The Discovery of the Cato Street Conspiracy Claymation

Raid on Cato Street barn animation
Tom Hillenbrand
Conspirators prepare their arms before the Cato Street raid 23 February 1820
Tom Hillenbrand
Y6 learnt stop motion techniques to allow them to tell the story of the discovery of the Cato Street Conspiracy.
Tom Hillenbrand
The Raid on the Cato Street Barn
Barn Raid animation

The most dramatic part of the story of the Cato Street Conspiracy is the moment that the Bow Street Runners raided the conspirators hide out.  We worked with Oratory Catholic Primary School, Chelsea to animate the dramatic moment when Arthur Thistlewood killed the Bow Street Runner, Richard Smithers. Children from the school were taught cut out 2 D animation by Tom Hillenbrand of Beautness animation.

On 23 February 1820, George Ruthven’s Bow Street Runners raided the Cato Street hideout and caught the conspirators preparing to assassinate Lord Liverpool’s cabinet.

The National Archives have a witness statement from James Ellis who describes the dramatic scene which the children from Y6 at Oratory Catholic Primary animated.  Ellis was the man who arrested William Davidson after a desperate struggle.  You can read Ellis’s account here:

https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/protest-democracy-1818-1820/raid-cato-street-plotters/

Arthur Thistlewood, the leader of the Conspiracy is shown killing Smithers befroe the lights are put out and all of the men try to escape what they know would be certain death. Thistlewood had hoped that at least 50 followers would turn up to help when they gathered in a loft above a dilapidated stable in Cato Street off Edgware Road. But on the night only 27 men arrived. Alarmed at how few of them there were, some attempted to back out, but others started to distribute swords, clubs and muskets provided by Edwards. Desperately, Thistlewood told them:

“For God’s sake, do not think of dropping the business now.”

Unknown to Thistlewood adn his fellow conspirators the Bow Street Runners had been observing them from a local pub and were ready to pounce once thier leader Geore Ruthven gave the order. He was waiting for the arrival of a detachment of the Coldstream Guards commanded by Captain Fitzclarence, the illegitimate son of the future William IV. The reason they lay in wait ready to strike was that the authorities knew all about the plan to attack the cabinet at Lord Harrowby’s house in Grosvenor Square.  This was because Thistlewood’s deputy, Edwards, was in the pay of the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth. Another of those in the loft, a milkman named Thomas Hiden, was also a spy and had warned Harrowby, the president of the council, of the plot. The cabinet had no intention of meeting that evening.

The Bow Street Runners broke into the stables and clambered up a ladder into the hayloft, where Smithers was run as he sought to arrest Thistlewood. Candles were snuffed out and the desperate conspirators fled into the darkness. Their escape was pointless as the main conspirators were already well known to the government.  Within 48 hours they had all been rounded up and faced the deadly charge of high treason.

Tom Hillenbrand of Beautness Animation trained the children from Oratory school to use Cutout animation. This is a form of stop-motion animation that had the children making the key characters from the scene from card. The children from Y6 figures made figures with joints that were manipulated using blue tack.  this allowed them to make the figures appear to move uisng a stop motion animation camera.

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