Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Exploring the butchers of Peterloo ………. The 101 men of the Manchester Yeomanry

The passage of 200 years has not dimmed the horror of the actions of the Manchester Yeomanry on that hot day in the August of 1819.

The Manchester Yeomanry at Peterloo, 1819
The order to charge the crowd, and the reported glee at the way members of the Yeomanry performed their task have quite rightly stood as an awful example of repression, sitting alongside Sharpeville, the Kent Massacre and Tiananmen Square.

And I suppose they are best summed up by the comment “often wrongly described as ‘soldiers’, by amateur historians. These were petty paramilitary thugs, recruited from the ranks of small business, ill disciplined and drunk, out to enforce the ‘will of their betters.’, against the crowds who they saw as scum. One could imagine parallels in today’s troubled times”.

"oh pray Sir, don't kill mammay" 1819
So armed with that observation which pretty much chimed in with my own thoughts, I went looking for the men who rode down the innocent in St Peter’s Fields.

Now I am well aware that academics and those interested in Peterloo will have quarried this topic already, but I haven’t, and having come across a list of the Manchester Yeomanry in the Chartist paper, the Northern Star for August 20th, 1842 I decided to look at these men more closely.

And here I have to offer up the caveat, that I am only using the newspaper’s list and in the course of the research discovered misspellings of names which might hint at bigger inaccuracies.
Still the list is a start.

It lists 101 men, who were drawn from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, 87 of whom have a stated occupation and 74 who we can place in the twin cities of Manchester and Salford or some of the surrounding townships.

There are gaps in the information and some of these have been supplemented by referring to the street directories for the 1820’s and maps which have filled out details of residency, and occupations.

Residency of the 74 of the Manchester Yeomanry, 1819
As you might expect the bulk of the men were from Manchester and Salford with a few more from Broughton, Eccles and Pendleton, and more from Stretford.

Their occupations, pretty much fit the received assumptions with over a third drawn from the “people of plenty”, another 29% who made their living as publicans and shopkeepers, which left the rest as a mix of skilled, and manual workers, with the odd surprises which include a “Professor of Dance” and a quack doctor.

Occupations of the 87 of the Manchester Yeomanry, 1819
In some ways for me, the real find is the names, and the detailed street locations, which offer up the prospect of more research using contemporary maps, and trawling the rate books for the period with a look at the census records for the mid-century which may yield more background.

And for those who like their history in a tangible form which can be visited, many of the Manchester and Salford street locations still exist, and in the of the Briton’s Protection is still standing and still offering up a pint.

"Cut them down" 1819
Other pubs like the Fox, the Hen and Chicken, Crown and Thistle and the Blue Cap in Salford may have gone but we know exactly where they stood.

So, there you have it…………. More to follow in time.

Location; Manchester & Salford

Picture; "Manchester Heroes", Peterloo, print from etching by unknown artist, published by S W Fores, 1819, m07587, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,, and information drawn from the list of the Manchester Yeomanry published in the Northern Star, August 20th, 1819

The Lost Chorlton pictures ......... no 2. ......... on the corner of Stockton Road

This is the second in the short series of the lost and forgotten pictures of Chorlton.

It sat in our cellar with a heap of other old negatives, waiting for the moment I began using chemicals again to make prints.

Instead I got a scanner for Christmas which does the job without smelling out the house.

This one was taken on the corner of Beech and Stockton Road, long before the shop became a deli after being a gift shop.

There may even be some who remember it as a part of the Co-op which occupied the corner plot.

Location; Chorlton

Picture; Stockton Road, circa 1979, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Doing that anniversary thing ……………… remembering the 100,000 young people migrated to Canada

Now it is easy to get anniversary fatigue.

Young people at Manchester Town Hall, 1897 about to be migrated to Canada
After all most of us will have signed up to commemorations for events ranging from the outbreak of the Great War, to Holocaust Memorial Day, Black History Month, V.E. Day and many more.

And I have rather taken my eye off the work being done to remember the thousands of young people migrated from Britain to Canada and other bits of the old British Empire, purely because we in Britain couldn’t provide for them. *

This September marks the 150th anniversary of those migrations, and today as British Home Children has become a recognized area of historical study it is fitting that all of us should be engaged in promoting the event.

Beacons of Light poster
This omission on my part to have done anything for  the 150th is all the more embarrassing, given that I have my own relative who was migrated, and have written extensively about the subject, both here and in Canada, and have a book coming out later in the year which touches on that migration.

To be fair along with Tricia Leslie, I run our own British Home Child site on social media, have given talks and encouraged individuals to set up their own groups.

But away in Canada they have been very busy with a special project called Beacons of “Light for British Home Children & Child Migrants”, which "is an initiative started by British Home Child Advocacy & Research Association member Kim Crowther when she asked if we would sponsor a bridge lighting in Edmonton for Sept 28th on BHC Day to mark the 150 the year. Bruce Skilling secured a bridge in Calgary and I Niagara Falls.

Since then it has become a quest of all members and groups to find as many landmarks and structures to participate. Some are doing flag raising some are proclaiming it BHC Day in their city.  We have 37 supporters and counting”. ***

BHC badges
Of the 41 events today, most are in Canada, but there three scheduled for the UK, and one in Australia, and I know one member is attempting to get something organized here in Manchester.

It may be too late to get something organized for Manchester Town Hall, but there are plenty of smaller things people to do ahead of September 28th, including hosting an evening for friends, talking at a local organization or downloading our poster and leaving it in a public place, having of course secured permission.

Leaning me just to say that I shall be contacting some Manchester Councillors and dropping the anniversary into every talk, and walk I undertake from now till September 28th.

So, there you have it ………. Lots to do till September 26th.

Location; Britain., Canada

PIctures; Young people on the steps of Manchester Town Hall, prior to migration to Canada, 1897, courtesy of the Together Trust, Beacons poster and badges courtesy of Lori Oschefski, BHCARA, and poster from British Home Children ... the story from Britain

*British Home Children, The Story of the Together Trust due out late 2019
**British Home Children ....... the story from Britain,
***Lori Oschefski, BHCARA,

The Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no.13 behind our house

A short series on the pictures of Eltham and Woolwich in 1976.

For four decades the pictures I took of Eltham and Woolwich in the mid ‘70’s sat undisturbed in our cellar.

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

The quality of the original lighting and the sharpness is sometimes iffy, but they are a record of a lost Eltham and Woolwich.

Location; Woolwich

Picture; Woolwich circa 1976, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Of fresh mornings and tired evenings on the beaches of Alghero

Now if I had to choose the best part of the day here in Alghero I guess it would be the early morning.

The sun is up, and there is that freshness in the air which combined with the promise of things to come makes it very special.

But then I have to say that I am also drawn to those last few hours of sunlight on the beach.  Most people have left and you get that sense that the day which seems tired and a little tatty at the edges still has plenty to offer.   You can still get plenty of the sun as sinks down the sky and there is plenty to watch.

On the paid beaches the staff are cleaning the sand off the beds, dropping the umbrellas and putting protective covers over the umbrellas.  It is slow methodical work and no one hurries, they have after all been working all day in the heat of the sun.

A few people still hang on, perhaps with nowhere to go, or just want to enjoy the cooler time.
But already there the early holiday makers heading along the coast road towards the old town, all dressed up and ready for the night ahead.

They make an odd contrast.  On the beach the few still tenaciously holding on while passing them in ever increasing numbers are the advance guard of the evening to come.

And across the place there is a stillness which is mirrored in Alghero as the fair begins and the bars and restaurants fill up.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A little bit of modern Salford .............. the car park

Now I have watched this one go up.

I have to say while car parks are not the most attractive of buildings this one is a little bit more imaginative in its design than most.

Location; Salford

Picture; down at New Bailey, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Signaller Thomas Roberts of the 17th Manchester’s and a postcard from Heaton Mersey

I never tire of those old picture postcards which ask “can you pick out our house?”

Didsbury Road, 1915
I just think that in one sentence they bring you a little closer to the people who sent and received the card, even if it is difficult to know which house is referred to.

All of which is fine but as Heaton Mersey is pretty much unknown territory to me I won’t even go to the census record and try to track Mr Henshall and match it with the picture.

Instead I shall ponder on “Signaller Thomas Roberts no 8818, 17 Batt Manchester Regiment” who in the December of 1915 was in France with the British Expeditionary Force.

"Best wishes .... and a victorious, safe  and speedy return" 1915
Now finding him in the historical records has been difficult and there are a number of possible candidates who fit the bill.

But I travel in hope because I know he will have enlisted in the September of 1914 when the 17th Battalion was raised from men working in the city’s offices and warehouses.

The 17th was the second of the City’s Pals Battalions and was recruited in just two days on September 2nd and 3rd 1914, spent time in training at Heaton Park and by early November of the following year were in France.

And that is where Signaller Roberts was when his postcard arrived from Heaton Mersey although at present there is not much more on him.

Men of  A & B Company, 17th Manchester's 1914
He  appears in the list of men serving in the Pals Battalions which records that he was in Company A, Platoon 1 of the regiment and there is a photograph of men who did not make it into their respective company pictures but I doubt we will ever be able to identify him from the group.

That said he does appear also in the Manchester Employers Roll of Honour for 1914-16.

There is a Thomas Roberts who had been employed by the Manchester Ship Canal Company and another at Charles Macintosh and Co Ltd.

But as there are a total of twenty-six men listed as either Thomas Roberts or T Roberts the Ship Canal and Charles Macintosh can only be a guess.

But it is a start

Location; Heaton Mersey, Manchester

Pictures postcard Heaton Mersey 1915 and details from Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour, 1914-16 courtesy of David Harrop