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In 2018, as part of the lead up to the bicentenary Manchester Metropolitan University Genealogist Michala Hulme, in conjunction with Manchester Histories and the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society began a search for descendants of this group of Peterloo veterans who had been photographed in Failsworth in 1896


The search took Michala to all corners of the country and she was able to trace descendants of most of the pictured veterans. Not only that, but on Friday 2nd August 2019 she assembled all the individuals in a pub garden just a few yards from where the original photograph had been taken. 


Michala's story and photographs of each individual descendant can be found 

PETERLOO DESCENDANTS who have traced their own ancestors

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Descendent of victim,

Mary Heys


Descendent of Miles Platting Contingent Leader Elijah Ridings


Descendent of Henry Hunt's coachman James  Moorhouse


Descendent of Reformer and Newspaper Owner, Joseph Johnson




Philip McKeiver discovered that his great-great-great-grandfather, Elijah Ridings, led a contingent protesting for political reform to give more rights to working class people.


Elijah was just 17 went he led a group of Radical Reformers to the protest on August 16, 1819, where up to 80,000 people gathered. The crowd was charged by the cavalry and 15 people died, with 654 more injured.


Elijah went on to write stories and poetry about the event which Philip discovered by chance in Chetham’s Library in Manchester.

Philip, who lives on Royle Green Road, Northenden, said he was pleased to discover the actions of his ancestor.

He said: "I’m really proud to think of what Elijah did when he was only 17.


"He led the Miles Platting contingent and carried a banner to stand on St Peter’s Field on what became one of the bloodiest days in Manchester’s history. I was surprised when I found out that my great-great-great-grandfather was involved and that as a young lad he possessed an incredible amount of courage to fight for what he believed in."


Philip, 65, who was a detective based in Longsight before emigrating to Australia in 1973, returned to south Manchester in 2001 to look after his ailing mother.


When his mum died three years later, he turned his attentions to researching his family history.


He said: "My grandmother had mentioned Elijah, but like a lot of people, my knowledge of the Peterloo Massacre was quite limited.


"So I started going to lots of different libraries and made this amazing discovery that there were several books by Elijah in Chetham’s Library. Although my interest was more historical and personal than political, it’s great to think he had a part in fighting for these reforms."


Philip, whose four children and four grandchildren live in Australia, studied history as a mature student while working in the security industry there. His MA thesis on the English Civil War was published as a book, A New History of Cromwell’s Irish Campaign, two years ago.


His new book, Peterloo Massacre 1819, follows the socio-political aspects before, during and after the event.

He said:


"People were fighting for workers, non-landowners and women to get the vote, as well as for the right to free speech. The government and the establishment had vested interests to protect themselves as all costs, yet ordinary people put themselves at risk by voicing their opinions  The massacre divided opinion because some felt the reformers went too far, and some felt betrayed by a corrupt and repressive political system. But it went on to be a major part of democratic progress in this country."


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It was the late 1980s when I started my quest to discover my family history. I had no inkling that I had any family called Moorhouse or a connection to the town of Stockport, and certainly no clue that I had an ancestor involved in one of the most significant events in the struggle for democratic rights in Britain.


Having worked backwards on my family tree, I had found that my grandfather’s maternal grandmother was an Anna Maria Moorhouse. I asked my late grandmother if she had known any Moorhouses. “Oh yes, I remember them!”


They were on my grandfather’s side and she had become acquainted with the Moorhouses after her marriage in Tottenham, then Middlesex, in 1934. But what came to light with further research was the family’s northern connection! When looking at censuses for Tottenham as far back as 1861, I found Russell’s place of birth entered as ‘Stockport’. Then looking for his marriage certificate, I found he had married Martha Shipman in Christ Church Spitalfields in 1843 and revealed ‘James Moorhouse, Coach Proprietor’ as his father.

Because Russell’s date of birth was before 1837, there would be no birth certificate for him and I was not sure that the parish registers existed. It was the advent of the internet which enabled me to make an inquiry for ‘James Moorhouse, Coach Proprietor, Stockport’, which revealed that a man of that name and profession had been arrested following the Peterloo Massacre. This encouraged me to visit Stockport Library to look at the entries in the parish registers around 1819.


Viewings the registers convinced me beyond all doubt that Russell’s father was indeed the James Moorhouse arrested at the demonstration in Manchester and who stood trial with Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, Samuel Bamford and others for their roles in the preparation and unfolding of the day’s events. It was clear that James Moorhouse of Stockport was a significant political figure at local and regional levels, who briefly rose to national recognition following the events of the ‘Peterloo’ Massacre of 16th August, 1819.

The events of that day had been decades in the making and James, having quietly toiled away for 25 years or more, played an important role in the run up to the day itself and its aftermath. Further research has unveiled more and more information about James and the various facets of his life. Much of this is down to the vast digitisation of records and documents pertaining to the period.

I was lucky because James was a professional person and used the newspapers to advertise his business. I have also been fortunate that his radical political activities were followed by the agents of the British government and that he was spied on! Many government reports are now available online at the National Archive from which I have gleaned information. The same newspapers also covered many of his political exploits. And this leads me to another reason for uncovering James’s life.


There is a belief that ‘great men and women’ make history. This theory ignores the influence that millions of ordinary people can exert, on occasion, when they are propelled into activity and put pressure on their political masters. James Moorhouse is a representative of many of those who felt the need to try to actively change their lives and those of others. It has been the aim of millions since. Because of this, I feel his story should be told particularly as we commemorate the bicentenary of the events at Peterloo. What happened at Peterloo was the culmination of decades of momentous events, both in Britain and internationally, and much hard slog. Some of these events, particularly those pertaining to James and to Stockport I hope will be reproduced in a biography that I intend to write, which will provide some detail to the more general histories of the period that are available.


I also hope to bring James Moorhouse to the attention of the people of Stockport, where he lived all his life. He is so little known that even people with whom I walked from Stockport to Manchester on Peterloo commemorations had not heard of him! The Stockport Advertiser Centenary History of Stockport had only two small things to say of James:


“The climax of this disturbed period occurred on the 16th August, 1819, when a great meeting was held in Peter’s Fields, Manchester, in favour of parliamentary reform"


The History, which carries an account of the Peterloo massacre by John Benjamin Smith, later an MP for Stockport, then goes on:


“James Moorhouse was acquitted at the trial of the Peterloo defendants, and Samuel Bamford, in his autobiography, gives a stirring account of the return from the trial at York in Moorhouse’s wagonette.”

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In 2007 I was made redundant and needed a hobby to fill my time. Genealogy was the big thing then

and luckily for me there is the wonderful Central Library in Manchester where I was born and live.


I had no idea about Peterloo at the time. Despite being educated in Manchester if it was ever mentioned

at school I really don't recall it. Even when I eventually traced my 5x Great Grandmother Mary Heys 

Peterloo never entered my head - her name never rang a bell so to speak until I began researching her life.


Mary and her husband and children lived at Rawlinson Place, Oxford Road,


It was only then I became fully aware of who she was and what an historical impact her short life

had made forever on Manchester 

I feel very sad and emotional when I think of her.


I saw the Mike Leigh film and was crying at the end when it showed the people being beaten and trampled

by the Cavalry and horses. Just ordinary people. Women, children, husbands, sons all treated like that and

no regret or apology from the establishment.


I imagined I was Mary. The fear she would have felt when the horse rode over her.

She had numerous injuries and from that day she began having fits which culminated in her death

in December -4 months later when she went into premature labour.


Amazingly the baby, Henry, survived.


Because Mary didn't die at the scene she is sometimes forgotten but the injuries she sustained were

the cause of her death so she is just as much a victim as anyone else. She had 6 children including

the baby born as she died.


Her Husband William was partially-sighted and was left to raise the 6 children.

He was awarded the grand sum of £5 as compensation for his wife’s death.


Denise Southworth.

In 20i8 I took part in a photoshoot for Red Saunders 'Hidden' project. When I told the wardrobe lady my story she made me into a ptregnant lady - my tribute to my 5 x graet grandmother Mary Heys. My picture is on the right.

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