Remembering Peterloo massacre 200 years later

Historian Yvonne Eckersley
Historian Yvonne Eckersley

The borough came together to remember an important chapter of British history on the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre.

Events were held on both sides of the borough to pay tribute to those killed and injured on August 16, 1819 when troops charged an enormous crowd of demonstrators in Manchester demanding political reform.

Historian Yvonne Eckersley spoke to an audience at the Museum of Wigan Life about the dreadful events of that day in St Peter’s Field.

She also outlined the considerable role radicals from the borough played in the demand for change before and after Peterloo, highlighting protests which took place on Amberswood Common in Ince and on the streets of Leigh.

The evening of the anniversary the focus shifted to Leigh Spinners Mill where a huge sold-out crowd of around 200 people watched Mike Leigh’s epic film version of the massacre, simply titled Peterloo.

The event, put on by Leigh Film Society, gave audiences an immersive experience as volunteers dressed up in period outfits and the setting in the grade-II listed mill conjured up the world of heavy industry which many of the Peterloo demonstrators would have worked in.

Leigh MP Jo Platt, a patron of Leigh Film Society, was also at the event and spoke about Peterloo’s political significance before the film began.

At least 15 people were killed at Peterloo while hundreds were bludgeoned, maimed or crushed by horses.

Although it would take a long time for the reforms asked for to be implemented, Peterloo is now regarded as a crucial step towards the creation of democracy in Britain.