Today in Notts Histreh: Luddite direct action (30th November 1811)

By November 1811 frame-breaking, undertaken in the name of ‘Ned Ludd’, had become a regular occurrence. These three letters indicate, amongst other interesting aspects, the level of panic amongst officials who regarded the Luddites’ activities as a very serious threat.The inability of the local forces to supress the direct action led to the deployment of a major military force, eventually tying up thousands of troops in the Midlands – more than were sent to fight the Peninsular War.

The letters were taken from this edition of Luddism related sources: Thomis, Malcom I. (1972): Luddism in Nottinghamshire; In: Thoroton Society Record Series Vol. XXVI (26); Phillimore; London and Chichester; pp. 6-8

1. W. Sherbrooke, County Magistrate, to Duke of Newcastle

30th November, 1811

My Lord,

The mob is now so organized that nothing but military placed in every parish will be adequate to suppress it.

The rioters appeared in the last night in the Parishes of Beeston and Blidworth, placed men in the avenues to the Villages and declared they would shoot any man who attempted to gout to call the civil or Military power. They then broke a great many frames and levied contributions on which their support themselves and by which they rapidly increase their numbers.

Your Grace will see the necessity or calling out such a formidable force as will at once overawe this Lawless mob – no half measure will be efficient, the mischief to be apprehended is much more formidable than persons nit intimately acquainted with their intentions and proceedings can have any notion of and the Military cannot act efficiently unless stationed in every village.

I have [etc.]

Signed W. Sherbrooke

2. Duke of Newcastle to Home Office

Clumber, 30th November, 1811


I think it proper to enclose you copies of two letters which I have just received by express from Nottingham.

By them you will perceive that the riots in this county become more serious as they appear to be more systematic.

As you will perceive I am now called upon to assemble the whole of the Volunteer Cavalry of this County. I have in consequence, (in the first instance) complied with it only in part, and I have ordered out the Bunny and Holme Pierepont Troops of Yeo[manry – P.H.] Cavalry only and these I have selected as being the nearest to Nottingham, whereby they may be less inconvenienced than if they were brought from a distance.

I shall go to Nottingham tomorrow and gain every information I can on the spot respecting this most unfortunate business: if I then find it necessary I shall order out all the Volunteer Cavalry to endeavour at once to put a stop to further proceedings – which I most earnestly hope may be effected.

I have [etc.]


3. W. Sherbrooke to Duke of Newcastle

Nottingham, 30th November, 1811

My Lord,

As the nightly destruction of Frames by an armed mob, conducted with much system, is continued and extends in every direction, and contributions are levied round the county under the influence of menaces to the lives and property of individuals; and the military force in this District is completely inadequate to the Suppression of the mischief, and the Secretary of State (notwithstanding repeated applications from the Magistrates for and adequate Military Force to be established here during the Winter) has not hitherto complied with the application, I am desired by the Magistrates, assembled at the County Hall in Nottingham this day, to request that your Grace will give immediate direction, that the whole of the Volunteer Yeomanry Cavalry of the County shall be immediately called into actual service under the command of your Grace, and to be stationed in such places as the Magistrates direct, during the continuance of the present tumultuous state of the county. The Magistrates will sit at the County Hall in Nottingham on Monday Wednesday and Saturday next.

I have [etc.]

W. Sherbrooke

Chairman of the Special Session

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