The Massacre of Peterloo, Manchester, 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819


'NOTES & OBSERVATIONS, Critical & Explanatory, on the Papers Relative to
the Internal State of the Country, Recently Presented to Parliament
to which is appended,
a REPLY to Mr. Francis Philips's
'Exposure of the Calumnies circulated by the Enemies of Social Order ...
PAGE LIST (below) with LINKS

&c. &c.

Pages 33 to 38

Lancashire to wit }
The Examination of B. C. taken upon Oath at Rochdale, in the County of Lancaster, the 9th day of August, 1819, before us, John Beswick and John Crossley, Esquires, two of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace in and for the said County ;
Who says, That yesterday morning I left my residence at High Crompton, between the hours of four and five, and proceeded to a place in Thornham, called Tandle Hill; that, on my arrival at this place, a large concourse of persons had assembled, to the number of two or three thousand; that of this number there were upwards of seven hundred who were drilling in companies, by marching both in slow, quick, and double quick time; and in every other respect went through the usual evolutions of a regiment ; that each company might contain from fifty to sixty men, and were commanded by a person in the character of a captain; that when they were ordered to fire, it was immediately followed by a clap of hands throughout the line; that, out of the number who were met, I knew a few persons who reside at Crompton, and its neighbourhood ; but, of the men who were acting as drill-serjeants, or oflicers of companies, I know nothing; yet, from my knowledge of military discipline, I am satisfied they were persons capable of organizing a regiment; that, whilst I was on the ground, I heard persons say, that they (meaning the parties in drill) were fit to contend with any regular troops, only that they wanted arms; and, in the evening of yesterday, a man told me who had been at Tandle Hill, and who said he had been drilled that day, that a similar meeting would take place next Sunday, but that would be the last; that the persons remained on the ground, until about seven o'clock, having been there upwards of three hours, and the whole of this time was devoted to drilling.
B. C.
Sworn before John Beswick and John Crossley.


Bolton-le-Moors, 10th August, 1819.

My Lord,
THE increasing spirit of disaffection had, about ten days ago, extended itself, in military training, to a place between Bury and Bolton, about two miles from the former, and four miles from the latter town.

The number of persons in training at said place was reported to have been about three hundred, on Monday the 2nd instant, and likely to be further increased, unless some check could be interposed. Four principal inhabitants of Bury waited on the Magistrates, to state their utter inability to resist the torrent of disaffection without military aid; and that persons proper to serve as special constables were so intimidated, that without the presence of some military, they doubted their ability to induce them to come forward to be sworn on the day appointed for that purpose, viz. Friday next. - Under such circumstances, it appeared to a brother Magistrate and myself, expedient to apprehend any persons that might meet again at the said place for training purposes; and having taken an information, on oath, from the before-mentioned gentlemen of Bury, and made arrangements with some oflicers of our Bolton Local Militia, (Who were to go previously on a reconnoitring party) we, with a troop of the sixth carabineers, commanded by Captain Ferguson, went to the spot on Saturday, about ten p.m. but found the training just broken up, having, as it is supposed, heard of our intentions.

Our reconnoitring party having, however, observed the training for the space of an hour, and learnt the names of some of the drill instructors, we caused four persons to be apprehended and conveyed to Bolton, who were yesterday examined, and all confessed their having attended at some of the training meetings, and expressed great contrition for having so done. They were all four admitted to bail, to answer, in fifty pounds each prisoner, and two sureties each in twenty-five pounds, any indictment that may be preferred against them at the next Salford Sessions; and in the mean time, not to attend any such training assemblies, but to keep the peace, &c. Copies of the informations, examinations, &.c. will be forwarded by Mr. Ravald to Mr. Hobhouse*.

It appears from what one of the prisoners confessed, that he had imbibed his reforming notions from the Manchester Observer; which, it seems, he was in the habit of reading for the information of his neighbours. From this corrupt source has flowed into this county a considerable portion of that disaffection that prevails.

By the apprehension of these men, l trust, will be stopped any further spread of the training system to the westward, within our magisterial division.
From Bury to the south-eastward, the military preparations continue without any diminution. The detail of their proceedings, proves the alarming progress in the daring boldness of such multitudes of men, arrogating to themselves what belongs to Royalty alone, the power of training men in military tactics, for no other purpose that can be reasonably imagined, than hostility to the State.

At Leigh, (about eight miles south-westward of this town) the advertized meeting will be held to-morrow. The Magistrates of Bolton and Warrington divisions are to meet at Hulton Park this day, to consult on the proper measures.
The female Reformers are to act a conspicuous part, by addressing the assemblage from the hustings, and furnishing a cap of liberty. Hunt and his party are said to be invited.
The effect of such meetings, so demoralizing and so terrifying to 'His Majesty's loyal subjects, (who, if they step forward, as in duty bound, in the defence of the peace and order of society, are immediately put under a sort of interdict, by these Reformers, and deprived of their usual share of business, and even exposed to personal dangers) that I am inclined to think, under whatever pretext they may be called, they ought to be suppressed.

The Right Honourable Lord Viscount Sidmouth.

See page 25, &.c.
(F) From these numerous affidavits it clearly appears, that the object of the drilling which has been so much talked of, and excited so much alarm - which has been called by one magistrate, "a most formidable Engine of Rebellion," and for which it is stated by another, that "no other purpose can reasonably be imagined, than hostility to the state" - was merely to enable the people to proceed with greater regularity to the approaching meeting at Manchester.
The examination of Arthur Taylor, Samuel Fletcher, George Greenhalgh, John Hargreaves, and of Charles Hall, all from the neighbourhood of Bury, are upon this point coincident and conclusive. The deposition of B. C. at Rochdale, who was told by one of the drillers, "that next Sunday, (the 15th August,) would be the last meeting," leads to the same conclusion, which is still further confirmed by the depositions of F.G., G.H., and H.I., with respect to the drilling at Failsworth. From the evidence of George Greenhalgh, it likewise appears, that in the neighbourhood of Bury, the drilling only lasted from Monday the 2nd to Saturday the 7th August; which statement is confirmed by the introductory paragraph of a letter from Col. Fletcher to Lord Sidmouth, dated the 10th August, as follows. "The encreasing spirit of disaffection had, about 10 days ago, extended itself in military training, to a place between Bury and Bolton, &.c." whilst the peaceable disposition of these poor men is manifested by the conduct and declaration of him who appears to have been their leader, and who, being asked by Samuel Fletcher, "what the meaning of such a meeting as that at Manchester could be?" answered, "The meaning of such a meeting was that the country should be properly represente;" whilst Greenhalgh himself says, in his examination, "I exhorted my neighbours on Cockey Moor to a peaceable conduct, and hoped none, of them were for Revolution and Plunder; they were, I hoped they would be mistaken." The fact, that the people were not aware that they committed any offence against the law in drilling, is evidenced by the publicity with which they practised it. Haslam saw them engaged in it about half-past seven o'clock in the evening, on the 7th of August, when it was of course broad day-light. Samuel Fletcher names 7 o'clock. B.C. fixes the same hour in the morning. K.L., L.M., and M.N., depose to the marching of about 200 persons between 9 and 10 o'clock in the evening, "INTO THE TOWN OF BURY." N.O. saw persons "drilled ON THE HIGH ROAD, at Heap Bridge. 0.P. saw from two to four hundred returning from drill "along the Turnpike Road," upon which he was passing towards Rochdale in a stage coach, at "a little past seven o'clock" in the morning. It is worthy of remark too that, although George Greenhalgh, J ohn Hargreaves, Charles Hill, and John Holt, appear to have been the four drill Sergeants, whose apprehension is noticed in Wheeler's Manchester Chronicle of the 14th of August, and who are there stated, as they are also in Col. Fletcher's letter of the 10th August, to have been held to bail, none of them were called upon at the Sessions, nor are their names even inserted in the calendar. Consequently no bills were presented against them. With the single exception of that of E.F., all the depositions agree in the facts, that the persons drilling had no arms: to his statement therefore in opposition to all the rest, and knowing nothing of the veracity of the person by whom it was made, I do not attach much credit. The supplementary affidavit of D.C. seems fairly liable in some respects to the same objections.

Col. Fletcher's hostility to public meetings has long been known; but his zeal appears to have outstripped his judgment, in remarking, "that under whatever pretext they may be called, they ought to be suppressed;" since so complete an interdict would demolish his own favourite Orange Meetings - I forget, however - those meetings are secret, consequently less constitutional.


Manchester, August 11, 1819.

THE requisition for the 'Leigh meeting was signed by twenty-five persons, specifically for the object of discussing and adopting some constitutional and practical remedy in reforming parliament, and averting the present distress. The meeting was fixed for one o'clock in the afternoon.

During the morning a great concourse of the lower order of people were waiting for the arrival of Mr. Hunt, whose presence was anxiously expected, in consequence of which, the meeting was delayed until past two o'clock. Mr. Hunt, and none of his partisans forthcoming, it was deemed necessary to commence the proceedings of the day. Two carts were lashed together in the market place, (a fine open space of ground), when Mr. Battersby, (an itinerant preacher,) Mr. Thomas Cleworth, and a Mr. Bamber, (one of the society of friends) with several others, ascended the platform.
As soon as Mr. Bamber was chosen for their chairman, a parade of the female reformers took place, headed by acommittee of twelve young women. The members of the female committee were honoured with places in the carts. They were dressed in white, with black sashes; and what was more novel, these women planted a standard with an inscription, "No Corn Laws, Annual Parliaments, and Universal Suffrage" as well as another standard, surmounted with the cap of liberty, on the platform. Both the flag and the cap were presents from the Ladies' Union!!

After the business was opened by Mr. Battersby, and seven resolutions, as well as the ladies' address, had been read, Mr. Turner, at the head of the police, made their appearance, and took Mr. Thomas Cleworth into custody upon a warrant of the Magistrates. About 300 people were now concentrated; the officers took their man without opposition, and this vigilant step threw dismay in the ranks of the reformers, many of whom I saw dispersing in all directions. (G)

(G) The arrest of Cleworth, during the Leigh meeting, is another instance of those experiments upon the forbearance of the people, of which the late Lord Mayor Atkins set the first example at Srnithfield. It is difficult to conceive what object could dictate the choice of such a moment for taking an individual into custody, except a desire to ascertain precisely to what extent of provocation the people would passively submit. It cannot, as has been alleged, have been desired simply to maintain the uncompromising dignity of the law, for the influence of that attribute always ceases wherever passion is manifested


Transcribed PAGES from 'Notes & Observations ...'




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'NOTES & OBSERVATIONS, Critical & Explanatory, on the Papers Relative to the Internal State of the Country, Recently Presented to Parliament; to which is appended, a REPLY to Mr. Francis Philips's 'Exposure of the Calumnies circulated by the Enemies of Social Order ...'
by a 'Member of the Manchester Committee for Relieving the Sufferers of the 16th August 1819 (Ascribed to John Edward Taylor)
Pub. Dec1919

Transcribed by Sheila Goodyear 2019

LINK to full .pdf document of 'Notes & Observations ...' on the Internet Archive website to read or download.
LINK to .pdf file of 'Exposure of the Calumnies...' on the Internet Archive website to read or download.

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