Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Peterloo memorial

Recent travels took me to Manchester where I saw the new and recently installed plaque to commemmorate the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 in which 15 protestors were killed when the cavalry charged a peaceful demonstration demanding reform of Parliamentary representation.

The demonstration took place at St Peter's Field in Manchester and in a reference to the Battle of Waterloo four years earlier the term 'Peterloo' was coined.

Following a spirited local campaign, the new red plaque was installed last year, replacing a previous blue plaque that managed to sanitise the incident by making no reference to the fact that people were killed.

In the longer term the campaigners want to see a proper monument erected to the event.

One result of the Peterloo Massacre was the foundation of the Manchester Guardian newspaper. However, it was to be another 13 years before the Whig government passed the Great Reform Act.

It is not entirely clear to me why, despite Manchester's radical history, there has been a reluctance to have a proper memorial to Peterloo. Possibly it was seen as a stain on the city's reputation rather than something to be commemmorated.

The plaque is on the side of Manchester's Radisson Hotel, formerly the Free Trade Hall, which, as the name suggests, also has its place in British radical history.

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