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The Cato Street Conspiracy: contemporary sources

The caption reads: "The Cato Street Conspirators, on the memorable night of the 23rd of February 1820, at the moment when Smithers the Police officer was stabbed; NB the Scene faithfully represented from the Description of Mr. Ruthven, the View of the Interior correctly sketched on the Spot"

George Cruikshank, 9 March 1820.


Yesterday evening the West-end of the town was thrown into the utmost confusion, the streets were lined with soldiers and spectators, and the greatest alarm prevailed in consequence of the following circumstance: - Information having been received at Bow-street, that a meeting of persons armed was to be held at a house in Caton-street,[1] Marylebone, the Magistrates fearing something serious would be the result, they yesterday evening forwarded a formidable body of their officers to the place; on their arrival, they had the place pointed out to them, and on inquiry they found that a party of men, amounting to about 30 in number,[2] were holding an illegal meeting.


They were all armed with guns, swords, daggers, and other weapons, and appeared ready to leave the place, which was a hay-loft at the top of the house. On the officers going up the steps they demanded entrance, which they were refused. Wescot, one of the officers, went up first, [3]and was followed by several others, on which the persons assembled made a most desperate resistance, and the officers were fired on. Wescot received three shots through his hat, and Smythers, [4] an active officer, received a stab in his right side, and he was carried away quite dead. A desperate affray took place, in which several of the officers were wounded, some most seriously. Gill, [5] one of the officers, upon going up the steps was met by a man of colour, named Davison, [6] who was armed with a loaded gun, which after threatening the officer he fired off, but fortunately missed his object, on which Gill took out his staff and belaboured him over the wrists until he let go. Davison then seized a sword, which he was prevented using. In consequence of this resistance most of the officers were prevented from entering the loft in which these persons were, but were obliged to remain below while some of the party escaped by means of a ropeladder, [7] which they (it appeared) had cautiously placed out of a back window in case (it is supposed) they were detected. As they escaped the resistance became less, and the whole of the officers, except those injured, endeavoured to enter the place, and to secure nine of the offenders, who had received much injury; one of them, a butcher, [8] is supposed to be the man who stabbed Smythers; he had a desperate black eye, and his hands were much cut. - To enter into particulars of the injuries received by the officers would be tedious, suffice it to say, that scarcely one of them escaped without some injury. By this time Captain FitzClarence, arrived on the spot with a party of the Guards, the soldiers were dreadfully injured by stabs, &c. On searching the place, guns, pistols, swords, bayonets, &c. were found which together with the rope ladder were brought to Bow-street Police Office in Hackney coaches, in custody of the officers, and they were escorted by a strong body of the soldiers, who surrounded the coaches.

On their arrival at Bow-street, it was filled with soldiers, and the prisoners were placed at the bar. Statements of what had occurred being related by each of the parties, Mr. Birnie put several questions to each of the prisoners, who were chiefly shoemakers and carpenters, but could arrive at no satisfactory point as to the object of their meeting. Davison denied the charge. They were all remanded to Friday next for further examination.

Mr. Birnie ordered that they should be conveyed in hackney coaches to the House of Correction. They were handcuffed together; two were placed in each coach, with resolute officers, and, according to the directions of Mr. Birnie, two soldiers sat on the box of each coach, and two behind, in which way they went along, guarded by the rest of the soldiers, who had their bayonets fixed. They were followed by a vast concourse of persons, and the utmost good order was noticed. The instruments of destruction found by the officers were ordered to be kept in their custody until Friday next.

Sermon, [9] another of the Bow-street Officers who was wounded upon this occasion, is, we understand, in a very dangerous state; he received a pistol-shot in the head. The person, whose stab proved fatal to Smythers, has escaped. This person was stated at Bow-street to be Arthur Thistlewood.

Mr. Birnie, the Magistrate, accompanied the officers to Caton-street. Government is understood to have had previous information of this extraordinary meeting.

Morning Chronicle, Thursday, 24 February 1820

[1] Cato Street, not Caton Street (back)
[2] nearer twenty in fact (back)
[3] Ruthven went first, not Westcot (back)
[4] Westcott is mis-spelled: Westcott. Smythers is also mis-spelled: Smithers (back)
[5] This may be Gibbs; no-one called Gill was present (back)
[6] Davison is mis-spelled: Davidson. The person who had the encounter with the 'man of colour' was Ellis. (back)
[7] The rope ladder was an invention: it did not exist. (back)
[8] It was not the butcher, Ings, who stabbed Smithers. Thistlewood was responsible for this. (back)
[9] There was no-one called Sermon among the officers. A man called William Sarmon, a tailor from Edgware Road, was attacked by a tall man in a dark coat. (back)

Robert Adams

Thomas Brunt

William Davidson

Thomas Hiden

James Ings

Richard Tidd

The execution of five of the Cato Street Conspirators

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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