Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Where were the West Yorkshire Luddite martyrs buried - and how many were buried at all?

Memorial placards for the 17 executed Luddites, left at the execution site on 19th January 2013 (image copyright Richard Holland)
The subsequent burial of the Luddites executed on 16th January 1813 still remains largely mysterious. The funerals that did take place went unreported in the local press. Sources in the Home Office records refer to only to one burial by name, but other than that do refer to some numbers and locations. The parish records are somewhat better, yielding three burials we know took place for certain.

Among the definites are John Ogden, a 23 year-old cropper from Cowcliffe. He was buried on 18th January 1813, in the Huddersfield St Peter's Parish, with a John Coates officiating. In the margin of his burial record is written "This man was hung as a Luddite, innocent, but knowing his brother was guilty but would not inform".

An extract from the Parish record showing the burials of John Ogden & James Haigh.

Buried the following day in the same parish was the Dalton cropper James Haigh, aged 28. Again, John Coates officiated.

On the 20th, William Hartley, a 41 year-old tailor from Warley was buried in St Mary Parish, Luddenden. Thomas Sutcliffe officiated.

Moving past the parish records, one contemporary letter in the Home Office correspondence confirms another name. In a letter to General Acland, Lieutenant Cooper at Elland confirmed on 24th January that John Hill, a 36 year-old cotton spinner from Greetland, had been buried locally within the past few days. Cooper also confirmed that, in common with the burial of the Luddite Samuel Hartley at Halifax months before, the Methodist preacher refused to read service over the body, and although there was no disturbance arising from this, Cooper intimates there was much unhappiness.

The only other information in the Home Office records is about the number and/or location of bodies at different points. On the 18th January, Lieutenant-Colonel Lang at Huddersfield revealed that 'bodies' had arrived there at 6.30 p.m. on the 17th, only to be taken to Lockwood and Longroyd Bridge. We know that Thomas Brook, a 32 year-old cropper was from Lockwood and John Walker, a 31 year-old cropper, was from Longroyd Bridge.

Major Bruce at Halifax reported on the 18th January that 2 bodies had arrived there that morning and had been held in a warehouse before being taken away by their friends on carts at 11.00 a.m. - one headed to Sowerby, one to Elland. The latter was presumably John Hill, whilst the body headed for Sowerby could have been Joseph Crowther, a 31 year-old cotton spinner of that place.

On the 19th January, Lieutenant Colonel Lang reported that 3 'quiet and orderly' burials had taken place in the Huddersfield area by then.

And that is where my research leads me to at this point.

In a recent article on the Guardian's website, local historian Paul Furness states that only 7 bodies were claimed by friends or relatives, and that the rest were dissected. Whilst Hall & Kipling (1984, p.50) agree that seven bodies were claimed, the latter statement is new information, although it's not clear what the sources are that support it (NB, both these accounts would appear to be wrong - see the foot of this blog post for updated information). There could be some truth in this - in a letter of 16th January, the Huddersfield solicitor John Allison wrote to General Acland that:
"I do not expect that any of the friends of the unfortunate Men (save one or two), can afford to bring the bodies to Hudd and I conceive the Croppers will not subscribe for the purpose for they all here appear ashamed of themselves"
However, despite what Allison stated, we know from the information above that two croppers were buried for definite, with a third alluded to Lang, and that the bodies of two others were taken to Lockwood and Longroyd Bridge upon their arrival in Huddersfield. So it does look like the local Luddites could afford to take care of their dead after all.

Until further information comes to light though, it's not absolutely certain that the following Luddites were buried at all:

John Batley of Thornhill
Thomas Brook of Lockwood
Joseph Crowther of Sowerby
Jonathan Dean of Huddersfield
Joseph Fisher of Briestwhistle
James Hey of Skircoat
Job Hey of Greetland
Nathan Hoyle of Skircoat
John Swallow of Briestwhistle
John Walker of Longroyd Bridge 

NB  - since writing this article, new research has yielded more definite information about what happened to the bodies of those executed. William Knipe's 'Criminal Chronology of York Castle' (1867, pp.153-154) tells us that the bodies of all the Luddites were claimed by family/friends except those of Joseph Crowther and Nathan Hoyle, whose bodies were 'interred in the hoppet at the back of the Castle'.

The parish record information in this blog was obtained from The letters referred to in the text can be found in HO 40/2/3.

No comments:

Post a Comment