state prisoner letters

Home Office correspondence, The National Archives, Kew

Between 1794 and 1820, a multitude of radical leaders and printers were arrested and imprisoned for ‘seditious’ activities, combination, conspiracy, and other state offences as they campaigned for democratic and workers’ rights.

HO 42 177
TNA, HO 42/177

Many of these prisoners were working class, and were Luddites, Blanketeers, Peterloo radicals. In prison, they wrote to their families, who wrote back, and to the Home Office, sympathetic MPs, and to the radical movement outside. Many of these letters were copied or confiscated by gaolers and sent to the Home Office. The men were separated and placed in prisons across the country, often in solitary confinement or poor conditions.

Those arrested under the Suspension of Habeas Corpus acts of 1799 and 1817 were imprisoned for up to 10 months without trial, and released without trial or acknowledgement of their innocence. The governments then passed Indemnity Bills, indemnifying the gaolers against being sued by the radicals for unlawful imprisonment. The radicals saw both the suspension of habeas corpus and the indemnity bills as against the fundamental principles of Magna Carta, and evidence of government corruption, spurring them on to campaign for parliamentary reform and penal reform even further.

The letters of the wives of the radical prisoners are particularly significant. In women like Elizabeth Knight of Manchester (wife of John, radical veteran arrested in 1817 and again in 1819 after Peterloo), and Sarah Wolstenholme of Sheffield, wife of William and mother to two radical sons) – we have the voices of working women, often not heard in any other sources, but often acutely political and involved in keeping the radical movement alive in their husbands’ absence.

Here are almost full transcripts of the collection in the Home Office papers in the National Archives, ref. HO 42. These have not been transcribed before and have not been used in any depth by historians. I have analysed the letters in my academic articles:


HO 42
HO 42/172, list of prisoners imprisoned on charges of high treason, 1817
HO 42 169
HO 42/169, from Elizabeth Knight of Manchester, 1817














Please use the full catalogue references if citing, and credit this webpage. HO is the Home Office series.

You can access the full National Archives catalogue, Discovery, at – where you can also download the (very large) PDF copies of the microfilm for free




HO 42/129

HO 42/129/306 –

The following verbatim copies and extracts of letters were taken from the correspondence of prisoners committed to Lancaster Castle for administering unlawful oaths between the 29th day of June and the 24th August 1812, being from the close of the Special Assizes until the assizes held in August following.

To Simon Simons, Crown Side, Lancaster Castle, post paid, Manchester June 29th 1812 [in Binfield, Writings of the Luddites, p. 192 though he assumes they’re Luddites]

Note in margin by sec – Mr N alludes to Mr Nadin constable of Manchester Fleming was a witness against the Prisoners.

Dear Friend,

…You desired me to see my and your Friends, to send you a small sum of money to help you out while you remained in that solitary Confinement. I have done all that lay in my power for the support of you all. There is a subscription raised to carry on the Petitions to the Prince Regent and to the House of Commons and for the relief and support of you and your Families and to make an able Defence for you. There is another Committee formed to carry on the whole Business whether Mr N will or not. I suppose if he can find them and another Fleming you will have Lancaster Castle filled with petitioners and your Friends. There is four Counsel detain for you all. Dear Friend, your Wife and Child is well in good Health and gives their kindest Love for you. Your Wife has received from the Spinners 8s the one week and 10s the other, and by you get this letter there will be 10s for you. There is two pounds sent for you and Washington, Thornaly and Woolling to be divided amongst you four whilst the Committee is properly arranged. Dear Friend you asked me to see Thomas Nevin, which I have done, and he said that he was very sorry for you and he would see some of your Friends, but I have not seen him since. … so adieu John Marshall – Please to direct for me near Mr Shaws and Balers Factory, higher Ardwick. You are desired to remember William Washington’s wife to him.


30 June 1812 – extract of a letter from Charles Smith, a prisoner, to James Smith of Great Ancoats St, Manchester, ‘I have an ardent desire for peace without which the happiness, nay even the comforts of the poor Inhabitants of these Kingdoms is irrecoverable, and I am firmly convinced with Thousands of intelligent men that we have no opportunity of obtaining and perpetuating that Blessing without a full radical complete reform in the House of Commons, such a reform as shall make that House feel with and participate in the Happiness or adversity of the people.’


1 July – Thomas Hannett (one of the 38 delegates) expatiates very largely on the necessity of Parl Reform in his letter directed to Messrs Tomlinson, shoe warehouse, Preston.

Same day – Joseph Tilney, (another delegate), in his letter to J Williams 23 Bk Bridge St Manchester says, ‘When you go to our sick box, please give my respects to them all and I hope they will suspend all Judgement on my case till after Trial. A man who is here – his wife and one child get 3s a week from the Board at Manchester and I hope more will get the same.’


HO 42/129/308 –

3 July 1812 Messrs Higson and Atkinson, solicitors Manchester to John Knight: ‘letters would have been answered sooner if we had anything to communicate that might have been prudently done by letter – hardly think anything relating to your defence can be done so. It is Mr Atkinson’s intention to come over to Lancaster next week.’

HO note – If the Men were innocent why use all this precaution.

In a letter dated Salford 2 July signed F Hopkins he says ‘better not make your Defence public lest your Enemy leave the nature of it and frame his accusation accordingly. Inform Knight that the Petition is still going on, also the Prince’s Message respecting the Riots etc so that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act if not the introduction of Martial Law may be expected. The Policy is good for if the Petitions go on you will in some degree be triumphant. You must however remember that the ruling powers are averse to Petitioning, that in their Eyes it is a crime and you must also know that they have the ready means of crushing the Poor.’


4 July  – William Washington to his wife at Manchester ‘My respects to Mrs Boslem and all our Brothers of 580, could wish to hear from one of them where opportunity serves.’

Thomas Hannett to S Hannett 2 Livesey Place Shaws Brow Liverpool – ‘Our attornies have retained four counsel by Scarlet, Williams one of the other two is a member of the Commons Parliament but whose name shall from motives of Prudence be withheld.’

8 july John Howarth in a letter to his Wife wherein he explains to her what took place at the /309 Prince Regents Arms where he, with the other delegates, was apprehended, says, ‘Mr Knight read the petition, likewise the Resolution of a Former Meeting. The Books were read and many different Country places called over that had sent Persons to the meeting. Subscriptions were then paid by persons attending to defray expences.



HO 42/129/309 –

8 July John Knight in a letter to his wife at Manchester says ‘Has Mr T Walker of Longford called at our Warehouse lately, if so I should wish to know, for his remarks are generally strong and important, if you should see him again, say I should be glad of a letter from his hand, if not too inconvenient.’

[note – Mr Walker is well known at Manchester. He was the intimate friend of Mr Cooper who wrote many tracts against the Government about the years 1792 and 3]

Same day James Lawton in a letter to his wife wherein he speaks of the hardship of his case says, ‘For it is the most diabolical injustice that was ever acted upon human Beings ‘under the canopy of Heaven’. We must look to Almighty God to deliver us from the Hands of Bad Men who pride themselves in destroying the pleasures of men for the grab of destructive Treasure.’ Mentions Nathan Armstrong of Manchester who had promised to call at the Castle.

12 July – Stephen Harrison to John Molyneux No5 Market St Manchester ‘If Johnson comes give him great caution to keep silent what he is come about, but we are in n Fear to all they can bring against us, as we are fortified with Innocence which will pull us through all perjury.’

Same day W Washington wrote to Mr G Murray of Ancoats Hall near Manchester and Mr Peter Coe and Messrs Phillips and Woods Bridge St Manchester craving their assistance.

John Bent of Manchester in his letter to Washington desires to be remembered to Harrison, Knight and Smith. Mary McGinnis in her letter to Edward McGinnis mentions Mr Lyons, Mr Cardwell Edward Murphy, Edward Hinde and Son, Mr Stennet, Mosley, and John McCarrick.

15 July – Edward McGinnis in his letter to his Wife desires to be remembered to Mr Cardwell and tells her to ‘send his letter to Mr Cardwell by her son Edward. Also wishes to know whether Mr Brown went to London. Note John Smith a Convict who has sounded Daniel Gibbons (real name Jevans) and Edd McGinnis, says that from hints given to him he strongly suspects that John Cardwell is Treasurer or sub Treasurer of a committee at Manchester.

John Brown in his letter to his Wife says I received the one pound note from Mr Medcalfe who called at the Castle. Note – this man is brother to Christopher Medcalf who was convicted at the Special assizes and transported 7 years.


John Knight to Mrs Rows 16 July at Mr John Fallows, 29 Thomas’s St, Liverpool, dated Lancaster 14 July 1812

Dear Madam, I am very sorry to say that I had not the pleasure of seeing you at Manchester… congratulate you on the probability of leaving such a Land as this, a Land with violence and wrong, a Land where the Labourers starve and the worthless not to say the wicked almost absorb the produce of that labor…

To a Land where Rent is little, taxes less and tythes not any; and consequently the cultivator of the Earth enjoys nearly the whole produce of his labor.

I congratulate your Husband on resolving such a step as that of removing from a Land groaning under oppression to a Land of Liberty.

Ps give my respects to your dear Husband and tell him I should like to know what the progress you make in the Western world.”


To Rycroft Hepworth, Lancaster Castle, dated Manchester July 15 1812. Mr Hepworth at an annual meeting on Monday evening last a motion was made, that a subscription he entered into you for your use. I was instructed to write to you to know in what way the money should be paid. I saw this Morning your Housekeeper, who is well with the Family. You will say as soon as convenient how we shall instruct the stewards to pay the allowance over. Give my respects to your Brother James and admit my best wishes for seeing both in the Club Room again. I am esteemed Brother you Richard Bashford.

[note – considerable sums of money have been collected from the members of the Friendly Societies at Manchester, Stockport, etc under various pretences]


23 July – John Knight sent a long letter on three sheets of paper containing a full narrative of his apprehension, exam at the New Bailey Salford and his commitment to Lancaster Castle.

24 July – Margt Harrison informed her Husband ‘that Mr Brougham had made a speech in London and it is very much in your favour, It is in the paper’.

Same day – John Howarth to his wife. #We hear that the different Trades are doing all in their Power for our Trial and for our families which gives us a deal of comfort’.

29 July – John Knight to his Wife says ‘Tell Mr Bent, Cotton dealer, Brown St, Manchester, that he may cease to suspect or accuse any one of breaking open the letter written by Wm Washington and favour of Mr Atkinson, as Washington accidentally broke the seal himself and had to make it up again.

312 – Note – it appears that by this letter that Mr Atkinson, who was Washington’s solicitor, secretly conveyed a letter from him to Mr Bent, contrary to the rule in the Prison. Although Mr Atkinson was permitted to have access to his Client he ought not to have taken any letter without the keeper’s knowledge.

In the same letter Knight says, ‘a letter having been received there, wrote I believe by Mr Molineux, Market Street Lane, stated that It was currently reported at Manchester that W Washington had been at London … WW wishes to inform Mr Molineux that he has the pleasure to be safe in Lancr Castle is not conscious of having been in danger of being removed from thence since he had the good fortune to get safe there.’


Simon Simmons to Mr John Marshall at Mr Shaw’s Factory Higher Ardwick near Manchester. ‘There is a Gentleman at Squire Murrays in Union Street which I hope to see at the assizes. I hope you will communicate some intelligence to me by him. Remember me to Abraham Eastwood’.

Stephen Harrison to his Wife, ‘Give my love to Molineux and Family and I will send him a copy of a letter that is sent to Burdett, on our Business, in the course of the next week.’


3 Aug – John Knight to his wife: ‘I am inclined to think the getting her into that place would be procuring her a safe asylum during a few of the years which this Country appears to me to be consigned to general and extreme suffering – for I am confident the views and principles which have operated upon and actuated generally those who call themselves the higher orders of society are calculated to depress the lower orders (those who procure their maintenance by their labor) to the lowest ebb in which they can possibly exist, because I am satisfied that thousands and tens of thousands have already been reduced to privations which cannot be perpetually endured yet the great condemn the little for even complaining’.

HO 42/129/313 –

18th Aug – John Knight to his wife wherein he mentions his particular friend Mr Hopkins ‘Soon after our arrival here we had the audacity to petition to be indulged with a newspaper at our own expence – on which occasion our Governor told us the Bible would suit us better and be more useful to use and with which our Day room was furnished. Accordingly I have sometimes spent an Hour in looking therein, and I there often find the Rich accused of oppressing the Poor… nor have I been able to find one Instance where the poor are accused of oppressing the Rich – but now things seem to be changed, the poor are considered as being a burden to the rich.

18 August – William Washington to Will Renshaw, tailor, Boond Street, Back Salford, Manchester – ‘Respects to friends particularly Bent, Sutcliffe, William Knowles, Dowell, Wood, Butterworth, Mrs Boslem and all others’.

HO 42/129/314 –

24 Aug Knight to his wife – I have this day had the honor and satisfaction of receiving two letters wrote by Major Cartwright and addressed to myself on the subject of our Imprisonment in one of which he is pleased to say ‘a Lancashire Gentleman has informed him my Character is proof against malicious aspersions and that I am suffering in a cause which of all others is most deserving of the Exertions of all good men.’ And adds of age and other things he cannot control had not prevented him he would have visited me here to have ascertained the particulars of our case.

dated 8th and the other 21st.

HO 42/129/314 –

28 Aug – Stephen Harrison to his wife: ‘Most likely you have heard of Major Cartwright’s coming to Manchester to wait our return, he has written two letters to us on ‘the subject of our imprisonment’, one is accompanied by £20 towards paying our expenses and £9 from Mr Roscoe of Liverpool and £5 from Mr Walker of Manchester, when we are acquitted a deputation will be sent to wait upon Major Cartwright. Mr Knight will be one of the delegation. Deputation.


From Kevin Binfield, Writings of the Luddites (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), pp. 192-4.

/315 Lancaster Castle, 2 Nov 1812

In consequence of conversation with Mr M Donald of Hinde Street Manchester Square, when I was last in London, in which he suggested the propriety of communicating to HM’s government any circumstances that had come to my knowledge during the confinement in Lancaster Castle of the persons committed for administering unlawful oaths, I take the liberty of transmitting you a copy of the Extracts from the correspondence of some of the prisoners, which clearly shows that they are not the immaculate and oppressed persons they and their supporters desired the County to believe. Soon after the commitment of the 37 delegates I discovered that there was a connexion or union between them, established for higher purposes, and more cordially and closely cemented than that amongst the Rioters, and other persons, who had been tried at the special assizes. This induced me to keep a strict Eye on their correspondence with a view to ascertain the persons who were concerned with them. The prominent characters among the 37 appeared to be W. Washington, J Knight, Thos Harsmett, Chas Smith, Edward McGinnis, and Daniel Gibbons alias Jevans. The Extracts of their correspondence develop a connexion with Persons raised above Poverty though perhaps not placed in very affluent circumstances, but possessing fair Education and with the original letter written by James Booth completely unfold the Characters and Designs of these men. No Doubt remains on my mind that Sir F Burdett and Major Cartwright were well aware what was going on in the neighbourhood of Manchester etc and the various Information which my official situation has enabled me to collect has impressed on my mind…

/318 – from Conviction, that the late Rebellious State of this County and of Yorkshire etc may chiefly be attributed to the written addresses and inflammatory Harangues of those Persons and to whom every Person of the lower Class, disaffected to the civil and religious Establishments of the Country look up to as their Patrons and Protectors. It is scarcely necessary to inform you that this and every  other information on this subject has been communicated to the Magistrates at Manchester or to their clerk, Mr Nath Milne.

John Higgin to John Beckett.


Enclosed /316 Manchester 2 August 1812 – Dear Brother in law

Thomas Hannett

Sir – I am exceeding glad to hear you are better in health [by your last to your wife] I must also acknowledge my concern in feeling and sympathizing with you and your fellow sufferors upon the present occasion, with regard to the alledged charges against you, I must briefly say I cannot entertain the least shadow of a doubt in my mind respecting their abominable design of perjury, with every species of wickedness attached to it…

I am exceedingly sorry that it has fell to your lot, to be out of your house at that time of right.

We are now come to as near an area of troubles without number. Men in Authority from the Highest down to the meanest order are by their actions. Determined still to oppress and grind the faces of the poor.



With regard to the Political World.

Our Governors have made a new law called by them Peace Preserving Bill, that is to say you are now left to the mercy of men without legal authority to enter into your houses by night or day under a pretence of searching for arms etc. I suppose similar to what was practiced by the Irish in late Rebellion. This is one of Lord Castlereagh’s mild acts – our popular ministers also have rescinded their Orders in Council but the event has proved at present, an American Declaration of War is just arrived, so that we may justly consider what was expected would take place – likewise in reported having commenced actual hostilitys by land and sea; trade is no better and I believe will be considerably injured again. Russia, England and Sweden have entered into a defensive and offensive treaty.

Dear brother and friend, James Booth.

NB Please to inform me of anything you may wish to know – the first opportunity you have.


/328 – Millon, Novr 9th 1812.

My Lord,

It having been intimated to me that there were not fewer than 60 or 70 persons confined in York Castle on criminal charges and the generality of these being Luddites or of one organized gang, having a numerous fraternity implicated in many of their crimes.

Gaoler not confined of preventing some rising.

Wentworth Fitzwilliam to Sidmouth.






HO 42/168

HO 42/168/41, Manchester, 9 July 1817

Dear Husband,

This morning I rece’d yours dates 2nd July that dated 18th was rece’d on the 6th July and that of the 25th on the 2nd July, by this you perceive the the [sic] the delivery of letters is very irregular but as this negligence only concerns me of the swinish multitude it is mere folly to complain; for to persons deprived of all hope, utterly unable during your absence to obtain an honest livelihood, and in daily expectation of being turned out of doors by the landlord for want of money to pay the rent; it may be easily supposed that the nobler feelings of humanity are nearly overwhelmed by the daily struggle with Poverty Want and despair; all this must have been sustained even had your Political conduct been culpable; but knowing as I do the purity of your motives, the extreme moderation of your public speeches and unwearied attempts to procure a Reform in the Commons House of Parliament; it does indeed add greatly to the misery of my condition; and whether I can long survive the accumulation of misery, God only knows, but I much fear I cannot, then what is to become of our family? There is no remedy but having our cause to him who sufferith not a sparrow to fall to the ground without notice.

I have endeavoured to collect the needful information on the subject of Habeas Corpus Suspension – but as I apprehend that if many particulars on political subjects be adverted to, the letter will be detained; I shall merely state the Suspension Bill received the Royal Assent on Monday the 30th June. On the last reading in the Commons there were in the division 80 against 30 – housing a majority of 50 – nearly the same proportion, at the greater numbers ? prevailed in the other stages of the Bill – the majority in the Lords was still greater, altho’ there was a ? and valuable accession of votes in the minority when compared to the first suspension Bill – The means reasoned to, you may easily suppose, when Mr Oliver has had the organization of the Plot – and I assure you he took considerable pains to procure some fool or other in Manchester to swell the list of disaffected Towns –  This infernal Bill is to continue till the 1st March next, and all the punishment I could wish to see the advocates of this measure to suffer is, that they might be compelled to crawl in an existence (for it can’t be called being) with the same food and clothing that Hundreds of thousands of wretched are now daily perishing under; and all this is endured notwithstanding the enormity of the Poor Rates, already for 1817 – there are two rates laid amounting to 10/6 in the £ – which for the Bridge Waters Arms Inn amounts to £250 – and it is apprehended a deal more will still be wanted as Wages are lowering particularly the Spinners: It was recommended very earnestly at the Quarter Sessions, for the inhabitants to unite in forming a Volunteer Cavalry Corps, for domestic protection, and I am very happy to say a very commendable spirit of volunteering was manifested, till the infernal machinations of Oliver were brought to light, which has so disgusted most of the respectable townsmen, that many have withdrawn their names, and the project is now completely blown up – the most respectable and Loyal in the Town are so ashamed and disgusted of his exposure; that you can hear nothing but execrations against him from all parties – Hoping you are in a good state of health as we are all at present. I am your affectionate Wife – E. Knight.

  1. Your new plan of taxation must be absurd you know well enough we have taxes enough and too many; we want a new plan for the lessening of taxes – this only can do us any good at Manchester.


Envelope – Mr John Knight, Reading Gaol.



HO 42/168/98

Reading Gaol, 3 July 1817

My Lord,

From a letter I received from home yesterday I learn that my wife and children have suffered much anxiety on account of receiving letters from me – by it I also learn that they have not got my last two letters dated 18th and 25th June. I will thank your lordship to cause them to be forwarded if in your Office. Your lordship will further oblige me by causing to be forwarded to me their letter dated the 22 June also another from Mr Brougham MP to me dated probably about the 19th June and any other which may be lying in your lordships office.

Jn Knight.

To the right hon sec of State’s Office, London.


Note on back – the letter of the 19 June was sent by the post last Saturday. The Wife letter of the 25 June has not yet been sent or at least not referred to me. The letter from Mr Brougham MP I have never heard of.



HO 42/168/134-5 –

application from the wives and friends of ye prisoners

Sheffield, 5 July 1817, no 36 Broad Lane

The Humble petition of Ann Robinson humbly shewith that she is the lawful wife of George Robinson a state prisoner now confined in Lincoln Gaol.

That I am left in Sheffield with 8 children and my husband being very anxious of seeing me as well as my well wish to see him – I hope that your lordship will take this into your favourable consideration and grant me permission to see him.


HO 42/168/176 –

Dear Husband

I cannot imagine what can be the reason you do not write me neither in answer to the receipt of the postmaster or a letter, I sent it by the Sarisonhead Coach which I hope you have received before this it is a month since I sent it and 5 weeks since I herd anything of you, it is out of my power to account for this Delay but did you see the suffrings me and my dear Children as to undergo you whould not be so like the whorld forget us in such a time of Trouble no if you was to see the Clamring around me when sharing thare scanty meal and hear the Cry for more and when I have not any to give them it whould make your heart bleed and your Eyes start from this such its and you dine with superior o my Dear H but there is trials if I may be alowed to Judge those is heavy Trials in deed but when I think of the Cold winter which is approaching what is those trials to them which is to Come far I have not any work worth mentoning now what must be my lot in winter, this I answer myself speedy relief or daith for my Heart will answer suffer me to hear my Children Cry for ? when I have not aney to give them no no for to do with less and keep alias along winter it roll be impasable, flesh meat who never have Bread who get a little 3 shillings in the ? potatoes is to dear 2 shilings a sure so now ? must turn to Cabbage 2 pence shared amongst 6 people laid what a change is this I have seen the Day when I had plenty and to spare but no many I know your heart.

I beg you will not forget me.

Yours till death.

Elizabeth Mitchell.

Liverpool, July 1817.

I have not rec’d the 2£ for your watch I wish I had it my rent day is the first of next month.

To J Mitchell, state prisoner, Cold Bath Fields, London.



HO 42/168/178 –

Gloucester, July 6th 1817

[note on top – I never saw any letter that inclosed or named a remittance]

[note in pencil by Secretary – Perhaps Sir N. Conant may know something of this letter and note referred to]

My lord,

On the 15th of April the Govnor of this Pleces inclosed in a letter two Pounds to my friends for my Cloth and I have Gat no Return and as I have nether money nor cloth to ching is I humbly hoap your lordship will consider of sumthing that I may have clothes to ceep my self cumfortible and as my frends have not it in shear Power to do any thing for me at present for I would not be so Freedom to your Lordship.

John Roberts.

[back – John Roberts enquiry respecting a £2 note said to have sent by him to his wife. Wrote to magistrates etc Manchester and to the gaoler at Gloucester]


HO 42/168/270

Salisbury Gaol 11 July 1817

…at Reading my apartments were spacious light and airy – enjoyed tolerably good health – here the scene is completely reversed – the Room being comparatively small dark and very ill ventilated, being in fact a common Felon’s Room.

Prison so crowded – no other room.

No knife or fork to eat with.

John Knight.

p.s. my faculties are all already much impaired, as the numerous errors in this short note prove.


HO 42/168/279 –

Salisbury Gaol, 17 July 1817

Supplication which I am excited to make to your lordship by the Solicitation of my Wife and Children and my own feelings.

Early in life my Lord I was given to Reading and Meditation; and soon met with that golden and scriptural principle, ‘Do unto others as you would they should do unto you’.

[ruminates on moral feelings]

…My Lord, I have always been intimately acquainted with the circumstances of the laboring class in the vicinity of Manchester; and I can assure your lordship, that they have seen very few good days since the year 1792; compared with those they experienced before that period; notwithstanding the vast improvements which have, during that time, been made in their Manufacture, this excites the Idea that some way or other their Interest has been overlooked or forgotten – But that my Lord which more than any thing else as to misled the Public and raised dissatisfaction to its zenith was; that when the War was o’er and the People expected, as usual, Plenty to have returned with Peace, their sufferings became greater than ever: and I understand this to have been the case in most other Towns, and my Lord it is the opinion of most thinking Men, that at that juncture, the Populace would have fallen upon their Employers or the Dealers in Provisions, or both; but for the views exhibited by the advocates of parliamentary Reform.

My Lord, under these circumstances I was repeatedly applied to assist in petitioning Parliament to reform the Representation in the Commons House; for some time I refused (having through Perjury suffered for a similar attempt) but at length, tho’ reluctantly, I consented; but during the Proceedings gave the Public such cautionary Lectures, as drew upon myself their Reproaches and censures; and was at last actually condemned, because I would not proceed, in the face of the “Suspension Bill”.

Permit me to add my Lord, that I have long and deeply felt for the Labouring class; and that it was this feeling along which induced me to assist in promoting Petitions for a constitutional Reformation in the representation  of the People, in the House of Commons; for believe me my Lord when I say “That I fear the distress of the People is too great to be removed by any Power, less than that of Parliament – My Lord if at any time I have either said or written any thing which may appear harsh, believe me when I say it has arisen solely from my sympathetic feeling for the Poor: and as to this statement of my public conduct I can prove its truth by many witnesses.

Having given your lordship “a true and faithful account of my Motives Views and actions” in this affair (as they appear to “him from whom no secrets are hid”) nothing remains but to beg your Lordship’s candid and liberal consideration thereof

/280 – ….have already suffered severely, in being separated from my family (seven in number) nearly nineteen weeks; and having being myself nearly sixteen of them in close, solitary and now dreary and unhealthy confinement and my pecuniary affairs ruined.

Finally, my Lord, seriously reflect what my Wife, Children and Self have already suffered what we must further suffer.

…John Knight.

  • Excuse the Penmanship my Lord, I am not allowed my Pen Knife.


HO 42/168/296,

Coldbath Fields Prison July 11th 1817

The very distressed state of my Family consisting of a Wife and six young children, who ? has no other support than that which a woman, with such a charge, by her own hard labour, can provide – and who is not only deprived of the necessaries of life, but as she informs me, threatened with distress for payment of taxes, which she cannot Provide for – Impels me to Intreat that your lordship will take the suffering state of our Inocent families into consideration – convinced that it is not your lordship Intention that they should suffer more than their unhappy father which is the case, now they are deprived of our assistance.

If my lord, I am one of the unfortunate men, who is to remain in close confinement though I have again declare (and will Prove the same if aloud) – that I have not uttered an expression, or Joined in any act Inimical to the Government of my country, or Injurious to the wellbeing and happiness of every Individual, both connected therewith and the community at large.

…Indulge a fond Parent as to permit him to have his son with him subject to restrictions while agreeable for him to stop – he is a Boy of about nine years of age – such favour will ease the charge of his mother – enable me to give him Part of that Education he is by my Confinement deprived of and greatly oblige.

Josh Mitchell.

Note – let the keeper inform the Prisoner that his request can not be complied with.


HO 42/168/574 –

Worcester Gaol, 21 July 1817

Thanks for your lordship’s gracious attention to my Complaint and my consequent removal hither – I have now only to beg your favourable attention to my faithful representation and humble supplicated dated the 17th instant – … am sorry your lordship has had so much trouble on my account and hope your lordship will speedily be able to put an end thereto by my final liberation for whatever representation may have been made to your lordship respecting me I cannot believe there is a Man in existence who can lay his hand upon his heart and seriously say that he even suspects me to be guilty of Treason.




HO 42/169

HO 42/169/345 Glocester Gaol, July 28th 1817

My Lord,

In consequence of the letter wich your lordship sent to the Governor of this prison I send your lordship the following.

On Monday the 10th of March when I was Arrested at Manchester I was taken to the new Bailey where Mr Joseph Nadin the deputy Constable took from me the sum of £9 11s 0d in money together with 1 night cap 2 Handkerchiefs and 1 pocket book and afterwards confined in a cold cell during which time I desired him to return me the night cap to keep my head warm but he refused and told me I should have every thing returned when I got to London. After I had been in London a few days your lordship was pleased to commit me to Horsmonger Lane prison on 16 of March I desired Mr Walton the governor to let me have pen ink and paper wich Mr Cave the turnkey brought me and I rote two letters one to your lordship the other to my parents and delivered them into the hands of the said turnkey after I had been there near a month I wrote another letter to your lordship wherein I sated all the particulars concerning my money and delivered it to the aforementioned M Cave.

[asks for money to be returned] as it would be of great service to me at present.

John Bagguley.


HO 42/169/344 – New Bailey Court House 2 August 1817

I have enquired into the particulars mentioned in John Bagguley’s letter as presented to me in Nadin’s hands. He has a handkerchief, a flannel night cap and pocket book with some memorandums which he is ready to deliver to any order. The money mentioned he also has, but was directed by the Magistrates not to deliver it as it was money collected from the mob for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the people who were going to London.

WR Hay to Hobhouse.

Note on back – let the Gaoler inform Bagguley that a HKef and nightcap and a pocket book are in the police off’s hands and shall be forwd to him if he wishes them; but that it is stated to his Ldp that the money was not Bagguley’s property…


HO 42/169/425, Elizabeth Knight to John Knight, 17 August 1817

…I thought the horrid picture that was there exhibited of your situation would have been sufficient to soften the most obdurate heart: and more especially the hearts of those who had been the cause of that unmeritted suffering of both Body and Mind which it was quite plain you were induring – Experience soon convinced me however that I had fallen into error when I measured sympathy of others by my own, for I found to my astonishment that I was making an appeal to men who were literally dead to this divine principle, and who perhaps, secretly rejoiced, at this prooff of their own malignancy having the desired effect – However you may disapprove of this act, I am bound in justice to say, that none of your friends come in for a share of your displeasure. They certainly did not advise such a step, you must therefore ascribe it to the overflowing of a disconsolate Wife’s zeal and affection, whose eagerness to restore you to herself and family out stripped her prudence and discretion….


HO 42/169/427, John Knight, Worcester Gaol, to Elizabeth Knight, 17 August 1817

Allow me to request you to superscribe or direct your letters to me as follows ‘Sec of State’s Office London for J. Knight State Prisoner Worcester Gaol’ the reason some of your letters have come here before they have been at London and therefore had to go to London and back afterwards before I got them….

…You tell me the premptory refusal of the Boroughreeve etc has intimidated both you and my other friends from any further application to them. I should like to know whether you took them the copy of that letter yourself and yourself applied for their answer and also whether that answer was given verbally or in writing – If in writing preserve it and if by word of mouth commit it to writing if you perfectly remember it. For my object in having them applied to, is not merely to procure my liberation but to set the subject to them in its true light for they have not merely injured me and you but great numbers more and I have no hesitation in saying that if there was as issue of the Newspapers state, anything of an unlawful nature projected at Manchester after I left it – it remitted from their own conduct and that they were the first who is violated the Law – To separate Men from their Wives, Children, Business and Friends; and put them up in solitary confinement is no small injury and ought not to be done on Slight or uncertain Grounds.




HO 42/170

HO 42/170/43-44

Elizabeth Mitchell asked Sidmouth to forward a petition to the Prince Regent in October 1817, ‘praying for the trial or liberation of my unfortunate but I fully believe, innocent husband’. [looks like she got someone to write it]. The petition itself played on the language of poverty: ‘My husband has been now confined six months, while myself and my small family of six children have been left to all the miseries of the widowed and the fatherless. By many difficult strivings and many desperate though honest means I have hitherto kept in existence my suffering infants; but were I to describe our insufficient meals, our poor food, and the sorrowful privations we have suffered, I should be appealing rather to your Royal Highness’s feelings along.

…Absolute and famishing want now approaching me, and being fully convinced of my husband’s innocence, I do most humbly petition your Royal Highness’s generous consideration. I am aware that amongst others my husband has fallen under suspicion, but I am confident that all the political object he wished, or endeavoured to promote, was an alteration in the mode of filling the seats of the House of Commons. That he was attached sincerely to the British Form of Government I can give, and can produce, ample testimony. Frequently has he been heard to declare both in public and in private. That, The King is the Oak of the Forest; whose greatness must never be even remotely agitated, that all the established institutions of the land must be upheld by all who love their country, and that all our views must be centred and bounded in reform of the lower House of Parliament, to be peaceably and constitutionally obtained. This was ever his political creed, and I believe he never deviated one like from it.


HO 42/170/242,

Elijah Dixon to ‘my girl’, 19 September 1817

As I apprehend, I am detained more from motives of state policy than from any solid evidence that can be brought against me in support of high treason, I am sorry that ministers should think it necessary to keep so poor and obscure an individual as I am either a terror to others or on account of any weight that I have given to the legal opposition which the people have made to their measures.

That I have always protested against all voilent [sic] and unlawful measures both in my family and amongs[sic] all who know me, you and they very well know.

If, I have been to blame, it is I think in continuing to support the peaceable petition of the people for parliamentary reform when, it as it appears from recent events the where predetermined not to listen to those petitions.

I am sorry to hear that my Father is indisposed; but hope he will soon be better.

Note on back – Elijah Dixon, 19 Sept 1817. The latter part of the letter acknows receipt of the Post Office order for 7/- forwarded.


HO 42/170/358 =

Coldbath Fields Prison, 3 September 1817

(in pencil  123 Day of my confinement)

My Lords and Gentlemen,

Hitherto I have born my confinement with a patience bordering on a conviction that in the heterogeneous mass of information with which the intrested hirelings in that abused part of our much oppressed Country, Lancashire, have furnished your lordships, it were probably that a something like Pretext might be found for Placing me and others of my fellow Countrymen similarly situated in Continent that the most scruplus inquiry might be answered, as also your lordships see from wicked source this malevolence sprung, I have till now waved all right of appeal, trusting that it would be unnecessary. But my Lord the Period is more than arrived, when beyond all doubt the rack of espionage so artfully applied to the wrethed beings whose gauling burthen has blunted every s? of Truth and Danger must, ere this, have extorted such evidence, as will either prove my guilt, or Confirm my Inocence – therefore my Lords – I can no longer see other cause for keeping me from a fair Trial, than the most wanton cruelty and contemptuous violation of Justice.

My Lords – I am no visionary enthusiast or speculator – nor am I am man who wishes to gain some Pecuniary or other self-emolument through the propagation of a new diverting or theoretical opinion – I am a man who has ever made it my study to support my family and consummate the Summit of my Pride by “Doing unto others as I wish others to do unto me”. But – most unfortunate – In as much as I have not been able to discharge my honest trust, while the taxes on the one hand have destroyed my resources and the Tax collectors and lawers (as I ? on the other devoured both my profits and much of my stock. My Lords, I consider myself a victim to a sistom [sic], most pernicious in effect – a sistom which under the garbe of Protection has brought Pinching poverty with all her train of attendant evils, to the useful labourer – while affluence with its endless retinue with its endless retinue of swifiting Luxuries, are Dealt out to the Protectors and their dependents – And between these monstrous rewards, unknown in a Land of Freedom, or among a People who Injoy any thing like conforts is devoured the liberties and happiness – nay – life – in the place of being a Blessing, is rendered even a business to every Britain of Independent Mind.

To the complicated effects of this sistom has been sacrificed all my fond hope – my labours totally lost – and myself reduced from the station of a creditable tradesman possessing a small capital of my own – to the degraded and wretched situation of an insolvent debtor – and to crown the climax of this suffering, when pursuing the only honest means I had left and Indeavouring to support my almost starving family, by the Profits arising out of the sale of periodical publications, my lodgings was entered and myself driven out of the Town by that Dark Countenanced Police runner of Manchester named Nadin – was afterwards seized by the ruffians, who was Imployed by two Special Constables and from the mean deposition of a Mr J Brook who said, ‘I was a Reformer, had attended public meetings and was then going about Reforming’ – remanded by Justice Haigh [sic] of Huddersfield to the Care of a runner named Whitehead, who, because I could not pay him a sum of money for a Person to guard me in a public house was put into the most filthy (besmeared with human ordure) and humid dungeon, from the effects of which I have since suffered severe Indisposition after remaining in this Poisonous filth 26 hours, without any thing to lie down upon removed to Manchester and those treat by Nadins orders, as a felon from then to the House of Correction, where I now remain in close confusion. – My Trust and accounts left to the mercy of Time ? Tradesmen, who but too commonly, in these overbearing times, raise themselves – swim for a while above the waves of oppression, by pushing a sinking man more precipitously into the Depth of Misery – have Invalued me and the hopes of means a family – I have but too much reason to fear – in irretrievable ruin.

My lords. Is it not enough, that a man should loose his all and be left a degraded Insolvent in the trustees endeavour to satisfy a taxation – like our present confinement – without any known end – that in each attempt (for my discomfitures are numerous) he should have no sooner opened a ? comfortable bread for his family, but the ? Blight non-represented taxation should wither away his Prospects that he should see his aged Parents ? and literally starving for want – his Friends perish from the same course and himself and Wife in the bloom of years with six young children left without any other prospect to look forward to for support, than that of an already overburthened Parish!!!

But in the event of such an individual – so suffering as myself, having ventured along with my suffering Country men to complain of grievances springing from oppression, which ought to be removed – and that only in Language the most moderate and in advice, given Legally, as an attention to these Points, and also a conviction, founded on the sequel of most physical changes recorded in the Blackened Page of any History – that no change – but such as is brought about by that reason which clearly proves to the Parties concerned – it will be for the happiness of all) – could direct.

But he shall be inured in a Dungeon – not a friend to solace my gripes not any other Corrispondence to change the melancholy s?ing, the such madning accounts of a perishing family as the Inclosed letter imports to which I humbly crave your lordships most serious attention.

My lords – May I be permitted humbly to ask your lordships – If my confinement is compatible with those Parts of our Constitution, wherein it is expressly stated that “no freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or deprived of his freehold or liberties or free customs or out land, or banished or any ways Destroyed not will ??? upon him or commit him to prison unless by the legal judgement of his Peers, or by the Law of his Land – that Justice and Right shall not be bought and sold or any ways deferred to any Man…” My lords – has not my Property been taken from me, my liberties and free customs destroyed, myself Imprisoned without having a vote in the laws that Inforces it; without the legal Judgement of my Peers. Is not this my detention in solitary confinement most egregrious defining not only that “Right and Justice”. I have constitutionally secured to me but further “Imprisoned without any cause shown” thereby fore judging perhaps of life or limb – but at all events of liberty, which is more previous to me than life in a Dungeon – and all this against the laws of the great Charter and the laws of the land.

My lords, what matters it to me, so long as I am imprisoned, wether it be by virtue of ye Prerogative of the King, or by the near mandate of the ? But were I to chose the former would have my desired preference – yet this is not attempted and in open violation of the above parts of our Constitution and also a further part, which expressly forbade Charles and all other tyants…detaining the Prison as me as he had detained Persons – contrary also to the Bill of Rights and of the ? sacred Oath of his Majesty as solemnly sworn to at his coronation.

I am detained in such solitary confinement.


HO 42/170/359 –

My Lords If it would benefit my country ought that I should still suffer confinement, or even death – let but an unbiased and virtuous jury of my country declare it and I will hear my fait without a moan – I fear not to meet Death in any open and fair manner – for in that solemn event (and less it can hardly be to a father of six indearing babes) – though the shackels of despotism might still cling round my Clay – as the thorns round the mouldering bones found in the infamous Bastile – yet the Soul of a consciously honist man would breath a freedom and Roam, where Tyrants dare not hope.  But my lords I am afraid not think my spirits capable to bear – (Pardon the expression my Lords – for I cannot apply one more appropriate) the Hell of a silent and solitary confinement! without a Trial – without a Cause and without a known end – with no other visitant than the letter of a starving family – nor no other companion to hear my drooping soul than the reflections such letters, as the Inclosed may leave on, or bring to my mind.


… I would humbly ask who, or what, part of the community is to be considered blameable for this – surely my lords not the People – the Poor, labouring, fighting, Praying, starving People!

[another plea] end to such Torment in bringing me to a fair Trial.

Joseph Mitchell to the Privy Council.


HO 42/170/443 –

Individuals in the Town of Warrington (whom we had committed for want of sureties for setting blasphemous and seditious publications) of the names of Pilling and Mellor.

[enclosed paper]

Warrington, Oct 26th 18817

Richard Gwillym, Isaac Blackburne.


HO 42/170/445 [printed handbill]

Mellor and Pilling

JB Mellor and S Pilling

On their return from Prison respectfully inform the inhabitants of Warrington and the neighbourhood, that they have resumed the business of selling Pamphlets, Tracts etc with the fullest determination that while they respect the laws, they will not surrender their rights as men.

To prove the former, they will never sell anything which is even supposed to be illegal; to prove the latter, they will continue to vend every description of standard and well established works, regardless of any intimidation.

On sale –

Citizen’s Letter which lately appeared in the Liverpool Mercury addressed to Mr T Lyon and Mr Nicholson on the subject of the prosecution of Mellor and Pilling

Cobbett’s Registers

Wooller’s Black Dwarf

Sold by J B Mellor, Whittaker’s Fold, Town’s End and S Pilling, Back-lane, Warrington.


HO 42/170/504

York Castle, 7 October 1817

Enclose certificate from the coroner.

This unfortunate man Riley has been ever since he came to me an object of my greatest case of protection, and altho’ he has succeeded in his fatal determination, I beg to assure you that it was not proceeded either from neglect or inattention… hope from certificate – no blame can be imputed to me or my servants.

Wm Staveley, keeper of York Castle.


HO 42/170/505 –

Castle of York, 7th October 1817

I Thomas Shepley one of His Majesty’s Coroners for the County of York – inquest on the body of Thomas Riley a prisoner in the Castle of York charged with high treason.

  • Willfully and maliciously destroy himself by cutting his Throat with a Razor
  • Not of sound mind and understanding but Lunatic and distracted.
  • Was attended and protected by three other persons in the same room and that one of those persons laid in the same bed with the said Thomas Riley/
  • No blame on keeper.





HO 42/171

/6 – My Lord,

Heartfelt pleasure = return my and my wife’s most sincere thanks for the very kind benevolent and humane conduct you observed to us in our heavy calamity by permitting the Son my Wife was so much wrapt up in to visit us. Certainly my suffering wife was gratified in the highest degree by your lordships very great kindness and she parted with her Son with great difficulty – She had expected that he was to stop and comfort her previous to her departing to the tomb which is not far distant but perhaps without reason.

I did wish nay hope that he might have been permitted to have stop’t with us when I assure your lordship he is my only only Child who can be of service to me in assisting me to bear the heavy charge which my Wife’s illness subjects me to.

…he was always an industrious young man invariably giving his Mother his earnings to maintain conjointly with myself a family of 4 children in good repute.

Hope your lordship would consider of the early liberation of a good filial industrious tho’ ?ing young man so that he may be enabled to smooth the Pillow of a Dying Mother.

Wm Baguley, Manchester, Nov 29th 1817.

Over – before the rect of this letr had determined on the Release of his Son.

Ld S is happy to observe that he is sensible of his Son’s Error and hopes that he and his Wfe will use their parental influence to persuade their Son in his future Conduct to demesne himself as a good and loyal subject and a quiet and inoffensive Man.





HO 42/172

HO 42/172/453 – Manchester, 3 Decr 1817

Dear Husband,

I rec’d your letter this Day the 3rd Decr and I am sorry you make yourself so uneasy about us, But I am happy to inform you that the Children are both recovered, I when to Mrs Bagerleys agreeable to your order, and Mr Bargerley his gone to Lancaster and has took your shirts with him. And if you will send is to eather her or me your will be returnd.

You mentiond rending some things which will be very acceptable as the children and me are almost naked, I am very sorry to inform you that your Uncle Isaac lies a dying, I am sorry to here that you have laid so much money out in Cloaths as money would be of more use to us when you would have been liberated you maid a mistake in the direction of your last letter you directed for no4 in stead of No40. Your Father and Mother send their love to you and the are both well.

I must conclude with my sincere love to you

I remain your Affectionate Wife, Amelia Roberts.


[over] direct for Mrs Bagerley, Booth Street near the Grape, Oxford Road, Manchester.

Manchester, 3 Decr 1817, Amelia Roberts to her husband, not forwarded on acct on his being discharged.

Jno Roberts, Gloster Gaol.

Sec of State Offices, London.


HO 42/172/589

Hanover Street, Manchester, 28 December 1817

Dearest Husband,

I may repeat the remarks which you made at the beginning of your last, (viz) that this is the latter you will receive from me in the present year; and I would to God that it is the only one that I may ever address to you in a Prison – “Hope delayed (it is said) makes the heart sick” and experience tells me that this is a false adage – If I could depict the extreme chagrin which disappointed hope as occasioned me, in that touching and forcible manner which would truly and correctly express my feelings; you would be constrained to acknowledge that I was capable of exciting a strong degree of pathos but as any attempt to do this would be vain and ungatory, you must totally take the will for the deed, and believe me to be labouring under a mixture of sensations which though I acutely feel I cannot describe – I am here reminded of the commands you have frequently given me, to think less about you than what my various letters indicated was the case – I request however that you will not again repeat these commands, for you might as well lay claim to the Powers of Joshua at once and command the “Sun to stand still”, as to forbid me to think about you, or to induce me to cease to brood over your injuries – You have humourously described what you call your delightful companions, and I must say that I envy them their priviledge, not that I could wish to change places with them, but I could certainly wish to share a little of that attention which they seem entirely to engross – It is great consolation however to me to learn that the tedious hours of your confinement are beguiled in a pleasant and agreeable manner, especially now your imprisonment is (virtually at least) solitary – You appear to have expected that the answers to your two questions to the Rev Mr Grundy should have been given in my last – They were purposely suppressed and whether properly so or not you will determine when you hear them. Mr G- was so good as to offer you the loan of any book of the description you inquired about that he had in his possession, but this kindness was declined in the hope that your immediate liberation was at hand, for at the time it was made I was in full expectation that every passing day would bring some tidings or other of your deliverance. As therefore, I did not accept the offer, in the first instance, I should suppose, that you will be of the opinion that it will not be necessary now to make another application.

From what you say respecting your taxation scheme, it would be appear that you have been writing on the subject; indeed this is what some of your friends have expected. They have said that they should be disappointed if you do not bring something with…

On this subject however I should like to forward a hint – It is not to be doubted but your compositions will be examined on your leaving prison, and as some cautiousness will probably be exercised on the occasion, it will be proper to attend to the expression of your thoughts on any subject that you may write upon; otherwise, both you and your friends may be painfully disappointed – This is not with me an imaginary idea: you will there fore make your own use of it – Amongst the persons named in my last (lately set at liberty) Sellers is the only one that has called to see me. He and Mrs Sellars have been at our house twice since his return, and he is suffering severely from want of employment for during his [obscured] his House has been broken up and many of the most usefull implements of his business have been taken for debt – It may truly be said that he has been ruined, and for what? this question I cannot answer and shall therefore not attempt it – I have nothing to add to my last concerning Trade and Provisions, unless it be to surprise you a little more by telling you that almost every article included in the latter term is advancing in price, while there is no increase in the means of purchasing them – Our family is in health and circumstances much as usual, and all of us very solicitous for your return, which cannot ? be otherwise than drawing near. In the meantime I subscribe with duty and affection,

Your disconsolate Partner, E. Knight.

PS. Mr Cannavan begs you to accept his warmest friendship and regard.

To Knight, Worcester Gaol.


Note – Knight discharged this need not be forwarded.



HO 42/172/276

To Rowland Hartle, Cambridge Castle.

Sheffield, Decr 3rd 1817

Dear Husband,

I receiv’d your welcome letter on the 2nd inst, and I rejoice to hear you are in a good state of health as it leaves me and my children at present thank God for it. Our son is in Work at present they are a roughing. I wish to know how you are situated for tobacco as your Money must before know be at an end. You desire to know how we got a living it by strict Industry and the blessing of God. I have the pleasure to inform you that the last two letters I received free for which favour I am humbly thankful. Mr and Mrs Daniels sends [sic] their kind love and is glad to hear you are well. Your dear friend and neighbor Mr Garnet died suddenly since I wrote last. Please to write soon as you possibly can. Our children all sends their love to you.

So I conclude your affectionate and loving Wife Sarah Hartle.


Hartle being discharged it is unnecessary to forward the letter.


HO 42/172/435

Hannah Wolstenholme to her husband James Wolstenholme, Winchester Gaol, not forwarded being discharged.

Sheffield, Decr 6 1817

Dear Husband,

Yours of the 2nd Decr I received on the 5th the Contents of which gives me much pleasure particularly to hear you remain well as well as our brother and father for that blessing I am extremely thankfull and pray that health may not forsake you but that when it pleases the almighty and the mortal powers to restore you to your loving families it may be in the same ? of Mind and body in which you left them. I thank Heaven we still are blessed in the way and want nothing to heighten our happiness but you with respects to the little matters you point out I have paid due attention to but to little or no effect where I have expected to receive anything the Blacksmiths Bill I paid in a little time after you left me and I have said before will in every exertion in my power to keep things together the next I will resign to Providence. I am glad to hear you have received the other letters with your Tobacco how it could be detained solely on the road I cannot tell the next part of your letter which touches on faily affairs I cannot pour over in silence and if in my reply I betray more finds and obstinacy even than what you accuse me of I hope you will forgive me since I am left without that intelligent adviser that might otherwise I have better informed me. In the first place you may easy perceive that Intimacy does not exist between me and Mother that might very reasonably be expected under the circumstances or any placed in the causes I shall forbear further expose. I think I told you in my last that your letters should never be withheld but be always open to the Inspection of all our Friends at their request in that I told you the truth but it has given me some pain to see what I stated in my last treated as an Excuse you say they have little encouragement to some etc which plainly shews you treat as such what I said about the writer having the letter at this time when Brother John came up to Overton to see it your mind appears prepossessed by something in contradiction to truth or you could not have expressed yourself in such a manner then you say now can they know where I have rec’d etc. I can assure you that so far from your letters being kept secret they always exerts [sic] interest and curiosity enough throughout the whole kinds of your acquaintance to make them public enough all are anxious to hear from you and none are forbidden access than were ever we living in perfect harmony. I hope you make me some allowance I pray take this into consideration that instead of the simple part in life I was want to take I have now two parts which to me is a perpetual round of fatigue, having me scarcely a leisure moment you must think with my cares that I have little time to go so far to shew your letters or at least that they have more opportunities than me. I have taken means to let mother know that Father has received her last and she also knows I have received your last but I can assure you call it Pride Obstinacy or by any other opprobrious name if I had opportunities I do not are allegiance enough to carry it myself. Thomas Wife has seen your letter and is much better than she has been. The Children are all well please give their love them and say the proposes writing in about a week. I gave your love to the lads and happy to inform you they are very good only wanting your kind instructions to see you at home having plenty of employment waiting for you they would willingly send their respects I believe were they not too Proud your Brothers and Sisters have received this Respects you send and your dear children all send their love and some of them not very well I forgot to say in my last that Friend Josh Corker made his exit in York Castle about two months ago and has left a Family Distressed and disconsolate. I saw Sister Sarah last might and she sends her love to you.

Wishing you health and Contentment while we are separated.

Remain your affectionate Wife.

Hannah Wolstenholme


HO 42/172/585

Decr 30th 1817

My dear Johnston,

I should of written sooner but I have been rather indispose with a cold and I rather think it is through getting my feet wet as I have never been able to get a pair of shoes since you have been from me and us. Mr Drummond called on me and told me he thought it was very likely you might be home in a few weeks but alas that time is gone and all my hopes have been in vain as I do not expect to see you till march what can be the reason you and a few others being kept I cannot think but however march is drawing near and then I hope to see you I was in hopes of a letter before this but hope I shall have that pleasure soon as it always gives me very great pleasure to hear from you believe me my deary there is not a day nor a hour in the day but what my mind is less or more engage about you. I cannot appeal to the almighty that is tone and when I retire to rest I pray god to forgive all my enimies and change thare heartsfor I have no hatered in my hart to any man upon earth I hope I shall be enable to look up to god in all my troubles as I certainly do think it a very great one when I think ware you are shut up in a gloomy prison and me and all friends so far from you. I was glad to hear you ware in good health and spirits and I am happy to say my dear boy is very well he gets such a little chatter box he hearing Mr Bradleys children call father he calls him father and runs to him and says father take winy and smoke I do realy think if Mr B would let him he would very soon smoke a pipe the Lord bless him with good health for some weeks and I am truly thankful for it. M Warmington as sent a letter to his father he arrived in America last November and is doing very well and I think his father and mother will go in the spring but ann and Mr P will not go with them. Mr James Molyneux as got wed to a very young lady with a large fortune she is only seventeen he desires to be remembered to you. I have received a letter from Miss Marriott since I wrot last and he desires to be remembered to you and says the children are quit well and that many ann dos not grow tall but lusty and that Catherine is must the same and that all her family are well the family I am with desire to be remembered to you and Mr and Mrs Walker and all the friends at Denton I must conclude as there is a person waiting to put in the Post and believe me to be your Truely affectionate Wife.

Charlotte Johnston,

PS Do pray my dear Johnston let me have a letter soon I cannot think what as been the reason I have not heard from you but hope to hear soon.

To John Johnston, Exeter Jail, Devonshire.

Mrs Johnson, 30 Dec 1817

Johnston discharged previous to this letter being received.



HO 42/172/557

Gloster Gaol, 24 December 1817

Copies of J Bagguley and Roberts’ answer during their confinement

Sent to Roberts in answer to his letter of the 20th inst.


Accounts of John Bagguley and John Roberts, late state prisoners in this prison. I have not charged them more than what I have actually paid for them and that by this order they were not satisfied with the Bedding found by the County (a Hair Mattress, a Coverlet, pair of Blankets and a pair of sheets) but hired a feather bed and etc of Mrs Newton, and requested me to pay for the same, the charge in the Bill – Coal was very dear in the city in the month of August last they requested to be allowed to purchase of the County, by which they saved six pence a Hundred the whole of what was purchased only amounted to 7s and four pence, which soon had been paid by me to the County.

On the day I read the orders to discharge John Roberts. I called in Wm Goodrich Esq (late vestry magistrate) to take his recognisance he offered to allow him sufficient to take him home by coach which he refused and said he would rather walk.

On Roberts discharge he asked me for the Bills and receipts, which I refused to give him, as they were my only vouchers for the money I paid for them, but would give copies of them if he asked it.

Thomas Cunningham, Govr, Gloucester gaol.


HO 42/172/559

Manchester Dec 20

My Lord,

I am sorry to be under the necessity of troubling your lordship respecting my business but am assured no other person can see me righted. Mr Thomas Cunningham of Gloucester Gaol, where I was delivered on the 4th of December at 8 o’clock in the evening gave me only 20s to proceed home to Manchester, and during the time of my confinement he charged me for lodging and fine 3s 9d per week, and when I asked the governor to give me the bills he had against ? Mr Baguley and he was actually refused the same – Your lordship will thus understand on my pittance of 1l 1s per week was [mulcheck] and the very small means I had to proceed hom I had my lodgings to pay the first night in Gloucester and being obliged to walk home in inclement weather and in want of common necessaries I was much reduced in my former health and am at this time in a very debilitated state – I hope your lordship will condescend to order the governor of Gloucester Gaol to send me his bills against Mr Baguley and me in order that we may settle the matter betwixt us.

My lord, I have nothing to say against the regal Government, for they have been duped by the Manchester municipality, they have will fully deceived the Government and traduced me to my ruin, so that I feel myself an injured ruin’d man.

PS Either your lordship or the Governor of Gloucester Gaol may direct to William Roberts, No6 Acton Street, London Road.

John Roberts.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>