Celebrating the Luddites

A Luddite cropping shop
A Luddite cropping shop

A HOST of events to mark the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings begin this month.

The Spen Valley and Huddersfield were at the centre of the protests by Luddites who, faced with desperate poverty, set out to wreck labour-saving machinery in factories.

The protests culminated in an attack at Rawfolds Mill in Liversedge – in which two Luddites were killed – the attempted murder of the mill’s owner William Cartwright, and the murder of a Huddersfield factory owner William Horsfall.

Throughout April, Red House will host an exhibition from the Yorkshire Archive Service, 1812 and The Luddites of West Yorkshire, and on April 29 there will be a free event at the museum where visitors can meet a Luddite and millowner in costume. There is also the chance to try carding, drop spindle and weaving.

Tolson Museum in Huddersfield is redeveloping a gallery featuring key Luddite memorabilia including one of the infamous Enoch’s hammers. They were named after Enoch Taylor, a Marsden blacksmith, who with his brother James, not only made the shearing frames but also the sledge hammers that were used to destroy the machines and their use coined the term ‘Enoch hath made them; Enoch shall break them.’

There is also the sword of William Horsfall, a hair tidy made in prison by William Thorpe, one of the Luddites hanged for his part in Horsfall’s murder and the attack at Rawfolds, and truncheons carried by the local militia.

On April 14 the Mikron Theatre play premieres Can you Keep a Secret? The Rise and Fall of the Yorkshire Luddites at Oakwell Hall Barn, Birstall. Tickets £10 (£8 conc) from www.mikron.org.uk/secretBlurb.php.

A seven-mile guided Luddite themed walk takes place at 10am on April 12 from the Dumb Steeple at Cooper Bridge where the Luddites gathered for the march on Rawfolds Mill.

Schools can access smaterial on the Luddites produced for the anniversary which has brought together 13 organisations and a website has been set up by the University of Huddersfield called the Luddite Link www.ludditelink.org.uk/history.php.