Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt was a prominent campaigner for parliamentary reform, whose reputation for passionate public speaking won him wide acclaim as part of the Chartist movement in the early 19th century. Hunt believed that only widespread public support for reform would lead to political change, driven by mass participation in politics by working men and women.
Hunt is most famous for the part he played in the Peterloo Massacre. On 16 August 1819 a crowd of around 80,000 people gathered in Manchester to hear Hunt’s speech concerning parliamentary reform. Magistrates ordered Hunt to be arrested and sent mounted cavalry officers into the crowd to break up the meeting. In the ensuing chaos fifteen people died and hundreds were left injured. These pages detail Henry Hunt’s time in Ilchester prison following his arrest and the horrifying conditions he found there. Overcrowding, poor ventilation and the insanitary conditions in the prison are all described in detail, and the work offers a rich account of life in a 19th-century jail.