Wednesday 14 August 2019

Peterloo part 5

In 1819 less than 2% of the population had the vote and there had been some agitation by the Radical Reform movement for democratic change. Magistrates feared civil disturbances and were reliant on the volunteer cavalry- the Yeomanry, to help keep the peace.On the 16th August 1819, 60,000 people gathered at St Peter’s field, Manchester to listen to radical orator Henry Hunt speak on electoral reform. At half past one, the Yeomanry were sent in to charge and disperse the crowds. An estimated 18 people were killed and over 700 injured. The massacre became known as Peterloo.

The Cheshire Yeomanry were in attendance at Manchester. Sir John Fleming Leicester was the first commander of the Cheshire Yeomanry and in our collection of the papers of the Leicester Warren family of Tabley there are many first-hand accounts of events of the day and in the build-up and aftermath. To mark the 200th anniversary of Peterloo we will be sharing transcripts of these letters on our blog.

This letter is from Lieutenant-Colonel E.V. Townsend to Colonel Sir J F Leicester Bart of the Cheshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry. It also refers to Lieutenant-Colonel George L'Estrange, who was the military commander in Manchester in 1819.

DLT/D463/6/90 (i)

DLT/D463/6/90 (ii-iii)

DLT/D463/6/90 (iv)

Captn  Barra would have waited upon you, but he is gone to Macclesfield.

                                                                   Wincham ½ past 3 o clock

                                                                             August 18th 1819

Dear Sir John

          You will be happy to see by the date of my letter, that we are returned from Manchester; towards evening yesterday the most alarming reports were given upon oath, that Manchester was to be attacked & that large bodies of Pikemen were   assembling near Middleton, Oldham & -------- I placed a Squadron in some stables near St Peters church and at nine in  the Town getting very riotous &, disturbed, the whole regiment was turned out, & kept under arms ‘till near one; when everything was quiet the 6 Troops went to quarters – just as I had dismissed the men an express from Macclesfield arrived, saying the Town was in an uproar & requesting troops: Col L’Estrange permitted me to dispatch the Macclesfield Squadron who will if they have an opportunity soon settle matters – I can not sufficiently express my satisfaction at the soldierlike conduct & willing exertion of every individual from the Major downwards of the whole regiment  - the Magistrates will not I am positive send for us without the extremest necessity, when I am  sure all will turn out with the greatest alacrity all the regulars agree, that we are fit for any service, but most truly do I hope those services may not be required – Heat, anxiety and being perpetually on horseback has tired me so much that I can not write more than that I remain

                                                          Most truly yours

                                                                   E V Townshend

I do firmly believe the Regiment would delight in a fight tomorrow, the weather was very hot, therefore as we were continually under arms, it was better to be any where than in a stable or ale house particularly as we had no fast work.

(In different script) The Magistrates of the two Counties of Cheshire & Lancashire request Lt. Col. Townshend will accept for himself, his Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Privates their best thanks for the energy, tempered by humanity, which was displayed in their conduct yesterday, a conduct peculiarly characteristic of the British Soldier.  New Bailey Court House August 17th 1819.

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