The Chartists at Salterhebble Hill [1842]

On 16th August 1842, a band of Chartists marched to Elland – to attack mills there – and was involved in an affray at the bottom of Salterhebble Hill, Halifax – see Plug Riots.

The Leeds Mercury [20th August 1842] reported

Attack Upon the Military at Salterhebble

The prisoners captured at Halifax on Monday afternoon 16th August 1842, at and subsequently to the affray at Akroyd's Mill, 18 in number, were sent off to Wakefield on Tuesday forenoon.

It was determined by the Magistrates to send them there for safety, previous to their examination.

They were placed in two omnibuses, each drawn by four horses and guarded by a file of the 11th Hussars, under the command of an officer, and headed by Mr Wm Briggs, a Magistrate, proceeded at full gallop to the railway station, at Elland.

The people, of course, had very soon notice of this movement, in fact it had been anticipated, and considerable crowds had congregated all down the road on the look out, particularly at Salterhebble, where an attempt was made to stop the road, preparatory to a rescue.

This, however, was unsuccessful and stones were thrown at the convoy from the wood which skirts the road to Elland.

At the time they arrived in the station at the latter place, the train, towards Wakefield was in waiting to which the prisoners were at once transferred and the train was quickly at full speed.

Considerable numbers of people had gained access to the station and the prisoners, on their departure, were cheered by their companions, some of whom told them to keep their spirits up, for they would soon be liberated.

At the time these two omnibuses and the prisoners arrived, there was another omnibus in the station just about to process with passengers to Halifax from Leeds, Manchester, &c.

After leaving the station, it was very soon evident that there were very large numbers of people in all directions in a state of the greatest excitement, and before the conveyance had proceeded far, stones in abundance were again thrown from the wood – these struck the omnibus repeatedly, but the passengers escaped without any material injury.

On reaching Salterhebble, however, the danger was greatly increased for so exasperated had the people become at the treatment they had received, that loud threats were uttered that no one should escape.

The passengers, of course, could not apply this language to themselves – they were conscious of not having done any injury, and had confidence that the people would not wilfully inflict damage upon persons with whom they could have no cause of complaint – and in this opinion they were strengthened by the fact that, as soon as it became known that the omnibus contained only railway passengers, and no "officials", a safe passage was guaranteed through the thousands who were assembled on the roadside, and along the rocky heights of Salterhebble – a place of all others calculated for the protection of any party who might choose to avail themselves of its cover from whence to harass an enemy.

A man then took the head of the leader, and waving his hand, all fear of attack from the menacing throng seemed to have vanished, and the vehicle was slowly ascending the hill.

But, on a sudden a cry was raised that the soldiers were advancing, and as suddenly the apparent calm was succeeded by an overwhelming tempest, for, in a moment as it were, a shower of large stones were hurled from all parts of the eminence among the soldiers, who then came up at full gallop, and on to the heads of the devoted and innocent passengers, who thus suffered severely from the accidental circumstances of being compelled, though only for a few moments, to be apparently under the protection of the soldiery.

With such direct aim were these missiles hurled, that scarcely a soldier escaped unhurt – some of them received severe cuts – three of them were fairly felled from their horses, the animals getting off and leaving their late riders to the mercy of the mob.

These three are privates in the Eleventh Hussars: their names are Alexander Frazer, John Austin, and Thomas Clarkson, they were all more or less injured but two of them were for a time made prisoners.

The three wounded soldiers were brought in an omnibus to the Northgate Hotel, where their wounds were dressed by Mr Garlick, surgeon.

Austin was the most severely injured of the three, having his right eye completely blocked up, and being most severely beaten and kicked about his legs and body.

Fraser also was barbarously dealt with and it was only through the merciful interference of a portion of their assailants that their lives were not sacrificed.

Of course, there was a scene of very great confusion – an express was sent to Halifax for the infantry, and the gallant Hussars, after charging with ball, returned, headed by Mr Briggs, to the rescue of their companions, which they effected.

During the affray, Mr Briggs received a wound on the arm from a stone, which disabled him, and he went home – the soldiers had previously received orders to fire, and these orders were carried into effect we are afraid with a fatal result, but of this we cannot speak with certainty – the soldiers' horses were retaken at Elland.

Return we now to the passengers, who had, in good earnest to endure the pelting of a pitiless storm of stones.

These consisted of four or five inside, and about the same number out.

Mr Barker, reporter for the Northern Star, was one of the latter, and had a very narrow escape – his hat was cut completely through behind with a large stone, and he received one or two severe wounds and several contusions.

A young lady, Miss Machin of Whitelock-street Leeds, who sat behind Mr Barker and the driver, received a frightful cut in the head, which bled profusely, though it is fortunate that the wadding of her bonnet, which was very thick, had doubtless had the effect of breaking the force with which the stone had descended.

She was going on a visit to Mr Cockerham, of Halifax, and in inquiry there on Tuesday afternoon, we learnt that she was not much worse for her injury.

A gentleman, named Laycock, from Sheffield, we understand, was very severely cut about the legs and in other parts – he bled very much and was obliged to leave the omnibus and remain at a road-side house until surgical assistance could be procured.

He was attended very speedily by Mr Holroyd, of Halifax, and after leaving his wounds dressed proceeded on his journey.

The other passengers, including Mr Beaumont and Mr Richard Whitehead (connected in business with Mr Jonathan Akroyd, of Halifax), escaped with more slight injuries.

The omnibus was much injured, and one of the horses was cut in the leg by a stone.

The party after this got safe to Halifax


© Malcolm Bull 2022
Revised 13:13 / 19th January 2022 / 9051

Page Ref: MMS8

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