Latest News and Press Releases
All the latest news, information and press releases on leisure, culture and events from Link4Life.
TOUCHSTONES ROCHDALE MUSEUM UNVEILS THE ONLY SURVIVING PUBLIC PROTEST BANNER FROM 1819 PETERLOO MASSACRE
- 13 May 2019
Touchstones Museum in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, is displaying the only surviving protest banner from the historic ‘Peterloo Massacre’ of 1819, when 15 people were killed and another 700 injured after soldiers and special constables attacked a public protest calling for democratic representation.
The rare banner was carried by a group of people from Middleton to Manchester. It will go on public display for the first time in many years at Touchstones this spring. It and other Peterloo artefacts are on show to visitors at a special Peterloo exhibition running from 18 May until 2 November 2019. Admission is free.
The banner was carried by a group of Middleton people led by Sam Bamford. They marched into Manchester with thousands of others from north-west towns and villages including Heywood, Rochdale, Middleton, Oldham, Lees, Saddleworth, Stalybridge, Ashton, Stockport, Bolton and Bury.
They formed a gathering of 50,000 at St Peter’s Field in central Manchester on 16 August 1819 to hear political speeches. But the day became known as the Peterloo Massacre after the authorities attacked the marchers. Backlash events after the massacre included the injuring of a special constable in Ancoats and uprising in Burnley and Huddersfield, within a year the Six Act was introduced by the government which banned radicals from meeting and radical publications.
This year is the 200th anniversary of the massacre. It became a major event in the history of north-west England and influenced the wider process of political and democratic reform happening across Britain.
That process included the founding of The Guardian newspaper in Manchester soon after Peterloo and later developments such as the Chartist movement, co-operative movement’s founding in Rochdale, the growth of trade unions and the organised labour movement, the women’s Suffragette movement of the early 20th Century and the lowering of the voting age for men and women to 18 in 1969.
To mark the 200th anniversary of Peterloo and explore issues surrounding protest and democracy, various exhibitions and events are being held across Greater Manchester this spring and summer.
The Touchstones exhibition is unique because of the banner, which is on show alongside other original artefacts from the 1819 massacre. These include a police truncheon featuring a royal coat of arms, a decorative wooden finial painted with the words ‘Hunt and Liberty’, a scarlet-coloured plume from a Hussar soldier’s uniform on the day, commemorative jugs and material relating to Sam Bamford.
Other exhibits at Touchstones include props from the 2018 film Peterloo, directed by Mike Leigh and starring Maxine Peake, and project work with the Rochdale Youth Parliament and Children’s Council.
The Middleton banner was made from locally-woven blue silk and hand-painted with gold lettering. It was one of two carried by the Middleton contingent to Manchester. The second was green and inscribed with ‘Parliaments Annual’ and ‘Suffrage Universal’. However, it was lost after being cut from marcher Thomas Redford’s hand by a soldier soon after violence broke out.
The surviving banner was smuggled out of Peterloo and reunited with the Middleton group. They carried it home and it was then hung in the Suffield Arms pub. Sam Bamford also wrote a famous account of the Peterloo political meeting and subsequent violence. (A short film about Bamford will be screened this summer, see details below.)
For many years, the historic banner was hung in Middleton library. In the 1970s, urgent conservation work was undertaken to help preserve it. Years of exposure to heat and light had caused the silk fabric to split and disintegrate. To preserve it for future generations, the banner is now kept in dark storage with regulated environmental conditions. After consultation with conservation experts, Touchstones is showing the banner for the first time in years.
A programme of Peterloo events are being held around Rochdale borough at Touchstones. These include a Protest Family Fun Day on Thursday 30 May ; an adult song and music workshop on Saturday, June 8 and an adult craft workshop on Saturday, July 13 at Touchstones and a pop-up performance and art event on Saturday 10 August for families..
Touchstones is part of a larger facility that includes a museum, art gallery, archive centre, education space, café and shop managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust, under the Link4Life brand.
The screening of the Sam Bamford film, called ‘Our Sam, The Middleton Man’, is on 27 June at 5pm in Manchester Central Library. Details on all Greater Manchester events can be seen on the website peterloo1819.co.uk
A permanent public memorial to Peterloo, designed by the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, will be unveiled in Manchester on 16 August, exactly 200 years after the massacre.
PICTURES: The unique Middleton banner, back and front, on show at Touchstones Rochdale. Other pics available include truncheon, commemorative jugs, plume and finial. Larger photos are available on request.