Here and There in the Library is a journey through the magical and eclectic collection housed within The Athenaeum. The below edition was originally published in July 2015 in the Club Newsletter, and was written by newly appointed Honorary Proprietor, Alan Andrews.
The Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire form a very useful and interesting part of our library. They range from 1848 when the society was formed up to the present day. Many of the Articles published in the Society’s earlier transactions deal with material which does not now attract much attention from scholars and academics in the present age. However an article by Arthur Wardle published in the 1939 volume of transactions does connect local with national events. “Sir Thomas Johnson and the Jacobite rebels” traces the shocking story of the fate awaiting those who had surrendered after the failure of the rebellion at the battle of Preston in 1715. Liverpool as a town firmly in the group of local Whigs was early to prepare its defences when the Jacobite rising started in 1714. Steps being taken then to cover crossing places on the Mersey with artillery defences. After the battle of Preston a large number of prisoners were confined at Liverpool, Chester and Lancaster. The Judges appointed for the trials started proceedings against 120 of these men. Various numbers were executed at Preston, Wigan, Garstang and Manchester. Details refer to 4 executions at Liverpool on 25th February 1716. After the execution over 600 men submitted to the Royal Mercy and petitioned for transportation, the Judge then ended the trial and returned to London.
With his eye on an opportunity to enrich himself Sir Thomas Johnson proposed to the Government his tender for transporting the rebels, £2 per head for transport a further amount at the plantation in America. The prisoners would then work for Johnson for 7 years.
Accordingly £1000 was paid to Johnson in part payment. By the spring of 1716 shipment of these unfortunates had begun from Liverpool, between March and July 637 being transported and the lists of these being attested by none other than Richard Gildart who was Thomas Johnson’s Lawyer. Some of the ships going to the plantations stopped at Cork which provided an opportunity for the compulsory emigrants to escaped, some had already indeed escaped at Waterford. In the “Stuart Manuscripts” there is an account of 30 prisoners taking control of a ship. The master of the ship had used the prisoners with great barbarity and the greatest cruelty, and a letter Bordeaux 10th September 1716 complained of the barbarous treatment inflicted by the ships master, keeping them in irons and reducing the daily rations. Again the prisoners took the ship over and persuaded the crew to sail them to France, this ship was called the “Hockenhull Galley”.
William Stout’s Autobiography reprinted in the Historic Society’s transactions recalls that 200 prisoners were left in Lancaster Castle, after 12 months 40 of these were hanged and 50 died in captivity, reflecting the severity of the conditions given to these unfortunates.
Mr Wardle subsequently published an ‘appendix’ to his article for further details he had discovered about this from Bristol Library and Guildhall Library London.
Treasury records of the period disclose subsequent settlements at costs involved in the proceedings against those taken prisoner after the rebellion. In May 1717 the main prosecution barristers Baron Fortescue and Laurence Cave made application fees due for their legal services, and in petition to the treasurer as late as 1719 Mr E.S Noble father of John Shafto who had been shot and then surrendered said that his son had even endured and incurred the hatred, malice and displeasure of his friends and relations, but for these services he had received no reward only subsequent grief.
The Autobiography of William Stout, details of which can be found in the Historic Societies Transaction volumes refer to post rebellion events.
Four hundred of these unfortunates were confined in Lancaster Castle, 40 of these were hanged and in a years’ time 50 had died and the rest transported. Stout comments that the captives were provided ‘Food and drink from other disaffected subjects’.
After his paper was read to the historic society 9th Feb 1939, Mr Wardle found further information on the topic, this related to newspapers at the Bristol Public Library. From the Bristol Papers we learned that every 50th man was to be tried and every other man transported.
The London Newspaper reported from 11th-12th November 1715 how the defences had been hastily prepared. In the south east part of Liverpool 1000 men were armed ready to defend the town. The Bristol Papers also report the opening of the Commission for the trials and we learned that the service at the start of the trials, the sermon was preached by ’Mr Peploe’ vicar of Preston, who preached an excellent sermon. He was soon was rewarded for his service becoming the next Arch Bishop of Canterbury. It is quite pleasant to find from a Bristol newspaper that a young Highlander being marched to Liverpool managed to escape his chains by leaping over a 5 bar gate, the soldiers of the escorts shot at him but thankfully missed. He finally vanished after ’jumping over a hedge or a ditch with great progress’.
A London Newspaper ‘A faithful register’, carried the story of alexander Drummond . He was apparently a young man of comely personage and many young women of the better sort at Liverpool now interceded for this gentlemen with the judge. This was unsuccessful and he endured his execution which he did with compassion from the spectators.
Mr Wardle mentions the published diary of Sir Dudley Ryder a student of Middle Temple 1715-16 later Chief Justice 1754-56, he says that the strong majority of Whigs in control of Liverpool ensured that the town council would make sure that defences were raised, young men formed into companies and trained for military duties. Ryder reported all this from an account given to him by a William Crisp who was a captain of a company of these troops. Some of these men went up to Lord Molineux’s House, the house was searched but no one except some females were found. William Blundell recalls how his house was ransacked by soldiers, after which he left England for the continent only returning in 1717.
Very few of the society’s transactions deal with this earlier Jacobite rebellion and the amount of records available would suggest a fruitful field for further research.
Originally published July 2015