The Yorkshire Rebellion of the first half of April 1820 was one of the largest protest-insurrections of the classic industrial revolution era, and yet its scale and background remain only partially understood. Geographically confined to the West Riding of Yorkshire, it constituted outbursts in at least three different towns, involving up to 2,500 men. It can therefore be seen as the largest physical force rebellion of the pre-Chartist era of English history. Equally, if considered as part of the simultaneous and connected revolt in the West of Scotland, it was the largest pre-Chartist rebellion in British history. The purpose of this paper is to describe the Yorkshire Rebellion of 1820, to set it in its wider political and economic contexts, and to offer, where possible, causal explanations for its origins. [See also E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1968) and Alan Brooke and Lesley Kipling, Liberty or Death: Radicals, Republicans and Luddites c. 1793-1823 (1993).]
The events of April 1820 must first be placed in the context of the post-Napoleonic War economic instability. After the victory at Waterloo in June 1815, which brought to an end almost twenty-two years of war, expectations were high that peace would bring great prosperity. Instead the economy went into a boom-and-bust cycle that caused enormous hardship, especially in 1816-1817 and in 1819. The victory also demobilised some 400,000 military personnel, dropping them back into an economy that was unable to provide useful employment for all of them. Agricultural prices fell after 1812, and the impact of this reverberated through an economy that still contained a sizeable agrarian sector. In some trades, such as handloom weaving, real wages fell dramatically. Not surprisingly, the post-war era was also marked by a sharp rise in the crime rate and the last phase of the political-industrial protests known as Luddism.
The war interrupted the popular reform movement that had emerged during the 1790's. Once the great conflict with France ended, expectations were high that political grievances, particularly the issue of parliamentary reform, would now be addressed. Beginning in 1816, popular political societies (which, although they were often called "Union Societies," were not trade unions) were founded in many parts of Britain, but especially in the growing industrial towns and in London. They demonstrated, petitioned, marched, sometimes wrote threatening letters or posted seditious placards, and supported a growing radical political press. In 1817 there were small rebellions at Holmfirth in Yorkshire and Pentrich in Derbyshire that in some ways resemble the events of the Yorkshire Rebellion of April 1820. The post-war years were marked by a heightened rhetoric of political violence, matched by a number of assassination attempts on the lives of both politicians and industrialists. In addition, a bitter popular economic analysis emerged that blamed deteriorating standards of living on a corrupt, privileged elite who were unwilling to share their political power with working men, while enjoying the benefits derived from siphoning off an undeserved profit from workers' labour.
By 1819, well-organized reformers all across industrial Britain were pushing hard for significant political changes. Four great meetings were held in Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester to demand reform. The last of these, which took place in August 1819, was violently interrupted by the local Yeomanry Cavalry, so that it came to be known as 'the Peterloo Massacre' and set off widespread protest meetings against the actions of the Manchester authorities. The government's response, repression, came in the form of the so-called Six Acts in December 1819. These curtailed public demonstrations, prevented citizens from drilling with weapons, allowed magistrates to search houses without warrants, and clamped down on the radical press. For many reformers, the conclusion was obvious: Peterloo and the Six Acts were ushering in an era of despotism. The prevailing reformist philosophy can be seen in a motion for universal male suffrage passed by the Barnsley Union Society at a public meeting in July 1819. Its second resolution provided a classic justification for rebellion:
"The sole design of forming civil government was for promoting the welfare and happiness of the body politic, and whatever authority any man possesses is derived from the community at large; consequently, if any government cease to answer the purpose for which it was appointed, or violate the rights of those who are governed, those from whom their power is derived have a national right to call their governors to account." [Wakefield and Halifax Journal, 16 July 1819.]
By early 1820 many reformers had adopted more radical positions, ready "to call their governors to account." The Barnsley men rejected a proposal to kill all the magistrates, but others were less restrained. In this context it is important to mention the infamous Cato Street Conspiracy to assassinate the entire Cabinet in February 1820. The conspirators, led by Arthur Thistlewood, were a small group of ultra-radicals, Deists and republicans who wanted to overthrow the government. Fearing that the authorities could easily use informers to penetrate a large conspiracy, they planned a sensational act to be perpetrated by a compact group of less than forty men in London. Although they hoped to trigger widespread rebellions in the rest of the country, there is no evidence that the Cato Street conspirators were co-ordinating their plans with provincial radicals. Indeed, their unsuccessful plot came as a surprise to Northern radicals, but not to the government, which had a man inside the conspiracy. It reacted by executing several men for high treason and transporting a number of others to the penal colonies.
The Yorkshire Rebellion of April 1820
What exactly precipitated the rebellions of 1820 cannot be known with certainty. It was not the Cato Street debacle down south, but it may have been something else closer to home. Various radical leaders were coming up for trial at the end of March on a variety of charges related to the previous year's demonstrations, especially Peterloo.
Huddersfield (population about 13,000) was an important town in the wool textile industry of Yorkshire's West Riding. Handloom weaving was a major occupation, and there were heavy concentrations of weavers in the many small villages surrounding the town. Thoroughly radicalized by the events of 1819, these districts were also experiencing great economic hardship at the beginning of the year 1820.
After elaborate planning, the region's radical clubs decided to attack the lightly-defended town of Huddersfield on 1 April 1820. The final signal to begin the assault was given to a radical clothdresser, one Joshua Hirst of Deighton, at seven p.m. on the evening of 31 March. It came from Huddersfield in the form of half a card; when matched with the half he held, it formed the word 'DEMOCRACY.' Within hours hundreds of men were on the march, accompanied by the sound of assembly bugles and the firing of signal rockets, to four assembly points around Huddersfield. A witness reported the insurgents as claiming that the "Revolution was to begin this evening." [Evidence of Samuel Norcliffe, clothier of Mirfield, Apr. 1820, P.[ublic] R.[ecord] O.[ffice], T[reasury.S.[olicitor] 11 1013/4131.] It is important to note the overall size of these contingents. About 2,000 men were involved, including a 'fifth column' of a few hundred within Huddersfield itself.
Meanwhile the magistrates and local soldiery took up a defensive position at the George Inn, Huddersfield, and waited for the attack. Then, for reasons that are not at all clear, the attack was called off. Hundreds of armed men slipped away into the night, no serious casualties were inflicted by either side, and no arrests were made at the time. Subsequently four Huddersfield radicals were arrested and tried. John Peacock (labourer) and John Lindley (nailmaker) were transported to Tasmania, while Nathaniel Buckley (journeyman clothier) and Thomas Blackburn (cardmaker) were pardoned after two years' incarceration in the hulks. A number of individuals known to the authorities as participants in the Huddersfield rebellion were never apprehended. [Deposition of Joshua Hirst of Deighton, 3 Apr. 1820 and many others in P.R.O., H[ome].O[ffice]. 40/12 and T.S. 11 1013/4131, Leeds Mercury, 6, 8 Apr. 1820, Leeds Intelligencer, 10, 17 Apr. 1820, York Courant, 4 Apr. 1820, P.R.O., Criminal Registers, H.O. 27/20 and Hulk Reports H.O. 9/9, Wakefield and Halifax Journal, 11 Oct. 1822.]
Barnsley and Grange Moor
Barnsley (population about 8,200) was another West Riding textile town suffering economic hardship and agitated by the political events of the post-war era. At that time linen weaving was the main occupation in Barnsley, employing about half the men. More weavers and some colliers were scattered in outlying villages such as Monkbretton and Dodworth.
Barnsley's radical club, a Union Society, had perhaps 600 members, although it is not clear whether this included the members from the surrounding villages. For example, Monkbretton had a radical club headed by a cordwainer named Boothroyd, which sent delegates to the more senior Barnsley Union Society. In addition, the Union Society had an inner group, a 'Secret Acting Committee,' of eight senior, respected radicals who co-ordinated the Society's activities and corresponded with other radical organisations in Yorkshire. [Depositions of Thomas Morgan and Michael Downing, Apr. 1820, P.R.O., T.S. 11 979/3573 and Thomas Farrimond, 8 Mar. 1821, H.O. 40/16. See also F.J. Kaijage, "Working-Class radicalism in Barnsley, 1816-1820" in S. Pollard & C. Holmes, Essays in the Economic and Social History of South Yorkshire (1976), 118-134.] The Committee met weekly at the house of Thomas Farrimond, a 56-year-old weaver and part-time barber originally from Wigan in Lancashire, who had been involved in political agitations in Barnsley in 1817 and 1819. Three other Secret Acting Committee members were ex-Luddites. All the members were weavers, and three were from Wigan, another traditional linen-weaving area of England, while others were Yorkshiremen. An Irishman, Arthur Collins, was also on the S.A.C. for a brief period. The committee's composition may have reflected the town's ethnic makeup. [See Note 1, below, for a list of all the committee's members.]
It is important to note the connection between the Barnsley uprising and the events at Huddersfield on 1 April 1820. The Barnsley Union Society received word that on 12 April there was to be a second attempt to capture Huddersfield. Accordingly two senior men, ex-Luddites Craven Cookson and Stephen Kitchenman, were sent to double-check on the plans for a rising. They returned from Huddersfield convinced that the Barnsley radicals should participate in the insurrection by marching to Grange Moor, outside Huddersfield, on the night of 11-12 April 1820. As was the case with so many early nineteenth-century uprisings, thousands of armed men were supposed to converge on a designated place from different towns and villages, as well as from different directions. The Barnsley men thought that they would be a small contingent of a much larger force assembled outside Huddersfield.
So, late in the evening of 11 April, the men of Barnsley assembled and met up with contingents from Dodworth and Monkbretton. They passed through Worsborough and went on towards Huddersfield at one a.m., now numbering perhaps 400 in all. Their military leaders were two local weavers (and 'Waterloo men'), William Comstive and Richard Addy, who marched them along to the beat of a drum. The Dodworth men were likewise led by John Pickering, a 26-year-old weaver who had served in the infantry. They had flags with political slogans, which they had previously used at meetings in 1819. In addition to pikes and guns, the men carried various provisions in knapsacks on their backs. Scouts with local knowledge went ahead to identify houses where more guns might be seized. In true military style, the insurgents were equipped to issue civilians with receipts for any goods confiscated.
Arriving at Grange Moor in the early hours of 12 April, the Barnsley men were greeted by twenty local radicals from Huddersfield rather than the thousands they had expected. Comstive formed the men into a line and posted sentinels while the leaders discussed the situation. Thomas Farrimond cried out that they had been betrayed, and panic set in. Men fled in all directions, discarded their weapons, and dropped their flags. No military engagement took place, and the troops sent to confront the insurgents simply arrested seventeen persons and collected weapons from the ground. [Various depositions in T.S. 11 979/3573 which are more accurate than exaggerated accounts in Leeds Mercury, 15 Apr. 1820 and Leeds Intelligencer, 17 April 1820.]
Elsewhere in the clothing district, support for the uprising was guarded. At Mirfield and Dewsbury there were general strikes. [Byng to Harewood, 12 Apr. 1820, Harewood Mss.] At Halifax on 12 April 1820 there was a march of radicals who fired off a rocket and demonstrated loudly, but non-violently, on Beacon Hill before dispersing. [Leeds Intelligencer, 17 Apr. 1820.]
Indeed, the Grange Moor rising had turned out to be another failure. Yorkshire radicals did not come out in force to support the Barnsley men, and the anticipated support from Lancashire radicals never materialised. As one Yorkshire radical put it, somewhat cryptically, "...our Musick in Yorkshire [h]as played twise where yours in Lankshire has never struck at all. Is your Musicians sick [?]" [Message of J. Brooke contained in letter of J. Tyas, 14 Apr. 1820, T.S. 11 1013/4131.]
Sheffield (population about 40,000) was an industrial city in the West Riding of Yorkshire, famous for its cutlery trades and a history of political radicalism stretching back to the 1790s. While the Barnsley men were marching towards Grange Moor on the night of 11 April 1820, a simultaneous event took place in Sheffield. Led by John Blackwell, a local agitator who had been active in political outbursts in 1812 and 1816, about two hundred men assembled at pre-determined meeting points. The men were armed, and Blackwell fired off a pistol, but they committed no acts of violence. They were reported to be highly organised, falling into ranks like soldiers. They split into two groups and then reassembled in the Haymarket. Shouts were heard: "Hunt and Liberty," "the Revolution, the Revolution," and "All in a mind for the Barracks."
Then, for some reason, their leaders decided not to attack the barracks and the crowd dispersed. The next day only John Blackwell was arrested. A search of his house revealed "a loaded pistol and a pike of most terrific description." He was later tried at York and given a sentence of thirty months. [Sheffield Mercury, 22 July 1820, Sheffield Iris, 25 July 1820, P.R.O., Assize 45/53 part 2 and T.A. Ward, Peeps into the Past (1909), 266. See also F.K. Donnelly & J.L. Baxter, "Sheffield and the English Revolutionary Tradition, 1791-1820" in Pollard and Holmes (1976), 90-117.]
The Yorkshire Rebellion as Part of a 'General Rising'
At this point we must step back and examine these events in the wider contemporary context. As we have already seen, there was a connection between the Huddersfield episode of 31 March-1 April and the Grange Moor March of 11-12 April 1820. The latter was the second of two unsuccessful attempts to seize the town of Huddersfield. Elsewhere in the West Riding there were simultaneous radical outbursts or strikes at Sheffield, Halifax, Dewsbury, and Mirfield.
We must recognise that all of this was planned to coincide with radical uprisings elsewhere in Britain. Both the radicals and the authorities expected risings to take place in the Manchester and Leeds areas, as these were notably disaffected 'hotspots'. Perhaps the preventative measures taken by the magistrates and military in those cities made radical supportive actions impossible.
In the confusion of events, what has been overlooked is the fact that in two other places in England radicals did turn out in support of a General Rising. The first of these was Wigan in Lancashire, the place that a number of the Barnsley radicals were from. In the first week of April 1820, some 300 armed men assembled on Aspul Moor near Wigan, in the belief that "there would be a general rising in twelve counties if Wigan begun it." Then their rising was called off because of lack of support, and the authorities arrested a few weavers. [Nicholson of Warrington to Sidmouth and examination of John Smith and Thomas Smith, 5 April 1820, P.R.O., H.O. 40/12.]
A similar event took place at Carlisle in Cumberland on 9 April 1820, when some 200 armed radicals marched outside the town. They dispersed without violence or arrests. It is certain that they came out in response to a seditious notice posted in the town on 8 April. This notice came from Glasgow, and it was a call to arms to join in the "arduous struggle against their oppressors, and in a manly vindication of their usurped rights." Carlisle was another economically depressed weaving town, highly politicised by the events of the post-war era and containing many immigrants from Scotland and Ireland among its approximately 15, 000 people. Moreover, it was positioned near the Anglo-Scottish border on a well-travelled route to the textile districts of Western Scotland. It is to Scotland that we must now turn to obtain a fuller picture of the Risings of 1820. [The Times, 18 Apr. 1820 and Carlisle Patriot, 15 Apr. 1820.]
The whole industrial area around the Clyde was both politically disaffected and economically depressed during the post-war era, conditions which it shared with industrial England. As might be expected, the April 1820 Rising was expected to have a strong Scottish dimension. Indeed, the first phase of unrest faced by the authorities was a widely-supported general strike in the West of Scotland. It began on 1 April 1820 with the posting in many towns of a notice calling for a general strike, to be followed by armed uprisings. It was signed "By Order of the Committee of Organization for Forming a Provisional Government." Perhaps 60,000 people stopped work in sympathy with the radicals' demands. [Jamieson to Monteith, 3 Apr. 1820, Monteith Papers, Glasgow City Archives, Monteith to Sidmouth 3 and 4 Apr. 1820, and Stevenson to William Kerr, Sec Gen of Post Office, 3 Apr. 1820P.R.O. H.O. 102/32, The Scotsman, 8 Apr. 1820.]
The second phase, of armed uprising, involved an understanding that there would be simultaneous risings in England. To signal that these had started, the English radicals were supposed to stop the mail coaches from the south. When the mail did arrive in Glasgow on 4 April and the next day, and word reached Scotland that no rising had taken place in Manchester, the Scottish radicals erroneously believed that nothing at all had happened in England and that the English radicals had not honoured their commitment. (In fact, as the Glasgow Chronicle later made clear, risings had taken place at the appointed time in Yorkshire.) The Scottish Rising was largely aborted. Those incidents of armed rebellion that did occur were the work of groups which either chose not to adhere to the mail-coach signal pact, or who were not properly informed of the overall situation. [J.R. Fraser, Memoir of John Fraser of Newfield, Johnstone (18790, 21, J. Parkhill, Life and Opinions of Arthur Sneddon (1825/1860), 77, The Scotsman, 8 Apr. 1820 and Glasgow Chronicle, 18 Apr. 1820.]
Nevertheless, Western Scotland was in a state of turmoil, as the authorities had only 2000 troops, concentrated at Glasgow and Paisley, at their disposal. Armed men were drilling south of Glasgow, and at Paisley 300 armed radicals closed the mills. Meanwhile Kilmarnock radicals were indecisive, expecting someone else to take the lead. On 4 April a group of about forty Glasgow and Condoratt radicals tried to seize the Carron Ironworks at Falkirk. They fought a small encounter with cavalry at Bonnymuir, where eighteen of them were taken prisoner. On 6 April there was a march of two dozen radicals from the village of Strathaven, led by an old Jacobin named James Wilson. A hundred men had previously seized the village, but most of them refused to march out in support of a rising. Although the Strathaven affair fizzled out, the authorities tried and executed James Wilson.
All across Southwestern Scotland there were reports of radicals turning out with weapons and then dispersing when they saw that support was lacking. The most violent event took place at Greenock, where a crowd attempted to free five radicals from the local jail. Eight persons were killed and ten were wounded, but by 9 and 10 April order was restored to industrial Scotland and the general strike ended. [P. Berresford Ellis and Seumas Mac A' Ghobhainn, The Scottish Insurrection of 1820 (1970).]
Our conclusion must be that there was a co-ordinated radical plan for simultaneous risings in both Western Scotland and the North of England in early April 1820. This large-scale project went awry through various miscommunications and misunderstandings that can be explained by the slowness of early nineteenth-century communication between cities and counties. Thus those risings that did occur were the ones that went ahead while the majority of potential rebels held back. Some, like the men of Holmfirth in Yorkshire, were prepared to come out only after a provisional government was in place. Others in Scotland and in Yorkshire thought that the rising had been called off, and so turned back for the safety of their homes. At Huddersfield a large-scale force of insurgents changed their minds in the middle of an assault on that town. At Wigan, Carlisle and Grange Moor, radicals saw that support was lacking and tried to disperse as best they could under the circumstances.
Aftermath of the Yorkshire Rebellion
Consistent with early nineteenth-century practice, the courts were not particularly vindictive in dealing with rebel workingmen in England. In September 1820 they reached an agreement with twenty-nine Yorkshire rebels that a common plea of guilty would save them from the death sentence. A similar bargain was struck with Thomas Farrimond, who had been captured later in 1821. The goal of the authorities was to use show trials to make examples of rebels, especially identifiable leaders, and to avoid creating martyrs. Death penalties were pronounced by a judge wearing a black hood, and these were later commuted to transportation to the Australian penal colonies or, in some cases, pardons after a period of detention in the hulks.
Interestingly, when the twenty-five Yorkshire rebels held in York Castle on charges of High Treason petitioned the Home Secretary to allow their families to visit them, 75% of them could sign their names, which indicates that they were literate. [Petition to Sidmouth, 29 May 1820, P.R.O., H.O. 20/1.] Then, in 1821, only eleven Yorkshire rebels were transported to Hobart aboard the convict ship Lady Ridley. During the voyage they once again petitioned their captors, but this time in very deferential terms. [P.R.O., Adm 102/42.] One convict, John Lindley, brought with him to Australia testimonials to his good character signed by about 100 Huddersfield area residents. [T.S.A., Colonial Sec. Office 1/267/6396.] The rebels certainly had a demonstrated propensity for litigious behaviour, as shown by their use of petitions and testimonials.
Once in Australia, most of the Yorkshire rebels passed through the early, worst stages of the convict system, settled down to a respectable life, received pardons, and became productive citizens. The exceptions were William Comstive, Joseph Chapiel, and Benjamin Rogers, who committed multiple offenses in the penal colony. By contrast, one of the Yorkshire rebels, Joseph Firth, made a fortune so large that in 1829 he owned 900 acres at Brown's River, as well as a farm and four houses in the Hobart area. In general, the Yorkshire rebels of 1820 received good reports in the penal colony, most had tickets of leave by 1825, and pardons followed in the 1830s. [T.S.A., CON 31, P.R.O., 10/44-50, H.O. 10/38 and H.O. 10/31 which, for example, contains the free pardon of William Rice dated 6 June 1837.] [See Note 2 for a summary of the fates of the Yorkshire Rebels.]
Explanations for an Early Nineteenth-Century Uprising
Perhaps we should begin with a rejection of three possible explanations for the Yorkshire Rebellion of 1820. First, there is no evidence in the authorities' official documents that the government or their agents precipitated the rising. Although they used informants, agents provocateurs were not in evidence in 1820. Second, a large number of the rebels were handloom weavers in linen, wool, or cotton textiles, depending upon which disaffected region is examined, yet these rebellions were not anti-technological protests perpetrated by economic reactionaries in a struggle against the inevitable end of a declining trade. The chronology does not allow for such a rebellion in 1820: power looms did not become a significant element in cotton textile manufacturing until 1826 (1837 in linen textiles). Moreover, resistance to the introduction of labour-saving machinery was more likely to take the form of machine-wrecking or other violent industrial protests. Third, the explanation that the participants were simple men misled by others, or ill-intentioned criminal types, also does not fit, although such hostile accounts were characteristic of respectable liberal opinion in the press. For example, the following was the assessment made by James Montgomery, editor of the Sheffield Iris [25 April 1820]:
"Never was riot or rebellion less formidable, for never was it either more desperate, incoherent, and unmanageable, than in the neighbourhood of Barnsley and Huddersfield, where it is evident that the deluded wretches, at once the victims of distress, of evil passions, and of ignorant or treacherous leaders, knew as little what they were about...as men walking in their sleep...."
Knowing that this was the prevailing belief amongst the authorities, apprehended rebels would often tailor their confessions accordingly. Therefore we must be careful not to attach too much importance to the wording of the Yorkshire Rebels' petition signed at Hobart, 13 February 1826, in which they admit that "...we were the Dupes of artful and designing men who acted upon our distresses—and our ignorance caused us to be involved in our present unhappy situation" [Tasmanian State Archives].
On the contrary, far from being simple, the Yorkshire Rebels were well-educated in the politics of the post-war era. They read radical and other newspapers, they were more literate than the general population, they held organized public meetings, they set up and ran a Union Society, they corresponded with other committees of radicals, they were cautious and verified the call for a rising, and they developed sophisticated political arguments for their act of rebellion. As we have seen, they appreciated the power of the petition. They were also respected men within their own communities, often married and employed. Several of the Barnsley leaders were related to each other, and many rebels exhibited strong kinship affections. In Barnsley the military experience of army veterans was called upon as appropriate, and some in the Union Society [Thomas Farrimond, Ashurst and Rogers] belonged to a radical religious sect, the Kilhamite New Connexion Methodists [P.R.O., R.(egistrar) G.(eneral) 4/3645]. Thomas Farrimond had some oratorical skills; his earlier political speeches are laced with self-taught scriptural references to "the ark of Noah," "the garden of Eden," "Jerusalem," "Proverbs," and "the children of Israel." [Wakefield and Halifax Journal, 16 July 1819.] He also claimed that he had been a radical for twenty years.
The charge of betrayal by leaders was a common one after failed early nineteenth-century rebellions. We must be very sceptical of such claims. For those apprehended by the authorities, it was a convenient excuse: it allowed captured rebels to feign relative innocence by laying the blame on evilly-disposed leaders who could not now be located. Such an excuse obscures a basic operational problem encountered when organizing a geographically-widespread rebellion. Most of the uprisings were confused affairs, with some radical groups promising to act but backing out at the last minute, others coming out in rebellion but dispersing after support appeared lacking, and still others acting after the 'official' plans for a rising had been cancelled. The latter phenomenon may better explain what actually happened at Holmfirth and Pentrich in 1817, and at Strathaven in Scotland and Grange Moor in 1820.
We are on firmer ground in examining the general radical political ideas of the post-war era. Working men demanded the extension of the franchise. They believed that a corrupt Parliament was responsible for the long war with France, and that the consequent heavy taxation pandered to the elite agricultural interest by keeping the price of grain and provisions high for working families, and siphoning off the wealth of the urban artisans. Because radicals had tried petitioning for redress of grievances in 1816-17 and 1819, only to meet with intransigence from the Tory government, ultra-radical, even violent strategies became more acceptable.
On economic causation the picture is mixed, as some trades were in distress in early 1820 while others, such as the Barnsley linen-weaving industry, showed better levels of employment. An explanation based on simple or crude responses to economic hardship is therefore not satisfactory. Something else is probably at work, to do with the nature of the "putting-out" system of industrial enterprise. In Barnsley the weavers were poor men who worked hard, attended radical political demonstrations, and formed the membership of the town's Union Society. Although they worked in cottages rather than factories, they did not own their houses. These were the property of the manufacturers or merchant-capitalists who controlled the linen trade from their central warehouses. Individual manufacturers built rows of rental houses for their weavers and named them after themselves--"Taylor's Row," for example. Sometimes they also owned, in whole or in part, the looms that the weavers worked. The manufacturers were rich men, and many of them signed the Barnsley Loyalist Petition in December 1819. [P.R.O., H.O. 42/201.]
Thus the poor weaver saw himself as a hardworking, disenfranchised man "employed" via the putting-out system by a manufacturer who was wealthy, enfranchised in the County of Yorkshire, and also his landlord. If the manufacturer owned the weaver's loom as well, the weaver had to pay him two rents. In the compact urban context of small early nineteenth-century towns like Barnsley, Huddersfield, Mirfield, Paisley, Strathaven, etc., this situation created inter-class tensions and alienated workers, especially those in the "putting-out" textile trades. It was this combination of political and economic circumstances that caused the Yorkshire Rebellion of 1820. --Fred Donnelly
Dr. Fred Donnelly comes from Canada and teaches history at the University of New Brunswick, Canada.--The Editor
Note 1. The following is a list of the members of the Barnsley Secret Acting Committee: Thomas Farrimond, secretary, 55/56, weaver, from Wigan, Lancs. Thomas Ashurst, treasurer, weaver, from Wigan, Lancs. James Lowe, 30, weaver, from Wigan, Lancs. Craven Cookson, 50, weaver, from Skipton, Yorks. Stephen Kitchenman, weaver. Richard Addy, 29, master weaver, Barnby Dun, Yorks. Benjamin Rogers, 30, weaver. William Thompson, weaver.
Note 2. The following is a summary of the fates of the Yorkshire rebels of 1820: John Johnson: No Prosecution Abraham Jackson: No Prosecution James Flowers: Pardoned from Hulks 18 Jan. 1821 John Vallance " William Holland: Pardoned 11 Oct. 1822 after 2 years in Hulks John Farrimond " Abraham Ingham " George Brien " John Hobson " George Burkinshaw " Nathaniel Buckley " Thomas Blackburn " William Comstive: Transported to Van Dieman's Land Richard Addy " Charles Stansfield " Benjamin Hanson " Joseph Chapiel " Michael Downing " John Lindley " Joseph Firth " John Peacock " Benjamin Rogers " William Rice " John Burkinshaw " Thomas Morgan: Admitted Evidence Thomas Farrimond: Admitted Evidence in exchange for immunity from death penalty/Pardoned from Hulks 1828. John Blackwell: 30 months imprisonment James Lowe, Craven Cookson: Never captured Arthur Collins, Stephen Kitchenman " Four Hutchinson brothers [Dodworth]: Released/No charges Many others were released or charged with very minor offences. [P.R.O. Criminal Registers, H.O. 27/20, Hulk Reports, H.O. 9/9 and Wakefield and Halifax Journal, 11 Oct. 1822. Disposition of Yorkshire Rebels in Van Diemen's Land, 1823: Addy, R: Oyster Bay Burkinshaw, J: Coal River Chapiel, J: Hobart Comstive, W: George Town Firth, J: Hobart Hanson, B. Upper Clyde Lindley, J. Hobart Peacock, J. Hobart Rice, W. Hobart Rogers, B. Coal River Stansfield, C. MacQuarrie District.
[P.R.O., H.O. 10/45, List of Convicts in V.D.L., 1823.]