Where is this map from?
This map is bound within a lengthy account of 16 August, 1819, the day now known as the Peterloo Massacre. Thousands of peaceful protestors for parliamentary reform had gathered at St. Peter’s Square, Manchester; ten to twenty were killed and hundreds injured as the meeting was violently broken up by volunteer soldiers. This booklet contains an outspoken narrative that condemns the soldiers and judges and reveals the extent of the injured and killed.
Cheaply priced and sold around the country, each weekly print run sold out for 14 consecutive weeks.
What does the map show?
The map shows an aerial view of the St. Peter’s Field area. It plots the locations and movements of the Reform protestors and yeomanry. Yeomanry are shown complete with horses and raised sabres as an animated Henry Hunt addresses the crowd on a stage lined with protest banners. Elsewhere, yeomanry are locked in confrontation with peaceful protestors. It is significant that the protestors are drawn unarmed; other sources claim otherwise.
Who are the people drawn here?
The plotted figures capture a sense of the density and containment of the thousands-strong crowd, paralleling written accounts that describe how panic broke out as the yeomanry surrounded the protestors and prevented anyone from leaving the site. Today, we might compare the yeomanry’s actions to the police tactic of ‘kettling’, also used during demonstrations and protests.
In the aftermath of the event, many eye-witness accounts like this appeared in publication. All claim to provide a ‘faithful narratives of the events’, yet invariably certain details differ and partial opinions find voice.
Named only as an ‘Observer’, the author chose to remain anonymous in fear of arrest and prosecution for treason. Retrospectively, we know that the author was James Wroe, editor of the Manchester Observer and the journalist who coined the phrase ‘Peterloo Massacre’.
The area today
St Peter’s Field is now known as St Peter’s Square. Although many of the smaller streets no longer exist, the main roads – Oxford Road (now Oxford Street), Peter Street and Lower Mosely Street – still stand.