At Shude Hill, Manchester, on the 18th, police and army intervened when women began taking the stock of dealers who were trying to charge an exorbitant 15s (75p) a load for potatoes and on the 27th, thousands of men besieged Burton's mill at Middleton near Oldham.

Owner Emmanuel Burton, who had been expecting trouble, had hired armed guards and their muskets killed three of the rioters. The following day, the men retaliated by burning down Burton's home, but the military arrived and took a heavy toll, seven more workers dying.

The 25th saw one of the most horrific episodes of the whole campaign as Luddites torched the mill of Wray and Duncroff at Westhoughton near Bolton.

Twelve people were arrested on the orders of William Hulton, Lancashire's High Sheriff, whose name was later to be linked inextricably with the Peterloo Massacre. Four were executed for taking part in the attack and one of them was a youngster named Abraham Charlston.

The court described him as 16 but some sources suggest he was just 12, and backward for his age. He cried for his mother on the scaffold.

More sickeningly, there is much evidence to show the Westhoughton incident was contrived by spies in the employ of local magistrate Colonel Ralph Fletcher.

MP Samuel Whitbread was convinced of it. He insisted in Parliament: " As to the persons who had blackened their faces, and disfigured themselves for the purposes of concealment, and had attended the meeting on Dean Moor ... it turned out that ten of them were spies sent out by the magistrates.

These spies were the very ringleaders of the mischief, and incited the people to acts which they would not otherwise have thought of."

Part-time journalist John Edward Taylor investigated the story and claimed: "This outrage was debated at a meeting which took place on Dean Moor, near Bolton, the 9th of April, sixteen days before the scheme was put in practice.

"At this meeting there were present, during the greater part of its duration, and up to the time of its close, not more than about forty persons, of whom no less than ten or eleven were spies, reputed to be employed by Colonel Fletcher.

"The occurrence of circumstances like these, sixteen days before the burning of the factory took place, renders it not a matter of presumption, but of absolute certainty, that that alarming outrage might have been prevented, if to prevent it had been the inclination of either the spies or their employers."

DEVIL in a dress - this fanciful picture, allegedly drawn from life by a military officer in 1812, purports to show the leader of the Luddites.

Apparently, the workers who met on Dean Moor refused to take part in the arson, so Fletcher's chief spy, a man named Simon Stones, is believed to have recruited his mob from Bolton market on Monday, April 20th, when there was civil disorder sparked by the high cost of oatmeal and potatoes.

Altogether during that violent summer of 1812, eight Lancashire men were executed and 13 more transported to Australia. But authority quickly tightened its grip.

By early June, 30,000 troops from the Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire, Louth and Stirling regiments were camped on Kersal Moor above Manchester, ready for action, and before winter, Luddism had all but died out.

There were a few more sporadic attacks up to 1816, but to all intents and purposes, General Ludd had retired.