Monday, 17 July 2017

The Second Peterloo .............. in New Cross on the evening of August 16 1819

The events on the evening of August 16 at New Cross doesn’t even merit a footnote in books on Peterloo.

A comment on the events of Peterloo, 1819
Of course compared with what happened earlier in the day at St Peter’s Field, the deaths of William Bradshaw and Joshua Whitworth who were shot by the military at New Cross are small beer.

The big picture which became known as Peterloo was an awful event.

It had all begun on an August day in 1819 when anything between 50,000 and 80,000 men, women and children had assembled in St Peter’s Field to listen to the case for reforming the representation of Parliament.

Just before 2 in the afternoon a unit of Cavalry charged into the crowd with their sabres.  The deaths resulting from that charge have never been exactly established but sources claimed between 11 and 15 people were killed and up to 700 injured.

Now New Cross is on the other side of town at the junction of Great Ancoats Street and Oldham Street which seems an odd spot for the incident.

But not so. To the east and south of New Cross there was a densely packed warren of small streets which were home to textile workers and those on the margins of subsistence.

The spot was known for food riots like the one that broke out in April 1812 in Oldham Road, when a food cart carrying food for sale at the markets in Shudehill was stopped and its load carried off.  Nearby shops were also attacked and looted.  The mob was eventually dispersed by soldiers but only as far as Middleton.

New Cross, 1794
There they met with an assembly of handloom weavers, miners and out of work factory operatives gathered to protest against the introduction of power loom machinery at Barton and Sons weaving mill.

The mob which had grown to 2000, was dispersed by “ a party of soldiers , horse and foot, from Manchester arriving, pursued those misguided people, some of whom made a feeble stand; but here again death was the consequence, five of them being shot and many severely wounded.”  

Revolution it was thought was in the air, and the Government responded with the Gag Acts, the suspension of Habeas Corpus   and the rounding up and imprisonment of political suspects.  Here in Manchester radicals were arrested and some like John Night were thrown into the New Bailey prison before being sent on to London, others like William Ogden were just “roughed up”.

And in the run up to Peterloo and in the days afterwards the area was seething with opposition to the authorities all of which are well documented in The Casualties of Peterloo which offers up some fascinating leads into the story of the area.*

In time I am minded to follow up those leads and delve deeper into the area which was the home of my old friend Richard Buxton** and accounted for 80 casualties from Peterloo.  It may even be possible to uncover something of the story of William Bradshaw and Joshua Whitworth.

Pictures; Peterloo, 1819, m77801,courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and New Cross 1794 from Green’s map of Manchester, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Bush, Michael, The Casualties of Peterloo, 2005

**Richard Buxton,


  1. Really interesting - I had no idea! Look forward to reading your follow up blogs!

  2. Thanks Lo ... a topic for your next branch meeting?