THE TRIAL OF THE DORCHESTER LABOURERS
At the Spring Assizes at Dorchester , March, 1834
Committing Magistrates - Messrs. FRAMPTON, WOOLASTON, DAVIS, CHURCHILL.
Foreman of Grand Jury - Hon. W. F. S. PONSONBY, M.P. (Whig)
Judge - BARON JOHN WILLIAMS (Whig)
JURY - Farmers and Millers
J.MORGAN, E. DUFFETT, J. TUCKER, T. COX, M. GALPIN, W. BOOBY, E. BENNETT, J. L. H. BRYANT, S. HARRIS, G. TULK, J. CASE, W. BULLEN
James Loveless, George Loveless, Thomas Standfield, John Standfield, James Hammet, and James Brine, were indicted for administering a certain unlawful oath and engagement, purporting to bind the person taking the same not to inform or give evidence against any associate or other person, charged with any unlawful combination, and not to reveal or discover any such unlawful combination, or any illegal act done, or to be done, and not to discover any illegal oath that might be taken.
Mr Gambier, in stating the case for the prosecution, directed the attention of the jury to the 39th Geo. III. cap. 79, sec. 2, which pronounces that to be an unlawful combination or confederacy which imposes any path not required or authorized by law. The 57th of Geo. III. cap. 18, sec. 25, was to be the same purport; and any person found guilty of the offence contemplated by the Act might be prosecuted for a misdemeanour.
The learned counsel then detailed the facts, as were stated by the following witnesses:
John Lock examined; I am a labourer. I live at a place called Affpuddle; I went one or two days before Christmas to Tolpuddle; I know the prisoner James Brine; I saw him at Tolpuddle on the day in question; he took me to a house opposite T. Standfield's, and asked me to go in, but I would not; I went away down the street. About a fortnight or three weeks after that, I saw Brine, at Mr. Brine's barn, at Affpuddle; I was then at work; he asked me to go with him to Tolpuddle; the prisoner James Hammett was then with him; it was in the evening, when I was about to leave work; I agreed to go with them, and on the way met with four other men, Edward Legg, Richard Percy, Henry Courtney, and Elias Riggs. As we walked along, one of the men asked whether there would not be something to pay; he was answered that there would be a shilling to pay on entering, and a penny a week afterwards.
On arriving at Tolpuddle, he went into a room into which J. Standfield came; two of the prisoners at the bar, James Loveless and George Loveless, passed through a passage, and one of the prisoners asked if we were ready to have our eyes blindfolded; we said, yes; we then (all five of us) bound our handkerchiefs round our eyes; we were then led by a person through a passage into another room on the same floor; on getting into that room a paper was read to us but I do not recollect any of the words that were read; after the paper had been read we knelt down on being desired to do so; something else was then read to us; the voice which read appeared to be the same. I don't know what the reading was about, but I think it was from some part of the Bible; we then got up, turned ourselves round and took the bandage from our eyes, on being desired to do so; a light was in the room. I saw in the corner of the room something which had the appearance of a skeleton; on looking at it James Loveless said, Remember your end. We were again desired to blind our eyes and kneel down; the same voice read again something which I don't remember; we were afterwards desired to kiss a book; our eyes were then unblinded.
I then saw all the prisoners (six present). Some of them were sitting, some standing. James Loveless then a different dress from what he now has on; the rules were then named to us, I think by George Loveless; I did not know the exact meaning of the rules; something was said about paying a shilling on entering the society, and a penny a week afterwards to support the men who were out of work - those who had struck, till their masters had raised their wages. I know the meaning of the word strike - it is to stop work; I don't recollect that I heard the word used that night when I was blindfolded; I heard the word note or letter mentioned; we were told that when we intended to strike we need not mention it to our masters, because they would have a letter sent to them acquainting them of it. I last was living at Affpuddle. I did not pay a shilling at the time of entering the society; I paid it in the course of two or three weeks afterwards; I gave it to George Loveless; I don't know what became of it afterwards.