Sunday 26 August 2012

John Lunt the informer 1694

John Speed's map of 1610 shows the prominance of 
The Lodge at Myerscough
(at centre—click for larger image)

A previous post described how a Royal Proclamation was issued in 1689 against three of the Tyldesleys and others following a suspected plot.

The Tyldesleys appear to have escaped prosecution, but in October 1694 there was a trial for High Treason at Manchester for eight of the other men allegedly involved in 1689:
  1. Lord Molineux
  2. Sir William Gerrard
  3. Sir Rowland Stanley
  4. Sir Thomas Clifton
  5. Bartholomew Walmesley
  6. William Dicconson
  7. Philip Langton
  8. William Blundell
One of the prosecution witnesses was John Lunt, a notorious political informer. In his evidence he mentioned two of the Tyldesleys—"Mr Tildesley of the Lodge" who must be Thomas Tyldesley 1657-1715 the Diarist and "Mr Ralph Tyldesley" whose identity is less certain but who may be the uncle of the Diarist [FN1]:
JOHN LUNT, who being ask't by Sr Wm Williams if he knew all the 5 gentn prisonrs at the Bar, he said he did know them all. Sr Rowland Stanley then said to Lunt, wch is Sr Rowland Stanley? and Lunt pointing at a wrong person, and a great noise thereupon being made, the Judge bid Lunt take one of the officrs' white staves and lay it upon Sr Rowland Stanley's head: Lunt took the staffe and laid it upon the head of Sr Tho: Clifton, saying that was Sr Rowland Stanley; and being then ask't wch was Sr Tho: Clifton, he pointed at Sr Rowland Stanley, saying that was he, and further did depose to the effect following, vizt. that he was in Ireland, a souldier in King James's guards there, at the time when Dr Bromfeild came over thither from England, wch was in the year 1689, Bromfeild, as he said, brought instruccons from most of the gentn in England that were King James's friends, and desired yt his Matie would send them over Comissions, but yt he the sd Dr Bromfeild being a pson suspected and much sought after in England, some other trusty persons were to be pitched upon for that service, amongst wch he, the sd Lunt, was one thought fitt by Dr Bromfeild [14] and recomended by him as such to the Earle of Melfort; and the sd Lunt being asked by Dr Bromfeild and the sd Earle if he would undertake the service, agreed to't, and thereupon Comissions and other instruccons were ppared, and when all things were in readiness the guards were ordered (as it was before agreed) to be drawn up, and King James coming as to take a view of them, cashiered Lunt and one Gourdon who was to go into Scotland, and some others who were to be sent to other parts on the same errand, wch was done to the intent that it being publickly beleeved they were sent away in disgrace, they might the better go on that business unsuspected; that thereupon Lunt as he said came over for England in one Cawson's vessel of Lancr together with one Mr Edmd Threlfall, and the ship comeing to Cockerham and they seeing the Custome officrs makeing towards them to come on board, Lunt prayed the Mr [15] to putt him and Mr Threlfall wth their concernes on shoar before the officrs came on board, but the master refuseing, saying he durst not do it least the officers should see em and his ship be forfeited, Lunt, as he swore, pull'd a pistol from under his coat and sett it cock't to the master's breast, threatning to shoot him if he did not imediately put off his boat, wch he thereupon did put off, and Lunt threw into the boat a Trunck and other things, leaving onely behind them in the ship a bundell of blank Commissions, and Threlfall and he gott safe to shoar wth the rest, where taking their papers and Comissions out of the Trunck, they left the empty Trunck in a ditch and gott safe themselves to Thurnham Mr Dalton's house and from thence came to Mr Tildsley's of the Lodge, where Mr Threlfall and he divided their pacquetts, Mr Threlfall to go to carry Comissions into Yorkshire, arid Lunt being to distribute the Comissions he had through Lancashire and other countrys.[16] From Lodge Lunt as he swore, came to Croxteth, the Ld Molineux's house, wch was in June or July 1689, conducted thither by a guide in the night, where he found the Ld Molineux, master Molineux his son, Sr Wm Gerrard, Sr Rowland Stanley, Sr Tho: Clifton, Mr Dicconson, Mr Blundell, M1' Gerrard Sr Wms son, Mr Harrington, Mr Ralph Tildesley, and many others; yt he there delivered a Comission from King James to Sr Rowland Stanley to be Coll of horse, another to Sr Tho: Clifton to be Coll of horse, another to Mr Molineux to be Coll of horse, another to Sr Wm Gerrard to be Coll of horse, and one to the Ld Molineux to be governor of Liverpoole, and that there he saw Mr Molineux give a Comission to Mr Blundell to be his Major, Mr Lunt being then ask't by one of the prisonrs if all those gentn last menconed were then together at Croxteth, he said yes; being then allso ask't if ever he had seen Mr Dicconson before that time, he answered no; being ask't if ever he had seen him since, he replied yes, and being then ask't if ever he had seen the Ld Molineux's son before that time, he answered no; Sr Rowland Stanley then asking Lunt if he and the sd Lunt were ever any waies acquainted before that time, Lunt replied no. Upon wch Sr Rowland said, how probable then can it be, if I were but a man of corn on and ordinary sense, that I should receive such a Comission (the acceptance whereof might throw away my life and estate) from such a pson as yu, altogether a stranger to me ? Lunt then said, but I brought you with yor Comission Dv Bromfeild's letter; thereupon Mr Justice Eyres said to Sr Rowland, yu are answered, that was his credentiall; and further said to the prisonrs, gentn, you may ask questions, but this is not the time to make yor observations. Then the Judge asked Mr Lunt againe if, before the delivy of those Comissions to Sr Rowland Stanley and Sr Thomas Clifton, he did psonally know those gentn, he answered, he did not till then know either of them. Whereupon Sr Giles Eyres the Judge did say there was then no such mighty matter in Lunt's mistake as the prisonrs made of it in diversifying the two gentn's names that were strangers to him, haveing been told when he first saw them that those were the 2 psons. The sd Lunt moreover said yt the gentn to whom he brought Comissions gave him £5 a peece. That Sr Rowland Stanley's five pounds was 2 guineas and the rest in silver, and further said yt all those gentn kissed their Comissions at the receit and readeing thereof, and afterwards on their knees drank the healths of King James and his Queen and the Prince of Wales, and said they hoped to be ready. 
Then Lunt further swore yt abt February 1690 he was with Sr Tho: Clifton at his house at Lithom, who gave him £10 to buy armes with and list men for King James, and yt Sr Rowland Stanley some time before had given him £4 for the same purpose, and that they both order'd him to go to one Mr Whitfeild the King's Cardmaker in Leicester feilds London, and take up what moneys he should have occasion for. That Mr Dicconson about that time gave Lunt 2 guineas and desir'd him to list men for him. That Lunt accordingly listed about 60 men in London, to whom at their listing he gave 12d a peece, and that he sent down 40 swords at one time and many more armes by Hilton and by Knowles, Carriers, directed some to one Mr Mare in Preston, some to one Taylor of Standish, and some to one Jackson in Preston, and tht pticularly at one time Lunt sent down as many armes as came to £50, wch he bought of a Cuttler who lives next to the upper end of Middleroe in Holeborne, London and for wch he brought the aforesd Mr Whitfeild to the Cuttler, who undertook for the paymt thereof.
That about July or August 1691 Lunt was at Standish hall desired by Sr Rowland Stanley, Mr Dicconson, Mr Blundell, Mr Langton, and others, to go over to France to acquaint King James of their forwardness, and to know when they might expect him. In order to this they gave Lunt £15 and a bill for £15 more upon one Walgrave. That Lunt accordeingly went and acquainted King James, who told him he would be in a readiness the spring following, whereupon Lunt returned, and acquainted Sr Thomas Clifton, Mr Legh, and the rest. Lunt likewise swore yt abt February 1691 he was at Dunkenhalgh, where Mr Walmsley being lately come from France, pduced a Comission from King James for his being Coll of horse, and did then deliver a Comission to Mr Dicconson to be his Lieutent Coll, and a Comission to Mr Langton to be his Major, and that Mr Langton upon his receit of that Comission said he had kept 14 [17] Ireishmen in his house 2 years, and that now he hoped to have some good of them. That Mr Legh of Lime was there present, and they did all declare they did not question to be well ppared agt the King landed.
Mr Dicconson one of the prisonrs askeing the sd Lunt the reason why he either discovered this thing no sooner or why he discovered it at all, he the sd Lunt answered he had not discovered it, but that some things were putt upon him wch he could not doe, and being urged by the Court to explaine himself, he said, when he was last in France, there was a designe on foot to kill King William, And the Earle of Melfort asked him if he would make one in the attempt and yt he answered he would, and said he came over to England intending to doe it, but that in his travelling the Country he mett with a Carthusian Fryer, to whom going to Confession he declared this, and his sd Confessor thereupon disallowed it, telling him unless he could doe it fairly in the feild it was wilful murder, and he thereupon first made this discovery least some of the rest concerned might accomplish it.
14 Instead of " Dr. Bromfeild" the Jesse MS. has, " my Lord Thomas Howard."
15 An abbreviation for " master."
16 The Jesse MS. more correctly has " countys."
17 The Jesse MS. has "4 Irishmen"
Lunt proved to be an unreliable witness, with other witnesses confirming that he had served time in prison and committed acts of dishonesty. Even his own brother-in-law spoke in rebuttal of his evidence.

On completion of the evidence relating to the first 5 defendants, Mr Justice Eyres suggested an adjournment of 2 hours to allow the jury to consider the matter. The jury indicated this was unnecessary and agreed a verdict of not guilty on all the charges without leaving the court. Mr Justice Eyres commented to the defendants: 
"Gentlemen, you see under what a merciful and easy government you live; you are sensible now that it is tender of the lives of Papists as well of Protestants; you are washed from this guilt, let me desire you to reflect on your happiness, and beware of ever entering into plots and conspiracies against it."
The trial of the remaining three defendants—Lord Molineux, Sir William Gerrard and Bartholomew Walmesley—collapsed immediately when none of the prosecution witnesses attended. Mr Justice Eyre indicated that he felt some sympathy for them as they had the misfortune to be brought up in France. However he left them also with a stern warning:
"Let me therefore say to you, Go and sin no more lest a worse thing befall you."

1. The Trials at Manchester in 1694, Chetham Society FS61, 1865