Sunday, 5 February 2017

5th February 1817: Jeffrey Lockett sends a long letter to the Home Office about the Loughborough Job case

Loughbro’ Feby 4th: [1817]


I had the honour to receive your letter of the 17th Inst, giving me the welcome intelligence, that Lord Sidmouth had been pleased to recommend to the Treasury, the payment of the 500 [guineas], offered in the names of Messrs Heathcoat, and Boden, as a reward for the apprehension and conviction of James Towle; and I am now authorized by those gentlemen, to request that you will do them the favour, to present their most grateful thanks to His Lordship for his kind consideration of their case. Since my return from Holkar, I have consulted Mr. Mundy, and other magistrates of this county, and the magistrates of Nottingham, and have their approbation of the following distribution of the reward. It is proposed to give

To Benjamin Barnes, a Nottingham Police officer who apprehended James Towle, and gave important evidence on the trial, & has incurred great personal danger 150 [guineas]

To John Sherwin, and John Webster, two of Messrs Heathcoat and Bodens workmen, who gave information to Barnes, and afterwards identified the prisoner, and conducted themselves before the Magistrates, and on the trial, with great propriety, as witnesses, each 100 [guineas]

To James Lawson (a Nottm Police officer) who also gave evidence and is proscribed by the Luddites 50 [guineas]

To John Asher, Mrs Sylvester and Mrs Mackie who gave evidence each 20 [guineas]

To Henry Newton and Saml White, two Police officers, 15 [guineas] each

To Mr Enfields secret informer 10 [guineas]

[Total] 500 [guineas]

The money will be very acceptable to the parties, who are to receive it, and I shall be much obliged to you, if you will be pleased to inform me, when and in what manner it is to be paid.

On the 21st Ult. I addressed a letter to Mr Beckett from Holkar, in which I apprized him of my intended return to Derby on the 27th, and expressed a wish, that I might find a letter from him on my arrival, with an undertaking on the part of Government to indemnify Messrs Heathcoat and Boden, acquaint the defence of instigating the charges [against] the Luddites lately apprehended, and the prosecution of them. It might be owing to Mr Beckett's absence from town, that my request has not been complied with and that my letter remains unanswered. But after the assurance which I received from you, when I had the honour of seeing you in town, I did not hesitate to comply with Mr Mundys request, and repeated solicitations, whilst I was at Holkar— but proceeded without stopping in Derby on the 27th, two meet Mr Mundy here. From that day to the present hour, I have been incessantly engaged with him and other magistrates in the examinations of the prisoners,—searching after the offenders who are at large,—investigating the accounts given from time to time by those who are in custody,—tracing all their movements, as described by Blackburn, and endeavouring to procure evidence to confirm his information. When Mr Mundy transmitted to you the copy of Blackburns confession, he was not aware of Mr Rolleston not having sent you a copy of J Blackburns information, but ‘ere now you will have received one from him. The information was taken by Mr Rolleston; but I am now in possession of a much more particular, and satisfactory narrative which I took from his mouth, on Wednesday last at Nottm. As soon as I reach home, a copy of it, upon which I will make the confirmation which it will receive, shall be prepared for Lord Sidmouth and I entertain no doubt, but that his Lordship will be of opinion, that the evidence of the accomplice will be so confirmed, as to be entitled to full credit with the [illegible].

I met Mr Mundy and several other magistrates yesterday at Leicester, when the prisoners were finally examined. Thomas Savage, William Towle, Jos. Mitchell, William Withers, Samuel Cordwell, John Amos and John Crowder, and John Blackburn, on the information of Mr H. Boden, Mrs Silvester, John Blackburn; and William Burton, on the same information, and his own confession, were committed for trial for framebreaking, and shooting [at], or being present, and aiding in the shooting at John Asher, Mrs Silvester, and Mrs Rushworth, in the night of the 28th June last, at Loughbro’, and John Slater, who you will be recollect was tried at the last assizes, and James Towle, for shooting and aiding in the shooting at John Asher, was committed on the same information for framebreaking, and shooting at Mrs Silvester, and Mrs Rushworth.

I have the pleasure to add that Blackburn met his late confederates, and heard their denial of his charge—and their recrimination of him, with great firmness, and conducted himself [throughout] the examinations in a very becoming manner. I mention this, because it is possible that either from Mr Mundy or and Mr Enfield, Lord Sidmouth may have received a different account of this mans behaviour. There was a wish in him in his first examinations, to conceal certain parts of his own, and every thing relating to his brothers conduct in the Loughbro’ affair. He was offered, that if it was discovered, that he was the person who shot Asher, he [should] not be permitted to give evidence for the Crown. But on Wednesday, he disclosed this secret to me, and from that time his accounts have been consistent, and his general deportment materially improved.

It will be decided by the court of Kings Bench, probably in the present term, whether Lace frames are engines within the meaning of the act of the 52. Geo.3. C 130, as a case out of this county (Orgill [against] Smith) is before that court on this Question. If Lace frames are such engines, the demolition of Messrs Heathcote and Boden's frames, under the circumstances of that outrage; will subject all the prisoners to a capital charge under that statute; otherwise, it is to be feared that Slater will be indictable only for a transportable offence, as the shooting at Mrs Silvester, and Mrs Rushworth, appears to have done, more to intimidate than to murder them, or do them bodily harm. The rest of the party are clearly liable to the capital charge of having been present, and aided in shooting at John Asher.

Savage was inclined yesterday to confess. He took me apart, and said he could tell me of the three men who had collected money for the Loughbro’ Job,—and of the advice, as council men who had negotiated the [business] with him. I am perceiving that you are well acquainted with the Luddites system; the constituent branches of the conspiracy,—their mode of proceeding when an outrage is proposed;—and their method of effecting it. It would be of vast significance, to bring to capital punishment, a proposer, and a subscriber to an outrage—and an advice, or council man. The destruction of Messrs Heathcote and Boden's frames, was undoubtedly projected by men in their own, but principally in Mr Lacey's factory at this place, who have long been subscribers to the Luddite purse, and made a special subscription for this particular Job. Badder and other advice men from Nottm received their proposals, and planned the affair. Savage was introduced into the plot, as the General of the party, which he selected for the attack,—and he of course knows the whole, and every person—in any manner concerned with in it. If Blackburn had not anticipated him, Savage would have been the best witness for the Crown; but as the [business] now stands, it appears to Mr Mundy, and I am decidedly of the opinion, that no terms can be made with him.

The county, and other goals in Leicester, are already so crowded, that Blackburn and Burton, tho’ it was much wished to have kept them apart, were obliged to be lodged in the same cell;—and that, by no means a secure one, against nocturnal attack, notwithstanding the guard at the Prison. Lord Sidmouth will receive a representation upon this subject from some of the Magistrates.—I think it right also, that his Lordship should be informed, however absurd the [outcome] was, that an attack of the Leicester goal, with a view to the rescue of James Towle, at the last assizes, was certainly projected, by his Nottinghamshire associates. Cooperation was expected from Hinckley, and other towns in Leicestershire, and meetings were held in the night, in the fields near Leicester Abbey to consider the [business]. But sufficient numbers could not be collected; and a difference of opinion arose, between those who were assembled as to the mode of proceeding. The intended assassination of the Judge, which originated at Nottingham was also meant to have been perpetrated as he left Leicester. Men were actually prepared, and on the road to have effected it, but they were deterred by there being three carriages either with or men that of his Lordship.—I am fully aware, how absurd, and imporbable these designs must appear to those who are not well acquainted with the demoralized state of the town, and neighbourhood of Nottingham, and the audacity of this particular class of people.—Yet I have no doubt whatever as to the truth of the statements.

At Leicester, the High Sheriff informed the magistrates, that there are already thirty persons committed for trial on capital charges, at the next assizes, beside others for minor offences. The trial of Towle, and Slater at the last assizes occupied fourteen hours, only three of which were taken up by the prosecutors. But the prosecutors case upon the approaching trials, will be very long indeed, from the great extent of the confirmatory evidence,—and if each Luddite prisoner sets up a separate alibi, and character defence, according to their late practice, it will be impossible for one judge, to go thro’ the calendar in less than treble the time usually [adequate] for holding the assizes. I presume to make this observation, that it may be communicated to the Judge, if thought right, or other arrangements be made to meet the exigency.

Lord Sidmouth apprized, that the outrage at Loughbro’ was perpetrated by 17 Luddites, of whom one has been executed: ten are now in custody, and the remaining six are a large—That these 17 men are more than a majority of this branch of the conspiracy, and that they are the most active, and desperate of the whole party, is now ascertained; for there has not been an outrage of any importance since the year 1812, in which they have been sometimes not been the only parties, but always or the principal persons concerned. The execution of James Towle has been of infinite use,—and I entertain a confident hope, grounded on what I have just stated, that the successful termination of the trials which are now about to take place;—the severe punishment of such as may be convicted, and an act of parliament to make it a capital felony to break lace stocking frames or any other engines as such—in manufactories will completely extinguish Luddism.

Of the six men; who are large, one (John Disney otherwise Sheepshead Jack, as, according to James Towles statement, Sheepshead Joe) is charged with being concerned with Crofts, now in the Leicester goal for a capital felony, and absconded three or four months ago.—It is said that he has left the Kingdom.—Another of them, called Little Sam, was taken up at Nottm about 4 months since, as a deserter from Artillery, by the name of John Smith, and, it is said, was sent to the Isle of Wight. He probably might readily be met with.—Respecting the remaining four, there is no certain information; tho’ from their want of money, and the support which will be given to them in this neighbourhood, it is most probable, that they are at no great distance. Whether any exertion should be made to find out, and take these men, is a proper subject for immediate consideration. I presume to give my opinion, that they should be advertized with the offer of a reward for the apprehension of each offender. Tho’ the direct object of the advertizement, might not be gained by it, it would at least shew the public, that there is no relaxation in the pursuit of these villains,—and if it does not lead to the detection and punishment of them, It will at least prevent their return to their remaining associates. But if this step is to be taken, it must be under Lord Sidmouths express directions. I have hitherto acted, and incurred considerable expence without any authority except from Mr Mundy and the other magistrates. My knowledge of the circumstances of Messrs Heathcote & Boden, excludes the expectation of pecuniary aid from that quarter—and if they were [sufferable] to bear the expence, it could hardly be expected that they or any other individuals should be charged with the expence of suffering Luddism, altho’ they are the principal sufferers from it. But tho’ it would have been satisfactory to me to have received an answer to my letter to Mr Beckett on this point, as I have before observed I feel entire confidence in the verbal assurance which I received from you, & upon which I have acted.

Long as my letter, and I ought to apologize to you on this account, there are yet many matters which have come to my knowledge, in the course of the late and the present investigations which I wish to represent to Lord Sidmouth, but it will probably be necessary for me, if the management of the prosecutions is committed to my charge, to confer with the Counsel for the Crown before they leave town for the circuits,—and I will take that or some other opportunity of introducing myself to his Lordship. I have only to add that in the part which I have taken throughout this [illegible] I have been influenced by no consideration of professional emolument, but from a desire to lend my feeble exertions toward the suppression of the Luddite system;—and that if any other solicitor, is proposed to succeed me in this office, I shall most cheerfully resign it,—and at the same time give him my gratuitous assistance.

I have the honour to be
Your most obedt humble Servt
Mr Jefferey Lockett

P.S. I have been so interrupted whilst I have been writing that I can could not finish my letter till this morning—& the mail has now left Loughbro’

Wednesday 5th Feby

This letter was incorrectly labelled 1816 by Lockett, and the legibility of the month being difficult to ascertain means it has been incorrectly filed at the division for July 1816, HO 42/152.

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