Search This Blog

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Peterloo Massacre

Today is the 190th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre at St Peter’s Field. On 16 August 1819, Manchester magistrates used cavalry to disperse a crowd of peaceful protestors. The people, waving banners inscribed with ‘Universal Suffrage’ and ‘Vote by Ballot’ and other dangerously inflammatory messages, were waiting to hear speeches on political reform by speaker Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, a noted radical. The tightly packed crowd (around 80,000 people – contemporary estimates vary hugely) included women and children (even babes in arms). They were crammed together and unable to get out of the way of the yeomanry’s horses.

Samuel Bamford witnessed the havoc as the Manchester & Salford Yeomanry charged the crowd: “…their sabres were plied to hew a way through naked held-up hands, and defenceless heads; and then chopped limbs, and wound-gaping skulls were seen; and groans and cries were mingled with the din of that horrid confusion.” Several people were killed and hundreds injured.

The Cheshire Yeomanry were also present on that fateful day. I will be discussing their controversial role at Peterloo, and sifting the contradictory witness evidence, in Regency Cheshire. You can also visit a very good museum in Chester where you can explore the Cheshire Yeomanry’s long and distinguished history.

Image: Peterloo Memorial Plaque on the Free Trade Hall, Manchester. Image © Sue Wilkes.

No comments: