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Chapter 1 - Nottingham Riots of 1794 - Documents

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Blackner’s Account

John Blackner, The History of Nottingham (Nottingham: Sutton and Son, 1815), pp. 386-91.

[Blackner wrote within twenty years of the riots, and his partisan feelings had scarcely cooled.]

We have now arrived at a period when it is necessary to detail circumstances in our local transactions which will require a very great share of prudence to prevent the spirit of party from disfiguring the fair page of the historian. Truth, however, shall be given to the utmost of my power in obtaining it; and if, in detailing the outrages committed against law and individual safety, some expressions of warmth should escape me, the reader will bear in mind, that, in order to be a faithful historian, it is not necessary that the man who assumes that character should give up the principles of patriotism and many other noble passions of the heart.

The blaze of opinion, which sprung from the American and French revolutions, had made a great alteration in the political disposition of the people of England; and no where more so than in Nottingham. The town was divided into two hostile parties, under the appellations of democrats and aristocrats; the former considering delegated authority as the only legal power, and titles of nobility as so many excrescences upon the body politic which ought to he cut off; while the latter abandoned their rights as brother members of a community, and made unconditional submission to the will of the king, the nobility, and clergy the controlling article of their faith. Patriotism, in the natural acceptation of the word, became extinct for a time; for the democrats prayed for the overthrow of the arms of royalty wherever they might be engaged, or to whatever kingdom or empire they might belong; and the aristocrats prayed for the destruction of the friends of democracy, without ever considering the cause in which they were engaged. Both parties were guilty of treason against the English constitution, as far as intention can constitute treason; the one against the liberties of the people, and the other against the. aristocrasy and the crown. But, however much at variance were the principles of these parties, their local practice was equally so; for while the democrats sought by every persuasive means, and by the circulation of political pamphlets to gain proselites, (in which they were very successful) their opponents became proportionately angry and revengeful; the latter of which passions manifested itself so early as December, 1792, when an incendiary letter. was sent to Mrs. Carter, who kept the Sun inn, in Pelham-street, the principal resort at that time of the democrats, threatening to burn her house, &c. if she continued to entertain them. This letter had no other effect than that of exciting disgust and exertion, and the winter and spring passed with mutual recrimination and street squabbles.

The war against the rising republic of France had now been determined on by the British <p. 387> ministers – they dreaded the progress which republican opinions were making because of their ready commixture with the principles long entertained and industriously propagated by the most enlightened part of the British public in favor of an equal representation of the people: they therefore, with William Pitt at their head, who had long been considered the champion of English reformists, now became the focus of a monarchial European combination, for the purpose of stopping the growth of political opinions; and the restoration to the throne of France of the long detested family of the Bourbons was made their sine qua non. And ministers, in order to obtain public opinion in favor of their project, caused the pulpits and as much of the public press as they could purchase and control, to teem with invectives against republicans and reformists; with open declarations, except the Bourbons were restored, that monarchy, aristocracy, and the established religion of this country must all fall together. The fallacy and iniquity of the measures being seen through by many most respectable characters, whose habits were those of peace, and whose political opinions were founded on rational liberty, and consequently on the pure principles of the English constitution; they therefore, though they hitherto had not mixed in the political circles of the day, now saw it a duty they owed to their country and to the well being of mankind in general, to make a constitutional effort to stem the fatal torrent which was then flowing to break down every barrier of human liberty, that universal despotism might be established on their ruins. – PEACE WAS THEIR OBJECT; AND THE GUARANTEE OF THE SACRED AND FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE, THAT ONE NATION HAS NO RIGHT TO INTERFERE WITH THE INTERNAL CONCERNS OF ANOTHER. [O, that the efforts of these worthies had been successful! what a mass of misery would then have been spared to the human race!] On an occasion of this sort, Nottingham was sure to be among the foremost of the provincial towns; and twenty-six gentlemen, of the description just given, signed a requisition to the mayor, calling upon him to further, by the constitutional means in his power, a petition from the town founded on the premises above named.1 This conduct, by the more violent and ignorant of the war party, was considered little short of treason, and these patriots were secretly marked out as victims to their vengeance. We say, by the more violent and ignorant of the war party; because it ought ever to be borne in mind, that many in this town, that, most likely, from mistaken opinions and overhasty conclusions, had become advocates of the Bourbon-restoring system, were directly averse to the disgraceful measures pursued by the misguided and enfuriated men, that circumstances caused to be ranked as belonging to their party.

The first victim marked out for sacrifice at the altar of ignorance was the late Mr. Joseph Oldknow, alderman, who resided at the top of the piazzas on the Long-row; and, in August, 1793, his house was assailed in the open day with stones, &c. by an enfuriated mob. Mr. Oldknow was a gentleman not to be trifled with – he remonstrated, but in vain – he told his assailants what they might expect as a consequence of their outrageous conduct, for which they vomited forth vollies of <p. 388> abuse and discharged fresh vollies of stones: he then discharged the contents of a blunderbuss among them, which killed one man. and wounded six or seven. This resolute and constitutional proceeding of Mr. Oldknow in defence of his property and his life, had the effect of immediately stopping the progress of these daring violaters of the law for a time, as no more mischief, of any material consequence, was committed this year, though much was in contemplation. But what a dreadful state had the enfuriated passions of men led them to, when nothing short of the last means of self-defence, which an Englishman holds in right from the constitution, could convince these depredators of their error! And if ever the time should arrive that Englishmen shall be deprived of that right, they have ceased to be any thing, except the slaves of oppression and the cruel and passive instruments of its vengeance; when, the sooner the name of their country is blotted from the list of nations, the better for the rest of mankind.2

The succeeding winter, like the preceding one, passed with mutual disquietude between the parties; and the spring (which unfolds scenes of peace, happiness, and love, except in the bosom of unsocial man,) but added to the passions of irritation. Government had proclaimed, that opinions hostile to monarchy were making a rapid progress among the people; and they called upon those “that loved the church and king” to arm in their defence, which was done with avidity throughout the country.3 A few of the democrats of Nottingham formed a resolution of learning the military discipline, and early in a morning repaired to Snenton plain for the purpose, w<h>ere they were drilled by an experienced character; and, for want of muskets, they used sticks, which were sarcastically called wooden guns. This measure, though it injured no man, was extremely indiscreet, considering times and circumstances; for though every Englishman is constitutionally considered a defender of his country, and is liable to be called upon and armed at any hour to repel invasion, or suppress insurrection, which naturally implies both a right and necessity of learning the use of arms; and though every Englishman has a right to possess fire-arms and to use them in defence of his person, family, and property, under any circumstances of peril; yet, as the professions of the democrats were founded on the dissemination of information and maxims of self-defence, the measure in question was unnecessary, and also extremely impolitic, because it furnished their enemies with the means of charging the whole peace party with deception and dangerous intentions, inasmuch as some of them were learning the use of arms, without the sanction of government. If these men had purchased arms, instead of wasting their time in learning their use when they had them not, the subsequent mischief might have been prevented; for the ruffianly cowards that composed the ducking mobs took especial care not to assail those houses which they knew were protected with arms. The friends of war now appear to have began preparations for <p. 389> systematic renewal of the violences of the previous summer: a committee was therefore formed to prepare and regulate the modes of attack and point out the objects thereof;4 and the temper of the mob was first tried upon two countrymen that were led into trouble under the following circumstances.

The rustics of Newthorpe, like the sons of ignorance and prejudice in many other places, gave a display of their loyalty, by hanging, shooting, and burning a bundle of straw &c. which they, in their manifest wisdom, intended to represent Thomas Paine, author of the “Rights of Man;” and when night came on, and these valiant men of Newthorpe had expended all their ammunition, they applied to Matthew Lindley, a shopkeeper in the hamlet, for a fresh supply, that their victory over the bundle of straw might be rendered more signal. With this application Mr. Lindley refused to comply, “because,” said he, “the sun is set, and the law forbids any person, to sell powder after that time, for fear of accidents by fire.” But as these heroes were alike strangers to law, common sense, and common prudence, they broke Mr. Lindley’s windows, and otherwise damaged his property. In consequence of this, he applied for legal redress, and himself and some of the violators of the peace, were ordered to attend before the county magistrates, on a Saturday, at the White Lion Inn, in Nottingham, at which place the magistrates used to meet for the transaction of such business as might come before them; Mr. Lindley taking his brother Robert with him as a witness. Suffice it so say further, that Mr. Lindley got no redress – that himself and brother were forced into the centre of a lawless banditti, collected on the occasion in the inn yard, whose passions were inflamed by those very persons that it was expected would have been punished for their outrage at Newthorpe, and whose ferocity was rendered stronger by this display of criminal impunity – that the two destined victims were borne by the mob into the market-place, under circumstances of personal injury which we need not describe; and that, while Mr. Lindley had the good fortune to escape into a shop on the Long Row, with the loss of one or both of his coat-skirts5 his brother Robert was dragged to the Exchange pump, where he was pumped upon as long as the mob pleased, and otherwise treated according to their notions of justice. <p. 390>

But the great effort of violence was made on the 2d of July, as will be proved from the following extracts from documents written on the subject. – Extract of a letter to the author from Mr. Robert Denison, proprietor of the cotton mill, then standing near Poplar-place, to the defence and threatened injury of which the extract alludes: – “July 2d, 1794, a ferocious mob made an attack upon the mill and demolished the windows. A man with a young child on one arm and a firebrand in his right hand, set fire to the work-shops, which were consumed with much valuable timber. The adjoining tenements were much injured by the miscreants placing fire on the stairs and other parts of the houses.” And again, “The mill was defended by several young men, most of them stocking-makers (who volunteered their services) and the three sons of the proprietor; but such was the imbecility of the mayor, that he wrote to the proprietor – THAT THERE WAS NO SECURITY FOR THE LIVES OF THE YOUNG MEN IN THE MILL, UNLESS THEY WERE CONDUCTED BY A MILITARY ESCORT TO THE COMMON GAOL, IT BEING THE ONLY PLACE OF SAFETY.” I have three briefs in my possession superscribed by Kinderley and Long, Chancery-lane, London, which are acknowledged by Messrs. Vaughan and Reader, and which were pleaded from by those gentlemen at the Lent assizes in this town in 1795, in behalf of William Marriott and Samuel Duckmanton, against three of the duckers, and from one of them the following extract is given: – “The temporizing and pusillanimous conduct of the chief magistrate and attending constables contributed very much to increase the fury and confidence of the mob – we are sorry to say, that it was sanctioned by men respectable for property, who ought to have known better than to fan the flame of civil insurrection, but whose weak heads and bad hearts were impenetrable to the sacred duty which they owed to the community and the law. The mayor was informed of the riot so early as about three o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday the 2d July. He was with the mob shortly after attended by several constables, – not endeavouring to disperse them or repress their outrageous violence, but witnessing with criminal apathy, the excesses which they committed, and even joining them in their illegal purpose of searching for the arms which the peaceable inhabitants kept for their own defence in times of similar commotions, under pretence that they were procured with sinister intentions against the state. The mob continued in the neighbourhood of Coalpit-lane with the chief magistrate among them till near five o’clock; during which period houses were entered and searched, windows broken, and many persons dragged to adjacent pumps and ditches, where they were half drowned with water, or suffocated with mud, and otherwise beaten and cruelly treated; the mayor making no effort to protect them. Having carried on this scene of riot, insult, and brutality in this part of the town for about three hours, without a single aggressor being apprehended, the mob went towards Pennyfoot-stile with the same malevolent intentions, and searching houses, ducking, pumping &c. were continued with the same relentless, or rather increased fury.”

Many persons were ducked in the Leen and Canal, and John Relps, a highly respectable master stocking-maker, lost his life in consequence of the ill treatment he received on the occasion; nor were the criminals punished for the murder. Posterity will scarcely believe that these monstrous scenes were carried on for more than a week, with a few intervals of troubled repose, while this Henry Green, this chief magistrate of a great and ancient corporate town, was within call; nay <p. 391> he was actually a spectator of the scenes three separate days; and but a short distance from his own house one man was actually uncovered by a fury in the shape of a woman, while her worthy associates of the other sex plied him with copious streams from a pump. A few of the common ruffians received a little imprisonment, and there ended the course of criminal retributive justice; nor was it material about punishing the petty agents in this nefarious business – it was on the head of this Henry Green, this villanous mayor, that the whole weight of legal vengeance should have fallen. But though he escaped the punishment of man, he was marked out by the finger of heaven; for, from being highly respected as a gentleman, from being an opulent hosier, a cotton-spinner, and a brewer, he became in a short time alike a bankrupt in property and in fame. Though dwelling in a very populous town, he became as isolated as an hermit, for he was shunned both by the virtuous and the vicious – by the former from a principle of honor, and by the latter from motives of shame. He died of a broken heart when want and guilt haunted him like two spectres – and the winds of heaven dispersed his distressed and disconsolate family. Nay the foundation of his house was uprooted, and one of the men who had been cruelly treated through his criminal neglect, strewed pepper and salt upon the earth where it had stood.

Sutton’s Account

John F. Sutton. Date-Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events Connected with Nottingham and its Neighbourhood, 1750-1850. London: Simpkin & Marshall; Nottingham: R. Sutton, 1852. Pp. 202-13.

[Writing many years after the events, Sutton quotes contemporary accounts from the Nottingham Journal, which supported the Tories. He also gives a long extract from an account by Rev. George Walker, a respected Methodist minister, whose sympathies were with the Jacobins. Sutton’s footnotes contain information from his own knowledge of events; since one of the victims of the Tory mobs was a bookseller named Charles Sutton, we may assume that some of this knowledge came through family connections.]

<p.202> 1793

Nov. 12. – The spirit of the times will be observed in the following circumstance. “One of the officers belonging to the Nottingham Regiment of Militia,” states the Journal, “now lying at Spalding, went to a shoemaker’s of that place to order a pair of boots, but on observing that detestable outcast of society’s book, Paine’s Rights of Man, lying on the table, he thought proper to countermand the order, and take the book along with him. Next day, the soldiers being under arms and forming a circle round a large bonfire, this knight of the lapstone was summoned to appear before them, and made to burn that celebrated jargon of nonsense, the music playing ‘God save the King’ during its burning, at the end of which the soldiers and inhabitants gave three loyal huzzas, and then this wonderful would-be wiseacre was suffered to depart.”

<p.203> 1794

April 23. – Business was again suspended, the bells rung, bonfires made, and all possible marks of joy exhibited, on learning that Martinico had been taken by the British West India forces, and that the combined armies had secured a triumph over the French in Flanders.

May 27. – The war fever seems now to have attained its greatest intensity. As tidings of success after success came rolling in, the people grew almost delirious with loyal excitement, and any one who ventured to question the propriety of the war, or to sigh for peace and returning commercial prosperity, was at once stigmatised as “disaffected,” or as being a “leveller,” or a “Jacobin.” The Journal furnishes us with renewed evidence of the state of feeling, in the following extract: – “Tuesday last was a day of general rejoicing to the loyal inhabitants of this town. Early in the morning, a Gazette Extraordinary arrived by the heavy coach, containing a brief but pleasing account of the important victory gained by the Allied Army over that of the French general, Pichegru; immediately after, the bells were made to echo the glad tidings to all people, who, in one vast multitudinous throng, a little before two o’clock, lined the streets on the road as far as Trent-bridge, curiosity and zeal having wound up the expectations of all ranks to the highest pitch, to meet the mail-coach on this auspicious day.

“As soon as it ascended Hollow-stone, the populace insisted on taking the horses from the carriage, which was, after some little reluctance, complied with, it being quite full of passengers. Each one was zealous who should be the foremost to assist in drawing the mail along; near ten thousand people had assembled by this time, who were chiefly bedecked with blue ribbons. When it arrived in view of the White Lion, the loudest plaudits welcomed (if we may be allowed the expression) the triumphal car to the place of its destination. <p.204>

“And now, the scene commenced which gave to the astonished beholder more than his imagination could conceive – crowds followed crowds, huzzas echoed everywhere the happy sentiments of a truly loyal people; and it will serve to convince the towns around us, that whatever may have been conceived of Nottingham being disaffected to its King and Constitution, the events of this day must completely do away; not to say but that there are some latent and restless spirits, whose minds have been previously poisoned by the lure held out from certain political tracts; tracts, which are calculated to set the lower orders of the community at war against the higher, and thus (by the plans discovered) this happy isle was destined by its foes to undergo, what England will never forget, – the miseries of a civil convulsion; but Providence, who ordains all things for the best, bath averted those evils which ‘we most unrighteously had deserved,’ for our divisions and discontents. Having not unsuitably digressed a little, let us return to the general hilarity of the day: –

“A procession was next thought of, something in the manner of chairing a member; when a certain tradesman,6 as true a cock of the blue as e’er was seen, with his handsome wig and crimson face, mounted the shoulders of a selected few, planks being fixed between that he might sit with ease; who, thus arrayed (his wig being highly powdered with blue), proceeded round the principal streets, attended by some hundreds of spectators, and amidst the repeated plaudits from the fair belles at every window, who were blue in their dress, and loyal in their hearts; –

Happy maids! who thus pourtrayed
The finest feelings of your country’s aid.

“The churches had their ensigns (and what’s so great a right, for they were marked for destruction) of loyalty; and their respective peals bore to the neighbouring villages the welcome news.

“In the evening, constellations were lighted up in abundance, guns fired, rockets thrown in the air, and many other tokens of joy displayed, that sufficiently bespoke the rapturous feelings of the populace; one, amongst others, was in shooting at the effigy of a certain disciple of liberty and equality; and though we will not be so far liberal as to think no man should be burnt in effigy merely for his opinion, yet when that opinion militates so much against the common weal, the folly of the former is palliated by the best and dearest considerations.

“A pair of handsome colours were also displayed by the people, accompanied with drum and fife, who paraded round the Marketplace, till it became dark; after which, they repaired to the inns, &c. to toast the illustrious conquerors of this mighty battle; in short, nothing could exceed the ardour manifested on this joyous occasion; every one vied with each other who could best excel in manly sentiment and rational entertainment. And happy are we to say, that all passed off with that decorum, which it is the wish of all good men should always be observed on occasions like these. <p.205>

But an incident happened this day which we cannot pass by, namely, – when the mail arrived opposite the shopdoor of a certain w–maker,7 in Bridlesmith-gate, he, with more wit than prudence, exclaimed, ‘Why, the mail used to be drawn by horses, but now, good lack! it’s drawn in by asses!’ which, at such a time, when the spirits of the people were raised almost to enthusiasm, was highly indecorous, and he met with that chastisement which his ill-timed witticism deserved. Since then, we hear he is lodged in gaol.

“On Thursday (May 29), the town was again agreeably surprised by the receipt of another Gazette Extraordinary, announcing laurels achieved by the Austrian general, Count Kaunitz, who, it seems, gallantly attacked the French near the town of L’Evique, not far from Bruges, and, after an obstinate conflict, drove the Carmagnols across the river Lys, killing upwards of 5,000, taking fifty pieces of cannon, and upwards of 500 prisoners. The spirits of the inhabitants broke forth afresh, they drew the mail into the inn yard, and saluted the passengers and guard with three cheers. Similar tokens of loyalty took place nearly the same as on Tuesday, which we should be considered as prolix to repeat, after what we have given, they being only a repetition. But we are informed, and sorry we are to inform, that our worthy True Blue,8 who was so happy on Tuesday, unfortunately fell down in the crowd, and had one of his eyes sorely cut by failing upon the stones; but we trust, with proper skill, he’ll soon recover.

“The above accounts being forwarded to the country places, the greatest joy prevailed amongst the rustics, who instantly snatched the keys of the church from the sexton, rushed through the solemn aisle to the bell-ropes, and rang, at intervals, the remainder of the day. Farmer Truelove sent them a fine flagon of the best beer he’d got, and went and seated himself in the midst of them, handing a hornful now and then, who each drank, ‘God save the King and Farmer Truelove.’”

June 3. – The Duke of Portland elected Recorder, in the place of the Duke of Newcastle, deceased.

June 4. – The King’s birthday was celebrated with more than usual eclat. St. Mary’s tower was surmounted with a beautiful union flag, seven yards in length and five in breadth, and with numerous variegated streamers. St. Peter’s and St. Nicholas’s were decorated with blue flags of humbler dimensions.

With his characteristic loyalty, the Mayor ordered a double quantity of coal for the annual fire in the Market-place, and caused the <p. 206> figure of Justice, upon the Exchange, to be apparelled in a flowing blue silk robe.

The bonfires were uncommonly numerous, and twenty fine fat sheep were roasted, and divided amongst those of the people who chose to partake of them. In the evening, upwards of three hundred gentlemen assembled in the Exchange Hall, by invitation, to drink his Majesty’s health. The toasts were extremely loyal, including the King, the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Duke of Clarence, Wm. Pitt, Esq., &c; and the Journal adds to its account of the festivity, – “Never were sentiments more sincerely expressed or more fervently caught, by the company that were met to celebrate their Sovereign’s birthday; unanimity, that blessing to society, manifested on this evening, was a convincing proof how well it would become all men to cease party strife, and to unite in one holy cause – the cause of Loyalty and Love; – then should we see no occasion for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act9 – no occasion for traitors to hide their diminished heads in ambush, like the shadow of a shade, grasping at a substance they can never obtain. To return: –

“Whilst the greatest hilarity prevailed within, the utmost jollity prevailed without doors; nay, so loyal were the people, that thousands sported the blue ribbon, some on cockades, others on streamers, flags, gordian knots, &c.; and in these fanciful decorations paraded through the principal streets, chaunting at intervals the never ceasing song of ‘God save the King.’

“About one o’clock, the troops at the Barracks, accompanied by all the drummers and fifers belonging to the different recruiting parties, decorated with blue sashes, marched from thence to the Marketplace, and fired three excellent volleys in honour of the day; and the Mayor, in order that nothing should be wanting to complete the festivity of this truly festive day, presented the troops with five guineas, to drink his Majesty’s health.

“The inhabitants of several houses, to render themselves more conspicuously loyal, had them splendidly illuminated; particularly the Britannia Inn,10 which far exceeded for brilliancy any of the rest; in the front of which was a beautiful transparency of his Highness of York, our renowned military hero, the pride of all. Indeed, it would be presumption in us to attempt to give a description of the whole transactions that occurred during the day; but this must be acknowledged, that not a town in the kingdom could appear more forward in their exertions, or more sensible of the enjoyments of rational freedom; and amidst the repeated discharges of guns, rockets, the buzzings of serpents, &c., only one accident happened, whereby a little boy was much burnt in the face. The streets were not cleared till very late, but all was tranquil, no disturbance happened.

“The gentlemen who met at the Exchange wore blue favours at their breast, and the ladies in general, blue sashes, and other handsome knots round their fair arms and hands.” <p.207>

At a public dinner the same day, at Mrs. Peniston’s, “the Eight Bells,” the following were amongst the loyal sentiments rapturously received by the company, – “May Justice pursue the Paineites, though they have turned their backs on her;” and “Eternal ballast-heaving to all Jacobins.11

June 7. – The spirit of festivity was again awakened by the receipt of intelligence of Lord Howe’s signal victory over the French fleet. The mail was once more hauled through the town by crowds of overjoyed townsmen, and great rejoicings followed.

June. – This and the following month were distinguished by an outbreak of popular feeling which displayed itself in a form that has ever since been known, par excellence, as “THE DUCKINGS.” In bringing the facts before the reader, we shall give the versions put forth by both political parties, accompanied by foot-notes of our own, and leave him to draw his own conclusion; premising, however, that great allowances ought in justice to be made for the excesses of the period, from a consideration of the feverish state of the public mind, and the imbecility and negligence of the civil authorities.

There is no other available record of the events referred to, from the pen of an anti-Democrat, than that furnished by the columns of the Journal. Unfortunately, this is very brief, the succeeding paragraphs including the whole of it: –

The first of these paragraphs appeared on the 21st of June, when the journalist observed, – “There is nothing more dangerous and alarming to true liberty, than the licentiousness of a mob, though even dictated by the zeal of the purest loyalty. This observation is made more as a caution for future occasions, than in allusion to anything that has yet happened– one or two instances only excepted. When a mob is once abroad, the great danger is of their receiving a wrong direction, which many evil spirits are ready enough to give them.”

Beyond this indistinct allusion, nothing more was stated till the 5th of July, when the following details were given: –

“Wednesday last (June 2), towards evening, a serious disturbance took place in this town, occasioned by the Royalist party ducking, in the river Leen,12 a number of supposed disaffected people, some of <p. 208> whom had been found that morning exercising in the neighbouring fields, and who had showed, by way of triumph over the recent disagreeable intelligence from the Continent, a paper13 in their hats that was perfectly emblematical of the meaning of their hearts; which so much exasperated the former, that they went in a body to the spot, and, after a sharp but speedy conflict, put the latter entirely to rout, who flew for shelter into the cotton mill belonging to Mr. Denison, at Pennyfoot-stile. Here a violent altercation arose between both parties, the Royal side (we are sorry a necessity should arise to distinguish men at this time) insisting that their opponents should be delivered up to their fury; which not being complied with, the populace were bent on storming the outworks; and at this time it was, that some shots were fired from the mill, when several people were very badly wounded. This exasperated the people still worse, who now vowed revenge upon the Republicans and their friends; and, about nine o’clock, regardless of the whistling bullets, they began to demolish all the fences, gates, &c., round the premises, and made a large fire of them in the mill-yard, which soon communicating to the workshops belonging thereto, made a most awful appearance; and, indeed, when the flames issued with so much fury, the greatest care was taken to prevent their extension to the mill and the other surrounding buildings, which happily succeeded: for if the inhabitants had not so exerted themselves, that part of the town would probably have been a heap of ruins; this remarkably dry season being much against stopping the progress of fires.

“The magistrates, as soon as they saw the mill in danger, immediately ordered out the Light Horse, quartered here, for its further protection, and thus saved that valuable manufactory from being destroyed; and used every pacific mean in their power to quiet the minds of an enraged multitude; which had, at last, the desired effect for that night; for those workshops &c., which were on fire were suffered to burn regularly out, and they blazed till near one in the morning.14

“In the morning, however, the Royalists did not disperse, but by way of cooling the spirits of their adversaries, proceeded to the method as stated in the beginning of this account. Ducking and pumping became the order of the day, though the former was most generally resorted to on this occasion: some scouting parties were seized, and dragged down to the canal, where they underwent an immersion into the water, and made to sing a recantation of their Revolutionary principles!!!15 – At any rate, we would not wish to have it understood that we conclude these matters to be altogether right – no, we should be novices of the law to indulge that for a moment – but cannot help remarking, that the persons who have so suffered, have drawn down the wrath of a loyal people upon them, and who absolutely courted their resentment; for to see men rejoicing at their <p. 209> country’s misfortunes publicly, were enough to fire the heart of Loyalty to madness – make it go beyond the laws, and adopt, sometimes, methods irreconcilable to peace and good order.

“We since learn that the arms were delivered up from the mill, into the care of the magistrates, as well as several blunderbusses, cannisters of shot, slugs, gunpowder, and other reforming articles, from the Plough public-house, the windows of which were entirely demolished by a justly incensed people.”

The next week’s paper states, – “We are extremely happy in having it in our power to say, that by the vigilant and unwearied exertions of Henry Green, Esq., our chief magistrate, this town has remained in a state of peace and good order during the whole of the week. In our hurry of last week’s account, we should have stated that the refugees took shelter at the Plough public-house, instead of Mr. Denison’s mill.”

The Rev. George Walker, of the High-pavement chapel, has left on record a longer and more circumstantial account, and it will be perceived from the following extract, that his sympathies were strongly in favour of the Democrats.

Mr. Walker, after describing the tone of local feeling in several previous years, proceeds, – “Societies were instituted, calling themselves ‘Loyal,’ and they appointed for their Secretary General, an itinerant vagabond,16 who had found it necessary to make his escape from a place, where he was better known. This miscreant was bedecked with a livery; and his principal employment was dealing out from the press (for the press was so then prostituted) continual lampoons upon all who dared to maintain an independent opinion; and pointing out their persons as the just objects of popular resentment and fury.

“This conduct was continued with unabating perseverance, and two countrymen, coming to complain of some outrage they had suffered from their neighbours, on account of their differing from them in political sentiment, were violently taken from the place where the county magistrates were sitting, and conducted to a pump, just at hand, where they were completely drenched, and suffered every other species of insult and indignity, which the wanton imagination of a mob could suggest.17 <p. 210>

“This was a hint that could not escape the penetrating and sagacious mind of the liberal and enlightened secretary: it lost none of its importance from being amplified and enforced by his pen; in short, the sun of loyalty was now approaching fast to the meridian, where it was to drown all inferior objects in the splendour of its rays.

“It had been the custom in Nottingham, for several weeks previous to the month of July, on any intelligence in favour of the Allied Powers, for the mail to enter the town with a blue flag, or ornamented with blue ribbons. This circumstance, in the then state of the public mind, was peculiarly calculated to excite and foment, amongst the poorer class of the people, the heat of party zeal; and to induce a great avidity, in both parties, to obtain the earliest information of the events which were passing on the Continent. Thus stimulated, both parties had long been in the habit of early watching the arrival of the mail; and the violence manifested upon many occasions, by the supporters of the war, had induced those who disapproved of it, to separate themselves from the others, to avoid insult. Indeed, it not infrequently happened, that the arrival of good news produced a general state of drunkenness and disorderly behaviour all over the town, amongst the lower orders of the approvers of the war; who were always ready to insult every person in the streets, whom they knew or suspected to be of opposite sentiments to themselves.

“At no time was the public expectation at a higher pitch, at which it had been held for a day or two, than on the 2nd of July; the supporters of the war were on the turnpike-road, ready to haul in the mail; and their opponents mounted on a hill, at about a quarter of a mile distance,18 waiting perhaps with equal anxiety. The arrival of the mail without either flag or ribbons, produced in those who so eagerly expected them, ‘that sickness of the heart which arises from hope deferred:’ judging by their own feelings, that this disappointment would prove a matter of exultation and triumph to the opposite party, they proceeded to the hill where they were stationed, and immediately on their arrival assailed them, unprepared for such a combat, with sticks, stones, &c. This conflict did not immediately terminate, but fresh numbers coming to the aid of the assailants, the oppressed and insulted party were glad to retreat, and he was a happy man who escaped without marks of personal violence.

“It is but justice to the mob on this occasion to state, that the before mentioned genius of iniquity had, the day preceding, distributed one of his farragos of folly and falsehood, to irritate the public mind to some inordinate excess.19

“This conflict took place about three o’clock, and the Mayor, apprised of the tumult, repaired to the spot, where he remained a tame <p. 211> and patient spectator of breaking windows, dragging the peaceable inhabitants from their houses, kicking, beating, rolling them in the mud, pumping upon them and ducking them, &c. When the first paroxism of mobbish fury was over, his worship proceeded, at the head of their high mightinesses, to make domiciliary visits in search of the firearms which any one obnoxious to the mob might keep for his protection. It was the gallantry of true-born Englishmen, disarming a fallen foe. Some firearms were quietly given up, and others might have been taken at their peril.

“This peaceful, legal, and rational amusement continued till after five o’clock in the evening, when, weary of the pursuit of inferior game, they determined upon searching the cotton mill of Mr. Denison, at Pennyfoot-stile, for the same laudable purpose of seeking for concealed arms. Their leader, aware that the arms in this place would not be concealed at the approach of such authority, very prudently (after witnessing the dragging of another unfortunate victim to be ducked) with his usual apathy walked home, leaving the mob and the brave defenders of the mill to settle their dispute as they were able. The windows of the mill were much demolished before young Denison remonstrated with the mob, and told them the consequence of further outrage. Those within the mill were at last, however, compelled to fire, to prevent the completion of the most horrid threats, not only against the mill, but against the lives of its protectors.

“Driven to a distance from the immediate object of their fury, the mob proceeded to pull down an oak fence, belonging to a woodyard adjoining, and to set fire to it and the wood together; from whence, with the most active industry, they communicated the flames to six or seven adjoining tenements, the mill-workshops, &c., hoping in the issue to reach the mill itself. After a lapse of four hours, and repeated applications to the Mayor, Mr. Denison procured the assistance of the military, who lay in the Barracks adjoining the town, and they arrived about ten o’clock at night in time to protect the engines which were employed to extinguish the flames, the leathern pipes of which had been repeatedly, wantonly, and maliciously cut. By the assistance of the soldiers, the mob was dispersed, and the flames got under, with no other damage than the destruction of the outbuildings. It is melancholy to relate that men, whose situation in life commanded them to exhibit a good example to their inferiors, were men active in this diabolical transaction.

“It is here seen that even Mr. Denison’s respectability (so well known to the inhabitants of Nottingham) could not protect him from popular outrage; because his conduct ran counter to the stream of popular prejudice.20

“In some minds we find a disposition to remorse, when they find themselves the authors of great and extensive mischief; but our redoubted secretary, like old Suwarrow, ‘contemplating the glorious <p. 212> havoc that his brave Russians had made’ before the suburbs of Warsaw, issued out another handbill, commending the glorious havoc which his brave rabble had accomplished, and enforcing, as a cure for Jacobinism, the continuance of those ‘holy ablutions’ in the mud, river, &c., which were ludicrously styled ‘baptism.’ The principal officiating priest, on this occasion, was a journeyman butcher, who was immediately dubbed with the title, and advanced to the dignity of a bishop; we presume not a dissenting one, as there is an absolute certainty that he was never a non-juror.21

“The mob, anticipating the suggestions of their humane and benevolent instructor, recommenced their depredations with increased vigour the next morning. One man had his windows broken, his dwelling entered, and great part of his goods destroyed, and otherwise experienced such abuse and personal injury, that his life was for some time conceived in danger.

“Having no rallying point, and being ignorant of their strength and numbers, many, who believed themselves obnoxious to popular violence, retired to the neighbouring woods or villages. Three men, who were at Basford, were hunted down to the place of their concealment; where the dogs once got the scent, they were seldom found to falter. These victims of their resentment were compelled to return to Nottingham, with paper cockades affixed to their hats to give a plausible pretence to the after tragedy; as it was stated that they were found with this mark of distinction, learning the military exercise.22 In this manner they were led through the town, conducted to the river, and there most inhumanly ducked and beaten, till they were nearly lifeless. The mob was proceeding to tie all three together with a rope, when the appearance of a constable and some soldiers put an end to the villainous mischief.

“One of these poor fellows never recovered from the injury he met with, and survived the transaction but a very short period.23

“Ducking, pumping, &c., became now the order of the day, and those who live at a distance from Nottingham, will scarcely credit the relation, that such outrages were continued, under the nose of the Chief Magistrate, for upwards of four days; the unfortunate victims having no protection offered them, than being sent to gaol24 for their further personal security. As it was the fashion to imitate French principles, a Committee of Public Safety was established, and its sittings made permament; a list of proscribed persons lay before them, and the mob, upon finishing one achievement, referred to this com- <p. 213>mittee for instructions for the next. The president of this committee, though destitute of the talents of either, had more of the rough bluntness of Legendre, than the artful hypocrisy of Robespierre.”

The committee alluded to by Mr. Walker, met at the residence of the late Mr. Richard Hooton, maltster, Fisher-gate. Mr. Hooton’s house will be remembered as one of the most picturesque in the town; it was constructed almost entirely of timber, laths, and plaster, and its three stories projected beyond each other over the street, so that the uppermost was considerably the largest. It was pulled down in 1843.

Most of the individuals who suffered from the violence of the Loyalists, are dead, and the names of some of them are completely buried in oblivion. Amongst those, however, who fell into the clutches of their adversaries, in addition to Lindley and Relps, were, – Mr. Burton, of Narrow-marsh (father of Mr. Alderman Burton, of Carrington), Mr. Wright, of Narrow-marsh (subsequently a bailiff, of St. Peter’s church-side), Mr. Farrands, joiner, St. Mary’s church-yard, Thomas Evans, framework-knitter, Balloon-court (afterwards of the Lambley Hospitals, where he died, in 1845, aged 82), William Marriot and Samuel Duckmanton (in whose name an information was laid against three of the duckers, at the following Lent Assizes), William Hutchinson, Parliament-street (still living), and a man named Lees. Of these, all were ducked, except Wright, Lees, and Hutchinson, who escaped with being only half-suffocated with a liberal rolling in a peculiarly offensive ditch which bounded fields on the north side of Coalpit-lane. The Leen and the newly formed canal were the waters dignified by the name of “Jordan,” where the “baptisms” by immersion took place. Those performed by “sprinkling,” were chiefly at the Exchange pump, and the assistants at the ceremonial generally included one or more ladies of wide-spread reputation, whose peculiar province it was to see that the cooling process was properly completed. The popular distich was, –

We’ll pump upon them, till they sing,
Upon their knees, ‘God save the King.’

June 18. – At the Theatre, this evening, Mr. Sidney, while sustaining the character of Rundy, in the humourous farce of The Farmer, introduced into the author’s text the following pointed allusion to the local “baptisms:” “The told me at Lunnon,” he said, with assumed naïveté, “they were all Jacobits at Nottenjum, but they’d fund a way to cure ‘em; douzing ‘em with pump water had ta’en the faver off.” The comedian evidently knew the temper of his audience, and the coarse allusion was received with roars of laughter and applause that continued several minutes.

Reformation Pump, 15 June 1794

Nottinghamshire Archives DD/TS/6/5/12

This is a transcription of a pamphlet dated June 15, 1794, one of what George Walker (in Sutton’s account above) called “farragos of folly and falsehood”, which stirred up the Tory mob against the Jacobins. Two weeks later, another issue of the “Reformation Pump” threatened John Wheatley directly as “the atheistical shoemaker in Bridlesmith-gate”. The text is a parody of an medical advertisement, in this case for a cure for the infection of Jacobinism.


Converting the JACOBINS!!

THIS WATER has such an effect upong them, that it makes them sing, “GOD save brave GEORGE our KING,” and “D—-N the FRENCH CONVENTION.<”> It must be made use of in the following manner[:] The Jacobin must be taken to the PUMP, and, according to his age, so long he must be pumpt upon; and then drink one gallon of this purging Liquid: And if his disorder is not got into his bones, this will be a certain cure, for this experiment was tried on THREE JACOBINS yesterday, who, in a short time, went away singing God save the King, and who were perfectly cured, as many hundreds can witness.

But if his disorder should return, or that TOM PAINE’S distemper has got into his bones, he must then be taken to a Tan-Pit, dipt three times, and then tarr’d and feather’d! – This is a certain Cure, when all others have failed. They will then deny the Devil and all his Works, and d—-n Tom Paine, and all his Works, and then will sing, God save our King, and bless all his loyal Subjects; one of which he now is, by virtue of this Water, and which he now recommends to all his brother Jacobins, that they may come to this Purging Pump, be purged from their iniquities, and die a good LOYAL SUBJECT to their KING and COUNTRY.

N.B. Several hundred GROSE of BOTTLES are wanted, to bottle off some of this Water, in order for exportation to SHEFFIELD, and other places. – Any person that would wish to contract for the above quantity, may, by applying at the MALT-CROSS PUMP any time between the hours of ten and two o’clock, where they may see the Proposals.

No Jacobins will be treated with.

Report upon the Case of Nathaniel Crisp, 1795

G.L. Newnham, “Report upon the Case of Nathaniel Crisp” May 7, 1795, The National Archives, Kew, HO 47/18/17.

When “Bishop Crisp” was convicted of riotous assembly and assault at the duckings of 2 July 1794, a group of Tories petitioned for clemency. The judge, G.L. Newnham, prepared a summary of the evidence. These documents provide a fascinating view of the riots, from the point of view of the victims and the rioters.

Letter from G.L. Newnham

<f. 85v>

Bedford Square 7th May 1795

Mr Newnham.

Report upon the Case of Nathaniel Crisp

(3 Inclosures.)

[pencil] he must undergo his sentence

<f. 84r>

Bedford Square 7th May 1795

My Lord

In obedience to Majestys command signified to me by your Graces letter, I have the honor to report to your Grace for his Majestys information the case of Nathaniel Crisp who was tried before me at the last assizes held for the Town of Nottingham & have taken the liberty to inclose the evidence that was given at the trial.

The Prisoner was chargd with riotously assembling with divers others on the 2d of July last, against the Kings Peace, & assaulting Joseph Burton. There was a second charge in the same Indictment for assaulting John Burton – on this Indictment he was convicted generally on the clearest & most satisfactory Evidence.

There was a second Indictment against Crisp for another riot & assault, but as the Jury had convicted him on the first, I took the liberty of recommending to the Counsel for the Prosecution not to give any evidence on this second charge, thinking the ends of Justice might be sufficiently answerd by one conviction. This recommendation was listend to & on the second Indictment he was of course acquitted.

I fined him one shilling & ordered him to be imprisond six Calendar Months. As your Grace has been pleasd to order me to report my opinion how far he may be deserving of the Royal Mercy; I thought the case a strong one & dangerous in its consequences <f. 84v> that evenhanded justice requird an example to be made, & in pronouncing the Judgement, I imprisond Crisp for a less time than had been done at the preceding Assizes for the same Town, in a case of the like nature. All which I most humbly submit to his Majestys most gracious will & pleasure.

I have the honor to be with the greatest respect, My Lord
Your Graces most obedient & most humble Servant

G.L. Newnham

<f. 85r> (blank)

Enclosure 1. Evidence on Trial of Nathaniel Crisp

<f. 87v> (cover)

Evidence on Trial of Nathaniel Crisp

In Mr Newnham’s of 7th May 1795


<f. 86r>

On the 14th of March 1795 Nathaniel Crisp of the Town of Nottingham Butcher was tried before me on an Indictment which stated that he with many others did on the 2d July 1794 riotously assemble to disturb his Majestys Peace, & made an assault on Joseph Burton

There was a second charge in the Indictment for a common assault on Joseph Burton.

Joseph Burton the 1st Witness said he lived in Turncalf Alley in Nottingham on the 2d July last, on the Evening of that day a Man ran into his house for shelter, & said they were coming – The street leads to the Lean about 100 yards distant – There were a great many persons in the Street he believd some hundreds. as he lookd thro’ the Window some of the Mob said Turn that Man out – he answered there was no man – on which one of the Mob said That man will do – His wife lockd the door – I unlockd it – took the Kitchen tongs & said I would knock the first man down that came in, they got the tongs from me – Crisp was not one of them, one caught hold of my shirt sleeve tore it off – & pulld me out – they rolld me in the common sewer – Mr. Henry Green interfer’d they let me out – they then took me down by force & put me into the Lean; before I got to the Lean I saw Crisp standing up to the middle in the water, when he saw me he said Damn him bring him along – he caught hold of me by the shirt neck to bow me down into the Lean & I found I must go – I put him under first – after he had laid hold of me – I endeavourd to walk out a Serjeant stood there & said Damn your old eyes I will knock you down. I went in again Crisp got hold of a stick that came down the Lean & beat me very much – I got another stick & fencd against him – he beat me very much – I stood on my defence – cannot tell how long I was in this situation from my own house to the River – Crisp & another laid hold of me & duckd me backwards over head in the River – after this Mr. Henry Green desired them to let me out of the water he took me home with 2 or 3 more gentlemen – I was hard at work in my stocking frame when the Mob came had one Lad & a man at work in my house –

<f. 86v>

On his cross examination Burton said he did not see Crisp till he got towards the Lean, that he did nothing to Crisp till he laid hold of him. He lookd upon it the mob was angry at one Coleman as a Paynite, does not know what a Paynite is, does not recollect he was desired before he was taken to the Lean, to sing God save the King, he was very much frightend – when he was taken out of the Lean he was told by Mr. Green to sing God save the King, not before to his knowledge He got hold of one of the sticks in the River – he said he did not know many other persons that were there besides Crisp – that he had received 7 shillings from one & 5 shillings from another of the persons who were there. he told the Justices of the Town that for the salvation of his own life – he would have drownd Crisp had he been alone. That there was a party at the Lean & Crisp in it – a great number there & many draggd him down.

Mr. Henry Green 2d. witness

This witness is one of the Sheriffs of the Town

Knows Burton now, & knows Crisp – A woman came running to me, she said they were going to duck her Father – I got Burton out of the Sewer – They wanted him to sing God save the King – at last I told him to say God save the King, he did not, – They took him down to the Lean, when I had rested myself, for I was much fatiqued with my exertions in getting him out – I went down to the Lean pulld him out of the water & assisted him home – Mr. Green & Mr. Dodd came with me – I saw Crisp in the Lean, but nothing done, another person besides Crisp was in the Lean – Crisp was about up to the middle – I saw nothing but the wet state of Burton & his shirt torn – a great many people there – I was obligd to force my way thro them, I immediately gave Burton my hand – I first askd him to sing God save the King, I desired them not to drag a poor man in that cruel way – he did not however sing or say God save the King, nothing said after he came out of the Lean about singing God save the King as I recollect, there was a great disturbance, but does not know what it was about.

Abraham Sansom

Saw Mr. Crisp in the Lean he was waiting for Burtons coming – Burtons shirt was torn, he was forcd into the Lean by the mob – Crisp advancd towards him <f. 87r> laid hold of him, Crisp made the first attack – Burton wishd to avoid him. The mob cried out to Crisp at him again There were two sticks thrown in, about as thick as my thumb one was broken Burton attempted to defend himself but did not strike Crisp – sombody calld out let somebody go & help Crisp – a man in Trowsers jumpd in, he was duckd several times – A gentleman came, & desired he might be let out – he was not permitted to come out till he said God save the King – Crisp was active in the ducking, had been waiting in the Lean some minutes. The mob said they were gone for Burton – There was a great noise.

Charles Barnes

Knows Crisp – saw Burton dragg’d out of his house to the Lean by the mob, they forcd him forwards & he jumpd into the Lean Crisp was ready in the Lean, he beat Burton with a stick, does not kow what was done before. a great many people there, the mob was very noisy, they encouragd Crisp, the mob tore his shirt & Cloathes in dragging him down, Burton fenc’d with a stick, but did not strike Crisp, Burton was duckd by Crisp & another – I was about a yard from the Lean.

Wm Miller Saw Burton in the hands of a great number of Persons They were pulling him towards the Lean. I saw Mr. Green attempt to get him away from them, but he could not. he afterwards was assisted by another Mr. Green, Crisp was there, Burton look’d wet & like a poor object.

Wm. Whittle Saw Joseph Burton the 2d. July, they pushd him into the Lean, Crisp was in the Lean, he took hold of Burton, they scuffled in the water, Crisp was down, two sticks were thrown into the water. Crisp got hold of one, Burton of the other, another man jump’d into the water; Crisp & the other man took hold of Burton & duck’d him backwards into the Water, Mr. Green assisted him to get out of the Lean.

Ann Corbet A near Neighbour of Burtons, I saw the mob coming they draggd him out of his house – he was hard at work I was in the house when they took him out, & when he was brought home – his cloaths were torn & his arms much beat, he was much beaten, very feeble & weak – he has had a moderate state of health since; he has been confin’d, but cannot say whether it was owing to this beating.

Upon this Evidence he was convicted Generally – I fin’d him one shilling & order’d him to be imprisond Six Calendar Months.

G.L. Newnham

Enclosure 2. Letter of Robert Smith M.P.

<f. 89v> (cover)


Mr. Smith

Hamels 5th April 1795.

Mr. Smith

(1 Inclosure)


In Mr Newnham’s of 7th May 1795.


<f. 88r>

My Lord

I take the Liberty of troubling your Grace with a Petition, which I have received from Nottingham, signed by the High Sheriff of the County, &, as your Grace will observe, by many of the most respectable Inhabitants of the Town. The Object of it, is to request that the Majestys Mercy may be extended to Joseph [sic] Crisp, who was convicted of a Riot at the last Assizes, & ordered by Mr. Newnham, who sat as Judge, to be imprisoned for six months in the common Gaol.

I am very far from vindicating this Person even so much as the Petition seems to do, but I am inclined to believe that he erred from Loyalty, & the impulse of the moment, rather than from bad principles, & that any indulgence which through your Graces <f. 88v> Interposition may be shewn him will have a due Effect on his future conduct, & will be very acceptable to the Town in general.

I have the Honor to be
My Lord,
Your Graces most obedient humble Servant

Rob. Smith

Hamells Apl. 5. 1795.

<f. 89r> (blank)

Enclosure 3. Petition

<f. 91v> (cover)

Robert Smith Esqr. M.P.


In Mr. Smith’s of the 5th April 1795


In Mr. Newnham’s of 7th May 1795


<f. 90r>

Nottingham March 27th 1795


At the last Assizes Nathaniel Crisp of this Town Butcher was Convicted of a Riot and Assault and Ordered by the Court to be Imprisoned Six Months in the common Goal [sic] – We the undersigned think it necessary to state to you the circumstances of this Mans case and being convinced in our own minds he is not deserving so severe a Punishment beg your Interest on his behalf to get his Sentence mittigated more particularly so, as at this time his Wife is near down lying and his Business will be intirely lost, so that he will be unable to maintain his Family with that Credit he hath hitherto done

In the Month of July 1794 a set of disaffected persons to the Present Government made a practice of training themselves up to the use of Arms and Assemble in large Bodies. It was their method of meeting upon the Rock Hill in Snenton Fields during the time of the Mail Coach coming into the Town and in case of any bad news arriving from the Continent would Publickly Rejoice and insult any of the Loyal Inhabitants who might have occasion to pass that way – After repeated insults of this sort and these Gentry getting still more numerous and audacious and no Notice being taken of their Proceedings by the Magistrates, it behooved the Loyal Inhabitants to resent such repeated insults by force, when after a contest of some length by throwing Stones &c. the Jacobins were drove out of the Field and fled to a Public House in Nottm called the Plough being one of their private haunts, a few Loyalists followed them to the House which naturally excited the Curiosity of the Neighbours both Men Women and Children who assembled in the front of the House to inquire the reason of the Disturbance, when without any Provocation one of the Rascals <f. 90v> presented a Blunderbuss out of the Window at the People and pulled the Tricker but very fortunately the peice [sic] missed fire the Loyalists being further enraged at such a Proceeding immediately rushed into the House and seizing the Blunderbuss found it loaded with Gunpowder and a very large Quantity of peices of Cutt Lead, besides other fire arms and Amunition which they delivered into the Custody of the Mayors Servant they then seized a few of the noted Jacobins who they took down to the River Leen & immerged them in it – And we think from their conduct they richly deserved the treatment – The prisoner Crisp was noways concerned in taking them to the River but merely immerging them when there, and no other hurt was done to their Persons –

It is far from our intentions to encourage or countenance Rioting and disturbances but on the Contrary wish to lend our aid for suppressing them from whatever cause they may arise but when a set of Men of the most abandoned principles are doing all in their power to overturn the Constitution and create Riots and Disturbances and the Magistrates will not Protect his Majesty’s Loyal subjects from their insults it is high time they stood in their own defence and protect their persons and property and let such wretches know there are Men ready with their Lives to resent such unprovoked insults And we are of Opinion if a few such Men as the Prisoner had no stept forward on this occasion much Bloodshed or perhaps Murder would (to use a French expression) been the order of the Day – We therefore take the liberty of requesting your kind assistance on this mans behalf which will much Oblige


your most Obedient Humble Servants

<f. 91r>

II.K.a: Letter from John Wheatley’s brother [William] to John Wheatley, Whatnoll, 12 Jan. 1805.

The letter as we have it is evidently a copy, made by someone who had difficulty reading some of the words. When the copyist couldn’t read a word, he or she put a dash instead. The end of the letter is lost, but it is impossible to say whether it was missing from the original when the copy was made or whether the end of the copy is missing. WMW refers to this letter in the interview with JWW3 (p.7); that is the source of the name of the writer.

The writer refers to his son William having married last Dec. 5 (1804). A certain William Wheatley married Sarah Swindell in Greasley parish, 5 Dec. 1804. Two children of William and Sarah Wheatley were baptised in Greasley, both named Thomas (presumably the first died young): one on 17 Jan. 1814 and one on 1 Jan. 1815. Another William Wheatley in the area was a farmer at Kimberley Knoll who died intestate in 1806, leaving his wife Sarah. The writer of this letter refers to another person, perhaps another of his children, who is married with three children and lives at Kimberley Knoll, and to a certain John, again possibly his son, who lives in London and works for Lloyds.

Whatnoll, Jan. 12 - 1805

Dear Bro. & Sister,

I have wrote to you several times and I expect you never received them, my reason for thinking so is because I did not pay the Inland Postage. I hope you will receive this safe and all our loves to you and family when I received your last you said you had let your farm and had almost built a house in North’d in order to begin on your business which I hope answers your expectations, I expect you know that I have removed to Clarks old house and the day but one after I moved into it Mrs Harrison the owner died which was in May – – – – it came to her children and in divid – following – – – to sell it and share the money, I bot the house – – – and 5 acres. for 650 lbs – I bt 8 acres – for 245 lbs. and the – for 410 lbs – I have now rebuilt the house – manner which does credit as its the best on the – and we have a very good business to it, my son William is home with us and is married the 5th of Dec. last – married and has three children, lives at Kimberly Noll. – house Wm Walker lived in <p.2> and the malt looms we gave boot for the whole they have a very good trade there, sells more Ale than we as its got so populous since you was here. John is in London and has been 7 Yr or more, he is not married, is in the corn trade and failed about 2 yrs since – has not been able to get his certificate again yet he is not doing business on his own acct – He lives on Tower Hill, has a large house and takes in boarders and lodgings – get a very good living now – has a situation at Loyd’s in the Insurance line, I bought 54 Lpiy(?) at Kimberley of Mr Boune(?) all the Tythe of Corn – Hay and gather it in, – I have a Lease of for 16 yrs to come – Have 21 acres of Land of Clays farm there, so that in the whole we have 100 acres. I do not do anything at my own business – as I have plenty else, I inspect the weights and balances for the county for 55 towns on the south of Trent district & a deal of other business besides for the county I generally go to London 7 or 8 times a yr on their business I am now going to Newcastle in Northd. and the weather is intensely cold, I cannot set off until after next Tuesday as I must attend Derby Assions. and Monday [rest of line blank]


  1. Blackner’s note: The twenty-six gentlemen above alluded to, subscribed the address in the following order: – John Wright – William Rawson – Thomas Rawson – Francis Hart – Samuel Statham – Roger Hunt – Thomas W. Watson – T. Smith – Charles Pennington – Francis Evans – John Fellows – John Thomson – F. Wakefield – J. Hancock – Thomas Hawksley – Robert Denison – Thomas Oldknow – Henry Hollins – S. Huthwaite – Joseph Oldknow – George Coldham – Joseph Lowe – B. Alldis – N. Clayton – W. Howitt – W. Huthwhite. 

  2. Blackner’s note: Since the above article was prepared for the press, I found, on re-examining a gentleman’s letter to me on the subject of these outrages, the following memorandum: – “The town was disgraced by a most violent riot, on the 24th July, 1793: the bloodhounds of war were upon the hunt in every direction. During these transactions, the writer of this letter was eye-witness to two young men, with ropes about their necks, in the middle of a ferocious mob dragging them to the pump. He also witnessed the distribution of money among the mob from the windows of respectable houses.” 

  3. Blackner’s note: The town of Nottingham raised one troop of yeomanry cavalry this year (1794) and the county raised three troops; the whole under the command of Anthony Rudolph Eyre, Esq. of Grove, near Retford. 

  4. Blackner’s note: Many honorable men, of the party we are now speaking, blushing at the darkness of the deeds and the crimes thus committed, have contended that no such committee was ever formed, no doubt believing most sincerely the assertions thus made; but how easy would it be, for me to convince them of their error, for, did not prudence and sense of moral duty forbid it, I could name every individual of that select body, the house at which they met, the person among them appointed to collect money secretly, for the purpose of engaging the ruffian navigators, then employed in cutting the canal, to aid the still more despicable wretches in the town, in hunting down, ducking, destroying the property and endangering the lives of their neighbours, who differed with them on matters of opinion. I could also name the wretch that was employed as an agent of this committee to engage and marshal the rioters, and who was furnished with the means of distributing ale, &c. among them; he was also occasionally employed as a scribe, in which capacity he wrote the inflammatory hand-bill which appeared on the 1st of July, 1794, the day previous to the commencement of the horrid scenes this year. I afterwards became well acquainted with one, and, I believe, the best, of this committee, who, in our neighbourly conversations, when these scenes have been mentioned, has often taken credit to himself for having informed several of the democrats to get out of the way, when they had been selected to be ducked; though he never admitted to me that he was one of the committee, nor was such admission necessary in order to the establishment of the fact.

    I have, however, made up my mind on the subject: I will do my duty as an historian, in briefly relating the leading circumstances, but not a name among the aggressors shall be entered, as such, in this work; because the preserving of those names would be a source of local enmity and strife through generations yet unborn, inasmuch as the descendants of the injured might occasionally upbraid the descendants of the injurers; and thus, through centuries, perpetuate animosity and discord – two hateful passions, which I pray to God, may, ere long, be laid in eternal sleep. 

  5. Blackner’s note: This was the beginning of a system of abuse afterwards called spencering

  6. Sutton’s note: A hairdresser, named Wright. 

  7. Sutton’s note: Mr. Joseph Farnsworth, watchmaker. His satire was so severely felt that the Mayor caused him to be apprehended, and lodged in gaol. After being kept there for thirty-five days, he was released without any charge being brought against him. 

  8. Sutton’s note: This Mr. Wright had a shop in the Shoe-booths, and subsequently at the corner of Queen-street. The wig had evidently once adorned one of his Majesty’s Judges of Assize, and being wide and flowing, and profusely powdered with blue, looked remarkably conspicuous. Wright always put it on when he went to poll, or at any time of public political excitement. When not required, its usual resting-place was on a peg in his barber’s shop. 

  9. Sutton’s note: The Habeas Corpus Act was in a partial state of suspension. 

  10. Sutton’s note: The “Britannia,” in Mount-street. 

  11. Sutton’s note: Mrs. Peniston’s was not the only house where such sentiments were freely expressed: they were, with the exception of Mrs. Carter’s, the Sun Inn, Pelham-street (now the Durham Ox) and a few minor Democratic houses, quite common at all public places of entertainment. Any one who ventured to utter an opinion unfavourable to the war, within their precincts, was unceremoniously ejected as a Jacobin. At some of them, including Mrs. Peniston’s, in St. Peter’s-square, the Rose, in Bridlesmith- gate, the Peacock, in St. Peter’s-square, and the Black Horse, in Stoney- street, inscriptions were stuck up in prominent places, “NO JACOBIN ADMITTED HERE.” If a suspected person happened to join the company at any of these places of resort, the process of trial and ejection was usually very summary. The chairman or any one in the room, would begin to snufff as though his olfactory nerves were saluted by some offensive odour, and exclaim, with great affected disgust, “I smell a Jacobin!” All eyes would at once be directed to the supposed intruder, and unless he drank with great apparent heartiness, some unequivocal toast or other, expressive of hatred to all Democrats, the speedier he took to his legs, the better for his carcase. 

  12. Sutton’s note: Turncalf-alley. 

  13. Sutton’s note: In imitation of the French cockade. 

  14. Sutton’s note: Mr. Denison brought his action, and obtained compensation for the damage. 

  15. Sutton’s note: Judging by his notes of exclamation, the journalist evidently viewed the ducking as a capital joke. 

  16. The man thus designated was named Pilgrim, and though undoubtedly clever, was compelled to write lampoons, and sell them in the streets, as a means of living. 

  17. Sutton’s note: The inhabitants of Newthorpe had been burning an effigy of Tom Paine, and when night came on, had expended all their ammunition. Unwilling to discontinue their sport, they applied to a small shopkeeper in the neighbourhood, named Matthew Lindley, for fresh supply. Lindley declined serving them, ‘because,’ said he, ‘the sun is set, and the law forbids any person to sell powder after that time, for fear of accidents by fire.’ The irritated applicants at once grossly abused him, and broke his windows. In consequence of this, he applied for legal redress, and himself and some of the offenders were ordered to attend before the magistrates, at the White Lion Inn, which was then their usual place for sitting in petit sessions; Mr. Lindley taking his brother Robert with him as a witness. Instead of obtaining redress, the brothers were forced into the centre of a mob in the inn yard, and were from thence borne into the Market-place, loaded with almost every species of indignity. Mr. Walker, however, was mistaken in inferring that both of them underwent the ablutory process. While Robert was being pumped upon in front of the Exchange, the other had the good fortune to escape into a shop on the Long-row. 

  18. Sutton’s note: Sneinton hill. 

  19. Sutton’s note: This production was headed, “The Reformation Pump,” and it exhorted the Loyalists to bring the Jacobins to the Exchange pump, that they might be “converted.” It concluded by the following gentle admonition: “The preaching bookseller and the atheistical shoemaker in Bridlesmith-gate must apply in time, or nothing but a halter will effect a cure.” Mr. Charles Sutton, bookseller, and a local preacher amongst the Wesleyan Methodists, and Mr. Wheatley, a shoemaker, who afterwards emigrated to America, were the persons alluded to. They however kept out of the way, and escaped the threatened infliction. 

  20. Sutton’s note: Robert Denison, Esq., died at his house at Daybrook, on the 9th of July, 1826, in the 82nd year of his age. His son, Mr. Mark Denison, continues to reside in the same place; but the youngest son, Alfred, a Lieutenant of the 35th Regiment, died the day preceding the decease of his father. 

  21. Sutton’s note: This man, Nathaniel Crisp, or, as he was commonly designated, “Bishop Crisp,” for some years afterwards occupied the butcher’s shop at the corner of Listergate and Broad-marsh. He died in May, 1819. 

  22. Sutton’s note: Though these individuals might not have been exercising, it is certain that some of the town Democrats were in the habit of so doing, as they alleged, to prepare for their future defence. They usually went early in a morning to Sneinton Plain, where they were drilled by a retired sergeant, named Robert Brown, who was subsequently landlord of the Dog and Duck, in Chandlers-lane. As a substitute for muskets, they used sticks, which were sarcastically called “wooden guns.” 

  23. Sutton’s note: John Relps, a master stockingmaker. He was a corpulent man, and being in a profuse perspiration, the protracted ducking had a disastrous effect. 

  24. Sutton’s note: The Town Gaol was opened as a place of refuge.