Spen to host unique tribute to Luddites

PARK LIFE: Spen Valley Civic Society members work on the Sparrow Park at Liversedge
PARK LIFE: Spen Valley Civic Society members work on the Sparrow Park at Liversedge

THE world’s only memorial to the Luddites is being built in the heartland of the uprising and will be unveiled next month.

The tumultuous events of April 1812 will be remembered in a park created by Spen Valley Civic Society yards from the inn where the Luddites swore their secret oaths and plotted against local mill owners.

The centre-piece will be an imposing sculpture depicting a cropper in defiant pose, with a small child tugging at his leather apron.

There will be an information board and plaque telling the story of the local area and of the croppers, whose livelihoods were put at risk by increasing mechanisation in mills. The croppers would use hand-held shears to trim the nap from cloth, but a machine could do the work of four men.

The men, who could see their families facing starvation, met at the Shears pub in Halifax Road to plot their campaign against mill owners, and on April 12, 1812, a band of 150 Luddites attacked Cartwright Mills at Rawfolds with hammers and axes. Two men were shot and the attack was repulsed.

Escaping Luddites may well have fled past the site of the new Liversedge Sparrow Park which the Civic Society has created from a plot of derelict land at the top of Knowler Hill, Liversedge.

Chairman Max Rathmell said “Ned Ludd would be delighted to hear that the working class struggle he began 200 years ago is to be commemorated in the heart of the district where his followers caused so much pain and grief to the authorities.

“The design of the sculpture shows the croppers’ defiance, but without the stereotyping of them being armed. We wanted a child to be an integral part of the statue to show they were ordinary family men. The artwork will dignify the defeat of the Luddites in their unequal contest with the mill owners and the army whom they fought for the right to work and feed their families.”

The unveiling is on Saturday April 14 at 11.30am. The project has been funded by the Veolia Environmental Trust and the Spen Area Committee.