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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Three Accounts of Peterloo, by 
Edward Stanley and William Jolliffe and John Benjamin Smith

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Title: Three Accounts of Peterloo
       By Eyewitnesses Bishop Stanley, Lord Hylton, John Benjamin
              Smith with Bishop Stanley's Evidence at the Trial

Author: Edward Stanley
        William Jolliffe
        John Benjamin Smith

Editor: F. A. Bruton

Release Date: August 7, 2011 [EBook #37004]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive/Canadian








Published by the University of Manchester at
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS (H. M. McKechnie, M.A., Secretary)
12 Lime Grove, Oxford Road, MANCHESTER


39 Paternoster Row, E.C.4

New York:
443-449 Fourth Avenue and Thirtieth Street

336 Hornby Road

6 Old Court House Street

167 Mount Road



From a Print lent by Lord Sheffield Photo by R. H. Fletcher

Bishop Stanley




Three Accounts







Bishop Stanley’s Evidence at the Trial


Edited by F. A. BRUTON, M.A., Litt.D
of the Manchester Grammar School








No. CXL.



[Pg v]


Bishop Stanley1
Stanley’s Account of Peterloo10
Stanley’s Evidence at the Trial in 182224
Sir William Jolliffe, afterwards Lord Hylton45
Lieutenant Jolliffe’s Account of Peterloo48
John Benjamin Smith59
Mr. J. B. Smith’s Account of Peterloo62
Some Relics of Peterloo:—
1. A Banner carried at Peterloo.
2. Bamford’s Cottage at Middleton.
3. Constables’ Staves.
4. Head of Flagstaff.
5. Hussar’s Plume.
6. Account-Book of the Relief Committee.
7. Account-Book recording amounts raised for the relief of Special Constables and their families.
1. Note on the Casualties at Peterloo.
2. Presence of women and children at Peterloo.
3. Some gleanings from the Scrap-Books.
4. Explanation of the Contemporary Plan and Picture of Peterloo.



[Pg vi]


Portrait of Bishop Stanley Frontispiece
Stanley’s Plan of Peterloo   8
Nadin, the Deputy Constable Facing 21
“Orator Hunt” " 27
Plan of Peterloo, compiled from the contemporary Plans and modern Street Maps   44
Portrait of Mr. John Benjamin Smith Facing 59
The Hunt Memorial at the Manchester Reform Club " 69
The Peterloo Medal " 71
The Banner carried at Peterloo by the Middleton Contingent " 75
Samuel Bamford’s Cottage at Middleton " 76
Three Relics picked up on the Field of Peterloo " 77
A Page of the Relief Committee’s Account Book   79
Plan of Peterloo published with the Report of the Trial in 1822   89
Wroe’s Picture of Peterloo, showing the Manchester Yeomanry riding for the Hustings   Facing 90



[Pg vii]



Of the three accounts of the Tragedy of Peterloo given here, two (the first and third) have never been published before. The second appeared in the “Life of Lord Sidmouth” in 1847. All three, written with care and judgment, by men who afterwards rose to eminence, form a valuable contribution to the understanding of an event, the accounts of which have been for the most part distorted and misleading. Moreover, as each of the three writers deals with a different phase of the day’s happenings, the accounts complement one another.

The Editor had already arranged for the publication of the first, when he received the following letter from Lord Sheffield, dated Penrhos, Holyhead, August 21st, 1919:—

“It is many years since I had the copy of the Rev. E. Stanley’s report, and no doubt it was one of the lithographed copies you mention.

I think it would be well if it were published, along with the evidence to which you refer. I also think the Plan, of which you speak, should be added, and the reports of Jolliffe and J. B. Smith.”

[Pg viii]Lord Sheffield supported his suggestion by enclosing a cheque towards the cost of printing, and this made easy the publication of the whole. Lord Sheffield also kindly lent the portrait of Bishop Stanley, which appears as the Frontispiece.

Acknowledgments are due, besides: (1) to Mr. Henry Guppy, M.A., for permission to use the blocks of Wroe’s picture of Peterloo, and the Plan from the “Story of Peterloo” in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library for October, 1919; and to copy a page of the Account-book of the Relief Committee; (2) to Lady Durning Lawrence, who (with the late Mr. C. W. Sutton, M.A.) gave permission to print the Extract from the Reminiscences of Mr. J. B. Smith, and to reproduce his portrait; (3) to Mr. W. Marcroft of Southport; and Messrs. Hirst & Rennie of Oldham, for the loan of the blocks of “Orator Hunt,” the “Hunt Memorial,” and the “Peterloo Medal”; (4) to Mr. John Murray for leave to reprint Lieutenant Jolliffe’s letter; (5) to Mr. W. W. Manfield, for the loan of the three Relics of Peterloo; and (6) to Mr. R. H. Fletcher, amateur photographer, of Eccles, for photographing the relics, etc.

F. A. B.



[Pg 1]

Three Accounts of Peterloo




The Rev. Edward Stanley (1779-1849) was the second son of Sir J. T. Stanley, the Sixth Baronet, and Margaret Owen, of Penrhos, Anglesey. His elder brother was the first Baron Stanley of Alderley. As a boy, he had a natural inclination for the sea, but this was not encouraged. For thirty-two years he was Rector of Alderley, in Cheshire. While making himself beloved as a Parish Priest, he found time for many scientific and other interests. His Familiar History of Birds is a standard work; he advocated, and assisted in, the teaching of Science and Temperance at Alderley; and he became one of the first Presidents of the Manchester Statistical Society. Though he declined the See of Manchester, when it was offered him, he accepted from Lord Melbourne, in 1837, the Bishopric of Norwich, and introduced a number of reforms into that diocese. A short memoir of him was written by his son, the famous Dean of Westminster.

[Pg 2]At the date of Peterloo, a number of clergymen sat on the Bench of Magistrates for Lancashire and Cheshire, but Stanley stated clearly at the Trial that he was not a Magistrate. He was then forty years of age, and Rector of Alderley, and in his evidence he was careful to say that his narrative of Peterloo was compiled about two months after the event, for private circulation among his friends, and had never been published. It is clear that a copy was in the hands of Counsel who cross-examined him at the Trial in 1822. The manuscript is very neatly written (I should conjecture by Stanley himself) on nine large quarto pages, the plan being drawn by the same hand, and the notes given at the end. I have thought it more convenient for the reader to have the notes thrown to the foot of the respective pages. The manuscript was lithographed, in 1819, by the Lithographic Press, Westminster, and entered at Stationers’ Hall. I found on enquiry that there was one copy in the Manuscript Department of the British Museum (Add. MSS., 30142, ff. 78-83). It is addressed to Major-Gen. Sir Robert Wilson, and sealed with the Stanley crest. The authorship was not known, and the Keeper of the MSS. was glad to be able to add this to the document as the result of my communication. In the Printed Book Department of the British Museum there is a[Pg 3] second copy, catalogued under Manchester, with press-mark 8133i. There is no trace of Stanley’s MS. in the Public Records Office. I can find no other copy but the one at the Manchester Reference Library, which is in excellent preservation, and has recently been rebound. Mr. J. C. Hobhouse quoted from Stanley’s narrative once in a speech in the House of Commons. Speaking on May 19th, 1821, in support of a Petition for an enquiry as to the outrage at Manchester, Mr. Hobhouse, following Sir Francis Burdett, said: “The Rev. Mr. Stanley, who watched from a room above the magistrates, saw no stones or sticks used, though if any stone larger than a pebble had been thrown, he must have seen it.” I have not found any other reference to the narrative except that made by Counsel at the Trial, and that is recorded in the Evidence which follows.

Three notes may find a place here. The first two refer to points mentioned by Stanley:—

1. Pigot and Dean’s Manchester Directory for 1819 mentions:

(a) Edmund Buxton, Builder, &c., No. 6, Mount Street, Dickinson Street.

(b) Thomas & Matthew Pickford & Co., Carriers, Oxford Street.

[Pg 4]I do not find Mr. Buxton’s “shop,” which is mentioned by Stanley; nor are Pickfords described as “timber merchants,” though timber may easily have been stacked in their yard.

Stanley’s movements on reaching Manchester are not, at a first reading, quite clear. Riding in from Alderley, he seems to have approached by way of Oxford Road, passing (as he tells us) the Manchester Yeomanry, posted at Pickford’s yard. At twelve o’clock, he turned up Mosley Street (very likely to avoid the crowd which was already filling the Square) and in Mosley Street he met the contingent of Reformers coming from Ashton. He then proceeded to Mr. Buxton’s shop, which seems to have been near the lower end of Deansgate. Not finding Mr. Buxton there, he was directed to his residence in Mount Street. The shortest way to Mount Street from Alport would have taken him through the crowd. He therefore approached Mount Street “by a circuitous route to avoid the meeting” (possibly by Fleet Street and Lower Mosley Street, the route afterwards taken by the Hussars), and met Mr. Buxton on the steps of his house.

Stanley evidently knew little of Manchester. He confesses in his narrative that he had not been in St. Peter’s field before or since the tragedy; in his evidence he said: “I know no street,” and stated that he could not locate the Friends’ Meeting-house.

[Pg 5]2. Stanley’s estimate of a hundred yards, as the distance from the hustings to Mr. Buxton’s house can be demonstrated to-day to be almost exactly correct. This is only one of many points in his narrative which show what a shrewd, quick, and accurate observer he was. When Mr. Hulton was asked, at the Trial, to estimate the same distance, he conjectured four hundred yards, and this was actually quoted as the distance in one of the standard histories of the period.

For the rest, it seems better to leave Stanley’s extremely lucid account to speak for itself. To annotate it in detail would be to spoil its completeness. As has been stated above, each observer witnessed the scene from his own stand-point. A complete picture can only be obtained by forming a mosaic of the various reports. Stanley’s narrative is that of an outsider, who came upon the scene unexpectedly, and watched the whole with the eye of a statesman and a statistician. Lieutenant Jolliffe’s account gives the view of a young soldier, a stranger to Manchester, who rode in the charge of the Hussars, and afterwards took part with them in the patrol of the town. Mr. J. B. Smith speaks from the point of view of a Manchester business man, familiar with the civic and economic conditions that led to the catastrophe, and his narrative reaches a few days beyond the tragedy itself.[Pg 6] Samuel Bamford’s account—too well-known to need repetition here—was written from the stand-point of a local weaver, who had already suffered for his outspoken advocacy of Parliamentary Reform, had a large share in organising the Peterloo meeting, and served a term of imprisonment for his share in the proceedings. An attempt to dovetail these and other Reports into a continuous narrative has already been made in The Story of Peterloo (Rylands Library Lectures, 1919.).

3. Stanley’s Evidence at the Trial, which is here printed immediately after his connected narrative, has been taken from McDonnell’s State Trials, supplemented—where passages are omitted by McDonnell—by Farquharson’s verbatim report, issued by the Defence after the Trial. As a matter of fact McDonnell made use of Farquharson’s version.

The portrait of Bishop Stanley which appears here is from a print kindly lent for the purpose by Lord Sheffield.



[Pg 7]

Stanley’s Notes attached to his Plan

Never having seen St. Peter’s fields before or since, I cannot pretend to speak accurately as to distance, etc. I should, at a guess, state the distance from the hustings to Mr. Buxton’s house to be about a hundred yards, which may serve as a general scale to the rest of the plan.

Key to Stanley’s Plan.

1. The hustings. The arrow shows the direction in which the orators addressed the mob, the great majority being in front: F, F, F.

2. The Barouche in which Hunt arrived, the line from it showing its entrance and approach.

3. The spot on which the Manchester Yeomanry Cavalry halted previous to their charge; the dotted lines in front showing the direction of their charge on attacking the hustings.

 [Pg 8]

Larger Image
Stanley’s Plan


[Pg 9]4. On this spot the woman alluded to in the account (p. 15) was wounded and remained apparently dead, till removed at the conclusion of the business.

5. Here the 15th Dragoons paused for a few moments before they proceeded in the direction marked by the dotted line.

6. The Cheshire Cavalry; my attention was so much taken up with the proceedings of the Manchester Yeomanry Cavalry, etc., and the dispersion in front of the hustings, that I cannot speak accurately as to their subsequent movements.

7, 7, 7. The band of special constables, apparently surrounding the hustings.

8, 8, 8. The mob in dense mass; their banners displayed in different parts, as at x, x.

9, 9, 9. A space comparatively vacant; partially occupied by stragglers; the mob condensing near the hustings for the purpose of seeing and hearing.

10, 10, 10. Raised ground on which many spectators had taken a position; a commotion amongst them first announced the approach of the cavalry; their elevated situation commanding a more extensive view.



[Pg 10]

Bishop Stanley’s Account of Peterloo

Soon after one o’clock on the 16th of August, I went to call on Mr. Buxton, with whom I had some private business. I was directed to his house overlooking St. Peter’s field, where I unexpectedly found the magistrates assembled.[1] I went up to their room, and remained there seven or eight minutes. Hunt was not then arrived; a murmur running through the crowd prepared us for his approach; a numerous vanguard preceded him, and in a few moments the Barouche appeared in which he sat with his coadjutors, male and female;[Pg 11] a tremendous shout instantly welcomed him; he proceeded slowly towards the hustings. On approaching the knot of constables the carriage stopped a short time, I conceive from the difficulty of making way through a band of men who were little inclined to fall back for his admission. The Barouche at length attained its position close to the hustings, and the speakers stepped forth, the female—as far as I can recollect—still remaining on the driver’s seat with a banner in her hand. I then left the magistrates and went to a room immediately above them, commanding a bird’s-eye view of the whole area, in which every movement and every object was distinctly visible. In the centre were the hustings surrounded to all appearance[2] by a numerous body of constables,[Pg 12] easily distinguished by their respectable dress, staves of office, and hats on; the elevation of the hustings of course eclipsed a portion of the space immediately beyond them, so as to prevent my seeing, and consequently asserting positively, whether they were completely surrounded by this chain of constables. The chain from this its main body was continued in a double line, two or three deep, forming an avenue to Mr. Buxton’s house, by which there seemed to be free and uninterrupted access to and from the hustings. Had any interruption of their communication occurred previous to the change, I think I must have perceived it from the commanding position I occupied. A vast concourse of people, in a close and compact mass, surrounded the hustings and constables, pressing upon each other apparently with a view to be as near the speakers as possible. They were, generally speaking, bare-headed, probably for the purpose of giving those behind them a better view. Between the outside of this mob and the sides of the area the space was comparatively unoccupied; stragglers were indeed numerous, but not so as to amount to anything like a crowd, or to create interruption to foot passengers. Round the edges of the square more compact masses of people were assembled, the greater part of whom appeared to be spectators. The radical banners and caps of[Pg 13] liberty were conspicuous in different parts of the concentrated mob, stationed according to the order in which the respective bands to which they belonged had entered the ground, and taken up their positions.

After the orators had ascended the hustings, a few minutes were taken up in preparing for the business of the day, and then Hunt began his address. I could distinctly hear his voice, but was too distant to distinguish his words. He had not spoken above a minute or two before I heard a report in the room that the cavalry were sent for; the messengers, we were told, might be seen from a back window. I ran to that window from which I could see the road leading to a timber yard (I believe) at no great distance, where, as I entered the town, I had observed the Manchester Yeomanry stationed. I saw three horsemen ride off, one towards the timber yard, the others in the direction which I knew led to the cantonments of other cavalry.

I immediately returned to the front window, anxiously awaiting the result; a slight commotion among a body of spectators, chiefly women, who occupied a mound of raised, broken ground on the left, and to the rear, of the orators, convinced me they saw something which excited their fears; many jumped down, and they soon dispersed more[Pg 14] rapidly. By this time the alarm was quickly spreading, and I heard several voices exclaiming: “The soldiers! the soldiers!”; another moment brought the cavalry into the field on a gallop,[3] which they continued till the word was given for halting them, about the middle of the space which I before noticed as partially occupied by stragglers.

They halted in great disorder, and so continued for the few minutes they remained on that spot. This disorder was attributed by several persons in the room to the undisciplined state of their horses, little accustomed to act together, and probably frightened by the shout of the populace, which greeted their arrival. Hunt had evidently seen their approach; his hand had been pointed towards them, and it was clear from his gestures that he was addressing the mob respecting their interference. His words, whatever they were, excited a shout from those immediately about him, which was re-echoed with fearful animation by the rest of the multitude. Ere that had subsided, the cavalry, the loyal spectators, and the special[Pg 15] constables, cheered loudly in return, and a pause ensued of about a minute or two.

An officer and some few others then advanced rather in front of the troop, formed, as I before said, in much disorder and with scarcely the semblance of line, their sabres glistened in the air, and on they went, direct for the hustings. At first, i.e., for a very few paces, their movement was not rapid, and there was some show of an attempt to follow their officer in regular succession, five or six abreast; but, as Mr. Francis Phillips in his pamphlet observes, they soon “increased their speed,” and with a zeal and ardour which might naturally be expected from men acting with delegated power against a foe by whom it is understood they had long been insulted with taunts of cowardice, continued their course, seeming individually to vie with each other which should be first. Some stragglers, I have remarked, occupied the space in which they halted. On the commencement of the charge, these fled in all directions; and I presume escaped, with the exception of a woman who had been standing ten or twelve yards in front; as the troop passed her body was left, to all appearance lifeless; and there remained till the close of the business, when, as it was no great distance from the house, I went towards her. Two men were then in the act of[Pg 16] raising her up; whether she was actually dead or not I cannot say, but no symptoms of life were visible at the time I last saw her.[4]

As the cavalry approached the dense mass of people they used their utmost efforts to escape: but so closely were they pressed in opposite directions by the soldiers, the special constables, the position of the hustings, and their own immense numbers, that immediate escape was impossible. The rapid course of the troop was of course impeded when it came in contact with the mob, but a passage was forced in less than a minute; so rapid indeed was it that the guard of constables close to the hustings shared the fate of the rest. The whole of this will be intelligible at once by a reference to the annexed sketch.

On their arrival at the hustings a scene of dreadful confusion ensued. The orators fell or were forced off the scaffold in quick succession; fortunately for them, the stage being rather elevated, they were in great degree beyond the reach of the many swords which gleamed around them. Hunt fell—or threw himself—among the constables, and was driven or dragged, as fast as possible, down the avenue which communicated[Pg 17] with the magistrates’ house; his associates were hurried after him in a similar manner. By this time so much dust had arisen that no accurate account can be given of what further took place at that particular spot.

The square was now covered with the flying multitude; though still in parts the banners and caps of liberty were surrounded by groups. The Manchester Yeomanry had already taken possession of the hustings, when the Cheshire Yeomanry entered on my left in excellent order, and formed in the rear of the hustings as well as could be expected, considering the crowds who were now pressing in all directions and filling up the space hitherto partially occupied.

The Fifteenth Dragoons appeared nearly at the same moment, and paused rather than halted on our left, parallel to the row of houses. They then pressed forward, crossing the avenue of constables, which opened to let them through, and bent their course towards the Manchester Yeomanry. The people were now in a state of utter rout and confusion, leaving the ground strewed with hats and shoes, and hundreds were thrown down in the attempt to escape. The cavalry were hurrying about in all directions, completing the work of dispersion, which—to use the words given in Wheeler’s Manchester Chronicle, referred to by[Pg 18] Mr. Francis Phillips—was effected in so short a space of time as to appear as if done “by magic.”

I saw nothing that gave me an idea of resistance, except in one or two spots where they showed some disinclination to abandon the banners; these impulses, however, were but momentary, and banner after banner fell into the hands of the military power.[5] The extent of their defence may perhaps best be estimated by the gallant conduct, which I particularly noticed, of a man on horseback, apparently a gentleman’s servant. Unarmed as far as I could perceive, he separated from the cavalry, and rode directly into a compact body of people collected round a banner; a scuffle ensued highly interesting; the banner rose and fell repeatedly, but ultimately fell into his hands, and he galloped off with it in triumph.

During the whole of this confusion, heightened at its close by the rattle of some artillery[6] crossing[Pg 19] the square, shrieks were heard in all directions, and as the crowd of people dispersed the effects of the conflict became visible. Some were seen bleeding on the ground and unable to rise; others, less seriously injured but faint with the loss of blood, were retiring slowly or leaning upon others for support. One special constable, with a cut down his head, was brought to Mr. Buxton’s house. I saw several others in the passage, congratulating themselves on their narrow escape, and showing the marks of sabre-cuts on their hats. I saw no firearms, but distinctly heard four or five shots, towards the close of the business, on the opposite side of the square, beyond the hustings; but nobody could inform me by whom they were fired. The whole of this extraordinary scene was the work of a few minutes.

The rapid succession of so many important incidents in this short space of time, the peculiar character of each depending so much on the variation of a few instants in the detail, sufficiently accounts for the very contradictory statements that have been given; added to which it should be[Pg 20] observed that no spectator on the ground could possibly form a just and correct idea of what was passing. When below, I could not have observed anything accurately beyond a few yards around me, and it was only by ascending to the upper rooms of Mr. Buxton’s house that I could form a just and correct idea of almost every point which has since afforded so much discussion and contention.

The cavalry were now collected in different parts of the area; the centre, but a few minutes before crowded to excess, was utterly deserted; groups of radicals were still seen assembled on the outskirts, screening themselves behind logs of timber or mingling with the spectators on the pavement. The constables remained in a body in front of the house waiting for the reappearance of Hunt, who (with his colleagues) was secured in a small parlour opening into the passage to which I had now descended. I believe the original intention was to send him to the New Bailey in a carriage, but it was soon after decided that he should walk. When this was made known it was received with shouts of approbation and “bring him out, let the rebel walk,” was heard from all quarters. At length he came forth, and notwithstanding the blows he had received in running the gauntlet down the avenue of constables, I thought I could perceive[Pg 21] a smile of triumph on his countenance. A person (Nadin, I believe) offered to take his arm, but he drew himself back, and in a sort of whisper said: “No, no, that’s rather too good a thing,” or words to that effect. He then left the house, and I soon afterwards also went away.


From a Print at the Reference Library Photo by R. H. Fletcher

Joseph Nadin
Deputy-Constable of Manchester
at the Time of Peterloo

To face page 21


I saw no symptoms of riot or disturbances before the meeting; the impression on my mind was that the people were sullenly peaceful, and I had an excellent opportunity of forming an opinion by suddenly coming in contact with a large body from Ashton, who met me in Mosley Street, as I entered the town.[7] They were walking at a moderate pace, six or seven abreast, arm in arm, which enabled them to keep some sort of regularity in their march. I was soon surrounded by them as I passed, and though my horse showed a good deal of alarm, particularly at their band and flags, they broke rank and offered no molestation whatever.

[Pg 22]As soon, however, as I had quitted Mr. Buxton’s house at the conclusion of the business, I found them in a very different state of feeling. I heard repeated vows of revenge. “You took us unprepared, we were unarmed to-day, and it is your day; but when we meet again the day shall be ours.” How far this declaration of being unarmed men may be relied upon, I cannot pretend to say; I certainly saw nothing like arms either at or before the meeting; their sticks were, as far as came under my observation, common walking-sticks; that some, however, were armed I can have no doubt, as a constable, when I was leaving Mr. Buxton’s house, showed me a couple of short skewers or daggers fixed in wooden handles, which he had taken in the fray.

I have heard from the most respectable authority that the cavalry were assailed by stones during the short time they halted previous to their charge. I do not wish to contradict positive assertions. What a person sees must be true. My evidence on that point can only be negative. I certainly saw nothing of the sort, and yet my eyes were fixed most steadily upon them, and I think that I must have seen any stone larger than a pebble at the short distance at which I stood (from thirty to fifty yards) and the commanding view I had. I indeed saw no missile weapons used throughout[Pg 23] the whole transaction, but as I have before stated, the dust at the hustings soon partially obscured everything that took place near that particular spot; but no doubt the people defended themselves to the best of their power, as it was absolutely impossible for them to get away and give the cavalry a clear passage till the outer part of the mob had fallen back. No blame can be fairly attributed to the soldiers for wounding the constables as well as the radicals, since the chief distinguishing mark (the former being covered and the latter uncovered) soon ceased to exist; every man for obvious reasons covering himself in haste the moment the dispersion commenced.

Such are the leading features of this event, to which I can speak positively; comments and opinions I have avoided as much as possible, my object being to give a clear and impartial account of facts, which whether for or against the adopted conclusions of either party must speak for themselves.



[Pg 24]

The Evidence of The Rev. Edward Stanley

in the Trial of an action for assault, brought by Thomas Redford against Hugh Hornby Birley and others, members of the Manchester Yeomanry, before Mr. Justice Holroyd and a Special Jury, at Lancaster on the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th of April, 1822.

Second day of the Trial.

The Rev. Edward Stanley examined by
Mr. Serjeant Blackburne (Counsel for the Plaintiff).

You, I believe, are the Rector of Alderley, in Cheshire?—I am.

Brother to Sir Thomas Stanley?—Brother to Sir John Stanley.

On the 16th of August, 1819, had you any business with Mr. Buxton?—I had.

How far do you live from Manchester?—Between fifteen and sixteen miles.

[Pg 25]You came into Manchester on the morning; about what time?—As near twelve o’clock as possible I entered Mosley Street.

In your passage up Mosley Street, did you meet with any number of people?—I did.


In what manner?—They were coming down the street, walking in a procession, six, or seven, or eight abreast, and arm in arm.

Were you on horseback?—I was.

Was there any interruption to your passage?—No. Should I explain?

Tell us the reason?—As I was going down the street, some persons on the pavement desired me—

I do not wish to know what the persons on the pavement desired you to do; I do not wish you to tell us the conversation, but simply to relate what happened?—I passed through them.

By their opening to give you way?—Certainly.

Did you go on that day to Mr. Buxton’s house, and what time did you get there? I got to Mr. Buxton’s house, I should think, a quarter after one.

Did you go into a room there where the magistrates were assembled?—I did.

How long did you remain there?—I should think about from eight to ten minutes.

[Pg 26]During the time you were in the room, did Mr. Hunt arrive on the ground?—He was called Mr. Hunt; he was in a barouche.

And a multitude accompanying him?—A vast multitude.

I believe there was a cheer given by the populace at the time when he did arrive?—A tremendous shout.

Did you remain in the room or did you go elsewhere?—I did not remain there; I went into the room above it.

Were there any other persons in the room besides you?—Several.

Did you see the Manchester Yeomanry come on to the ground?—I did.

And form in front of Mr. Buxton’s house?—They formed with their left flank a little to the right of the special constables, and a few yards to the right of Mr. Buxton’s house.

You say to the left of the line of special constables?—Their left flank was on the right of Mr. Buxton’s house.

You saw the line of constables; where did it extend to?—It extended from the door of Mr. Buxton’s house, apparently up to the hustings.

Was there more than one line of constables?—There were two lines of constables.

What was the interval between them?—Near Mr. Buxton’s house and the mob, three or four feet.

[Pg 27]Afterwards, the line was closed by the pressure of the mob, expanding again when they came near the hustings?—According to my observation; to the best of my judgment; such is the impression on my mind.


“Orator” Hunt, 1773-1835
Chairman of the Peterloo Meeting

To face page 27


Of course you saw the people collected?—Certainly.

In a large mass?—In a very large mass.

What was it enabled you to distinguish the special constables from the rest?—They were superior-dressed people, had their hats on, and their staffs were constantly appearing, and they were nearer the hustings.

And the people round the hustings had their hats off?—My general impression is, all, to speak accurately.

The people on this side of the area of St. Peter’s field were not so numerous?—There were more stragglers, and no crowd.

You saw colours and caps of liberty on the ground?—I did.

What number of either the one or the other? Perhaps you do not distinctly recollect?—I cannot say.

You heard Mr. Hunt speak?—No, I could just hear his voice, but I was not able to distinguish what he said.

How long had that taken place before you saw the cavalry advance towards the hustings?—From their halt, I should think three minutes.

[Pg 28]From the time you heard Mr. Hunt?—Not from the time I heard Mr. Hunt; he was speaking before I arrived.

Then from the time of the halt?—Two or three minutes.

When you saw them advance towards the hustings, with what speed did they go?—They were formed in an irregular mass. Those on the left advanced in some sort of order. They went on at first, for a few paces, at no very quick pace; but they soon increased their speed, till it became a sort of rush or race amongst them all towards the hustings.

Did you observe the effect that this had upon the people, whether it caused them to disperse or not?—They could not disperse instantly.

But on the outside of them?—On the right, in front of the hustings, they immediately began to melt away, as it were, as far as they could at the extreme.

The outward edge of the meeting?—The outward edge, in front of the hustings.

Did you observe the cavalry when they got first among the thick part of the meeting?—Their speed was diminished as soon as they came in contact with the dense mob.

Well?—But they worked their way to the hustings still, as fast, under existing circumstances, as they could.

[Pg 29]From the place in which you were, I believe you had a very commanding view of the hustings?—I looked down upon it like a map.

I understood you, you had also been in a room below that, and looked through there?—I had.

Which, in your opinion, was the better place for a correct observation of what passed after the meeting?—Decidedly, the highest room.

Did you watch the advance of the cavalry from their place up to the hustings?—I did.

Did you see either sticks, or stones, or anything of the kind used against the cavalry in their advance up to the hustings?—Certainly not.

Did you see any resistance whatever to the cavalry, except the thickness of the meeting?—None.

Do I understand you to say you saw them surround the hustings, or not?—Surround I could not say, for the other side of the hustings, of course, was partially eclipsed by the people upon it.

But you saw them encircle part?—Encircle part.

Did you see what was done when they got there?—Yes.

Will you tell us what it was that you saw done?—I saw the swords up and down, the orators tumbled or thrown over, and the mob dispersed.

In your judgment, what length of time elapsed between the cavalry first setting off into the meeting and the time of their complete dispersion?—Starting[Pg 30] from their halt to the complete dispersion of the meeting, I should think from three to five minutes; but I cannot speak to a minute.

In your judgment it took from three to five minutes? You did not observe it by a watch?—No.

Did you see any other troops come into the field?—I did.

What were they?—

Mr. Justice Holroyd: He says he saw what?—

Mr. Serjeant Blackburne: Other troops come into the field.

When was it that you saw them come into the field?—When the mob around the hustings were dispersing rapidly, and I think Mr. Hunt was taken off.

What were those troops that you saw come into the ground then?—First came in, on the left of Mr. Buxton’s row of houses, the Cheshire Yeomanry, who filed to the left.

Mr. Justice Holroyd: You mean to the left, looking from the house, then?—From the house.

Mr. Serjeant Blackburne: Where did the Cheshire Yeomanry take up their position when they came on the ground?—They took up their position in the rear of the hustings, rather in advance, I think, of some mounds of earth.

Do you know Windmill Street?—I know no street.

You don’t know its name?—I know no name.

[Pg 31]You say near a rising ground?—There is a sort of little elevated bank or ground.

Had the multitude from that part been dispersed?—The multitude in the rear were pretty much as they had been at first. I think they were dispersing, but not so rapidly.

Do you mean in the rear of the cavalry?—In the rear of the hustings.

The Cheshire Yeomanry’s position was in the rear of the hustings?—Part near amongst these people.

What other troops beside the Cheshire Yeomanry did you see come on to the ground?—Soon after the Cheshire Yeomanry had come in and taken their position, a troop of Dragoons, I think the 15th, came in under the windows of Mr. Buxton’s house.

You say you think they were the 15th Hussars?—They were called the 15th Dragoons; they had Waterloo medals.

Where did they take up their position?—

Mr. Justice Holroyd: “Near Mr. Buxton’s house,” he said.

Mr. Serjeant Blackburne: Did they continue there?—They halted or paused for a moment or so, a little to the left of Mr. Buxton’s house, a very little to the left, almost in front, inclining to the left.

[Pg 32]What others did you see come on the ground, besides them and the Cheshire Yeomanry?—At the close of the business I saw some artillery driving through the place.

Was there any other besides those that you saw take up any position on the ground?—None, on the ground.

At this time, was the whole of the multitude dispersed?—It was dispersing most rapidly; I may say dispersed, except in partial spots.

After leaving the hustings, to which part of the field did the Manchester Yeomanry go?—To all parts. I think more behind the hustings, and on the right; they did not come back to me so much.

Do you know the Quakers’ meeting-house?—I have heard where it is since; then I did not know.

Was it that way that they went?—If you could point out, in a plan, the Quakers’ meeting-house, I could tell you if they went that road.

There is the Quakers’ meeting-house, you will see written on the plan?—Some went that way.

Some of the people, too, dispersed in that direction, did they?—The people dispersed in every direction.

I am not sure whether I asked you before, whether from your situation in this window, if any stones, or brickbats, or sticks, had been raised[Pg 33] against the cavalry, on their way to the hustings, you must have seen it?—I think I must have seen it.

Cross-examined by Mr. Serjeant Hullock:

Will you venture to swear, Mr. Stanley, that no stones nor brickbats would be thrown during the advance of the cavalry towards the hustings, without your perceiving it?—I can only venture to say that I saw none.

I believe you have favoured the public with an account of this transaction?—No, I have not.

You printed or wrote something?—It was in circulation among my friends. I wrote something which was never published.

There was a document, written by you, circulated among your friends?—Among my friends.

Before that time, had you seen yourself and read any publication, either in manuscript or print, on this subject?—I had read the reports in some papers, naturally, after that time, and I might have seen a pamphlet printed at Manchester.

Then you had seen several accounts which had been given to the world before you wrote?—Yes, I saw the reports of the papers immediately after the meeting.

[Pg 34]Whose account did you see, besides the reports in the paper?—A Mr. Phillips’s.

You, it seemed, entertained a different view of the transactions that had taken place upon this day from those which had been given to the world before that time?—I do not know; I should say a different view from some, perhaps, and coinciding with the views of others.

Coinciding with the views of some, and differing from the views of others?—Respecting stones.

No matter what. You are a magistrate, I understand?—I am not.

Of neither Cheshire nor Lancashire?—No.

I beg your pardon. You, however, were in the magistrates’ room, I think you said, at Mr. Buxton’s?—I was.

Of course you had an acquaintance with the gentlemen who were there assembled, as acting magistrates of the committee for the counties of Chester and Lancaster?—With two or three I had.

Probably upon terms of intimacy with one of them?—Certainly.

Was that gentleman there at that time?—He was.

Did it occur to your mind at the time that the cavalry were sent for (because you went back to a window, and saw the messenger crossing the field, for the purpose of bringing them to the place, and were told or heard there was a rumour in the room[Pg 35] above, that the cavalry had been sent for) did it occur (attend to my question) to you, at the time, from the observations which you had made on the subject, that that step was improper or premature?—I don’t think it occurred to me either one way or the other.

Am I to understand from that then that you exercised no judgment upon the subject at that time?—I certainly did exercise some judgment, some opinion on it, at that time.

Having exercised some judgment upon the subject, I ask you whether, in your judgment, such as you exercised upon that point, the step was either improper or premature?—I saw no necessity for it.

Then you deemed it premature?—I saw no necessity for it.

It struck you then as an unnecessary act?—Certainly.

Then you would go down, of course, immediately and speak to your friend upon the subject?—No.

Nor ever expressed to that friend or to any other, at the time, your opinion with respect to the impropriety of the step?—I had no other friend to speak to.

Did you speak to him?—I did not go down into the room again.

Probably you might, being a gentleman of considerable acquaintance, meet with some friend on[Pg 36] going home, and might ride home with some gentleman, at least part of the road?—Part of the road I did.

Mr Markland, I presume?—I overtook Mr. Markland.

Did you express any opinion to Mr. Markland upon these proceedings?—Probably I did; but I have not the most distant recollection.

I ask you, upon your oath, Mr. Stanley, if you did not express to him your entire concurrence in, and approbation of, the measures adopted by the magistrates?—I answer, upon my oath, that I do not recollect having said any such thing.

Can you tell me whether you expressed any disapprobation of the measures which it had been deemed necessary to adopt?—I have no recollection whatever of the conversation.

Then you mean to represent to us now, that your feelings upon the subject were so indifferent, that you cannot tell now, whether you approved or disapproved of these steps at the time?—I have not the most distant recollection of any conversation I had with Mr. Markland.

That is not an answer to my question. I ask you whether you mean to state that at this time, you don’t remember whether you entertained feelings of approbation or disapprobation of those steps?—I thought it was a dreadful occurrence; but I hoped that there were some grounds for it.

[Pg 37]Mr. Justice Holroyd: You are speaking of what you thought?—It was in answer to the question.

Mr. Serjeant Hullock: I am speaking of what you thought then. As I understand you, you cannot recall to your recollection the impression under which you laboured at the time you travelled home with Mr. Markland?—I thought it a dreadful occurrence, but I hoped there were grounds for it.

Did you mention that to Mr. Markland?—I cannot recollect.

It is very important that I should endeavour to extract from you, Mr. Stanley, without meaning the slightest disrespect to you, every fact within your knowledge on the subject; you say that after the meeting had been dispersed, the first cavalry which appeared on the ground was the Cheshire Yeomanry?—Not after the meeting had dispersed, but whilst in progress to dispersion.

Do you mean to state now, to the best of your recollection, that the Cheshire Yeomanry were the first cavalry advancing on the ground after that?—It depends on what you call the ground; the Cheshire Yeomanry were the first, after the Manchester cavalry, that advanced at the left.

Tell me, according to the best of your recollection, which of these troops came first upon the ground?—The Cheshire Yeomanry; but you will[Pg 38] observe that, at this time, the disposition of the hustings occupied a good deal of my attention, and I did not expect the others.

The Cheshire Yeomanry came over broken and uneven ground?—I cannot tell.

I observe that you use the word “apparently” twice, in answer to two questions which were put to you, which were a repetition of the same question—whether the two lines of constables surrounded the hustings or not; I think you said they “apparently” did?—Apparently they did.

Mr. Justice Holroyd: Surround the hustings?—Apparently.

Mr. Serjeant Hullock: Do you mean to state, then, that in your judgment the avenue which was formed by the two lines of constables extended from the house to the hustings?—At that time the impression on my mind was, and it now is, that it certainly did.

But of course you won’t swear that it did?—I cannot swear; I can only speak to the impression on my mind.

In the same way that you swear to the existence of brickbats and stones?—To the non-existence.

I think you say you saw Hunt come upon the ground?—I saw the barouche.

You saw the ladies and gentlemen both. Did you see any female?—I saw a female.

[Pg 39]What was her use?—I have no conception of that.

Mr. Justice Holroyd: Of what?—

Mr. Serjeant Hullock: I asked whether she was for use or show.

You did not know any of the parties inside?—I had not the most distant knowledge of them.

You had heard of Carlile?—I heard of him in London.

You have heard since he was in Manchester that day?—I have heard it to-day, in the course of another examination. I never heard it before.

Hunt, when he saw the cavalry coming, I think, intimated his knowledge—his cognisance of the fact—by desiring them to give three cheers?—I could not hear.

There was some cheering given?—There was a very loud cheer.

From the hustings?—From all the mob.

You say when he was addressing the mob, you did not hear his words, “but I think, whatever his words were, they excited a shout from those immediately about him, which was re-echoed with fearful animation by the rest of the multitude”?—Certainly, that is the impression on my mind; those were my own words.

It was tremendous—the shout?—It was not so tremendous as the shout with which Hunt was[Pg 40] received on the ground; the first was the loudest shout.

And the most appalling?—The first, when Hunt was received on the ground; I never heard so loud a shout.

“Terrific,” was your word?—I should say terrific.

You say that the people who were immediately contiguous to the hustings heard what Hunt said?—I cannot say.

You inferred that from their shouting?—Certainly.

Then that shout was re-echoed by the mob at a distance?—I conceived so.

What proportion, do you think, of the mass of the people, with their eyes up, and mouths open, looking at that man during the time, could hear one word he said?—I should think no one beyond ten yards from the hustings, in the bustle of such a day—that is guess.

I daresay it is a good guess, too; how do you think they would carry the resolutions at the outside, at the right flank, the left flank, and beyond the ten yards, upon the propositions made by this orator?—I have no opinion to give about that.

It certainly is a difficult point. It appeared to you that Hunt, as far as his voice could reach, had a pretty absolute control over his friends; they shouted as he spoke; it appeared that he was[Pg 41] commander-in-chief?—The thing never occurred to me; I cannot speak positively.

Have not you an opinion that he was head and leader of the party?—My opinion certainly is, that he was.

And now, I will ask you this question, as a clergyman, and as a man of character, which I believe you to be—I ask you, upon your oath, whether, in your judgment, the public tranquillity and the peace of Manchester were not endangered by a mob of that description, composed in that manner, and having such a man as Hunt at its head—Hunt and Carlile, for instance?—Hunt and Carlile are dangerous people, and any mob under their control must be dangerous.

Re-examined by Mr. Serjeant Blackburne:

Do you know, Mr. Stanley, whether this meeting was under the command of either Hunt or Carlile?—No.

When you say there was a shout given on the Manchester Yeomanry coming into the field, was there any other shout besides that given by the multitude?—There was.

Whose shout was that?—The Manchester Yeomanry, the special constables, and the people round the pavement in front of our house.

May I ask you whether you were terrified by those shouts?—Personally, certainly not.

[Pg 42]Mr. Justice Holroyd: Explain what you mean by that?—I myself was not alarmed about them.

Mr. Serjeant Blackburne: And whether it did not create terror and alarm?—Not to me individually, certainly not.

You have said that you presented a description of what you saw at the meeting, to some of your friends?—I did.

How soon was that written after the meeting?—I can scarcely say; I should think perhaps two months, but I cannot speak accurately. It was when the impression was clear on my mind.

Clear and fresh in your recollection. Will you have the goodness to tell me whether you heard or saw any person read the Riot Act?—I neither heard it read nor saw it read.

Mr. Serjeant Hullock: If it was read you did not hear it?—I did not hear it.

If it should turn out to have been read, and read loudly, there might have been something else done—but that is conclusion—that is reason.

Mr. Evans: Your Lordship has on your note that McKennell said that he did not[8] hear the Riot Act read.

Mr. Serjeant Cross: He said so.

Mr. Justice Holroyd: Yes, I have.

Mr. Serjeant Blackburne: Then that is my case, my Lord.

[Pg 44] 

Larger Image
Plan of Peterloo. (F. A. B.)
By permission of Mr. H. Guppy.

Compiled from a number of Contemporary Plans, and showing (in dotted outline)
the position of modern blocks of buildings.



[Pg 45]

Sir William Jolliffe




William George Hylton Jolliffe (1800-1876), the first Baron Hylton, was the son of the Rev. W. J. Jolliffe. At the date of Peterloo he was not quite nineteen years of age, and was serving as a Lieutenant in the 15th Hussars, then quartered at the Cavalry Barracks at Manchester. He retired from the Hussars with the rank of Captain. He was created a Baronet in 1821, and sat as member for Petersfield for about thirty years, acting for a short time as Under Secretary for Home Affairs, and afterwards as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury. He was exceedingly popular as a Conservative Whip, and when he was raised to the Peerage in 1866, he took the title of Baron Hylton from the family’s connection with the Hyltons of Hylton Castle.

The letter which follows appeared in Dean Pellew’s Life of Lord Sidmouth, published in 1847.[Pg 46] It will be seen that it is addressed to T. G. B. Estcourt, Esq.; presumably he obtained the information for Dean Pellew. The letter is approved and annotated by “E. Smyth, Esq., of Norwich, who commanded a troop of the Cheshire Yeomanry at Peterloo.” Unfortunately, the Notes to the letter are somewhat confusing: some are signed by Captain Smyth, others are not signed, and it is not easy to determine their authorship. Moreover, Captain Smyth’s contributions are not on a level with the letter itself. It has therefore been thought better to omit the Notes altogether, and allow Lieut. Jolliffe’s very clear and well-balanced report to speak for itself. A few explanatory words have been inserted in square brackets.

The Rev. Edward Stanley, in his Evidence, given above, mentioned the fact that the Hussars who rode at Peterloo were wearing their Waterloo medals. As a matter of fact, the 15th (the King’s) Hussars, whose motto is “Merebimur,” have not only “Waterloo,” but also the Peninsula, Vittoria, Afghanistan and a number of other names inscribed on their colours. The uniform is blue, with a Busby bag and scarlet plume. Presumably the plume shown in our photograph came from the helmet of one of the Hussars. It seems clear from the evidence which was given before the Relief Committee, after Peterloo, that there was[Pg 47] not the same feeling of resentment against the Hussars as against the local Yeomanry; in fact, it was more than once asserted that troopers of the Hussars actually restrained the Manchester Yeomanry from excessive violence.

I wrote to the present Lord Hylton to ask if he could lend a portrait of his Grandfather for reproduction here. He replied that he could not do so, but added: “As a matter of fact, a full-length portrait (by Sir Francis Grant, P.R.A., in my possession) has been engraved, and a copy of this engraving is, I should think, not difficult to procure.” I have not been able to find it. It is not included in the British Museum Series.



[Pg 48]

The Charge of the 15th Hussars
at Peterloo

as described by

Sir WILLIAM G. H. JOLLIFFE, Bart., M.P. (who rode in the charge as a Lieutenant of Hussars) in a letter which appears in Dean Pellew’s Life of Lord Sidmouth, Vol. III., p. 253 et seq.


9, St. James’s Place,
April 11th, 1845.

My Dear Sir,

Twenty-five years have passed since the collision unfortunately occurred between the population of Manchester and its neighbourhood and the military stationed in that town, on the sixteenth of August, 1819.

I was at that time a Lieutenant in the 15th King’s Hussars, which Regiment had been quartered in Manchester Cavalry Barracks about six weeks. This was my first acquaintance with a large manufacturing population. I had little knowledge of the condition of that population, [Pg 49]whether or no a great degree of distress was then prevalent, or whether or no the distrust and bad feeling which appeared to exist between employers and employed, was wholly or in part caused by the agitation of political questions. I will not, therefore, enter into any speculation on these points, but I will endeavour to relate the facts which fell under my own observations, although acting, as of course I was, under the command of others, and in a subordinate situation. The military force stationed in Manchester consisted of six troops of the 15th Hussars, under the command of Colonel Dalrymple; one troop of Horse Artillery with two guns, under Major Dyneley; and nearly the whole of the 31st Regiment, under Colonel Guy L’Estrange (who commanded the whole as senior officer). [Sir John Byng was then at Pontefract.] Some companies of the 88th Regiment and [six troops of] the Cheshire Yeomanry had also been brought into the town in anticipation of disturbances which might result from the expected meeting; and these latter had only arrived on the morning of the sixteenth, or a few hours previously; and, lastly, there was a troop of Manchester Yeomanry Cavalry, consisting of about forty members, who, from the manner in which they were made use of (to say the least) greatly aggravated the disasters of the day. Their ranks[Pg 50] were filled chiefly by wealthy master manufacturers; and without the knowledge possessed by a (strictly speaking) military body, they were placed, most unwisely, as it appeared, under the immediate command and order of the civil authorities.

Our Regiment paraded in field-service order at about 8.30 or it might be 9 o’clock, a.m. Two squadrons of it were marched into the town about ten o’clock. They were formed up and dismounted in a wide street, the name of which I forget,[9] to the North of St. Peter’s field (the place appointed for the meeting), and at the distance of nearly a quarter of a mile from it.

The Cheshire Yeomanry were formed, on our left, in the same street. One troop of our Regiment was attached to the artillery, which took up a position between the Cavalry Barracks and the town; and one troop remained in charge of the Barracks.

The two squadrons with which I was stationed must have remained dismounted nearly two hours. During the greater portion of that period a solid mass of people continued moving along a street about a hundred yards to our front on the way to the place of meeting. Other officers as well as myself occasionally rode to the front (to the end [Pg 51]of a street) to see them pass. They marched at a brisk pace in ranks well closed up, five or six bands of music being interspersed, and there appeared to be but few women with them. Mr. Hunt, with two or three other men, and I think two women dressed in light blue and white, were in an open carriage drawn by the people. This carriage was adorned with blue and white flags; and the day was fine and hot. As soon as the great bulk of the procession had passed, we were ordered to stand to our horses. In a very short time afterwards, the four troops of the 15th mounted, and at once moved off by the right, at a trot which was increased to a canter. Someone who had been sent from the place of meeting to bring us led the way through a number of narrow streets and by a circuitous route to (what I will call) the South-west[10] corner of St. Peter’s field. We advanced along the South[11] side of this space of ground without a halt or pause even: the words “Front!” and “Forward!” were given, and the trumpet sounded the charge at the very moment the threes wheeled up. When fronted, our line extended quite across the ground, which in all [Pg 52]parts was so filled with people that their hats seemed to touch.

It was then for the first time that I saw the Manchester troop of Yeomanry; they were scattered singly or in small groups over the greater part of the field, literally hemmed up and hedged into the mob so that they were powerless either to make an impression or to escape; in fact, they were in the power of those whom they were designed to overawe, and it required only a glance to discover their helpless position, and the necessity of our being brought to their rescue. As I was at the time informed, this hopeless state of things happened thus: A platform had been erected near the centre of the field, from which Mr. Hunt and others were to address the multitude, and the magistrates, having ordered a strong body of constables to arrest the speakers, unfortunately imagined that they should support the peace officers by bringing up the troop of Yeomanry at a walk. The result of this movement, instead of that which the magistrates desired, was unexpectedly to place this small body of horsemen (so introduced into a dense mob) entirely at the mercy of the people by whom they were, on all sides, pressed upon and surrounded.

The charge of the Hussars, to which I have just alluded, swept this mingled mass of human [Pg 53]beings before it; people, yeomen, and constables, in their confused attempts to escape, ran one over the other; so that by the time we had arrived at the end of the field the fugitives were literally piled up to a considerable elevation above the level of the ground. (I may here, by the way, state that this field, as it is called, was merely an open space of ground, surrounded by buildings, and itself, I rather think, in course of being built upon.).

The Hussars drove the people forward with the flats of their swords, but sometimes, as is almost inevitably the case when men are placed in such situations, the edge was used, both by the Hussars, and, as I have heard, by the yeomen also; but of this last part I was not cognizant, and believing though I do that nine out of ten of the sabre-wounds were caused by the Hussars, I must still consider that it redounds to the humane forbearance of the men of the 15th that more wounds were not received, when the vast numbers are taken into consideration with whom they were brought into hostile collision; beyond all doubt, however, the far greater amount of injuries were from the pressure of the routed multitude. The Hussars on the left pursued down the various streets which led from the place; those on the right met with something more of resistance.

[Pg 54]The mob had taken possession of various buildings on that side, particularly of a Quakers’ chapel and burial ground enclosed with a wall. This they occupied for some little time, and in attempting to displace them, some of the men and horses were struck with stones and brickbats. I was on the left, and as soon as I had passed completely over the ground and found myself in the street on the other side, I turned back, and then, seeing a sort of fight still going on on the right, I went in that direction. At the very moment I reached the Quakers’ meeting-house, I saw a farrier of the 15th ride at a small door in the outer wall, and to my surprise his horse struck it with such force that it flew open. Two or three Hussars then rode in, and the place was immediately in their possession. I then turned towards the elevated platform, which still remained in the centre of the field with persons upon it; a few straggling Hussars and yeomen, together with a number of men having the appearance of peace-officers were congregating about it. On my way thither I met the Commanding-officer of my Regiment, who directed me to find a Trumpeter, in order that he might sound the “rally” or “retreat.” This sent me again down the street I had first been in (after the pursuing men of my troop); but I had not ridden above a hundred yards before I found a Trumpeter, and [Pg 55]returned with him to the Colonel. The field and the adjacent streets now presented an extraordinary sight: the ground was quite covered with hats, shoes, musical instruments, and other things. Here and there lay the unfortunates who were too much injured to move away, and this sight was rendered the more distressing by observing some women among the sufferers.

Standing near the corner of the street where I had been sent in search of a Trumpeter, a brother officer called my attention to a pistol being fired from a window. I saw it fired twice, and I believe it had been fired once before I observed it. Some of the 31st Regiment just now arriving on the ground were ordered to take possession of this house, but I do not know if this was carried into effect.

I next went towards a private of the Regiment whose horse had fallen over a piece of timber nearly in the middle of the square, and who was most seriously injured. There were many of these pieces of timber (or timber-trees) lying upon the ground, and as these could not be distinguished when the mob covered them, they had caused bad falls to one officer’s horse and to many of the troopers’. While I was attending to the wounded soldier, the artillery troop with the troop of Hussars attached to it, arrived on the ground from [Pg 56]the same direction by which we had entered the field; these were quickly followed by the Cheshire Yeomanry. The 31st Regiment came in another direction, and the whole remained formed up till our squadrons had fallen in again.

Carriages were brought to convey the wounded to the Manchester Infirmary, and the troop of Hussars who came up with the guns was marched off to escort to the gaol a number of persons who had been arrested, and among these Mr. Hunt. For some time the town was patrolled by the troops, the streets being nearly empty, and the shops for the most part closed. We then returned to the Barracks. I should not omit to mention that, before the men were dismissed, the arms were minutely examined; and that no carbine or pistol was found to have been fired, and only one pistol to have been loaded.

About 8 p.m. one squadron of the 15th Hussars (two troops) was ordered on duty to form part of a strong night picket, the other part of which consisted of two companies of the 88th Regiment. This picket was stationed at a place called the New Cross, at the end of Oldham Street. As soon as it had taken up its position, a mob assembled about it, which increased as the darkness came on; stones were thrown at the soldiers, and the Hussars many times cleared the ground by [Pg 57]driving the mob up the streets leading from the New Cross. But these attempts to get rid of the annoyance were only successful for the moment, for the people got through the houses or narrow passages from one street into another, and the troops were again attacked, and many men and horses struck with stones. This lasted nearly an hour and a half, and the soldiers being more and more pressed upon, a town magistrate, who was with the picket, read the Riot Act, and the officer in command ordered the 88th to fire (which they did by platoon firing) down three of the streets. The firing lasted only a few minutes; perhaps not more than thirty shots were fired; but these had a magical effect; the mob ran away and dispersed forthwith, leaving three or four persons on the ground with gunshot wounds. At 4 a.m. the picket squadron was relieved by another squadron of the Regiment. With this latter squadron I was on duty, and after we had patrolled the town for two hours, the officer in command sent me to the magistrates (who had remained assembled during the night) to report to them that the town was perfectly quiet, and to request their sanction to the return of the military to their quarters.

On the afternoon of the 17th I visited, in company with some military medical officers, the Infirmary. I saw there from twelve to twenty cases [Pg 58]of sabre-wounds, and among these two women who appeared not likely to recover. One man was in a dying state from a gunshot wound in the head; another had had his leg amputated; both these casualties arose from the firing of the 88th the night before. Two or three were reputed dead; one of them a constable, killed on St. Peter’s field, but I saw none of the bodies.

As shortly as I could I have now related what fell under my own observation during these twenty-four hours ... I trust that I have, in some degree, complied with your wishes.

William G. Hylton Jolliffe.

To Thomas Grimston Bucknall Estcourt, Esq., M.P.



By permission of Lady Durning Lawrence Photo by Briggs

John Benjamin Smith

To face page 59



[Pg 59]

John Benjamin Smith

First Chairman of the Anti-Corn Law League.


John Benjamin Smith (1794-1879), whose account of Peterloo follows, was better known as a strenuous advocate of Free Trade; even in this capacity, however, a breakdown of health some years before the Repeal of the Corn Laws, robbed him of much of the credit which was due to him for the important spade-work that he had done. He was the first Treasurer of the Anti-Corn Law Association, and when that developed into the Anti-Corn Law League, he became its first Chairman. He contested several elections on Free Trade principles, and used himself to tell how he had converted Cobden to “total repeal.” He sat as member, first for the Stirling Burghs, and afterwards, during more than twenty years, for Stockport. His correspondence with John Bright has recently been placed in the Manchester Reference Library. During the American War he strongly espoused the cause of the North, and he was one of those who urged the Government to encourage the growth of cotton in India.

[Pg 60]Mr. Smith was a Trustee of Owens College under the Founder’s will; and he subscribed liberally towards its extension. His name is perpetuated in the “Smith” Professorship of English Literature, which was endowed in memory of him by his two daughters and his son-in-law. A short memoir of him, which appeared in Alderman Thompson’s History of Owens College, has been reprinted and published separately. (Manchester, J. E. Cornish, 1887.)

At the date of Peterloo he was only twenty-five years of age, but he had already shown great promise as a business man. Entering the office of his uncle, a Manchester merchant, at the early age of fourteen, he was made responsible for the whole correspondence of the firm five years later; and before he was twenty he had negotiated some very profitable purchases of cotton at the sales of the East India Company.

The account of Peterloo which follows is an extract from his “Reminiscences,” which were written towards the close of his life at the earnest request of his family. The manuscript of these is now at the Manchester Reference Library, as is also a typed and bound copy presented by his daughter, Lady Durning Lawrence. Among his other manuscripts (also at the Manchester Reference Library) is a shorter account of Peterloo,[Pg 61] apparently written immediately after the event. The statement made recently that Mr. J. B. Smith was the author of the well-known Impartial Narrative of the Melancholy Occurrences at Manchester seems to be due to an error: apparently the Impartial Narrative (which seems to have been written by another hand) has been confused with Mr. Smith’s shorter and earlier account.

We have already pointed out that Mr. Smith’s narrative, which is not so detailed as those of Stanley and Jolliffe in its description of the charge of the troops, is specially valuable for the account it gives of the circumstances immediately preceding and following the catastrophe, and its estimate of the character of the crowd. In these details it is strikingly corroborative of Bamford’s story, as told in his Passages in the Life of a Radical, and of the information given by Mr. John Edward Taylor, who—under the pseudonym of “An Observer”—edited the contemporary tracts entitled The Peterloo Massacre.

The portrait of Mr. Smith which appears here is from a photograph kindly lent by his daughter, Lady Durning Lawrence.



[Pg 62]


“Reminiscences” of John Benjamin Smith

Copied from the original manuscript then in the possession of his daughter, Lady Durning Lawrence. (August 1913.)


... The people, disappointed in their expectations that prosperity and plenty would follow the return of peace, and having no faith in a legislature which as soon as the war terminated inflicted upon them a Corn Law to deprive them of cheap corn, demanded a better representation in Parliament. Stimulated by the writings of Cobbett, associations were formed in all the manufacturing districts to obtain a reform in Parliament. Lancashire took the lead in this movement. Clubs were established in 1816 in all the manufacturing towns and villages. At the small town of Middleton, near Manchester, a Club was formed in which Bamford, the weaver-poet, took a leading part. They were joined by many honest and intelligent men from all parts of the district, among whom[Pg 63] was John Knight, a small manufacturer. A meeting of delegates was held on the first of January, 1817, at which it was decided that the reforms required could only be accomplished by the establishment of annual parliaments and universal suffrage.

The establishment of these clubs alarmed the Government, who saw in them nothing but an intention to overturn the institutions of the country, and to revive in this country the enormities of the French Revolution. Spies and Informers were employed by the Government, and John Knight and thirty-seven others who had legally assembled to discuss the reforms which they deemed necessary to obtain a repeal of the Corn Laws and good government, were arrested on the information of spies, and sent for trial to Lancaster, but on their trial before Mr. Baron Wood, were all found not guilty by the Jury.

The Sidmouth Government suspended the Habeas Corpus Act so that they could arrest and imprison any person as long as they pleased. The Tories, following the example of the Radicals, established Associations for the protection of the Constitution.

In January, 1818, however, it was announced that the Act for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act would be repealed. No sooner were the people[Pg 64] relieved from the danger of being sent to prison for being present at a meeting to petition Parliament for reform, as great numbers had been in Lancashire imprisoned from March, 1817 until January, 1818, and then discharged without being informed what charges were made against them—than the Reform Associations were revived. A fresh campaign was rigorously commenced early in 1819.

Henry Hunt (commonly called Orator Hunt) had come forward as the champion of the people’s rights. On the 25th of January, he made a public entry into Manchester from Stockport, accompanied by large crowds with flags and banners. The meeting was enthusiastic but very peaceable. Meetings were held in all the surrounding towns and villages to appoint district delegates to make arrangements for a great meeting to be held in Manchester. This memorable meeting was held on the 16th of August, 1819, on a large vacant plot of land called St. Peter’s field, adjoining St. Peter’s Street, and in sight of St. Peter’s Church. The actors in the bloody tragedy of that day were called “The Heroes of Peterloo,” in contrast with the brave heroes of Waterloo.

This meeting was called to petition Parliament for a Reform of Parliament and the Repeal of the Corn Laws, and it is a curious coincidence that[Pg 65] on the very spot where the largest public meeting was ever held to petition Parliament for the Repeal of the Corn Laws, in the dispersion of which by military force six hundred persons were killed and wounded there now stands the Free Trade Hall, erected twenty years afterwards on Peterloo, for the peaceful and noble object of obtaining bread for the people by the repeal of the wicked laws by which it was prohibited.

I had no intention of going to this meeting, but my Aunt called at the Counting House and asked me to accompany her to Mrs. Orton’s, Mount Street, St. Peter’s field, to see the great meeting—a house overlooking the whole space, and next but one to where the Magistrates were assembled. We reached there about half-past eleven o’clock, and on our way saw large bodies of men and women with bands playing and flags and banners bearing devices: “No Corn Laws,” “Reform,” etc. There were crowds of people in all directions, full of good humour, laughing and shouting and making fun. I always wore a white hat in summer, and I found that Mr. Hunt also wore a white hat, and it became the symbol of radicalism, and may have been the cause of the politeness shown to us by the crowd.

It seemed to be a gala day with the country people who were mostly dressed in their best and[Pg 66] brought with them their wives, and when I saw boys and girls taking their father’s hand in the procession, I observed to my Aunt: “These are the guarantees of their peaceable intentions—we need have no fears,” and so we passed on to Mrs. Orton’s. When we arrived there we saw great crowds which were constantly increased by the arrival of successive country processions until it was estimated that the meeting amounted to 60,000 people. There was a double row of constables formed from Mr. Buxton’s (where the magistrates had taken their station) to the hustings.

My Father joined us soon after our arrival at Mrs. Orton’s.

At length Hunt made his appearance in an open barouche drawn by two horses, and a woman dressed in white sitting on the box. On their reaching the hustings which were prepared for the orator, he was received with enthusiastic applause; the waving of hats and flags; the blowing of trumpets; and the playing of music. Hunt stepped on to the hustings, and was again cheered by the vast assemblage. He began to address them, and I could distinctly see his motions through the glass I held in my hand, and I could hear his voice, but could not understand what he said. He paused, and the people cheered him.

[Pg 67]About this time there was an alarm among the women and children near the place where I stood, and I could also see a part of the crowd in motion towards the Deansgate side, but I thought it a false alarm, as many returned again and joined in the huzzas of the crowd. A second alarm arose, and I heard the sound of a horn, and immediately the Manchester Yeomanry appeared, coming from Peter Street, headed by Hugh Birley, the same man who, in 1815, as Boroughreeve of Manchester, presided at the public meeting assembled to petition Parliament for the Repeal of the Corn Laws. They galloped up to the house where the Magistrates were assembled, halted, and drew up in line. After some hesitation, from what cause I do not know, I heard the order to form three deep, and then the order to march. The Trumpeter led the way and galloped towards the hustings, followed by the yeomanry.

Whilst this was passing, my attention was called to another movement coming from the opposite side of the meeting. A troop of soldiers, the 15th Hussars, turned round the corner of the house where we stood and galloped forwards towards the crowd. They were succeeded by the Cheshire Yeomanry, and lastly by two pieces of artillery. On the arrival of the soldiers, the special constables, the magistrates, and the soldiers set up[Pg 68] loud shouts. This was responded to by the crowd with waving of hats. After this the soldiers galloped amongst the people creating frightful alarm and disorder. The people ran helter-skelter in every direction.

It was a hot, dusty day; clouds of dust arose which obscured the view. When it had subsided a startling scene was presented. Numbers of men, women, and children were lying on the ground who had been knocked down and run over by the soldiers. I noticed one woman lying face downwards, apparently lifeless. A man went up to her and lifted one of her legs; it fell as if she were lifeless; another man lifted both her legs and let them fall. I saw her some time after carried off by the legs and arms as if she were dead.

My attention was then directed to a number of constables bringing from the hustings the famous Hunt wearing a white hat, and with him another man, also wearing a white hat, who was said to be Johnson. The prisoners were treated in a scandalous manner; many of the constables hissed and beat them as they passed. When they reached the Magistrates’ house he was surrounded by constables, some pulling him by the collar, others by the coat. A dastardly attack was made upon him by General Clay, who with a large stick struck him over the head with both hands as he was[Pg 69] ascending the steps to the Magistrates’ house. The blow knocked in his hat and packed it over his face. He then turned round as if ashamed of himself and became a quiet spectator. The ground by this time was cleared, and nothing was to be seen but soldiers and constables.


Bronze Relief by John Cassidy, R.C.A.

The Hunt Memorial in the Vestibule of the
Manchester Reform Club

To face page 69


The Rev. Mr. Hay (the Chairman to the Magistrates) then stood on the steps of Mr. Buxton’s house and addressed the constables. I could not hear what he said, but he was cheered when he concluded. He then returned into the house, but came out again soon afterwards with Mr. Marriott, the Magistrate, and Hunt in the custody of Nadin, Chief Constable, and with Johnson in the custody of another constable. When Hunt made his appearance, he was assailed with groans and hisses by the soldiers and constables. Hunt took off his hat and bowed to them, which appeared to calm them while they marched towards Deansgate on their way to the New Bailey prison, escorted by the cavalry. On quitting the windows from whence we had witnessed so many painful scenes, we descended and found two special constables who had been brought into the house. One presented a shocking sight—the face was all over blood from a sword-cut on his head, and his shoulder was put out. The other was bloody from being rode over and kicked on the back of his head.

[Pg 70]When the particulars of this bloody tragedy became known, strong feelings of indignation were expressed all over the country. The Manchester magistrates, alarmed at the tone of public opinion in London, had a meeting hastily convened on the 19th of August at the Police Office, which was adjourned to the Star Inn, where resolutions were passed thanking the magistrates and the soldiers. I happened by accident to be present at the meeting. A young man with whom I was acquainted, a clerk in the office of the Clerk to the Magistrates, happening to meet me in the street on his way to the meeting, took me by the arm and said: “Come with me.” I asked where he was going, and when I learned, declined to go. He replied: “Nonsense, you will hear what is going on,” and so I somewhat reluctantly went with him to the Star Inn. On our arrival we found the room pretty full and I took a seat. The Chairman, Mr. Francis Phillips, rose and said: “If there be any persons present who do not approve of the objects of this meeting they are requested to withdraw.” I thought he looked at me, and felt a little uncomfortable. He sat down again and rose to repeat his request. I thought that as I should know better what the object of the meeting was after I had heard it explained, I would sit still, and so I remained to the end. After the meeting I told some of my[Pg 71] Reform friends how I came to be present at the meeting, and they wished me to write out an account of the proceedings. I did so, and with a few alterations and the omission of names it was inserted in Cowdroy’s Gazette. This statement created great alarm among those who got up the meeting to thank the magistrates, and they denounced it as a false statement, but another letter to Cowdroy’s Gazette affirmed the truth of the account of the meeting to thank the magistrates, and threatened to make public the names of the speakers if its correctness was again called in question.


The Peterloo Medal
Note the women and children, and the cap of Liberty held aloft in the centre

To face page 71


The dispersion of a legally convened meeting by military force aroused a general indignation, and the smuggled passing of thanks to the magistrates so dishonestly sent forth occasioned an expression of public feeling and opinion such as had never been manifested in Manchester before. A “Declaration and Protest” against the Star Inn resolutions was immediately issued, stating that “We are fully satisfied by personal observation on undoubted information that the meeting was perfectly peaceable; that no seditious or intemperate harangues were made there; that the Riot Act, if read at all, was read privately, or without the knowledge of a great body of the meeting, and we feel it our bounden duty to protest against and[Pg 72] to express our utter disapprobation of the unexpected and unnecessary violence by which the assembly was dispersed.

“We further declare that the meeting convened at the Police Office on the 19th of August for the purpose of thanking the magistrates, municipal officers, soldiers, etc., was strictly and exclusively private, and in order that the privacy might be more completely ensured was adjourned to the Star Inn. It is a matter of notoriety that no expression of dissent from the main object of the meeting was there permitted. We therefore deny that it had any claim to the title of a ‘numerous and highly respectable meeting of the inhabitants of Manchester and Salford and their neighbourhood.’”

In the course of three or four days this protest received 4,800 signatures.

By way of counteracting this energetic protest, on the 27th of August Lord Sidmouth communicated to the Manchester Magistrates and to Major Trafford and the military serving under him the thanks of the Prince Regent “for their prompt, decisive, and efficient measures for preservation of the public peace on August the 16th.”

Meanwhile hundreds of persons wounded on that fatal day were enduring dreadful suffering. They were disabled from work; not daring to apply for[Pg 73] parish relief; not even daring to apply for surgical aid, lest, in the arbitrary spirit of the time, their acknowledgment that they had received their wounds on St. Peter’s field might send them to prison—perhaps to the scaffold.

A committee was formed for the purpose of making a rigid enquiry into the cases of those who had been killed and wounded; and subscriptions were raised for their relief. After an enquiry of many successive weeks the committee published the cases of eleven killed and five hundred and sixty wounded, of whom about a hundred and twenty were females.

The Rev. W. R. Hay, Chairman of the Bench of Magistrates, was rewarded by being presented to the living of Rochdale, worth £2,000 a year.

Hunt and his companions were committed to Lancaster, and subsequently tried at York, where he was found guilty and sentenced to be imprisoned for two years and a half, and Johnson, Healey, and Bamford to one year’s imprisonment.

The bloody proceedings at Peterloo startled the whole nation. Meetings were held everywhere, denouncing them in the strongest terms. Sir Francis Burdett addressed a letter to the Electors of Westminster, expressing his “Shame, grief, and indignation” at the proceedings, and was prosecuted by the Attorney-General for Libel and was[Pg 74] fined £2,000 and imprisoned for three months. Lord Fitzwilliam, for attending a public meeting to express disapprobation at the means by which the meeting at Peterloo was dispersed, was dismissed from his office as Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire.

These proceedings produced a deep impression on the minds of thoughtful men, who began to think we were on the brink of despotism, and that the time had arrived when the country should be no longer ruled by Landowners and Boroughmongers, but by representatives chosen by the people....



Photo by R. H. Fletcher

Banner Carried at Peterloo

To face page 75



[Pg 75]


Some Relics of Peterloo


At the entrance to the Reading-room of the Reform Club at Middleton (on the left as you reach the door) may be seen one of the Banners carried at Peterloo by the Middleton contingent, which was led by Samuel Bamford. It is of green material (or so it seemed to me) and the letters are stamped on it in gold capitals. The motto facing the entrance is LIBERTY AND FRATERNITY. On the other side of the Banner (seen from within the room) are the words: UNITY AND STRENGTH. The explanatory inscription reads: “This Banner was carried by the Middleton Reformers, with Samuel Bamford at their head, to Peterloo, and is frequently mentioned in the historical records of that movement.” (See Illustration opposite).

In chapter XXXIII. of Passages in the Life of a Radical Bamford speaks of “the colours; a blue one of silk, with inscriptions in golden letters: UNITY AND STRENGTH, LIBERTY AND FRATERNITY. A green one of silk, with golden letters, PARLIAMENTS ANNUAL, SUFFRAGE UNIVERSAL.” Apparently the Banner here figured is the one of which he writes later in chapter XXXVI.: “I rejoined my[Pg 76] companions [i.e., after Peterloo], and forming about a thousand of them into file, we set off to the sound of fife and drum, with our only banner waving, and in that form we re-entered the town of Middleton. The Banner was exhibited from a window of the Suffield’s Arms public-house.” The Banner is now carefully preserved between sheets of glass. The photograph was taken under considerable difficulties as regards light by Mr. R. H. Fletcher, of Eccles. The Chadderton Banner, though much dilapidated, is also still in existence, but I could not obtain the address of the person in whose keeping it is. She had left Chadderton, and was living at Blackpool.


Some distance higher up the town may be seen the house where Bamford lived at the date of Peterloo. Over the door is a stone inscribed: “Samuel Bamford resided and was arrested in this house, Aug. 26, 1819.” Bamford describes the event in detail in chapter XL of the work named above, beginning: “About two o’clock on the morning of Thursday, the twenty-sixth of August, that is, on the tenth morning after the fatal meeting, I was awoke by footsteps in the street opposite my residence. Presently they increased in number, etc.” The photograph is again by Mr. R. H. Fletcher. (See Illustration.) In the Churchyard above may be seen Bamford’s tomb and also the monument raised to his memory.


Photo by R. H. Fletcher

Samuel Bamford’s House at Middleton

To face page 76



(a) In the Catalogue of the Old Manchester & Salford Exhibition (held at the Art Gallery in 1904), on p. 27, exhibit 157 appears as “Handcuffs belonging[Pg 77] to Joe Nadin, Deputy Constable of Manchester at the time of Peterloo;” lent by G. C. Yates, Esq. On the same page, exhibit 167 is a “Special Constable’s Staff, used at the time of Peterloo in Manchester, and then the property of Mr. Beever;” lent by C. Shiel, Esq. This collection is now for the most part dispersed.



Photo by R. H. Fletcher

Three Relics of Peterloo

To face page 77


(b) Mr. T. Swindells, of Monton Green, in the third volume of his Manchester Streets and Manchester Men, mentions “A Special Constable’s Staff” given to him by a descendant of James Fildes. It is inscribed: “A relic of Peterloo. Special Constable’s Staff which belonged to the late James and Thomas Fildes, grocers, Shudehill, Manchester.”

(c) In November, 1919, on the afternoon of the day on which I was to lecture on The Story of Peterloo, at the Rylands Library, Mr. W. W. Manfield, of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, brought me three interesting relics of Peterloo, which have been in the possession of his family since 1819. On the occasion of Peterloo his father and grandfather saw the crowd streaming through Salford after the catastrophe, and their curiosity led them to walk out to St. Peter’s fields. There they picked up the three relics, which have been carefully preserved ever since. One of them is a long, heavy Constable’s baton, apparently of rosewood, with the Royal Arms painted at the thicker end. (See Illustration opposite.)


The second of Mr. Manfield’s relics is the head of one of the Banner poles carried at Peterloo. It is shaped like the traditional cap of Liberty, and inscribed in neat gilt capitals: “Hunt and Liberty.” (See Illustration.)


The third of Mr. Manfield’s relics is a plume of horsehair, apparently originally dyed red, though (if so) much of the dye has faded. This, it may be presumed, was the plume from the helmet of one of the Hussars. It has been mentioned that the 15th Hussars wear a scarlet plume. These three relics have been photographed on one plate by Mr. Fletcher. (See Illustration opposite to page 77.)


In the year of the Centenary, Mr. Guppy was fortunate enough to secure for the Rylands Library the actual Account-Book used by one of the Committees formed for the relief of those injured in the fray. A single page of this book has been photographed by Mr. R. H. Fletcher for the present volume. (See Illustration.) Mr. Guppy’s account of the volume (Bulletin of Rylands Library, April to November, 1919, p. 191) is as follows:—

“The Library has been fortunate in being able to acquire a small octavo account-book, leather bound, which seems to have been an official record of the casualties at Peterloo which were dealt with by one of the Relief Committees. It contains details of the names, addresses, and injuries of 347 individuals, particulars of the successive grants made to them by one Committee, and references to the grants made by another Committee (possibly two others).

The details given are corroborative of many of the statements in Mr. Bruton’s Story of Peterloo. Thus: the cases include those of Elizabeth Gaunt (mentioned on pp. 274 and 275), of Mrs. Fildes (on p. 274), of Thomas Redford (on pp. 285, 291, and 294). There are references to the loose timber (see pp. 269, 284 and 294), the injuries to Special Constables (see p. 280), the fight near the Friends’ Meeting-house (see pp. 284 and 289), the oak trees growing near that building (see pp. 269, 294), the white hat as a symbol of Radicalism (see p. 273), the fear of losing employment evinced by the wounded (see p. 291), the infantry intercepting fugitives (see p. 290), the child killed by a trooper in Cooper Street (see p. 277), and so on. The sum total voted by this Committee appears to have been £687; it must be remembered, however, that the sum of £3,000 mentioned on p. 291 as having been subscribed may have been used partly for legal expenses.

 [Pg 79]

One Page of the Account Book of the Relief Committee.

Larger Image

By permission of Mr. H. Guppy. Photo by R. H. Fletcher.


[Pg 80]Since this manuscript account-book came to light, Mr. Bruton has discovered a printed Report of the Relief Committee, in which 560 cases are described, and the amount raised to date is given as £3,408 1s. 8d., and pronounced to be inadequate for 600 people. It also gives the amount spent on legal expenses as £1,077.”


I have to thank Dr. A. A. Mumford for calling my attention to another account-book connected with Peterloo, which I believe he met with while going over the Crossley papers at the Chetham Library. Its number in the Library Catalogue is MS. B. 3. 70. It is a small note-book ruled for cash, and entitled: “Subscriptions for Special Constables. Nos. 10 and 11.” There is a note of a Resolution carried on August 27th, 1819, to the effect that a Relief Fund should be raised on behalf of Special Constables injured at Peterloo and their families. The subscriptions recorded in this book range from £1 to £10 10s., and amount in all to about £400.



[Pg 81]



On few points do the accounts of Peterloo vary more than on the question of the casualties. There is sufficient historical material available to enable us to investigate this matter in detail, but the task would be a gruesome one, and no useful object would be attained if it were accomplished. On the other hand, a few words may serve to show whereabouts the truth lies.

In the Cambridge Modern History (Vol. X., pp. 580, 581) it is stated that “a man was killed and forty were injured.” In the Political History of England (1906, Vol. XI., pp. 178, 179) we read that “happily the actual loss of life did not exceed five or six, but a much larger number were more or less wounded.” A number of the most important school histories in use at the present time reproduce one or the other of these statements verbatim.

If we turn to the contemporary records, they are somewhat conflicting. The hurried estimates given by the local papers immediately after the catastrophe (e.g., one newspaper reported twelve killed) had to be corrected later. The most general estimate seems to be “eleven killed and between 500 and 600 wounded.” When we come to examine these figures in detail, however, these points emerge: (1) “Killed”[Pg 82] is evidently taken to include the cases of those who died after lingering (possibly) for some weeks. (2) The summary includes the casualties due to the firing of the infantry in the neighbourhood of New Cross, some hours after the great event; included in the list, also will be the child (Fildes) knocked from its mother’s arms by one of the yeomanry as they were riding to the meeting.

Archibald Prentice, in his Historical Sketches and Personal Recollections of Manchester (p. 167), states that eleven were killed, that 420 were wounded, and that there still remained (according to the Relief Committee’s Report) 140 cases to be investigated, making a total of 560. Mr. John Benjamin Smith (who very likely refreshed his memory by looking up records when writing his Reminiscences) gives the same result. Mr. J. C. Hobhouse, speaking in the House of Commons, on May 19th, 1821, said that “he held in his hand a list of killed and wounded running to 25-30 sheets, and defied them to disprove it.” It is clear, then, that these estimates are quoted from the Committee’s Report, and to this it will be well now to turn.

With the kind assistance of Mr. Swann, of the Reference Library, I have been able to find one (and only one) copy of this Report. It is bound up with a series of papers catalogued as “Lancashire and Yorkshire Tracts,” at the Manchester Reference Library. (The Reference number is “Lancashire and Yorkshire Tracts; Barlow’s Historical Collector. H. 63. 3. No. 3 (15104)”). It is entitled: “Report of the Metropolitan and Central Committee appointed for the Relief of the Manchester Sufferers, with an Appendix containing the names of the sufferers and the nature and extent of their injuries; also an account of the distribution of funds, and other documents. Published by order of the Committee. London, 1820.” This[Pg 83] Committee seems to have been formed by amalgamating several organisations in the metropolis which sprang into being as a result of public sympathy with the sufferers, and it worked in conjunction with the Manchester and other Lancashire Committees. The subscriptions recorded to date amount to £3,408 1s. 8d. of which £1,206 13s. 8d. had been distributed, £250 having been received from the local Manchester Committees. The amount expended on law charges and expenses of witnesses is given as £1,077 6s. 9d.; advertisements and sundries cost £355 13s. 6d.; and this leaves a balance of over £768, which is pronounced inadequate to deal with the cases that remain. A fresh appeal is therefore made to the British Public. A Deputation was sent from London to investigate cases, and this Deputation reports, in January, 1820, that out of 420 sufferers visited and relieved 113 are females; that 130 received severe sabre-cuts, 14 of these being females. (To be quite safe, we must admit the possibility that the term “sufferers” may sometimes include members of the families of those killed or injured.) There follow 38 pages filled with the names of those killed and wounded at Peterloo, some 430 in all, with full details of their injuries, and in the case of the former the description is “Killed, or, who have subsequently died in consequence of injuries there received,” the number of these being given as eleven. Of these eleven: two were “sabred;” one was “sabred and trampled upon;” one was “sabred and stabbed;” one “sabred and crushed;” two (one of them a woman) “rode over by the cavalry;” one “trampled by the cavalry;” one “inwardly crushed;” and one (a woman) “thrown into a cellar.” In the case of two of these the words are added “killed on the spot.” The child killed in Cooper Street completes the total.

[Pg 84]One of the Relief Committees met at Mr. Prentice’s warehouse, and the care with which the various cases were investigated, and successive grants made from the funds of the different Committees, is clearly shown by the details given in the account-book secured by Mr. Guppy in 1919 for the Rylands Library, which is mentioned above.

Perhaps it will never be possible to say exactly how many were left dead on the field. One, at anyrate, who died at once, or very shortly afterwards, was (by a strange irony) a Special Constable, and this is probably the “one man killed” of some of the accounts. It will be remembered that Lieut. Jolliffe reported “two women not likely to recover; one man in a dying state; and two or three reputed dead;” in the letter quoted above, describing his visit to the Infirmary on the Sunday following the event.

Most of the cases investigated by the Committees belonged to the side of the Reformers; but it must not be forgotten that the other side claimed to have serious casualties. Mr. Francis Phillips, e.g., enumerates the casualties to the troops, and an estimate of these is given also in the Centenary Volume of the Cheshire Yeomanry; we have already seen above, moreover, that a subscription list was opened for the families of the Special Constables, and that the appeal met with a generous response. It is a curious feature of the case that each side seems to be anxious to make its casualty list as imposing as possible. An interesting summary of the various estimates is given by MacDonnell in his State Trials. This summary includes the Official Report from the Infirmary, and the list of casualties to the troops. Without pursuing the matter further, we may say that a careful examination of the somewhat confusing evidence would seem to show that the estimate “eleven killed and between[Pg 85] 500 and 600 wounded” will not prove to be far wrong, provided that (1) we understand “killed” to include those who died as the result of injuries received on the field; (2) we include in the general total the casualties incurred during the disturbances some hours later in the neighbourhood of New Cross. At least one list, published subsequently, brings the total of killed up to fourteen.

Two points not directly concerned with this discussion are dealt with by the Relief Committee, and are sufficiently interesting to be recorded: (1) The Committee paid out £710 “on account of the Trial at York; the Manchester Committee voting £100 for the same object.” (2) The Deputation sent from London to investigate the cases, mentioned in their Report some striking details of the conditions of life amongst the operatives. To quote only two sentences: “in no one instance among the weavers did your Deputation see a morsel of animal food, and they ascertained that in most families where there were children the taste of meat was unknown from one year to another.” “Six shillings a week was the average wage of an able-bodied and industrious weaver. Many could not get this.”


It has often been asserted that the peaceful intentions of the crowd at Peterloo are attested by the presence among them of women and young children. As every detail of evidence is of value, I give here a sentence from a letter which I received from Principal[Pg 86] Reynolds: “My father was there, in his mother’s arms, though only one year old; so my grandmother told me.”


It was the custom in the early decades of the nineteenth century, when newspapers were dear and newspaper files were not available, as there were no free libraries, to collect newspaper cuttings and illustrations, with tracts and “broadsides,” election squibs and so forth, in large scrap-books. Thus, at the Peel Park Library is preserved the scrap-book of Joseph Brotherton (for many years Member for Salford), running to over forty volumes. The Greaves scrap-book at the Reference Library contains a valuable collection of this kind. The Owen collection at the same Library fills over eighty volumes. At the Chetham Library may be seen Lord Ellesmere’s scrap-book and a number of others. From many references to Peterloo in these books we may select the three items which follow: The Greaves collection contains a rare print of Peterloo, somewhat lurid in its detail. Mr. Albert Nicholson has in his possession a highly-coloured copy of this, which he has shown me. No other copies seem to be known.

I have to thank Mr. J. J. Phelps for calling my attention to two papers in a scrap-book at the Chetham Library which he conjectures to have been that of Mr. Francis Phillips, the protagonist on behalf of the magistrates, and the author of An Exposure of the Calumnies, &c. One of these is the actual subpœna which Mr. Phillips received, summoning him to give evidence in the trial at York: “there to testify the truth on our behalf against Henry Hunt and others for[Pg 87] certain misdemeanours whereof they are indicted.” (MS. B. 9. 41. 110. p. 43.).

The other paper is of some importance as it fixes the date of the embodiment of the Manchester Yeomanry. In The Story of Peterloo (p. 13) some details are given in support of a conjecture that the corps was formed later than March in 1817. The scrap-book just quoted confirms this conjecture, for there appears a printed copy of a letter addressed to the Boroughreeves and Constables of Manchester and Salford, and bearing over a hundred signatures (that of Mr. Phillips coming second), asking that a meeting may be convened with the object of forming such a corps. In response to this appeal the Boroughreeves and Constables summoned a meeting for the purpose, in a letter dated Manchester, June the 16th, 1817. (MS B. 9. 41. 110. p. 22). With this date as a guide, it was easy to find in the advertisement columns of Wheeler’s Manchester Chronicle for Saturday, June the 21st, 1817, a copy of both letters, a list of the signatures, and the announcement that the proposed meeting was actually held on June the 19th, 1817, when it was resolved: “that under the present circumstances it is expedient to form a body of Yeomanry Cavalry in the Towns and neighbourhood of Manchester and Salford.” Details follow as to Government allowances for uniform, etc., and as to the possibility of amalgamating with similar corps in the surrounding towns, should such be formed. Each man was to provide his own horse.

This information has an important bearing on the tragedy of Peterloo, and taken in conjunction with the Resolution of the Magistrates mentioned in The Story of Peterloo (p. 13), leaves no doubt as to what was the nature of the “present circumstances” that called the corps into being.


(a) The Contemporary Plan of St. Peter’s Field which appears on the following page was published in Farquharson’s verbatim Report of the Trial in 1822. As the lettering is small, some explanation is necessary.

The shaded area in the centre represents the open space on which the tragedy was enacted. To the south of it is clearly seen the “raised ground” mentioned by Stanley, and shown also in his Plan. The windmill which stood near, and gave its name to Windmill Street, had disappeared some years before. The site of it is now occupied by the Central Station Approach.

On the shaded space are marked: “Hustings;” “Carriage” (i.e., Mr. Hunt’s carriage, marked also on Stanley’s Plan); the double line of “Constables;” and the “Manchester Yeomanry,” drawn up in front of the row of houses in Mount Street, labelled: “Magistrates assembled here.” The Friends’ Meeting House is marked “Quaker’s Meeting House,” and the enclosing wall is stated to measure in height “3 ft. 7 in. on the inside” and “10 ft. 3 in. on the outside.” These measurements would be inserted, probably, in connection with the statement that one of the Cavalry jumped his horse over this wall. Apparently a gate and posts cross Mount Street in front of the Meeting House, and lead into “St. Peter’s Field,” across which two dotted lines indicate the projected line of Peter Street.

 [Pg 89]

Larger Image
Photo by R. H. Fletcher.

Plan of Peterloo.
From Farquharson’s Report of the Trial, 1822. (See page 88.)


The position of the Troops and the line of their approach to the Field are shown as follows: The “31st Infantry” are drawn up in Brazennose Street, the upper end of which is also blocked with a gate and posts; the “88th Infantry” are lined up in Dickinson Street; in Portland Street are the “Manchester Yeomanry,” and their course is shown by a[Pg 90] dotted line up Portland Street, along Nicholas Street, down Cooper Street, and then round the corner of Cooper’s garden wall (now the site of the north-western corner of the Midland Hotel) into Mount Street; the Plan stating that “The Manchester Yeomanry came this way to the ground;” another troop of the “Manchester Yeomanry” is drawn up in front of St. John’s Church, in Byrom Street; facing them, in the same street, are shown the “15th Hussars” in two sections, presumably representing the “two squadrons” mentioned by Lieutenant Jolliffe in his letter; lastly, the “Cheshire Yeomanry” are drawn up in St. John’s Street, off Deansgate, and the line of approach of all these mounted troops is shown by a dotted line passing along Byrom Street, St. John’s Street, southward down Deansgate, then along Fleet Street, up Lower Mosley Street, and along the “raised ground” already mentioned to St. Peter’s Field, the inscription on the Plan reading: “The 15th Hussars, one troop of the Manchester and Cheshire Yeomanry came this way to the ground.” The artillery are not shewn.

The scale of yards given on the Plan shows that Stanley’s estimate of a hundred yards as the distance from Mr. Buxton’s house to the Hustings was exactly correct.


Larger Image

To face page 90


(b) Wroe’s Contemporary Picture of Peterloo, which is shewn on the following page, is perhaps the best of a number of sketches extant. The details are fairly accurate. In the background, on the extreme left, is seen (to quote Bamford) “the corner of a garden wall, round which the Manchester Yeomanry, in blue and white uniform, came trotting, sword in hand, to the front of a row of new houses.” The “corner” is on the site of the north-western corner of the Midland Hotel. The “new houses” were on the site of the present Midland Buffet. Mr. Ewart’s factory, in[Pg 91] the distance, was just off Lower Mosley Street. The row of houses to the right of this, in the background, was on the upper side of Windmill Street. The Hustings are on the site of the south-eastern corner of the Free Trade Hall. Standing on them we may distinguish Mr. Hunt and the Leader of the Manchester Female Reformers. Around them are the Banners of the various contingents; we may even make out the legend “No Corn Laws” on the one in front. The Banner-poles are shaped to resemble caps of Liberty, as shown in another of our illustrations. The crowd are occupying the site of the Free Trade Hall, the Theatre Royal, the Y.M.C.A., the Gaiety, and a number of adjoining buildings.

The moment seized by the artist for his picture is that in which the Manchester Yeomanry, many of whom are scattered and entangled among the crowd, have reached the Hustings, while in the distance the Hussars can just be seen lining up in Mount Street and charging to their relief. The crowd, consisting of men, women and children, are seen dispersing in all directions.

The view might be imagined to have been taken from the roof of a building which then occupied the site of the present Albert Hall, in Peter Street. Other contemporary prints include St. Peter’s Church and the Friends’ Meeting House in the picture.




[1] I met Mr. Buxton on the steps of his house, not at all aware till then that his residence was at or near the place of meeting. I had been directed to his shop, considerably beyond the square, to which I was proceeding. I state this to prove that what I afterwards saw was purely accidental, and that I had no previous intention of witnessing in detail the transactions of the day. As I came from the bottom of Alport Street, on the Altrincham side of Manchester, my original directions were indeed to pass through St. Peter’s field as the shortest line, but I had taken a circuitous route to avoid the meeting, which led me to the corner of it near Mr. Buxton’s house.

[2] It has been stated, upon evidence which I should be unwilling to discredit, that the body of persons more immediately in contact with the hustings were of Hunt’s party. My reasons for believing them at the time to be (as I was told) special constables, were because they resembled them in appearance, were connected in their lines, had their hats on, and staves of office occasionally appeared amongst them. Mr. Hay, in his official letter, says: “A body of special constables took their ground, about two hundred in number, close to the hustings, from whence there was a line of communication to the house where we were.” This is precisely my view of the case; doubtless, had the communication been cut, he would have noticed it.

[3] Some, by being better mounted or rather in advance, might have been more moderate in their pace, but generally speaking it was very rapid, and I use the word gallop, as conveying the best idea of their approach.

[4] I am particular in mentioning these minute circumstances, because in this and some other points in which I could not be mistaken, I have been strongly contradicted.

[5] It has been often asked when and where the cavalry struck the people. I can only say that from the moment they began to force their way through the crowd towards the hustings swords were up and swords were down, but whether they fell with the sharp or flat side, of course I cannot pretend to give an opinion.

[6] On quitting the ground I for the first time observed that strong bodies of infantry were posted in the streets, on opposite sides of the square; their appearance might probably have increased the alarm and would certainly have impeded the progress of a mob wishing to retreat in either of those directions. When I saw them they were resting on their arms, and I believe they remained stationary, taking no part in the transaction.

[7] On entering Mosley Street at 12 o’clock I stopped to question some persons on the footway respecting the proceedings of the day. When about to proceed, I was recommended to move from the middle of the street to the path, as the mob were advancing. I declined, suspecting my advisers might be radicals, adding: “I am on the King’s highway, and shall remain where I am.” I mention this because I have heard it reported that I was insulted by the Ashton people, which may have originated from the above account.

[8] [In the copy of Farquharson’s verbatim Report of the Trial, which is preserved at the Reference Library, Manchester, this “not” is omitted. The omission is, of course, due to a misprint, and someone has inserted “not” in pencil. Similarly, in my own copy of Farquharson’s Report, someone has inserted the “not” in ink. McDonnell, in his “State Trials,” inserted the “not.” Mr. McKennell’s evidence, as reported in Farquharson, is as follows (pp. 169, 170; he was cross-examined by Mr. Serjeant Hullock):—

By whom was the Riot Act read?

—I never heard it read.

You heard no such thing?

—I did not.


[9] [St. John Street or Byrom Street.—Editor.]

[10] [South-east would be more correct.—Editor.]

[11] [East would be more correct. The Cheshire Yeomanry filed along the south side. The arrows in Stanley’s Plan make this clear.—Editor.]

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Three Accounts of Peterloo, by 
Edward Stanley and William Jolliffe and John Benjamin Smith


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