Monday, 27 April 2015

27th April 1815: George Coldham names a Luddite suspected of shootings in Nottinghamshire

Private.

Dear Sir

You will perceive by the inclosed Report, that the revolutionary Exchequer is not amply supplied as it cannot raise £6, and they have therefore been compelled to give up all Idea of communicating with their friends, in the Metropolis at present.—Our Informant will in consequence be sent into Yorkshire and go where such heavy sums need not be raised for the purpose.—The Secret Committee will supply his wants if they can understand that he can go with the probability of obtaining useful Information, and without the danger of incurring the suspicion of the Confederates by appearing too forward in a desperate business.—

The latter part of the Report relating to myself is not a very pleasant complexion, but I should entirely disregard it, did not the Character of Dann lead me to know him capable of any atrocious Act he being the man who shot Mr. Trentham of Nottm and killed Wm Kilby at New Basford.—I hope however that the current of the Intelligence from the Continent will soon put period to any possible expectation of a Revolution here.—In the mean time I will thank you to inform me whether any Cavalry are ordered to Nottingham in the room of the Green Horse as it would be much add to our Security altho’ I fear it may be impossible for Government to provide for us in the present emergency.—

I am [etc]
Geo Coldham

Nottingham
27 Apl 1815

[To] J.Beckett Esqr.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

26th April 1815: Suicide of a framework-knitter, William Wakefield of Old Radford

On Wednesday 26th April, an unemployed framework-knitter called William Wakefield from Old Radford committed suicide by taking poison. He left a wife and 3 children.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

25th April 1815: Nottingham County Magistrates warn against future demonstrations

TO THE INHABITANTS
OF THE COUNTY
COUNTY NOTTINGHAM.


AN ADDRESS was on Saturday the 22d of April instant posted up in the Town and Neighbourhood of Nottingham, inviting the Inhabitants of Nottingham and its Vicinity to RESIST ALL DEMANDS MADE BY GOVERNMENT until certain Acts were done, and to attend a Meeting to be held on the Forest, on the Monday next, at Five o'clock.

The Magistrates for the Town have taken very active and formidable measures, by calling out the Peace Officers and the Military, and by other proper means, to counteract the mischief which might arise from any numerous Assembly, called together for such illegal purposes. The High Sheriff and Magistrates for the County concurred with the Magistrates for the Town, in the measures taken for preserving the peace, and the intended Meeting was prevented.

The Law was pointed out the relief for poverty and distress, for which no remedy can be derived from tumultuous Meetings; such Meetings are designed to give an opportunity to the [conspirators] and the abettors of mischief, to seduce and deceive the many, who are not aware of the pernicious and dangerous consequences of their proceedings; and also to create general confusion, and the subversion of all order and government.

It is proper for the Magistrates for the County, as Conservators of the public peace, to state the consequences which may arise to every Individual, who shall constitute a part of any Assemblies, held for the purposes expressed in the late invitation for a Public Meeting, that no persons may ignorantly incur the danger: and that those who shall meet for any such purposes may be hereafter without excuse.

To assemble for the purpose of devising means to resist the Law, and to proceed to any Act of such resistance in consequence, is Rebellion against the State, and every Person so acting is guilty of High Treason.

The Magistrates and therefore to express their earnest wish, that all persons who have any regard for the public Peace, for their own personal safety, and to their duty to their King and Country, will abstain from forming a part of, being present at, any such illegal meeting; and they wish it to be well understood, that notwithstanding any specious legal pretences for which any numerous meeting of Persons may now be held, such meetings will be viewed with the greatest suspicion, and those who administer the Law will not permit it to be evaded.

By Order of the Magistrates for the County
of Nottingham,

WILLIAM SCULTHORPE.

County Hall, Nottingham, April 25, 1815.

Friday, 24 April 2015

24th April 1815: Public meeting in Nottingham held in check by Magistrates, Military & Constables

The Sir John Borlase Warren public house (aka the Sir John Warren of 1815) at Canning Circus, Nottingham in 2010 (image copyright David Lally. Creative Commons License) (image has been cropped)
Being forewarned of what was planned for the day, on Monday 24th April 1815 several Nottingham constables had taken up positions around the town to observe and possibly intervene in anything that occurred amongst the unemployed demonstrators that were expected to gather 'on the forest'.

One Constable, James Lawson, was stationed at Nottingham Barracks from 2.30 p.m. At 5.00 p.m., he observed upwards of 100 men arrive at Nottingham Park nearby, near to the Sir John Warren public house, where they remained for 15-20 minutes, before leaving in the same direction they came from.

A Constable called Benjamin Barnes had spent some time on horseback, tracking the movements and assemblies of the men near the Sir John Warren. At one point, a stone was thrown which hit his horse in the hind legs. He considered that many of the men assembled there were not from the Town, but from the country areas around Nottingham.

Other Constables proceeded to the forest, the site of the proposed meeting, on horseback. One of them, Benjamin Hall, was later to depose that an individual by the name of Peter Green was present there, with about 40 men gathered around him. When Green saw the constables, Lawson said he called out "Damn you all, there are many constables on horse back but none of them can ride like you". Other groups of men were around the forest - Hall later estimated about 400 - and he spent his time confronting them and telling them to disperse, and they eventually complied. Benjamin Barnes deposed that he saw many men - 'several thousands' - coming and going from the forest that day.

Another constable, Samuel White, had seen similar large numbers of men 'on the forest'. He had enquired of them why they were gathered, and they had responded 'to petition the Prince Regent against the Corn Bill and against going to war with France'. Some of them had started a cricket match, and by 5.00 p.m. the magistrates ordered the game to be stopped and the men dispersed.

By 5.30 p.m. White observed a man he later identified as Peter Green with 40-50 men gathered about him. White said that Green ordered the men "be peaceable and quiet [and] march on", and when the body of men had progressed 30 yards, Green turned around and started to sing to the tune of La Marseillaise "march on, march on, all hands to Carlton and Gedling workhouse, there is room enough for us all" to shouting and laughter from the other men. Green continued "be peaceable and quiet, Carlton Round House yonder (pointing with his hand towards Carlton) is 2 miles off", adjourning the meeting to the new location. It was at this point that the Mayor of Nottingham ordered Green's arrest, and he was taken into custody.

According to the Constable John Griffin, the men who had been with Green still lingered for another 30 minutes, but dispersed when a heavy shower of rain came down.

The Nottingham Review of 28th April 1815 published an article about the meeting:
We understand another written bill was posted in several parts of the town, on Saturday night, calling upon the persons our of employment, to meet on Monday afternoon, on the race-ground: and it is stated to have held out a desire to the people, not to pay taxes until their grievances were redressed: in consequence of which, the magistrates issued a handbill in the morning, declaring their determination, to use every constitutional means in their power to prevent such proposed meeting from being held. They accordingly ordered the military, both horse and foot, to be under arms, and placed all the constables in a state of requisition, a number of whom were mounted on horseback. At the head of these the magistrates proceeded to the stand on the race-ground, where it was rumoured the meeting would be held, and where a party of the dragoons from the barracks were ready to act, if their services had been called for. About four o’clock persons from the town began to assemble, though not in any considerable number, not one of whom seemed to have any particular object in view, save that of idle curiosity. As many however as got together, several of the magistrates addressed in succession, expressing their sympathies for the suffering artisans and mechanics, and pledging themselves to assist them to the utmost of their power in every possible legal way; at the same time using every persuasive to induce them to retire peaceably to their respective homes, and declaring, however reluctantly they should perform the disagreeable duty, that every one attempting to disturb the public peace, should feel the displeasure of the law. One person, for making a shout, and treating the magistrates and their authority with disrespect, was taken into custody; and, with this exception, the people that came to the race-ground retired peaceably away.—Another person was taken up in the town during the evening, for opposing the constables in the exercise of their duty, and displaying other marks of disorderly conduct. A meeting, however, of at least two hundred persons was held in the park, where a paper was read, purporting to be string of resolutions, expressive of the multiplied suffering endured by the working class, in consequence of a want of trade, and the unexampled weight of taxes, under which the country groans, which evils were there stated to have arisen from a long and an unjust war carried on against the progress of opinion, and from the passing of the late obnoxious Corn Bill. The paper further expressed great abhorrence at the idea of this country’s being plunged into another war, on principles equally unjust and derogatory to the character of Englishmen with those on which the late hapless war was commenced and carried on; and concluded by proposing to remonstrate with the Regent on the subject. After the persons present had expressed their approbation of the contents of this paper, they quietly dispersed. The foot soldiers were continued on duty, and compelled to parade the streets during that night and the next day: notwithstanding which, some evil disposed persons, (bloods of the night, we suppose,) contrived to wrench several knockers from gentlemen’s doors, which was all the mischief we heard of being done.

24th April 1815: George Coldham informs the Home Office that the Luddites are behind the recent public meetings in Nottingham

Nottingham 24th April 1815

Dear Sir,

You will I am sure be sorry to learn that our old Enemies the Luddites are at Work again & upon a new System. On Saturday we learnt that they were endeavouring to collect a Meeting for very illegal Purposes upon the Nottingham Forest & Placards of which I Inclose you a Copy sent me by the Mayor in a very legible Hand were stuck up in the Night on Friday, & early on Saturday Morning. A Meeting of the magistrates was In consequence of the Proceedings on Wednesday last I was directed to give directions for the Infantry Guard at the Guard Room to be Doubled after a Picquet of 12 or 15 men to hold themselves constantly in readiness to act both at the Barracks & in the Town. Yesterday the Magistrates met & called upon the whole of the Horse to be in readiness appointed a Meeting with the County Magistrates this day at 12 & ordered the Hand Bill & posting Bill of which I inclose you Copies to be posted & distributed every where in the Neighbourhood & it is this their Determination to prevent any Meeting being held which they consider themselves fully justified in doing when the [illegible] to be to Direct People to resist Government by peaceably & orderly refusing to pay the Taxes.

I will write to you by tomorrow's Post. I have heard [satisfactorily] from Sir Nathaniel Conant & I therefore presume Lord Sidmouth has been so good as to attend to my [letter] respecting Thomas Garton

Yours very truly

Geo Coldham

[To: John Beckett]

24th April 1815: George Coldham issues a Handbill restricting freedom of assembly in Nottingham

TOWN OF NOTTINGHAM.

THE MAGISTRATES of this TOWN have observed with extreme concern the disposition to Violence and Tumult which manifested itself on Wednesday evening last, and which has given fresh evidence of its continued existence, by a secret invitation to a further Assemblage of the People this Afternoon upon the Forest, with the avowed purpose, under various SPECIOUS PRETENCES of deluding the honest, the peaceable, and the well disposed, INTO A RESISTANCE TO THE CONSTITUTED AUTHORITIES OF THE COUNTRY.

Under such circumstances the Magistrates have thought it their duty to make the most effectual arrangements for the maintenance of the public tranquillity, and are fully prepared to act upon them. Previous, however, to any Appeal to the power of the Law, they are anxious to declare that it is their full purpose and resolution that no Meeting shall be held by any Person or Persons whatsoever, for the purpose stated in the written Placard posted upon the Walls of this Town, on Saturday last; and that if any such Meeting be attempted to be held on the Forest, or any other place within their Jurisdiction, they will, after this Notice, consider it as an illegal assembly, and proceed accordingly.

Whilst the magistrates, from an imperious sense of public duty, feel themselves compelled to act with Vigour and Descision, they are anxious it should be known that they are fully aware the present state of the Manufactory has occasioned and is daily occasioning scenes of the deepest Misery and Distress amongst the Labouring Artizans. In these Distresses and Privations they most sincerely sympathize, and are ready to do any thing is in their power, consistently with their duty to themselves, and to the Government and Laws under which they live, to relieve the Distresses of their Fellow-Townsmen by all the means which the Constitution has entrusted to their power. In the mean time let those Individuals, upon whom the Distresses of the Times may press hard, reflect that the inflammation of the Public mind may aggravate, but cannot alleviate their sufferings; let them consult their cooler judgment, and they must be convinced that every voice and every hand that is raised in clamour against the Farmer, the Miller, and the Flourseller, is actively employed in holding up the Price of Corn, Flour, and Bread, in the Market; and that any act of Fraud or Force carried on in violation of the Public Peace, can only tend to aggravate the very Evils it insidiously professes to alleviate.

Nottingham, Monday,
24th April, 1815.

By Order of the Magistrates,
GEO COLDHAM,
TOWN CLERK.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

22nd April 1815: Handbills announcing public meeting 'upon the Forest' posted in Nottingham

To the Inhabitants of Nottingham And its Vicinity:—

Gentleman and Brother Townsmen It is with the heart felt greef that we behold the Distress of our fellow workmen and our we anticipate that which will soon overtake them if something Determined and efective is not enter’d upon but let us remember that Desperate means will not answer our purpose therefore let us proseid peacable and united and resist all Demands that shall be made upon us by Government till they have restor’d to us a free trade all over Europe taken of the Duty which is upon Silk and Cotten and quite put away all Restrictions which is upon the Importation of Grain and Flower for as similar threats as been held out by Westminster, Sheffield and other places let us be the first to put them into Execution for we are well Convinced that the Inhabitants of this Town feels the effects of the above as much as any machine in this Country and a meeting will be held upon the Forest on Monday next at 5 oclock to form Resolutions accordingly―

Sunday, 19 April 2015

19th April 1815: Meeting of the unemployed in Nottingham turns into a riot

By Wednesday 19th April 1815, discontent was stirring in Nottingham, but unlike Luddism, it was far from covert and seemed to be percolating more generally among the unemployed.

A number of Constables were later to depose what they observed taking place that day in the town.

At noon, John Rainbow had spotted the following handbill or notice posted on the wall of the Leather Bottle Inn, in an area facing the Meadow Platts:
That is particularly requested that all persons out of Employment will meet on a vacant piece of Ground called Burton Lease in order that it may be ascertained what numbers are out of employ and to consult on the best means to relieve their distresses to meet this Evening Wednesday at six oClock

April 19th 1815       God save the People
Rainbow also deposed that he had seen a similar notice posted at the west end of Narrow Marsh at 1.00 p.m.

Estimates varied amongst the constables as to how many attended the meeting that evening. Rainbow merely stated that 'a great number of people' were assembled. Another Constable, Benjamin Hall, estimated '200 or 300', whilst another, Benjamin Barnes saw the number swell from 100 to an eventual 1000. All agreed the crowd was being addressed by a speaker, although Barnes stated that the mass present were gathered in a circular fashion around 6 central characters, who were conversing with each other.

Barnes' highly detailed account of the meeting continued with the meeting breaking up when a crowd of men and boys appeared at the top of nearby Charlotte Street and gave out a shout. Most of those present then left to join them, making off in the direction of St Mary's workhouse, before 3 more shouts were given, and most of the crowd made for the marketplace. He went on to say that some of the crowd lingered at Burton Leys, formed a circle and quickly agreed to meet the following Monday 'upon the forest'.

By this time, most of the crowd had ventured up Pelham Street. The crowd then set about breaking the windows of numerous bakers around the town, and that two boys were taken into custody following this.

It is interesting to contrast the accounts in the depositions with how the events were reported in the press on the following Friday.

The Nottingham Review of 21st April 1815 gave a highly partial account of a meeting and the riot that followed in Nottingham on Wednesday 19th April 1815:
On Wednesday morning, it was discovered that several written papers had been stuck on the walls, in the most populous parts of this town, which called upon all persons out of employment to meet on a plot of waste ground, called Burton Leys, near Milton-street, at six o'clock that evening, for the pretended purpose of consulting on the best means to be adopted for the obtainment of relief under their disagreeable circumstances. It was clear to the more reflecting part of the inhabitants, that the writer of these papers is either a blockhead, or one of those designing knaves who wish to make use of the indiscretion of the thoughtless to furnish a pretence for letting loose military vengeance upon the inhabitants at large, because the greater part of them steadily and peacefully pursue a course of opposition to those measures of state policy, which they think inimical to the general interests of the country. Whatever might be the motive of the writer (and it could not be a good one) it was evident that that principle of curiosity, which is so natural to man, would draw a considerable number of persons together, notwithstanding efforts had been made by several discrete persons, in the course of the day, to prevent such a measure from taking place; the Magistrates had therefore directed the Constables to be on duty, and the soldiers were also ordered to be in readiness, if their aid should unhappily be wanted. We attended in the course of the evening to see what was going forward, and, was glad to find, with the exception of spectators like ourselves, that the company consisted chiefly of boys, and a few men half-intoxicated; and, when night set in, there was good reason to hope, that it would be passed without trouble or commotion; because the good sense of several workmen was exercised with apparent effect to prevail on the group thus assembled to disperse. The hopes, however, of the peaceful, were in some degree, disappointed, and those of the foolish, or malignant contrivers of the meeting, partly gratified: for, during the course of the evening, parties of mischievous boys got together, and broke the windows of several bakers and floursellers in various parts of the town. The civil and military power was called into action, and the public peace was shortly restored. What infatuation could induce even these thoughtless boys to break the baker’s windows, we are at a loss to guess, except that when once assembled they could not disperse without doing mischief of some kind; for most assuredly it is not to that class of tradesmen that the country owes her misfortunes. Before closing this article we will most sincerely express our hopes, that the good sense of the people will not suffer themselves to be led astray by anyone, either blockhead or knave again, to disturb the public peace. Two boys were taken up during the confusion, and are now in custody.
Even less partial was the Tory Nottingham Gazette of the same date:
RIOT IN NOTTINGHAM.

This town appears doomed to be a scene of disgraceful outrage of every description. On Wednesday placards were posted in two or three different parts of the town, inviting all persons who were out of employment to meet that evening at six o'clock, at a piece of open ground, called Burton Leys, at the top of Boot Lane, in order to ascertain their numbers, and devise means for the alleviation of their distresses. The Address ended with the words "GOD SAVE THE PEOPLE!!!" A considerable assemblage of course took place, at first chiefly of young lads and women, who, instead of discussing the subject of their meeting, indulged for two or three hours in tumultuous amusements, till, their number having increased, and favoured by the darkness, they proceeded in a riotous manner through the streets, breaking the windows of several bakers, and demanding bread. The tradesmen who complied with this requisition, by giving up a loaf or two to the mob, had their windows spared; and the bread thus obtained was kicked and knocked about the streets, till it was generally rendered unfit for human consumption. By the timely exertions of the magistrates, who deemed it prudent to call out the military, the infatuated populace were dispersed without any serious mischief having occurred, and we trust a repetition of this disgraceful scene will not be attempted. To say nothing of the impossibility that any good consequence can arise from such proceedings, we conjure these deluded people to reflect on the danger to which they wantonly and uselessly expose themselves. The law is now established, by the trials which ensued on the late riots in London, that every individual is justifiable in firing upon a mob, not only if they attack the property of himself, but if they are found attacking that of others; and it is therefore impossible to foresee the mischief that may in an instant arise from these unlawful practices.

We have a sensible letter from a Correspondent, on the subject, which, however, we beg leave to decline inserting, as we think some of his censures, if not undeserved, least premature. He estimates the number of rioters at two thousand; and supposing that to be double their number, he very judiciously observes, that it is clear an immense majority could not be in want of employment, and that they were too probably called together for other puposes, and acted with other views than those of obtaining work. Certainly an attack on the property of an industrious class of men, the bakers, who cannot be blamed for the scarcity of work, or the dearness of bread, was by no means likely to procure employment any where but in the house of correction. Several of the rioters, we understand, are in custody. Should it be found that they had employment, we hope that aggravation of their offence probably not be forgotten in inflicting on them a due degree of punishment. Those who have been betrayed into excesses by personal privations or difficulties, are entitled to pity for their misfortunes, while they are punished, as punished they must be, for their misconduct. Those who have had no motive but that of wanton wickedness and contempt of the laws deserve neither lenity nor compassion. Another meeting was agreed to be held, but we trust it will be abandoned. For obvious reasons, we consider it prudent to state neither the time nor the place of assembly.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Alan Brooke's review of the 2015 Luddite Memorial Lecture

Huddersfield historian Alan Brooke has published a review of the 2015 Luddite Memorial Lecture, which we republish here.

The second Luddite Memorial Lecture – a joint Huddersfield Local History Society/University of Huddersfield venture, was held at the University on 16 April 2015. It starred Prof Malcolm Chase of Leeds who spoke on ‘York Castle and its political prisoners – the Luddites in a wider context.’ Malcolm Chase is best known for his ‘Chartism – a new history’ and for his in depth study of 1820 and the threat posed by discontent to the government of the day, including uprisings in Huddersfield and Barnsley, which is soon to appear in paperback. Here I will forgo a grouse about the cost of academic books, since the hardback edition costs a small fortune.

This is the fifth time I have heard Malcolm speak and as usual his talk was both very informative and entertaining. Above all, for me, it was also politically relevant, in that it demonstrated the continuous development of the state apparatus in quelling dissent from mediaeval times to the 20th C.

The speaker’s point of departure was not the Luddite executions but the ‘Pilgrimage to York’ organised by the Ten Hour movement led by Richard Oastler, when in Easter 1833 thousands of working men women and children marched from the manufacturing districts to York Castle in support of their demands to limit the hours of child labour. This was just 20 years after the execution of the 17 Luddites (or Luddites and burglars using the cloak of Luddism) and Malcolm asserted that among the protestors from the Huddersfield area there must have been many for whom York still held that association, through common knowledge, as relatives of Luddites, or even some who had participated in Luddite activities. For those of us who still vividly remember the Miner’s Strike of 1984/85, although 30 years ago now, it seems more than likely that such a dramatic, and indeed traumatic event in people’s lives as the Luddite executions would have been embedded in popular consciousness and would have been recollected by some. As I have mentioned elsewhere however, a culture of ‘omerta’ does seem to have prevailed and there is little evidence of the Luddites being publically discussed at this time. (1)

Having set the scene at York Castle and established its significance in the Luddite story Malcolm recounted not only a brief history of its political inmates but also described the physical evolution of the Castle as a gaol, illustrated by some fascinating slides including an early aerial view. The site, familiar to us today as Clifford’s Tower, the adjacent massive car park and the elegant square bounded on three sides by the Castle Museum and the Law Courts was, in the 19th C, surrounded by a massive curtain wall and accessible only via a formidable towered gate house. Also in the early 19th C a state of the art panopticon prison was built on what is now the car park.

Malcolm described how Clifford’s Tower probably owed its survival to its utility as a gaol when the rest of the Norman castle had been demolished. Since at least the early 13th C it had housed enemies of the Crown including Irish, Scots and French. In the 17th C both opponents of the Monarchy and the Commonwealth, including many Quakers had found themselves in the Castle, though which part of the physical structure was used for their incarceration I either missed or Malcolm failed to specify.

Here Malcolm pulled out of the hat one of those interesting historical coincidences that makes the subject so delightful even if it explains absolutely nothing. Most of the Luddites were hung on 16 January 1813. On the same day in 1664 there was another mass hanging – 16 men implicated in the Farnley Wood plot, a republican attempt to overthrow the restored monarchy of Charles II.

Unfortunately, this is not our Farnley Wood near Huddersfield (although there was some local involvement in the rising) but Farnley near Leeds, otherwise the coincidence would have been even more poignant. However the plot did focus on the woollen manufacturing areas, as did the Luddite rising. It would have been interesting to know the occupations of those executed in 1664. Indeed, two men executed on Attercliffe Moor for their part in the plot were recorded as a clothier and a cloth dresser. (2) But this date was no more than a coincidence and reporting on the Luddite executions in 1813 one newspaper recapitulating other mass executions at York remained oblivious of the Farnley Wood rebels.

The Jacobite rebellion also produced its martyrs at a time when the mediaeval practice of mutilating the hanged men still remained in force. Over 250 were held in York and 22 were executed, the heads of two being stuck on Micklegate Bar where they remained for ten years. Malcolm did describe some other executions as well as the loathsome conditions in the gaol in the 18th C which, being a sensitive soul, I decline to repeat.

As well as Jacobites at least one prominent ‘Jacobin’ as the authorities dubbed him was incarcerated twice in York on the 1790s. James Montgomery (who had previously been an apprentice baker in Wakefield) was indicted in 1795 for writing a subversive poem about the fall of the Bastille and for criticising the shooting down of protestors the following year. Malcolm contrasted the harsh treatment of the Luddites in 1813 with that of the Yorkshire rebels of 1820, when participants in the Grange Moor rising had their death sentences commuted to transportation. This he attributed to a reluctance to exacerbated a dangerously tense political situation which he claimed posed the biggest threat to government since the Jacobite rebellion or subsequently – including the 20th C. In Scotland however three insurgents were executed, creating martyrs that are still remembered today.

Here I have to point out Malcolm’s most serious omission, – a failure to mention the Huddersfield uprising of 1817 where, again, this time mainly due to revelations that a government provocateur had been at work, those arrested were released after trial – apart from Tom Riley who committed suicide in his cell. Since Riley was one who ‘had form’ as a Luddite suspect in 1812/13 his story is a good example of the likely continuity from Luddism to later Radical activity as well as being a personal tragedy that throws light on the conditions of prisoners.

York also held its quota of radicals from the 1830s and 40s, like Joshua Hobson, Huddersfield’s campaigner for the liberty of the press and many Chartists including Feargus O’Connor. However Chartists often served their terms in Northallerton gaol, noted for its harsh regime which resulted in the martyrdom of Samuel Holberry of Sheffield.

York does not seem to have been used for political prisoners in the later 19th C although during the first world war it did hold interred enemy aliens – so many if fact that some had to be accommodated in tents in the grounds.

Malcolm closed with the reflections that York’s political prisoners are not remembered in the city, dominated as it is by a twee heritage industry geared to tourism, which sees Dick Turpin, a petty gangster, as more sellable than radical heroes. He closed with an account of the 2013 Luddite commemoration at York which marked the site of the executions outside the walls of the Castle, now by a busy ring road, with no permanent memorial to the Luddites or to any of the thousands of political prisoners who had passed through that grim place.

The talk was not only a fascinating overview of the workings of the British state through the ages in one locality (which brought out York’s role as de facto ‘capital of the North’), but also a tribute to all those who have fought, lost their liberty and often their lives in the fight for freedom as they saw it at the time. Yorkshire should have a fitting tribute to its radical martyrs and there would be no better site for it than York Castle.  Malcolm’s talk could help kick start that discussion if we as historians and activists carry on the task of bringing our radical history to a wider audience through such popular events as the Annual Luddite Memorial Lectures.

(1)  see https://undergroundhistories.wordpress.com/the-luddite-legacy/

(2) A. J. Hopper, ‘The Farnley Wood plot and the memory of the civil wars in Yorkshire’, Historical Journal, 45 (2002), 281-303,

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The 2015 Luddite Memorial Lecture: 'York Castle and its political prisoners: the Luddites in a broader context' by Malcolm Chase

The 2015 Luddite Memorial Lecture was delivered at Huddersfield University by Professor Malcolm Chase, this year on the same date as the burial of the Luddite martyr John Booth. The talk was largely based on the one he gave at the York Alternative History event to mark the bicentenary of the Luddite executions in 2013, and did reflect on that event. The text of his talk at the latter event is below, and we will add any recordings of the 2015 talk to this post in due course.

The Huddersfield Luddite historian Alan Brooke has reviewed the 2015 talk here (and on our site here).

I want to begin with two seemingly unconnected episodes. First, in April 1835 thousands of West Yorkshire textile workers – men, women and children – made what was termed at the time a ‘Pilgrimage’ on foot from communities as far away as Huddersfield, Honley and Holmfirth, to York Castle Yard. Their purpose was to call for Factory Reform and the rally was a formative event in the campaign for reform to the working hours and conditions endured by woollen mill workers. To undertake a round-trip walk of up to a 100 miles was a collective act of self-sacrifice, made to secure the attention of a political establishment seemingly deaf to their petitions and pleas. York was chosen because it was the capital of Yorkshire, and the now-grassed area between the three sides of the museum and courts complex, the Castle Yard, was the epicentre of Yorkshire politics. It was here that the MPs for all of the County of Yorkshire were proclaimed at each election until 1832 (and those for the North Riding would continue to be until 1882). It was here that great county-wide meetings had been held in the late-C18th that developed both the radical reform and anti-slavery agenda in the region. Not only the privations of the demonstrators, but the location of their protest, leant the occasion massive symbolic force.

Secondly, I want to fast forward a little over 80 years later to January 1917. The scene is Westminster Magistrates Court, where the case of Francis Meynell of Bayswater, London, is being considered. Meynell was a conscientious objector who refused to be conscripted into the armed services. Like thousands of others of similar views, he faced an indefinite sentence in a military prison. Before the magistrates handed him over to the military, the Liverpool Echo reported Meynell told the court proudly: [my] 'greatgreat grandfather's great-great-great grandfather, William Tuke, was imprisoned in York Castle as a conscientious objector in 1660.'

It would be a pleasing symmetry if Francis had been dispatched to York Castle (by 1917 mainly a military prison) like his ancestor before him, but he wasn’t. However, an unknown number of COs were imprisoned here: for example a clutch of men court martialled in Lichfield, Staffordshire, served sentences here in 1916; while Quakers James and Peter Campbell, from South London, were only released from the Castle in April 1919 after serving three years in various prisons (including a hunger strike by, and force feeding for, Peter while imprisoned at Canterbury).

Francis Meynell didn’t serve his sentence in York. And in a further demonstration that history is never tidy, the 500-odd Quakers who were imprisoned in the Castle in the 1650s and 1660s (many for refusing military service) did not include William Tuke either – though they did briefly include George Fox, the founding figure within Quakerism. But William Tuke, a Quaker blacksmith from the Walmgate area was imprisoned, not in the Castle but the Kidcote, the York city prison close to the present day Ousegate bridge. In fact Tuke was imprisoned twice in the 1660s. That was his good fortune, for an early C18th Quaker history tell us that ‘in York Castle five of the [Quaker] prisoners died through the unhealthiness of the Place, where they were thronged together’.

This second anecdote, untidy and tangential though it may seem, helps make my first point, namely that York Castle had a long history – extending over centuries – as a prison for political offenders. If time permitted, a survey could extend back at least to the early C12th, when Irish soldiers serving the French side in the wars of King John were taken hostage and imprisoned in the Castle. In 1295 Welshmen who had participated in an uprising led by Madog ap Llewellyn were incarcerated here. The early C14th saw large numbers of Scottish hostages, seized in border wars, arriving; during the French wars of the early C15th Parisian notables were imprisoned. All were probably kept in the building we know as Cliffords Tower, for when the mainly Norman castle was demolished later that century only Cliffords Tower was spared on account of its importance as a prison.

Not all its prisoners were exotic foreigners. The Lord Mayor of York himself was gaoled there in 1580 for refusing to enforce – or even proclaim – penalties against Roman Catholics. He joined a small number of Roman Catholics already imprisoned in the Castle. To be a Catholic in Elizabethan England was, of course, a highly political act.

When the Castle was rebuilt as a military fortification in the 1640s the prison was moved out of Cliffords Tower and relocated elsewhere in the precinct. It would have been here that the 500 Quaker prisoners mentioned earlier were incarcerated. They were not alone: a wide range of prisoners – many of them essentially political offenders were housed here during the years of the English Revolution. For example William Archer of Etton, near Beverley, was gaoled in 1652 for ‘saying the Parliament were traitors and bloodsuckers and that they had taken off the King’s head’. And after the monarchy was restored James Parker of Rothwell (between Wakefield and Leeds) was locked up in 1663 for stating: ‘I served Oliver [Cromwell] seven yeares as a soldier … As for the Kinge I am not beholdinge to him. I care not a fart for him’.

Parker was one of many Parliamentarian sympathisers from the south Leeds area who were imprisoned as a result of a series of little known Northern Risings to overthrow the restored monarchy in the autumn of 1663. Of more than a 100 who were directly implicated in the rising, all were remanded to the Castle and tried at the York Assize. 16 were then hung, drawn and quartered at the tyburn on the Knavesmire on the 16 January 1664. Three who escaped were recaptured in Leeds and met the same fate at Chapletown a few days later; 29 other prisoners were sentenced to indefinite prison sentences. Virtually all those executed as a result of the Farnley Wood Rising (as it was popularly known) came from the Yorkshire textiles district. Their heads were displayed round the city: on Micklegate, Bootham and Walmgate Bars, and over the Castle gate.

So, history is tidy and symmetrical after all. Sixteen men of the West Riding clothing district were executed outside York Castle on Saturday 16 January 1664, and fourteen men of the West Riding clothing district were executed outside York Castle on Saturday 16 January 1813. Was the choice of the latter date made with the executions 139 years before in mind? Not as far as I am aware. It seems to have been a macabre coincidence, one that underlines the frequency with which York Castle functioned as a prison for political offenders, and the City as the site for mass execution. When I realised this coincidence I looked carefully at proceedings before and at the scaffold in 1813 for any hint that the anniversary was known to anyone involved. But I found nothing. The condemned Luddites sung a hymn by John Wesley’s father on the scaffold, not one by any C17th Puritan author. And the York Herald was very clear: these fourteen ‘unfortunate and misguided men are the largest number that ever suffered in one day at York, that stands upon any record within our knowledge’.

To reinforce its point, the Herald detailed the C18th mass executions that had  cast a dark shadow of their own across the city: all were political and all derived from the 1745-6 Jacobite Rebellion. On 1 November 1746 ten Jacobites were hanged at the Tyburn on the Knavesmire, and their hearts removed while they hung and burnt on the scaffold. The following Saturday eleven more were similarly dispatched. Again, decapitated heads were displayed across the city, the last offenders to be treated to this ignominy. The remainder of their corpses are thought to have been buried in the Castle precinct, where twenty mutilated skeletons were discovered in the 1860s by labourers digging a drain.

Compared to the political trials that preceded and followed it, the special commission that sat at York to try the Jacobites was unusual in its composition. The sixty Jacobite prisoners from the earlier, and less-serious, rising of 1715 had eventually been released without trial. In 1746, the five judges were joined by the archbishop, the Dean and the political leader (and future prime minister) the Marquis of Rockingham. Archbishop Thomas Herring, had taken a leading role in stirring the City to prepare itself militarily to resist the Jacobite army, personally addressing a county meeting in the Castle Yard at which £31,000 was pledged to the defence of England. (Notice the frequency with which not only the prison, but the Castle generally, its precincts and its Yard crop up in this survey: York Castle was a profoundly political space.)

By 1746 the built environment of the Castle had begun a fundamental change. The first of the current buildings, the Debtors’ Prison wing of the modern museum, dates from 1701-05. Let’s dispense with the Debtors’ Prison tag (with its Dickensian flavour of decayed gentlefolk detained with some dignity under only light surveillance.) The socalled Debtor’s Prison was built as a general county gaol and used accordingly. It proved completely inadequate when the Castle was swamped with Jacobite prisoners in 1746. 190 were consigned here after the fall of Carlisle alone, arriving in January 1746 having walked across the Pennines. Even the redoubtable Hanoverian loyalist Herring was appalled by their condition, telling a friend that their ‘Filth and Sickness and close confinement’ might ‘breed a contagion very dangerous to the publick’. With no public funds to keep the prisoners in cloths, heat or food, the Keeper of York Castle was reduced to appealing for charitable donations through the pages of the York Courant, the city’s newspaper at the time. Only those Jacobite prisoners with some private means appear to have been kept in the County Gaol (they included eight women). The rest were incarcerated in the small range of cells intended for prisoners on-trial, beneath the Grand Jury House on the site of the present Crown Court (not erected until the 1770s). An unspecified number died in the Grand Jury House, and according to one eye-witness, ‘when the turnkey opens the cells in the morning, the steam and stench is intolerable and scarce credible. The very walls are covered with lice in the room over which the Grand Jury sit’. As a result the routine Assize that Easter had to be relocated to Kings Manor, and large number of prisoners were removed to gaols at Lincoln and Pontefract.

Of the 250-odd Jacobite rebels imprisoned at York at its peak, only a minority were ever executed. The real force of Britain’s capital punishment regime derived as much from the theatrical display of almost random clemency towards those sentenced to die as it did from public executions themselves: one of those condemned, John Jellons, was actually being dragged along Castlegate, bound to a wooden hurdle as was customary at the execution of traitors, when a court official stepped forward with his pardon. The majority were acquitted, had charges dropped, or were pressed into the Hanoverian army; but 48 were imprisoned and 70 transported (including several women).

As is clear from the York Herald’s 1813 reference to the Jacobite executions, the memory the latter (less than 70 years before) was still green when the Luddites met their death, no longer at the Tyburn (last used in 1801) but on an especially constructed drop adjoining the Castle walls. Nor had conditions inside the prison much improved, though overcrowding at 1746 levels was never repeated. In 1780 the penal reformer John Howard found that prisoners were not permitted fires to warm them in winter, or direct access to fresh water, baths or beds other than those made on the floor. The following year coals for heating were at last provided, but only as the result of a charitable bequest made by a York widow, Tabitha Bower. By the time the Luddites were incarcerated in the Castle, there was a water pump in the exercise yard, and prisoners were provided with blankets and, it would seem, even soap. But an 1818 visitor commented that the prison was dirty, food inadequate, that prisoners had to share beds and were chained at all times when not allowed into the exercise yard.

Routine chaining was abandoned only in 1836 when those kept in the so-called debtors prison were transferred to a new building, occupying the area of the present-day Cliffords Tower car park, separated from the city by a 10-metre high wall, and built to the latest standards of prison construction. This was the building, mostly transferred to military control in 1900, that housed Conscientious Objectors during WW1.

The Jacobites were the last political prisoners to be executed at York – though not the last to die here as I shall show shortly. But there was, following the 1813 executions, something of a sea-change in official attitudes in England to political crimes and industrial protesters. Thus in 1820 the carefully choreographed theatricality which had attended the trials of Jacobites and Levellers was largely absent during the trial at York of Henry Hunt and other organisers of the 1819 protest meeting in Manchester remembered as the Peterloo Massacre. Indeed the theatricality of 1820 derived from the behaviour of the defendants (bailed pending trial). Hunt’s journey into York, in the words of the Leeds Mercury, ‘more resembled the triumphal march of a conqueror than the journey of a culprit advancing to trial’; but prosecution witnesses were waylaid and ‘assailed with hisses, groans & imprecations’. Rather than risk the same, the judges had decided to take a circuitous route to York.

Though it ended in Hunt’s conviction, the Peterloo trial was also notable for the government privately expressing grave doubts about the preparedness of a Yorkshire jury to declare a guilty verdict. In the seven years since the Luddite risings, it was if England had crossed a Rubicon. Those in authority could no longer be unwavering in their confidence that public attitudes to judicial retribution would be ones of unqualified approval. This was abundantly evident in the other political trials that took place at York in 1820. The first was of West Riding blanket weavers for wage riots in February. Cavalry had been needed to clear the streets and to secure at least some of the offenders. Sixteen were arrested and immediately sent to York Castle. At the ensuing Assize they pleaded guilty to a variety of public order and violence-related offences. However, in a carefully stage-managed proceeding, the prosecution declined to move for them to be sentenced and the judge instead delivered a stern homily. Forcibly to seek a rise in wages, he told them, was ‘an offence of very great magnitude, but it is also an act of the greatest folly and imprudence, to seek by rioting the redress of any imaginary or even real grievance … Go home and be good men.’

There’s no space here to analyse the motives behind this striking exhibition of clemency, except to say that during the early months of 1820 the government was struggling to contain an unprecedented level of political unrest, the most striking example of which was the so-called Cato Street conspiracy in London to assassinate the entire Cabinet. Preferring to keep the extent of its political surveillance networks a secret, rather than prosecute all implicated in conspiracies, the government portrayed the Cato Street conspirators as murderous psychopaths, acting alone and engineered pragmatic displays of clemency elsewhere.

The wisdom of this policy was evident when, over Easter 1820, there were attempts at general risings in West Yorkshire and central Scotland. There were clear links between the two: indeed the author of the Scottish rebels’ declaration that they felt “compelled, from the extremity of our sufferings … to take up ARMS for the redress of our Common Grievances” was a Leeds radical, the son of a shoemaker from Heslington. The specifically Yorkshire rebels who were arrested (25, all from the Huddersfield area) were imprisoned in York Castle and tried at a special Assize, like the Luddites before them. But this time the Crown prosecutors offered clemency in return for pleas of guilty. With the fate of the Luddites doubtless on their minds, all of them complied. The sentences handed down by the York Assize included immediate transportation for twelve of the prisoners, but no sentences of death. Three prisoners were discharged and those sentenced to transportation received a pardon four months later. The Crown carefully avoided making martyrs of the Yorkshire rebels, a mistake manifestly committed in Scotland where trials following the Easter risings imposed twenty-four capital convictions for disturbances in which the only fatality on the government side was a horse. Three Scottish rebels were hanged, the consequences of which reverberated through to the present day.

Chartists were the last political prisoners to be held in York Castle until the COs during the First World War. They included one of the highest-profile Victorian political prisoners, the barrister Feargus O'Connor, the one really commanding national figure in all Chartism and proprietor of the movement’s great newspaper, the Northern Star & Leeds General Advertiser. (He was imprisoned for libels published in its pages.) It is a tribute to the need to ensure O'Connor did not die in custody and become a martyr to the cause that the Crown permitted him his own clothes and furniture, a fire in his cell, meals brought in from local hotels, writing materials and the company of a cage-bird. His release from prison in August 1841 was the occasion for one of York’s greatest ever political demonstrations.

But O'Connor’s experience contrasted sharply with that of other York Chartist prisoners. Handloom weaver Peter Hoey of Barnsley lost a leg after being chained in custody and Samuel Holberry of Sheffield died here after a long struggle to overcome tuberculosis, contracted in Northallerton Gaol where he had first been imprisoned. Holberry had led been arrested as he was about to lead an uprising in Sheffield in January 1840. Young, idealistic, unemployed with a bride of fifteen months expecting their first child, Holberry cut a sympathetic figure. Asked ‘surely you would not take a life?’ by the policeman who arrested him, he responded, ‘But I would, in defence of liberty and the [People’s] Charter. Mind, I am no thief or robber, but I will fight for the Charter and will not rest until we have got it, and to that I have made up my mind’.

Unlike Chartist rebels in Wales a few months before, only a lesser charge of seditious conspiracy was brought against Holberry at the York Assize. Holberry received a four-year sentence, eight other conspirators lesser terms. But all were led away to Northallerton prison, selected by the judge on the instructions of the Crown prosecution team, because of all the prisons within the York’s jurisdiction, Northallerton ‘was farthest away from their own homes’ and the gaol where prisoners ‘are worse fed & hardest worked’ (I quote here from correspondence between the Home Office and York).

Northallerton gaol was run in a spirit of viciousness and parsimony unusual even by the standards of the time: solitary confinement was the only alternative to hard labour or the treadmill. After one Sheffield Chartist died there and Holberry had contracted TB, the Home Office had him transferred to York Castle where medical supervision of prisoners was routine. According to the surgeon who examined him soon after his arrival he was bilious, ‘weak; his skin and eyes are still suffused with bile; his pulse is quick and his appetite bad’. Edward Burley, a plasterer and York Chartist who often visited Holberry, found him unable to exercise or even walk. By March 1841 he could no longer hold a pen. York’s Chartists led what soon became a national agitation for Holberry’s release on compassionate grounds. On 17 June release was offered in return for two sureties, each of £100. His supporters were still desperately trying to secure these when Holberry died. The York Chartists strenuously argued prison conditions were to blame but the coroner’s court exonerated the authorities.

The belief that Holberry and other Chartists were political prisoners endured. As late as the 1860s the Marquis of Normanby, Home Secretary at the time Holberry was gaoled, was still being criticised for permitting Chartist prisoners to be treated ‘worse than thieves, burglars, and even murderers’. The allegations were made with some justification for, as a major North Riding landowner and magistrate, Normanby would have had local knowledge of Northallerton’s regime. Not only was the Home Office less than fastidious in checking local prison conditions, the correspondence quoted above shows the government to have been directly complicit in his mistreatment.

How to conclude? Well it’s clear to me that the much-lauded Dick Turpin is just about the least interesting or important prisoner ever to have been executed in the city’s history. Episodic and sketchy though it has to be, the narrative above shows how for over 800 years York was consistently one of England’s major centres for political imprisonment, trial and execution. York Castle was a profoundly symbolic space in political terms. Not only was it, by 1813, one of the country’s largest and architecturally most-imposing prisons, it was both the symbolic and practical centre of political authority in the region. Here I return to the point where I began: it was to York Castle Yard in 1832 that the great Factory Reform ‘Pilgrimage’ was held. We should see that epochal event in the evolution of Yorkshire political protest and as an act of reclamation. Industrial workers, many from the same communities, and some doubtless from the same families, as the Luddites executed in 1813, reclaimed and cleansed a site that had been so contaminated 19 years before. The Luddites had been imprisoned, tried and then executed at a location freighted with the trappings and reminders of the authority of the State and the city of York itself was a powerful player in the drama that York’s Alternative History now commemorates.

Sources: thanks to Cyril Pearce for information about COs, and to Andrew Hopper’s article about the Farnley Wood Rising in Historical Journal 45/2 (2002). For information on the Quaker prisoners I used WK and EM Sessions, Tukes of York (1987) and for other mid-C17th prisoners George Benson’s Account of the city and county of the city of York: from the reformation to the year 1925 (1935). The York Historian has useful articles on Jacobite prisoners in its 1985 and 2007 issues, and another on the architecture of the prison in the 2005 volume. Details for 1820 and for the Chartists can be found in my forthcoming book on 1820 (July 2012) and Chartism: A New History (2007). Other information has been taken from the Surtees Society’s 1861 volume, Depositions from the Castle of York, and the Victorian County History (City of York volume, 1961).

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Ned Ludd enters the General Election - a response to 'Yorkshire First'

Over on his website, the 'Yorkshire First' candidate for Colne Valley in the forthcoming General Election - Paul Salveson - has bizarrely inserted a little piece about the Luddites. It's actually a refreshing change to see their name mentioned during the bicentenary in the midst of this political campaign. But there are numerous problems with it, which I've tried to respond to in a comment I've left. I've decided to publish it here for posterity.

Firstly, here's Paul's piece from his website:
The Luddites: right or wrong?

Over 200 years on, the Luddites still attract controversy. They were a group of working men driven to desperate measures by ‘structural adjustment’: their livelihoods were threatened by the introduction of the factory system and they were being un-ceremonially thrown on the scrapheap. A bit like the miners in 1984. Starve or resist were the two options and they chose the latter. Democracy was non-existent and they couldn’t appeal to ‘their MP’ for help because they had no voice. It was another 20 years before there was even a very modest extension of the franchise to sections of the middle-class. Most of the actions undertaken by the Luddites involved damage to equipment, not violence towards people. There was one isolated incident when a deeply unpopular Marsden mill-owner, William Horsfall, was assassinated on Blackmoorfoot Road. Several men were executed but the actual assassins were probably never caught. The killing gave the authorities the excuse they needed to install a reign of terror across the Colne Valley and West Riding, with more executions. The memory of the judicial murders of the Colne Valley Luddites remained in the folk-memory for decades after. It’s good that they are still recalled. Killing people is wrong, but destroying entire communities isn’t very ethical either.
And here's my response:
Got to be honest - this is the oddest election pitch I've ever seen, bringing up the Luddites. But anyway, there's a few aspects of your piece here that could do with straightening out, as there are some errors.

To answer your title, the Luddites were clearly *right*

Firstly, the various groups of workers in the 'Luddite Triangle' had actually mounted political lobbying campaigns for years prior to the adoption of direct action. It's difficult to see what difference 'having an MP' would have made or, indeed, what difference having one makes nowadays to zero-hour contracts, low pay, cuts etc. We need direct action to deal with these issues as social democracy is dedicated to facilitating capitalism's worst efforts to attack the gains made by workers over the last 200 years. All the main parties - and most of the minor ones - are dedicated to propping up this rotten system.

I'm afraid you're wholly wrong to state that the assassination (for that's what it was) of Horsfall was an 'isolated incident' In fact, between 1812/1813, there were at least 11 assassination attempts that we know of (I can list them all if required) in the West Riding, including bold attacks in daylight on the likes of William Cartwright (of Rawfolds Mill), informers, police constables and a senior military commander in Leeds.

There *was* a great deal of violence involved in Luddism. They were not pacifists, and I feel no need to paint things otherwise, and I'm bound to say *good for them*. None of it matched the wholesale violence (for that's what it was) that was being meted out to working people in terms of the attacks on their way of life, livelihood and that of future generations.

Your piece also seems to have forgotten that there were a huge numbers of raids for arms mounted in the period after the assassination of Horsfall. Plans for *something* was afoot, and it wasn't going to be peaceful - although it ultimately never arrived. There's simply no evidence to support the idea that Luddism lost support because Horsfall was shot. The switch to arms raids indicates a change of tactics, perhaps because under the change in military leadership around July 1812, the area was swamped with patrolling troops.

And whilst I would agree that there is plenty of evidence that Mellor, Thorpe & Smith were not guilty of killing Horsfall (I've examined this in detail on my site), I've little doubt they thought he had it coming, as did probably most people in the West Riding. The 'but someone else did it' line was irrelevant to Mellor, Thorpe & Smith - they probably knew who did it, but wouldn't tell and died martyrs. These are supreme acts of solidarity.

The authorities were already mounting a 'reign of terror' in the area, well before Horsfall was shot. It was a military occupation, and this was guerrilla warfare. Horsfall's shooting couldn't give an excuse for something that was taking place before he died.

Finally, your use of 'Luddite as technophobe' trope under 'Can you help?' is disappointing, and proves that there is much education still to be done about our comrades from 200 years ago.

Friday, 10 April 2015

How the press reported the news of the Tambora eruption

In the days before the invention and widespread use of the electric telegraph, international news travelled very slowly indeed - basically, as fast as the fastest ship.

The following are articles from various newspapers, reporting the news of the eruption at Mount Tambora over the following months:

From the Nottingham Review of Friday 24th November 1815:
DREADFUL VOLCANIC ERUPTION.

Extract a Letter from an Officer of the 59th Regiment, at Weltervreden, Island of Java, 30th May, 1815.

"A few days since a dreadful volcanic eruption took place in the Island of Sambaroa, situated to the eastward, which has been attended with most destructive consequences. At Sourabaya the atmosphere was in entire darkness for two days, so as to give the appearance of midnight. At this place, which is at a considerable distance, the ashes discharged from the crater fell in heaps. The noise produced from this awful visitation is beyond description, and caused a sensation among the inhabitants peculiarly afflicting. The sea rose six feet above its ordinary level, almost instantaneously causing the destruction of many lives, and also vessels. In short, the damage sustained has been exceedingly great, and many who were in affluence before this dreadful catastrophe took place are reduced to the greatest distress."
From the Aberdeen Journal of 29th November 1815:    
Extract from a letter, dated Batavia, 28th May 1815.

"We have lately had one of the most tremendous eruptions of a Volcano in this quarter, that perhaps ever took place in any part of the Globe. It is situated in a mountain called Tomboro, on the island of Sumbawa, and is distant from Batavia not less than 650 miles. The explosions were heard here distinctly, like the discharge of heavy artillery, and Capt. ________, who was at the time nearly as far to the eastward of it, as we were west, noted in his Logbook their being heard exactly in the same way. The ashes were thrown as far as Java, and I myself saw them in Batavia: we could not keep the papers on our desks clear of them, for several hours one day. As Soorabaya, it was quite dark at 9 A.M. and at Macassar, (250 miles from Sumbawa) they lay on the ground 1 ½ inches deep. The Captains of the Benares, and Dispatch, both declare that the anchoring ground in one bay on Sumbawa, is materially altered, and the latter states that there are now three fathoms of water over a village which stood near the shore. They found the sea for many miles on the northern side of the island so covered with trunks of trees, and pumice stone, as sometimes considerably to impede the ship’s advance. Many men and other animals have perished. Numbers die daily: and as the Crops of Paddy are utterly ruined throughout the greatest part of the island, the distresses of the survivors must be great; already it is said the Cocoa nuts have been nearly exhausted."
From the Leeds Mercury of Saturday 13th January 1816:
VOLCANIC ERUPTION.
[From the Madras Courier of August 29.]

The Nakhoda of the brig Catharina, which arrived in the course of last week from Java, brings us the first tidings of an extraordinary phenomena which occurred while he lay at Gressey, near Soorabaya, about two months ago, and which we conclude to have been caused by an eruption of one of the volcanoes, in the eastern end of that island, which we believe had been sometimes known to devastate the contiguous parts of that rich and populous region.

He states, the one morning in noise commenced to be heard, as if of a tremendous cannonade from the heaviest kind of ordnance, and very near, continuing for the space of three days; that in the the afternoon of the last of them, this stunning din abated somewhat, and the sky became completely overcast with a cloud of fine dust, or ashes, so thick, as to cause an obscurity equal to that of the darkest night, and to render respiration impracticable, without a cloth, or some sort of veil to cover the face; that this continued for that night, the whole of the succeeding day and night, and until about noon on the third day, when light began to dawn on the terrified multitude, and during the three following days, the atmosphere becoming less and less dense, they were at length entirely relieved from its unusual pressure, by a very heavy and most welcome fall of rain.

The Nakhoda's manner, looking back on this scene of tartarean obscurity, gave us a stronger impression of the horror and consternation which occupied every mind, than we can attempt to convey to our readers in words, and is indicative of a state of confusion and dismay, in some of its circumstances, not unlike our sublime Milton's description of the original chaos, from which the well ordered orb we now inhabit was formed: — "Nothing," he says, "could be seen at the distance of even an arms length, save the glimmering light of fires, or the torches with which people groped their way from house to house: nothing was heard but the roar of thunder, and the mangled shrieks of men, women, and children, who confidently concluding the end of all things to be at hand, and that the awful scene before them could portend nothing less than the final judgement, rent the air with cries for mercy to their Almighty Creator."

After remaining some days at Gressey, the Catharina sailed for Tagal, where the Nakhoda understood the same prodigies had been exhibited, and at the same time, but in a less degree. Here several sudden deaths happened during the days of terror, for which the superstitious inhabitants assigned various causes. At Gressey the visitation proved fatal only to birds, of which many were, on the return of light, seen dead in all directions—having been suffocated by the floating ashes; we are in possession of a specimen of this impalpable powder, evidently a volcanic production, several bags-full of which fell on the small space of the Catharina's deck.

Although we shall, on receipt of our Java papers, probably find the story rather exaggerated, yet we fear there is too much cause to apprehend an afflictive detail of the effects of so dreadful an eruption as this must doubtless have been, in the more immediate vicinity of the volcano from which it issued;—if, indeed, we can suppose one to have emitted that vast cloud which, if our informant does not mislead us, rolled its dusky wreaths at once to Gressey and Tagal—points, we believe, not less than 200 miles asunder.

A portion of the ashes which fell in the neighbourhood of the volcano, was forwarded to Calcutta, which has been analyzed by the Assistant Assay Master of the Presidency, and we present the following result of his experiment, (for which we are indebted to The India Gazette) for the amusement of our scientific readers:—

"Volcanic ashes from the mountains on the island of Sumbawa, collected in the district of Samarang, after the eruption of the 11th of April, 1815.

 "The substance thus described was brought in the shape of a powder of a greyish brown colour—for void of smell, but possessing a harsh taste; the specific gravity was low, as the powder floated on the surface of the water; before the blow-pipe it melted into a dark brown enamel, and with the aid of borax into a transparent light blue glass.—Nitra-muriatic acid after a long digestion took up about one-fifth of the weight: and the solution yielded a dark blue precipitate with prussiate of potash, indicating the presence of oxid of iron.

"The portion of the powder insoluble in the acid was of a blueish grey colour, infusible per se before the blow-pipe, but convertible into a yellowish glass with the addition of borax—the specific gravity was increased as it now sunk in water; part of the residuum mixed with an equal weight of carbonate of potash and digested repeatedly with sulphuric acid and evaporated, was rendered soluble in boiling water—the watery solution concentrated gave a precipitate of silex and a metallic oxid, and when treated with carbonate of potash yielded a further precipitate apparently alumine—the metallic oxid appeared to be nichel.

"From the several operations of the analysis, the composition of 100 parts of this volcanic matter appears to be silex, about 40, including, perhaps, a very small quantity of oxid of nichel; allumine, 32; oxid of iron, 17; lost 2—100.

"The quantity submitted to examination was too small to furnish any very precise conclusion; but there is every reason to suppose that this substance is analagous to the common volcanic formation or pumice; with which it agrees in its component parts, and differs chiefly, it may be presumed, in the smaller proportion which the silex has to the mass."—(Madras Courier.)
From the Leeds Mercury of Saturday 18th May 1816:
Dreadful Eruption.—A volcano broke out at the mountain of Tomboro, in the Island of Sumbawa, near Java, in April, 1815, the eruption of which was by far the most violent that ever happened in the history of the world, far exceeding in the extent of its effects, any of the eruptions of Vesuvius, Ætna, or Hecla. There is undoubted testimony of its having, been heard at Forts Marlborough and Pedang, on the Island of Sumatra, near a thousand miles from the mountain. At Turnate, 700 miles distant, the explosion resembled a firing at sea, so that a vessel was ordered to chase in the direction of the sound, to discover its cause. At Batavia 600 miles off, the sashes of the windows were so shaken, that they required to be fastened. The quantity of ashes thrown out is almost incredible. At Bannioangie, a town in Java, 180 miles off, the whole country was covered to a depth of eight inches. At Macassar, 220 miles distant, to leeward, the Company's cruizer Benares had some part of her decks covered a foot thick with them. The quantities within a hundred miles of the volcano were most tremendous; covering up forests and towns, and filling up deep vallies; even the contour of the coast being altered by them. As they were lighter than water, they swam about the sea, resembling islands, so as to stop the progress of ships. The darkness produced by the vast quantity of dust in the air was terrific. At Macassar, 220 miles off, on the 12th, and part of 13th of April, it was pitch dark, so that persons could not even see their hands in the middle of the day. The destruction to the unfortunate inhabitants in the vicinity of the mountain has been dreadful. At Sangier, a ttown about 15 miles off, men, horses, cattle, houses, extensive forests, and whatever came in the way of a whirlwind occasioned by the eruption, were carried into the air, and never more heard of. Of all the inhabitants of the towns of Tomboro and Paccate, which amounted to 12,000 persons, only 26 remain, who fortunately had gone on a journey to the eastward at the time. A dreadful famine has been the consequence; all the corn, fruits, and animals near the spot, have been destroyed; the springs covered up; and where the water could be found, it had become of so noxious a quality, as to occasion immediate sickness to those who drank it. The cattle and horses, at a considerable distance, have died for want of food, in melancholy numbers. Even the Rajah of Sangier, one of the richest and most powerful natives in the district, lost a daughter from starvation, and the mortality would have been still greater, but from the humanity of the Lieutenant-Governor of Java, T.S. Raffles. Esq. who, on hearing the situation of the explosion, anticipated its dreadful consequences, and sent some vessels laden with rice to the wretched sufferers.

10th April 1815: The eruption of Mount Tambora intensifies

The Mount Tambora Caldera today (NASA Earth Observatory via Wikimedia Commons). Prior to the explosion, Mount Tambora was 14,000 ft high, afterwards it was 9354 ft. The crater is 4.3 miles wide and 2300 ft deep.
At around 7.00 p.m. on Monday 10th April 1815, five days after the initial eruption at Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies, the eruption began to intensify, massively.

An account of the eruption and the aftermath from Sophia Raffles' biography of her husband, Sir Stamford Raffles, is below, but is is worth pointing out the catastrophic size of the eruption first.

The explosion on 10th April measured 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index: a millenial-sized event, and 1 below the 'apocalyptic' level of a VEI8 explosion. It had 4 times the energy of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, equivalent to 800 megatons. 38 cubic miles of material was ejected by the explosion, eventually leaving a crater measuring 4.3 miles across and 2300 metres deep. The mountain itself reduced to two thirds of  the original size. The explosion was heard up to 1600 miles away, and ash fell at least 810 miles away. Pitch darkness was observed up to 370 miles away for 2 days after the explosion, and a tsunami of up to 4 metres was experienced by many Indonesian islands.

Estimates of casualties vary, but at least 11,000 deaths were caused by the initial explosion, and it is thought 71,000 were caused in the longer term.

The eruption led to the 'Year Without a Summer'.

Mr. Raffles gives the following account of the eruption from the Tomboro Mountain, in the Island of Sambawa, which took place at this time (the 11th and 12th of April, 1815), one of the most violent and extraordinary of such explosions yet known.

"To preserve an authentic account of the violent and extraordinary eruption of the Tomboro Mountain on Sambawa, in April last, I required from the several Residents of districts on this Island a statement of the circumstances that occurred within their knowledge; and from their replies the following narrative is collected. It is, perhaps, incomplete until some further accounts are received of the immediate effects upon the mountain itself; but the progress is sufficiently known to render interesting a present account of the phenomenon, which exceeds any one of a similar description on record. The first explosions were heard on this Island in the evening of the 5th of April, they were noticed in every quarter, and continued at intervals until the following day. The noise was, in the first instance, almost universally attributed to distant cannon; so much so, that a detachment of troops were marched from Djocjocarta, in the expectation that a neighbouring post was attacked, and along the coast boats were in two instances dispatched in quest of a supposed ship in distress.

"On the following morning, however, a slight fall of ashes removed all doubt as to the cause of the sound; and it is worthy of remark, that as the eruption continued, the sound appeared to be so close, that in each district it seemed near at hand; it was attributed to an eruption from the Marapi, the Gunung Kloot or the Gunung Bromo.

"From the 6th, the sun became obscured; and it had every appearance of being enveloped in fog: the weather was sultry, and the atmosphere close and still: the sun seemed shorn of its rays, and the general stillness and pressure of the atmosphere foreboded an earthquake. This lasted several days, the explosions continued occasionally, but less violent, and less frequently than at first. Volcanic ashes also began to fall, but in small quantities; and so slightly as to be hardly perceptible in the western districts.

"This appearance of the atmosphere remained with little variation, until the 10th of April, and till then it does not appear that the volcano attracted much observation, or was considered of greater importance than those which have occasionally burst forth in Java. But on the evening of the 10th the eruptions were heard more loud, and more frequent from Cheribon eastward; the air became darkened by the quantity of falling ashes, and in several situations, particularly at Solo and Rembang, many said that they felt a tremulous motion of the earth. It is universally remarked in the more eastern districts, that the explosions were tremendous, continuing frequently during the 11th, and of such violence as to shake the houses perceptibly; an unusual thick darkness was remarked all the following night, and the greater part of the next day. At Solo, on the 12th, at four P. M., objects were not visible at 300 yards distance. At Gresie, and other districts more eastward, it was dark as night the greater part of the 12th of April, and this saturated state of the atmosphere lessened as the cloud of ashes passed along and discharged itself on its way. Thus the ashes, which were eight inches deep at Banyuwangi, were but two in depth at Sumanap, and still less in Gresie; and the sun does not seem to have been actually obscured in any district westward of Samarang.

"No description of mine, however, can so well express what happened, as the extracts from the reports at several places; the remarks there made are applicable also to all the other districts, only in a lesser degree, as the same became more distant from the cause of the phenomena.

EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM GRESIE.

"' I woke on the morning of the 12th, after what seemed to be a very long night, and taking my watch to the lamp, found it to be half-past eight o'clock; I immediately went out, and found a cloud of ashes descending; at nine o'clock no day-light; the layer of ashes on the terrace before my door at the Kradenan measures one line in thickness; ten A. M. a faint glimmering of light can now be perceived over-head; half-past ten, can distinguish objects fifty yards distant; eleven, A. M. breakfasted by candle-light, the birds began to chirrup as at the approach of day; half-past eleven, can discover the situation of the sun through a thick cloud of ashes; one, P. M. found the layer of ashes one line and a half thick, and measured in several places with the same results; three, P. M. the ashes have increased one-eighth of a line more; five, P. M. it is now lighter, but still I can neither read nor write without candle. In travelling through the district on the 13th, the appearances were described with very little variation from my account; and I am universally told that no one remembers, nor does their tradition record, so tremendous an eruption. Some look upon it as typical of a change, of the re-establishment of the former government; others account for it in an easy way, by reference to the superstitious notions of their legendary tales, and say that the celebrated Nyai Loroh Kidul has been marrying one of her children, on which occasion she has been firing salutes from her supernatural artillery. They call the ashes the dregs of her ammunition.'

EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM SUMANAP.

" ' On the evening of the 10th the explosions became very loud; one in particular shook the town, and they were excessively quick, resembling a heavy cannonade. Towards evening, next day, the atmosphere thickened so much, that by four o'clock it was necessary to light candles. At about seven, P.M., of the 11th, the tide being about ebb, a rush of water from the bay occasioned the river to rise four feet, and it subsided again in about four minutes; the bay was much agitated about this time, and was illuminated from a northerly direction. On the island of Sahotie, fire was seen distinctly at a short distance to the south-east. The uncommon darkness of this night did not break till ten and eleven, A. M., of the 12th, and it could hardly be called day-light all day. Volcanic ashes fell in abundance, and covered the earth about two inches thick, the trees also were loaded with them.'

EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM BANYUWANGI.

" ' At ten, P. M. of the 1st of April, we heard a noise resembling a cannonade, which lasted, at intervals, till nine o'clock next day; it continued at times loud, at others resembling distant thunder; but on the night of the 10th, the explosions became truly tremendous, frequently shaking the earth and sea violently. Towards morning they again slackened, and continued to lessen gradually till the 14th, when they ceased altogether. On the morning of the 3rd of April, ashes began to fall like fine snow; and in the course of the day they were half-an-inch deep on the ground. From that time till the 11th the air was constantly impregnated with them to such a degree, that it was unpleasant to stir out of doors. On the morning of the 11th, the opposite shore of Bali was completely obscured in a dense cloud, which gradually approached the Java shore, and was dreary and terrific. By one, P.M., candles were necessary; by four, P.M., it was pitch-dark; and so it continued until two o'clock of the afternoon of the 12th, ashes continuing to fall abundantly: they were eight inches in depth at this time. After two o'clock it began to clear up; but the sun was not visible till the 14th, and during this time it was extremely cold. The ashes continued to fall, but less violently, and the greatest depth, on the 15th of April, was nine inches.

" ' All reports concur in stating, that so violent and extensive an eruption has not happened within the memory of the oldest inhabitants, nor within tradition. They speak of similar effects in a lesser degree, when an eruption took place from the volcano of Carang Assum, in Bali, about seven years ago; and it was at first supposed that this mountain was the seat of eruption in the present instance. The Balinese attributed the event to a recent dispute between the two Rajahs of Baliling, which terminated in the death of the younger Rajah, by order of his brother.

"' The haziness and heat of the atmosphere, and occasional fall of volcanic ashes, continued until the 14th, or, in some parts of the island, until the 17th of April: they were cleared away universally by a heavy fall of rain after which the atmosphere became clear and more cool; and it would seem that this seasonable relief prevented much injury to the crops, and removed an appearance of epidemic disease, which was beginning to prevail. This was especially the case at Batavia, where, for the two or three days preceding the rain, many persons were attacked with fever. As it was, however, no material injury was felt beyond the districts of Banyuwangi. The cultivators every where took the precaution to shake off the ashes from the growing paddy as they fell, and the timely rain removed an apprehension very generally entertained, that insects would have been generated by the long continuance of the ashes at the root of the plant. At Rembang, where the rain did not fall till the 17th, and the ashes had been considerable, the crops were somewhat injured. In Gresie the injury was less; but in Banyuwangi and the adjacent part of the island, on which the cloud of ashes spent its force, the injury was more extensive: 126 horses and eighty-six head of cattle also perished, chiefly from want of forage, during a month from the time of the eruption.

 "' The local effects of this eruption have been ascertained by Lieutenant Owen Phillips, who proceeded to Sumbawa for this purpose, and was charged to distribute to the sufferers a supply of rice, dispatched by this government on hearing of the extreme distress to which the inhabitants of Sumbawa had been reduced.

"' The Noquedah of a Malay prow from Timor had reported that on the 11th of April, while at sea, far distant from Sumbawa, he was in utter darkness; that on his passing the Tomboro Mountain at a distance of five miles, the lower part of it was in flames, and the upper part covered with clouds: he went on shore for water, and found the ground covered with ashes to the depth of three feet, several large prows thrown on the land by a concussion of the sea, and many of the inhabitants dead from famine. On leaving Sumbawa, he experienced a strong current to the westward, and fell in with great quantities of cinders floating on the sea, through which he with difficulty forced his way: he was surrounded by them the whole of the night of the 12th, and says they formed a mass of two feet thick, and several miles in extent. This person states that the volcano of Carang Assam in Bali was in commotion at the same time; and it appears from the several reports, that a greater rumbling than usual was heard in the mountains in the Rembang district, as well as in the Gunning Gede in the Preanger Regencies; but after a strict inquiry, it does not appear that any simultaneous movement or connexion could be traced on this occasion along the chain of volcanic mountains running east and west in Java.'

" The Honourable Company's cruizer, Benares, was at this time at Macasar, and the following official report, received from the Commander of this vessel, confirms the circumstances already related.

" ' On the 5th of April, a firing of cannon was heard at Macasar, continuing at intervals all the afternoon, and apparently coming from the southward:—towards sunset the reports seemed to have approached much nearer, and sounded like heavy guns, with occasional slight reports between. Supposing it to be occasioned by pirates, a detachment of troops was embarked on board the Honorable Company's cruizer Benares, and sent in search of them, but after examining the neighbouring Islands, returned to Macasar on the 8th, without having found any cause of the alarm. During the night of the 11th, the firing was again heard, but much lower, and towards morning the reports were in quick succession, sometimes like three or four guns fired together, and so heavy that they shook the ship, as they did also the houses in Fort Rotterdam. Some of them seemed so near, that I sent people to the mast-head to look out for the flashes, and weighed at day-dawn, proceeding to the southward to ascertain the cause. The morning of the 12th was extremely dark and lowering, particularly to the southward, and S.W., the wind light, and from the eastward. At eight A.M. it was apparent that some extraordinary occurrence had taken place; the face of the heavens to the southward and westward had assumed a dark aspect, and it was much darker than before the sun rose; as it came nearer it assumed a dusky red appearance, and spread fast over every part of the heavens; by ten it was so dark that a ship could hardly be seen a mile distant; by eleven the whole of the heavens were obscured, except a small space near the horizon to the eastward, the quarter from which the wind came. The ashes now began to fall in showers, and the appearance was altogether truly awful and alarming. By noon the light that had remained in the eastern part of the horizon disappeared, and complete darkness covered the face of day. This continued so profound during the remainder of the day, that I never saw any thing to equal it in the darkest night; it was impossible to see your hand when held up close to your eyes. The ashes fell without intermission throughout the night, and were so light and subtile, that notwithstanding the precaution of spreading awnings fore and aft as much as possible, they pervaded every part of the ship.

" ' At six o'clock the next morning it continued as dark as ever, but began to clear about half-past seven; and about eight o'clock objects could be faintly discerned upon deck. From this time it began to get lighter very fast.

" ' The appearance of the ship when day-light returned was most singular ; every part being covered with the falling matter: it had the appearance of calcined pumicestone, nearly the colour of wood-ashes; it lay in heaps of a foot in depth in many parts of the deck, and several tons weight of it must have been thrown overboard; for though an impalpable powder or dust when it fell, it was, when compressed, of considerable weight; a pint measure of it weighed twelve ounces and three-quarters: it was perfectly tasteless, and did not affect the eyes with painful sensation, had a faint burnt smell, but nothing like sulphur: when mixed with water it formed a tenacious mud difficult to be washed off.

" ' By noon of the 12th, the sun made his appearance again, but very faintly, through the dusky atmosphere ; the air being still charged with ashes, which continued to fall lightly all day.

" 'From the 12th to the 15th the atmosphere remained thick and dusky, the rays of the sun scarce able to penetrate through it, with little or no wind the whole time.

" ' On the morning of the 13th left Macasar, and on the 18th made Sambawa. On approaching the coast, passed through great quantities of pumice-stone floating on the sea, which had at first strongly the appearance of shoals, so much so that I sent a boat to examine one, which, at the distance of less than a mile, I took for a dry sand-bank, upwards of three miles in length, with black rocks in several parts of it. It proved to be a complete mass of pumice-stone floating on the sea, some inches in depth, with great numbers of trees and logs, that appeared to be burnt and shivered as if by lightning. The boat had much difficulty in pulling through it; and until we reached the entrance of Bima Bay, the sea was literally covered with shoals of pumice and floating timber.

" ' On the 19th arrived in Bima Bay: in coming to an anchor grounded on the bank of Bima Town, shoaling suddenly from eight fathoms; hove off again as the tide was rising. The anchorage at Bima must have altered considerably, as where we grounded the Ternate cruizer lay at anchor in six fathoms a few months before. The shores of the bay had a most dreary appearance, being entirely covered with ashes.'

" From the account of the Resident of Bima, it appears that the eruption proceeded from the Tomboro Mountain, situated about forty miles to the westward of Bima. On the night of the 11th, he represents the explosions to have been most terrific, and compares them to the report of a heavy mortar close to his ear. The darkness commenced about seven in the morning, and continued twelve hours longer than it did at Macasar. The fall of ashes was so heavy as to break the Resident's house in many places, and render it uninhabitable, as well as many other houses in the town. The wind was still during the whole time, but the sea greatly agitated, its waves rolled in upon the shore, and filled the lower parts of the houses with water a foot deep. Every prow and boat was forced from the anchorage and driven on shore, and several large prows are now lying a considerable distance above high-water-mark.

" ' On the 22d, the Dispatch, country ship, arrived in the bay from Amboyna. It appears that this vessel had mistaken a bay to the westward, called Sampo or Sangin Bay, for Bima, and had gone into it: the Rajah of this place informed the officer that the whole of the country was entirely desolated, and the crops destroyed. The town of Sangin is situated about four or five leagues to the S. E. of the Tomboro Mountain. The officer found great difficulty in landing in the bay, a considerable distance from the shore being completely filled up with pumice-stones, ashes, and logs of timber: the houses appeared beaten down and covered with ashes.

" ' Understanding that messengers had been sent into the interior, I waited till the evening of the 22nd, and as they had not then returned, owing, as was supposed, to having found the country impassable, I left the bay at eleven o'clock that night, and the next day was off the Tomboro Mountain: in passing it at the distance of six miles the summit was not visible, being enveloped in clouds of smoke and ashes. The sides were smoking in several places, apparently from lava which had flown down them not being cooled; several streams had reached the sea; a very considerable one to the N.N.W. of the mountain, the course of which was plainly discernible, both from the black colour of the lava contrasted with the ashes on each side of it, and the smoke arising from every part of it. The Tomboro Mountain, in a direct line from Macasar, is about 217 nautical miles distance.'

" It has been ascertained that these eruptions of the Tomboro Mountain were heard through the whole chain of the Molucca Islands. The Honourable Company's cruizer Teignmouth was lying at anchor at Ternate on the 5th April; between six and eight P.M., several very distinct reports like heavy cannon were heard in the S.W. quarter, which was supposed to be a ship in the offing, in consequence of which the Resident sent a boat round the island to ascertain if it was so. The next morning, however, the boat returned without seeing any vessel in the offing; and the conclusion then drawn was that it might be occasioned by the bursting of some volcanic mountain in that quarter. Ternate Island 5° 0' N. 127° 30'E.

" The easterly monsoon, however, had at this time distinctly set in, and consequently the sounds would not be heard so loudly and distinctly in the Moluccas, as from the relative distance would otherwise have happened. They extended, in the opposite direction, to Fort Marlbro', and several parts of Sumatra, as appears from the following extract from thence:—

" ' It is an extraordinary fact, that precisely the same noise (taken by all who heard it to be a cannonade) occurred at several stations along this coast at the same time, viz., the morning of the 11th April: several gentlemen heard it in Marlbro', the people from the interior came down with accounts of it, and those from the higher Dusuns spoke of a kind of ash-dust which had covered the herbage and the leaves of the trees. Reports to the same effect (not mentioning any fall of ashes, however,) were received from Moco-moco, Laye, Salumah, Manna, Padang Guchee, Croce, and Semanka. From some of these stations the hill-people came down armed, to assist against attacks which they imagined might be made upon the head factories.'

" It has not appeared that any noise of this kind was heard at Padang, or much farther north than Moco-moco. I have since been told that the same noise was heard at Trumon in about 2' 40' N. lat., and at Ayer Bungi in about 0' 15' N. lat.. on or about the 11th April last.

" From Sumbawa to the port of Sumatra, where the sound was noticed, is about 970 geographical miles in a direct line; from Sumbawa to Ternate is a distance of 720 miles; and the existence of the S. E. monsoon at the time may account for the difference of distance to which the sound was heard in the westerly and easterly directions: the distance, also, to which the cloud of ashes was carried, so thickly as to produce utter darkness, is clearly pointed out to have been the island of Celebes, and the districts of Gresie on Java. The former is 217 nautical miles distant from the seat of the volcano—the latter in a direct line more than 300 geographical miles distant.

" I shall conclude this account with an extract of a letter from Lieutenant Owen Phillips, written from Bima on the 23rd ultimo. It has been mentioned in a former part, that on receiving intelligence of the extreme distress that had been occasioned by this extraordinary event, I dispatched a supply of rice to their relief, and Lieutenant Phillips was desired to proceed and adjust the delivery thereof, with instructions, at the same time, to ascertain, as nearly as possible, the local effects of the volcano. His report is as follows:—

" ' On my trip towards the western part of the island, I passed through nearly the whole of Dompo, and a considerable part of Bima. The extreme misery to which the inhabitants have been reduced is shocking to behold: there were still on the road-side the remains of several corpses, and the marks of where many others had been interred; the villages almost entirely deserted, and the houses fallen down, the surviving inhabitants having dispersed in search of food.

" ' In Dompo, the sole subsistence of the inhabitants for some time past has been the heads of the different species of palm, and the stalks of the papaya and plantain.

" ' Since the eruption, a violent diarrhoea has prevailed in Bima, Dompo, and Saugar, which has carried off a great number of people. It is supposed by the natives to have been caused by drinking water which has been impregnated with the ashes; and horses have also died, in great numbers, from a similar complaint.

" ' The Rajah of Saugar came to wait on me at Dompo on the 3rd inst. The sufferings of the people there appear, from his account, to be still greater than in Dompo. The famine has been so severe, that even one of his own daughters died from hunger. I presented him with three coyangs of rice in your name, for which he appeared to be truly grateful.

" ' As the Rajah was himself a spectator of the late eruption, the following account which he gave me, is, perhaps, more to be depended upon than any other I can possibly obtain:—

" ' About seven P. M., on the 10th of April, three distinct columns of flame burst forth, near the top of Tomboro Mountain, all of them apparently within the verge of the crater; and after ascending separately to a very great height, their tops united in the air in a troubled confused manner. In a short time the whole mountain next Saugar appeared like a body of liquid fire extending itself in every direction.

" ' The fire and columns of flame continued to rage with unabated fury, until the darkness caused by the quantity of falling matter obscured it at about eight P.M. Stones at this time fell very thick at Saugar; some of them as large as two fists, but generally not larger than walnuts. Between nine and ten P. M. ashes began to fall; and soon after a violent whirlwind ensued, which blew down nearly every house in the village of Saugar, carrying the tops and light parts along with it. In the part of Saugar adjoining Tomboro, its effects were much more violent, tearing up by the roots the largest trees, and carrying them into the air, together with men, houses, cattle, and whatever else came within its influence—(this will account for the immense number of floating trees seen at sea). The sea rose nearly twelve feet higher than it had ever been known to be before, and completely spoiled the only small spots of rice-lands in Saugar, sweeping away houses and every thing within its reach.

" ' The whirlwind lasted about an hour. No explosions were heard till the whirlwind had ceased, at about eleven A.M. From midnight till the evening of the 11th they continued without intermission; after that, their violence moderated, and they were only heard at intervals; but the explosions did not cease entirely until the 15th of July. The mountain still throws out immense volumes of smoke, and the natives are apprehensive of another eruption during the ensuing rainy season.

 " ' Of the whole of the villages of Tomboro, Jempo, containing about forty inhabitants, is the only one remaining. In Precate, no vestige of a house is left. Twenty-six of the people who were at Sambawa at the time are the whole of the population who have escaped.

" ' From the most particular inquiries I have been able to make, there were certainly not fewer than 12,000 individuals in Tomboro and Precate at the time of the eruption.

" ' The trees and herbage of every description along the whole of the north and west sides of the Peninsula have been completely destroyed, with the exception of a high point of land near the spot where the village of Tomboro stood; on it a few trees still remain. In the night of the eruption, two men and two women, I am informed, escaped to this point, and were saved. I have sent in search of them, but have not yet been able to get hold of them; no person has yet been along the eastern side of the hill.

" ' A messenger who returned yesterday from Sambawa relates that the fall of ashes has been heavier at Sambawa than on this side the Gulf, and that an immense number of people have been starved: they are now parting with their horses and buffaloes for a half or quarter rupee's worth of rice or corn. The distress has, however, I trust, been alleviated by this time, as the brig, with sixty-three coyangs of rice, from Java, arrived there the day he was leaving it.'"

" Batavia, September 28, 1815."