Luddites 2013 York

At the 3 May monthly meeting one of the topics discussed was the potential for a major celebratory event to commemorate the Luddites executed in York in January 1813. If you would like to be involved and have energy and ideas – read on!


To commemorate the Luddites who were imprisoned, transported and executed at York in January 1813 and rescue their names from ‘the enormous condescension of posterity’

To correct popular misconceptions about their aims, ideas and methods, especially the idea that they were ‘anti-technology’

To draw out the links between the Luddites and their struggles with issues in modern society and the problems we face in dealing with them and to show their contemporary relevance

To put York’s connection firmly on the map

Provisional events:

[The trials ran from 2 January1813 to 16 January 1813. The equivalent dates for 2013 would be 5 January to 19 January. The first executions were on Friday 8 January 1813, when George Mellor, William Thorpe and Thomas Smith were hung and their bodies taken to the County Hospital for dissection and the body parts dispersed. The second executions were two batches of seven men each on Saturday 16 January, following which the bodies were handed over to the families to be carried on carts in a procession back to their homesteads in the Pennines.]

Based on this scenario, it is proposed to do the following (all subject to feasibility and change):

Tuesday 8 January 2013 – Memorial for the Hanged Luddites – Public meeting with speakers – Luddism and Technology

Wednesday 16 January 2013 – Memorial for the hanged Luddites – Public meeting with speakers on the history of the Luddites and their modern relevance

Saturday 19 January 2013 c. 11 a.m. Street theatre and procession to commemorate the execution of the Luddites and link their struggle to the those of today

Saturday 19 January 2013 – evening ‘Wake for the Luddites’

What is to be done?

1. We need to organise speakers and venues for the two talks and seek to involve other organisations in York in supporting these events either financially or in kind (e.g. space).

2. We need to organise supporting events such as an exhibition in the city centre, to explore the possibility for setting up and unveiling a permanent memorial, to attract media interest and arrange publicity.

3. We need to organise a route for the proposed procession which takes in the site of execution (Tower Street), the Court and Castle (Eye of York), the former site of the York County Hospital (off Monkgate) and culminating either in Parliament Street (for speeches, music, street theatre) and/or an indoor venue (in the event of bad weather or as a final event). We need to work with the authorities to facilitate this.

4. We need to seek the involvement of a wide selection of people to make the procession event fun, theatrical and serious but celebratory: theatre groups, musicians, bands, re-enactors, drummers, etc (all ideas and volunteers welcome)

5. We need to decide on the precise format of the evening ‘wake’, making sure it is good fun and a reward for everybody who has helped make the events a success

Next steps:

Everyone is invited to come up with ideas, including ones not considered so far, and to chat around with friends and associates you think might want to come on board, especially with the Grand Procession

Over the next two YAH monthly meetings we will take stock of progress and decide what is likely to be possible and firm up the plans


5 thoughts on “Luddites 2013 York

  1. Hi Martin–I met John Bibby at the Huddersfield Luddite conference in April, who was suggesting some kind of commemoration; don’t know if he’s been in touch with you. Ruth Mather and I, both history PhD students at York, met last night to discuss the idea–we think it would be worthwhile to stage a selectively-edited reenactment of the trial, highlighting that the issues addressed have exact current parallels. We were talking about getting various departments of the university (history, drama, TFTV, etc.) involved. We were also thinking of asking Mikron Theatre whether they’d be interested in doing an encore performance of their summer play about the Luddites here in York for the anniversary. Let me know if you’re interested in ‘joining forces’.

    • Hi Carolyn
      The YAH group is working up ideas for how to commemorate the events of the executions in January 2013 and is still wide open to alternative ideas and suggestions. You should talk to Adam Gutteridge at the University, as he is the ‘lead’ person in YAH for this particular project and come along to one of our meetings. You can also ‘plug in’ to the YAH email forum and keep up to date with things by following the link on the website.
      Good to hear from you.

      • Thanks Martin–I’m currently working with Adam on another project; I’ll get in touch with him.

  2. Pingback: Luddites and York: Why Remember? | York's Alternative History

  3. Pingback: Luddites and York: Saturday 19th January 2013 | York's Alternative History

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