The Peterloo Massacre (or Battle of Peterloo)
occurred at St Peter's Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August
1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,00080,000 gathered at
a meeting to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.
The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 had resulted
in periods of famine and chronic unemployment,
exacerbated by the introduction of the first of the Corn
Laws. By the beginning of 1819 the pressure generated by
poor economic conditions, coupled with the lack of
suffrage in northern England, had enhanced the appeal of
political Radicalism. In response, the Manchester
Patriotic Union, a group agitating for parliamentary
reform, organised a demonstration to be addressed by the
well-known radical orator Henry Hunt.
Shortly after the meeting began, local magistrates called on the military
authorities (no effective police force existed at the time) to arrest Hunt
and several others on the hustings with him, and to disperse the crowd.
Cavalry charged into the crowd with sabres drawn, and in the ensuing
confusion, 15 people were killed and 400700 were injured. The massacre was
given the name Peterloo in ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo,
which had taken place four years earlier.
Historian Robert Poole has called the Peterloo Massacre one of the
defining moments of its age. In its own time, the London and national papers
shared the horror felt in the Manchester region, but Peterloo's immediate
effect was to cause the government to crack down on reform, with the passing
of what became known as the Six Acts. It also led directly to the foundation
of The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian), but had little
other effect on the pace of reform. Peterloo is commemorated by a plaque
close to the site, which has been criticised as being inadequate. In a
survey conducted by The Guardian in 2006, Peterloo came second to the
Putney Debates as the event from British history that most deserved a proper
monument or a memorial.
||16 August 1819
||St Peter's Field
||15 people were killed and 400700 were injured
In 1819, Lancashire was represented by two Members of Parliament (MPs).
Voting was restricted to the adult male owners of freehold land valued at
40 shillings or more the equivalent of about £80 as of 2008
and votes could only be cast at the county town of Lancaster, by a public
spoken declaration at the hustings. Constituency boundaries were out of
date, and the so-called "rotten boroughs" had a hugely disproportionate
influence on the membership of the Parliament of the United Kingdom compared
to the size of their populations: Old Sarum in Wiltshire, with one voter,
elected two MPs,
as did Dunwich in Suffolk, which by the early 19th century had almost
completely disappeared into the sea.
The major urban centres of Manchester, Salford, Bolton, Blackburn, Rochdale,
Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham and Stockport, with a combined population of
almost one million, were represented by either the two county MPs for
Lancashire, or the two for Cheshire in the case of Stockport. By comparison,
more than half of all MPs were elected by a total of just 154 voters.
These inequalities in political representation led to calls for reform.
After the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, a brief boom in textile
manufacture was followed by periods of chronic economic depression,
particularly among textile weavers and spinners.
Weavers who could have expected to earn 15 shillings for a six-day week in
1803, saw their wages cut to 5 shillings or even 4s 6d by 1818.
The industrialists, who were cutting wages without offering relief, blamed
market forces generated by the aftershocks of the Napoleonic Wars.
Exacerbating matters were the Corn Laws, the first of which was passed in
1815, imposing a tax on imports in an effort to protect the price of
home-grown grain. The cost of food rose as people were forced to buy the
more expensive and lower quality British grain, and periods of famine and
chronic unemployment ensued, increasing the desire for political reform both
in Lancashire and in the country at large.
By the beginning of 1819 the pressure generated by poor economic
conditions was at its peak and had enhanced the appeal of political
radicalism among the cotton loom weavers of south Lancashire.
In response, coupled with the lack of suffrage in northern England, a "great
assembly" was organised by the Manchester Patriotic Union, a group agitating
for parliamentary reform. The secretary of the union, Joseph Johnson, wrote
to the well-known radical orator Henry Hunt asking him to chair a large
meeting planned for Manchester on 2 August 1819. In his letter Johnson
Nothing but ruin and starvation stare one in the face [in the streets
of Manchester and the surrounding towns], the state of this district is
truly dreadful, and I believe nothing but the greatest exertions can
prevent an insurrection. Oh, that you in London were prepared for it.
Unknown to either Johnson or Hunt, the letter was intercepted by
government spies and copied before being sent on to its destination. The
contents were interpreted to mean that an insurrection was being planned,
and the government immediately responded by ordering the 15th Hussars to
The mass public meeting planned for 2 August was delayed until 9 August.
Announcing the delay, the Manchester Observer reported that the
intention of the meeting was "to take into consideration the most speedy and
effectual mode of obtaining Radical reform in the Common House of
Parliament" and "to consider the propriety of the 'Unrepresented Inhabitants
of Manchester' electing a person to represent them in Parliament".
The local magistrates, under the leadership of William Hulton, had already
been advised by the acting Home Secretary, Henry Hobhouse, that "the
election of a Member of Parliament without the King's writ" was a serious
them to declare the assembly illegal.
Although banning the 9 August meeting had been intended to discourage the
radicals entirely, Hunt and his followers were determined to assemble. A new
meeting was organised for 16 August,
after the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, had written to the magistrates
instructing them that it was not the intention to elect an MP that
was illegal, but the execution of that intention.
The press had frequently mocked previous meetings of working men because
of their ragged, dirty appearance and disorganised conduct. The organisers
were determined that those attending the meeting at St Peter's Field would
be neatly turned out and would march to the event in good order.
Samuel Bamford, a local radical who led the Middleton contingent to the
assembly, wrote that "It was deemed expedient that this meeting should be as
morally effective as possible, and, that it should exhibit a spectacle such
as had never before been witnessed in England."
Instructions were given to the various committees forming the contingents
that "Cleanliness, Sobriety, Order and Peace" and a "prohibition of all
weapons of offence or defence" were to be observed throughout the
contingent was drilled and rehearsed in the fields of the townships around
Manchester, further adding to the concerns of the authorities.
One spy reported that "seven hundred men drilled at Tandle Hill as well as
any army regiment would".
A royal proclamation forbidding the practice of drilling was posted in
Manchester on 3 August.
sent to St Peter's Field
Use a cursor to explore this imagemap.
St Peter's Field was a croft (an open piece of land) alongside Mount
Street which was being cleared to enable the last section of Peter Street to
be constructed. Piles of brushwood had been placed at the end of the field
nearest to the Friends Meeting House, but the remainder of the field was
Worrell, Manchester's Assistant Surveyor of Paving, arrived to inspect the
field at 7:00 am. His job was to remove anything that might be used as a
weapon, and he duly had "about a quarter of a load" of stones carted away.
Monday, 16 August 1819, was a hot summer's day, with a cloudless blue
sky. The fine weather almost certainly increased the size of the crowd
significantly; marching from the outer townships in the cold and rain would
have been a much less attractive prospect.
The Manchester magistrates met at 9:00 am, to breakfast at the Star Inn
on Deansgate and to consider what action they should take on Henry Hunt's
arrival at the meeting. By 10:30 am they had come to no conclusions, and
moved to a house on the south-eastern corner of St Peter's Field, from where
they planned to observe the meeting.
They were concerned that it would end in a riot, or even a rebellion, and
had arranged for a substantial number of regular troops and militia yeomanry
to be deployed. The military presence comprised 600 men of the
15th Hussars; several hundred
infantrymen; a Royal Horse Artillery unit with two six-pounder (2.7 kg)
guns; 400 men of the Cheshire Yeomanry; 400 special constables; and
120 cavalry of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, relatively inexperienced
militia recruited from among local shopkeepers and tradesmen, the most
numerous of which were publicans.
The Yeomanry were variously described as "younger members of the Tory party
in arms", and as
"hot-headed young men, who had volunteered into that service from their
intense hatred of Radicalism".
The British Army in the north was under the overall command of General
Sir John Byng. When he had initially learned that the meeting was scheduled
for 2 August he had written to the Home Office stating that he hoped the
Manchester magistrates would show firmness on the day:
I will be prepared to go there, and will have in that neighbourhood,
that is within an easy day's march, 8 squadron of cavalry, 18 companies
of infantry and the guns. I am sure I can add to the Yeomanry if
requisite. I hope therefore the civil authorities will not be deterred
from doing their duty.
The revised meeting date of 16 August, however, coincided with the horse
races at York, a fashionable event at which Byng had entries in two races.
He once again wrote to the Home Office, saying that although he would still
be prepared to be in command in Manchester on the day of the meeting if it
was thought really necessary, he had absolute confidence in his deputy
commander, Lieutenant Colonel Guy L'Estrange.
The crowd that gathered in St Peter's Field arrived in disciplined and
organised contingents. Each village or chapelry was given a time and a place
to meet, from where its members were to proceed to assembly points in the
larger towns or townships, and from there on to Manchester.
Contingents were sent from all around the region, the largest and "best
which was a group of 10,000 who had travelled from Oldham Green, comprising
people from Oldham, Royton (which included a sizable female section),
Crompton, Lees, Saddleworth and Mossley.
Other sizable contingents marched from Middleton and Rochdale (6,000 strong)
and Stockport (1,5005,000 strong).
Reports of the size of the crowd at the meeting vary substantially.
Contemporaries estimated it from 30,000 to as many as 150,000; modern
estimates are 60,00080,000.
Scholar Joyce Marlow describes the event as "The most numerous meeting that
ever took place in Great Britain" and elaborates that the generally accepted
figure of 60,000 would have been 6% of the population of Lancashire, or half
the population of the immediate area around Manchester.
The assembly was intended by its organisers and participants to be a
peaceful meeting; Henry Hunt had exhorted everyone attending to come "armed
with no other weapon but that of a self-approving conscience",
and many were wearing their "Sunday best" clothes.
Samuel Bamford recounts the following incident, which occurred as the
Middleton contingent reached the outskirts of Manchester:
On the bank of an open field on our left I perceived a gentleman
observing us attentively. He beckoned me, and I went to him. He was
one of my late employers. He took my hand, and rather concernedly,
but kindly, said he hoped no harm was intended by all those people
who were coming in. I said "I would pledge my life for their entire
peaceableness." I asked him to notice them, "did they look like
persons wishing to outrage the law? were they not, on the contrary,
evidently heads of decent working families? or members of such
families?" "No, no," I said, "my dear sir, and old respected master,
if any wrong or violence take place, they will be committed by men
of a different stamp from these." He said he was very glad to hear
me say so; he was happy he had seen me, and gratified by the manner
in which I had expressed myself. I asked, did he think we should be
interrupted at the meeting? he said he did not believe we should;
"then," I replied, "all will be well"; and shaking hands, with
mutual good wishes, I left him, and took my station as before.
Although some observers, like the Rev. W. R. Hay, chairman of the Salford
Quarter Sessions, claimed that "The active part of the meeting may be said
to have come in wholly from the country",
others such as John Shuttleworth, a local cotton manufacturer, estimated
that most were from Manchester, a view that would subsequently be supported
by the casualty lists. Of the casualties whose residence was recorded, 61%
lived within a three-mile radius of the centre of Manchester.
Some groups carried banners with texts like "No Corn Laws", "Annual
Parliaments", "Universal suffrage" and "Vote By Ballot". The only banner
known to have survived is in Middleton Public Library. It was carried by
Thomas Redford, who was injured by a yeomanry sabre. Made of green silk
embossed with gold lettering, one side of the banner is inscribed "Liberty
and Fraternity" and the other "Unity and Strength".
At about noon, several hundred special constables were led onto the
field. They formed two lines in the crowd a few yards apart, in an attempt
to form a corridor through the crowd between the house where the magistrates
were watching and the hustings, two wagons lashed together. Believing that
this might be intended as the route by which the magistrates would later
send their representatives to arrest the speakers, some members of the crowd
pushed the wagons away from the constables, and pressed around the hustings
to form a human barrier.
Hunt's carriage arrived at the meeting shortly after 1:00 pm, and he made
his way to the hustings. Alongside Hunt on the speakers' stand were John
Knight, a cotton manufacturer and reformer, Joseph Johnson, the organiser of
the meeting, John Thacker Saxton, managing editor of the Manchester
Observer, the publisher Richard Carlile, and George Swift, reformer and
shoemaker. There were also a number of reporters, including John Tyas of
The Times, John Smith of the Liverpool Echo and Edward Baines Jr,
the son of the editor of the Leeds Mercury.
By this time St Peter's Field, an area of 14,000 square yards (11,706 m2),
was packed with tens of thousands of men, women and children. The crowd
around the speakers was so dense that "their hats seemed to touch"; large
groups of curious spectators gathered on the outskirts of the crowd. The
rest of Manchester was like a ghost town, the streets and shops were empty.
||When I wrote these two letters, I considered at that moment that
the lives and properties of all the persons in Manchester were in
the greatest possible danger. I took this into consideration, that
the meeting was part of a great scheme, carrying on throughout the
| William Hulton
William Hulton, the chairman of the magistrates watching from the house
on the edge of St Peter's Field, saw the enthusiastic reception that Hunt
received on his arrival at the assembly, and it encouraged him to action. He
issued an arrest warrant for Henry Hunt, Joseph Johnson, John Knight, and
James Moorhouse. On being handed the warrant the Chief Constable, Jonathan
Andrews, offered his opinion that the press of the crowd surrounding the
hustings would make military assistance necessary for its execution. Hulton
then wrote two letters, one to Major Thomas Trafford, the commanding officer
of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry Cavalry, and the other to the overall
military commander in Manchester, Lieutenant Colonel Guy L'Estrange. The
contents of both notes were similar:
Sir, as chairman of the select committee of magistrates, I request
you to proceed immediately to no. 6 Mount Street, where the
magistrates are assembled. They consider the Civil Power wholly
inadequate to preserve the peace. I have the honour, & c. Wm. Hulton.
Letter sent by William Hulton to Major Trafford of the
Manchester and Salford Yeomanry Cavalry
The notes were handed to two horsemen who were standing by. The
Manchester and Salford Yeomanry were stationed just a short distance away in
Portland Street, and so received their note first. They immediately drew
their swords and galloped towards St Peter's Field. One trooper, in a
frantic attempt to catch up, knocked down a woman in Cooper Street, causing
the death of her child when he was thrown from her arms;
two-year-old William Fildes was the first casualty of Peterloo.
Sixty cavalrymen of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, led by Captain
Hugh Hornby Birley, a local factory owner, arrived at the house from where
the magistrates were watching; some reports allege that they were drunk.
Andrews, the Chief Constable, instructed Birley that he had an arrest
warrant which he needed assistance to execute. Birley was asked to take his
cavalry to the hustings to allow the speakers to be removed; it was by then
about 1:40 pm.
The route towards the hustings between the special constables was narrow,
and as the inexperienced horses were thrust further and further into the
crowd they reared and plunged as people tried to get out of their way.
The arrest warrant had been given to the Deputy Constable, Joseph Nadin, who
followed behind the yeomanry. As the cavalry pushed towards the speakers'
stand they became stuck in the crowd, and in panic started to hack about
them with their sabres. On
his arrival at the stand Nadin arrested Hunt, Johnson and a number of others
including John Tyas, the reporter from The Times.
According to Tyas the yeomanry's progress through the crowd had provoked a
hail of bricks and stones, and caused them to lose "all command of temper".
Their mission to execute the arrest warrant having been achieved, they then
set about destroying the banners and flags carried by the crowd.
From his vantage point William Hulton perceived the unfolding events as
an assault on the yeomanry, and on L'Estrange's arrival at 1:50 pm, at the
head of his hussars, he ordered them into the field to disperse the crowd
with the words: "Good God, Sir, don't you see they are attacking the
Yeomanry; disperse the meeting!"
The 15th Hussars formed themselves into a line stretching across the eastern
end of St Peter's Field, and charged into the crowd. At about the same time
the Cheshire Yeomanry charged from the southern edge of the field.
At first the crowd had some difficulty in dispersing, as the main exit route
into Peter Street was blocked by the 88th Infantry Regiment, standing with
bayonets fixed. One officer of the 15th Hussars was heard trying to restrain
the by now out of control Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, who were "cutting
at every one they could reach": "For shame! For shame! Gentlemen: forbear,
forbear! The people cannot get away!"
However, within ten minutes the crowd had been dispersed, at the cost of
11 dead and over 600 injured. Only the wounded, their helpers, and the dead
were left behind. A woman living nearby said she saw "a very great deal of
some time afterwards there was rioting in the streets, most seriously at New
Cross, where troops fired on a crowd attacking a shop belonging to someone
rumoured to have taken one of the women reformers' flags as a souvenir.
Peace was not restored in Manchester until the next morning, and in
Stockport and Macclesfield rioting continued on the 17th.
There was also a major riot in Oldham that day, during which one person was
shot and wounded.
The exact number of those killed and injured at Peterloo has never been
established with certainty.
Sources claim 1115 killed and 400700 injured. The Manchester Relief
Committee, a body set up to provide relief for the victims of Peterloo, gave
the number of injured as 420, while Radical sources listed 500.
The true number is difficult to estimate, as many of the wounded hid their
injuries for fear of retribution by the authorities.
Three of William Marsh's six children worked in the factory belonging to
Captain Hugh Birley of the Manchester Yeomanry, and lost their jobs because
their father had attended the meeting.
James Lees was admitted to Manchester Infirmary with two severe sabre wounds
to the head, but was refused treatment and sent home after refusing to
confess to the surgeon that "he had had enough of Manchester meetings".
A particular feature of the meeting at Peterloo was the number of women
present. Female reform societies had been formed in north west England
during June and July 1819, the first in Britain. Many of them were dressed
distinctively in white, and some formed all-female contingents, carrying
their own flags. Of the
654 recorded casualties, at least 168 were women, four of whom died either
at St Peter's Field or later as a result of their wounds. It has been
estimated that less than 12% of the crowd was made up of females, suggesting
that women were at significantly greater risk of injury than men by a factor
of almost 3:1. Richard Carlile claimed that the women were especially
targeted, a view apparently supported by the large number who suffered from
wounds caused by weapons.
Eleven of the fatalities listed occurred on St Peter's Field. Some, like
John Lees of Oldham, died later of their wounds, and others like Joshua
Whitworth were killed in the rioting that followed the crowd's dispersal
from the field.
Fatalities resulting from Peterloo
Date of death
||Sabred and trampled on by crowd
||Carried the black flag of the Saddleworth, Lees and Mossley
Union, inscribed "Taxation without representation is unjust and
tyrannical. NO CORN LAWS". The inquest jury returned a verdict
of accidental death. His son, Samuel, received 20 shillings in
||Bulls Head, Manchester
||Sabred and trampled
||Ashworth was a Special Constable, presumably attacked
unintentionally by the cavalry.
||Shot by musket
||Sabred and stabbed by bayonet
||Miller Street, Salford
||Killed by a mob in Newton Lane
||Campbell was a Special Constable
||Trampled on by the cavalry
||Buried 1 September
||Died of sabre wounds at the Manchester Royal
||Sabred, crushed and killed on the spot.
||Trampled by cavalry
||Evans was a Special Constable
||Kennedy St, Manchester
||Ridden over by cavalry
||Two years old, he was first victim of the massacre. His
mother was carrying him across the road when she was struck by a
trooper of the Manchester Yeomanry, galloping towards St Peters
||Oxford Rd, Manchester
||Ridden over by cavalry
||Mother of six children, and pregnant at the time of the
meeting. Disabled and suffering from almost daily fits following
her injuries, the premature birth of her seven-month-old child
resulted in her death.
||96 Silk St, Salford
||No cause given by Marlow but listed as
"bruised in the head" by Frow.
||Mother of seven children. Beaten on the head by a Special
||Lees was an ex-soldier who had fought in the Battle of
||Pidgeon St, Manchester
||Thrown into a cellar and killed on the spot.
||18 or 19 November
||Sabre wound to the head
||Rhodes's body was dissected by order of magistrates wishing
to prove his death was not a result of Peterloo. The coroner's
inquest found that he had died from natural causes.
||Shot at New Cross.
|In her 1969 book, The Peterloo Massacre,
Joyce Marlow suggests that William and Edmund Dawson of
Saddleworth may have been the same individual.
Reaction and aftermath
||PETER LOO MASSACRE ! ! !
Just published No. 1 price twopence of PETER LOO MASSACRE
Containing a full, true and faithful account of the inhuman
murders, woundings and other monstous Cruelties exercised by a
set of INFERNALS (miscalled Soldiers) upon unarmed and
| 28 August 1819,
||As the 'Peterloo Massacre' cannot be otherwise than grossly
libellous you will probably deem it right to proceed by
arresting the publishers.
| 25 August 1819,
Letter from the Home Office to Magistrate Norris
The Peterloo Massacre has been called one of the defining moments of its
age. Many of those present
at the massacre, including local masters, employers and owners, were
horrified by the carnage. One of the casualties, Oldham cloth-worker and
ex-soldier John Lees, who died from his wounds on 7 September, had been
present at the Battle of Waterloo.
Shortly before his death he said to a friend that he had never been in such
danger as at Peterloo: "At Waterloo there was man to man but there it was
downright murder." When
news of the massacre began to spread, the population of Manchester and
surrounding districts were horrified and outraged.
This was the first public meeting at which journalists from a number of
important, distant newspapers were present and, within a day or so of the
event, accounts were published as far away as London, Leeds and Liverpool.
The London and national papers shared the horror felt in the Manchester
region, and the feeling of indignation throughout the country became
intense. The name "Peterloo" was coined immediately by the radical
Manchester Observer, combining the name of the meeting place, St Peter's
Field, with the Battle of Waterloo fought four years earlier.
The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was living in Italy at the time and did not
hear of the massacre until 5 September. He immediately wrote a poem entitled
The Masque of Anarchy, subtitled Written on the Occasion of the
Massacre at Manchester, and sent it for publication in the radical
periodical The Examiner. However, due to restrictions on the radical
press the poem was not published until 1832.
Many commemorative items such as plates, jugs, handkerchiefs and medals were
produced, all with the iconic image of Peterloo; cavalrymen with swords
drawn riding down and slashing at defenceless women and girls.
The immediate effect of Peterloo was a crackdown on reform. Hunt and
eight others were tried at York Assizes on 16 March 1820, charged with
sedition. After a two-week trial, five of the ten defendants were found
guilty. Hunt was sentenced to 30 months in Ilchester Jail; Bamford, Johnson,
and Healey were given one year each, and Knight was jailed for two years on
a subsequent charge. A test case was brought against four members of the
Manchester Yeomanry at Lancaster Assizes, on 4 April 1822: Captain Birley,
Captain Withington, Trumpeter Meagher, and Private Oliver. All were
acquitted, as the court ruled that their actions had been justified to
disperse an illegal gathering.
The government declared its support for the actions taken by the
magistrates and the army. The Manchester magistrates held a supposedly
public meeting on 19 August, so that resolutions supporting the action they
had taken three days before could be published. Archibald Prentice, a
radical manufacturer later to become editor of The Manchester Times,
organised a petition of protest against the violence at St Peter's Field and
the validity of the magistrate's meeting. Within a few days it had collected
Nevertheless the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, on 27 August conveyed to the
magistrates the thanks of the Prince Regent for their action in the
"preservation of the public peace".
That public exoneration was met with fierce anger and criticism. During a
debate at Hopkins Street Robert Wedderburn declared "The Prince is a fool
with his Wonderful letters of thanks ... What is the Prince Regent or King
to us, we want no King he is no use to us."
In an open letter, Richard Carlile said:
Unless the Prince calls his ministers to account and relieved his
people, he would surely be deposed and make them all REPUBLICANS,
despite all adherence to ancient and established institutions.
For a few months following Peterloo it seemed to the authorities that the
country was heading towards an armed rebellion. Encouraging them in that
belief were two abortive uprisings, in Huddersfield and Burnley, during the
autumn of 1819, and the discovery and foiling of the Cato Street Conspiracy
to blow up the cabinet that winter.
By the end of the year, the government had introduced legislation, later
known as the Six Acts, to suppress radical meetings and publications, and by
the end of 1820 every significant working-class radical reformer was in
jail; civil liberties had declined to an even lower level than they were
before Peterloo. Historian Robert Reid has written that "it is not fanciful
to compare the restricted freedoms of the British worker in the
post-Peterloo period in the early nineteenth century with those of the black
South African in the post-Sharpeville period of the late twentieth century".
One direct consequence of Peterloo was the foundation of The
Manchester Guardian newspaper in 1821 by a group of non-conformist
Manchester businessmen headed by John Edward Taylor, a witness to the
prospectus announcing the new publication proclaimed that it would
"zealously enforce the principles of civil and religious Liberty ... warmly
advocate the cause of Reform ... endeavour to assist in the diffusion of
just principles of Political Economy and ... support, without reference to
the party from which they emanate, all serviceable measures".
Events such as the Pentridge Rising, the March of the Blanketeers and the
Spa Fields meeting, all serve to indicate the breadth, diversity and
widespread geographical scale of the demand for economic and political
reform at the time.
Peterloo had no effect on the speed of reform, but in due course all but one
of the reformer's demands, annual parliaments, were met.
Following the Great Reform Act of 1832, the newly created Manchester
parliamentary borough elected its first two MPs. Five candidates including
William Cobbett stood, and the Whigs, Charles Poulett Thomson and Mark
Philips, were elected.
Manchester became a Municipal Borough in 1837, and what remained of the
manorial rights were subsequently purchased by the borough council.
The Free Trade Hall, home of the Anti-Corn Law League, was built partly
as a "cenotaph raised on the shades of the victims" of Peterloo.
Until 2007 the massacre was commemorated by a blue plaque on the wall of the
present building, the third to occupy the site, now the Radisson Hotel. It
was regarded as a less-than-appropriate memorial because it under-reported
the incident as a dispersal and the deaths were omitted completely.
In a 2006 survey conducted by The Guardian, Peterloo came second to
St. Mary's Church, Putney, the venue for the Putney Debates, as the event
from British history that most deserved a proper monument.
A Peterloo Massacre Memorial Campaign was set up to lobby for a more
prominent monument to an event that has been described as Manchester's
In 2007, Manchester City Council replaced the original blue plaque with a
red one, giving a fuller account of the events of 1819. It was unveiled on
10 December 2007 by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Glynn Evans.
Under the heading "St. Peter's Fields: The Peterloo Massacre", the new
On 16 August 1819 a peaceful rally of 60,000 pro-democracy
reformers, men, women and children, was attacked by armed cavalry
resulting in 15 deaths and over 600 injuries.
In 1968 the Trades Union Congress commissioned British composer Sir
Malcolm Arnold to write the Peterloo Overture, in celebration of its
20th-century musical commemorations include "Ned Ludd Part 5" on electric
folk group Steeleye Span's album Bloody Men, and Rochdale rock band
Tractor's suite of five songs written and recorded in 1973, later included
on their 1992 release Worst Enemies.
Bamford, Samuel (1841). Passages in the life of a
radical. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
Bush, Michael (2005). The Casualties of Peterloo.
Carnegie Publishing. ISBN 1-85936-125-0.
- Davis, Prof. Mary (1993). Comrade or Brother?
The History of the British Labour Movement 17891951. London:
Pluto Press. ISBN 0-7453-0761-2.
- Foot, Paul (2005). The Vote: How It Was Won
and How It Was Undermined. London: Viking. ISBN 0-670-91536-X.
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