The following article compiled by Malcolm Peel has relied on facts from the Salopian Journal dated Wednesday March 28th, 1821, which gave the account of the trial. Several witnesses were called, including a twelve-year-old boy from Pain’s Lane. (St. Georges). A Mr. Pearson stated the case to the Jury. He said, “the iron trade having become in a very depressed state, the masters, in consequence, found it necessary to reduce the wages of their workmen. Notice was accordingly given that a reduction would commence on the 29th of January last. On the 31st of that month, numbers of working colliers were seen idling and loitering about and on the 1st of February very riotous proceedings took place, and on the morning of the 2nd of February a number of persons were seen together, advancing to the Old Park Works”.
February 1st, 1821.
The disturbances started on the 1st February at the Ketley Works and then moved on to the New Hadley or the Ragfield Works which is next to Wombridge. Having stopped these works, they moved on to Donnington Wood at about 3 o’clock, which is in the parish of Lilleshall, and which belonged to the Lilleshall Company. Between 200 and 500 people had gathered and damage was done to various engines and buildings. They also were heard shouting “We want a big loaf and our old wages”.
At Donnington, there was a shout of “fire” and then a great many stones were thrown at the constables, who promptly ran away, being unable to cope with the people gathered. Here, they also stopped the foundry.
On the 24th March, John Wilcox, along with the others arrested the following day, was charged with a Capital Felony in having together with 200 other persons, did riotously assemble on 1st February 1821 in the Parish of Lilleshall. He was found not guilty because of the way the charge was worded, and therefore, he did not contravene any law.
February 2nd, 1821.
At about 8·30am, about 500 colliers were seen coming from the direction of Donnington Wood Works towards Old Park Works. Here, plugs were removed from three boilers, preventing the steam engines from working. The Old Park Works belonged to the Botfields, who were the only masters that had not given notice of reduction and did not intend to reduce wages.
They remained at Old Park for about one hour and then proceeded to the Stirchley Works, (Randlay), and to one of Botfields Pits, where they threatened to cut the winding ropes if the men were not brought up.
Next, they went to Dawley Castle Works were again, they removed plugs from boilers, thus stopping steam engines from working. (Previous articles have stated that furnaces were plugged. The information for this article was taken from the trial report in the Salopian Journal and at no time do they mention that furnaces were plugged. Furnaces were plugged in-between casting and were part of the iron producing operation. Removing plugs from boilers would result in the loss of water and thus stopping steam engines from working and thus iron production).
At this point, the strikers divided, and the largest body went towards the Lightmoor Works arriving at 12·00 noon where they removed the plugs from six boilers and then on to the Horsehay Works. Others went to the Coalbrookdale Works. The report does not mention if any damage was done here.
Later in the day, the two groups joined together and proceeded towards Lawley Bank. At this point they saw the cavalry who advanced towards them. At about two o’clock, the whole body moved to the banks at Old Park where they were joined by women and children and it was noted that the women could be more violent than the men.
For about fifteen minutes, the magistrates tried to get the crowd to disperse and go home but they continued to shout and brandished sticks. As they did not disperse, Mr. William Turner, clerk to the magistrates, called for silence and at about twenty-five minuets to three, Mr. Thomas Eyton, one of his Majesty’s Justice of the Peace, read the Riot Act. After the Proclamation had been read, the crowd were more violent, and the magistrates begged them to disperse, telling them that if they remained there one hour after the Proclamation was read, they would be liable to be tried for a capital felony.
This had no effect and about one and half hours after the reading, several rioters were taken into custody by the constables and placed in the centre of the cavalry ready to be taken to Wellington. The crowd then took possession of some mounds which commanded the road along which the cavalry had to pass. When the cavalry with the prisoners came between the mounds, a violent discharge of stones from the crowd came like a hail-storm among them and the prisoners were released. The volley of stones continued for some time, upon which the cavalry fired, killing eighteen-year-old William Bird and mortally wounded Thomas Gittins. Others in the crowd were wounded but the volley had succeeded in dispersing them. After about five minutes, some of the prisoners were retaken and many protesters were arrested in the days and weeks that followed the battle.
Thomas Palin was arrested one week later, on Sunday, and later at the trial on the 24th March, Mr. Cooper, surgeon of Donnington stated that Thomas Palin came to his shop on the 3rd February and that a ball had passed through Palin’s arm on the 2nd February, and he came to have the wound dressed.
The Learned Judge told the Jury that they had not, in finding their verdict, to consider all the circumstances that had been given in evidence. If they were satisfied that the prisoners had been present when the riot act was read and had continued afterwards for the space of one hour, that was sufficient to constitute a capital felony as alleged in the indictment.
The Jury, in a few minutes, returned a verdict of Guilty.
John Amies, Joseph Eccleshall, Robert Wheeler, John Grainger, Christopher North, John Payne and John Wilcox were sentenced to be imprisoned with hard labour for nine calendar months.
Thomas Palin and Samuel Hayward were sentenced to death. Samuel Hayward was reprieved on 2nd April 1821, but Thomas Palin was hanged on 7th April.
There was a Thomas Palin, aged 26 years from Hollinswood, buried at Shifnal on 10th April 1821. There is no further proof that this is the Thomas Palin, hanged at Shrewsbury on the 7th April.