St. Peter’s Square / Peterloo

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St. Peter’s Square is a public square in central Manchester at the convergence of Oxford Road, Peter Street, Princess Street and Moseley Street. It is lined by the Town Hall extension, the Library and the Midland Hotel, and contains a peace garden, cenotaph and a cross. 

In 1819, the area was called St Peter’s Field, and was the site of an infamous attack on a crowd of protesters demanding the reform of parliamentary representation. The cavalry attack by Hussars on civilians resulted in the deaths of 18 people including four women and child, mainly from sabre slashes and trampling by horses. 700 more were injured by the same means.

The term Peterloo is a parody of Waterloo, the famous battle four years before, to mock the aggression of soldiers behaving as though they were not facing an unarmed and peaceful protest.

During the subsequent public inquiry into the massacre, the Hussars and Magistrates who had ordered the attack, were cleared of all wrong-doing.

The businessman John Taylor witnessed the events of the day, and went on to establish the Manchester Guardian newspaper as a direct reaction to what he had seen. The event also led to the precursor of the trade union movement becoming established.