|The old Luddite meeting place at Cooper Bridge.|
Thanks to their spies, the authorities now had the approximate date of the insurrection (9 June), the name of the main ringleader, ‘Old Tommy’ Bacon, and the names and addresses of those involved. The magistrates could have stepped in and made more arrests at any point, but they let events unfold unmolested. It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the government was happy for the risings to go ahead to see how far the ringleaders were really prepared to go.
The rising in Yorkshire took place a day early (Sunday 8 June) because of a last-minute change of plan to rescue some would-be rebels recently arrested at Thornhill. The ‘revolution’ in the Huddersfield area broke out on with robberies as the men tried to get hold of arms.
Meanwhile, about 300–400 men assembled at Folly Hall Bridge (also known as Engine Bridge) about half a mile from Huddersfield along the road leading to Holmfirth and Honley. The men, armed with guns, pistols, and makeshift pikes, planned to march on Huddersfield when reinforcements arrived from the neighbouring villages. At midnight their leader, George Taylor, declared: ‘Now, my lads, all England is in arms – our liberties are secure – the rich will be poor, and the poor will be rich!’
About thirty minutes later the Huddersfield Yeomanry Cavalry, headed by Captain Armitage, went to reconnoitre the bridge, aided by the local constable, George Whitehead. As they approached the bridge, one man shouted ‘Who goes there?’ and aimed a gun at Whitehead. When Whitehead replied, the man took aim and fired, but it flashed in the pan.
After an exchange of fire, in which a cavalryman’s horse was wounded, the ‘Patrole found themselves compelled to retire to Huddersfield’ for reinforcements. When the soldiers returned, they found the rebels had already scattered and gone home. No-one else turned up to support the ‘revolution’; the Folly Hall Bridge rising was over.
But in Derbyshire, it was now time to ‘either fight or starve’, as we shall see tomorrow.