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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Regency Manchester Guest Post

From J. Aston's Picture of Manchester, 1826, courtesy Google Books.
Visit the fabulous All Things Georgian blog by fellow Pen and Sword authors Joanne Major and Sarah Murder to read my guest post on Regency Manchester!

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Pentrich Rising, 1817

Hunger and distress were the prime movers behind the ill-fated Pentrich Rising. On the same night as the abortive Huddersfield rebellion, the White Horse pub in Pentrich was the ‘nerve centre’ of the planned rebellion. The pub was owned by Nanny Weightman, mother of George Weightman, one of the chief ‘delegates’ involved in the uprising.

Jeremiah Brandreth, an out-of-work framework knitter known as the ‘Nottingham Captain’ and former Luddite, was now in charge of the rebellion (the ringleader, Tommy Bacon, was in hiding). Brandreth studied a map and pointed out the ‘line of march’ to his men. The rebels were to set off from South Wingfield at 10 pm, reach Pentrich by midnight, then ‘drive Butterley [the ironworks] before them’.

They planned to steal as many arms as possible, then march to Nottingham Forest and meet another large party of rebels. Brandreth said that Sheffield and Manchester would rise at the same time. This belief in simultaneous risings elsewhere had been actively fostered by the government's spies.

At the time appointed on Monday night (9 June), Jeremiah Brandreth, George Weightman and about sixty others, some with makeshift pikes, gathered at Hunt’s Barn in South Wingfield. Brandreth was armed with a gun and pistol; Weightman was armed, too.

The rebels divided into two ‘regiments’ to gather arms and recruits; Brandreth, Isaac Ludlam (armed with a spear) and ex-soldier William Turner were in the first group. They went to peoples’ houses, hammered on their doors and demanded weapons. The men of each household were asked to
Butterley Ironworks.
‘volunteer’ to join them; they threatened to shoot those who refused.

Tragedy struck when Brandreth and his men reached the home of Mrs Hepworth, a widow living with her sons. They banged on her door, but Mrs Hepworth refused to open it. The men shouted at her son William, ‘We must have your guns and your men, or we will blow your brains out’. Someone (probably Brandreth) fired through the kitchen window, and the bullet hit servant Robert Walters in the neck. He died shortly afterwards.

The rebels, about 100 in number, next went to Butterley Ironworks and tried to get in. But the works had been barricaded against them, and they left empty-handed. Some of the insurgents began to drift away. Then cavalrymen were spotted in the distance – the 15th Hussars, commanded by Captain Phillips, had been sent to investigate. The remaining rebels threw down their weapons and ran for their lives.
Letter re Brandreth and other rebels.

The Pentrich rebellion was over.

Jeremiah Brandreth, William Turner and Isaac Ludlam were hanged for high treason at the Friar-Gate Gaol, Derby, on Friday 7 November 1817. Fourteen other rebels were transported for life. You can read genealogies of the families involved in the Pentrich Rising here.

Images: Maps showing the area of South Wingfield and Pentrich (HO42/166), and a letter from two Nottingham magistrates, Charles L Morley and J H Barber, with ‘informations’ on oath to Lord Sidmouth that they suspected Thomas Bacon, Jeremiah Brandreth, Samuel Haynes and others of ‘treasonable practices’(HO44/166/f.410).
Butterley Iron Works. Author's collection. Pictorial Gallery of Arts Vol. I, (c. 1860).

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Folly Hall Bridge: A Forgotten Uprising

The old Luddite meeting place at Cooper Bridge.
Plans for the rising of 1817 were already under way before the notorious spy William Oliver arrived in the northern and midland districts of England – but his reiteration that the rebels would have help (10,000 men) from London must have swayed many waverers.
Thanks to their spies, the authorities now had the approximate date of the insurrection (9 June), the name of the main ringleader, ‘Old Tommy’ Bacon, and the names and addresses of those involved. The magistrates could have stepped in and made more arrests at any point, but they let events unfold unmolested. It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the government was happy for the risings to go ahead to see how far the ringleaders were really prepared to go.
The rising in Yorkshire took place a day early (Sunday 8 June) because of a last-minute change of plan to rescue some would-be rebels recently arrested at Thornhill. The ‘revolution’ in the Huddersfield area broke out on with robberies as the men tried to get hold of arms.
Meanwhile, about 300–400 men assembled at Folly Hall Bridge (also known as Engine Bridge) about half a mile from Huddersfield along the road leading to Holmfirth and Honley. The men, armed with guns, pistols, and makeshift pikes, planned to march on Huddersfield when reinforcements arrived from the neighbouring villages. At midnight their leader, George Taylor, declared: ‘Now, my lads, all England is in arms – our liberties are secure – the rich will be poor, and the poor will be rich!’
About thirty minutes later the Huddersfield Yeomanry Cavalry, headed by Captain Armitage, went to reconnoitre the bridge, aided by the local constable, George Whitehead. As they approached the bridge, one man shouted ‘Who goes there?’ and aimed a gun at Whitehead. When Whitehead replied, the man took aim and fired, but it flashed in the pan.
After an exchange of fire, in which a cavalryman’s horse was wounded, the ‘Patrole found themselves compelled to retire to Huddersfield’ for reinforcements. When the soldiers returned, they found the rebels had already scattered and gone home. No-one else turned up to support the ‘revolution’; the Folly Hall Bridge rising was over.
But in Derbyshire, it was now time to ‘either fight or starve’, as we shall see tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Was Your Ancestor A Peterloo Casualty?

Peterloo print, courtesy Library of Congress.
This summer, Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (MLFHS) is launching a project to find the descendants of the people who were present at the Peterloo Massacre on 16 August 1819.

On this dreadful day in Manchester's long history, sixty to eighty thousand people - including women and children -  had assembled at St Peter’s Field to attend a meeting on parliamentary reform, with Henry 'Orator' Hunt as the keynote speaker.

Although the meeting was peaceful, local magistrates, fearing that a riot was imminent, ordered yeomanry cavalry into the crowd to arrest Hunt.

The Manchester and Salford Yeomanry rode into the crowd, brandishing their sabres. But the people could not move to give them room.The horses panicked; the yeomanry lost their temper, and began hacking their way through. Over four hundred people were injured - many wounds were from sabre cuts - and between eleven and fifteen people died (accounts disagree).
Plaque commemorating the Peterloo victims.

The true number of casualties has never been completely ascertained. Many books have been written on Peterloo, including this one by Professor Michael Bush; my new book has some tips on researching Peterloo, too. There's also info and transcripts of contemporary documents here on the Peterloo Witness Project.

MLFHS is setting up a new website to discover people's family history stories which will go live on 1 June. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please visit the website when live, or contact the project manager Rod Melton by email at

Or if you are visiting Manchester Central Library after the project launches, Rod Melton will be available each Tuesday between 10:30 and 15:00. Please go to the Manchester and Lancashire Family History desk and ask for Rod and he will come down to see you.

The hope is to create a fitting and lasting memorial to all the victims of that fateful day.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Manchester and Salford Ancestors Now Out On Kindle!

Manchester Cathedral. 
Just a quick post to say that Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors is now available as an e-book from Pen and Sword, and as a Kindle edition on Amazon! It's also available from Amazon USA in Kindle format. 
If you are visiting Manchester Central Library, you can also buy it over the counter, which will save you paying postage. My book is also available on the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society online bookshop. 
Entries are now open for my Goodreads Giveaway, too, so do please have a go!