Sunday, 12 January 2020

The Fatal Seathwaite Tarn Riot of 1904

The Duddon Valley was eulogised by Wordsworth in his 33 sonnets that tracked the Duddon from its source to its estuary in the Irish Sea, finishing then with a valedictory one that was voted as one of the BBC viewers favourite 100 poems. Along its journey he describes the beauty of the river, its surroundings, the tranquillity of its setting, and the people who live on its banks; Particular reference is inferred to Robert Walker 1709 - 1802, the vicar at Seathwaite Church.

The Stepping Stones, near Seathwaite village, the subject of the 9th sonnet, which continues into the 10th.
Seathwaite Tarn, Duddon Valley, looking northwest. The curve at the far end is caused by the dam.

The River Duddon near Seathwaite
It was however not always to be so tranquil as the events of 25 July 1904 show. A large number of navvies were employed in the Barrow Waterworks dam construction at Seathwaite Tarn, in the Duddon Valley. It was to supply drinking water for the Furness area and was to be nearly 400 yards long. A serious disturbance occurred, three men were reported being seriously injured and special drafts of the North Lancashire Constabulary were sent to Ulpha to quell the riot, leading to six persons being arrested. The incident was apparently started when the landlord of the Newfield Hotel refused to serve alcoholic drink to about seven navvies who then threatened to kill him, smashing the windows to the premises and later to the church, vicarage and school. Although now in the county of Cumbria this area was Lancashire at the time, Cumbria being an amalgamation in 1972, following boundary changes of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire of which Barrow, Ulverston and Duddon were part; hence the references to prisoners of Lancashire Constabulary.

On the morning of 27 July 1904, at the Police Courts at Ulverston Thomas Dawson(the landlord of The Newfield Inn at Seathwaite, Duddon Valley) stood in the dock with James Greenhow, a young barman at those premises and Henry Knox Dodd, an engineer of Glasgow and the assistant engineer at the namesake's tarn dam. All were charged with offences following a serious disturbance on 25th at Seathwaite. Dawson was charged with unlawfully wounding James Foy, 33 years by shooting him in the leg, Greenhow was alleged to have shot Garrett Kinsella, 23 years, in the shoulder; and Dodd with shooting in the leg a 25 year old Millom Labourer named Owen Kavanagh; he died of the injury the next day at around noon. Owen was a native of Millom, the son of John and Jane Kavanagh, both parents originated from Ireland. In 1899 Owen had joined the North Lancashire Regiment and in 1901 had been based Southampton. He had minor brushes with the police in Millom for drunkenness. These offences were in April 1899, July 1901, and March 1902.
The three accused had been charged at Broughton Police Station and transferred to Ulverston by train under the escort of Inspector Hume and a contingent of officers. They were accompanied by Mr Butler, a solicitor from Broughton, who oversaw their interests. All three stood in the dock although the charges against Greenhow and Dawson stood separately to the one Dodd faced. Only one witness, John Thomas Standing, a driver at Seathwaite Waterworks was called to initially give evidence. He stated that at about 2:40 pm on the afternoon of Monday 25 July he had seen six or seven men damaging the windows at Seathwaite Church and School. He was tackled by them but managed to break away and fled to the Newfield Hotel where he found that damage had previously been caused to the hotel windows. Few were left undamaged and the rioters then returned. He went on to give evidence that the rioters shouted 'If you do not open the door we will bash it in' and Foy threw a huge cobble through a glass pane. He stated the position was so serious that Greenhow fired a shot from a distance of ten yards which felled Kinsella. This did not stop the attack and Foy threatened the landlord Dawson who then fired from a distance of only five yards, hitting Foy in the leg, and Foy was carried into an out-house to be attended to.
Their solicitors (Dawson was represented by Mr Wilson Butler of Broughton) in their defence, pointed out that this was an important piece of evidence in that it showed that despite the use of a gun and the subsequent injury to Kinsella, the rioters had not been put off their concerted attack on the premises. Present in the hotel bar at the time was Mrs Dawson, also Miss Dawson, and some girls who were at serious risk of being killed by missiles flung through the windows. When stones were not readily to hand, wood and iron spouting was used. Thomas Standing said that the use of guns was the last resort for those defending the hotel.
Standing was further cross examined by Mr Bradshaw who represented Dodd. Through this cross examination Standing summarised the whole of the event stating that Greenhow fired the first shot, then Dodd shot, and later Dawson. Greenhow's shot felled Kinsella and although he lay on the ground wounded, the attack continued. He further stated that Kavanagh was a dangerous man, and he was leading the attack. Dodd asked him repeatedly to desist but Kavanagh continued with his threats and stone throwing. Dodd was simply protecting the premises, and it was necessary to use a firearm. Two other Millom men arrested at that time were discharged as no evidence of identification was offered to the court. It was also clear from later events in the tale that other men were wanted but had not yet been apprehended; this would later transpire to be a considerable period of time.
After an hours' evidence Superintendent Whittaker asked for a remand for a fortnight due to Foy's injury and further stated that it may be necessary to amputate his leg; however, the three accused were remanded on bail to the sum of £50 and two sureties of £25 each.

To take a step back and consider how this must have appeared to the residents of High Duddon in such a sleepy backwater of the nation; to have been the scene of a riot where their hotel, school, beloved church and vicarage, had suffered such riotous damage was incredulous. Coupled with the fact that shotguns had been fired, one man seriously injured with one dead, was beyond belief but for the evidence of their own eyes in seeing this trail of devastation. Great sympathy went out for the men charged, yet it was also extended to John Kavanagh, the father of Owen, who had travelled the road to Seathwaite, following news of his sons death. 
Accounts at the time further noted that the Newfield Hotel was also the Post Office for the area, and any attack upon the Royal Mail was a serious matter.

Police proceedings could not continue on 27th July without the opening of the inquest which was to commence an hour later, at Newfield Hotel, Seathwaite, Duddon. The coroner and the jury had the opportunity of viewing at first hand the damage in the hamlet caused by the riot. John Kavanagh identified the body of his son, along with a Patrick Delaney. Dr Fawcett of Broughton gave evidence to the inquest that the thigh bone had been shattered by No. 6 shot, stating that Owen had been conscious almost to the last but had never made a statement. The inquest was then adjourned until 16 August.
When the coroner recommenced the inquest, the Magistrates court hearing had by this time decided that Henry Knox Dodd should be acquitted of the charge of shooting Kavanagh dead. He now gave evidence to the inquest that he was cycling by the Newfield Hotel when he dismounted to enquire why the windows were broken. He was told by Miss Dawson that some men had done it and it was at this point four ruffians came out of the kitchen and demanded a sovereign from him. After  going home he returned, got a gun from the kitchen, and went into a new room being built on the side of the hotel. He was questioned:
Q 'Why did you shoot the man in the hip?'
A 'I could not get any lower'
Q 'Why did you not shoot his hand, or where you would not have killed him?'
A 'I was not quite sure where I was going to hit him'
Q You could have shot his right hand'
A 'No sir, he was swinging it'

In the inquest summary the coroner he was clearly critical of the Lancashire Constabulary when he said it was extraordinary that those responsible for the peace in the county, knowing that a licensed house and the number of men working in the district posed an obvious disorder risk, did not take better precautions to prevent such a rising. He then informed the jury on a point of law, stating that if Dodd fired in protecting the house and inmates against rioting and felony it would be justified, but if carelessly, recklessly or wantonly, then he must be committed for manslaughter (At the Assizes.)
The jury returned a similar verdict to that of the Magistrates, namely one of 'Justifiable Homicide.'

On September 13th Garrett Kinsella was released from hospital where he had been treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder. On Saturday 5th November 1904, he pleaded guilty at Lancaster Assizes to the offence of riotous conduct and was sentenced to 9 months hard labour by Mr. Justice Phillimore. The Judge stated that had it not been for the injuries the rioters had suffered, he would have sentenced him to penal servitude. Garrett had been in trouble with the police in the course of his young life. At the age of 16 he had been sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for breaking into Phillips greengrocers in Millom, with two others. In March 1902 he and Owen Kavanagh failed to answer to a drunk and disorderly offence in Millom and warrants were issued. At Lancaster Quarter Sessions in October 1903 he had absconded when wanted for a burglary offence in the Broughton area and was apprehended and sentenced in February 1904. Even after the riot he was still failing to answer to his bail for a Drunk and Disorderly in March 1909.

On Thursday 26 January 1905 at Lancaster Assizes Court, James Foy appeared charged in connection with the riot at Seathwaite. He had since had the injured leg amputated at Ulverston Union Infirmary on Wednesday 10th August and was now to shortly undergo another operation as the first was not a great success. He pleaded Guilty and recognised that the offence was caused by alcoholic drink; he had since taken The Pledge, whilst in hospital. He was sentenced to one day's imprisonment, the judge recognising that he had to pass a lawful sentence of imprisonment, but the calamity he had brought upon himself by his criminal act, was more punishment than he should pass on him, by use of the law. 

On 13 July 1905 members of the Barrow Corporation visited the Duddon Valley to inspect the waterworks, noting the good progress that had been made in the laying of over 17 miles of pipes from the intake works. It was expected that the dam would be fully constructed and in operation by the autumn of 1906. This would give the tarn an area of 30 acres. An added advantage to the dam construction was the new road from Seathwaite to the tarn itself. The dam builders, Messrs. Kennedy's Limited of Glasgow, had constructed this and it was appreciated by the carters of the area. 

The riot investigation was to continue and on 29 November 1905 at North Lonsdale Magistrates Court, James Burns and Thomas Burns (they bore the same surname but were not related) were placed in the dock on a charge of rioting on 25 July 1904. Superintendent Whittaker told the court that the police had scoured the country for the two men and Thomas had given himself up at Newcastle; James Burns had been arrested the previous day at Askam-in-Furness, Lancashire. It was noted that both looked to be in a poor and haggard state. They were each remanded for a week.
Evidence of identification had been provided by no less than eight witnesses, one of whom was Miss Dawson.
A PC Demmsey of Newcastle gave evidence that he had been approached on the street by Thomas Burns who said to him "I am sick of it" The officer asked what he meant by it and Burns stated that he was wanted on warrant by Lancashire County Police in connection with the Seathwaite Riot adding further "I have been out of work and am afraid to go back. When handed over to PC Dunn of Askam, he said to this officer on the train "I remember being at the public house, but I don't remember rioting, I was so drunk. I had gone to Seathwaite to seek work when I met Foy and my brother, and I went back to the public house."
At 1 am  on 28 November, James Burns was arrested by Inspector Hogg of Millom (Cumberland) at the Ironwork's Pier, Millom. He said to the inspector, "I can soon clear myself of the Seathwaite job if I can only get my witnesses. I should like to know who has given me away."  James Burns was handed over to Inspector Hulme (Lancashire).
When asked at the Magistrates Court whether they wished to say anything, Thomas replied 'No' but James asked that his brother John be called as a witness. John's evidence was that he and James had gone to Seathwaite to look for work, leaving Millom at about 7:30 am and arriving at Seathwaite at about ten to one. They went into the Newfield Hotel and had one pint of beer and after about ten minutes the landlord came into the room and put Foy out. He went on to say that Foy went quietly but returned again for his beer. Thomas Burns, himself and brother went out quietly but Foy was struggling with another person who went back into the Hotel. Foy asked him to return and fight. Mr Dawson came to the door and went back again and they all followed. Kavanagh then got a two gallon tin and filled it with beer, throwing it into the yard. John Burns then picked up the tin and carried it back into the hotel when stones then came in through the windows. He stated that he and another person named Carlton then went to the navvies huts and his brother came after them. It was after about half an hour that he heard shots and he returned to the hotel, finding Foy shot in the leg. He covered him with bracken until help came. 
He was cross examined by Superintendent Whittaker and he stated that he could not tell who threw the stones. He was unaware of any damage to the church, vicarage or school and Kavanagh, Foy and several others were present when he was first in the hotel. The prisoners were then committed for trial at the next Lancaster Assizes Court.
On Monday  29 January 1906, before Justice Grantham, Thomas Burns, 23, and James Burns, 27, were indicted for riotous assembly and damage at Seathwaite that fateful day. Mr John Sharpe was the prosecutor and Mr Greaves Lord the defence. The two defendants pleaded 'Not Guilty'. Mr Sharpe laid out a summary of the affray that took place on 25 July 1904, including the alleged behaviour, the buildings damaged, and the death of Kavanagh and injury to others. 
The specific events laid by the prosecution were that the landlord went into the house and brought back a pint of beer and handed it to Foy outside. Foy had stated that it was not his pint and insisted on entering the house, but was prevented from doing so by the landlord and a scuffle broke out. Four others came out of the house and joined Foy in the scuffle and so began the chain of events that led to the eventual riot and fatality. The landlord was then aided by a joiner called Wilkinson, but the five men then set upon him and he ran into a barn where he managed to bolt the door and looked on the future proceedings from a hole in it. The alleged offenders then ran into the inn and Wilkinson could hear the sound of breaking glass.
Miss Dawson had gone off to a hay-field about half a mile away for assistance. She returned at about 2:30 pm and saw the men throwing stones at the windows. Miss Dawson had no difficulty picking out these men from nine, some sixteen months later. They were seen to run into the kitchen and broke a spirit vessel of rum and also brandy. After wrecking the place they then left. 
They threatened Thomas Hodge,  Roger Postlethwaite, Emmanuel Jackson and George Wilson with beer bottles, one taking hold of Postlethwaite's horse bridle. Each in turn saw evidence of damage by the men to the church, vicarage and school. In total there were 104 panes of glass broken. The witnesses gave evidence that the men returned then to the hotel. Dawson the landlord had saddled his horse and set out for assistance, but on hearing shots, returned and defended the premises, himself firing a weapon. After summarising the arrests and previous sentences against the other offenders, Mr Sharpe pointed out that the prisoners before the court may not have actually thrown stones as individuals, but provided that they stood about with approval, having regard to the seriousness, they were guilty of riot.
James Burns, who was defended under the Poor Prisoners Defence Act, admitted being present from beginning to end but on the two vital occasions he had gone round a corner. Since the death of Kavanagh, the landlord Mr Dawson was in no fit condition to give evidence as a witness. The evidence of a large number of witnesses was cross examined to try and show that it was by no means conclusive. 
It was at this point the evidence of PS Dunn was given where he informed the court that Thomas Burns had said:
'I suppose I shall get more than Kinsella, as he was wounded. I remember being in the public house but I was so drunk I don't remember the row, I went up that day to seek work.' 
Inspector Hogg then gave evidence for the arrest of James Burns and his reply on arrest was:
 'I can get out of that job if I can get my witnesses.'
This concluded the case for the prosecution.

Mr Lord for the defence then called Thomas Burns who stated he had gone from his home town of Millom to Seathwaite to obtain work. He met Foy, who was his cousin. After going with him to the Newfield Hotel and after the start of the disturbance, he said that he tried to get Foy away and played no part in any damage to any building. He stated his reason for not remaining at Seathwaite after the incident was that the remuneration of the work was not sufficient. When cross examined by the prosecution with reference to the amount of evidence from other witnesses stating that he did indeed riot, Thomas Burns stated that their minds were unclear after the evidence they gave, both here and at Ulverston. He was questioned why he had kept away for 16 months and he stated he had been in South Wales and had only found out a month before he gave himself up that there had been a warrant for his arrest.
James Burns said he finished at the waterworks and took his 'sub' on the day in question. He stated that his only part in the events of the day was trying to assist Thomas Burns and John Burns to remove Foy from the hotel and that Foy was acting like a madman.  When he heard the landlord was going for assistance he actually helped to yoke and saddle the horse.
Mr Lord in final summary for the defence then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoners and informed them that it was not sufficient that the accused were merely standing passively by, but to be guilty of riot they must have been throwing stones, committing damage, or encouraging others in concert to do so. 
Mr Justice Grantham then summarised, concluding by saying that he regretted  that good and reliable workmen should give way to drink, and so make themselves guilty of excesses. The landlord did his duty, and Foy's folly had precipitated the trouble. 
The jury did not leave the box and found the men guilty. Thomas Burns had previously been in trouble and was given 12 months hard labour, James Burns was given nine months.

So finally ended the riot of Seathwaite Tarn and Wordsworth's peace and tranquillity settled once again on the Duddon Valley.