It was a fine day in the city of London. Little baby Ebenezer was fast asleep as the water from the baptismal font trickled down his forehead. As far as he was concerned, 25th May 1833 was just another day, but for his parents, Edward and Thirza, this was the moment their fifth child entered into the Lord’s care.
Edward, a cooper, was just like any other citizen of London. He was 40 years old, and like so many of his peers, he’d once earned his money by weaving cloth.
Just six years earlier, a worrying report was printed in London’s Morning Chornicle, which described a case heard at Norfolk Assizes concerning an incident that took place on 8th June 1827. The report detailed a vicious assault on Edward that was carried out by a riotous and tumultuous mob of up to 50 men, led by a man named Horme. But what could this meek and humble weaver have possibly done to warrant such a terrifying punishment?
Back in the 1820s, Edward and his family were living at Lakenham, close to Norwich, Norfolk. On the day of the attack, he was attending a meeting of operative weavers on Castle Meadow. It was during this meeting when Horne and two other men named Blazey and Foulsham approached Edward, and it was obvious from their aggressive manner that they weren’t about to engage in a friendly conversation about the weather.
‘You are a great rogue!’ Blazey suddenly accused, shoving Edward firmly on his shoulder.
‘The greatest rogue on earth!’ Foulsham added defiantly.
‘Nay, it’s worse!’ snarled Blazey, his eyes red with fury. ’He’s the greatest rogue in Norwich!’
To these men, the behaviour of Edward was inexcusable. To make a quick profit, he’d been engaging in the heinous practice of undercutting his fellow weavers.
Alarmed by the menace shown by these men, Edward fled across the meadow, down St. Stephen’s Street and burst through the front door of a nearby blacksmith’s shop. But he could not hide for long; he’d been followed by the three men and a mob of equally angry weavers!
The assembled gang barged their way into the shop and seized the quivering weaver. His clothes were torn off his back until he was stripped to the waist. Horne and another man grabbed an arm each and conspired to drag Edward through the streets, kicking the backs of his legs all the way they went, until they finally reached the rest of the disgruntled weavers at Crooks Place. Horne bid the men be silent, declaring that he was a great friend to the weavers and he would help them punish the rogue in whatever manner they saw fit.
‘To the pump with him!’ the crowd shouted. ’Drench him with the water pump!’
And so poor Edward, too weak to put up any resistance, was led to his fate in the town square in the full view of the rest of the townsfolk. Edward was soon soaking wet and badly bruised; he’d already received several blows and been knocked the ground upon his forcible ejection from the blacksmith’s shop. His humiliation continued until some passers by fetched the officers, who took Horne away with them.
Horne’s friends spoke in his favour at court, suggesting that he had been attempting to keep the peace, but the jury were convinced by Edward’s version of events, backed up by many independent witnesses.
After this Edward told his family they were leaving Norwich at once to start a new life in smoky London. Edward vowed never again to weave a single thread, turning his hands to the construction of beer barrels. He was never out of work in such a thirsty city.
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