Oldham Historical Research Group

William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard


Rowbottom almost outvies himself in describing the “favours of heaven this year in the shape of abundant crops. Trade was brisk and wages good, and yet the people were not content. There was a cry for reform. People had set their hearts on it, and they must have it at whatever cost. Reform! Thundered out the great industrial centres of Lancashire. Reform! echoed the great cities and towns, east, west, north, and south. Reform! again re-echoed the Oldham weaver at his loom and the Oldham spinner at his wheel. We will have it! We will fight for it! We will die for it! And surely if there was ever need for reform it was then. The Government itself had created the need by passing an abominable corn law. The liberal-minded Pitts had both foreshadowed what they were prepared to do in this direction (at least so that good Radical, John R. Green, gives us to understand). The elder Pitt nearly half a century and the younger again and again more than a quarter century before this time, reform under the younger Pitt defeated by the Jacobins, party feeling and over-zealous faction being placed before patriotism and progress. Strange that in this year of grace 1819 people repeated the same blunder, the progress of reform being hindered for thirteen long years more, and by the people who most needed it, and were most eager for it. Yet so it was, not that I blame the best leaders of referm for this. There were both reform leaders, and followers who were to blame though. Who shall read Bamford’s life of a Radical and shun this conclusion? “If all reformers had been as wise as Bamford, we should have had reform before Bamford was born. But they were not. Their great zeal exceeded their wisdom, and, instead of helping, they hindered the very reform they sought. No generous Englishman can read the account of Peterloo without feeling a mantling of shame of shame on his cheek. The over-zeal of some of the Reformers was not only exceeded by the horrid butchers who hacked and slashed innocent people as if they were hewing Agag. No words of mine shall seem to extenuate such a murder. At the same time, some of the reformers were not judicious. It is not for me to describe Peterloo. I must refer my readers to Bamford’s “Life of a Radical.” He thus describes a flag which is said by country people to have done most, if not all the mischief. It was certainly made to play a part in the trials which ensued. “We learned that ……..the Leeds and Saddleworth Union had been led by Doctor Healey, walking before a pitch black flag, with staring white letters forming the words ‘Equal Representation or Death,’ ‘Love’ – two hands joined and a heart; a;; in white paint, and presenting one of the most sepulchral-looking objects that could be contrived. The idea of my diminutive friend leading a funeral procession of his own patients, such as it appeared to me, was calculated to force a smile, even at that thoughtful moment.”

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Of course, Healey’s ingenious defence of this flag before the judges failed to carry conviction in their minds. Inn these days such a flag would perhaps do little – either harm or good, but it was evidently different then. Poor Healey and Bamford had to go to prison. It is well known in Lees, to some who remember Peterloo, who it was that painted this flag, and who carried it, but lest mention of their names should give offence I refrain. The lesson of Peterloo is for a Ministry to learn the real wants and grievances of the people, and to supply those wants and redress those grievances as soon as possible: and for the people to see that their cause, whatever it be, never suffers from damaging advocacy.

A few days since died Andrew Bamford, of Oldham, glazier and James Hollins, of Oldham, innkeeper.

August 28th –The Oldham Rushbearing Saturday, and strange to tell there was not one rushcart. Owing to these disturbed times, the lower class where for growing careful, and using economy. They mostly brued their own beer, and in consequence thereof the alehouses where very thinly attended.

August 30th - The unpareled fine weather, wich was never eaquiled, but has been excessive hot, was at an end this day. A good deal of farmers have moved there after grass, and have had very large crops of hay, which second crop in some places as been very great, and in consequence of the excessive heat as been gotten in at a little expense.

August 31st -In the night some daring villan trew a stone at one of the 6th Dragoons on sentry out at the Angel Inn, Oldham, and who was severely wounded with the same. The constables offered a reward of fifty guineas for the offender.

September 1st -Was the license day at Oldham, for Oldham, Royton, and Ashton-under-Line. Little alteration; only the license was taken from the Crooked Billet, Hathershaw, but by consent of the owner, Mr. Duncuft, to house at Cross, near Hathershaw.

Cross” in Ashton-road is where this road is intersected by Honeywell-lane. Probably in olden times a cross would be erected here, hence the name “Cross.” In the old map of 1817 this place is called “Cross” but inn recent maps no mention is made of “Cross.”


Died at Oldham, John Lees, son of Robert Lees, of Bent Oldham, of the wounds received at Manchester at the meeting on the memorable 16th day of August. A jury assembled on the 8th, but adjourned to the 10th, when it was adjourned to the 24th, on account of the coroner being at Lancaster Assizes. A great number of witnesses attended from Manchester to have been examined as concerning his being wounded at St. Peter’s Manchester.

This was a commonly known as the great “Oldham Inquest.” It was first held at the Duke of York, and then at the “Angel,” and such importance attached to it as to cause the London newspapers to send special reporters down. The coroner expelled these reporters and poor Bamford was only allowed to remain in the room on explaining that he was preparing for his trial at York. The liberty of the press in those days was very circumscribed. Bamford began his career as a correspondent for the Press at this inquest.

September 6th – Baret was commited to the New Bayley for tryal, on a charge of having counterfeit silver in his possession at Oldham.

September 11th – Died, Betty, widdow of the late James Lees, of Bardsley Brow, Oldham, shoemaker: age 71 years.

September 14th – Died, Daniel Radcliffe; long time in the employ of Mr. Jacob Radcliffe and Sons, Bank, Oldham; hatters: his age , 69 years.

September 1st - Lancaster Assizes comenced, when John Warburton and Robert Lees were found guilty of manslaughter; sentence, one year imprisonment in Preston Jail.

September 18th – Died at Chadderton, James, son of John Lord, of Chadderton; age, 26 years; disorder, consumption.

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Sept. 21st -The party of the 6th Dragoons left Oldham, and a part of the 7th Dragoons arived in there place.

Uncomon fine weather, and seems to continue, and water very scarce.

Sept. 27th – Last night died at Bank, Oldham, aged 73 yrs. Mr. Jacob Radcliff, hat manufacturer. Universally lamented as a neighbour, as a friend, and as a Christian he had scaresely his eaquel, and his unbounded charitys will long be remembered. His chief delight was to feed the hungry and cloath the naked. His poor neighbours by his death will sustain a great loss.

So much has already been said of this gentleman and his family, that more need not be said except to commend his good example to others. We know he who says, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy,” &c.

This month concludes with fine warm weather and all the products of the earth in abundance.

October 2nd --Last night some villain broke into the uninhabited house at Whittaker Fold and stole a large looking glass and other articles, the property of Messrs. Radcliffs, of Bank, Oldham.

October 2nd -Died, wife of Mr. John Tattersal, manufacturer of musstins, &c., Oldham.

Mr. John Tatersall, of Manchester-street, cotton manufacturer, is mentioned in the directory of 1817. It would seem that Oldham made some light goods, such as muslins, besides the heavier manufactures, such as fustians and velverettes.

October 6th - Was intered, at Oldham, Isaac Heywood, of Thompson-lane, Chadderton. Age about 80 years

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William Rowbottom's Diary as published in the Oldham Standard
Transcribed by Mary Pendlbury & Elaine Sykes
Courtesy of Oldham Local Studies & Archives
Not to be reproduced without permission of Oldham Local Studies & Archives.
Header photograph © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for re-use under the C.C. Licence.'Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0'

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