Monday 19 February 2018

19th February 1818: Charles Mundy says Francis Ward was central to Nottinghamshire Luddism

Bath Febry 19th. 1818

My dear Sir

I have just recd a letter from Mr. Lockett desiring me to give you the best account I can, from memory, of the statement made by William Woodward a [illegible] [illegible] who recd sentence of death at Leicester at the [last] Lent assizes for a Highway robbery but was reprieved for transportation for Life, respecting the plan laid at the summer assizes preceding (namely 1816) for assassinating Mr. justice Baron Graham before whom James Towle was tried & convicted for the outrage at Heathcotes factory at Loughbr’o.

Woodward having lived for some time at Lambley in Nottinghamshire, he & his Wife being both framework knitters, had contracted an intimacy with the Blackburns who livd at Lambley, & through them with many of the most notorious of the Luddites, but I believe were never concerned in any of the framebreaking jobs.—Woodward’s wife was a material evidence against the Luddites who were tried at Leicester at the same assizes when her Husband as tried for the Highway robbery. After Woodwards condemnation I had frequent interviews with when he did not entertain the slightest hope of mercy. He told me among others things that he had been applied to, I now forget by whom, to join in an attempt to shoot the judge in the court at Leicester in august at the summer assize 1816, & to rescue James Towle & John Slater from the Bar. that several persons from Nottingham also went to Leicester for that purpose. that the Court was so guarded by Special Constables the day Towle & Slater were tried they could not get in in sufficient numbers to attempt any thing.—after Towle was convicted & condemned to death Woodward went to a publick House in Leicester near to the Court where he found Francis Ward of Nottingham & many others from Nottingham, among them were William Towle & William Withers who were afterwards executed for the same offence for which James Towle had that day been convicted. he mentioned Ward said something must be done to put a stop to judges and magistrates going on in this way, that they had nothing for it but to make an example of the judge before whom James Towle had been convicted. that it would be easy to way lay him & shoot him the next day on the road between Leciester & Hinkley. that plenty of money would be collected & that he would give a good medal (meaning as Woodward suppos’d a Guinea) over & above to the man who should do it.—afterwards Ward said he would give ten pounds out of his own pocket rather than it should not be done.—many of the party said they thought it too dangerous an undertaking; & began to leave the room.—Ward then askd Woodward if he did not think he could get some men to come from Barwell, a large manufacturing place between Leicester & Hinkley & a great escort of bad characters of which place, I think, Woodward was a native, & where he had, I know, resided for some time.—Ward told him he would provide plenty of money for the purpose, that they might way lay the judge in a hollow part of the road about a mile from Leicester, & shoot him. Woodward undertook to go to Barwell. Ward paid for the liquor that had been drunk by the party. Woodward went to Barwell, but the people to whom he applied thought the scheme too hazardous and would not undertake it.—Joshua Mitchell, William Towle, & William Withers previous to their execution, separately, gave nearly the same statement.—Joshua Mitchell & Thomas Savage repeatedly told me that F. Ward was the head manager of all the outrages (usually call’d Ludding. Mitchell repeatedly said to me “you may take my word that so long as Frank Ward is at Liberty outrages of this sort will never cease.” Mitchell also said that a few days after James Towle & John Slater were apprehended in 1816 because he went from Nottingham with Frank Ward to Wimeswold near Loughborough, to meet one Francis White, a lace maker from Loughborough, to arrange about a subscription for the defence of the men in custody. Ward askd who the magistrates were that had the thing in hand. & on being inform’d, he added “a stop must be put to their going on taking people up men in this manner. you should right write to them to threaten their lives or those of their families, & if that does not keep them quiet we must see about stronger measures.”—

Savage told me Ward White was the first man who proposed to him the destruction of Heathcotes factory & desird him to communicate to Frank Ward the wish of the Loughborough men that it should be done & their willingness to sucscribe.—White absconded a few days after Savage & Mitchell were committed & is now in France.—Savage told me Ward was, in his opinion, the most dangerous man in Nottingham next to Grosven Grosvenor Henson who he said was his superior in abilities & education & who, to use his own expression, was a perfect Robespierre.—

The above is all I can recollect of my conversation with Woodward & is, I think I can say, pretty accurate.—

I wrote as you recommended to Mrs. Blackburn. I fear by what I learn from Enfield this hypocritical scoundrel Ward will slip through our fingers.—I hope to be able to return to Weymouth early in nest week. illness has detain’d me here. I propose being in Leicestershire but the middle of March if possible.—

I remain dear Sir
Ever yours faithfully

C. G. Mundy

[To] H. Hobhouse Esq

Since writing my letter I have recd the [illegible] by which I find the subject of this Honest Industrious serious person who maintains his mother & sisters & Wife & children by hard Labour is disposd of in the House of Commons..—

This letter can be found at HO 42/174.

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