The Age of George III

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Luddism in Yorkshire: a chronology

1811 Outbreak of first Luddite disturbances in Nottinghamshire and the smashing of stocking frames.
1812 February Meetings of Yorkshire croppers; secret societies are formed and their members begin smashing cropping frames in the Spen Valley and environs; secret meetings are held at the St Crispin Inn, Halifax with the old radical and republican John Baines.
The frightened manufacturers form a Committee for the suppression of the disturbances.
March Attacks on cropping frames become an almost daily occurrence at the smaller mills across the West Riding. There is a massive groundswell of opinion behind the Luddite attacks.
The manufacturers' Committee offers 100 guineas for information leading to arrests.
The magistrate for the Huddersfield area Joseph Radcliffe petitions the Home Office to send military support.
April Several attacks on mills in the district
11th: Cartwright's well-defended Rawfolds Mill is attacked and the attackers are driven off, two Luddites dying of their wounds and several others wounded despite the fact that one of the militiamen defending the mill refuses to fire on the attackers and is court martialled. This is the first rebuff the Luddites have received; for several days the whole area seems on the brink of open rebellion
18th: Cartwright is shot at but not hit
21st: the militiamen who refused to fire during the defence of Rawfolds are flogged outside the mill, Cartwnght intercedes on the man's behalf and the punishment is halted after 25 lashes
28th (evening): William Horsfall, the owner of Ottiwells Mill who once said he would 'ride up to his saddle girth in Luddites blood' is shot on the way home from Huddersfield market, later dying of his wounds.
May Numerous reports of men seen drilling and several raids for arms
Radcliffe is given a personal militia escort
11th: the Prime Minister. Spencer Perceval, is assassinated at Westminster; a new government is formed by Lord Liverpool; Viscount Sidmouth is appointed Home Secretary and pursues a hard-line policy determined to smash all forms of civil disturbances throughout the country.
June Repeal of the unpopular Orders in Council begins a slow revival in the manufacturing industries but this is partly offset by declaration of war with America
Summer While armed raids continue, Radcliffe steps up the use of spies and informers to try to find evidence against the local ringleaders: 1000 troops are brought into the Huddersfield area, at least 30 to every public house; whole area virtually under martial law, spies and informers everywhere.
October Mellor, Thorpe, Smith and others are arrested for the murder of Horsfall, partly on the evidence of the informer Ben Walker: the tide turns against the Luddites
John Baines arrested for administering an illegal oath
1813 January Trial of Mellor, Thorpe and Smith and 63 others before a special Commission held in York; Mellor, Thorpe and Smith are found guilty and executed before a silent crowd; 14 other Luddites including John Baines are transported to the colonies; only seven men are acquitted; the bodies of those executed are returned to their families; the Luddite rising in Yorkshire is over; within a few years the cropping frames at the centre of the dispute are replaced by newer, more sophisticated machines; cropping as a trade almost disappears by 1820.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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