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Stealing Of Arms Near Wakefield

13th June 1812

The system of violence, intimidation and out- rage, familiarly and too well known by the cant name of Luddism, which has so long afflicted and disgraced this district, has of late assumed a new aspect, and diverged into a still more menacing and alarming species of depredation— that of obtaining fire-aims in the night, from the houses of individuals, by force and intimidation. Of the prevalence of this alarming species of midnight robbery, we have several instances to lay before our readers. On Wednesday fe'nnight a number of persons, about seven or eight, undisguised, went about midnight to the house of Mr. Thomas Milnes, Storrs-Hill, in Horbury, and rousing him from his sleep, demanded entrance. Mr. Milnes not appearing inclined to obey this mandate, they threatened if he did not instantly open the door, they would immediately force it Mr. Milnes finding he could make no availing resistance to their demand, gave them admittance.— They then insisted upon having his fire-arms ; but on being satisfied that he had none, they demanded money and refreshment ; he gave them some silver, and bread, cheese and beer. They then requested that he would allow them to take some to some poor fellows who they said were watching at a distance; with this requesation he thought it also prudent to comply, and they then civilly took their leave of him. On Sunday night these depredators made a further attack on several houses at Netherton, (a place in the immediate vicinity of Horbury,) where they succeeded in obtaining seven or eight stand of arms; and upon this occasion they behaved with peculiar atrocity, by wantonly firing several musket balls into one of the houses. The success of these nocturnal depredators on this occasion is the more remarkable, as on the day before, (Saturday) the Chief Constable of the District, and the Constable of Horbury, had received directions to receive the fire-arms of such of the inhabitants as were disposed to give them up, and which they carried into effect the same day, most of the inhabitants readily giving up their arms to the custody of the Civil Magistrates, but some few refused. The Constables were much hooted and abused by the populace while they were executing this duty, and one of the mob had the effrontery to take from his pocket a handful of musket bails which he threw into the air, ex- claiming "Here are hailstones for you." It is said there is a person in Horbury employed in crafting these leaden messengers of death. Every article of lead, such as pumps and water-spouts, &c. which can be readily conveyed away, are constantly disappearing. The glaring violation of the laws of society and of private property, evinced in these nocturnal visits, though an evil of great magnitude, is, as it were, lost in the contemplation of the more atrocious purposes for which these instruments of death are collected, and which the imagination almost sickens at the thought of. It is probable that the offenders may deceive them- selves with the notion, that as they do not actually break into the houses, their offence is not a capital one; but they ought to know, that to obtain property of any kind by threats of violence, is an offence equally penal, and will subject them to the punishment of death.

On Thursday fe'nnight, the shed, adjoining the barn of Mr. Robert Waltshaw, of Horbury, was maliciously set on fire, but was fortunately discovered in time to prevent its communicating to the barn.

On Thursday night last the same system of depredation was pursued at Osset, about a mile from Horbury, at half-past twelve, a party of men, consisting of about twelve persons, surrounded the house of Mr. Butterfield, and demanded his firearms, threatening him with instant death if he hesitated; at two other houses they fired two musket balls through the door. This lawless banditti then went down the common, where they entered every house likely to contain arms, and insisted upon their being delivered up, threatening to shoot the owners if the least delay was manifested. These depredators were armed with muskets and pistols. They obtained on this occasion about six stand of arms.

Our Huddersfield Correspondent, under date the 4th inst. says— The Luddites continue active in stealing fire-arms in this neighbourhood, not a night passes but we hear of them prowling in great numbers, throwing the peaceable inhabitants into the uttermost consternation, demanding their firearms, and threatening them with instant death on refusal. — Leeds Mercury, June 6.

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