Luddite Letters

There is a wonderful collection of Luddite letters in the Radcliffe of Rudding Park collection (WYL280) held at our Leeds office.  One of our volunteers, Luke McGurn, describes below a fascinating letter which shows just how much opposition there was to the introduction of machinery at local mills:

‘With respect to this Watch and Ward Act, you are not aware of the additional oppression you are bringing to your tenants and other occupants of land and all for the sake of two individuals in this district, which I am not afraid to subscribe their names, Mr Thomas Atkinson and Mr William Horsfall, who will soon be numbered with the dead’

wyl280_38_pg1wyl280_38_pg2An extract from a letter sent by an anonymous individual, who only signed the letter .A.B, to Huddersfield Magistrate Joseph Radcliffe on the 27th April 1812.The writer clearly has an agenda against Radcliffe’s recent anti-luddite activities and the mill owners Mr Atkinson and Mr Horsfall who had both introduced machines into their factories in previous years. A day after this was sent, on the 28th of April 1812, William Horsfall was assassinated by four Luddites, making it more than likely that this letter was penned by the murderer himself.  The death of William Horsfall is written about in Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley and contemporary newspapers report how George Mellor, Thomas Smith and William Thorpe were executed for his murder on the 8th January 1813.

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