Radicalism, Reform and Class Conflict in Huddersfield 1831-1834.

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This chapter describes the working class radical movement in Huddersfield in the years 1831-34, a time of great ferment locally and nationally when agitation over several vital issues coalesced to create an upsurge in working class activity unparalleled previously and not seen again until the 1890s. The transitional nature of this period of ‘the making of the working class’ is exemplified by the alliance with Oastler and his fellow ‘Tory Radicals’ which represented one of the contradictory, yet complementary, poles of Radical ideology. While they desired a preservation of the domestic production and the paternalistic and individualistic community that implied, they were also being propelled into a clearer undertanding of class struggle in the age of the factory system. This was expressed in an increasingly unequivocal analysis of Radicalism in terms of the conflict of Labour versus Capital and in the advocacy of independent working class organisation and mobilisation in pursuit of their own interests. This is identifiable in three main areas of activity, all interacting, in some cases contentiously, in others reciprocally: the political, represented by the Radicals struggle for reform and legislative changes through parliament; the economic, at the point of production, conducted by the Trades Union for better wages and conditions; and the ideological, represented by the cooperators and Owenites , who proposed schemes of fundamental economic and social transformation of capitalism itself. The history of the latter is dealt with in my account of Huddersfield Hall of Science found on another page and has been omitted from this chapter, the bulk of which was written in 1988. Since then new research on important aspects of these times has appeared particularly John Halstead’s examination of local radicalism in relation to the Voice of the West Riding and Huddersfield Short Time Committee, which is referred to in the endnotes.

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Ultra-Radicals and the Reform Bill – 1831.

Although there was some alleviation in conditions, the economic distress resulting from the bank crash of 1825/26 continued to fuel radicalism. Huddersfield PU condemned the claim made in parliament by the county MP J. Johnstone in February 1831 that conditions had improved in the manufacturing districts and that there was now full employment, while the manufacturer, John Wood, on behalf of Kirkheaton reformers wrote to the MP affirming that ‘…the labouring poor in this parish have been in great distress for the last five years with the exception of those employed in factories…’ It was not the fault of the labourers but of taxation, the corn laws and other legislation which had caused the distress. Johnstone’s reply, blaming the operatives for their improvidence and having ‘ encumbered themselves with children.’ , caused further grave offence and George Beaumont and Samuel Dickinson offered to show him the distressed homes they had visited on their survey of local weavers’ conditions. 1

However the market reports do confirm that there was some significant improvement – ‘trade was never better at this season of the year.’ the Mercury announced on 26 February. The following week it was claimed as ‘a fact, that the Huddersfield Cloth-hall contains fewer goods than any former period in the last 30 years.’ And by the beginning of July at least this improvement had extended to the fancy trade when it was observed that ‘fancy waistcoatings, of the finest descriptions in particular are unusually busy.’ A month later : ‘The demand both for woollens and fancy articles continues good. The market is quite clear of low Cassinets, the article which a short time ago employed a very considerable portion of the younger branches of the weavers families.’ After a ‘dull’ start, the end of September saw the market ‘more lively.’2

Despite such optimism, the vulnerability of trade to different economic and political factors was described dramatically in the 15 October report:
‘The trade of Yorkshire has, for some weeks, been recovering from that depression under which it laboured before the harvest; but the rejection of the Reform Bill has given to it a check which has been felt all over the country, and the effects of which can only be obviated by a general persuasion that the country will be tranquillised, and its prosperity consolidated and improved by the speeding [sic] passing of that Bill into law. Had the rejection of the Reform Bill by the majority of the Lords been followed by a change of ministers, and the utter failure of the hopes of the people, the consequences upon trade and commerce of the country, as well as upon the public funds, would in all probability have been little short of the effect that was produced by the mutiny of the sailors in the British fleet at Nore.’
Huddersfield was affected by this malaise and was by November ‘much depressed. At the approach of Christmas there is generally a stagnation, but not to the present extent.’ 3

The continuing distress in turn fuelled growing demands for reform. On 5 February, a Kirkheaton meeting, chaired by the churchwarden, John Wood, resolved that the effect on ‘all the Productive Classes shows and urgent Necessity for the adoption of prompt, vigorous and extensive Measures of Amelioration and redress,’ including household suffrage, shorter parliaments and vote by ballot.4 Over the following months, however, the agitation surrounding the Reform Bill increased the rift between the operatives of the Political Unions (PU) who wanted a more democratic franchise and moderate reformers like Wood who were either happy with the bill or who argued that it should be supported as a stepping-stone to later reform.

At a meeting called by the Whig reformers on 28 February- so packed it had to be adjourned from the Court House to the Market Place – Dickinson and Beaumont made a conciliatory intervention. The former acknowledged that the bill was inadequate for the ‘labouring classes’ but ‘if they broke down the boroughmongers’ domination they might get more.’ He also gave a premonition of future controversial Radical tactics by expressing the hope that the shopkeepers ‘would hear the rattling of the chains of their best customers.’ Dickinson denied accusations that the Radicals were ‘levellers and revolutionists’ and ,in an echo of William Stocks’ claim, that in fact the ‘frequent public meetings held by the reformers had tended to the security of property in the neighbourhood.’ Beaumont was still advocating unity of the middle and labouring classes against the ‘aristocratical boroughmongers’, although the proposed £10 franchise was unacceptable. He also assured reformers that members of the PU were committed to ‘maintaining peace and tranquillity.’. 5 In March 1831Radicals opposition to the Reform Bill culminated in a petition from the town to parliament signed by around 6,000 people calling for ‘Universal or Household Suffrage’, short parliaments, vote by ballot and no property qualifications for MPs. 6

The county election campaign provided another platform for the Radicals. Huddersfield glowed with orange flags to receive the Yorkshire county candidates on 27 April and, apart from John Johnstone (whose comments about distressed weavers were still fresh in people’s minds) , they were greeted with acclamation when they were presented to the crowds in the Market Place. George Beaumont, mounted on a one horse cart and surrounded by a few supporters, who formed a ‘firm phalanx’ to protect the tricolours pronouncing, ‘Universal Suffrage’ and Vote by Ballot’, (alongside the ‘We are Weary of Slavery’ banner), interrupted the proceedings to demand a pledge of support from John Charles Ramsden for Hobhouse’ s Bill. He recounted, at ‘some length’ his own experiences as a child in the mill and was assured by Ramsden that such conditions were the fault of bad masters rather than defects in the laws. No pledge was forthcoming. 7

Since its initial contact with the MPU, the local PU movement had evidently kept in contact with the London Radicals. In August a report of a meeting in the Union Rooms in Swan Yard condemning the persecution of Taylor, Carlile, Carpenter and Hetherington was sent to the Poor Man’s Guardian. Abel Hellawell, Carlile’s old correspondent, was present along with all the leading local Radicals and Tom Hirst, the cooperator and New Connexion Methodist was in the chair. A list of ‘factory mongers’, those manufacturers who had petitioned against Hobhouse’s Bill, was also dispatched for publication, some of whom had been ‘hitherto deemed kind and liberal men,’ provoking the correspondent to the Guardian to comment, “Can a fountain at the same time send forth such sweet water and bitter?”.8.

This contact may have been more direct than an exchange of reports and newspapers since Joshua Hobson, at a reformers meeting to petition the Lords to support the bill, related an anecdote he said had been told to him by Hetherington. At this meeting the Radicals expressed more direct hostility to the Whigs, both over the question of the Factory Bill and Reform. There was no talk of the Bill being a step in the right direction or of class unity, from Dickinson and Beaumont. The latter said the Reform government had done nothing to lighten the burdens of the people and the proposed reform, ‘only give s power to those who have too much already.’ The vote should go to those whose property was their labour, since, ‘labour produced capital and not capital labour.’ Dickinson called for independent working class action in their own interest, ‘The labouring class are the greatest in numbers and if united they are the greatest in power’.9

Further friction with the Reformers arose out of Henry Hunt’s visit to Huddersfield on 10 November. Around 4,000 people escorted his carriage into town and listened to him speak, prompting Tom Barlow of Netherton to compare the meeting to a cockfight and launch a bitter attack on Hunt, ‘that revolutionizing catspaw of the Tories’, and his local adherents – ‘notorious deists’, living dissolute lives and intent on rebellion. He claimed in this and a following letter, that most of the working classes had signed petitions in support of the Reform Bill as it stood. John Hanson countered with a letter supporting Hunt’s stand against the Bill and asking Barlow whether “he means to hold forth that Providence has stationed us in these wide extremes of vastly rich and starvingly poor.’ Beaumont went further and issued a handbill entitled, ‘Libel on Labourers’ calling a meeting in the Union Room and inviting Barlow to attend – or in the words of the Mercury, summoning him before an inquisition. Barlow declined to go and sent a letter with William Moore the bookseller, explaining that his comments were directed only at the Huntites and not operatives or Radicals in general.
He pointed out that if the ministers were ousted and a ‘convention’ established trade would be ruined. 10

That the local Radicals had adopted a strategy of mass mobilisation focused on the calling of a Convention· is made clear by a circular signed by Hanson, Hobson and Leech on 9 November announcing that; a committee has been selected from the members of our Political Union and arrangements are completed that they shall act in concert with persons deputed from the surrounding hamlets, villages and factories for the express purpose of organising the whole labouring population of this district.

After asserting that ‘the people’ – in this context indisputably synonymous with the labouring classes – could rely on ‘no other class’ for redress ,the plan was outlined; ‘Our principle aim is to have delegates from such societies . and place s as may seem proper to send to such particular place as shall be agreed upon, we would say Manchester as the centre to arrange a plan and frame general resolutions for a grand meeting all over Britain and Ireland on the same day and hour, so that the people may come in all respects well prepared to meet their tyrants on one great and general principle … demonstrating that one grand and simultaneous movement is sufficient to renovate the most perverse state in which society ever existed and place it on an adamantine basis from which no known power can remove it while the people are awake to their rights…’ This was sent to the Poor Man’s Guardian as ‘the centre of communication’ and ‘the most invaluable and cheapest paper in circulation.’ The Mercury seized on the fact it was signed in the name of ‘the General Committee of the Political Union and Operatives of Huddersfield and Vicinity’ in an attempt to drive a wedge between the PU and the Committee of Operatives based at the Ship Inn. James Brook, secretary of the Operatives Committee,(evidently an alternative name for the Short Time Committee),was asked if his organisation was. pledged to the support of the illegal Convention. Unfortunately his reply was considered too long to be printed and the Mercury answered his main points by reminding him that under 29 Geo.III97 ,any political body composed of delegates was an ‘unlawful combination’ and that the term ‘National Convention’, had appeared in notices about the Manchester meeting. It cautioned the operatives to keep the question of shorter hours , ‘clear of politics in this design.’11

The concept of mass mobilisation and independent working class action was carried a step further by a meeting of Huddersfield PU which passed a resolution, moved by George Beaumont, recommending 26 December as a ‘Grand National Holiday’, that ‘every wheel and every wheel’s connection shall rest from their labour and the whole population shall shout with an irresistible voice and that the country shall reverberate the glorious sound – Liberty’. Another resolution affirming a reliance on moral rather than physical force, – ‘this Union being founded upon the purest principles of benevolence.’ – was proposed by Hanson who evidently saw no contradiction between this and his appeal to the people to come ‘well prepared’ to the simultaneous meetings.

On the 26 December the Radicals marched from Huddersfield to Almondbury Bank behind a man carrying an engraving of the Manchester massacre with a black frame and black crepe rosettes and under a green flag on a pike staff inscribed, ‘Universal Suffrage and Vote by Ballot.’ Pitkethly in the chair exhorted the people to unite in a ‘powerful and irresistible front …it was the power of the people that caused the present reform bill to be submitted.’ Tom Vevers declared that they entertained no thoughts of violence or hostility but , ‘Unions were fast spreading through the country and the time would speedily come when they would be able to call forth simultaneous meetings on the same day and the same hour and to say unto their adversaries, “We have long willed to be free, but now we are determined to be free.”’

As the presence of the Peterloo plaque indicates, Radicals, especially veterans like Vevers were seeing events in the light of the agitation prior to 1820.This preoccupation is also evident in the petition which was raised by the PU in March supporting Hunt’s call for an inquiry into the massacre. The Ultra-Radicals strategy was flawed by the contradiction that while realising the need for an assertion of working class power they deprecated the violence they realised must result from such a confrontation. 12

Hopes for the recovery of trade continued to hinge around the fortunes of the Reform Bill. In January 1832 the Mercury briefly reported. ‘Huddersfield Market is improving, and as soon as the Reform Bill is passed, it is hoped there will be good trade.’ Although ‘somewhat depressed’ by early February it was described as ‘decidedly in a better state than that of many other parts of this manufacturing district. The mills in the neighbourhood of the town are almost all working good hours, but in the valley of Holmfirth above Honley, we hear it said that the mills were never worse employed.’ A correspondent suggested that a trading agreement with France was needed to give full employment to the fancy weavers. By the summer the market was still ‘exceedingly flat’ but the autumn saw an increasing demand. 13

The Radicals continued to attempt to link the struggle for Reform to distress. . At a meeting to raise subscriptions for the prevention of cholera,(from which the area escaped lightly),Vevers was prevented from discussing the question as it was deemed irrelevant to the issue. The constable also refused to preside over a meeting called specifically on the subject, so the Radicals convened their own in April. Beaumont described the state of the neighbourhood in the light of the most recent survey which revealed terrible cases of destitution among some weavers. As well as leading to the proposal to extend the investigations by setting up district committees, the meeting underlined the urgency of radical reform. Vevers explained bluntly, ‘…all charity unaccompanied with an earnest struggle to effect real change in the country is but a cloak for knavery.’ Tom Hirst said the working classes were determined to manage their own affairs and everyone should ‘seek unions, the interests of the operatives are one and the same.’ 14

The defeat of the Bill in the Lords occasioned the next major clash with the Reformers at a meeting called on 12 May 1832 by a ‘respectably signed” requisition to petition the Commons not to vote any supplies until the Bill received royal assent . Pitkethly attempted to put an amendment calling for non-payment of taxes until universal suffrage and vote by ballot was instituted but was refused by the constable. The meeting erupted as the Radicals passed the amendment anyway ignoring cries of order from the constable and, after Dickinson and Christopher Wood, a co-operator, appealed for the meeting to continue, Vevers, Dickinson and Beaumont put the case for radical reform. The latter causing amusement when he suggested the Lords should be dissolved altogether. 15

The main criticism against the Radicals from middle class reformers, like William Willans the merchant and Independent Methodist , rested on the claim they were being manipulated by the Tories and at a great West Riding Reform meeting at Wakefield two weeks later Pitkethly was shouted down when he tried to explain that there was no Ultra Radical – Tory coalition. In turn the Tories claimed that the Reformers were coercing their workers into support of the Bill, by threatening men with dismissal, or paying them to go to the Wakefield meeting. Enoch and James Taylor who were at the centre of these allegations, (since one of their men had been run over by a cart), denied that they had forced anyone and that, ‘the people of Marsden are not to be moved like puppets ,they are not the tools of a party.’ However this firm was highly paternalistic and certainly exerted a strong influence over its workers. 16

The Rise of John Powlett – 1831-32

Radicalism was boosted by the vigorous revival of the trade unions. In February 1831 following an improvement in trade, weavers at Gott’s factory in Leeds struck for a restoration of their wages to pre 1826 levels – an increase of around 12 ½ %. They were out nearly eight months but returned at the prices they were demanding. This unleashed a wave of strikes and the founding of lodges affiliated to the Leeds Trades Union, or Clothiers Union, which had links with the National Association for the Protection of Labour. Locally the Union was more often personified as ‘John Powlett’ after its’ mythical Leeds secretary. The objective of the Union was to gain an equalisation of wages throughout the West Riding. The weavers of Henry Brook & Sons at Wells mill, Huddersfield, struck for a 20% increase in April 1832 Their wages had been reduced three years previously on the excuse that Gott was paying the same. The croppers were also only earning about 16s compared to 22s a week in Leeds and ‘those of Tom Pedley & Co turned out. Demands to all the major manufacturers were submitted and “A Merchant” claimed in the Mercury that one master had received a demand from the Union at Leeds over the head of his men. 17

A reply from John Powlett explained that they were attempting to prevent the undercutting
of wages which was running at 15-30% in the area.The following month Brooke of Armitage Bridge and Wrigley of Netherton agreed to pay their weavers ‘according to Messers Gott’s statement’ and introduce a regular scale for the croppers. In June Eli Wilkinson of Meltham, John Hannah of Huddersfield , Ben Dyson of Cowcliffe and E.&.B.Vickerman of Steps Mill followed suit.18

In the area around Holmfirth however, the manufacturers put up strong resistance and by August many mills were at a stand. What began as a dispute about payment for the extra weight of wool being slubbed became a struggle for union recognition. On 11 June the manufacturer Peter Beardsell noted in his diary ‘Hinchliffe’s of New Fold have notice to advance the wages of their workpeople or else a strike is anticipated.’ The following week he recorded a turn out at Harpin’s (Bottoms) Mill, ‘because they set on a slubber to work that was not in the union.’ On 11 July there was a meeting of the manufacturers’ ‘Association’ and, according to Beardsell, ‘a very strong resolution’ was passed agreeing to dismiss all the union workers, not just slubbers, which led two days later to a general turnout in the Holmfirth area. The Mercury also commented that it was not just a wage dispute but about who the masters could employ, ‘The points at issue not only affect the price s but certain matters of regulation in the business.’ and urged concessions by both sides. Messrs Charlesworth were the only ones to concede an increase to the slubbers while on behalf of the masters John Hinchliffe drew up an agreement which was put to the Union. 19

It was rejected and whether it was now a strike or a lockout a protracted struggle took place. The Mercury reported that all Holmfirth mills except two were stood and ‘a few going on languidly with such hands as are not in the trades union.’ The Unions’ case was advocated by a correspondent, ‘Humanitas’ who traced the problem to the gradual increase of the weight of slubbing while wages had remained stationary. Over 1300 were locked out with the purpose of winning a, ‘complete victory’ over ‘John Powlett’ and Charlesworth’s had withdrawn from the masters’, ‘unholy league’. Retaliation was taken against one manufacturer called Hinchliffe, (possibly John named above- but there were at least five more Hinchlliffes), whose cattle were maimed, although the Union disassociated itself from the action and offered a £50 reward for information about the culprit. However, the dispute remained peaceable and although some workers returned to Hinchliffe & Horncastle’s Swanbank Mill on 15 October there was not a full return until the following January or February. The workers won a wage advance but had to work an extra half hour for it.20

Even on 7 February Beardsell noted, ‘The Holmfirth concern is not yet settled. I mean the union business.’ One of the positive results of the dispute was a thriving co-operative’ experiment , but 38 years later there were recollections of, ‘the “Powlett’” strike, the suffering resulting from which was so terrible it is not forgotten today.’ 21

The political undertones of the strike were captured in a verse by one of the ‘turnouts’ published in the Voice of the West Riding of 24 August 1833:
Tyrants their decrees do send,
(Meet and swear they will defend
And help each other to the end)
That we their slaves may be.
Patriots to fame aspire,
Freemen who your lights desire,
Animate your breasts with fire,
On – to Death or Liberty.’

It was not just the woollen workers of the Holmfirth area who were involved in disputes. In November 1832 someone writing under the protection of the name ‘An Observer’ reported to the Mercury ‘depredations’ committed in Almondbury and neighbourhood by members of the Fancy Trade Union in the course of a strike against the fancy manufacturer Ferrand, including attacks on the homes of strikebreakers. 22

The Ten Hour Movement and the Radical – Tory alliance. 23

Although the struggle for factory reform was to play an important part in local Radicalism the campaign was not initiated by radicals. On the same evening that Radicals met to organise opposition to the Reform Bill in early 1831, a number of men, ‘chiefly overlookers’, with little involvement in politics, met at the Ship Inn to organise support for Hobhouse’s Bill. They were subsequently joined by Pitkethly , his shop manager, the former fancy weaver, John Leech, Joshua Hobson, the fancy weaver John Hanson, and the joiner James Brook who, along with Samuel Glendenning, formed the deputation sent from the Short Time Committee to solicit Richard Oastler’s support on 19 June. The concern of the Radicals with factory reform and the ensuing alliance with Oastler was a significant step in extending the appeal of Radicalism and providing wider potential for mass mobilisation. By tapping the antipathy to the factory system on a moral and traditionalist as well as economic basis they gained access to a wider anti-Whig constituency which could be channelled towards parliamentary reform. The increasing identification of manufacturers with the Whig government also contributed to the development of political consciousness in class terms.

As well as attempting to cause dissension between the Ultra Radicals and the Committee of Operatives, the Mercury had attacked the alliance with the Tories, claiming that the factory reformers were being duped into undermining the Reform government and therefore their own interests, by backing Thomas Sadler’s candidacy in Leeds. James Brook on behalf of the Operatives/Short Time Committee denied that they were being prompted by Oastler but that they had drawn up an address to Sadler in recognition of his humanitarian comments in parliament about rural distress and they had requested him to support Hobhouse’s Bill. The Mercury prophesised, ‘so unnatural a coalition can never hold’.24

But, despite one serious controversy,(ironically centred around Sadler ),the alliance with Oastler was to survive until his departure from the district in 1838. Its strength rested on a shared social rather than political conception which was expressed by Brook at a meeting on 26 December:
‘To such a pitch had the Factory System arrived that nearly all who were within its operation were unable to relieve themselves from its abuses. It had almost swallowed the labour of the domestic manufacturers (cheers) who had been driven from employment to those gigantic firms which had sprung up and in whose factories they were obliged to submit.’ 25
This view was echoed by Abraham Whitehead, a clothier, cooperator , trade unionist and member of Holmfirth Short Time Committee , before the Sadler Committee:
‘If shorter hours caused some manufacturers to give up, there are many that have some small property who would begin business. It would introduce domestic manufacture which would be the greatest blessing that could be introduced into Old England; the present factory system is a complete system of slavery and degradation’.26

Oastler frequently lamented the passing of the domestic manufacturers and the idealised society they represented:
‘…they are now reduced almost to pauperism, or to the class of common labourer. They were the best masters the workmen ever had, these were the strongest bulwarks of the state, but they are now mixed amongst the paupers and labourers in one common mass. I remember a time when there were once happy companies upon a village green, as blithesome and as gay as lambs and I have gambolled with them. But they are now all gone…’27

However, there was more to the factory refomers’ theory than nostalgic utopianism or moral offense at the effect on family life and the suffering of children. While reasserting Christian ethical values they were also attacking the economic laws which they perceived governing industrial capitalism. By reducing hours for children it was hope to limit the operation of machinery, cut hours and output as a whole and thereby curtail overproduction and competition leading to an increase in unemployment. The argument of the operative factory reformers was outlined in the first manifesto of the movement ‘Humanity Against tyranny’ written by Joshua Hobson in 1831 in reply to the ‘factorymongers’ who were petitioning against Hobhouse’s Bill. One critic observed that his conclusion that more hands would be employed if childrens’ hours were cut did not take into account just how rapidly machinery was developing and such a move would rather accelerate its introduction.’28

For Oastler the reduction of hours and the consequent equalisation of supply and demand would restore prosperity to all classes in society by destroying, ‘The slaughter house of trade, skill and of industry.’ another symptom of which was the driving down of wages making trades unions necessary for the defence of workers.29

An increase in employment would stimulate consumption and consequently the “home trade” ‘,diminishing the dependence on overseas trade and another bane of the working classes ,”foreign competition” which was invoked by manufacturers as a reason for lowering wages.

Although they might agree in their economic analysis, ethical views and even to some extent in their social vision, the Radicals and “Tory Radicals” differed fundamentally in their political objectives. Oastler saw factory reform as a means of restoring social harmony within the framework of an idealised, traditional paternalistic political system.

‘ Do I then say that there should be no grades in society, that there are not to be masters and servants. No: But I do say that servitude and labour ought not to be oppressive.’

‘ Toryism consists in having a place for everything and everything in its place …it consists also in the labourer being as happy, as secure and as much respected as the best of them in their cottages.’

It was a belief summed up in his motto, “The Altar, the Throne and the Cottage”, and one he would not compromise by supporting universal suffrage. Despite this, Oastler differed fundamentally from the parliamentary Tory philanthropists in that he firmly advocated that the working classes should mobilise themselves against the factory system. (and later against the new Poor Law). This was the strength of his alliance with the Radicals. The Huddersfield Operatives’ Committee’s confidence in the Tory Sadler was also not misplaced and he became the leading champion of the Ten Hours Bill in parliament. A meeting of the Short Time Committee (STC) passed a vote of thanks to him for his speech on the second reading of the Bill and a censure on Althorpe in March 1832.30

The following month the parliamentary and mass campaign came together in a spectacular way with the Easter meeting at York. ‘The Pilgrimage’ bears testimony to the potency of Oastler’s charisma, combined with the working class capacity for mobilisation, which inspired thousands of men, women and children to walk from the area to York – in some cases a round trip lf ninety miles in heavy rain. Popular hostility and suspicion of the Whigs was also illustrated by the response to an announcement that on Easter Monday a ballon ascent was to be staged from Huddersfield Market Place. Chalked slogans appeared – ‘The Balloon is a Whig trick – Go to York.’ And fighting broke out around the balloon which was slashed, prompting the Halifax and Huddersfield Express to observe, ‘the want of a more powerful and effective police was never more evident than on this occasion.’ 31 Although drawing support from throughout the textile districts it was Huddersfield men like Pikethley and Hanson, as well as Oastler, who were foremost in organising and stewarding the marchers. In the Castle Yard they were addressed by, among others, Sadler and someone else who was to have increasingly close association with the operatives of the area – Captain Joseph Wood of Sandal.32

Sadler’s efforts were acknowledged by a meeting of ‘Friends of the Factory Bill’ on Back Green in August, called to hear the report back from Oastler and Abraham Whitehead, who had been witnesses before the Sadler commission. A resolution was also passed regretting the continued delay of the Bill. The following week a procession including many factory children marched from the town to Folly Hall to personally thank Sadler with the presentation of an address by James Brook secretary of the STC. 33

In the election following the passing of the Reform Bill, (see below) the Ten Hours Bill was a central issue and partly on the basis of his staunch support for the measure Captain Wood was chosen as the Radical candidate. He also had the official backing of Oastler and the STC. As a result, in reporting a meeting at the end of February 1833 against Lord Morpeth’s interference with Sadler’s bill, the Mercury claimed there had been a falling off of support since the Bill had become a ‘party question’ and other objects were being pursued ‘under the cloak of humanity.’ It was resolved by this meeting to petition Ashley to take over from the unseated Sadler as the guardian of the measure in parliament. 34 Growing frustration led to a more truculent demonstration of resentment against the Whigs in June. After an evening meeting demanding the passing of the Bill and opposing the commissioners’ report effigies of the three factory commissioners and the local Whig MP, Lewis Fenton were burnt in the Market Place. Estimates of the crowd ranged from I5,000 to 8,000 including ,’numerous factory children’.35

The STCs campaign of mobilisation culminated next month in a massive demonstration on Wibsey Moor near Bradford which was announced by Oastler in terms which were tantamount to a call for a one day strike, under the slogan. ‘The home trade and domestic manufacture for ever!’
‘Leave your Mills and Looms and Jennies and Shops for one day more. Let “OLD NED” cease his hissing and rumbling din for one day more and give your machine ‘Devils’ time to cease their tearing – aye, give them for once a holy day…’ 36
On the day, Oastler called for the strictest penal clauses to be included in the bill and told how one Huddersfield manufacturer, Robert Wrigley of Netherton, also a bitter opponent of trades unions, had expressed regret that Oastler had not been shot. Showing he shared the Radicals concern about the Whigs’ extension of state powers to protect their own class interest, Oastler suggested that Wrigley join the proposed Yeomanry in Huddersfield , then he could use a bullet at his own expense. 37

The defeat of Ashley’s bill and the passing of Althorpe’s limited measure removed the immediate raison d’etre of the STC and the tactical political alliances founded on it. A consequence of this was a breach between those like Oastler, Stocks and James Brook (dubbed ‘King Richard’s secretary’ by the Mercury), who favoured Sadler as candidate in the second Huddersfield election , (following Fenton’s untimely death), and the majority of the Radicals and trade unionists who again supported Wood. Pitkethly initially backed Sadler until it became apparent that Captain Wood had been persuaded to stand by those who favoured independence from the Tories on most issues, and then he switched support, causing some friction with Oastler. (see below)

The debates which surrounded the eight hour demand of the National Regeneration Society, about which both Oastler and Stocks were sceptical, may have contributed to the strained relations and on 15 February 1834, under the influence of Pitkethly and the other Owenites and Ultra Radicals, the STC decided to drop the Ten Hour agitation and adopt the Regeneration scheme. Some members remained faithful to the original objective and in October, after the National Regeneration Society had collapsed, the Trades Union disintegrated and Radical politics were at their nadir, Oastler, Brook and the co-operator and former STC member Samuel Glendenning, led a group of factory children to present an inscribed Bible to Rev.G.S.Bull in recognition of his services to the Ten Hour movement.38

‘Exclusive Dealing’ – Non-electors and Electors –
The Huddersfield Election Campaign. June – December 1832

With the enactment of the Reform Bill the Radicals’ strategy focused on the elections to the reformed parliament. The first choice of candidate was Captain Joseph Wood of Sandal, a honorary member of the PU who was familiar with the state of distress in the area and staunch supporter of the Factory Bill: The adoption by the Whigs of J.C.Ramsden, the son of the landlord of Huddersfield Sir John Ramsden, fuelled fears that Huddersfield was destined to become a new rotten borough. J.C.Ramsden, as county MP, had refused to support a petition from Reformers calling for the boundaries of the borough to extend to the whole parish and not merely the township. Apprehensions about feudal domination seemed confirmed when all Ramsden’s tenants received a letter reminding them of the landlord’s soke rights which had almost been allowed to lapse. There was also growing resentment about the excessive dues which the Ramsdens were said to be exacting from the canal users. 39


Wood’s arrival into Huddersfield was celebrated like a triumphal entry in marked contrast to the reception given to Ramsden on his first appearance as candidate. Only two and a half hours notice was given of his intention to make a public address, an attempt, according to Joshua Hobson. ‘to cheat the Factory Lads’ .Despite this a large crowd converged on the George Inn bearing a flag with the inscription, “Having long been plundered by Ramsden’s canal, we will never be chained to his soke. II After an inaudible introduction by his attorney, Captain Fenton, and William Willans, Ramsden condemned the crowd for making a noise in the market place instead of attending to their work. Pitkethly objected that, ‘they had to attend to their rights as well as their work.’
Beaumont was not allowed to put a question as a non-elector, so Ramsden was asked by Tom Hirst on behalf of the PU, about his attitude to national education, distress and the Ten Hour Bill .Hirst expressed satisfaction with the reply but most of the crowd did not and amidst hisses ,groans and shouts of “No New Sarums!” Ramsden escaped through the back door of the George. The Radicals then addressed the crowd and Beaumont vented his anger at Hirst for not contradicting Ramsden. Hirst replied that it was shameful that the operatives had not given Ramsden a hearing and it demonstrated the need for better education. This incident epitomised the basic tactical difference amongst the Radicals between those who favoured moral force and those who favoured more direct forms of persuasion. The PU came firmly down on the side of the latter course a few days later when a march to Back Green passed a resolution calling for exclusive dealing. 40

The Trade Unions were closely involved n the election campaign. This was pointed out by the Mercury for the benefit of a Huddersfield correspondent, presumably annoyed by the Union’s support for Captain Wood. Joshua Hobson specifically mentions their presence at the great welcome for the candidate on 14 June. His opponent, J.C.Ramsden describes them in a different light; ‘the political and trades unions and Mr Oastler are using such intimidation on the shopkeepers and others that I imagine very many will be afraid to vote at all. I have no idea of any election being carried through until these cursed unions are destroyed’. How far the Unions were actively involved in mobilising workers in support of Wood, or encouraging exclusive dealing, they must certainly have had close contact with the radicals on a daily basis since both Wood’s and the Trade Union committees were based in The White Hart.41

Whatever the success of this tactic in persuading electors to vote for Wood, or at least not vote for the opposition, the main factor in the relationship between the non-electors and the ‘shopocracy, was that Radicalism already had a strong core of support amongst the latter. Captain Wood was requisitioned to stand by 113 voters out of a total electorate of just over 600. It is impossible to identify with certainty most of the 22 named members of his committee,(perhaps an indication most were too undistinguished to be entered in the trade directory) but three were grocers,(all Bradleys) a beerseller, an ironmonger42 and a book-keeper. At the succeeding election ,his committee treasurer was Richard Foss, a spirit merchant and proprietor of the Sun Inn. Besides Tom Hirst, the most prominent members of the committee were Pitkethly and William Stocks, both only minor employers. The popularity of Stocks, who as chairman of Wood’s committee was firmly identified with the Radical cause, was shown at the beginning of October when he was elected constable with 1,248 to 964 votes, a clear indication of the level of support amongst rate-payers in the parish as a whole.43

The distribution of support for Wood is revealed by the list of those who voted for him at the next election, although some may have been coerced by exclusive dealing, or others may have voted for Sadler out of loyalty to Oastler.44

Grocers 8
Drapers 9
Provision store keepers 12
Beer retailers 12
1nnkeepers . 10
Corn dealers 2
Tea Dealers 2
Butchers 3
Tailors 5
Boot and shoe makers 5
Manufacturers 10
Farmer 7
Brewer s 3
Book-keepers 3
Ironmonger 2
And a single one of the following: Gentleman; Currier; Smith; Tinner; Schoolmaster; Nailmaker; Cabinet maker; Pipe maker; Heald and slay maker; Clogger; Spirit-merchant; 2 Lime-burner; Hosier: Hairdresser: Maltster; Hawker. 45


Some of the categories are imprecise, for instance Pitkethly is classified as a “draper”, along with linen drapers , although he was in the shawl trade. Two of the provision store keepers and one grocer were co-operators and Amos-Cowgill, formerly of the WRFU, listed here as a draper, was the first president of the co-operative society. Three of the beer sellers, Thomas Bagshaw, William Vevers and John Brunton were active Radicals. Since the trade directory does not distinguish the £10 leaseholders from the rest it is impossible to establish what proportion of the electorate in their respective trades they represent. It is apparent however that those best represented are traders in foodstuffs and drink. The provision store keepers constitute more than half those numbered in the 1830 Directory, the grocers and tea dealers about a third and the innkeepers a quarter. Beer retailers do not have a mention in the Directory but the 12 voting for Wood must have been a large proportion of those enfrancised. Of the 10 manufacturers listed, one was a fancy presser and 8 were in the velveteen, woollen cord and cassinet branch of the fancy trade , ( 7 of these were in the small adjacent hamlets of Deighton and Sheep ridge ) all on a small scale.46

Since the number who voted for Wood in the second election (108) was slightly less than the number who requisitioned him to stand originally (113), if exclusive dealing had been influential in producing votes for him then it would mean his basic support had in fact declined. There is no evidence to suggest this happened significantly, although some objected to his catholicism. It would appear then that the main support for Radicalism and for the non-electors came from those trades people who were most directly dependent on working class custom and who were also socially more in contact with the working class. While they provided some of the personnel of the Radical movement their sympathies as a social and political group were a product of the strength of Radicalism among workers in the surrounding townships. They were a reflection of the growing polarisation of class interests and not just the result of ‘the clustering of relationships’ in a community.47

Although the working class non-electors were in direct political conflict with the “shopocracy” they did not fail to discern the real class interests behind the Whigs. In Huddersfield the coalescence of capitalist landlordism , drawing rents from industrial and commercial activity rather than agriculture, with industrial capitalism ,represented by the “millocrats” was evident in Ramsden’s campaign. Out of the 21 identifiable members of Ramsden’s committee, (or the ‘Sokefield Boroughmongering Junta’ as it was dubbed by Hobson) 13 were merchants ,manufacturers or millowners, including the two Atkinsons,Law and Thomas,of Bradley Mill and the leading builder in the area Joseph Kaye. Bradley Clay, Ramsden’s agent and secretary to the committee also had his own businesses including lime-burning and canal transport. Of the other members one was a tobacco manufacturer one an accountant, one a druggist and there were two surgeons. Thomas Shepherd the Methodist preacher, heald and slay maker, one of the leading, (if not the leading), ideological opponents of Radicalism locally since his polemics with Carlile, was also involved. One of the merchant manufacturers , David Shaw was one of the “factory mongers” who opposed the Ten Hour Bill. He too was aMethodist preacher and it was reported the following year that one chapel in Kirkheaton had refused to allow him, Shepherd and another man to preach, because of, ‘their known opposition to the Peoples’ Rights generally, but their conduct at the Huddersfield late election in particular.’48


The resentment at Ramsden and fears that tenants would be victimised if they voted against him, strengthened by a rumour that he had asked his father to suggest to Thornhill that Oastler be dismissed as steward of the Fixby estate, prompted the Whigs to turn to a candidate with less blatant interest in the borough. Captain Lewis Fenton was chosen as a political unknown (and as it proved, a political incompetent ) who it was thought would prove less offensive to the electors. The fact that his solicitor brother. James Crosland Fenton, was an agent of the estate meant however that the Ramsden interest was till represented. The antagonism between the Whigs and Radicals did not only develop over domestic issues. In November a meeting was called to protest against government interference in Belgium and a number of Whigs , including Fenton, signed the requisition. The Whigs then decided to withdraw support in order not to be party to any criticism of Grey’s government. Fenton was left to fumble his way through an excuse saying he supported peace but did not agree with the resolution which was being proposed. William Willans, a member of the Peace Society, also said he supported the object of the meeting but did not wish to embarrass the present ministry. Whig suspicions that this was yet another Tory stalking-horse were reinforced by Oastler’s strong condemnation calling on the people of Huddersfield to, ‘raise their voice against the war, so that whatever name it might have with posterity it should not be called a Huddersfield war.’ James Brook of the Short Time Committee dismissed the point that the Tories were responsible for the French wars and attacked the Whigs for repaying the Russian-Dutch loan. At his claim that if it were not for the Whig’s policy, ‘The Poles would have been free,’ the meeting erupted into uproar and a Whig amendment was passed that the address prepared would, ‘embarrass and injure the character of the ministers.’49

 Election and Aftermath – December 1832-February 1833

On nomination day 10 December thousands of non-electors from the surrounding villages flocked into Huddersfield behind bands and flags bearing Ten Hour Bill and Radical slogans. As well as stating his support for Radical reform, Wood condemned “taxes on knowledge” and the tithe system • His comments in relation to the latter, claiming that tithe collection in Ireland necessitated 20,000 soldiers and that a large standing army was, “incompatible with the freedom of the people.” assumed a particular relevancy in the light of subsequent events. After an inept speech Fenton was asked why he had signed the requisition for the meeting on Belgium and if he supported the Ten Hours Bill. Predictably, Wood won the show of hands by an overwhelming majority.50

Early on the first day of polling on 12 December about 100 of Fenton’s supporters went in a body to vote, but apart from the breaking of some Whigs’ windows, allegedly in retaliation for an assault on a ‘Woodite’ the day passed without major incident. On the following day, however, when it became apparent towards the close of poll that Wood had lost , numbers of his supporters who had poured into the town made an attack on the polling booths in an attempt to seize the poll books. The Special Constables made a hasty attack in which they were badly beaten and forced to seek retreat in the Court House where they were besieged
while Tom Atkinson galloped off to fetch a troop of the First Dragoon Guards on stand-by from Dewsbury. The efforts of Hirst and stocks to persuade the people to disperse were nullified by the reappearance of the Specials on the streets ,backed up by troops. The crowd began to regroup in the Market Place and resolved not to be ‘driven away’ and as the magistrate, Walker, read the Riot Act some of the crowd responded by breaking a few more windows and calling for , ‘those damned devils’, the military and Specials., to go away before they would. On Stocks pleading to be allowed half an hour to clear the town the troops were withdrawn into the back yard of the George but the crowd refused to move until the Specials also were out of sight. While this was being done a group attacked Fenton’s house on the edge of the town and broke every window. Fenton replied with three shots from fowling pieces and before the military arrived an hour later having got lost en route, the attackers had disappeared.

The Halifax Guardian reported that on the first day of poll 500 windows were smashed, and numerous electors harassed while the Mercury estimated 8,000 mainly Wood supporters on nomination day.The number involved in disturbances was probably less but possibly still in thousands. Ben Johnson,a white smith from Huddersfield and John Barker, a weaver from Paddock were arrested for intimidating voters and attacking the polling booths. Barker had been working for Wood’s committee posting bills . William Vevers, the son of Tom, was fined £3 for failing to clear his beer shop when ordered, although he claimed the only occupant was a friend who had called in to read the True Sun. Barker was also a customer of Vevers and Hobson was in no doubt that the Albion had been put under ‘curfew’ because of its Radical associations and not because of any part in contributing to the disturbances. 51

As well as these prosecutions 38 claims of damage totalling around £164 were submitted, but this was far outweighed by the damage to the confidence of the local Whigs and their relations with the operatives. The following week, Fenton, who had been elected by 263 votes to Wood’s 159, wrote to General Bouverie of Northern Command requesting reinforcements in terms which sounded more like the appeal of a beleaguered garrison in an
occupied country than a new MP.
‘Huddersfield is surrounded on all sides by a dense population composed principally of the operative classes with a very small number of the leading classes in proportion. A vast number of the working classes have joined those dangerous societies which under the designation of trades, political and other unions some of which are bound together by oaths of a most execrable nature and are constantly aiming at the subversion of all social order. They boast that in three hours notice they can at any time assemble a force of 20,000 robust members of these unions without the town.’
He claimed that without the intervention of the military the combination of the mob and high winds could have produced worse scenes than at Bristol during the Reform Bill riots, and suggested that a troop of Yeomanry or couple of companies of light infantry be raised for future eventualities. 52

Fenton was not the only one to subscribe to a conspiracy theory. Seventy three respectable inhabitants presented an address of thanks to the magistrates for their ‘prompt measures’ in protecting them from the” premeditated attack on their lives and property.” In turn the magistrates publicly acknowledged the role of Captain Atkinson in fetching the military and thanked Captain Evans and his troop of Dragoons adding, ‘We trust the late proceedings will be a warning to those misguided persons who think that an election is to be made a cloak for riot and destruction.’ 53


Hobson countered with the issue of a humorous squib, (in the form of a military bulletin from ‘Captain L.U.D.D. A – K – N ‘ of the ‘ Grease Horn Guards’ alluding to a Dutch invasion and the war against ‘Brigadier General Croft’ (one of the leaders of the 1817 Folly Hall rising) which ridiculed the idea of any plot and a meeting of the ‘Just-asses’, convened to consider defence measure s. At that meeting on 18 January Fenton’s suggestion that they raise their own volunteer force was rejected in favour of raising a fund to build barracks. After discussion this was amended to a call for the government to provided barracks and station military permanently in the town. It was also decided to set up a committee of inquiry into Stocks’ conduct during the disturbances.54

Meanwhile an address had been signed by 3,000 operatives protesting against the ‘calumny’ against the working classes imputed by the respectable inhabitants’ address and this was presented to the magistrates by a deputation of 3-400 , led by ‘three principle members’ of the Trades’ Union. Trades’ Unionists also presented an address to Stocks supporting him against his critics and thanking him for ,relying on ‘persuasion and reason rather than upon brute force.’ The Radicals moved on to the offensive and a vestry meeting was called to remove the Whig deputy constable, Dalton, but it was declared illegal as it had not been convened by the overseers. Another stormy meeting, so packed it had to be adjourned from the vestry to the Radical’s Union Rooms, provided an opportunity to query some items of his expenditure, but an attempt to disallow him his salary for the quarter was ruled out of order.
Six weeks after it had been established, the committee to investigate Stocks had still not made its report and in September Hobson advertised in the Voice, ‘Lost. One respectable committee…’55

And Ready When Wanted’ –
Class Tensions increase 1833-1834

The Radicals concern about the growing threat of repression was not just confined to events at a local level. During the Whig meeting to protest at the defeat of the Reform Bill in the Lords, Samuel Dickinson had claimed that Grey’s true anti-reform intentions were revealed by the fact that, When he came into office he augumented the army and navy and on the tithe question, he asked for more power to crush the peasantry of Ireland. An attempt was made at Wood’s first election meeting to raise cheers for the tithe resisters and although unsuccessful, Wood himself had attacked government policy in Ireland in his nomination speech. 56

The introduction of the Irish Coercion Bill the following year widened the gulf between Radicals and Whigs even further. A Political Union meeting on 1 March to petition against the Bill, addressed by Pitkethly, Vevers and Hanson was reported by the Halifax Guardian 3 to have been, ” almost entirely of operatives,” and although the Mercury claimed that there was a . “very general dislike,” of the military tribunal provisions of the Bill,few of the middle classes had signed the petition because ,while valuing liberty, they wished to see, ‘outrages and atrocious murders ended.’ A resolution was passed by the PU in March condemning the military tribunals and the government’s ‘monstrously bloody’ plan of ‘Polandizing’ the Irish, and expressing determination, ‘to use every possible means to prevent its being put into execution and pledge ourselves to assist and defend the oppressed Irish people.57

In May a further protest was made against militarism at a meeting in the Market Place in response to the announcement of the Army Estimates, including £2,000 allotted for the formation of a volunteer force in Huddersfield • Fenton was still pressing for a troop of Yeomanry to be raised although the Mercury was opposed to the project and reported that most of the middle classes in the town favoured an efficiently organised police force instead. Bouverie also thought the town was well protected by the barracks at Leeds and Manchester. This did not reassure the Radicals however, who made ‘very violent’ denunciations of the
Whig government and local magistrates and, ‘One person recommended them all to arm themselves in case any Volunteers or Yeomanry were raised.’ 58

Trade Unions

Meanwhile the Trade Unions were also gaining strength. George Beaumont reported that he had been involved in the establishment of 36 lodges, although it is not explicit that all these were in his own trade of fancy weaving. In 1833 the Fancy Trades Union was involved in a dispute at Almondbury in which the houses of ‘Blacksheep’ had their windows broken .Three Union men were brought before the magistrates but funds were raised to pay the fines. The outrages, according to the Mercury, were, ‘daily becoming more serious and alarming’. Another fancy weaver was arrested during a strike against Kaye of Clayton West and accused of the intimidation of blacksheep, including entering a house and slashing a warp on the loom. Kaye said he had no wish to see him punished, “only to convince him and the other Unionists of their error and ingratitude. Among the subscriptions to the Derby turn-out ‘A. few initiated fancy weavers, Denby Dale’ are recorded. Other trades were organising and there was a strike of masons for a wage advance in April 1833. The dispute dragged on at least until July, since at that time a young millworker at Norris and Sykes was beaten by the overlooker for being among a group of boys whose mealbreak diversion was “Bah-ing” the blacksheep masons. There was also a strike of cardmakers at Lindley and an incident reached the courts when shoemakers ducked the head of a non-unionist in a puncheon of water when he refused to join. The Derby subscription lists also reveal the existence of the 1st Lodge of Operative Agriculturalists at Farnley Tyas 8 and Huddersfield Steam Engineers. The latter may be the branch of the Journeyman steam Engine and Machine Makers and Mechanics Society founded in the town in 1831, when a set of rules were purchased from Manchester on 19 November and later a “pistil” and bible were bought to begin initiations. 59

In July 1833 23 leading woollen manufacturers, in an attempt to curb the Unions, publicised their, ‘Determination not to take into our employment any fresh workman who does not bring a good character in writing from his previous master.’ One of the signatories, Messers Wrigley – described as ‘strenuous and spirited opposers of the Union’, by the Halifax Guardian and as ‘deadly enemies’ by the Voice of the West Riding – were locked in a fierce struggle with their workers: An attack was made on blacksheep staying in the overlooker’s house ,the windows broken and the overlooker’s son badly injured. The ‘neighbourhood was in a state of great consternation’ until a party of constables arrived and made ten arrests. Robert Wrigley’s part of the mill, closed by a strike in June 1832, was still idle when the questionnaire – was returned to the factory commissioners the following year! Disturbing as such industrial conflicts were, the involvement of the Trades Unions in politics was far more alarming. Although the Leeds Trades Union gave public notice in June 1832, ‘that any interference with politics is positively prohibited by their laws which they are determined to hold inviolate.’ In Huddersfield the Unions were openly involved in the Radicals election campaigns.60

The Radical Press

Widespread apprehension about the extension of state power on the one hand and enthusiasm at the growth of working class organisation, particularly the trades unions, on the other, inspired the publication of the first issue of the Voice of the West Riding by Joshua Hobson in June. It represented resistance to the government, both directly by flouting the stamp tax and generally by providing a platform for all the diverse strands of working class struggle and ideology. It was announced in the first issue,

‘we observe that the march of events-the situation of our country – the movements of Faction – the despotic measures of government – the heavings of some imminent crisis render intercommunication of popular sentiment and feeling more and more imperative. Politicians almost universally agree that we are , on the hinges of a dread alternative, that either a higher state of Freedom or a more galling chain of slavery awaits us’.

Its objective was to advocate both ‘the Rights of Man’ and the ‘Rights of Labour against the “competitive” and Political Economists.’ 61

After eight editions Hobson was prosecuted for selling an unstamped paper to John Blyth, (the Holmfirth constable who had been involved in the round up of the 1817 insurgents). His case came before the magistrates on 6 August in a court room ‘crowded to excess’. After a challenge to his arrest warrant on a technicality failed, he was allowed to put a question to Joseph Brook, the sub-distributor of stamps how he defined a newspaper. Brook’s refused to answer and ‘great disorder among the spectators ensued.’ He then produced a journal called the ‘Witness’ which he said Brook sold unstamped containing ‘remarks connected with Church and State, and if the magistrates did their duty towards him and the country and if one had to go to gaol, both should go to gaol’ but this was ruled out as irrelevant. Having failed to undermine the prosecution Hobson, encouraged by the cheers of his supporters, launched into a defence of the press.
‘…printing the ‘Voice’ was not a violation of any moral principle, but on the contrary it was one of the most virtuous actions which man could practice, doing good to the species. The law that would prevent him was an invasion of public freedom, it was vile and detestable and ought not to be complied with…Resistance to such infamous laws as those was deserving of praise as it was the only way of rendering them a dead letter…He was determined that the press should be free.’ Refusing to pay the £20 penalty he was sentenced to Wakefield House of Correction for six months. An petition was drawn up that he should be exempt from prison discipline and food and presented in the Commons on 19 August by Colonel Evans, who described how Hobson’s hair had been cut off, he was forced to wear prison uniform and, despite bad health, had not been allowed food sent in. This was denied by the solicitor general to whom William Cobbett replied by reading a letter from a visitor to Wakefield confirming the conditions Hobson was subject to and that he had been put to hard labour.
Throughout his imprisonment the Voice continued to be published. 62

The main distributor of unstamped papers was Christopher Tinker who took over the shop in Market Walk run by William Vevers before his move to the Albion Tavern. As well as the Voice, Tinker stocked the Poor Man’s Guardian, the Gauntlet, the Working Man’s Friend, the Destructive, Volney’s Ruin of Empires, the works of Paine, Queen Mab and Macerone’s Defence of the People. The Radical sympathies of several beer sellers, already mentioned, may have contributed to a call by Fenton for licensing to be extended since there was,
‘… scarcely a murder, robbery or any other outrage which did not originate in one of these beer houses.’ Tinker’s shop was certainly a contact point for Radical activity from selling tickets for the Political Union dance to collecting funds for the Derby strikers. Some indication of the extent of the local Radical movement served by the sellers of the unstamped press is given by lists of names collected by Tinker and forwarded to Carlile’s Gauntlet for enrolment as ‘Volunteers’ pledged to Republican principles.

In the first list 80 names are included, the majority from the townships of Huddersfield and Almondbury. In the former the main concentration is from Paddock with 12 names and in the latter 10 from Almondbury itself and 5 from the hamlets of Lowerhouses and 5 Longley. The second list comprises 127 names, 44 of these from Almondbury and adjacent hamlets,10 from nearby Moldgreen and 8 from Marsh in Huddersfield township.

The lists cannot be considered as an exact reflection of the distribution of Republicans since Tinker refers to waiting for a list from another village which was never published, but the second one does contain names from the more remote townships including ·2 . from Scammonden, 3 from Lepton, 2 from Honley, 11 from Slaithwaite, 7 from the hamlet at Linthwaite Hall and 6 from Holthead and Lingards. The three last named groupings are of particular interest as they lay in part of the Colne Valley where relatively little Radical activity is recorded.63

Holthead was the main hamlet in Lingards a depressed township whose population had declined from 809 to 758 between 1821 and 1831. According to one of the surveys carried out by the operatives in early 1833, 91 families of 548 individuals , ‘the whole working population of the township.’ was existing on £53.I3.5d. a week, 2 an average of about 2s. per person. On 3 July a demonstration was held by the Political Union attracting an estimated 1,000 people which, although no doubt drawing people·; from the neighbouring townships of Slaithwaite and Linthwaite, reveals widespread support in the area. Holthead PU also passed a resolution in support of Hobson and raised 8s.8d. for his “Victim Fund”. Longley and Lowerhouses sent 21 subscriptions to the “Victim Fund” and only two of the name s appear on the list of republican volunteers. Two lists of subscriptions came from Honley, the first bearing 19 names (2 pseudonyms) and the second 20 (3 pseudonyms, including “A Republican”) with only the secretary 6 of the PU, Thomas Ledger, appearing on both. In addition to 77 individual subscriptions received by Tinker there were two collective ones from Newsome and Meltham Mills. 64

For the first time since 1819 there is evidence of women taking an active interest in Radicalism. A list of 17 women subscribers to the Victim Fund,headed by Tinker’s wife,Mary, was published and five women appear on the Honley list, one of them Elizabeth Lodge~ In accordance with Carlile’s wish that women also be included among the volunteers Tinker put the names of Mary Tinker and Mary Vevers (the latter of the same address as
William Vevers) at the top of the list. Only six other women appear however and another of these is a Vevers from the same address again, and three more share the same surnames as men next· to them on the list.

The most prominent name among the volunteers is Solomon Thwaite of Kaye Lane, Almondbury, formerly of the WRFU and the Operatives Committee which preceded the Political Union. ‘Friends at Kaye Lane’ had appeared among the subscribers to Carlile a decade earlier and the Gauntlet lists reveal that republicanism was still a strong strand in Almondbury radicalism. William Tittensor of Paddock may be a relative of Alice who presented a cap of liberty from the female reformers of Paddock at the Almondbury Bank meeting in November 1819 65, and William Earnshaw of the same place may have been the pensioner and trade unionist informed on in a report to the Home Office in 1834. Apart from Vevers and Tinker no others can be identified with any certainty about their antecedents or contemporary activity but at least nine were later Chartists, one an anti Poor Law activist and another, Read Holliday, an industrial chemist, was a leading socialist.66

Although Carlile’s whole strategy was against organisational systems- ,especially conspiratorial ones, and the mobilisation he sought was potential rather than practical as a result,67 the propagation of Republican ideas did motivate a current of thought among some
Radicals who saw themselves as part of a wider and growing revolutionary movement with an insurrectionary purpose. This is made explicit by the aliases used by three local followers of Carlile, ‘A Volunteer with a brace of pistols and a spear.’ , ‘Wants to be at them.’ and ‘ ‘G.Taylor, Bank Top. And ready when wanted.’ 68Tinker’s own mood and presumably that of a number of his customers, is evident from his sale of Macerone’s manual on revolutionary street warfare.

Contact was also maintained between local Radicals and another main strand of London radicalism. In June John Cleave of the National Union of the Working Classes spoke at the Union Rooms where he described the lower classes as the producers of all wealth and stated an intention to publish complete figures of all the military in England, Scotland and Wales to show that their strength in relation to the population was much : overestimated. According to the Halifax Guardian he delivered a violent tirade and recommended his listeners to read the True Sun.69 In December Pitkethly asked Robert Owen to send a reply to his letter by means of the regular weekly parcel from Hetherington presumably of newspapers, which must have been a usual means of communication.70 Numerous items, including letters, resolutions and poems were sent from Huddersfield for inclusion in the Poor Man’s Guardian. The National Union of the Working Classes evidently took an interest in affairs in the town since ·when the seat became vacant as a result of Fenton’s fall from a window, Cleave suggested at a meeting at Bloomsbury that Hetherington put himself forward as the representative of the non-electors. 71

Page from Carlile's 'Gauntlet' with volunteer list from Huddersfield.

Page from Carlile’s ‘Gauntlet’ with volunteer list from Huddersfield.

Radical Election Campaign – November 1833-January 1834

On 27 November Captain Fenton MP fell out of a garrett window of his house and died from concussion. His death caught the Radicals unprepared. Pitkethly told Owen, ‘the Radicals are resting on their oars until Fenton is buried …’72 but it is apparent that confusion and disagreement existed among them. While some Radicals were writing off to find a candidate others followed Stocks, James Brook and Oastler in supporting Sadler’s candidature. A deputation then went to visit Wood and despite his initial reluctance, finally persuaded him to stand again. When requested to stand-by the electors and operatives by supporting Wood, Oastler refused and at the PU meeting which decided to back Wood’s campaign he spoke against, while Stocks gave an “unsatisfactory” and “painful” account of his own role. 73

Pitkethly explained he had backed Sadler in the belief that Wood was not standing but was now supporting Wood’s committee. Despite the short notice the Woodite Radicals organised district committees in the out-townships to extend the network of exclusive dealing. Meetings at Almondbury on 2 December, Kirkburton on the 26th, Slaithwaite on the 28th
and. at Lockwood and other places resolved not to buy from any shopkeepers, publicans or other tradesmen in their areas who had dealings with Huddersfield electors opposed to Wood. The Slaithwaite meeting , which formed a “Committee of Twenty-one” from the four townships of Slaithwaite, Lingards, Linthwaite and Golcar, also asked the local tradesmen to accompany them to Huddersfield to request the wholesale dealers in the town to vote for Wood. Some of the placards advertising the resolution of these meetings and all bearing the slogan,” WOOD AND LIBERTY, Wood and the People’! were forwarded to the Home Office. The Mercury attributed them to the “gentle means of moral suasion in which the Almondbury Boys are such proficients…lf ever placards spoke bludgeons their placards thus speak.” An accusation of bribery was also levelled against Wood’s treasurer, Richard Foss, which he publically denied by placard and also cautioned against any violence and outrage 3 which would injure the cause. Wood himself refused to have any personal involvement in the campaign but he was forced to defend himself against a malicious rumour that he had dismissed all his protestant servants.74

Sadler spoke in a radical vein at Deighton but lost the vote of the meeting. At Whitacre’s mill he was given an opportunity to address the workers and some of the half dozen mills he visited flew the Ten Hours Bill flag from the chimney. Oastler issued a placard ‘To my fast friends the sober ,intelligent operatives of Huddersfield and neighbourhood.’ requesting support for Sadler while some Radicals countered with anti-Oastler graffiti. Charles Blackburne, the Whig candidate was accused by the Radicals of being another Ramsden nominee since their stewards were canvassing for him.75

As the day of the nominations approached the Voice published an address from “A NON-ELECTOR” calling for exclusive dealing, I being a native of Oldham, know by practical experience that by adhering to this system you will be enabled to conquer your enemies as well as enrich your friends ••• Operatives: – use the only means left in your power for your own emancipation. Assemble by your THOUSANDS on the Day of Nomination and Poll and show to the voters that WOOD IS YOUR FRIEND. And that you are determined to Support Those who Support Him AND NONE ELSE.’76

The Mercury reported, ‘Huddersfield is in a state of great excitation not to say alarm’. Although the magistrates had issued a warning against riots and received an assurance from the operatives discountenancing “all riot, tumult or destruction of property.’ they were taking no chances. 150 Special Constables were sworn in from amongst both the Whigs and the Radicals, the Tories having refused to join in a ‘last expiring· effort to pay court to the mob.’ It was intended to have a total of 300 Specials and a military force on alert nearby. Some Whigs attempted a more direct method of policing. At the Starkeys’ factory, Longroyd Bridge, where there was also some trade union support, if not organisation, (as a donation was sent from there to the Derby strikers), the workers were threatened with dismissal if they were absent on the day of a public meeting in support of Wood. This incident and the attempt in the previous election, ‘to cheat the factory lads’ by only giving short notice of Ramsden’s meeting, indicates the obstacles placed by the work regime of the factory in the way of political activity of industrial workers in contrast to the relative freedom of the outworkers. 77

Trades’ Unions were one of the foremost issues as a result of Blackburne referring to their members as , ‘bulls, tigers and serpents.’ . A placard was produced on 11 December posing him the ‘Serious Question’… ‘ If “UNIONS” are calculated to encourage the destruction of Life and Property? How is it that in the immediate Neighbourhood, which is entirely “UNIONIZED” ,no Property is destroyed, no Blood shed? Whilst in the Agricultural District where there are no “UNIONS”, Property is destroyed and Blood shed’.

021On Monday 30 December, the day of the nominations, thousands of Wood’s supporters entered town in four main contingents from the out-townships. One of the banners bore the mildly threatening quotation ‘Woe to them that resisteth.’ but apart from some pushing around the hustings and barracking of Blackburne there was no trouble. Another banner carried Blackburne’s now infamous quotation about Trades Unions and he caused uproar when he suggested that the workers could better improve their conditions, ‘If instead of putting 2s. a week into a Union you keep a bag of your own at home.’ As well as being cross- examined on their attitude to trades unions, Blackburne and Sadler were asked about universal suffrage, vote by ballot, triennial parliaments, taxes on basic goods, the national debt, primogeniture, the Coercion Bill, pensions and sinecures , local conditions and Chris Tinker asked if church and crown lands were national property.78
Although it was apparent after the first days poll on Wednesday that Wood had lost, Pitkethly and John Machan, a grocer on Wood’s committee, asked the people to still come into town the following day. Apart from a slight fracas between some Whigs and Tories the election passed without incident, despite the direst warnings to the magistrates from George Beaumont. Blackburne headed the poll with 234,Sadler had 147 and Wood 108,a fall of 51 votes from the previous election, while the Whig candidate lost 29. The poll had increased by 67 and these votes plus those lost by the other ,candidates equal Sadler’s total, indicating a core of Tory support amongst voters who were nevertheless prepared to also look to either the Whigs or the Radicals for a lead. Faced with a choice of three candidates about 119 electors still declined to vote. 79

The Mercury commended the Radicals for, ‘abstaining from all outrage and violence when the physical strength of the population was so obviously in their hands.’ The Voice claimed that there were 12,000 of Wood’s supporters in town on nomination day and a writer signed, ‘A WORK1NG BEE and a member of a non-electors district committee’ suggested that the central and district non-electors committees which had mobilised support should be kept going and a delegate meeting held to plan future action, ‘Whig Tyrants give us our rights and you shall hear no more of excinsive(sic] dealing, withold them from us and you shall not only hear but feel the effect of it.’ 80

The general feeling however was one of demoralisation. Pitkethly wrote to Owen, ‘Our political agitation has in a great degree subsided.’ There were recriminations between the Radicals and Oastler and the latter had told Pitkethly that Owen had said Pitkethly’ s patriotism only went as far as his shop. Pitkethly was at pains to explain his own role, ‘I felt it my duty to suppress division among the friends and leaders of the people and to this end were my energies principally directed … I do sincerely hope that we can all be brot to work cordially for the public good in a short time but not before you come once more among us.’ I
According to an informer to General Bouverie a few weeks later there was no Political Union operating in the town.

The defeat of the National Regeneration movement and the trades unions further compounded the decline of Radicalism which was reflected in the winding up of the “Voice of the West Riding” in June 1834 to be replaced by the short-lived Argus and Demagogue. By the elections of the following December the the Mercury claimed (although it was later denied) that the Radicals were in such a weak position they approached Blackburne to seek a compromise platform including household suffrage, triennial parliaments and vote by ballot but the Whigs would not concede the first point. It was decided to requisition General Johnson of Boston who had assisted Wood in the 1832 campaign and who it was thought would have a wider appeal being untainted by associations with Catholicism. There was no mobilisation of non-electors as in the previous contests and the votes were almost static, Johnson gaining one vote over Wood’s previous poll and Blackburne losing two. The Mercury reported that the Tories had kept aloof completely this time.81

The Death of John Powlett

The disagreements about whether to support Sadler or Wood escalated into serious recriminations within the Trades’ Unions. Wood’s committee posted a notice recording a vote of censure by the members and committee of the Union against those canvassing for Sadler. Three of those involved in Sadler’s campaign issued a counter placard, acknowledging that they had not been authorised by the ‘permanent committee’ of the Trade s Union but this did not give Wood’s committee any right to condemn them. Another individual member of the Union, Ben Crowther leapt into the fray with another placard condemning the treatment of the three, appealing to brother Unionists not to submit to this treatment and threatening to leave the Union,. The Mercury exploited this dissension with some cynicism’
‘As the Trades’ Unions have always asserted that the sole object of that body was to ensure the operative a fair remuneration for his labour, its enemies could not wish them a more injudicious friend than Benjamin Crowther.’
A more ‘injudicious friend’ did exist however – in the unlikely figure of George Beaumont. Whether this incident had any influence or not, a few days later on 2 January I834,Beaumont went before the magistrate Joseph Armitage and swore a detailed affidavit of charges against the Union’s involvement with the Radicals campaign. 82

Beaumont said he considered himself the founder of the fancy union but had since had differences with them over their unreasonable actions. In the election campaign he had been repeatedly approach by two members of Wood’s committee who wanted him to help with agitation in the villages to enforce exclusive dealing. Joseph Threppleton had been given £5 by Foss, Wood’s treasurer, and he offered him 3s. a day expenses. He believed that there was a plan to enter the town in a body on election day and force the electors to vote for Wood, ‘great numbers have armed themselves and will come to the town with arms’ . A. ‘simultaneous attack’ was to be launched if the special constables interfered. Armitage sent the deposition to the Home Office with a request for troops. His covering letter included his appraisal of Beaumont’s actions;

‘Beaumont is not a good character but he is a shrewd fellow and gave his evidence in a proper manner intimating that he was a friend of Wood and the working classes but dissapproved of their violent proceedings. There appeared to be no spirit of revenge about him or of a wish to bring any individual to mischief.’

On the 14 February he volunteered further information jointly with Threppleton. Whatever Beaumont’s motives the hostility of Threppleton to the Union is more obvious. Described on his deposition as “Clothier” he was probably a woollen weaver, since he was working for Joseph Armitage at Paddock when he ‘was repeatedly solicited to again become a member of the Union’ in 1831 when it was just being established. He was appointed collector and after raising the first £100 he was allowed Is. in the £1. 11 ‘I devoted half my time to the cause of the Union, believing that it was calculated to bring about a better state of things, which it I might have done had it been kept to its original object.’ 83

Threppleton too was not totally hostile to Radical politics as he was at the 26 December Almondbury meeting in 1831. On 28 January 1834 he was summoned to a meeting at the White Hart to investigate ‘some very serious charge s of swindling’ ,which he refused to attend. It was alleged that in March 1833 he had been stopped from collecting subscriptions from shopkeepers but had carried on without authorisation and appropriated the proceeds. The hearing was chaired by Tom Bagshaw a beer seller,(possibly the former Radical of that name) and John Swift, ex-vice president of the WRFU ,was present, not through any affiliation to the Union, he later claimed, but because Threppleton had solicited subscriptions from his son’s shop. Pitkethly was also in attendance. 84

The ‘extortion’ of subscriptions from shopkeepers had been claimed by the Mercury in October 1832 both in Leeds and Huddersfield where a grocer had been forced to donate, ‘exceedingly against his will.’ The Threppleton case reveals that money was indeed raised from this source and shopkeepers, like Swift’s son, gave on the understanding it was for the Union. In 1834 the Union defector, the former woolcombers’ leader John Tester, claimed that he had been told two years previously by an officer from the White Hart that both the Clothiers Union and Fancy Union in Huddersfield were in financial straits, mainly due to the burden of levies to support disputes in other areas 85

The deposition by Beaumont and Threppleton exposed in meticulous detail some of the’more esoteric practices of the Unions. It describes move by move and verbatim the Union initiation ceremony although it purports to be that of the Operative Cordwainers . This must have been the standard ritual of the Clothiers Union and Fancy Union as it could only have been recounted by persons familiar with conducting the proceedings. All the elements known from other sources are present – the blindfolds, the sword ,the thunder, the Bible readings and the skeletal apparition. But Beaumont and Threppleton describe some other imagery which served to implant in the initiate some rudiments of class consciousness
‘But lately the transparency has been improved with The Skeleton of a Labourer in Chains -Another Labourer with a Hatchet,cutting the Chains in two Over their heads, is the Figure of a Carriage, with two Blood Horse s. At full speed – a large Factory before them ‘The Carriage contains the figures of two wealthy and portly men ‘Riding over the Skeleton of the Labourer’.

A Trades Union initiation ceremony, from 'The Gauntlet'.

A Trades Union initiation ceremony, from ‘The Gauntlet’.

This information was given before the revelations at the trial of the Dorchester labourers and before John Tester made his exposures in July. He claimed that he had uncovered initiation rites in Leeds and Huddersfield which were the same as those of the Rochdale Flannel Weavers and ‘the death scene’ had been adopted by them from a Division of Oddfellows.
Beaumont and Threppleton’s information did not harm the Unions directly in terms of prosecutions but it certainly must have contributed to the alarm of the local magistrates and Home Office. More harm was probably inflicted by Threppleton’s’ letters to the Mercury at a time when the press was carrying out a fierce campaign against the Unions in conjunction with attacks by employers. 86

General Bouverie had sent a spy to the town in early March but all he discovered could have been learnt by a casual observer.
‘At Huddersfield the people were extremely suspicious of strangers, the Trades Unions are very strong and there is a strong radical feeling …’87
A demonstration of Trade Union strength was staged on 30 March when a procession four abreast and almost a mile long accompanied he funeral of a member to Lindley Methodist Chapel, the largest event of this kind in the district. A show of strength of another kind was suggested by a writer in the Voice, in response to the rumour that Oastler was to be excluded from a dinner in honour of Blackburne;
‘If the appearance of one unwelcome guest creates such fear and trepidation amongst them, how would the ‘party’ like to be visited by a few thousand of the Almondbury Bludgeon men (as the Mercury calls the operatives of this district) on the evening of their festivities and prove to their good friend Mr Blackburne they are what he designated them – ‘Bulls,Tigers and serpents’.
A stop press announcement was made that news had been received of the tabling of a Bill in the Commons for the suppression of the Unions and that a meeting was called for the evening of 4 April coincide with Blackburne’s visit, , ‘ ‘Twould be a good dessert to the Whig Dlnner.” 88
On the evening, crowds assembled in the Market Place and the arrival of guests to the dinner in Eastwood’s wool warehouse was disrupted by a surge of people, “but it was probably as much owing to curiosity as to Radical dislike of Whig principles” commented the Mercury. A deputation headed by Hobson and Pitkethly interrupted the dinner to present a petition to Blackburne against the sentences of the Dorchester labourers, which, he conceded, were severe. 89

By now Beaumont was coming under suspicion and a letter in the Voice by “Lattitat”, warning against government spies and “snakes in the grass,” provoked him in an inebriated state to demand Hobson reveal the identity of “Lattitat” and give himself the right of reply in the Voice. This was tantamount to an admission and may have contributed to the Union putting pressure on his employer not to give out any work to him. On 13 April his information to the magistrate Joseph Walker sounded a more hostile note,
‘…the time is not very far distant when an attempt will be made to make those in a higher place than the manufacturers feel the iron hand of Democratic Tyrants ••• These are not the days of Luddism nor is it as it was in 1819,at those periods the people were like a rope of sand but now through the Trades Unions they are in reality organised and although there appears to be a division in this neighbourhood at present the ignorant which are the great majority are at the beck of the designing and may be led on in their mad career …’
He complained that Mr Taylor, his employer, with whom he had mediated a strike a few months previously and settled against the wishes of the Union Committee (perhaps the occasion of his breech with it), had promised him constant work but had been forced by the Union to retract the offer. Taylor was claiming he took the decision because Beaumont was in communication with Carlile, a detail Beaumont did not deny. Threppleton also was totally unemployed having refused reconciliation and the offer of work from the Union. 90

Following the riots and shooting of James Bently in Oldham around 5,000 operatives assembled at Back Green in Huddersfield on 19 April to hear speakers from Oldham request support for an immediate strike until the Dorchester labourers were returned home and the eight hour day introduced. Dickinson of Almondbury recommended that first they consult with the other West Riding towns and wait until the results of a meeting on Wibsey Moor on the 28th . All hands were held up in support of the Oldham strike but only a few expressed any enthusiasm for sending a detachment to Bently’s funeral.91

Although the Mercury saw nothing alarming in these proceedings Beaumont not only gave information to Walker but also wrote directly to Melbourne that a ‘general simultaneous strike’ was being planned, “to cease labour until all the grievance s complained of by the labouring classes are redressed,” He claimed that the “baneful influence” of the Unions had spread “into other orders instituted for relieving the sick and interring the dead.” Members of these, including himself, were liable to be excluded if they offended the Unions . Many pensioners also were involved and the following week Melbourne was sent a list of eleven pensioners who were active in the Union including one president and two administers of oaths. Beaumont said that he and Threppleton were ‘daily insulted’ for revealing the secret plans and he was in fear of his life. From a man who less than three years previously had moved a proposal for a Grand National Holiday, ie a general strike, for a political goal, and who had been deeply involved in the Trades’ Union’ since its inception these denunciations seem disingenuous to say the least.92

Threppleton’s attacks also were becoming more vitriolic. Since he was illiterate Beaumont may have been behind his letters to the Mercury. One in April had been returned to the magistrate Walker, with a refusal to print it except as an advertisement ,indication that the authorities may have had a direct hand in the attempt to discredit the Union.2Threppleton claimed that the Union committee in the White Hart spent all its time drinking ale and playing billiards. One of the committee men had told him the previous year that the intention was to turn the operatives towards support of the Commercial Order. Threppleton warned the operatives to keep their money and if ‘the legitimate offspring of Ned Ludd …are determined to have another ‘Lud-time’ put them in front.’93

By April with a depression in trade caused by high wool prices Bouverie detected a decline in Union support.
‘In Leeds,Huddersfield and other towns in the clothing district it is believed that the Unions are falling very much to pieces, the great poverty of the working classes at this moment tells very much..’
The defeat in Derby ,a lockout in Leeds and a black propaganda campaign against Union tyranny and intimidation, of which Threppleton was only a small part, was having an impact by May. In Slaithwaite the Union attempted to counter charges against it by calling a meeting between masters and men. In June the Mercury claimed that the Leeds Trades’ Union had been dissolved and by the following month that, ‘The Trades’ Unions are selling up all over the country’:
Local correspondents sent gleeful accounts of the disintegration;
‘The box with its contents belonging to Lodge No,4 of No.1. District of the Fancy Weavers Union held at the New Inn Linthwaite was sold on Wednesday night last for £I.I0s when the company joyfully partook of a bowl of punch on the occasion with the exception of one individual who went home weeping at the death of the invincible and renowned John Powlett.’
Another reported,
‘Interred at Meltham in a coal pit ,John Powlett, ‘who has in past times been much esteemed,but his payments not being as good as was expected he lost his credit and his mind has been very strange, low spirited and worn away and the white sheep thought it best to bury him and drop the name altogether which they did and got everyone a jug of good ale with their old·masters and all separated in good peace and good order.’    94


1 Halifax and Huddersfield Express 5 Mar 1831; LM 5, 12 Mar 1831. For Beaumont and Dickinson see the preceding chapter ‘We Are Weary of Slavery’.
2 LM 26 Feb, 5 Mar, 9 Jul,6 Aug, 3 Sep, 24 Sep.
3 LM 15 Oct; 12 Nov 1831.
4 LM 12 Feb 1831 Wood himself may have been one of the victims of the trade depression. A John Wood of Falhouse , Kirkheaton, fancy manufacturer, appears in a notice of deed of assignment, ie as a bankrupt, in the Mercury of 19 Feb 1831.
5 LM 12 Mar 1831
6 Hobson,Joshua ,The Whig Tomfoolery Election. (Huddersfield 1833) p.5.
7; LM.30 Apr1831; HHE 30 Apr.183I.
8 PMG 17 Sep.1831
9 .HHE I Oct.1831; LM 1 Oct 1831.
10 LM 12 Nov, I9 Nov, 3 Dec, 10 Dec 1831.As postmaster William Moore was to become noted for his hostility to Radicalism, being accused of intercepting mail.
11 LM 10 Dec ,17 Dec 1831; PMG 5 Nov. 1831.
12 PMG 10 Dec.I831 2.HHE 30 Dec.I831 3.PMG 24 Mar 1831
13 LM 21 Jan; 4 Feb; 21 Jul; 4 Aug; 13 Oct;20 Oct; 17 Nov 1832.
14 HHE 14 Apr 1832. Hirst, a leading co-operator (see web page) is described as “Cloth dresser and shopkeeper”in the 1830 Parson & White Directory.
15 LM [Extra] 15 May 1832. For a clear account of the parliamentary politics of the passing of the Reform Bill see Michael Brock ‘The Great Reform Act’ (London 1973).
16 LM 26 May, 2 Jun.1832
17 Whether ‘John Powlett’ was the actual name of the secretary or a pseudonym I have not been able to establish. LM 19 Feb, 8 Oct.I83, LM.21 Apr 1832, HHE 5 May 1832, .LM 28 Apr.1832.
18 LM 5 May, 20 May 1832. LM.9 Jun.I832;HHE 16 Jun.I832.
19 For Peter Beardsell’s diaries see Michael Day, ‘Wool and Worsit – A History of Textiles in the Colne Valley’ (Huddersfield, 2013) pp.37-38. LM.4 Aug.I832. .HHE 18 Aug.I832;LM. 25 Aug.I832;HHE.25 Aug.I832.
20 Parliamentary Papers 1834.XX FACTORIES INQUIRY COMMISSION SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT OF THE CENTRAL BOARD of His Majesty’s Commissioners appointed to collect Information in the Manufacturing Districts as to the Employment of Children in Factories and as to the Propriety and Means of Curtailing the Hours of their Labour PART II Ordered by The House of Commons to be Printed 25 March 1834 (Mill No.66).
21 LM.I Sep.I832. 5.LM.27 Sep. 1832. 6.HHE.I8 Aug,25 Aug.I832. LM.27 Oct.I832; For Co-operation see;‘Huddersfield Hall of Science’.page. HE.I2 Feb.I870.John Hinchliffe’s obituary.
22 LM 24 Nov 1832
23 For accounts of Radical involvement in the Factory Reform agitation see John Halstead, ‘The Huddersfield Short Time Committee and its radical associations, c. 1820-1876’ in Slavery in Yorkshire: Richard Oastler and the campaign against child labour in the Industrial Revolution, edited by John A. Hargreaves and E.A. Hilary Haigh, University of Huddersfield Press, 2012. This volume has also new material and analysis of the movement in general and Oastler’s background. For the STC also see Hobson,Joshua,”Sketch of the Whig Tomfoolery Election etc etc … ” (Huddersfield 1833) p5, Ward , J.T. the Factory Movement 1830-1855. (London 1962) p42.
24 LM 19 Nov 1831; LM 26 Nov 183I.
25 LM 31 Dec 1831. HHE 31 Dec 1831.
26 Parliamentary Papers 1832 XV.
27 LM & HHE 31 Dec.I831, Huddersfield meeting.
28 HHE 10 Mar 1832; Hanson et al at Halifax meeting.; LM 24 dec 1831, letter from Tom Hirst, Heckmondwike.’
29 Richard Oastler, ‘A Few Words to the Friends and Enemies of Trades Unions’ (Huddersfield 1834) pp.6-7.
30 LM & HHE 31 Dec.I831; .LM 6 May.1837, HHE 10 Mar.I832.
31 HHE 29, 28 April 1832.
32 Poor Man’s Advocate 5 May 1832
33 HHE 11 Aug 1832. Back Green was an area of still open ground now covered by part of the university campus next to St Paul’s Church. HHE 25 Aug 1832.
34 LM.2 Mar 1833; HHE 23 Feb. 1833.
35.VWR.22 Jun.I833; PMG 29 Jun 1833. HG 22 Jun 1833.
36 HG 29 Jun.I833.
37 LM 6 Jul 1833.
38 LM 25 Oct.1834.
39 Hobson,Joshua ,The Whig Tomfoolery Election. (Huddersfield 1833) ; LM.I6 Jun.I832.
40 HHE 23.Jun.I832;LM.30 Jun.I832; Hobson op.cit.p.6, HHE 30 Jun 1832.
41Hobson J.op.cit.p.6. ;Wentworth Woodhouse Muniments G.9.2 Ramsden to Fitzwilliam 4 Aug 1832; LM 2 Feb.I833.
42 Tom Atkinson Heap s , obituary HE 16 May. 1857
43 LM 6 Oct 1832; For Wood’s committee see Hobson, op. cit. p.10,
44 HHE.30 Jun. 1832; LM.30 Jun.I832.
45 VWR 11 Jan 1834.
46 Parson and White, 1830 Trade Directory.
47 See for example Craig Calhoun ‘The Question of Class Struggle’ (Oxford i982). particularly pp.i74-i82 for the argument that popular radicalism in this period was not class based but rested on a vague idea of ‘the people’.
48 Hobson.op.cit.p.9; Parson & White’s Directory. VWR.29 Jun.1833.
49 PMG.4 Aug.1832. LM 27 Sep.1832; Hobson.op.cit.p.9; WWM.G.9.2.Ramsden to Fitzwilliam.7 Aug 1832; Ramsden here admits to Thornhill’s decision to dismiss any servants supporting Radicals. LM.24 Nov.1832.;Hobson,op.cit.p.9
50 LM. 15 Dee. 1832; Hobson,op.cit.pp.11-12.
51 HG, LM 15 Dec.1832; Hobson,op.cit. pp.15-16.;For Johnson and Barker’s trial LM.16 Mar 1833.For Barker’s account see VWR 24 Aug 1833.
52 LM.22 Dec.1832; HG 19 Jan.1833; Home Office papers .40/31 (3)Fenton to Bouverie ,29 Dec.1832.
53 LM.2 Feb 1833; HG 22 Dec.1832
54 Broadside in the Tomlinson Collection.(HLHL); HG.19 Feb 1833.LM. 19 Feb.1853. HHE.19 Feb.1833
55 LM.2 Feb.1833; HG 16 Feb.1833; 23 Feb 1833; LM.23 Feb 1833; VWR 21 Sep 1833.
56HHE 19 May.I832; HHE 23 Jun.1832.
57.HG.2 Mar.I833;.LM 6 Mar 183; PMG 16 May 1833.
58 HO.40/31 (5) Bouverie to Home Office 22 Jan.I833; LM 4 May 1833; HG.18 Jun.I833; VWR 1 June 1833.
59 HO 52/25 (197) Jos.Walker to Home Office 15 Apr. 1834; LM.1 Jun.I833;.HG.I9 Apr 1834; Pioneer 15 Mar 1834; HG 27 Apr.1833; VWR. 6 Jul 1833; LM 5 Oct 1833; Pioneer, ibid. The Worker 15 Jul 1922 Fred Shaw, ‘A Page from trade union history:’ (Based on a ledger found in AEU No.1 Branch Box.)
60 VWR 27 Jul.I833; A memorial was also signed specifically against Unions, LM 17 Aug.I833; LM 17 Aug 1833; HG 16 Nov.I833; VWR ibid.; LM 9 Nov 1833; PP I834.XX (Mill No. 56); LM.30 Jun.I832.
61 VWR 1 June 1833.
62 For a more recent and fuller account of the VWR and the personalities associated with its running see John Halstead, ‘The Voice of the West Riding: Promoters and Supporters of a Provincial Unstamped Newspaper, 1833-34’ in On the Move: Essays in Labour and Transport History presented to Philip Bagwell, edited by Chris Wrigley and John Shepherd, Hambledon Press, 1991.; for Hobson’s career see also Chadwick, Stanley, ‘A Bold and Faithful Journalist’.(Huddersfield 1976) and Cordery, S C E ‘Voice of the West Riding: Joshua Hobson in Huddersfield and Leeds, 1831-45’ Thesis York 1984.; For Hobson’s trial and imprisonment see LM 10, 17 and 24 Aug 1833. VWR 3 Aug.1833; 6 Jul.1833; 2 Nov.I833.; HG.30 :Feb 1833; VWR 21 Sep .1833; 1Feb 1834.
63 Gauntlet.5 May.I833; Gauntlet 28 Jul.1833.
64 Crisis. 20 Apr.I833; VWR.20 Jul, 10 Aug, 7 Sep , 24 Aug,7 Sep 1833.
65 Alan Brooke & Lesley Kipling ‘Liberty or Death – Radicals, Republicans and Luddites c.1793-1823’ (Huddersfield 2012) p. 95.
66 See my ‘Hall of Science – Socialism and Cooperation in Huddersfield’’
67 Gauntlet 29 Sep.I833.
68 Gauntlet.8 Sep.I833; Gauntlet 28 Jul.1833.
69 VWR 15 Jun.1833;HG.I5 Jun.1833.
70 0wen Correspondence 607 Pitkethly to Owen. 3 Dec. 1833.
71 PMG 7 Dec.1833.
72 0wen Correspondence.607.Pitkethly to Owen.3 Dec.I833.
73 LM.7 Dec;I4 Dec;21 Dec.I833; VWR 28 Dec.I833.
74 HO.52/25.(I74)..LM 28 Dec.1833. HO.52/25.(I77) Placard wrongly dated Jan.1833[ sic] ;VWR.4 Jan. 1834;
75 LM.I4 Dec.I833; HG.4 Jan.I834;.LM. 4 Jan.I834; LM.I4 Dec.I833.
76 VWR 4 Jan.I834.
77 LM.4 Jan.I834;HO.52/25.(I75) and (180) placards dated 24 Dec.1833 and 6 Jan. 1834; .Pioneer.15 Mar.1 834, donations to Derby includes, ‘A Few Friends at Starkey’s :Factory Longroyd Bridge, Huddersfield per C.Tinker 0.I7.6d’; VWR28 Dec. 1833.
78 LM 4 Jan 1834; VWR 11 Jan 1834.
79 LM. 4 an.1834;VWR.11 Jan.1834.
80 LM. 18 Jan.1834;VWR.11 Jan.1834..
81 Owen Correspondence,677 Pitkethly to Owen 26 Feb.I834; HO.40/32(49) Bouverie to Home Office.19 Mar 1834; VWR. 7 Jun. 1834; LT. 9 Aug. 1834; LM 29 Nov 1834; LT 29 Nov. 1834; LM.3 Jan.I834.
82 LM.28 Dec.1833.
83 HO 52/25 (I7I) and (I72)
84 LM 29 Mar 1834; HHE 30 Dec.I831; VWR 1 Feb 1834.
85 LM 6 Oct.I834; LM 14 Jun 1834, ‘letter’ from John Tester, really a serialisation of his attack on the TUs.
86 HO.52/25.I89 Walker & Battye to Home Office.I5 Feb 1834; LM 29 Mar 1834 the Dorchester oath ‘appears similar in all respects’ to that administered by Trades Unions in West Riding.c.f.Wakefield case reported in LM5.4pr.1834; LM. 5 Jul 1834.
87 HO.40/32 Bouverie to Home Office 19 Mar.1834.
88 VWR.5 Apr.I834; VWR.29 Apr. 1834
89 LM 5 Apr 1834. Hobson, along with Peter Bussey of Bradford, was also delegated by a meeting at Wibsey Low Moor to present a petition to Lord Melbourne. LM 17 May 1834.
90 VWR 5 Apr 1834; HO.52/25.(200)(202) Beaumont to Walker 13 April 1834.
91 LM.26 .April 1834;VWR ibid.
92 HO.52/25.(200) Beaumont to Melbourne 21 Apr.1834. ibid.J.Kaye,Denby Grange 27 Apr.I834.Affidavit signed by Beaumont.
93 HO.52/25. Mercury to Walker 11 Apr.I834; lm 24 May 1834.
94 IHO.40/32 (67) Bouverie to Home Office 17 Apr 1834; LM.I7 May 1834;7 June 1854. VWR.7 May 1834;.LM.I4 Jun.I834; LM. 5 Jul 1834.

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