Luddite attack on William Cartwright's mill, Rawfolds, Cleckheaton, 1812





Luddite attack on Rawfolds Mill

Newspaper report of the attack on William Cartwright's Rawfolds Mill


April 1812

From a Leeds newspaper



We have made it our business to collect a faithful narrative of the sanguinary contest that Last Saturday night took place at Rawfolds, between the men calling themselves the army of General Ludd and the persons employed in guarding the property of Mr. Cartwright, in order to place upon record the particulars of an event that will survive in local remembrance the present generation; and we can undertake to say, that the following narrative may be implicitly relied upon: -

It is known to our readers that the use of machinery for raising and dressing woollen cloth has of late become very unpopular amongst the shearmen in this part of the country; and that all mills where machinery of this kind is in use have been marked out for destruction and that in several of them the obnoxious machines have been destroyed.

At Rawfolds, near Cleckheaton, a place at an equal distance from Huddersfield and Leeds, from each of which it is about eight miles, a gentleman of the name of WILLIAM CARTWRIGHT has a mill used for the purpose of dressing cloth in the way objected to by the men; on this mill is was understood that an attempt was to be made; and on Thursday night, the 9th inst.

The sentinel at the mill observed several signals that wee supposed to indicate an approaching attack, through both that and the following night passed over without molestation. On Saturday night, about half-past twelve, there was a firing heard from the north which was answered from the south, and again from west to east; this firing was accompanied by other signals and in a few minutes a number of armed men surprised the two sentinels without the mill, and having secured both their arms and their persons, made a violent attack upon the mill, broke in the window frames, and discharged a volley into the premises at the same instant.

Roused by this assault, the guard within the mill flew to arms, and discharged a heavy fire of musketry upon the assailants; this fire was returned and repeated without intermission during the conflict, the men attempting all the time to force an entrance, but without success, a number of voices crying continually "Bank up!" "Murder them!" "Pull down the door!" and mixing these exclamations with the most horrid imprecations.

Again and again the attempts to make a breach were repeated, with a firmness and consistency worthy a better cause; but every renewed attempt ended in disappointment, while the flashes from the fire-arms of the insurgents served to direct the guards to their aim. For about 90 minutes this engagement continued with undiminished fury, till at length, finding all their efforts to enter the mill fruitless, the firing and hammering without began to abate and soon after the whole body of the assailants retreated with precipitation, leaving on the field such of their wounded as could not join in the retreat.

An attempt was made to rally their scattered forces, to carry off their wounded, but it was in vain; the fire from within had been kept up with so much steadiness and perseverance as to produce universal dismay; during this spirited engagement 140 balls were discharged from the mill; what number of shots were fired by the mob, it is impossible to say, but the doors and windows were perforated with a vast number of pistol and musket balls, though none of them took effect, not one of the guards having sustained the least personal injury.

During the principal part of the engagement the alarm-bell was rung, and a quantity of large stones were hurled from the roof, which had an instantaneous effect, otherwise a quantity of oil of vitriol, in reserve, would have been poured down.

On the cessation of the firing, the ears of the guards were assailed with the cries of two unfortunate men, weltering in their blood, and writhing under the torture of mortal wounds: - "For God’s sake," cried one of them, "shoot me – put me out of my misery!" – "Oh!" cried the other, "help! Help" – I know all, and I will tell all!" On the arrival of a detachment of the Queen’s Bays, which took place about an hour after the attack commenced, these ill-fated men were removed on litters from the field to the Star Inn at Robert-Town, and medical aid was called in with all possible dispatch.

One of them proved to be a cropper of the name of Samuel Hartley, formerly in the employment of Mr. Cartwright; a fine-looking young unmarried man about 24 years of age, and a private in the Halifax Local Militia, in which regiment Mr. Cartwright is a captain. The other was John Booth, a youth about 19 years of age, son of a clergyman in Craven, and an apprentice to Mr. Wright, of Huddersfield, tinner. Hartley had received a shot in his left breast, apparently whole making a blow at some part of the mill, which, passing through his body had lodged beneath the skin at the left shoulder, from whence it was extracted with a portion of bone. In this situation he languished will about three o’clock on Monday morning, when he expired.

Booth’s wound was in his leg, which was shattered almost to atoms; it was found necessary that he should submit to have the leg amputated; but, owing to the extreme loss of blood before the surgeons arrived, spasms came on during the operation, and he died about 6 o’clock on Sunday morning; having previously observed, that if he should recover, "he would never be brought into such a scrape again." It was observed that neither of these victims of lawless violence manifested any sense of religion. On Monday a Coroner’s Inquest assembled upon the dead bodies, and returned a Verdict of – Justifiable Homicide. None of the wounded men, except Hartley and Booth have yet been discovered.

On the morning after the engagement, a number of hammers, axes, false keys and picklocks, with two masks, a powder-horn, and a bullet-mould were found upon the field, which was stained in several places with blood; and it is evident that many others besides those left on the field were wounded, as traces of gore were distinctly marked in every direction, and in one place to the distance of four miles. The assailants have much reason to rejoice that they did not succeed in entering the building, for we speak from our own observation when we say, that had they effected an entrance, the death of vast numbers of them from a raking fire which they could neither have returned nor [controuled?], which would have been inevitable.

It’s unnecessary to speak of the heroism of the little band that guarded these premises, there is not perhaps upon record a more distinguished instance of manly courage and cool intrepidity; but it may be proper to add, that though the assailants exceeded a hundred, the numbers opposed to them was very inconsiderable, and of that number one of the military conducted himself in so unsoldierlike a manner, that he was on the following morning placed in confinement, and now awaits the issue of a Regimental Court Martial.

A number of reflections arise, out of this narrative, but we shall content ourselves with one remark: we have of late frequently deemed it our duty, from the regard we feel to the labouring classes, and to the laws of our country, to warn those that are engaged in those violent proceedings of the fatal consequences that await them in the unequal contest which they are now waging with the civil and military power of the country – let them reflect deeply on the fate Hartley and Booth – let them recollect that they themselves may be the next victims, and let them stop in this desperate career before it is too late.



HUDDERSFIELD - This place has been all hurry and confusion during the present week, but no depredations have been committed. – A special sessions was holden here on Monday last, and several persons underwent examinations before the Magistrates respecting the late desperate attack at Mr. Cartwright’s mill, but nothing material could be discovered. - The Magistrates came to the resolution of enforcing the Watch and Ward Act in this town. - Booth, who died of his wounds, was interred here at 6 o’clock on Thursday morning, great numbers of people poured in from all quarters during the morning in expectation of seeing the funeral which was over before the majority of them arrived, all is now quiet. - Hartley was interred at Halifax the preceding day with considerable parade; a number of the persons who followed him to his grave were dressed in mourning, and, wore round their arm a bandage of ……. (end of copy)