Chudleigh Show-box

Letter from Reverend G Burrington to Lord Sidmouth, 25 November 1819 (catalogue reference HO 42/199 f.305)


Chudleigh near Exeter
Nov. 30th 1819

My Lord,

I think it is a duty I owe to the Publick to acquaint your Lordship that yesterday, the 24th inst., a Gentleman informed me, that he had heard, that there was a man in Chudleigh with a show-box containing among other prints or pictures (which by the aid of a magnifying-glass made the persons depicted on them to appear as large as life) one, which purported to be a meeting of the Radical reformers, which lately took place at Manchester, and that the person exhibiting the print or picture in his description of it to the populace, made use of seditious expressions. In consequence of this information, I sent a Constable, with orders to see if there were any such person in Chudleigh, and if he were, to observe what he was doing. He soon returned and told me that the man was exhibiting his show at a


short distance from my own house; but that he had reason to believe, if he went to see what the man was exhibiting, or hear what he said, the man would be apprized by some of the By-standers, that a Constable was near, and would desist from exhibiting or commenting upon the objectionable picture. I then ordered the Constable to get some respect person to attend to what the man was doing, & saying. This he accordingly did by desiring William Tuckett to undertake it. Soon after William Tuckett returned, & told me that (among other things) he heard the man say, that the slaughter at Manchester was committed by the Cavalry. This morning, William Tuckett made the deposition which I have the honour of enclosing marked No.1. At the same time, the man who exhibited the picture was brought before me and examined. It appears that his name is John Jenkins, was bound an apprentice to a weaver, & that his master dying, he work’d at his trade for some time, then entered into the 3rd or Plymouth Division of Marines, after 5 years swore was discharged, since which time he has been travelling about the country. The consequence of his wandering abroad,


& not being able to give a good account of himself, I committed him to the House of Correction at Exeter, as a Vagrant, till the Sessions. The constables who brought John Jenkins before me took from his show-box, by my orders, the print or picture herewith sent, marked No. 2, and endorsed by the said Constables on the back. When John Jenkins was before me, I asked him where he procured the print or picture and he said at a stationer’s shop at Plymouth, but did not know the person’s name that sold it to him. On my observing that the print or picture had no publisher’s name, he produced a piece of paper, herewith sent, marked No. 3, containing an explanation of the print or picture, and, which he said, he had cut off from it. On my observing to him the gross impropriety of exhibiting such prints or pictures in the manner he did, he observed that many others, to his knowledge, had pictures of the same kinds in their show-boxes.

I have thus, my Lord, detailed to you the whole of this transaction; and request to know, if, under all the circumstances of it, it is your Lordship’s pleasure that further steps should be taken in this affair, and, if so, that your Lordship would have the goodness, through your Secretary,


to point out to me the mode in which I should proceed.

I have the honour to subscribe myself, my Lord

Your Lordship’s

Most Obedient

Humble Servant

Gilbert Burrington

Magistrate for Devon

Prebendary of [obscured]

Vicar of Chudleigh, Devon.

P.S. I take this opportunity of inclosing a Copy of a Declaration made by myself and others, on the 15th Inst.’

[Note added]. ‘Thank him for his Vigilance & his Communication. As Jenkins will have undergone 5 or 6 weeks Imprisonment before the Sessions Lord Sidmouth does not consider it proper to pursue the matter further.’

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