Wednesday, 8 March 2017

8th March 1817: Charles Mundy is concerned for the safety of the Luddites-turned-infomers, Blackburn & Burton

Burton March 8th 1817
near Loughborough

My Lord.

I take the liberty of addressing your Lordship on account of the uneasiness I feel for the safety of the two prisoners John Blackburn and William Burton who are as your Lordship is perfectly aware the mainspring of the case against the Luddites now in the Gaol of this County. I find that both those persons will be necessary as Kings Evidence at Nottingham assizes the former in the prosecution for the attack on my Lord Middleton's gamekeeper the latter in the attack on one Kerry’s House & shooting at him & wounding him in the Head. As Nottingham assizes unfortunately take place previous to those at Leicester there is every possible inducement for such of the Gang as are at large & their very numerous friends to attempt the lives of those men, for if they were disposed of the whole case for the prosecution for the outrage at Loughborough falls to the ground with the exception of one prisoner (Thomas Savage) The removal of these persons from Leicester to Nottingham will be attended with danger as will also their appearance in Court at the latter place. I should hope the High Sheriff & the magistrates for that County will take ample precautions and that the police of the Town will likewise be called into service on the occasion. If I might venture to offer an opinion I should suggest that a very large number of Special Constables should be appointed, & selected from the most respectable classes & well arm’d. I will say to your Lordship (privately) that I fear they are hardly sufficiently alive to the danger and that a jealousy of acknowledging the justice of the bad character the population of the Town & neighbourhood have acquired induces them to under rate the probability of any attempt of the kind I allude to.—Respecting the mode of conveying these two men from Leicester to Nottingham I conceive that best mode will be to take them in chaises under an escort of dragoons two troops of the 15th Lt [Dragoons] are at Leicester but I believe none at Nottingham the distance from Leicester to Nottingham is twenty five miles. In my opinion the best method would be to bring send an escort from Leicester to Loughborough the day before the men set out which would be ready, with their Horses fresh, to take charge of them from the escort which brings them from Leicester & convey them to Nottingham and remain in the Barracks (which are out of the limits of the Town) to convey the men back again, the Escort which brought them to Loughborough remaining there to receive & convey them to Leicester. This arrangement will of course require all your Lordships interference respecting the escort. I should think sixteen men would be sufficient—probably infinitely less would be sufficient for real security but the terror of the two men especially Blackburn, is so great that I am sure you Lordship will see the necessity of inspiring them with confidence. I should hope either a Military Guard or a strong party of well armed Constables will be retaind in the County Gaol at Nottingham during the time these men are there. If this plan should be adopted by your Lordship I would order chaises from Nottingham to meet them at my House which is in the most direct road from Leicester to Nottingham; some distance would be sav’d & the Town of Loughborough avoided. The escort from Loughborough would take charge of them here with less tumult than at Loughborough.—An attempt at a correspondence between Savage & some friends at Nottingham has been discovered to the Gaoler through the means of a prisoner charged with sheepstealing. the Object of it is that a party from Nottingham are to be ready in the vicinity of the Gaol on a certain night the prisoners at Locking up time are to rush on the two Turnkeys & either murder them or force them into one of the Cells & lock them in while others secure the Gaoler & get possession of the keys. Let themselves out into the street where their friends are to be ready with tools to take off their irons & a change of Cloaths to facilitate escape. I have procured a Guard of the 15th [Light Dragoons] every night from Locking up time till after they are let out of the cells in the morning.

I suspect they have some plan in agitation from which they expect success otherwise I cannot account for their encreased spirits & appearance of confidence knowing, as I do, that their [illegible] gives them no hopes of acquittal. As the assizes for the County of Nottingham are very fast approaching I have thought it right to lose no time in stating the circumstances to your Lordship.—I have the Honour to remain

My lord, your Lordships most Obedient very Humble Servant

C. G. Mundy

I should add that the prisoners now in the Gaol of this County for trial at the next assizes amount to no less than fifty four.—

[To] The Rt Honble Lord Sidmouth &c &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/161.

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