THE cotton manufacturers of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and some parts of Yorkshire, having suffered under a considerable reduction of wages and scarcity of work, which they attributed to the very extensive introduction of machinery, associated in such numbers for the destruction of frames and looms, and the annoyance of those manufacturers who had been most forward in introducing the machines, that those counties became the seat of the most serious tumults, not unattended with murder. They pretended to be followers of a leader whom they called General Ludd, and hence arose the term Luddites. A considerable number of those misguided men were at length brought to condign punishment.
A special commission was issued for their trial, and was opened by Baron Thompson at the city of York, on Monday the 4th January, 1813, in a most impressive charge to the grand jury.
On Tuesday, the 5th, the business of the Court commenced with the trial of John Swallow, John Batley, Joseph Fletcher, and John Lamb, for a burglary and felony in the house of Mr. Samuel Moxon, at Whitley Upper: the jury pronounced them all Guilty.
Throughout the whole of these important trials the evidence was nearly to the same effect -- administering unlawful oaths -- riotously assembling -- destroying the frames and looms of manufacturers of cloth -- breaking into houses -- robbery, and murder. We shall, however, proceed more particularly to state the cases marked with blood.
On Wednesday, George Mellor, of Longroyd Bridge, William Thorp, and Thomas Smith of Huddersfield, were indicted for the wilful murder of William Horsfall, of Marsden, merchant and manufacturer, at Lockwood, in the West Riding of the county of York.
It appeared from the evidence of John Armitage, who kept a public house at Crossland Moor, called the Warren House, that Mr. Horsfall had, on the 28th of April, been at Huddersfield market, and on his return called at witness's house about a quarter past six in the evening, and got a glass of rum and water, treated two persons who were there, paid his reckoning, and rode away:-- did not stop twenty minutes at witness's; nor did he get off his horse. Between witness's house and Marsden, there is a plantation belonging to Mr. Ratcliffe, and about a quarter of a mile from Warren House: About seven o'clock, witness heard that Mr. Horsfall had been shot. Witness and the two persons whom the deceased had been treating went out together, and found Mr. Horsfall about twenty or thirty yards below the plantation, sitting on the roadside, bleeding very much. They got him down to Warren House as soon as they could. Mr. Horsfall died there.
Henry Parr was at Huddersfield on the 28th of April last; was upon the road between Huddersfield and Marsden; and, after he had passed the Warren House, heard the report of fire-arms -- saw a person riding before him -- report seemed to come from Mr. Ratcliffe's plantation -- saw smoke arising at the same time, and four persons were in the plantation in dark-coloured clothes; the person who was before witness on horseback, after the report, fell down on the horse's chine, and the horse turned round as quick as possible; Mr. Horsfall raised himself by the horse's mane, and called 'Murder!' As soon as he called out murder, one of the four men got on the wall with one hand and two feet, and Parr called out, 'Have you got enough yet?' and he (Parr) set off to Mr. Horsfall at full gallop. Mr. H. said, 'Good man, you are a stranger to me; I'm shot.' Mr. Horsfall grew sick, and blood began to flow from his side. Mr. H. desired witness to go to Mrs. Horsfall's.
Bannister, a clothier, met Parr on the road, who told witness that Mr. Horsfall was shot. Witness found Mr. H. on the road-side very bloody.
Mr. Horton, surgeon, gave his testimony professionally. He extracted a ball from the deceased, and found several wounds in his body, and had no doubt they were the cause of his death.
Benjamin Walker, an accomplice, stated that the prisoners, George Mellor and Thomas Smith, worked with him at Wood's; and, in a conversation about the attack on Mr. Cartwright's mill, Mellor said there was no way to break the shears -- but shoot the master. Mellor had a loaded pistol, and said he must go with him to shoot Mr. Horsfall. The pistol was loaded. Witness and the three prisoners went to the plantation. Smith and Walker went together, and got to the plantation first -- Thorp and Mellor came afterwards. George Mellor ordered witness and Smith to fire, if they missed Mr. Horsfall; witness did not fire, but heard Mellor say Mr. Horsfall was coming, and soon after heard the report of a pistol; they waited at a short distance till the job was done.
The prisoners attempted to prove an alibi.
The jury withdrew about twenty minutes, and returned a verdict of Guilty against all the prisoners.
On Friday these wretched men were brought to the place of execution, behind the Castle at York. Every precaution had been taken to render a rescue impracticable. Two troops of cavalry were drawn up near the front of the platform, and the avenues to the Castle were guarded by infantry.
A few minutes before nine o'clock the prisoners came upon the platform. After the Ordinary had read the accustomed forms of prayer, George Mellor prayed for about ten minutes. William Thorp also prayed; but his voice was not so well heard. Smith said but little, but seemed to join in the devotions with great seriousness.
The prisoners were then moved to the front of the platform; and, after saying a few words, the executioner proceeded to perform his fatal office, and the drop fell.
On the 8th John Baines the elder, John Baines the younger, Zachary Baines, of the same family, the elder near seventy years of age, and the latter scarce sixteen, John Eadon, Charles Milnes, William Blakeborough, and George Duckworth, all of Halifax, were tried for administering an unlawful oath to John Macdonald; and all, except the boy, were found Guilty.
On the 9th January, James Haigh, of Dalton, Jonathan Deane, of Huddersfield, John Ogden, James Brook, Thomas Brook, John Walker, of Longroyd Bridge, and John Hirst, of Liversedge, were tried for attacking the mill of Mr. William Cartwright, at Rawfolds. Mr. C. being apprehensive of an attack being made upon his mill, procured the assistance of five soldiers, and retired to rest about twelve o'clock, and soon afterwards heard the barking of a dog. Mr. C. arose; and, while opening the door, heard a breaking of windows, and also a firing in the upper and lower windows, and a violent hammering at the door. Mr. C. and his men flew to their arms; a bell placed at the top of the mill, for the purpose of alarming the neighbours, being rung by one of his men, the persons inside the mill discharged their pieces from loop-holes. The fire was returned regularly on both aides. The mob called, 'Bang up, lads! in with you! keep close! damn that bell! get to it! damn 'em, kill 'em all!' The numbers assembled were considerable. The attack continued about twenty minutes. The fire slackened from without; and they heard the cries of the wounded. The men that were wounded were taken care of. They afterwards died. One of the accomplices, W. Hall, was one of those connected with Mellor and Thorp, and assembled with many other persons, by the desire of Mellor, in a field belonging to Sir George Armitage, Bart. on the night of the 11th of April. They called their numbers, remained there some time, and then marched off: Hall's number was seven. Mellor commanded the musket company, another the pistol company, and another the hatchet company: they were formed in lines of ten each. Two of the men were to go last, and drive up the rear.-- Some had hatchets, some hammers, some sticks, and others had nothing.
Another accomplice gave a similar testimony.
The jury found James Haigh, J Dean, John Ogden, Thomas Brook, and John Walker, Guilty -- James Brook; John Brook, and John Hirst, Not Guilty.
Jan. 11.-- J. Hay, John Hill, and William Hartley, were next tried, for a burglary in the house of Mr. George Haigh, of Sculcoates; and found Guilty.
On Thursday the grand jury, after stating they had no more bills before them, inquired if any more were prepared.-- Mr. Parke said – 'I shall, with leave of the Court, answer the question put by the grand jury.' Their lordships intimated assent, and Mr. Parke proceeded 'My learned friends and myself have examined the different cases which have been presented to you; and, considering that many of these people have acted under the influence of other persons, we have, in the exercise of that discretion confided to us by the Crown, declined, at present, to present any other bills before you; and I hope this lenity will produce its proper effects, and that the persons on whom it is exercised will prove themselves, by their future good conduct, deserving of it. But, if it be abused, proceedings against them can be resumed.'
Jan. 12.-- James Hay, Joseph Crowther, and N. Hayle, were found guilty of taking from James Brook a promissory note of one pound, and some silver and copper coin.
Several prisoners were, through the lenity of government, admitted to bail, on their entering into recognisances, the prisoners in two hundred pounds each, and their bail in one hundred pounds each.
Mr. Baron Thompson then passed sentence on the prisoners.-- Fifteen were sentenced to death; six to be transported for seven years; sixteen were discharged on bail; and sixteen were discharged without bail.
On Saturday the following malefactors convicted before mentioned were also brought to the same place of execution, at different times, viz. at eleven in the forenoon, John Hill, Joseph Crowther, N. Hayle, Jonathan Dean, John Ogden, Thomas Brook, and John Walker, were placed upon the scaffold. Many of them, after the clergyman had repeated 'The Lord have mercy upon you!' in a very audible voice articulated 'I hope he will.' The bodies, after hanging till twelve o'clock, were then cut down.
At half past one o'clock, John Swallow, John Batley, Joseph Fisher, William Hartley, James Haigh, James Hey, and Job Hay, were also executed. The conduct of the prisoners was becoming their awful situation.