by Martin F Peagam, The Time Traveller, on behalf of Sedgefield Local History Society. Painting by Richard Carlile. Manchester Library Services
In October 1869
– 200 years ago, The Peterloo Massacre took place at St Peter's Field, Manchester, Lancashire, England on Monday 16 August 1819. It was recently the subject of a major feature film. At St Peter’s Fields in Manchester, armed cavalry charged into a peaceful rally of 60,000–80,000 who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. The attack resulted in ‘15 deaths and over 600 injuries’ to men, women and children.
The Peterloo Massacre has been called ‘one of the defining moments of its age’ and a key moment in development of universal suffrage, giving everyone a political voice. But that is not how it was viewed in County Durham, including Sedgefield, at the time.
On Tuesday 19 October 1819 the newspapers carried an announcement by the High Sheriff of County Durham, William Keppell Barrington, from his residence at Sedgefield, expressing concern on behalf of ‘the nobility, clergy, and freeholders’. They demanded that an enquiry should take place into the ‘late melancholy events’ in Manchester. They were not concerned about the actions of the cavalry but into why people had gathered to protest.
After all, as the resolution said, whilst ‘we admit that many classes of the community may now be suffering distress’, that did not justify them protesting about it.