The style and size of the annual gathering to commemorate Peterloo has developed over more than a decade.
From a simple replacement of the blue plaque with a paper version of a more appropriate red one, to the unveiling of the Peterloo Memorial itself it has been a fascinating journey for those involved in promoting the provision of a lasting monument and all those who have attended year on year to show their support.
A GOOD COLLECTION OF IMAGES OF EVENTS FROM 2015 TO 2018
CAN BE FOUND ON THE OLDHAM HISTORICAL RESEARCH GROUP'S SITE
2017 - THE PETERLOO NAMES EVENT
This year the focus was very strongly on remembering individuals who we know were at Peterloo.
The Peterloo Names Project brought together the contents of a number of well-documented lists compiled
immediately after Peterloo with newer research into witness statements and petitions held in
the National Archive in Kew, London. The resulting master database is now available to view
In the lead up to the commemoration a number of workshops were held at which members of the public were encouraged to produced individual placards showing the names of people taken from the list. In some cases people identified their ancestors, in other cases they selected names which were the same but with no direct ancestral link. Others chose to remember people in whom they had a personal interest, or who had lived close to them.
All the placards were produced using simple canes and cardboard and they were all brought together for the gathering on Sunday 20th August.
This year's event was staged in Albert Square and featured readings from some of the witness statements which had been extracted by members of the Memorial Campaign Group and written in the form of a short biographical story of the person named. A selection of these short biographical extracts can be seen
MANY ASSOCIATED ARTICLES CAN BE FOUND HERE
OR, FOR A DETAILED ACCOUNT OF ALL THE COMMEMORATIONS WHICH HAVE TAKEN PLACE, GO TO THE PETERLOO MEMORIAL CAMPAIGN'S OWN WEBSITE.
In 1819 the disillusioned and disenfranchised workers from the towns surrounding Manchester walked from their homes to gather on St Peter's Field to listen to the great orator Henry Hunt.
Since 2008 increasingly large numbers of people have walked in their footsteps to honour their memory.
THE MIDDLETON MARCHES - MARTIN GITTINS.
'2009 was the 190th anniversary of The Peterloo Massacre. I decided I would honour the occasion by re-tracing the footsteps of Middleton's own Sam Bamford from Middleton to Manchester to coincide with the gathering which was being organised by The Peterloo Memorial Campaign Group.
This was to be the beginning of a sequence of 10 annual marches along this route and it also proved to be a catalyst which helped to generate other walks from other towns around Greater Manchester in the years leading up to the bicentenary in 2019.
The original idea was simply a personal wish to retrace the footsteps of
Middleton Radical Sam Bamford, and the 6000 or more people he took with him
to the great meeting in Manchester.
It seemed a good idea to publicise the idea in the hopes of generating a larger group
to share in the tribute. So an article was published in the Middleton Guardian and,
on the morning of Sunday 16th August an intrepid group of almost half a dozen
determined walkers set off from Barrowfields in Middleton!
I had previously walked the route myself, in short sections, at a pace moderate enough to allow for everyone to take part. It wasn't intended to be a race, after all.
I had heard that a group organised by Oldham Community Radio Station Manager Dave McGeally had walked from distant Lydgate the previous year and that they were intending to walk a shorter route from Oldham in 2009. There were also rumours of a group coming from Stockport.
Further enquiries confirmed these two groups were going to take part and we tentatively arranged for the Middleton Contingent to meet up with the Oldham Contingent at New Cross, to the north of the city centre and join forces for a march through Piccadilly and down Mosley Street to the area in front of GMex (now Manchester Central) where hopefully the Stockport marchers would be arriving at around the same time.
Everything went well and we managed to pick up some additional marchers en route, so that, by the time we arrived in Manchester we had achieved double figures.
We arrived on schedule, in time to take part in the solemn reading of the names of the victims and to observe a minute's silence in commemoration.
The following year I decided to promote the idea of groups marching to Manchester and advertised the idea through local newspapers and radio stations. As a result people started to come forward asking how they could take part. In a book published in the 1980s I had come across a map of the towns surrounding Manchester from which groups were known to have come in 1819. This soon became known as 'The Spider Map' and was to be used in many ways over the next few years, and to be the inspiration for the iconic Peterloo Transport Map produced a few years later.
EXPANSION AND DEVELOPMENT
In the two or three years following my first walk, in conjunction with The Peterloo Memorial Campaign, I continued to promote the marches, assisting other groups by providing routes, timings and meeting points to allow contingents from different towns to meet up with others as they approached the city centre - even using the modern technology of mobile phones to keep in touch throughout the morning to ensure smooth link-ups en route. This system worked well and soon the marches were pretty much organising themselves.
Through the generosity of Astra Signs, Manchester, we were able to provide each group with a selection of printed placards to carry on their march. These have been well-used over the years and feature in many photographs and in TV coverage of the gatherings.
It started to become clear, however, around 2016, that we were becoming
victims of our own success, as the groups were becoming ever larger.
I worried that, should they continue to grow in such a way, we would need
to start providing stewards and liaising with the police regarding safe conduct
of the marchers along the highways.
It occurred to me that whilst the Spider Map was a useful tool it simplified the situation greatly. People would have come from everywhere around Manchester, from farms, from cottages, from small hamlets and from larger towns. They would have come by whatever means they could, and by whatever route they chose. The vast majority walked simply because they had no other option. In addition, many of the main roads used for our routes would not have existed in 1819.
So we suggested that people should get to the commemorations 'by whatever means they chose' whether that meant using buses, trains, cars and trams did not matter they would be doing the same today as their ancestors did 200 years ago. This seemed to be a satisfactory solution to avert a potential problem.
The marches continued each year and everything ran smoothly. Increasing numbers of people produced their own replica or original banners to accompany their groups and these soon became a feature of the annual gatherings in Manchester.