Luddite memorial unveiled

CROWDS gathered on a rainy morning to witness the unveiling of the world’s only memorial to the Luddites in Liversedge.

Sunday, 22nd April 2012, 7:30 am

The unveiling of the statue of a cropper and his daughter was the culmination of six years’ hard graft by Spen Valley Civic Society.

The society bought a plot of derelict land at the junction of Knowler Hill and Halifax Road to turn into a park marking the ‘lost town’ of Liversedge.

However they also decided that as 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the Luddites’ attack at Rawfolds Mill in Liversedge, they would commemorate that pivotal moment in social history by commissioning a statue of a cropper and his daughter as the park’s centrepiece.

On April 11, 1812, around 150 Luddites, attacked the mill with hammers and axes, but were repulsed by the owner, William Cartwright, who had fortified the building and had the help of militia.

Two Luddites were shot and the croppers fled, possibly past the site of the Old Yew Tree pub and the Star at Roberttown, where the two injured men died.

Many arrests were made and 17 men were later hanged for their part in the uprisings.

At Saturday’s opening ceremony, society president John Holroyd explained the origins of the project.

“In 1893 the Bradford Telegraph stated that ‘there’s no such place as Liversedge, leastways the natives don’t know where it is exactly. We went to Littletown, Hightown, Roberttown and some other towns but we heard nothing about Liversedge’.

“It was a modern day version of this when Tom Harrington, owner of the Healds Hall Hotel, said many of his guests were perplexed as to where Liversedge was.”

Land was identified for a site – originally a corner shop and six houses – which the society bought.

Funding for the park was obtained from the Veolia Environmental Trust, with the work carried out by Civic Society members during evenings and weekends, and in all weathers.

Spen Valley area committee paid for the statue, made by Pete Rogers and Alex Hallowes of Xceptional Designs.

Civic Society chairman Max Rathmell said the statue was a fitting tribute to the croppers, showing defiance and protecting their families.

“The uprising is commonly depicted as a struggle between the backward looking Luddite leader George Mellor and his armed gang of machine breakers, and mill owners such as William Cartwright,” he said.

“But at a time of a 90 per cent collapse in the textile trade and sky high food prices due to poor harvests this became a struggle between labour and the factory system.

“An impressive aspect of the Luddites’ struggle was the vow of silence. The solidarity of the Luddite oath. New adherents took the oath in the room above the bar at the Shears Inn. A huge Government reward for information was met with complete silence, so powerful was this oath.”

Saturday’s celebrations were briefly interrupted by a group of hecklers from Huddersfield, but the organisers said this did not mar the occasion.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the park was performed by Joan Cowburn, who lives close to it, and the statue was unveiled by 10-year-old Chiara Rathmell in period dress.

Afterwards guests enjoyed a Luddite meal of stew at the Shears Inn provided by landlord and landlady Paul and Janet Black.