Armitage Bridge Horse Pistol
In April 1865, workers clearing a quickset hedge near to the Tolson Dyeworks in Armitage Bridge discovered the remains of a large horse pistol. Given the rumours that the Luddite assassins of mill-owner William Horsfall had buried one of their pistols in the area, some locals believed it to be one of the weapons used.
The Huddersfield Chronicle reported on the find:
A Relic of Luddism.The murder of Mr. Horsfall during the reign of terror in this district, consequent on the Luddite disturbance in 1811 and 1812, will not soon be forgotten, and many yet living will remember the circumstances related at the time of the murder, and the search then and afterwards made for the weapons used without discovering them. At that time it was positively asserted that the murderous weapon had been buried somewhere in the neighbourhood of Armitage Bridge, or Netherton Wood. A circumstance transpired during the latter part of last week, which tends greatly to clear up this portion of the dark transaction. Mr. G.S. Tolson, manufacturer, of Dalton, has a dyehouse at Armitage, not far from the bottom of the "Big Valley," and has lately purchased that estate. A number of men were last week engaged in removing an old quickset hedge, in order to supplant it with a strong fence wall, and while thus engaged, they discovered the remains of a large horse or cavalry pistol buried deep under the hedge. From the dilapidated state in which it was found, there is not the least doubt but it has lain there for more than half a century. On its becoming known that such a weapon was discovered, many circumstances were related tending to confirm the supposition that this was the very instrument by which the murder was committed, as it is well known the murderers took that direction from Crosland Moor in their way to Honley. Among these circumstances, the following was recollected. An old Waterloo veteran, now 73 years of age, named Bob Wood, some five years ago, while conversing in the Big Valley Hotel with the landlord and John Worth, foreman for Mr. Tolson, declared he knew for a positive fact that the identical pistol with which Mr. Horsfall was shot was buried under the hedge at Armitage, but he could not point out the exact spot. Since the fatal occurrence — now nearly 53 years — this instrument of death has lain where it was found till last week. It is in a deeply corroded state, the whole of the stock and other woodwork completely rotted away, the lock and ramrod are rusted partially away, but the brass trigger guard, and the brass casing or socket that held the ramrod, are in a perfect state of preservation. It is now in the possession of Mr. Jesse Kaye, landlord of the above hotel, where large numbers of people have been to inspect it.
Mr. Jesse Kaye had been the landlord of the Big Valley Hotel since the late 1850s and it seems likely that the remains of the pistol were displayed at the inn during his tenancy. In October 1871, he loaned the pistol to the Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition held at the Methodist New Connexion School at Paddock, where it was described by the Chronicle as "the pistol that shot Mr. Horsfall during the Ludd Riots".
It is uncertain what happened to pistol following Kaye's death in 1892.
Notes and References
- "Netherton: A Relic of Luddism" in Huddersfield Chronicle (29/Apr/1865).
- "Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition at Paddock" in Huddersfield Chronicle (28/Oct/1871).