The Massacre of Peterloo, Manchester, 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - the Aftermath

Some Local Names About Whom We Know a Little

Samuel Bamford :
One name that has stood the test of time is that of Samuel Bamford, the Middleton Weaver, who wrote, 'Passages in the Life of a Radical', in 1842. He has been accused of being almost as egotistical as Henry Hunt! That might be so, but his writing is lively and interesting, concerned with minute details which are invaluable when we try to undertand what life might have been like at the time.
[In 2 volumes. Read or download Vol 1 HERE   &   Vol 2 HERE
In contrast, Hunt's outpourings can be extremely tedious and self-absorbed!
By the time Sam returned home from jail, in early summer 1821, there was no tumultuous welcome for a returning hero and in his writings he sounds a tad bitter, that he had sacrificed so much and yet felt more than slightly, 'disregarded' He doesn't disappear from history but certainly seems to have lost the ardour that he once had for radical reform. He returned to working as a weaver, but with poor wages he turned back to writing and eventually found work, as a local correspondent, for a London newspaper. His early, radical poetry, much of which appeared in newspapers,as well as collections, was edited by him in his later years to remove his more radical and even violent sentiments. On his death in 1872, he had a public funeral which was attended by thousands. He is buried in Middleton churchyard with a memorial erected from subscriptions.

William Fitton
We catch sight of William Fitton both before and after Peterloo. He was born in 1793 to a Royton doctor and, in his turn, became a surgeon himself. He was politically active from an early age and is credited with founding the first radical Hampden club outside London. He was a friend of both William Cobbett (who would become one of Oldham's first 2 MPs in 1832) and of the radical Oldhamer activist,John Knight. Whilst keeping a low profile he gave strong support to Cobbett and Fielden throughout the 1820s, and '30s through the introduction of the Reform Bill and, significantly, the inclusion of Crompton, Royton and Chadderton with Oldham as a Parliamentary Borough, with two representatitves. Those first two being William Cobbett and John Fielden. Fitton died in 1840, and an obituary published only days later remembers him as a "devoted and ardent friend of the Liberty of man", claiming that "few private persons have devoted more time and talent to serve their country"
Read more about William Fitton on this website HERE

John Knight
John Knight ... in the words of Hartley Bateson, was : "the most fervent and aggressive stalwart of local Radicalism and suffered more in terms of imprisonment for his political activities than any other man of his day and generation." He lived for almost 80 years, not dying until 1838, and was active through five decades of radical activism from the Jacobins inspired by Paine and the French Revolution through to the early years of the Chartists. He was born about 1762 in Saddleworth where his father owned the Neet Mill, a hand loom business. He later settled in Oldham and set up as a bookseller and dealer in Radical publications. He was famously arrested in 1812 on the charge of administering illegal oaths. He languished in jail for 3 months until finally brought for trial which was then quashed as evidence rested on the words of a proven government spy. He was instrumental in setting up Hampden Clubs across south Lancashire. In Oldham it was known as the Oldham Union Society. Knight led the Oldham contingent on the 16th of August and was on the platform at the Meeting. He was one of the names on the arrest warrant but escaped on the day only to be to be arrested later. During the 1820s and 1830s he continued his political activity and, according to Bateson, "In these years of unshackled propaganda John Knight, now a veteran of 60 was forever in the vanguard advocating the most extreme demands of the advanced radicals." He became Secretary of the "Political Association" and, in 1830, the secretary of the National Spinners Union which had operated since1796 under the guise of a friendly society.Throughout theyears his name appears connected with vigorous radical activities almost leading to riots in some cases! Radical and active to the end Knight chaired a meeting only five days before his death at his home on Lord St, on September 5th 1838.
Read more about John Knight on this website HERE

John Doherty
There are frequent references to John Doherty in connection with the union activities. He was born in Ireland, in 1798 and worked in the cotton industry, there until he moved to Manchester in 1816, to work in the cotton industry. According to Thompson, he was one of the 3 most outstanding leaders in political and factory reform. Despite going to prison for strike action, in 1818, he continued to be a member of the covert unions. In 1828, he was elected as leader of the Manchester Spinners Union and later founded the General Union of Cotton Spinners which was an ambitious project intended to link the English spinners' unions with those of Ireland and Scotland. Doherty realised that a small number of spinners striking would change very little but, bringing an entire industry to a halt, would force employers to re-consider wages and conditions. Too much ahead of its time, and following six months of strike action, the union collapsed in 1831 when the necessary mass support didn't materialise. Although less involved with the general movement after 1832, Doherty continued to publish a radical journal entitled 'The Voice of the People' ... which focused on the plight of the factory and mill workers and called for reform. He opened a room in his print shop, where men could come and read his collection of radical publications.

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