The letter below is from the Manchester Observer (May 15, 1819) just three months before Constable William Birch is shot by the wayward Reformer Jacob Magennis “McInnis”.

“To the Editor of the Manchester Observer.
As a constant reader of your invaluable paper, and a friend to reform, I take upon myself the task of informing you of another outrage having been committed upon the peaceable inhabitants of Stockport.
On Sunday evening, the 18th of April, there was a sermon preached at the Windmill School, in this town, when, shocking to relate, while Mr. Joseph Harrison was employed in preaching to a very numerous and respectable congregation, they were insulted with the appearance of William Birch, our Sheriff’s Bailiff, and two of his friends, who are acting as special constables; one of their names is Robinson, a corn dealer, and the other is Andrew, an extensive brewer, who were, until this time, considered as men of probity and talent: but their conduct, on this occasion, has betrayed such a mass of ignorance and impudence that they are now fallen to the level of a Birch or a Nadin, or any other degraded character you can imagine; for their behaviour was so unbecoming, and of such a disgraceful nature, that it would have put a Hottentot or a wild African to shame.
Sir, you must know, that at this time the trial of Bagguley, Drummond and Johnston was just over, and we had heard they were likely to be sentenced to imprisonment, and from the unfair proceedings, the town was resolved to enter their protest against them; so that at this time we were assembled to hear a sermon, and to subscribe our names to the protest. This transaction was going on with peace and good order at the outside of the school, when we were insulted by Birch and his companions, who came to disturb the peace of this meeting; and he actually took away a pen or pens, and made a snatch at the sheets that were laid for signature; and when remonstrated with upon his conduct, he called them a riotous assembly, and swore he would read the Riot Act, and take upon himself the power of the Magistrate. But finding they could not disturb the tranquility of the assembly, they, with oaths and imprecations, adjourned to a neighbouring public house, where the landlord takes in your Observer paper; and when Birch called for the paper, the landlord told him one part of it was engaged, but he might have the other half if he pleased; and when the landlord produced the half of the paper, he swore he would have the other half, and immediately went into another room where the paper was engaged, and actually snatched the paper out of the hands of the person who was reading. And when the landlord remonstrated with him upon his conduct, he swore he would throw him into the fire, and immediately threw the Observer into the fire. The company decrying his bad behaviour, he took up a vessel with its contents, and threw it, beer and all, at the head of the women whose husband had been reading the paper, and cut her face in a most shocking manner, and spoiled her clothes with the liquor. He then took up the fire poker, and brandished it over the head of the landlord, and swore he would clear the house. And when, by his bad behaviour, he had caused a crowd to assemble before the house, he swore that the landlord had caused them to assemble, in order that they might have an opportunity to kill him. After these outrages, he, with oaths and imprecations, swore he would have more liquor. By this time, his companions had left him, and ordered the landlord not to fill him any more liquor; and on the landlord informing him that his order was to fill him no more, he again brandished the poker over the head of the host, and then told him he was master of the constables, and that they should soon understand. He then demanded of the landlord to take him home, and on the landlord’s refusal, he told him he would take from him his license.
Now, Mr. Editor, please to inform us, peaceable inhabitants of Stockport, how long we shall have to endure such unprecedented overstretches of the law, without retaliation; for I am apprehensive, if we have to experience such insults much longer, our patience will be exhausted.
Your insertion of these facts will much oblige yours,


  1. Manchester Observer, May 15, 1819.