Cinderloo: Call for posthumous pardon for young worker hanged after Shropshire uprising

A full 200 years on from when he was hanged for his part in an historic uprising, there are calls for a Shropshire worker to be granted a posthumous pardon.

A poignant graphic showing the names of the three men who lost their lives and the eight others who were arrested
A poignant graphic showing the names of the three men who lost their lives and the eight others who were arrested

Tom Palin was one of three workers who died in or following the Battle of Cinderloo, a confrontation in the area that would later become Telford, between downtrodden miners and the Shropshire Yeomanry over unfair pay.

In the violence that ensued, two workers were killed, Mr Palin was later hanged and eight others were imprisoned.

The Cinderloo 1821 group has worked tirelessly to promote public awareness of the event, and the second centenary was marked earlier this year.

Cinderloo

Mr Palin, who was in his 20s, was hanged for his part in the uprising on April 7, 1821.

Now Cinderloo 1821 are appealing for him to be granted a posthumous pardon.

Group chair Pete Jackson, referring to a report of the day by a William Turner, a magistrate's clerk who was present, wrote: "Tom Palin was tried and hung for riotous assembly and remaining after the Riot Act was read following the ‘Cinderloo riots’ that took place at Old Park, near where Sainsburys is now located on the Forge Retail Park, on February 1 1821.

"Little is known of Tom, who appears to have played a major role in organising and standing up to the mine and furnace owners who were trying to reduce the wages of the miners at a time of severe hardship and poverty for the working class communities of the Dawley coal fields.

"The crowd were agitated, angry and threatening, shouting 'we will have our wages'.

The ‘Cinderloo riots’ that took place at Old Park, near where Sainsburys is now located on the Forge Retail Park

"After the hour had passed the leader of the Yeomanry, Lieutenant Colonel Cludde, commanded the cavalry to advance to break up the crowd and ordered that the ringleaders and any rowdy protesters be arrested.

"The constables arrested two men, Hayward and Hassall, and others were taken into custody by the constables who attempted to transport them to the lock-up at Wellington.

"This was the catalyst for violence. The colliers on the cinder hills nearest the road rained down stones, heavy lumps of slag and anything else that came to hand, showering the troops below. Several of the crowd shouted 'yonder they are, let us get together. If we are to fight for it, let's all get together'.

"Tom Palin successfully led a group to free the arrested strikers. This seemed to create panic in the ranks of the Yeomanry, who were unable to pursue them up the steep, treacherous slag heaps.

"Lieutenant Colonel Cludde ordered his men to open fire. The consequences were serious. One miner, 18-year-old William Bird, was killed outright. Another, Thomas Gittins, was mortally wounded. Tom Palin received a gunshot wound, as did several other strikers and spectators.

Cinderloo

"On February 6, an inquest into the deaths of Bird and Gittins returned a verdict of justifiable homicide and more protesters were arrested in the days and weeks that followed the battle.

"Nine of the prisoners were tried before Salop Assizes on March 25, 1821: Christopher North, John Payne, James Eccleshall, John Grainger, Robert Wheeler, John Amies, and John Wilcox pleaded guilty to the minor charge of common law riot, and were sentenced each to nine months imprisonment, with hard labour.

"Tom Palin and Sam Hayward were condemned at the Shrewsbury Assizes for riotous assembly, remaining after the Riot Act was read and injuring the ironworks, and were found guilty of felonious riot and condemned for execution. Hayward was subsequently reprieved.

"The proprietor of the Old Park furnace works William Botfield, and other local dignitaries, attempted to have the sentence rescinded but Tom’s fate was deemed necessary to make him an example of the consequences of standing up for workers’ rights.

Shoppers in Sainsbury's, on Telford's Forge Retail Park

"Piecing together the story of Tom Palin, you are struck by the lack of detail recorded of the events leading up to cinder hill, and the personality and motivation of Tom and his fellow workers that led them to attempt to take on the local mine and furnace owners.

"Tom Palin has no painting, no statute or even a written acknowledgement for the ultimate sacrifice he made fighting for the rights of the common people of the Dawley coalfield."

Cinderloo 1821 hopes for the support of the incoming High Sheriff of Shropshire, Tony Morris-Eyton.

Learn more about the Cinderloo project at cinderloo.com.

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