October 3rd, 1779
In our way to this place, a little on this side Chowbent, we met several hundred people in the road. I believe there might be about five hundred & upon enquiring of one of them the occasion of their being together in so great a number, he told me they had been destroying some engines, & meant to serve them all so through the country. Accordingly they have advice here to-day that they must expect a visit tomorrow the workmen in the neighbourhood having muster'd up a considerable number of arms & are casting bullets & providing ammunition to-day for the assault to-morrow morning. Sr. Rich'd. Clayton brought this account here to-day, & I believe is in the town now, advising with the inhabitants upon the best means for their safety, & I believe they have concluded to send immediately to Liverpool for a part of the troops quarter 'd there. Many of the workmen having been turn'd off lately oweing to a want of demand for their goods at foreign markets has furnish'd them with an excuse for these violent measures. The manufacturers say the measures which the Irish have adopted in their non-importation agreements have affected their trade very much. These are melancholy facts, upon which I forbear to comment. They do not stand in need of much illustration, but we must pray for better times.October 9th
I wrote to my dear friend last from Bolton, & I mention'd the mob which had assembled in that neighbourhood; but they had not then done much mischief; they only destroyed a small engine or two near Chowbent. We met them on Saturday morning, but I apprehend what we saw were not the main body; for on the same day, in the afternoon, a capital engine or mill, in the manner of Arcrites [Arkwright's], and in which he is a partner, near Chorley, was attacked; but from its peculiar situation they could approach to it by one passage only, & this circumstance enabled the owner, with the assistance of a few neighbours, to repulse the enemy and preserve the mill for that time. Two of the mob were shot dead upon the spot, one drowned, & several wounded. The mob had no fire arms & did not expect so warm a reception. They were greatly exasperated & vowed revenge: accordingly they spent all Sunday, & Monday in collecting fire arms, & ammunition and melting their pewter dishes into bullets. They were now join'd by the D. of Bridgewaters colliers & others, to the number, we were told, of eight thousand, & march'd by beat of drum, & with colours flying to the mill where they met with a repulse on Saturday. They found Sr. R'd. Clayton guarding the place with 50 Invalids armed, but this handfull were by no means a match for enraged thousands; they (the invalids) therefore contented themselves with looking on, whilst the mob completely destroy'd a set of mills valued at £10,000.Oct. 13th
On Tuesday we heard their drum at about two miles distance from Bolton a little before we left the place, & their professed design was to take Bolton, Manchester & Stockport in their way to Crumford [Cromford], & to destroy all the engines, not only in these places, but throughout all England.
The mob enter'd that Bolton on Tuesday the 5th when we had left it not more than an hour. They contented themselves with breaking the windows & destroying the machinery of the first mill they attacked, but the next, the machinery being taken away, they pull'd down the building & broke the mill wheel to pieces. They next proceeded to Mr. Keys of the Folds, & destroy 'd his machine and water wheel, and then went to work with the lesser machines, all above so many spindles; I think 24. When they had completed their business at Bolton, I apprehend they went to their homes. Jack only says they are quiet now, & that 100 of the Yorkshire militia are come to defend them. I hope the delusion is ended, and that the country may be in peace again.Oct. 16th
I hear nothing further of the Lancashire rioters only that some soldiers are sent to oppose them with orders not to fire over the poor fellows heads, but right amongst them, & to do all the execution they can the first fire, by way of intimidating them at once. This may be right for aught I know, and cause the least blood shed in the end; but it is dreadful, and I hope there will be no occasion for the military proceeding to such extremities. I do not like to have the soldiery familiarised to spilling the blood of their countrymen and fellow citizens.