William Davidson and the West End Job Exhibition Scenes 11-20

William Davidson and the West End Job Exhibition Scenes 11-20

Westminster Archives worked over two days with Jamie Ward’s Y6 class at Oratory Catholic Primary School during Black History Month in October 2020.  William Davidson’s story was split into twenty scenes, with ten scenes covered at each session.  Children worked in groups of three to put themselves in William’s shoes to imagine how he felt over his life time.  WCRAG volunteer Sarah Sharpton went through all of the children’s works to select quotes for the exhibition.

Scene 11: Edwards and the Cabinet Dinner

By the start of 1820, William had been drawn deeply into Arthur Thistlewood’s plans to instigate a British version of the French Revolution. Thistlewood wanted to kick start this by assassinating government ministers, like the hated Viscount Castlereagh and Lord Sidmouth. George Edwards, a recent recruit to the group, showed them an announcement in the New Times newspaper.  It declared that William’s old employer, Lord Harrowby, was holding a full cabinet dinner at his home in Grosvenor Square.  This was the chance to take out the whole of prime minister Lord Liverpool’s government with one fatal blow.

He probably felt happy and proud since he was about to overthrow the people who have been cruel to all the poor and less fortunate people in all of Britain but probably also feels super nervous since even though he is helping Britain he was about to try to murder the government. —Clementine, Y6

Scene 12: George Edwards – Sidmouth’s Spy

None of the Spenceans knew that George Edwards was a spy for the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth . This scheming minister was using Edwards as an agent provocateur to lure the
Spenceans into a fatal trap. William was sent to Lord Harrowby’s house to seek more information about the cabinet dinner. To his horror he discovered that Lord Harrowby was not even in
London. Despite this Thistlewood refused to abandon their plans.

William would be stressed because people told him lies and he did not know which to trust. – Marlena, Y6

William was confused because something was wrong when Edwards told him about the dinner and his suspicions started to rise.-Augusto, Y6

Scene 13: Radical Parliament

John Harrison found a two story building on Cato Street where the Spenceans could
store their weapons and plan their attack on Lord Liverpool’s Cabinet. It was here
that the 27 men plotted to assassinate the government, set fire to local barracks, arm
themselves at the Tower of London, and capture the Bank of England. If they
succeeded with all this, they would set up a new government at the Mansion House
in the City of London based on the egalitarian ideas of Thomas Spence.

William knew that this could be victorious or disastrous and knew his fate if he got caught but he felt rebellious when he looked back on all that injustice. – Olimpia Y6

Scene 14: A Light of Hope in the Dark

February 23rd 1820 was the fateful day of what Thistlewood was now calling, “ The West End Job.” William stood guard outside their Cato Street hideout and let in only those who knew the password BUT TON. Struggling to see in the driving snow, he begged a light from a neighbour , Elisabeth Weston, who would later bear witness against him. Williams candle shone bright that night, a little symbol for him of hope in very dark times.

He was trying to bring light into the world but he made a mistake by asking that lady because he was only letting people who had the code into the house. The lady was a witness. – Carla, Y6

The light that William has is like a metaphor since the candle is the little spark of hope because at that timeeverything felt dark. – Rocio, Y6

Scene 15: Bow Street Runners Raid

As the conspirators gathered to get ready for their assault, the Bow Street Runners (police) sprang their attack. Their leader George Ruthven screamed, screamed,“We are peace officers. Lay down your arms!” One of the Bow Street boys, Richard Smithers, lurched forward with his cutlass, but missed Thistlewood , who then killed him with his sword. Candles were then snuffed out and as darkness reigned, and pistols flashed, William and his fellow conspirators tried to escape.

I think William was highly bewildered as to how the Bow Street runners discovered them. He would be mad at the people who snitched on him and his friends. – Daniel, Y6

Scene 16: Escape from Cato Street

Capture meant certain death, so William fled down the ladder and away along John Street, but was hauled to the ground by Ellis, one of Ruthven’s deputies, and was quickly apprehended by the Coldstream Guards. William’s friend John Harrison escaped with other members of the group through a window and across the roof, but they too were caught within a few days.

Maybe he still feels determined because he knows he’s done the right thing. – Joanne, Y6

I think William is proud of his friends because of their quick thinking running out the window and across the roof to escape from the Bow Street Runners. Nathaniel, Y6

Scene 17: Prisoners in the Tower

The conspirators were imprisoned on several sites to keep them separate from each other. William was taken to the Tower of London and imprisoned in a cell above Traitor’s Gate. Just like Guy Fawkes in 1605, he awaited the grisly fate allotted to all those found guilty of high treason.

He must feel horrible, I mean imagine being led into the Tower where you will only find the worst of criminals. —Amelia, Y6

Scene 18: Old Bailey Trial

Their trial began on April 17, 1820 at the Old Bailey. William, along with Arthur Thistlewood , pleaded not guilty to high treason and used the Magna Carta to defend their actions. William pointed out that Englishmen had an ancient right to depose tyrannical rulers, and hence they
could not be guilty of treason. Despite this powerful argument, William was found guilty on the testimony of Robert Adams, who had turned evidence on his fellow conspirators to save his own life.


He felt proud of himself because he inspired people. He also felt annoyed because his friend betrayed him. – Liam Y6

He was betrayed because Robert Adams told everything what happened to the judges and he didn’t have to be punished for treason. – Tommy, Y6

Scene 19: Newgate Prison Cell

Lord Chief Justice Abbott sentenced Davidson, Thistlewood , Tidd, Ings , and Brunt to be hung drawn and quartered. William’s friend John Harrison and four others who had pleaded guilty were transported to Australia. Only one conspirator, James Gilchrist was found not guilty and freed. The five condemned men awaited their fate in Newgate Prison.

Well he thought he will die with a clear conscience because he he did what he thought was right for his country. Olivia, Y6

William was scared that he was leaving his wife and children alone and they might go to the workhouse. – Alvise , Y6

Scene 20: Newgate Execution

Hobhouse and his son took their place amongst the thousands to witness the execution. Before he was strung up, William kneeled in prayer with the Rev Cotton. He had no regrets for his actions,
but feared for his wife and children. His last words were : ‘God bless you all! After he was beheaded the executioner held his head up to the crowd and declared, “This is the head of William
Davidson, sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered for high treason against the crown,”
Sarah was refused permission to bury her husband whose remains were placed in quick lime and
buried in an unmarked grave in Newgate prison.

William is scared because he is about to have his head cut off. He might also feel betrayed by his friend Hobhouse who is just watching him die. – Beatriz Y6

William was nervous and sad but proud…his only regret was leaving his family. Filippo, Y6



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