Oldham Historical Research Group



The figure of John Earnshaw was first encountered whilst the author was researching the history of Quakers at Heyside, Royton, in 2000. Joseph Ward, in his history of Oldham Quakers (1) describes a well-loved surgeon, living in Glodwick, active in the Quaker meeting at Turf Lane, Royton, keeping a diary of visitors there. He records his medical attention to John Lees, a short-term survivor of the Peterloo Massacre. His evidence as to the nature of his patient’s injuries and death, at the subsequent inquest, had not been heard as John Earnshaw, true to the Quaker testimony that discouraged oath taking, would not do so in court.

In 2016 and 2017, several enquiries concerning the part played by the Quaker Meeting House, in Manchester, at the time of Peterloo, were received. In response, research was undertaken and whose name kept cropping up in accounts of trials, casualty lists, government informant’s reports and even political satire, but ‘John Earnshaw, surgeon of Glodwick Brook’.
What began to emerge was a man of some note in the reforming circles of Oldham, in the eventful years of the 1800s. He seemed to merit more attention than a few scattered references.
(But before an account of what is known of his life was attempted, a conundrum needed solving. According to Ward’s account, John Earnshaw would have been more than sixty years old at the time of Peterloo. This did not square with contemporary descriptions of a man in his forties, who could take less than half an hour to cover the ground between Oldham and Manchester, on horseback. Closer examination of Quaker records would reveal that there were three John Earnshaws. Ward had elided father and son).

Family Background

John Earnshaw’s immediate family came from Totties, High Flatts, near Huddersfield. His father, John Earnshaw, was born there on the 4th September 1750 to William and Sarah. Some time, during the second half of the century, he came to live in Royton, Oldham. In ‘John Hall’s parlour’ where Oldham Quaker Meeting was held, each week, he was married to Mary Lees (1749-1811) of Greenacres Moor, on 28th March, 1777 (2). He is described as a cotton manufacturer. Was it this work or marriage that brought him over the Pennines?
He was a keen diarist, listing visitors to the meeting from 1777 to the end of the century. His diary also ‘contains significant allusion to other events, which herald the political activities of a later date’ (3). Would this have a bearing on the atmosphere in which his family would be reared?

His son John was born on 4th December, 1779, in Royton, as were his daughters, Mary and Hannah. By the mid-1780s, the growing family had moved to Glodwick Clough, where another seven children were born.

This hamlet was ‘below Town’, between the end of Honeywell Lane and the then, Glodwick village. John Earnshaw (the elder) was owner/occupier of ‘a house and garden’ alongside a small row of cottages. He was also ‘the occupier’ of Nancy Nant, a half-acre meadow and barn, owned by John Lees that abutted a large house. He also owned ‘a house/kitchen/fold’, ‘above Town’, at Mumps, the other side of Glodwick village (4) (5)
On the 24th January 1809, he died, a yeoman, and was interred in the burial ground, at Turf Lane Meeting House, Heyside.
His son’s interest, in the profession of surgeon, must have developed in these years at Glodwick Clough. He ‘served time [in] Manchester Hospital’ according to a list of working class leaders, in 1854 (6). He probably practised from this area all his life, addresses given, over the years, as Glodwick Clough, Glodwick Brook and Mumps, Greenacres Moor (7). Indeed his house and practice, at a junction of the roads leading to Huddersfield and Leeds, in an area known as ‘Bottom of th’ Moor’, would become a landmark. The enumeration page of the 1841 census has the description ‘from Dr. Earnshaw’s house, up the south side of Huddersfield Road’. Was this the property alluded to in Dunn’s work?
A family was growing around him. He had married Sarah Bancroft, from Manchester, two years before his father died. Little did he know that, in a few years time, he would be sitting with one of her kinsman, overlooking the field of Peterloo.
Between the years 1809 and 1821, seven children were born to them. His younger brother, George (1783-1846), was also close by at Rhodes Mill. He was one of ‘the small mill masters ... for the most part (a) set of broken-haired Quakers’ (8).

Anecdotes, collected by Benjamin Grime , flesh out this ‘surgeon of Mumps’. His residency and dispensary were in the one place, where he collected objects of natural history and owned a hothouse, in which he kept a variety of birds and reptiles. Adults and children, alike, came to view his collection over the wall and fence.
In a later political squib, ‘Facts for the Million’, there is reference to ‘another notable ...... not the least conspicuous, John Earnshaw, the “Hobbling Quack”, by which latter term he was best known in political parlance’ – a reference to his stooping gait. More importantly, Grime refers to him as ‘a fair and honest specimen of a grand old Radical, in ‘the olden time’’(9).

Here is an indication that John Earnshaw was not just some local, benign surgeon. Here is reference to his engagement in the political domain, beyond his medical work, something that the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) would have frowned upon.
As a member of that Society, he had taken full part in the life of the Local Meeting, as his father had done before him e.g. in 1805, he had been involved in the proposed building of Rochdale Meeting House and had also served as a trustee of the Turf Lane Meeting House(10).
Individual Quakers were appointed to regularly examine other members ‘to inquire of cleanses from the militia, tithes, Priest’s demands and church rates’ (11) i.e. refusal to support the established church and all things military. John Earnshaw suffered for this witness. Between 1790 and 1827, numerous warrants, for non-payments of church rates (a levy for the upkeep of Anglican places of worship) and funding the militia, were issued to him and his brother George. Fines included money, pecks of malt and even ‘one weather glass, value £1.10s’ (12). According to a letter John Earnshaw wrote to a Quarterly Meeting in 1820 (13), he ‘suffered considerably for the Testimony of Friends by enprisonment, by the loss of my goods, by the scoffs and reproaches of those who are not better informed ‘.
(To date (2017), confirmation of this incarceration has not been found.)

Political Activity

Quakers may have refused to pay church and military taxes, but they did engage in much philanthropic activity to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor and uneducated in particular. However, any attempt to alter the actual framework of society was discouraged, an attitude shared by most religious bodies at that time. The corporate outlook, in this age of reform, was one of non-involvement. Repeated warnings were issued. Any who took part in active politics tended to incur the displeasure of other Quakers.
So the political path John Earnshaw embarked on, sometime in the mid-1800s, would not have been taken lightly. At this time, the cotton trade was extremely depressed, part of the general decline in economic conditions, following the Napoleonic Wars. There was resultant unemployment and hunger in Oldham. John Earnshaw would have had intimate knowledge of the situation and the conditions it imposed, both through his brother’s involvement in the cotton industry, and his own work, tending the sick.
The parlous political system, with its total lack of representation for the burgeoning, northern towns and cities, would have not have passed him by. Whatever his thoughts and experiences, they, informed by his Quaker conscience, impelled him into political action that would have far reaching implications for him, both in his relationship with the Society of Friends and with ‘the authorities’.

The first public, radical meeting, in Oldham, met on 16th September 1816 on Bent Green. This area, with Glodwick, were the centres of radical strength. There was a public house nicknamed ‘The Reformer’s School’ where novices were initiated into the principles of radicalism (14). The meeting was ‘under the influence’ of a new party of reformers, which held that the present, iniquitous situation could be remedied by the improved representation of the people in parliament, as the whole country was subject to bad legislation. The speakers were John Haigh ‘an old Jacobin, William Brough of Oldham and Robert Pilkington of Bury. In the chair was ‘Mr John Earnshaw, surgeon of Oldham’. Resolutions, favourable to radical reform, were passed, including the need to petition Parliament on the need for its reform and for ‘the distressedness of trade’ (15). After which ‘the multitude separated in an orderly manner (16).
A petition, from the town of Oldham, was presented, by Lord Cochrane, to Parliament on 29th January 1817 (17). In all probability, this was the one called for at that first meeting.
Another public meeting, on 3rd October 1816, was held at the Angel Inn, not noted as a hotbed of radicalism, to consider the growing poverty in the town. The meeting ‘entered into subscriptions for the relief of the poor’ (18). Whether John Earnshaw was there or not, he must have been aware of this action, which demonstrated the mounting concern of the general public and, in particular, of the political movements .
For on the 3rd of January, the following year, about three weeks before the petition to Parliament was presented, another ‘Radical Reform Meeting’ was held on Bent Green, ‘when a banner bearing radical mottoes and a band of music imparted peculiar animation to the events of the day’ (19).
This account has no mention of John Earnshaw. However, a report to [Lord] Sidmouth, from Captain William Chippendale of Oldham’s local militia and the Home Office’s Oldham correspondent i.e. a government informant, does (20). In fact, it is a veritable pen portrait and deserves to be quoted in full, despite its bias.
Sent on 4th January 1817, from ‘a near Observer, who is familiarly acquainted with the Individuals, who are the chief Actors on the Occasion’. He speaks of a space ‘large enough for 2,000 and a stage or hustings erected for the Orator and Chairman’. Half an hour after ‘the appointed time’ several of the leaders moved up in procession, preceded by a band of music and followed by ‘a numerous Cavalcade of the Working Class ....... This Procession was headed by a Quaker. The novel sight of a Quaker, leading up a Procession, with a Band of Music, at its Head, playing Marches and other Military Tones, excited no little Risibility. Broadbrim, however, unabashedly conducted them to the Stage, which he immediately ascended and was appointed Chairman. ......... The Quaker’s name is Earnshaw. He lives at a Place in the Country called Glodwick Brook, about a Mile and a Half from Oldham. He is an irregular, (bred?) apothecary – properly speaking, a Quack Doctor. He is remarkable for his Disloyalty. His professional practice is very miserable and his Talents beneath Meritocracy. He is no Speaker at all and made a very dull Chairman. He is a Man of no importance in any Sense of the Word’.
After speeches by Kay, Haigh and Browe, Chippendale reports that the latter produced a copy of ‘the intended Petition, which the Quaker, in the most, awkward, ungracious Manner, proceeded to read ..... in which he betrayed great Illiteracy’.
The petition was moved and seconded and a monetary collection made, during which Chippendale, requested of the chairman, that the National Anthem be played. John Earnshaw flatly refused and did so, a second time, when five shillings was offered.
Chippendale assents that the meeting dispersed peacefully ‘as they had been desired to do’.
(To this Quaker, there seems to be an undertow of Quakerly good ordering and quiet discipline in these proceedings.)
Two other government agents were informing on this ‘Quaker Doctor’ too. ‘Number 1 of Manchester ...... a cordwainer’ reported on a meeting in Chadderton on 23rd March, 1817. He mentions ‘the Failsworth man’ urging caution on continuing an agreed motion from a meeting in Middleton. This was on the advice of ‘the Doctor (Quaker) from Oldham, Earnshaw or Denshaw, who was chairman at a public meeting at Oldham .... about five foot eight inches high, about forty years old, who had called on him and said that they had better wait until they saw the fate of the bill’ (21).
This would suggest that John Earnshaw was in the midst of a network of reformers.

A couple of months before, John Lloyd of Stockport, in a report to the Home Office, on the 23rd January, 1817, states ‘’I mentioned a Quaker at the head of the meeting in Oldham. I reported him to the leading men of that sect & I have just had a deputation to shew me the admonitory address of the last annual convocation, (Britain Yearly Meeting Epistle 1816 (22) which inculcates a peaceful demeanour and discourages all political Dissensions. They have applied to the Quakers in the neighbourhood of Oldham where Earnshaw resides & he will be brought before the society and expelled’ (23).
There is no doubt that this encounter took place, but the outcome was not what Lloyd anticipated, as the following Minute, from Marsden Monthly Meeting (a meeting for Quaker business), held on the 22nd February 1817, demonstrates.
‘The report is made that John Earnshaw has long neglected the attendance of our religious meetings and has also attended a political meeting, stated to be a meeting for a reform in parliament and was also chairman thereof. This meeting appoints John Ashworth, William Midgeley, Jacob Bright (John Bright’s father), Thomas Hall and any other friend who may be inclined, to pay him a visit’ (24).

Did this visit take place? There is no mention of John Earnshaw in the Monthly Meeting minutes, let alone expulsion, until three years later. In the meantime, several others were disowned for absenteeism and his brother, George, continued to take full part in the life of the meeting. He appears to have been left alone, the motive unclear.

The following year, on the 28th of April, Chippendale filed another report, a muddled, second-hand account from the Manchester Observer, of three meetings, two days before, in Lees, Oldham and Pilkington; muddled as one of his spies was ill and another ‘away’ (25). Amongst those named was John Earnshaw ‘being in the chair’ and ‘at Oldham, I think, (the meeting) spoke openly about plans for alternative parliament’.
However, at the later Redford v Birley trial in 1822, John Earnshaw would state, ‘I was never chairman, but at one meeting’ (26).

Who is to be believed?

What is clear, though, is that he continued to be part of the reforming movement, in and around Oldham. Indeed, in another Chippendale report of the 22nd January 1819, the informant claimed that ‘Oldham was thrown into great ferment that Orator Mr Henry Hunt intended to repeat his visit to the Theatre’(27). This was adverted by stopping his party at Miles Platting, informing him that the theatre was shut.
He then reported a rumour, that ‘Hunt will dine in Oldham tonight with Earnshaw, the Glodwick Doctor’ (28). This did not happen, but why mention them in the same breath, if they were not known to each other? And why would John Earnshaw, in March 1820, be called as a witness to the trial of Henry Hunt? He did not give evidence, at that time, as he was upholding the Quaker testimony that discouraged oath taking. Hunt had thought that the testimony of a Quaker could be received ‘on his solemn affirmation’. The judge thought otherwise (29).


Eventually, it seems that John Earnshaw put aside the testimony to oaths, or, as it was a civil action, he might not have been required to swear an oath. For in the Redford and Birley trial, under cross examination, he bore witness to the momentous and tragic events of 16th August 1819, when the yeomanry and cavalry charged into a crowd, gathered to hear Henry Hunt in St Peter’s Field, in Manchester. His evidence furnishes a detailed account of his actions on that day (30).
He rode to the meeting on horseback ‘on a good mare’, taking only twenty minutes. This is just possible, as, at that time, Honeywell Lane led into the old road from Oldham to Manchester, as far as Hollinwood. This route would have avoided most of the processions of reformers making their way along the new road. He did pass some of the parties, ‘but did not stop with them’. He arrived about 12 o’clock, meeting up with his friend, Robert Wood, a chemist and druggist of New Cross. They took seats in the second storey of a house on Windmill Street. He had the opportunity to observe much of the unfolding scene in front of him.
‘I saw the line of Constables extending from nearly Buxton’s house to the hustings ......... observed the Cavalry all the way to the Hustings .......... no opposition was offered save from the density of the crowd. There was neither stones nor anything else thrown at them’. Nothing of any size could be thrown without his seeing it. The hustings were surrounded by the cavalry. He saw Henry Hunt in his carriage and thought that Johnson was there. He read some of the inscriptions on the banners. He couldn’t remember the ‘Equal Representation or Death’ flag, only ‘No Corn Laws’ and the black banner from Saddleworth.
The people had immediately dispersed He hadn’t taken any particular note of what had happened near the Quaker meeting house (where some of the greatest violence occurred).

This account is virtually the same as those given by Mr Robert Wood, John Earnshaw’s friend and a Mr Brattargh at the trial of Henry Hunt. They shared the same window, on the second floor. Both mention the presence of another Quaker, Mr Bancroft (31). The latter was, probably, John Earnshaw’s brother-in-law, a member of a Manchester family with radical tendencies.

The Aftermath

John Earnshaw arrived home intact, but another Oldhamer, did not.

John Lees was a twenty year old spinner, who worked in his father, Robert Lees’ mill, in Bent. There is mention of John Earnshaw being John Lees’ uncle (32). However, Quaker records have no reference to Robert Lees and family being part of the local meeting or, indeed, being members of the Society of Friends, to date. Robert Lees died in 1820, appearing in the Anglican burial records for Oldham.
It seems that, whilst John Lees was near the hustings, he received a sabre cut to his shoulder and, probably, internal injuries. Joseph Wrigley, who himself fell from the hustings, had his hat cut by a yeoman and was knocked down and trampled, stated such in the inquest that would follow. (33)
At first, John Lees was tended by his stepmother, until his condition deteriorated and John Earnshaw was called in. He died a couple of weeks later on 6th or 7th of September 1819 (34)

What was commonly known as the great ‘Oldham Inquest’ was at 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’.
‘Dowling, a London shorthand writer, wrote Mr Earnshaw, the surgeon who had attended the deceased, ........ certified that his death was caused by violence’ (35).
John Earnshaw appeared, to give evidence, confirming that he was a regular surgeon, but ‘not admitted at College’. When offered the book to swear witness, he declined, saying ‘It is improper to take an oath. I belong to the Society of Friends.’
Mr Hamer, one of the lawyers, attempted to persuade him ‘to dispense with the rigid regulation’, because he knew of several Quakers who had consented to be sworn.
After a considerable pause, he replied ‘I must decline to be sworn’ (36). Thus, medical confirmation that John Lee’s death was due to the injuries he sustained at Peterloo, was not heard.
After, certain irregularities, e.g. the coroner had not viewed the body, the inquest was adjourned to the Star Hotel in Manchester, where, eventually, the jury was dismissed without giving a verdict.

It was a showcase inquest, the authorities pitted against the reformers. Would John Earnshaw’s evidence have made any difference? Was he to learn from this at future trials?
There were further consequences proceeding from this miscarriage of justice.
On the 10th November 1819, there appeared in the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser the following,

‘The King v Earnshaw and Taylor.
Mr Scarlett moved to file a criminal information against J Earnshaw, a surgeon and J Taylor, for an attempt to prejudice the mind of the Coroner’s Jury, assembled at the Inquest upon Lees, whose death has been the subject’ (37).

Chippendale would repeat these accusations i.e. that John Earnshaw had sent papers to the jury, with the intention of biasing their minds and that Joseph Taylor, a journeyman hatter, was employed to circulate them. However, in the same report, he acknowledged that at the Lancaster Assizes, in 1820, nothing could be proven against the doctor. The hatter did plead guilty, but did not receive a sentence (38).
Later, under cross examination, in the Radford v Birley trial, when this charge was resurrected to undermine his evidence, John Earnshaw explained the background to this incident. He had drawn up ‘a statement of the case’. Another reformer, Nicholson, took a copy and made some alterations. It was these documents that had been circulated to the jury without John Earnshaw's knowledge, until after the event. At that time, he did not even know his co-accused, Joseph Taylor, indeed he had been exonerated from sending any material shortly afterwards (39).

There seems to have been a concerted effort by the authorities to discredit him and implicate him in criminal activity.
During this time, his medical skills came to the fore, in service to the some of the casualties of Peterloo.
Two reformers, Charles Pearson and Sir Charles Wolseley, toured the Manchester area to collect evidence concerning those that had been wounded at Peterloo. Pearson noted that,
‘On Sunday, the 29th August, I attended at a Surgeon’s in this neighbourhood and although there were not above fifty cottages in the village, I saw ten persons that had been wounded by the sabres of the cavalry, who were there to be dressed’ (40).

Wolseley, who accompanied him, identifies the village ‘as near Oldham’. In all probability, this is Glodwick. He describes ‘An honest and humane surgeon (a Quaker)’ whose house he had visited and who told him of some forty two patients ‘under his cure, who were wounded in different ways’ (41).
Though John Earnshaw is not mentioned by name, surely it must be him?

However his name does occur in the casualties list compiled by Michael Bush, from contemporary sources (42), where the surgeon ‘certified’, four men, in the Oldham area, for compensation purposes:

‘John Fielding, aged 50, a weaver of Quick in Saddleworth, trampled on, left knee crushed;
John Rafftray, aged 17, a tailor of Lees, severe sabre cut on head;
James Thewlis, aged 35, a weaver of Strinesfield (Fold), severely trodden on the legs, flesh severed from the bone;
Joseph Wrigley, aged 36, of Quick in Saddleworth, knocked down and trampled on, internal injuries’.

A tally of the full list reveals some thirty seven more casualties lived in and around the Oldham area, namely one in Chadderton, six in Greenacres Moor, four in Lees, thirteen in Central Oldham, nine in Royton and four in Saddleworth (43).
This total of forty one men, is almost the same number that Charles Wolseley reported.

(An unfortunate incident, at Manchester Infirmary illustrates just what an unusual Quaker John Earnshaw was. When James Lees presented there, with two severe sabre wounds to the head, a junior surgeon dressed him and put his name over a bed. However, John Ransome, a senior doctor asked the patient if he had ‘had enough of Manchester meetings’. When the answer came back in the negative, the doctor told him to leave immediately. Ransome was also a Quaker (44) (45).

How did John Earnshaw’s immediate religious community respond to all this medical care, albeit beyond the Quaker pale? – With silence. There is not one reference in all the carefully kept records of that time.
What there is, is another reference to his prolonged absenteeism, in a minute some four months later, when Friends were again appointed to visit him, as he had acknowledged that he hadn’t attended any meetings for worship for some time (46). The reason he had given was a multiplicity of business he had on his hands and that ‘nothing but urgent cases had prevented him’. What an understatement. He left his case to Friends ‘To do and act, as they thought proper’ (47).

What they thought proper, was ‘to disunite him from being a member of the Society’ (48) i.e. he was disowned by Quakers. This was a practice used by the Society to discourage behaviour inconsistent with their witness. John Earnshaw did not acquiesce. As soon as he received the notice of the formal disownment, the following month, he, in turn, sent a notice of intention of appeal to the following Quarterly Meeting i.e. going above his Monthly Meeting’s head.
At that meeting, ‘both parties acknowledged that they had been fully and fairly heard’ (49).
From the documents presented, there, namely his responses to the minute of disownment, more light is shed on the character and life of this stalwart Quaker and are worthy of being quoted fully. His voice resonates with truth, integrity, compassion and a certain amount of righteous indignation.

‘It is not only under peculiar, but perhaps aggravated circumstances that I have to appeal to you [Quarterly Meeting] not only against the decision, but particularly against the errors in a Minute of Disownment, lately issued against me, by the Friends of Marsden Meeting, who have disunited me from religious membership with them, for no other crime than that of attending my professional engagements as man midwife on Meeting days, which, in my opinion, is not only a stretch of rule, but of decency. ..........
I therefore think I have a right to be heard in my own defence and to state the case to you as it really is, being much dissatisfied with the apparent indifference of those Friends who visited me, as they did not seem to think my case worth the trouble of coming into the house and quietly sitting down with me, for I think the result of that visit would have been a different one.
Having suffered considerably for the Testimony of Friends by enprisonment, by the loss of my goods, by the scoffs and reproaches of those who were not better informed for adhering to the established Rules of Friends – These Rules I still acknowledge and endeavour to follow. But my employment being that of a Surgeon and by success as an accoucher, have had of late to attend two or three unavoidable engagements almost every first day [Sunday] and as my absence is neither wilful, nor obstinate, but unavoidable, I appeal to the generous feelings of those amongst you, who are uninfluenced by Party, or Political motives and ask you, if you think I have been don[e]unto as others would that I should do unto them. ...........
........ In this Minute, no sorrow is expressed at the loss of an individual, one who has been a Member of [the]Society forty years and served and defended it on various and particular occasions. – In this Minute, no hope or desire is expressed of my being in future reconciled to [the] Society. Tho I have a wife in Membership and a numerous family of children I am educating agreeable to the practice of Friends .............’(50).

(This correspondence certainly gives the lie to Chippendale’s description of John Earnshaw ‘betraying great illiteracy’).

It is worth noting that he intimates that opposition in the Monthly Meeting may be influenced by ‘Party or Political motives’, so there probably were undercurrents, despite none of them surfacing in minutes.
He must have returned to the bosom of his Monthly Meeting, because two years later, ironically, he was appointed, with John Whittaker, to draw up a minute of disownment for Alice Walker, who had ‘married out’ i.e. married someone who was not a Quaker.
He died aged sixty three and was interred in the burial ground at Turf Lane End Meeting House, on the twenty first of August, 1841 (51).
The census of that year confirms that he was still at Mumps (Bottom of Th’ Moor), a widower, living with his son John and Violet his youngest daughter.

Part of his legacy would be this son and his career, for he followed in his father’s footsteps, as a Quaker (for the time being), as a general practitioner of medicine and surgery (he did qualify) and as a political activist. He was sung about, as was his father, in ‘Seaur Pies',

There’s Jack at Mumps --- the doctor boy ---
He wants to physic you, lads;
But don’t be humbugged by his pills,
So long as their dyed blue, lads.
For if he gets you in his grasp,
With a bolus made of lies, lads,
He’s sure to give you “bally warch,”
By giving you seaur pies, lads
. ‘(52).

He is also described in the list of working class leaders, meaning ‘Those for whom activity is recorded three or more times’ as ‘anti-police and a Cobbett radical campaigner’, becoming a town councillor in 1849.
His father also appears on that list (53)
‘John Earnshaw (1779-1841), ‘doctor’ (served time in Manchester Hospital), Oldham, Quaker, active 1816 -1819, warrant 1817, nephew (John Lees) killed at Peterloo’ (54).

But this is a scant and possibly inaccurate summary of a man of some significance, as this research has uncovered. What emerges is a partial portrait of a compassionate, principled, courageous and measured Oldhamer; a man who despite his comfortable background and position in society, was prepared to stand with those who suffered from the injustices and inequalities of the political and social systems of that time and with those who wanted to reform them; a man who withstood the onslaughts of the religious, legal and political bodies about him, who truly lived out the Quaker testimonies to truth, integrity and equality, an example for all times.

Elizabeth Bailey October 2017


With thanks to; Robert Poole, for our conversations and the additional information concerning Peterloo, especially the material on government informants; the interested and helpful staff of Oldham Local Studies and Archive; Stewart Bailey, perennial amanuensis.


1. Ward,J (1916) A Retrospective of the Oldham Meeting of the Society of Friends. Oldham: Hirst & Rennie, pp. 36-39
2. Ibid. p.40
3. Travis Mills, J. (1935) John Bright and the Quakers, Vol 1 London: Methuen and Co p.87
4. Dunn’s Map and Key to Dunn’s Map, Volume Oldham Below Town p. 52. Oldham Local Studies and Archive
5. Dunn’s Map and Key to Dunn’s Map Volume Above Town p 33. Oldham Local Studies and Archive
6. Foster J, (1974) Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, p. 151
7. Ways and Manners of the People of Mumps Ward 1824 -64.
Transcribed by Susan Smith. Oldham Local Studies and Archive.
8. Rowbottom,W(1815) William Rowbottom’s Diaries Annals of Oldham. Oldham Historical research Group. June 5th 1815. Available at: http://www.pixnet.co.uk/Oldham-hrg/archives/rowbottom/pages/120-page.html [ Accessed April 2016 ]
9. Grime, B (1887) Memory sketches. Part 1: History of Oldham Parliamentary Elections, 1832-1852. Oldham: Hirst & Rennie, p. 113-114
10. Travis Mills, J. (1935) John Bright and the Quakers, Vol 1 London: Methuen and Co. pp 121 & 154
11. Monthly Meeting Minute (January 1818) Minutes of Marsden Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends, Lancashire Archives FRM/ACC7753
12. Sufferings of Friends of Oldham Meeting, Lancashire Archives FRM/ACC7753
13. Earnshaw J, to Marsden Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends (1820) John Earnshaw concerning his disownment by Marsden Monthly Meeting, Lancashire Archives FRL/1/1/6/2
14. Bateson, H (1974) A History of Oldham. Evans and Langley p.98
15. Rowbottom,W(1816) William Rowbottom’s Diaries Annals of Oldham. Oldham Historical research Group. Available at: http://www.pixnet.co.uk/Oldham-hrg/archives/rowbottom/pages/120-page.html [ Accessed April 2016 ]
16. History of Parliament Website Vol 72 29 January 1817. Available at http:/www.historyofparliamentonline.org › Research › Parliaments › 1790-1820 (Accessed April 2016)
Rowbottom,W(1816) William Rowbottom’s Diaries Annals of Oldham. Oldham Historical research Group. Available at: http://www.pixnet.co.uk/Oldham-hrg/archives/rowbottom/pages/120-page.html [ Accessed April 2016 ]
18. Ibid
19. Bateson, H (1974) A History of Oldham. Evans and Langley p.98
20. HO40/3 Part 1 folio 734 (110) Home Office Papers, National Archive
21. HO40/5/Part 4b Home Office Papers, National Archive
22. The Yearly Meeting's Epistle (1816) National Archive TS 11/276/999/4
23. HO42/158 fols 109-10 Home Office Papers, National Archive
24. Marsden Monthly Meeting Minute (1820) Minutes of Marsden Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends January 1818, Available from Lancashire Archives FRM/ACC7753
25. HO42/176f 391 XY Home Office Papers, National Archive
26. In the King's Bench: between Thomas Redford, plaintiff; and Hugh Hornby Birley. https://archive.org/stream/inkingsbenchbet00bencgoog/inkingsbenchbet00bencgoog_djvu.txt (Accessed February 2016)
HO42/183f/349 Home Office Papers, National Archive
28. Ibid
29. The trial of Henry Hunt, Esq., (1820) London: published by T. Dolby, p 212
30. In the King's Bench: between Thomas Redford, plaintiff; and Hugh Hornby Birley. https://archive.org/stream/inkingsbenchbet00bencgoog/inkingsbenchbet00bencgoog_djvu.txt (Accessed February 2016)
31. The trial of Henry Hunt, Esq., (1820) London: published by T. Dolby, p 211, 212 & 228
32. Foster J, (1974) Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, p. 151
Bush,ML (2005) The Casualties of Peterloo. Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, p 160
34. Rowbottom,W(1819) William Rowbottom’s Diaries Annals of Oldham. Oldham Historical research Group. Available at: http:www.pixnet.co.uk/Oldham-hrg/archives/rowbottom/pages/120.html [ Accessed April 2016 ]
35. Ibid
36. The Whole Proceedings before the Coroner's Inquest at Oldham, on the body of J. L., who died of sabre wounds at Manchester, August 16, 1819 (1820) Taken in short-hand and edited by J. A. Dowling. London.
37. The Annual Register, or, a View of the History, Politics and Literature for the Year 1819 - Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 10 November (1819) London: p 266-268
38. HO40/17f.69 Home Office Papers, National Archive
39. In the King's Bench: between Thomas Redford, plaintiff; and Hugh Hornby Birley. https://archive.org/stream/inkingsbenchbet00bencgoog/inkingsbenchbet00bencgoog_djvu.txt (Accessed February 2016)
1819 JRL. English MS 1197 The Return of the Killed and Wounded at Manchester – A letter from Mr Pearson, Manchester
41. 1819 JRL. English MS 1197.45 Charles Wolseley to The Globe, Lancashire 3rd September 1819
42. Bush,ML (2005) The Casualties of Peterloo. Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, p 60
43. Bush,ML (2005) The Casualties of Peterloo. Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, p 63 -160
44. Ibid pp 12
45. Peterloo - 16 August 1819 The medics (on line) www.peterloomassacre.org/medics.pdf (accessed 1 July 2017)
Marsden Monthly Meeting Minute (1820) Minutes of Marsden Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends January 1820, Available from Lancashire Archives FRM/ACC7753
47. Marsden Monthly Meeting Minute (1820) Minutes of Marsden Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends April 1820, Available from Lancashire Archives FRM/ACC7753
48. Marsden Monthly Meeting Minute (1820) Minutes of Marsden Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends June 1820, Available from Lancashire Archives FRM/ACC7753
49. Marsden Monthly Meeting Minute (1820) Minutes of Marsden Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends October 1820, Available from Lancashire Archives FRM/ACC7753
50. Earnshaw J, to Marsden Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends (1820) John Earnshaw concerning his disownment by Marsden Monthly Meeting, Lancashire Archives FRL/1/1/6/2
51. Bailey,E (2001) Quakers at Heyside. Privately published, p 21
52. Grime,B (1887) Memory sketches. Part 1: History of Oldham Parliamentary Elections, 1832-1852. Oldham: Hirst & Rennie, p. 113
53. Foster J (1974) Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, p 155 & 218
54. Ibid p 151

All information regarding Quaker marriages and burials in this account can be found at: Ancestry.com. Liverpool, England, Quaker Registers, 1635-1958 [database on-line]

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