Descendants of Peterloo veterans recreate historic photograph

By Rosemary Collins, 16 August 2019 - 10:57am

Descendants of the political protesters recreated the photograph to mark the 200th anniversary of the massacre

Peterloo anniversary descendants
The descendants of the Peterloo veterans (Credit: Manchester Metropolitan University)

Living descendants of Peterloo survivors have recreated a remarkable photograph of their ancestors on the 200th anniversary of the massacre.

As part of the Peterloo commemorations, Manchester Metropolitan University historian and genealogist Michala Hulme traced the living relatives of a ‘Peterloo Veterans’ photo, taken in September 1884 in Failsworth near Oldham.

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Using historic census data, family trees and electoral records, Hulme was able to locate living relatives of nine of the 11 individuals for a modern version of the image.

Hulme said: “Everyone was really proud of their family connection to Peterloo.

“Not only were their ancestors at Peterloo, fighting for people’s rights, but they were still fighting 65 years later.”

The photograph was published in the 1905 book Short Stories about Failsworth Folk, which is kept in Oldham Local Studies and Archives.

It shows the Peterloo veterans, in their 70s and 80s, with historic Peterloo banners and ones calling for further extension of voting rights.

65 years previously, they took part in a huge political reform demonstration at Manchester’s St Peter’s Fields on 16 August 1819.

The day turned to tragedy when the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry attacked the protesters, killing at least 15 people.

The massacre, which caused public outrage, became known as ‘Peterloo’ in a reference to the Battle of Waterloo.

The original 1884 photograph (Credit: Oldham Archives and Local Studies)

Kirsty Wolstencroft, who took part in the photo shoot, is the 4x great granddaughter of Peterloo veteran Thomas Chadderton and still lives near Oldham.

She said: “It was interesting to meet all the other descendants.

"We were saying how strange it was that we were all sat together, well over 100 years since members of our families did the same thing.”

She added that she might have inherited some of her personality from her ancestor: “I'm very vocal if I believe in something.

"I do tend to stand by my own beliefs and I'm not frightened to stand alone.”

According to an Oldham Chronicle article from the time, the photograph was taken on a ‘Reform Demonstration’ in Failsworth, likely to support the passing of the 1884 Reform Act which uniformed the franchise between those who lived in counties and boroughs.

The newspaper says that the veterans were too old to walk in the demonstration, and were instead driven through the streets before being hosted at a reception, which included political songs from their youth.



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