Recollections of a Journeyman Stockinger (1817)

By Joseph Moss

Transcribed by Kevin Knifton
12th September 2022

This memoir has been faithfully transcribed from the original handwritten text, although punctuation has been added, spellings corrected, and sentences arranged in paragraphs. A transcript of the text as originally written by Joseph is available on request.

(Recollections of a Journeyman Stockinger)

The following prisoners were put to the Bar at Leicester on Tuesday April 1st before Sir Richard Richards: Thomas Savage, William Withers, John Amos, John Crowder, Joshua Mitchell, William Towle, James Watson, John Clarke (alias Little Sam), and Samuel Caldwell (alias Big Sam).

The indictment was read over to the Jury that John Blackborne shot John Asher with the intent to kill and murder him, and that the prisoners were aiding, abetting and assisting thereby.

The Court was thrown into some confusion by S. Caldwell, one of the prisoners at the bar, falling down in strong convulsions. He was carried out and bled, and in about an hour during which time the proceedings were stayed, was again placed at the bar in a chair. In about two minutes he appeared as if he were asleep with his head inclined against Crowder, who sat next to him. Some cordials were administered to him, and the opinion of William Palmer and Doctor Frere taken as to whether he was able to take his trial and make his defence. The later gentleman was sworn and stated that the prisoner Caldwell had been in a state of convulsion, arising from agitation of mind which had extended to a state of insensibility. It was possible that he might not be able to take his trial any better at a future day, for the same circumstances might produce the same effects. Caldwell was ordered to be taken away from the bar and the trial of the other prisoners to be proceeded in.

The evidence was all gone through and the Learned Judge summed up with great minuteness, and in a few minutes the Jury returned a verdict of guilty against all the prisoners. The Judge then passed sentence of death on them all, but before he left the Town he reprieved Clarke and Watson.

John Slater was put to the bar and indicted for frame breaking, to which he pleaded guilty, and was transported for life. Caldwell also was transported for life at the next assizes.

The execution took place on Tuesday April 17th 1817. They ascended the platform about 12 o’clock, chained together by the wrists. Savage and Amos spoke a few words to the crowd, exerting them to take warning by their untimely fate and not put their trust in man. There was also another culprit with them, whose name was Thomas Beavington, for stock forcing. He spoke and said he was as innocent as God was true and, looking up, he said God will witness it. They then sung a hymn and ended by prayer, in which they all heartily joined, and was quickly after all launched into eternity.

Mitchell, Amos, Withers, and Crowther were interred in St Marys Churchyard; Savage in the new burial Ground, Barket Gate; Towle was taken to Chilwell and buried in Attenborough Churchyard. Savage, aged 39, left a wife and six children; Amos, aged 30, wife and five children; Mitchell, 29, unmarried; Withers, 33, a wife and one child; Crowther, 40, a wife and five children; Towle, 22, a wife and one child.

Towle came from Chilwell, Caldwell from Sutton in Ashfield, Clarke from Sheepshead, Slater from Morley Moor, and the rest from in and about Nottingham.

The people of Lambley were now in hopes that all Ludding was at an end and that there would be no more arrests, and that all would be still and quiet. Until one Monday Morning, about the beginning of June, there came two of the Nottingham Police into the town and beset the house of John Brimigum between three and four o’clock. They wanted William Hudson for breaking a lace frame on the 2nd of October 1816 in Woolpark Lane, Nottingham. Hudson and Brimigum married two sisters. Hudson lodged and worked at Brimigums so the Police called Brimigum up. They wanted Hudson, so as soon as Brimigum went downstairs, Hudson got into bed to his sister in law. The Police went upstairs but Hudson’s wife was in bed by herself. They wanted to know where he was. He was got up and gone somewhere, but she did not know where, she said. So after looking round under the beds and all about they went downstairs again and looked the house and shop over. They could not find what they wanted. They then got to the front door and kept questioning Brimigum. Hudson dressed himself quickly and went out at the back door with a candle and candlestick in his hand, and says I must get a light somewhere. He sidled up the garden and got over the fence, turned the corner and was out of sight. He then got into the fields, and his friends soon found him. They took him what he wanted and he started off journey working. The first place was at Knackey row, Heanor, Derbyshire. There he stopped three weeks at Mr. John Cullys. He next went to Mr. B. Rhodes, Matlock Bank, and there he stayed until the proclamation was issued out. He then went to the Magistrate, received his certificate, and went back to his wife at Lambley.

Hudson was brother to Aaron Daykin. They came from Long Watton. Now after these tragic events we hope to hear no more of Ned Lud’s exploits but give them up as a very unfortunate speculation. The people in general was sorry that a lot of young men should come to such an untimely end. The Law had taken its course but it was not to be expected that those who had been selected to suffer the late outrages should sympathise with the Burglars who did it. It had been a great drawback and hindrance to all concerned in it and severely felt. Not less than forty pounds loss to our shop. The other shops would be a deal more. It was a very bad job for the hands having to toil very hard to get the frames to work again.

My fellow prentice and myself was getting very bad of for clothes. Until lately I used to attend a place of worship of a Sunday but I was got so bad of for clothes that I was ashamed to go out of doors. I was getting very miserable. There was not a book or a newspaper to be seen until in time I got a piece of an old Bible from somewhere and then I was more content. This went on three or four weeks till one Sunday about midsummer I was reading towards three o’clock in afternoon in the shop by myself I heard somebody coming singing down the Town.

They called them Ranters. They came from Bulwell They took up their stand and commenced their devotions and invited the crowd, as was quickly gathering round, to join them. After they had sung a hymn, one of them, a very respectable young man, offered up a prayer with such fervency that touched the hearts of most that heard him. He then began to preach from Rev 19 Chp 10 Ver Worship God. His manner was engaging and arguments persuasive and language so simple that he was irresistible. They went on about an hour and by they had done a very great crowd had gathered round listening. The meeting then broke up for that time, to be resumed again hereafter.

These Ranters soon came to Lambley again and continued to do so until the society got firmly established in the Town, for they had a many adherents already. I took great delight in going to hear them myself, although I was almost naked. I had great pleasure in going to hear the Ranters. I seldom missed when there was a meeting, for I became deeply convicted that I was a great sinner and I felt that I wanted a release. Although I was badly off for clothes, I still continued my attendance at the meeting, and was often very miserable when one night I shall never forget. I was thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ and was very unhappy, but a spell came over me and all at once I felt peace and comfort to my soul and I wished every person in the World the same, my companions and relations and friends in particular. I felt real love to God & my Redeemer and to all mankind. And I am very sorry to add that I had step by step the misfortune to let it slip from me and have never been so happy since. I there had Peace, delightful, for the Peace of God possesses all understanding. I should be very thankful to have the same like feeling over again.

Now respecting business, we had been doing very poorly all summer and the winter before on account of the frames being broke. Still, I managed to get as much money over as bought me a new smock frock and I was very thankful for that. I could go to the meeting then comfortable. Before I had it I went in my shirt sleeves.

About this time the stockingers, or the Trade as they called it, was getting up a strike for wages. It was about the middle of August 1817. A public meeting was called and it was quickly agreed that a turnout of all the hands in the three Counties should take place forthwith. Strict orders was given to the delegates at the meeting to see that the order was punctually carried out in their respective localities.

The morning after, all was still and sorrowful. Even the Idler was dissatisfied because he had nothing to do. Our Master went after the Pig trade and left orders for us prentices to go a gleaning as the Farmers was beginning to cut the corn, but they would not let us go into the field till the corn was carried out of it.

We idled our time away as all day, and when the night came our Mrs told us if there was no work there was no supper, so we went to bed without supper. That night next I made up my mind to have a tramp and go to Boston amongst my kinsfolk, although I was very badly prepared for it. I was barefoot and had no hat or cap to my head. The Master had lent me an old pair of his boots to go a gleaning in. They was a deal too big for me, but I thought I would make shift with them. I also begged an old hat from one of my companions and about two o’clock I started to go through Southwell and Kelham to Newark.

I called on my old friend Wm Taylor and stopped all night, and next morning Wm Taylor asked me how I was prepared for my Journey. I had one halfpenny in money and that was my all. He then gave me a piece of bread & cheese, and not a little bit, and said he thought that would help me on the road better than anything else, and for which I was very thankful.

I started out of Newark betwixt eight and nine o’clock. I took the Lincoln Road to Leadenham about eight miles, and then turned off for Sleaford, past Byard’s Leap. I went through Sleaford.

About two miles towards Boston, near to a pump, I sat down and got a very good refreshment. I was in good spirits and had sixteen miles to walk. It was about three o’clock. I went a nice gentle pace and was just going into Boston as the church bells was ringing eight o’clock.

When I got into Boston I went to my Grandfathers and knocked at the door. My Aunt Jane came and opened it. She stood a moment and shouts ‘Father who do you think this is’, but he was engaged reading the newspaper and took but little notice. She says ‘it is Joe Moss’. ‘Come in’ she say to me ‘and sit down’. My grandfather then began to eye me over. He soon saw I was not very well dressed and looked at my feet. He says ‘what are you doing with those s__ great highlows on.’ I felt ashamed but I was obliged to put up with it.

Jane was gone I did not know where, but soon returned with my Uncle Jim and Fanny and Bess, who all greeted me kindly. John was gone to bed and Grandmother and Maria was gone on a visit to Spilsby but came by coach next morning. My Uncle talked to me a while and bid me goodnight and said he would see me in the morning. After I had a refreshment I went to bed to my Uncle and we lay talking a good while as we had done a many times before.

At length morning came and they called me to breakfast, but I was a long while before I could muster resolution to face downstairs. There was my Grandmother and Maria, both received me very kindly.

Shortly after breakfast my Uncle and two Aunts came into the house, each with a bundle. My Uncle says ‘Now Joe let us see if any of these will fit you’. At the same time he unbundled a suit of clothes and gave me. He also sent for his Tailor who lived close by to fit them on, which was done in the course of the day, and by the next afternoon I was newly rigged out from top to bottom. My Uncle also gave me pocket money, so that I was quite a new man and I was very thankful for it.

It was then agreed that I should go and help my Grandfather in the Garden, which was a very large one, and he was wanting somebody to set some cabbage plants to draw for spring sale, so I went and gave satisfaction.

The Garden belonged to T Fydel Esquire, M.P. for Boston, and at one corner stood the remains of an old Abbey formerly belonging to the Monks of olden time. They called it St Johns Tower. There was also a burying ground close by as was called St Johns Churchyard and it was frequently used at that time in 1817. In this old Tower there was only two appointments, one bottom and one upper room. In the bottom room there was no window. In the upper room there was one window at the east end. The building was about thirty feet long by twenty wide within, built of brick, and very strong. Should think the walls were four feet thick.

The bottom floor was covered by a strong arch in excellent preservation. The steps into the top room were also of brick and about fourteen in number - a little worn but in good preservation. There was only one door, not a very large one in the bottom room. It made a very good garden house. The top room, with very high walls, was open to the elements. In the top room my Grandsire kept rabbits and pigeons.

In speaking of the window, it was on the top of the stairs and not very high from the floor, so it was often very cold when he went to feed his things, so he said he should like to have it built up. I then told him I could do that job for him if he had got materials. He soon found bricks and mortar and I began. The window was five feet high by four feet wide I was nearly a day over it, but it gave him great satisfaction when I had completed it. We had agreed very well so far.

He then set me getting plums and told me to get into a tree and shake them off. I did so but I broke a bough off quite accidental, but he said I did it on purpose. He raved like somebody crazy. It was not a thick bough and I was very sorry, but he went on till he almost got my temper up. He would not hear me speak, so I told them I would leave the day but one after.

This was on the Tuesday and I left on Thursday. I would not stop any longer My uncle said if I would stop another week he would pay for my board and I would not go to the Garden anymore. He said he knew he was very tete as they none of them could suit him themselves. But I set my time and kept it. My Uncle gave me some money to defray my expenses and I started for Lambley on the Thursday morning, about the 28th of August.

I went by Gonerby and Bingham and got to Lambley on Saturday night, and very glad they all was to see me. They had just got to work after the turnout. They was out three weeks and went in at the old price.

On the Monday Morning we all settled to work except Master. He was looking after us and wanted us to go on faster or double speed to make up for lost time. Goose Fair was near at hand and the pig trade was very good. He was buying all he could for the Fair and ‘you Joe’, he says to me. ‘will have to go with me.’ I says ‘very well’, but I did not like it so hindering to us. We had our stint to earn for us. He hindered much on little, so more we helped him the less time we had for ourselves, which put us about very much sometimes.

Goose Fair came. It was on Thursday that year. He himself went to the fair but the pigs he wanted to take he said he was not ready. He would take them on the Saturday but one following.

The time came and I went with him and we penned them in the Market Place. He took the work to the warehouse and I stopped with the pigs. He was away about twenty minutes and I sold three of the pigs while he was away. He gave me my old Allowance after we had sold all, which we was not long in doing.

I then made the best of my road back and was at home in good time. I left Master in Nottingham. He would be back most likely about midnight. My fellow prentice and I went to bed in good time that night. We began talking of our grievances. He began saying he should not stop there much longer for we shall never be no better off than we are so we may content ourselves with being slaves. I says I am not content so I think I shall bolt on Monday morning. Pete says no altering, stick to it, you know I shall not betray you.