LUDDITES in Huddersfield and Spen
Valley, West Riding of Yorkshire
The Luddite disturbances took place in 1812 and 1813 in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lancashire and Yorkshire. In West Yorkshire the two main centres of Luddite activity were around Huddersfield and the Spen Valley. In these areas the workers involved were mainly croppers. These were highly skilled workers who were employed in the Cloth Finishing Process. Their skill meant that they could make or mar the finished piece of cloth.
In 1812, as the economic plight of textile workers worsened, the outbreaks of machine breaking in textile areas took hold, resulting in the presence of the militia in some areas, notably Huddersfield.
Most of the raids were small scale, well organised and highly successful - aimed mainly against small clothiers who had installed Cropping Frames on their premises. Care was taken to destroy only the frames and not to harm the Masters themselves.
In the Huddersfield area, Luddite attacks during February, March and April 1812 took place at the premises of:
Following the murder of William Horsfall a large reward was offered for information. This appears to have been successful, as arrests shortly followed.
It is thought that the informers could have included Joseph MELLOR, KINDER, DURRANCE or Francis VICKERMAN jnr (nephew of the Francis VICKERMAN attacked on 15 March).
Reportedly, there was an anonymous letter signed "V" (possibly VICKERMAN?) giving the names of four men supposedly involved in the murder. Francis VICKERMAN jnr was not called as witnesses at the murder trial, seemingly the only one of the apprentices in the same Finishing Shop not to be called.
There were strong feelings in the area about the trial. Many people being of the opinion that not all the men on trial were guilty and that 1 or more of the real culprits were not charged
In January 1813, 17 men were hanged at York (only 3 of them for murder) and 7 men were transported. George MELLOR, William THORPE and Thomas SMITH were sent to the gallows 36 hours after conviction. This meant that there was no time for an appeal.
For far more details about Luddite activities in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire, try the following sources: