down a lane to the left we found several persons there I did not know any of them at that time we stopped there till a man came up with Three Hatchets—I believe another or two came with him but I am not sure—as we were standing in two parties the party had been saying they wished them two Chaps would come with the Hatchets. the Hatchets were very large ones and quite new—one of them was given to me Bill Towle gave his Pistol to one of the party who said he would have one—Towle took a Hatchet Chris: Blackburn gave both his Pistols to one of the party—two Bottles of Rum were handed about I drank once out of a Bottle there were no Glasses—Some turn their Coats and tied Handkerchiefs over their faces I tied my neckcloth over my mouth we were then arranged—Seven with Pistols were placed first those with Hatchets next & those that had nothing last. we set out and when we got about half way to the Factory I saw a man coming towards us. on seeing he turned back. Chris: Blackburn caught up a Stone and ran after him & caught him just at the factory. we then all ran up to him & told him his brains should be blown out if he did not take us in. the man rang a Bell or else undid the door we were a minute or two before the door were opened. we then all went through the long door into the Factory yard a large Dog chain close to the door flew at us Barking as we went in Bill Towle who was just before me struck at him with his Hatchet missed and the Hatchet flew out of his hand. I then was aiming a blow at the Dog. Some one pushed me away and shot at the dog. I have heard them say since this was Jem Towle the dog never barked any more I staid by a window close by a door going into a little room joining the factory I heard a Pistol go off in the room when I went in I saw three or four men lying on the ground on their faces. I went on into the next place with some others Bill Towle was breaking a door open at the bottom of the Stair Case with an Axe a Lad came down stairs some of them (I have this since seen him & find his name is Jack Hill) asked the Lad how many men there was in the Lad said he would tell their names Hill said he only wanted the numbers the Lad said either eleven or twelve—one of the Gang stood over the Lad I have seen him since they call him Little Sam this is the same man as brought the Hatchets. we then went up into the first Shop & broke all the frames there—I struck two or three Strokes but was overcome with heat & gave the Axe to some one else do not know who it was. I was near fainting. then we went up to the next shop do not know who went first. I saw a man at the top of the Stairs. Some of the party were threatening to knock him down others to blow his brains out if he did not lye down—all the factory men then lay down and we broke all the frames—I helped to break again. when all appeared broken some one said "let us look & see if all is done"—some of the party went to look with a Candle. Bill Towle pulled some Lace off a frame and was going to put it in his pocket. Hill said he would blow his brains out if he took a bit out of the factory saying "We are not come to rob we are come for the good of the Trade" Hill burnt it on the floor—Some one said "Ned you have done your duty well" some one replied "this is a Waterloo Job by God" We then left Sentry on the outside frequently called out "All’s well"—as we were coming out we saw a door shut, it was broken open and two frames found lying on the ground were broken—we then came out. Several Pistols were fired as we came away—we then went on the Ashby Road through a Toll Bar and a little way on turned on the right over a Stile over some Closes—we passed by a Gentlemans Hall. I do not know the road. as we went home one of the party whom they call Big Sam shewed me a Powder flask he had brought from the factory. there was a dog & a man with a Gun upon it. Sam: broke a Desk open in the factory as we came away on the Ground floor & took the flask and two little Pistols out. I do not know the road at all we saw a man driving a Team I think a Cart. Some of the Gang party were long way before us then—when we got to the Trent we found a Boat and all got in & tried to get over the river but the Boat set past it would go back but not forward for the Shallows. some got out into the water we then came back and went on by the Trent side till we came to another boat at a ferry house at very young man came to put us over three of us went over the first time one of our party said "damn your eyes Sirrah you've got Ned." he said, "have I—" When we got over there was two or three then waiting for the Boat I cannot say which. I got out of the boat second & went on do not know if any body spoke to the men—Some of the party had their Handkerchiefs over their faces and some had Coats turned—one of our party paid for all do not know which—one of our party had his Handkerchief all over his face at crossing the river we waited till the other party came over. Jem Towle & Jos: Mitchell & Bill Towle & Jack Hill & Big Sam & I I think another parted from his & went towards Chilwell & Watson went over the fields for Nottingham and went into a Public House do not know the Sign had some Ale & bread & Cheese this might be about eight o'clock two Butchers were there who were talking of what a Job had happened last night at Loughborough from thence Watson set out for Basford & I went for Arnold—in Nottingham I met two men coming up the Street who were talking together & who said "they have been breaking frames at Loughborough"—& that "Towle was concerned"—

On the Sunday following Jos: Mitchell & Jack Hill came to Basford met the in the Parsons flat & Bill Towle was with me he & I followed them. Jack Hill gave Towle one pound & me two saying one was for me & one for Watson. That afternoon I went with Bill Towle to Chilwell he said he was to fetch some of the Pistols they had left there. he left me in the Street do not know where he went for them. I have heard some of the Gang say Pistols were bought for the job at Derby—I think it was Bill Towle. I have heard Big Bill (I mean Withers) say he had been making Cartridges all the week. I have heard Big Sam (Caldwell) say he fired at a person at a window near the factory & knocked the Candle out & that the Curtain was on fire—I knew none of the party except Bill Towle & Watson & Jem: Towle & Chris: Blackburn at the time of the Job but have since seen many of them & knew them again & have talked with them about it—I know Jos: Mitchell & Jack Hill and William Withers Christopher & John Blackburn & Big Sam (Caldwell) and Little Sam. (do not know his name I have heard Mitchell say he is gone to the Isle of Wight as a Deserter.) I knew Sheepshead Jack next time I saw him and another young Chap whose name I never heard. I shall know him if I see him. there is an Oldish man whom I also know but not by name till after we were taken have since heard his name is Crowther. I also remember Amos and shall many more when I see them but do not know their names. I believe I shall know most of them. I do not know Slater but have heard the party talk of his being there—when Jem: Towle was to be tried at Leicester Bill Towle came to where I live to see for me as he had told me to get me to go with him to Leicester I was not at home—Bill has told me he and Watson & Chris: Blackburn & a many more came to Leicester with Pistols to try to set him at Liberty. I have heard Watson say the same—William Withers & Little Sam and another came to Leicester to rescue Jem: Towle—they had ten shillings a piece before they left Nottingham and a pound note each at Leicester to try to shoot the Judge on the Road. I heard Withers say there was three Carriages and so many people they dared not do it—

signed William Burton
before me C.G. Mundy

This document can be found at HO 40/3.

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