Letters from John Lee to John Crossley Concerning Measures Against a Possible French Invasion

Scope and Content

Three letters from John Lee junior of Rochdale, Lancashire, clerk, to John Crossley of Scaitcliffe Hall, Todmorden, Lancashire, discussing the role that Crossley would play in the event of a French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1803 Napoleon had assembled an army of 130,000 men at Calais with the intention of crossing the English Channel. These letters provide evidence of the precautions taken by the military and civilian authorities against the threat of invasion. They also provide useful information on the organization of militia forces in Lancashire, which were to play a crucial role in the Peterloo Massacre, fifteen years later.

The first letter, dated 23 November 1803, informs Crossley that he has been appointed a 'Guide' and that the town of Middleton had been designated as the place of general assembly, in case of invasion. Lee therefore instructs Crossley that, when ordered, he is to 'repair to Middleton on Horseback, and place yourself under the Command of Mr Samuel Ashton of the town, the General Superintendent of Guides in the Subdivision'.

The second letter, dated 20 December 1803, is a circular from John Lee to the guides within the Middleton subdivision. He appends a copy of a letter from Captain William Cox, Aide-de-camp to Prince William Frederick, to R. G. Hopwood, esq., Lieutenant, requesting a return of the men selected as guides in the division of Middleton, and instructing Hopwood to direct them 'to repair to Manchester on the first alarm of an Enemy's landing where they will form part of a Corps, under such Officers as the Lord Lieutenant shall appoint'.

The final letter, dated 20 March 1804, instructs Crossley that 'the Guides are to assemble (in case of an Alarm of the Enemy's Landing) in front of the Bridgewater Arms, Manchester, and place themselves under the Command of Mr Thomas Carus, who is appointed by the Lord Lieutenant Captain of the Corps'.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Crossley (1778–1830) FSA, was a magistrate and deputy lieutenant of Lancashire. He purchased the Scaitcliffe estate in Todmorden from his brother Anthony in 1802. In 1794 he was appointed to a lieutenancy in the Lancashire Provisional Cavalry commended by Col. Bamford. He subsequently served in the West Halifax Volunteers under Col. Moore and eventually held a captaincy in the Oldham Regiment of Local Militia under Col. Lees.

Scaitcliffe Hall, built in 1666 with additions of 1738, was the seat of the Crossley family for many generations. The Hall is located in Todmorden in the Calder Valley about seventeen miles north-east of Manchester. John Crossley formed and curated an important museum and armoury in the Hall, which later passed to his son John (1807–1864) and was dispersed at auction in Leeds in 1892. The family vacated their home in the late nineteenth century after five hundred years of residence.

For further information on John Crossley and Scaitcliffe Hall, see Paul Grinke, 'The Scaitcliffe Armoury and Museum: A Monument to the "Lancashire Hero" at Home, at War, and Abroad (1810–1840)', Journal of the History of Collections, fhx059 (2018), 1–23.

Access Information

Available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The letters were purchased from Roger Treglown, antiquarian bookseller of Macclesfield, on 9 October 2018.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The previous history of the letters is unknown. They are glued to a stub leaf and numbered at the head in ink 150-152, in a 19th-century hand, suggesting that they were once bound into a volume of similar material.