Oldham Historical Research Group

Market Place, Manchester in 1823
Long Millgate, Manchester
circa 1800

Monday 16th August, 1819
St. Peter's Field, Manchester.

BEFORE ... ON THE DAY ... AFTERMATH : In Two parts
Narrative & Pictures from the talk at Oldham HRG Meeting, August 2016

Part 2 ... AFTERMATH

image links to larger version

Market Place,
Manchester in 1823

An open letter written and published by Richard Carlile in the 'Republican'.
An open letter written and published by Richard Carlile in the 'Republican'.

Piling insult upon injury, the Manchester Magistrates received a letter from Lord Sidmouth passing on the Prince Regent's thanks for their, "... prompt, decisive and efficient measures for the preservation of the public tranquillity ..."

This impassioned response was written and published by Richard Carlile in the 'Republican'.

Newspaper Responses
Newspaper Responses

Richard Carlile was one of those on the hustings with Henry Hunt but, evading arrest, . he escaped to write his own account in an open letter to Lord Sidmouth published in the Observer on the 22nd of August. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to imprisonment.

He continued to edit the 'Republican' (previously 'Sherwin's Political Register') from his prison cell!

Also on the hustings, on that fateful day, was a newspaper reporter from the 'Times' in London, John Tyas. He was dragged off under arrest with the others and, when released, headed back for London where he also penned an angry account of the day.

Less than a week after the Peterloo Massacre occurred, it was being reported from London to Manchester and beyond. Much of the population would know of, and be horrified by, the accounts of that day.

Radical presses worked overtime. If you couldn't afford a copy of the latest 'squib' or pamphlet yourself, you would find it pasted in town and city windows, for all to read!

'Manchester Outrage' - A Public Meeting in Newcastle and Gateshead.
'Manchester Outrage'

The authorities probably thought that any resultant blame, or unpleasantness, could be covered up and swiftly forgotten ... how wrong!

This poster gives notice of a public meeting, in Newcastle, to protest against '... the late proceedings in Manchester...'

Two centuries later and we still remember, argue about the detail, . measure the sacrifice and apportion the blame.

Almost immediately after Peterloo, and frantically trying to stem the flood of radical propaganda, the government rushed through the infamous 6 Acts which, with the suspension of habeus corpus again, were known collectively as the 'gagging acts'. they were::

Training Prevention Act
Seizure of Arms Act
Seditious Meetings Act
Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act
Misdemeanours Act.
Newspaper Stamp Duties Act

'The Free-Born Englishman', a poem by 'Geoffrey Gag-'em-all',
'The Free-Born Englishman', a poem by 'Geoffrey Gag-'em-all',

'The Free-Born Englishman', a poem by 'Geoffrey Gag-'em-all',
'The Free-Born Englishman', a poem by 'Geoffrey Gag-'em-all',

from the National Archives

In bitter response, 'The Free-Born Englishman', a poem by 'Geoffrey Gag-'em-all', was quickly published. 16 pages, showing the 'Free-born Englishman' deprived of his seven senses by the 6 New Acts of the 'Borough Mongers'.

The Illustrations were by George Cruikshank

The first 3 stanzas read ...

John Bull through 20 years of war
To Liberty had some pretences,
But six years of peace and six new Acts
Have reft him of his seven senses.

His sense of smelling is fast clos'd,
His mouth is by a padlock bound,
His ears are plugg'd, where sound repos'd,
His fingers, cutting thumb-screws wound.

All that the appetite can court,
Is placed within his aching view.
He cannot touch, or smell, or taste,
Forbidden by the Six Acts New.

The 'Gagging Acts'
The 'Gagging Acts'

This is a similar cartoon ... this time by George's brother, Isaac Cruikshank ...

The tattered figure is in chains is silenced and deprived of all rights and means of comunication.

Amongst the pictorial references are :
the padlock on his mouth inscribed 'No Grumbling'
* 'Freedom of the Press and Transportation' on the pen and paper
* 'Magna Charta', a book with torn binding underfoot
* 'Bill of Rights' - the headsman's axe pins it to the ground
* 'Law of libel' on the axe head
* 'Tampering at elections ... ministers only'
* The cap of liberty lies on the ground as the bird pecks his head.

Masque of Anarchy' by Shelley
Masque of Anarchy' by Shelley

In Italy, the poet Shelley received word of the massacre and immediately penned his own angry response, the 'Masque of Anarchy'.

He sent it back to his friend, poet and writer Leigh Hunt (not Henry's brother as is sometimes suggested) to get it published but that wouldn't happen until 1832 and 10 years after Shelley's death.

Page from the Relief Fund Account Book
Page from the Relief Fund Account Book

In the months and earlier years after the event, casualty numbers could only be guesses based on the various versions of what happened.

However, over the intervening 197 years there has been detailed analysis of the surviving reports and documents relating to the aftermath of Peterloo.

As a result we can now be much more confident of the numbers hurt on the day and of the injuries they suffered, many of which were severe and life-changing.

Referencing the book ,'Peterloo Casualties', by Michael Bush, it appears that 654 casulaties were identified and 18 known deaths.

Many of those injured could neither find medical care nor apply for Poor Relief when they couldn't work as the fear of arrest and imprisonment on account of being at the Meeting, was so great.

Injuries identified were those of sabre, truncheon, bayonet or butt, trampled by horse, crushed by crowd, combinations of more than one cause and 'miscellaneous'.

One other cause was 'shot'. Certainly two of the deaths were caused by being shot and some accounts of the meeting, report hearing shots being fired. However, one of the deaths was a man who was shot durng the evening when Hussars read the Riot Act at New Cross and, when the angry crowd would not disperse, opened fire on them. It's not known where the second man was shot and killed but two men were in hospital the following day with gunshot wounds. One was the known fatality, the other had had his leg amputated so could well be the second one.

A Relief Fund was set up and, by February 1820, had raised £3,408, However, when the figures are looked at we see that most of the money was paid towards the legal fees and expenses of those arrested with relatively paltry sums being paid to those incapacitated and unable to work.

The Oldham area was one of those suffering the greatest number of casualties, 90, with several deaths, including :
John Ashton, from Nr. Oldham
Thomas Buckley from Chadderton,
Edmund Dawson from Saddleworth,
William Dawson from Saddleworth,
and John Rhodes from Nr. Oldham.
.... all of whom died on the Field or within the following few days. Then, 10 days after the Meeting, a hitherto unknown Oldham man, a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo, died as a result of injuries sustained at the Meeting.

"Authentic Account of the Inquest".
"Authentic Account of the Inquest".

His name was John Lees and the inquest into the cause of his death opened. Reports would remain in the newspapers for weeks.

The full transcript .... "an Authentic Account of the Inquest "... ran to over 600 pages ... and was printed by William Hone in 1820.

The Inquest into the death of John Lees, Oldham, in September 1819

Long recognised as the farce it became ...and over a week after his death ... the inquest on John Lees opened .... at the 'Sign of the Duke of York', in Oldham .... on the 8th September.

It seems apparent ... that the authorities assumed this would be an open & shut, case ... he was a 22 year old mill worker .... and unlikely to have 'friends in high places' .... to make demands about 'culpability' and' legality.

The Coroner ... Mr. Farrand ... was away from town ... so his clerk, Mr. Battye ... attended in his place .... the jury of 12 men was sworn in .... and the body was viewed as required by law.

It was then that the proceedings started to unravel ... as Mr. Battye discovered that there were newspaper reporters ... and two solicitors ... also in the room. On the defensive from the very beginning ... and being asked his name and position ... by the solicitor, Mr. Harmer , ... Mr. Battye refused to answer questions ...then, pointing to the reporters. he said ..."I suppose I shall see all this in black and white ... in the newspapers ... in a few days;... but no-one has any business to be writing here...." and ... "If Mr. Farrand was here ... I am sure he would not allow one of you in the room."

Mr. Harmer went on to point out to him... very politely.... that it was a public court .... and they couldn't legally be excluded. Mr. Battye was then informed by Mr. Harmer... that he himself was there representing the family and friends of John Lees ... to prove that his death ... was the result of unlawful violence on the part of the military... At this point Mr. Battye, panicking, adjourned the inquest to go in search of a coroner.

This exchange set the tone for the whole of the proceedings over the next 3 months.

It's not the easiest thing ... to condense all the witness testimony .. the acrimonious exchanges .... the bullying behaviour ... the strenuous efforts to prevent anything getting out to the newspapers ... and the points of law ... which Mr. Harmer frequently argued ... in order to introduce his own witness statements.

Harmer constantly hammered home the facts ... that the Meeting was a peaceful assembly ... one that had been murderously dispersed ... in an illegal action ... and that accountability lay with those in authority.

Proceedings at the Inquest of John Lees, Oldham, September 1819
Proceedings at the Inquest of John Lees, Oldham, September 1819

On the 5th day of the inquest ...September 29th ... another person makes an unexpected appearance in the courtroom ...This time it is a Manchester barrister ... Mr. Ashworth.... who walks in and interrupts proceedings ... Both Mr. Harmer and the Coroner want to know whom he is representing ...and his answer is ... "the Town of Manchester" ... Mr. Harmer wants a more specific answer ... and a letter of authority is produced ... signed by Jonathan Andrew ... the Manchester Constable.

The inquest then continued ... witnesses called ... and frequent arguments between Mr. Harmer, the Coroner and Mr. Ashworth.

Attempts to exclude the press were on-going ... and there always seems to be someone upsetting the coroner by taking notes ...

At the close of proceedings on October 5th ... the inquest was adjourned until the 7th October.

Inquest of John Lees, Oldham, September 1819 - " ... the grave of the deceased was opened ..."
Inquest of John Lees, Oldham, September 1819 - " ... the grave of the deceased was opened ..."

However, at 7am on the morning of the 7th ... Mr. Harmer received a letter .... adjourning the inquest until the following day ... the 8th ... no reason being given.

Unknown to Mr. Harmer ... It turned out that at 1am, that morning,

" ... the grave of the deceased was opened ... by order of the coroner and the lid of the coffin being raised up with a shovel .the Coroner came to the graveyard about 3 o'clock and with the assistance of a lantern just saw the face of the deceased. The coffin was then closed ..."

The adjourned inquest was to be re-located ... to the Star Inn, Manchester ... although no-one informed Mr. Harmer and he claimed he only heard of it through rumour!

The third witness that day was Joseph Nadin .... the much feared Deputy Constable of Manchester. Conveniently!!! ... Mr. Ashworth apologises for the fact that ... the 'warrant executed in the field,' ... by Mr. Nadin has been 'lost or misplaced'. This was the warrant to arrest Hunt, Knight, Johnson and Carlile.

Nadin finished his testimony .... having been put under great pressure from Mr. Harmer and ... "in quitting the court, with the assistance of his constables, he forced many auditors from the further end of the room , with the most brutal violence."

The Inquest was adjourned until the following day, the 9h of October...

Testimony concerning the reports of gunfire
Testimony concerning the reports of gunfire

Amongst the witnesses called on this day was Ann Rayborn who lived at No. 1 Watson Street ... at the corner with Windmill Street ... Her testimony concerned the reports of gunfire ... she swore that soldiers had forced entry into her house ... Having first fired their guns at the house ... and then also ... whilst in the house ... fired their guns...

She produced a bullet in evidence.

The inquest was adjourned until the 13th of October, the 11th day.

The Jury adjourned
The Jury adjourned

Before they could resume, on the 13th ... the Coroner stated that he had been requested by the jury, who were feeling the strain of the long inquest, to adjourn for a longer length of time.

Despite Harmer's strenuous objections ... the Coroner agreed to their request ... and adjourned until the 1st of December ... a period of just over 2 weeks.

Inquest of John Lees, Oldham, September 1819 - The court in London considers whether or not to allow the Oldham inquest to continue.
The court in London considers whether or not to allow the Oldham inquest to continue.

In the intervening 2 weeks, Mr. Harmer and Mr. Dennison, requested the court to compel the Coroner to continue the inquest, without the frequent adjournments. An affidavit was presented in support of the motion ... detailing the progress of the inquest ... and the obstructions they had encountered in conducting their inquiry.

At first the Lord Chief Justice ruled in their favour ... but a challenge was mounted ... and on the Monday morning ... Mr. Serjeant Cross undermined Mr.Harmer's statements ... and stressed the illegality of the inquest proceedings from the start. This was based on the fact that the Coroner hadn't initially sworn in the jury and viewed the body with them. He also stressed how the Coroner was put at a disadvantage by not being a solicitor himself ... and had turned to the magistrates and their own solicitor ...purportedly in all innocence ... in a desperate need for advice.

The inquest would not continue ...
The inquest would not continue ...

On Wednesday the 1st of December, when Mr.Harmer ... with his assistant and witnesses ... presented themselves at the Star Inn, Manchester ... They were met at the door by Mr. Battye who informed Mr. Harmer of the Court's decision ...

The inquest would not continue ... ruled null and void ....

Inquest of John Lees, Oldham, September 1819 - John's father, Robert, petitions parliament to give john and himself the justice denied by the Courts.
John's father, Robert, petitions Parliament to give John and himself the justice denied by the Courts.

But that wasn't the end of it ... Robert Lees, father of John, presented a Petition ... in essence stating that he had been denied justice and asking Westminster to intervene.

The 'Political House That Jack Built by william Hone and illustrated by George Cruikshank.
The 'Political House That Jack Built' by William Hone and illustrated by George Cruikshank.

Radical publishers had gone into overdrive .. amongst these was William Hone ... who was the publisher of the Inquest account ...Many of his squibs ... were illustrated with wood-cut illustrations by George Cruikshank. One dating from 1819 was a 24 page parody on the children's rhyme - 'the House That Jack Built' ... called, 'The Political House That Jack Built',

If we cast our minds back to our own childhood ... we can probably remember the outline of the verse, with its cumulative repetitions ... of the malt, and the rat, and the cat, and the dog, etc...

The 'Political House That Jack Built' by William Hone and illustrated by George Cruikshank.
The 'Political House That Jack Built' by William Hone and illustrated by George Cruikshank.

In this we have ... the house with Brittania and the cap of liberty above ...


The 'Political House That Jack Built' - The Wealth
The 'Political House That Jack Built' - The Wealth

Next we have a treasure chest with the wealth of the country and ... significantly ... The Great Charter ... signed by King John and his Barons in 1215 ... curbing the power of the monarch ... together with the Bill of Rights, from 1689 ... which defined the limit of a monarch's powers and the rights of Parliament ... And last, but not least ... the Act of Habeus Corpus ... in simple terms it means that you should not be detained without being charged and tried in court. At the time of printing ... this Act had been suspended.

The 'Political House That Jack Built' - The Vermin
The 'Political House That Jack Built' - The Vermin

The Vermin ...

"That plunder the wealth' ... cartoon figures show us representatives of royalty, the military, the legal system, the clergy and the Tax gatherer.

The 'Political House That Jack Built' - The 'Thing'
The 'Political House That Jack Built' - The 'Thing'

Next is 'The Thing' ...

"That in spite of new Acts,
And Attempts to restrain it,
By soldiers or Tax,
Will poison the vermin ..."

In this case the 'Thing' is Hone's printing press and the freedom to use it.

The 'Political House That Jack Built - 'The Public Informer'.
The 'Political House That Jack Built - 'The Public Informer'.

Next is the Public Informer' ...

"Who would put down the Thing, ...

ie. the legal system and repressive action.

The 'Political House That Jack Built - "The Reasons of Lawless Power'
The 'Political House That Jack Built -
"The Reasons of Lawless Power'

These are "The Reasons of Lawless Power'

"That back the Public Informer ...

Here they are portrayed as military figues .. with canon, sword and bayonetted musket, ... and a jailor, with shackles and keys ... all representing the repression of popular liberties.

The 'Political House That Jack Built -the MAN
The 'Political House That Jack Built -
the MAN

A caricature of the Prince Regent....

"This is the MAN - all shaven and shorn,
All covered with Orders - and all forlorn,
The Dandy of sixty, who bows with a grace ..."

The 'Political House That Jack Built - the People
The 'Political House That Jack Built -
the People

"These are the People ... All tatter'd and torn,
Who curse the day ... wherein they were born.'
O n account of taxation, too great to be borne,
S nd pray for relief, from night to morn,

Who in vain petition, in every form,
Who peacably meeting, to ask for Reform,
Were sabred by Yeomanry Cavalry,
Who were thanked by the MAN"

The 'Political House That Jack Built - The Guilty Trio
The 'Political House That Jack Built -
The Guilty Trio

"The Guilty Trio ..." Caricatures from the left of ..

the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth ...
"The Doctor of Circular fame,
A driv'ller, a Bigot, a Knave without shame."

the Leader of Parliament, Lord Castlreagh...

"And that's Derry Down Triangle by name,
From the land of Mis-rule, and half-hanging , and flame. ..."

and a Cabinet Minister, George Canning ...

"and that is the Spouter of Froth by the hour,
The worthless colleague of their infamous power ... "

The 'Political House That Jack Built - The Word ..
The 'Political House That Jack Built -
The Word ..

"The Word ..

This Word is the Watchword - the talisman word,
That the Waterloo-man's to crush with his sword ..."

The 'Political House That Jack Built - The Clerical Magistrate
The 'Political House That Jack Built -
The Clerical Magistrate

The Clerical Magistrate ... referencing The clergy magistrates who were with Hulton at Peterloo ... Reverend. Ethelstone and Reverend Hay.

"This is a priest, made according to law ... "

and ...

... "And all who look peacable, try for Sedition,
If the People were peacably meeting in quiet,
Would pronounce it decidedly - Sec. Stat. - a riot,
and order the soldiers to 'aid and assist',
That is - kill the helpless, who cannot resist.

and finally ...

Breaks the Peace of the Church, To be justice of peace;
Breaks his vows made to heaven - a pander for power;
A perjuror - a guide to the people no more: ... "


A Parody on Hone's 'The Political House That Jack Built' by Loyalist M. Adams.

But equally, there were parodies of parodies ... Loyalists trying to turn the tables on the radical writers ... by twisting their own words .... a damage limitation exercise on their part!

This one is 'A Parody on the Political House that Jack Built' ... these illustrations are by George's brother, Isaac Cruikshank.

The snakes are 'Calumny', 'Age of Reason' and 'Republic' ... they are outweighed by the figure of a sword wielding Brittania who, blindfolded, ignores them.

The Black Dwarf published by T.J.Wooler
The Black Dwarf published by T.J.Wooler

Another publication that kept Peterloo firmly in the public eye ... was 'The Black Dwarf' ... a journal published by Thomas Jonathan Wooler ... from 1817 until 1824 when his patron,... the reformer Major John Cartwright ... died..

After being charged with seditious libel ... Wooler had been found not guilty ...by pleading that he hadn't written the libellous piece, ... merely published it!

On the left is an advertising poster from 1817...and on the right is the front page from September 8th 1819 ... with an editorial headlined... 'Hints to the Reformers of the British Empire, as to the Real Authors of the Manchester Massacre.'

It published reform and radical contributions ... in the form of poetry, prose and songs; ... along with reports and commentaries.

The Cato Street Conspiracy in 1820
The Cato Street Conspiracy in 1820

Because Peterloo generated such strong reactions ... from both sides of he political divide .. it was referenced constantly ... throughout the following years ... and became a cornerstone of 19th century history. From those roots sprang the Cato Street Conspiracy in 1820. (considered by some to be one of the government traps.

Chartists - The National Convention on Monday 4th February, 1839, at the British Coffee House.
Chartists - The National Convention on Monday 4th February, 1839, at the British Coffee House.

Eventually, the longed for Reform Act of 1832 ... which gave little to the working classes ...least of all a vote ... after which the later Chartist Movement came into being.

The publications we've just touched onare only a very small sample of the published material from those early years of the 19th century ...

all passionate .... all accusatory ...
so many fearless of consequences ..

Failsworth Veterans of the Peterloo Massacre in 1884
Failsworth Veterans of the Peterloo Massacre in 1884

Finally ... in 1884 .. 65 years later ... a group of Failsworth survivors of the Meeting ... sat for a photograph ...

Names and details

and almost 200 years later ... WE still remember ...

Manchester Peterloo Anniversary Meeting
Manchester Peterloo Anniversary Meeting in 2016

Fast forward 132 years to 2016 and there is a new initiative to keep the memory alive ... there is an on-going campaign to create a permanent ... and more appropriate memorial ... than the existing Red Plaque ...

Some 2016 anniversary Meeting photos on the News Page

read ... Part 1 BEFORE & ON THE DAY

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