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Report of the trial of Samuel Holberry in Sheffield

Samuel Holberry was one of the Chartist leaders in Sheffield and favoured physical force as a method of obtaining the demands of the Chartists. He was arrested after the failure of the Sheffield Plot. The following is an account of his trial.

Thomas Rayner, police superintendent.

On Saturday evening, at twelve o'clock, I and Wilde and several police officers went to Holberry's house in Ayre-lane ... we went upstairs, and found Holberry in bed with his clothes on. He got upon one elbow, and then Wilde caught hold of a dagger from a side pocket in his coat, which was in a red leather case, and like the one produced. Wilde then asked him if he was one of the people called Chartists, and he said, 'Yes'.

He then asked him whether he was a moral-force Chartist or a physical-force Chartist? - He replied 'a physical-force Chartist'. I said that is a deadly weapon, pointing to the dagger, - you surely would not take life with it? - He replied, 'Yes; but I would in defence of the Charter and to obtain liberty; but he added, 'mind, I am no thief' ...

We went into the garret, and the first thing I saw was a pistol, which Wilde took up and which was found to be loaded. After that I found the basket on the table, with twelve hand-grenades, the cases for which were stone bottles stuffed with blasting powder, pebbles and pitch, with a fuse and touchpaper. I also found a number of fire-balls there, some tin cases for hand-grenades, three torches, about forty ball cartridges, about three dozen iron bullets and an iron pot...

Thomas Booker was brought in about four or five o'clock. He was asked where he lived, and he said No. 2 in Bencroft-Lane. We went there with a detachment of infantry. When we got into the house, we fond over the chimney-piece two guns, and I saw Mr. Wilde take a loaded pistol from the drawer. Upstairs we found the two bomb-shells produced. They are made the same way, I apprehend, as the hand-grenades. We found also 390 rounds of ball cartridge, a long pole pointed as for a pike, and four daggers...

Samuel Thompson ... I belonged to a Chartist Association, of which I became a member on the Sunday after the disturbance in Wales ... There was a room in Fig Tree Lane where the Chartists met. There were two sorts of meetings, one a public meeting, to whom any person was admitted; and a private meeting, which was a secret meeting, to which none but members were admitted. I was admitted ... I recall the Sunday before this disturbance, and I saw Holberry there on that day, and two or three men whom I have since seen at the Chartist meetings there ... Holberry said he had been to Dewsbury, and he was happy to say that the day, and the hour, and the moment were near, a unanimous rising should take place. But only two people in each town were to know the time. He said he had pledged his word at that meeting that no place of worship, church or chapel, should be destroyed; nor any provision stores ... He said he had another journey to go and he should want some money. He was to go to Nottingham for one place ...

[On the following Saturday, at a meeting in a public house Holberry announced plans for the rising.]

He said we must all be at the Town Hall and the Tontine [Hotel] by two o'clock, as they must be the places to be first taken. The classes were to come up to take these places, one man first from every class, then two, and the whole body. Exactly as the clock struck two they were to rush into the Town Hall and Tontine, and take possession of them. Boardman said he could bring about fifty, and I said I could bring about fifty ... If they got the Tontine, they were to shut the gates, and barricade them with the coaches inside. When they got into the Town Hall, one party was to occupy the floor, and the others were to go above. We then began to talk about the 'cats', the instruments to lame the horses, and it was proposed to throw them in Snig Hill, leading from the barracks, and they were to be thrown at the corner of the Town Hall and the Albion. Holberry said that he and eighty-three picked men were to go after the soldiers when they were called out and fire the straw chamber. One of them was to do it by climbing the spout and throwing a fire-ball in it. That, it was said, would set fire to the Riding School. The ones and twos who came up were to assassinate all the soldiers and watchmen they met ... Holberry said in the event of their being baffled, they must 'Moscow the town'.

The Northern Star, 21 March 1840.

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