Burnley men who fought for a new king in 1715

This is a scene showing the latter stages of hanging, drawing and quartering. (s)
This is a scene showing the latter stages of hanging, drawing and quartering. (s)
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We left this story just when things were hotting up. A number of disaffected Mancunians, drawing membership from local Catholics, Anglicans and a number of “trouble makers” had, on his birthday (June 10th, 1715) decided to drink the health of the Old Pretender. The latter was James Francis Edward Stuart, the person who, in the opinion of some of the citizens of Manchester, was the rightful king of England.

Instead, the man occupying the throne was the German, King George I (1714-27) who, though he was related to the Stuarts (his great grandfather was James I), was, in reality, about 56th in the line of succession. George, who could speak no English, was a Protestant. James was a Catholic. However, the important thing was the Protestant Whigs were in power in Westminster.

Military dispositions, Preston 1715 (s)

Military dispositions, Preston 1715 (s)

The Manchester men were firmly of the opinion the Government had got the wrong man and soon the town was in uproar. A mob, led by a local blacksmith called Thomas Sydall, set off on a campaign of destruction, their victims being those who had shown their support for the new king. Non-conformist places of worship in Acresfield (later known as Cross Street), Monton, Blackley, and at other places in the Manchester area, were attacked.

T.H.G. Stevens, in his “Manchester of Yesterday” (1958) makes this comment: “In 1714 the Presbyterian Chapel in Cross Street, Manchester, was nearly destroyed by a Jacobite mob headed by Thomas Syddall, the peruke maker. Parliament granted £1,500 for its repair”.

You will have noticed I have said the date of the initial event (the drinking of the Old Pretender’s health) took place in 1715 but that Steven’s says Syddall’s (his spelling) riots were in 1714. Whatever is the actual case we do learn Sydall was a peruke maker, a maker of wigs. In other words, he was not of the land-owning class, something which marks out the 1715 Rebellion from many of those that had taken place before.

As I indicated previously, Sydall, along with other rioters, one of whom was known as “the colonel”, was arrested, sent for trial in Lancaster, put in the stocks and then confined in the castle. It appeared the disturbances were over, but Manchester was not alone in its declaration of support for the exiled “king over the water”.

This gave the disaffected populace of the wider county some satisfaction and they declared that, if there was to be a rising against George I, they could supply 20,000 men. This figure was questioned at the time but no one, in government circles, could take a risk when a potential force of this size was being mooted.

There was evidence that clubs supporting James (Jacobite Clubs, not Jacobins as Stevens has it) were flourishing all over Lancashire. It is known there were such clubs in Manchester, Preston, Wigan and Lancaster and it is probable the mock “town corporation”, meeting in the Unicorn Inn in Walton-le-Dale, may have been a cover for pro-Jacobite activities.

In Burnley it is thought the Hall Inn, on what is now St James’s Street, and the Sparrow Hawk, in Church Street, may have been places where Jacobites held meetings. Of course, I cannot be sure about that but, however, if there was one place where the supporters of James were likely to meet, it was Towneley Hall.

In my previous article I indicated the Towneleys had all the credentials needed to have been involved in a potential Jacobite conspiracy. The sequence of members of the family who were supporters of the Stuarts is as follows: Charles, who was killed at Marston Moor in 1644; Richard, the scientist and mathematician, who died in 1707; Charles, who died in 1712 and Richard, 1689-1735.

It is to this last-named Richard we must now turn our attention, but before we do so, we should remind ourselves his younger brothers, John and Francis, were much more involved with the Jacobite cause. John, otherwise Sir John, was tutor of Bonny Prince Charlie who led the 1745 rebellion. Francis was executed as a consequence of the failure of the ’45.

Richard Towneley was a young man of 23 when he succeeded to the family estates. He was 26 when the events of “the 1715” were acted out but, at the time, it was known his sympathies were with the Jacobites. He was, though, not the only Burnley man to be involved in the events of 1715. At least three or four Burnley men were with him, and three men from Burnley were executed for their involvement in the ’15.

There were two parts of the country associated with the 1715 rebellion. We have seen Lancashire was one of them. The other was Scotland where the motive was Scottish independence. The Scots had agreed to the Act of Union of 1707 but that was undertaken when there was a Stuart monarch on the throne. The arrival of George I in 1714 changed all that.

A Scottish army entered England through Cumberland and Westmorland and was joined by a force from the Earl of Derwentwater and others from Lancashire. These included Edward Tyldesley, John Dalton, Albert Hodgson and Richard Butler, all Lancashire landowners. The army was virtually unopposed though Sir Henry de Hoghton, of Hoghton, was charged with the defence of North Lancashire. He found himself outnumbered so he retired to Preston.

The rebels were in Kirby Lonsdale by November 6th, 1715, and entered Lancaster the day after. Prisoners were released from the castle, including Thomas Sydall, who joined the Jacobite cause. It was in Lancaster, at the market cross, James Stuart was declared to be James III even though he was still in France!

The Scots marched to Garstang on the 9th and arrived in Preston, possibly in the early hours of the 10th, Sir Henry’s small force having withdrawn to a safe distance. King James III was proclaimed again, this time at Preston Cross.

So far, and so good, but few locals had joined the rebel army in Lancaster and not many more were attracted to the cause in Preston. That figure of 20,000 looked to be little more than the kind of boast more associated with a drinking bout at an inn.

However, it was now that, so far as we know, Richard Towneley became involved. Other Lancashire gentlemen, like Towneley with their own small forces, also arrived. These included Sir Francis Anderton of Lostock, Richard Chorley of Chorley, Ralph Standish of Standish, John Leybourn of Nateby and Gabriel Hesketh of Whitehill.

It had, initially, been the intention of the Scottish army to invade down the east coast of England and the Government’s forces has been directed to that part of the country to prevent their progress. This explains, to some extent, why the rebels had managed to advance so far into England but it was not long before forces supportive of the Government were making their way to Preston.

In Preston little was done by the rebels to prepare for the fight that was inevitable. There is, though, a little story which might interest you. It involves one Samuel Peploe, then a curate at Preston Parish Church. At a service held there he said the prayers usual for King George and his family knowing there were supporters of “King James III” in the congregation. When he was threatened by some of the Jacobites, Peploe remarked: “Soldiers, I am doing my duty; you do yours”. After the emergency was over, Peploe was rewarded with the See of Chester.

A Government army marched to Preston from Manchester and, eventually, it was joined by the other from the east coast. The soldiers from Manchester arrived first. They joined with Sir Henry de Hoghton’s force as they crossed the Ribble at Walton-le-Dale and surprised the rebels who withdrew to Preston where, hurriedly, barricades were built at Church Street, Lancaster Road, Friargate and Fishergate.

In an initial attack on these barricades, the Manchester men were repulsed but the army from the east coast arrived, via the Ribble Valley, and, on November 13th, 1715, the rebel forces surrendered. A total of 1,569 prisoners were taken, 1,000 of them Scots, most of them confined within the walls of the Parish Church. Rebel officers were detained at the Mitre, White Bull and Windmill Inns.

40 rebels were executed, including 24 Lancastrians. The executions were spread around the county for maximum effect. Thomas Sydall was one of the five hanged, drawn and quartered at Knott Mill in Manchester on February 11th, 1716, for his part in the violence in the city.

However, what became of Richard Towneley and the men from Burnley who were taken at Preston in 1715? We know the names of the Burnley men from lists compiled at the time. The first list included, William Harris, a shoe maker; Joseph Porter, a labourer and Stephen Sagar, also a labourer. A second list produced the name of James Appleton, a yeoman who lived in the Burnley Wood area. It is likely Appleton, like the others, was a tenant of Richard Towneley.

It is also known Harris, Porter and Sagar were tried and condemned to death at Liverpool but they were executed at Manchester, along with Sydall, with whom they probably shared the same fate.

Richard Towneley, as one of the rebel officers, was sent to London for trial and it is his remarkable trial that we will consider next week.

The “1715” was over for three ordinary Burnley men but was it over for the man possibly responsible for them being involved in the rising? Was it over for Richard Towneley?