Sunday, 1 April 2012

Celebrate Working Class History

Luddite Memorial
The world’s only memorial to the Luddites is being built in the Yorkshire heartland of the Luddite Uprising of 200 years ago and will be unveiled next month.
The tumultuous events of April 1812 are to be remembered in a new park being created in Liversedge by Spen Valley Civic Society within yards of the inn where the Luddites swore their secret oaths and plotted against mill owners.

The centrepiece of the new park will be an imposing sculpture depicting a cropper in defiant pose, with a small child tugging at his leather apron, funded by Kirklees Area Committee.
There will be an accompanying information board and plaque telling the story of the local area and of the croppers, whose livelihoods were put at risk by increasing mechanisation in mills.

The croppers would use hand-held shears to trim the nap from cloth, but a machine could do the work of four men.
They met at the Shears pub in Halifax Road to plot their campaign against mill owners and on April 12, 1812, a band of 150 Luddites attacked Cartwright Mills at Rawfolds with hammers and axes. Two men were shot and the attack was repulsed.

Escaping Luddites may well have fled past the site of the new Liversedge Sparrow Park, which the Civic Society has created from a plot of derelict land.
The mortally wounded men were taken by the military to the Old Yew Tree and then the Star at Roberttown where they died, some say after being tortured by the local vicar to name their compatriots.
The Spen Valley Civic Society some four years ago were reminded by one of its members that 2012 was not only the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics but the 200th anniversary of the Luddite Uprising in Spen Valley.

Having researched the subject in depth, it was apparent that there did not appear to be any memorial in the country to these events which not only affected Yorkshire but other counties such as Nottinghamshire, Lancashire and Cheshire.

The society has created Sparrow Park – funded by Veolia Environmental Trust – on a small piece of land it acquired at the junction of Halifax Road and Knowler Hill, Liversedge.

Society chairman, Max Rathmell said: “Ned Ludd would be delighted to hear that the working class struggle began 200 years ago is to be commemorated in the heart of the district where his followers caused so much pain and grief to the authorities.
“The design of the sculpture shows the croppers defiance, but without the stereotyping of them being armed. We wanted a child to be an integral part of the statue to show they were ordinary family men.
“The artwork will dignify the defeat of the Luddites in their unequal contest with the mill owners and the army whom they fought for the right to work and feed their families.”

The unveiling will take place on Saturday, April 14, at 11.30am.

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