Trouble at t'Mill: The Luddites and Honley (2012) by Honley Civic Society History Group

The following is the OCR text of a book and will likely contain conversion errors. This page is designed to be indexed by search engines. Click on a page number to view the book in your web browser.

Please note that the text is not in the Public Domain and should not be reproduced further without the express permission of the copyright holder or their estate.

Page 1



SS WSS aye 4 A: He y fine I a :



oe cee

——- (ae =——_=—

= Honley Civic Socicty History Group

Page 3



ey i (Ady Pay (ee ae ib a

) _——

Original Illustrations by Andrew Jenkin


Page 4


All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, Artwork by Andrew Jenkin -Text by Peter Marshall - Design PFM

stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any © Andrew Jenkin, Peter Marshall and Honley Civic Society means without the prior permission in writing of Honley Civic

Society or the artist, or as expressly permitted by law. Published in England by Honley Civic Society Printed by Enterprise Print, Honley First published 2012 reprinted 2012 ISBN-13 978-0-9560074-9-0

Page 5


THE LUDDITES AND HONLEY Contents The Origins of the Luddites page 5 The Murder of William Horsfall page 9 The Flight to Honley page 13 The Trial and Execution page 17

Luddite Activity in the Honley District page 19

Page 6


A cropper at work with hand shears

Page 7



ne Saturday afternoon in March 1812, a group of 21-year-old men had finished their work for the week in John Wood’s cropping shop at Longroyd Bridge in Huddersfield. Men from neighbouring cropping shops gathered round as one of their number read out from a copy of the Leeds Mercury. The croppers listened eagerly as he told of the exploits of Nottinghamshire frame-breakers.

The framework knitters in Nottingham were angry at the prospect of a drop in wages and had taken hammers to their machines. They recalled a Leicestershire lad, possibly named Ludlam, who had smashed a machine and from that name emerged the mythical figure of General Ludd, Ned Ludd or King Ludd, in whose name the protests were said to take place. In Yorkshire the croppers, men who hand-finished woollen cloth with enormous cropping shears weighing 40 or 50 pounds, began to fear that their livelihood was threatened by the introduction of cropping machines. They soon determined that these machines should also be destroyed by hammers.

The young man reading at the cropping shop was clearly not a member of John Wood’s men. His dress and appearance were different to his audience. Listening to him was another young man, who was animated as he heard of the exploits of the Nottinghamshire knitters. This was George Mellor, the impulsive fair-haired step-son of John Wood, who dominated his fellow croppers. Beside him was Thomas Smith who might be said to be a follower rather than a leader. Also present was William Thorpe who worked at Fisher’s, another cropping shop nearby.

The reader of the Leeds Mercury was John, the son of Reverend John Booth, a Church of England minister from Low Moor, near Bradford. He had tried to educate Mellor in the principles of Robert Owen, the noted social reformer of the time. Mellor, however, was strong willed and that March afternoon a stormy discussion ensued. Mellor inevitably lead the argument in his broad accent. “I wish I was there,” he said, referring to the knitters’ resistance.

“Wishing’s all nowt,” replied Thorpe. Mellor agreed. “That machinery’s destroying us and nowt but the workhouse will be left for us soon,” he said. Young John Booth argued that cropping by hand was a hard and painful job, putting

Page 8


Croppers breaking the frames

Page 9


much strain on the wrists. The machinery worked beautifully, but could not work by itself, it still needed a man to operate it. He was shouted down by Benjamin Walker, another of Wood’s men, who related how the wife of their former colleague, Tom Sykes, had died the previous day just one month after he had lost his job. The afternoon ended with Walker and Mellor persuading John Booth to join their cause against their masters. Mellor then administered the Luddite Oath, which bound Booth to secrecy over the exploits of the group.

A few days later, a meeting was held at the St Crispin’s, a hostelry near Halifax parish church, at which Mellor and Thorpe were present. The St Crispin’s was where John Baines, a Halifax hatter, republican and radical, used to swear- in croppers at regular meetings. After hearing impassioned speeches about attacking Parliament, Mellor leapt to his feet and asked, “Is there not work to be done here, first?”

He referred to two Huddersfield masters, who had to be dealt with. “I mean Cartwright of Rawfolds and Horsfall of Marsden. Most of you know these two brag, day after day at Huddersfield market and at home. They threaten what they‘Il do with the Luddites, if they come near their places.” The meeting resolved to mount an attack on William Cartwright’s Rawfolds mill near Cleckheaton on the night of Saturday 11° April. The Luddite group met that night at the Dumb Steeple, at Cooper Bridge and set off for Cleckheaton, where the mill was defended by the military.

Mellor, Thorpe, Walker and even young John Booth went fully armed along with a further one hundred men with more expected to arrive from Leeds. Mellor offered words of encouragement before the attack. On reaching the mill, they considered their options and opened fire. The Leeds contingent turned on their tails when they heard the shooting. The Luddites were overwhelmed and many were injured, one of the victims being young John Booth, who died from loss of blood from a severe leg wound. His body was taken to the Star Inn at Roberttown.

George Mellor was the last to leave, soundly defeated and incensed at the death of his friend. He determined to carry out the second of his threats, that against William Horsfall of Ottiwells mill, Marsden. Since Horsfall’s regular journey on horseback from Marsden to Huddersfield market and back passed the door of John Wood’s cropping shop, Mellor knew all about the movements of his target.

Page 10


I 1 a

The Warren House at Crosland Moor

Page 11



ore than two weeks after the debacle at Rawfolds, George Mellor had become even more violent in his Me: On the afternoon of Tuesday 28" April, 1812, he was pacing up and down in Wood’s cropping shop. His friends were goading him with Horsfall’s words of defiance to such an extent that he rounded up a number of them, Thomas Smith, Benjamin Walker and his father William Walker as well as William Thorpe from Fisher’s shop.

Mellor had decided that frame breaking was not effective enough; they were being mocked for their failure at Rawfolds. His target was to be William Horsfall and he would involve Smith, Ben Walker and Thorpe in shooting him that night. William Horsfall ran the Ottiwells mill of Abraham and John Horsfall at Marsden, employing 400 people. Horsfall had encouraged other mill owners in Marsden to install cropping machines. As there had been riots in the area, there were sections of the army stationed around the district, nominally to combat the threat of a French invasion, so that Ottiwells was able to be defended by the military. Horsfall himself was a Major in the Huddersfield Fusilier Volunteers.

Brothers James and Enoch Taylor were blacksmiths in Marsden, who made a cropping machine that could do the work of ten hand-croppers. Enoch Taylor also made sledgehammers, which were called “Enochs”, so the Luddites would chant, “Enoch made them and Enoch shall break them.”

At Wood’s, Mellor, Thorpe, Smith and Walker made ready for an attempt on Horsfall’s life. Mellor concealed a Russian-made pistol under his bottle-green top coat and set off with Thorpe for the Warren House Inn on the old road over Crosland Moor to Marsden. Smith and Walker also left, taking a different route and reaching the appointed spot a little way beyond the Warren House on the corner of Dryclough Road about ten minutes before Mellor and Thorpe.

When they approached, Smith tried unsuccessfully to dissuade them from carrying out the deed. The four then positioned themselves behind a wall in a plantation belonging to Joseph Radcliffe, a magistrate and landowner of Milnsbridge House.

Page 12


The Murder of William Horsfall

Page 13


At around half-past five, William Horsfall left the George Inn in Market Place, Huddersfield, to ride home after a day at the market. His friend Eastwood rode to catch up with him, fearing that Horsfall’s defiant bragging about the Luddites would end in trouble. Their route took them once more down Outcote Bank and past John Wood’s cropping shop at Longroyd Bridge. At a quarter to six, Horsfall reached the Warren House, which was kept by Joseph Armitage. He came across two of his workers, John Sykes and Joseph Sykes and treated them to a drink, while remaining in the saddle to drink a glass of rum and water. He then rode off for home at his usual steady pace.

Suddenly there was a loud crack as one gun was let off. Horsfall’s horse shied, throwing him on its neck. Two further shots rang out as Horsfall pulled himself up. A farmer, Henry Parr, was riding a hundred yards behind and rushed up to the scene when he heard the shots. Horsfall cried out “Murder” and Parr saw a man in a bottle-green top coat leap up to finish off the mill-owner the assassin dropping back behind the wall. Parr tried to assist Horsfall, whom he immediately recognised. Along with a clothier named Bannister, he supported him until two boys came with a cart to take the injured man back to the Warren House.

The attack was also witnessed by a farm labourer in a nearby field and by two lads who were collecting manure from the roadway. Their cries brought Joseph Armitage from the Warren House and, along with two hawkers, he took Horsfall into a room at the inn. He was laid out on a bed, bleeding profusely from a wound in the leg, and medical assistance was sent for. It was nearly three hours before Doctor Rowland Houghton arrived although aid had been administered by another medical person. The doctor extracted two pistol balls and tended several other wounds.

The patient rallied in the middle of the night but Doctor Houghton expressed concern and so a magistrate was called to enable Horsfall to make a statement of the events of the evening. William Horsfall’s condition continued to deteriorate and he died a day later, around six o’clock on Thursday morning. A Coroner’s inquest at the end of April into Horsfall’s death returned a verdict of wilful murder and he was buried after a private ceremony at Huddersfield Parish Church on the morning of Saturday 2™ May.

Page 14


The Coach and Horses Inn, Honley

Page 15



mmediately after the shots were fired, the four attackers fled from the scene at Joseph Radcliffe’s plantation. Mellor angrily accused Smith and Walker of being cowards for not firing their pistols, but then sounded triumphant at what he believed was the success of his plan.

Thorpe handed his pistol to Walker, who noticed the barrel was warm, proving that it had been fired and threw it down. George Mellor picked it up in order to avoid the evidence being found. The four then ran towards Dungeon Wood. As they climbed over the wall, Mellor’s coat was pulled open, revealing the enormous Russian pistol which he was carrying. A labourer in the nearby field, who had spotted the men running away, caught sight of the firearm. He instantly came to the conclusion that the Luddites were about.

On reaching Dungeon Wood, Walker and Smith hid their pistols under some ant-hills along with a horn of powder, which Mellor had given them. Mellor then ordered them to go to Honley, he gave Walker two shillings and the four men separated.

Smith and Walker went to Honley and at about seven o’clock reached the Coach and Horses, a public house at the Bottom o’ the Gate.They called for ale and sat down in a comer, opposite a collier from Hall Ing, who was already quite drunk and carousing. It was not long before word came from Huddersfield market that Horsfall had been shot and was lying at the Warren House. Despite some in Honley supporting Luddite activity, on hearing the news of Horsfall’s assault, the fugitives looked down at the floor to avoid recognition.

Now in state and becoming inebriated, Smith began to whistle a merry tune. The collier, sensing an audience, got up and tried to dance, bringing the scene to the attention of all in the public house including the landlord, Robert Robinson and his wife Mary. Robert Robinson asked the two men where they had come from and they replied “Longroyd Bridge.” Smith and Walker remained at the Coach and Horses, drinking eight or nine pints of ale each before leaving and heading for home around nine o’clock.

Page 16



The Cropper’s Song.

Come, cropper lads of high renown,

Who love to drink good ale that’s brown,

And strike each haughty tyrant down. With hatchet, pike, and gun ! Oh, the cropper lads for me, The gallant lads for me, Who with lusty stroke The shear frames broke, The cropper lads for me!

What though the specials still advance. And soldiers nightly round us prance; The cropper lads still lead the dance. With hatchet, pike, and gun! Oh, the cropper lads for me, The gallant lads for me. Who with lusty stroke The shear frames broke. The cropper lads for me!

And night by night when all is still And the moon is hid behind the hill. We forward march to do our will With hatchet, pike, and gun! Oh, the cropper lads for me. The gallant lads for me. Who with lusty stroke The shear frames broke. The cropper lads for me I

Great Enoch still shall lead the van Stop him who dare! Stop him who can! Press forward every gallant man With hatchet, pike, and gun! Oh, the cropper lads for me, The gallant lads for me. Who with lusty stroke The shear frames broke. The cropper lads for me!

Page 17


Meanwhile, Mellor and Thorpe made for the house of Mellor’s cousin Joseph Mellor, a cloth dresser. After taking off his top coat, George Mellor asked one of his cousin’s apprentices, Thomas Durrance, to accompany him upstairs, where Mellor produced two pistols and hid them beneath some fleeces. Durrance however, did not keep this a secret and when Mellor had left showed the guns to his fellow apprentices. Mellor returned to the house and asked if he could borrow a coat. He was given his cousin’s drab coat which he exchanged for his bottle-green one. Then he and Thorpe set off for Huddersfield. Later Mellor and Smith went back to work at Wood’s cropping shop. Benjamin Walker returned home from Honley and related the events of the evening to his mother.

When news of the attack on Horsfall reached the town, the authorities increased the military presence. At Marsden, the infantry were put on alert for further trouble both at Ottiwells mill and Taylor’s. It was anticipated that being close to Crosland Moor, Woodbottom or Lord’s Mill at Honley would be the target of a further attack, its proprietors also preparing for such an event.

Although the fatal shots appeared to have been fired by Mellor and Thorpe, Smith and Walker were both implicated. All four were sheltered by friends and by the Luddite Oath amongst their fellow croppers. A reward of £2,000 was offered for the successful prosecution of the murderers.

The magistrate Joseph Radcliffe was an ardent opponent of the Luddites and after the murder of William Horsfall he was tireless in his efforts to identify the assassins and bring them to justice. Throughout the summer of 1812 many suspects were brought to his home at Milnsbridge House and held there for questioning, but it was not until October that sufficient evidence of the attack on Horsfall was brought to the magistrate.

Walker and Mellor had been arrested and released earlier that month and when Walker heard of the reward, he sent his mother to Mr Radcliffe to confess his role in the attack. Two weeks later Mellor, Thorpe and Smith were arrested and taken to York, Mellor and Thorpe gave evidence against several others involved in the Rawfolds Mill attack. The authorities imprisoned 64 in York Castle including 24 men from the Huddersfield area, all of them croppers, with an average age of 27.

Page 18


VN I Wt i i) ee i Hit ny i i 1

r = fe

Page 19




eorge Mellor, William Thorpe and Thomas Smith were brought to trial at York on Wednesday, (5° January, 1813. Mellor was charged with the murder of Horsfall and Thorpe and Smith with aiding and abetting him to commit the felony. The prisoners were defended by a young Scots advocate, Henry (later Lord) Brougham. There were several witnesses for the prosecution and for the defence, but the trial lasted only one day. The jury retired at half past seven and returned 25 minutes later to find all three guilty.

The prisoners were asked by the Clerk of Arraigns, if they had anything to say as to why sentence of death should not be pronounced upon them. All answered, “not guilty”. Mr. Justice Le Blanc immediately passed sentence on them, in the following words:

“You, the several prisoners at the bar, have been tried and convicted of wilful and deliberate Murder; under all circumstances an offence of the deepest malignity, but under the circumstances which have appeared in this case in particular, as far as one crime of the same denomination can be distinguished jrom another, this may be pronounced a crime of the blackest dye. In other cases, the Court has been able to discover something which might work upon the passions of mankind, and might induce them to commit an act, at which, in their cooler moments, their minds would have revolted. But, in the present case, the crime was committed against a man, who appears to have given no offence to any one of you, except that he was suspected of having expressed himself with a manly feeling against those who had set up a right to violate all property. “It remains only for me to pass upon you the sentence of the law. That sentence is, That you, the three prisoners at the bar, be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence, on Friday next, to the place of execution; that you be there severally hanged by the neck until you are dead, and

Page 20



your bodies afterwards delivered to the surgeons to be dissected and anatomized, according to the directions of the

statute. And may God have mercy upon your souls.”

No time was lost between trial and execution. It was reported that, in the interval, the prisoners behaved ‘very penitently’. The three were hanged at York on Friday 8* January, 1813. A contemporary report gave graphic details of the event.

The Execution of these unhappy men took place yesterday, at nine o'clock, at the usual place behind the Castle wall, every precaution had been taken to make a rescue impracticable. Two troops of Cavalry were drawn up at the front of the drop and the entrances to the Castle were guarded by Infantry. At five minutes before nine o'clock, the prisoners were upon the fatal platform. After the ordinary had read the accustomed forms of prayer on these occasions, George Mellor prayed for about ten minutes; he spoke with great apparent fervency and devotion, confessing in general the greatness of his sins, but without any admission to the crime for which he suffered. He prayed earnestly for mercy and with a pathos that was affecting. The surrounding multitude were evidently affected. William Thorpe

also prayed, but his voice was not so well heard. Smith said little, but seemed to join in the devotion with great seriousness. The prisoners were then moved to the front of the platform, and Mellor said: “Some of my enemies may be here, if there be, I freely forgive them, and all the world, and I hope the world will forgive me? William Thorpe said, “I hope none of those who are now before me, will ever come to this place” The executioner then proceeded to perform his fatal office, and the drop fell. Some alteration had been made to the drop, so that all the whole body was visible when they were suspended; in former executions only the feet and head could be seen by the spectators. They were executed in their irons. They appeared slightly convulsed for a few moments.

Eight days later, five more Huddersfield men, Thomas Brook, Jonathan Dean, James Haigh, John Ogden and John Walker were among those who were hanged for the attack on Rawfolds Mill.

Benjamin Walker claimed the £2,000 reward for turning King’s evidence, leading to the conviction of his three fellow croppers. He returned to work at Longroyd Bridge, although he was despised by many of his colleagues there.

Page 21



mongst the measures taken after Horsfall’s murder was a nine o’clock curfew each evening, with the addition Ae lights being forbidden after that time. Surveillance on likely offenders was kept both by soldiers and the local constabulary. Mrs Jagger, chronicler of Honley’s past, told of a relative of hers who had been out one evening at this time, against his mother’s wishes, “courting” at Ludhill and had lost track of the hour. He was arrested by the constables as he crossed Honley Bridge on his return home. Three witnesses testified to his good character at a later trial and he was acquitted.

Attacks continued in the Huddersfield area including at Honley and Crosland Moor with the destruction of machines and other property. The Huddersfield Manufacturers’ Committee offered 100 guineas reward for arrest of Luddites.

Nationally, Parliament had passed the Frame Breaking Act in February 1812 which enabled those convicted of machine- breaking to be sentenced to death. As a further precaution, the government ordered 12,000 troops into the areas where the Luddites were active; in Huddersfield alone, 1,000 troops were stationed. A mood of lawlessness began to grow in England. Honley was one of the townships in the Holme and Colne valleys where robberies of firearms took place after the news of Horsfall’s murder spread. On 1* April, 1812, Smith’s workshop near Holmfirth had all his dressing-frames and shears damaged. Later that night at Honley around two o’clock in the morning, James Brook of Reins had his only shearing-frame destroyed. It was just six weeks old. Following the pleading of Mr Brook, the Luds agreed not to break his cropping shears and left.

By May, the military were being harassed each night and patrols were continually marching through the suspected districts. Robberies of large caches of arms took place during the month at Honley. Gangs of up to 20 men forced an entry to houses where arms were known to be held and demanded weapons on pain of death. Further raids occurred at Almondbury, Wooldale, Meltham, Netherthong and Marsden. Major Gordon took charge of about 200 stand of

Page 22


weapons but was unable to discover where the Luds stored those they had previously stolen. In July 1812, a gang broke into the home of Mr Armitage in Honley to steal more arms. Later that month, John Scholefield junior of Netherthong was accused of the attempted murder of John Hinchliffe, a clothier of Upperthong and Parish clerk at Holmfirth, who lost an eye when he was taken from his home and shot. The 21-year-old cloth dresser absconded to London and a reward of 20 guineas was offered for his capture. However, evidence was scant, possibly being fabricated by Hinchliffe. He was tried at York in January 1813 along with the Horsfall murderers but acquitted.

Some years later, in 1817, Luddite activity flared up and once again, Honley and some of its population featured in the troubles. Clement Dyson’s home in Honley was attacked and rifled for arms. Abraham Oldham and John Oldham of Marsh Platt, off Gynn Lane, were charged with unlawful assembly and the theft of firearms on 6" June, 1817, following the shooting of a cavalry horse in Huddersfield. Benjamin Taylor, a weaver and John Kinder and Benjamin Green, cloth dressers, all of Honley, were charged with unlawful assembly. In addition the latter two were charged with a violation of public peace. They were later found not guilty at York Assizes, having been accused of taking part in the Folly Hall Fight.

Brothers William and Thomas Leigh were well-established woollen manufacturers in Honley village. Thomas lived at Hawthorn House and William at 27 Church Street, opposite the chapel (now St Mary’s Church). On Sunday evening 8 June, 1817, about midnight, William Leigh’s household was besieged by men armed with guns and other offensive weapons. They knocked at the front door, but William Leigh refused to open it. The group then threw stones at the door and broke the lock, but an internal bolt held. Another gang attacked the rear of the house and smashed a window frame and glass. One of the neighbours tried to help but was threatened with a pistol and withdrew. William Leigh went downstairs passing the broken window which now had a pistol pointing through it, aimed at him. The mob remained all night but withdrew by morning, having damaged Leigh’s property but without injury to anyone.

In the broad range of activities undertaken by the Luddites in the second decade of the 19" century, Honley featured in many small ways. By the end of the decade, however, Luddite activity had all but disappeared. It was not until the Chartist riots of the 1830s and 1840s that trouble was to emerge once more and Honley had a part in that as well. But that is another tale.

Page 24

Honley Civic Society— “Notwithstanding the great increase : =; in the number of hands employed in : lace-making through the introduction = of the new machines, it began to-be—~ whispered about-among the workpeople that they were superseding labour-and : an-extensive-conspiracy was formed-— Local-History Books

for the purpose of destroying them . Published by Honley Civic Society : A History of Band wherever found. = A Walk Around Honley~ “As early as the year 1811 disputes Se ie a arose between the masters-and men Non-Conformist Chapels of Honley, Moorbotom : ; - Non Conformist Chapels of Honley, The Methodists engaged in the stocking and lace = Pagodas-and:Potato Salad,A History of Honley-Cricket Club trades in parts of Nottinghamshire, Mary's Church-and Honley, A Chronological Canter Derbyshire and-Leicestershire, the sis : J ; The Further-Reminiscences-of Mrs Jagger result of which was the assembly of Woodroyd, Honley’s Hidden Hamlet : r in-open day to : a : = oe ee peeeded P iy f : Published by Tempus break the S08 ee lace-frames = Honley Then and Now by Peter Bray and Honley Civic Society — €-manuracturers. : ; : Samuel Smiles : ISBN-13- 978-0-9560074-9-0


Return to the Huddersfield Exposed home page
View the list of other OCR'd books