Descendants Stories

Descendants Stories

In 2019 Manchester Histories led a Peterloo Descendants project which traced those present at Peterloo in 1819 to their modern day Descendants. The project included an event at Manchester Central Library and a short film (coming soon). Read their stories below.

You can find out more about the Peterloo victims and casualties here and explore the Eyewitness Accounts here.

Thomas Merry - Frances Collins, Descendant

I was encouraged by an article in the Who Do You Think You Are magazine to get in touch if I happened to have an ancestor who was at Peterloo. Well, I do have such ancestor, but am rather ashamed to admit that he was not one of the noble protestors but was serving in the 15th Light Dragoons, one of the cavalry units sent in to quell the demonstration in Manchester on that fateful day.

The ancestor in question is a man called Francis Collins, my great grandmother’s uncle, who was born to a family of brassfounders in Birmingham. He enlisted in the 3rd Foot Guards in 1808 and went on to have a distinguished career serving under Wellington right the way through the Peninsular War. After Waterloo he transferred to the 15th Light Dragoons and at the time of Peterloo was its regimental Quarter Master.

By chance his light cavalry sabre has survived having been proudly handed down in the family, though until my recent researches no one seemed to have been aware of its dark history.  I attach a photo of it taken in Australia where it is now in the possession of second cousins.

I have recently researched and written up Francis’ whole military service in a privately published booklet called ‘Francis Collins in the Peninsular War – a fictional memoire’ and would be happy to share its text with anyone interested.


Maureen Clifford - Sir Samuel Luke Fildes, Descendant

I am a related to Mary Fildes through my great great uncle, Sir Samuel Luke Fildes. Samuel was a successful painter born in Liverpool in 1844 who had been adopted by his paternal grandmother, the political activist Mary Fildes who accompanied Henry Hunt on the hustings at Peterloo.  The subject matter of his paintings were influenced by his grandmother as he often featured the lives of the poor working class to appeal to Victorian social consciousness, for example the engraving Houseless and Hungry , which depicts the plight of people forced to take shelter at night in the workhouse. 

My grandfather, Arthur Luke Fildes (1877 – 1927) was the son of Sir Luke’s brother Henry.   Granddad married Agnes Constance Williams (Connie). He died at a young age, killed whilst test driving a truck for Leyland Motors.  They lived for the most part of their married life in Preston. Granddad trained for the priesthood and was supposedly disinherited or at least shunned by the family when he gave that away and married Connie. My father Wilfred Clarence Fildes, his brother Lyonell (Leo) and sister Madeline are all deceased. My Dad bought us to Australia in 1960 and we have lived here ever since. My brother being the only male child in our family, and having had all female children himself – is the last of the line from our part of the family to carry the Fildes name sadly.

Stephen Bardsley - Ann Bardsley, Descendant

My name is Stephen Bardsley and I live in Melbourne, Australia now but my family was originally from Bradford and Beswick in Manchester.

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Richard Townend - James Murray ‘Ginger Bread Jack’, Descendant

James Murray, one of the special constable who witnessed the ‘drillings’ at White Moss prior to the massacre, was one of my great grandfathers.

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Caroline Makein - Robert Darbyshire, Descendant

My maiden name is Darbyshire and one of my ancestors, Robert Darbyshire was a Constable on duty during the incident. He was slashed to his head by a sabre from one of the cavalry and was incapacitated for the rest of his life. His father, also Robert, was for many years the Deputy Constable of Salford, and was likely present too. I now live in Scotland and have carried out lots of research on my Peterloo connections.

Andrew Todd - John Booth, Descendant

I can certainly claim descent from one John Booth of Pilsworth Moor, who was wounded at Peterloo and was in receipt of a payment from one of the several funds available afterwards. 

John survived until June 1841, though from what pain due to the sabre wound who knows?

I wrote an article in the Lancs FHHS journal many years ago, which details my research, but this was before I had realised John had been at Peterloo – he is in one of the charity lists, and his abode and companion, George Booth, make the identification unmistakeable. But there are no letters of photos – I’d be surprised if many survive in any family!

Murial Bird - Alice Warburton, Descendant

I am getting in touch as my 4 x great grandmother, is listed on the list for Peterloo, Alice Warburton. I was told she survived from a gun shot due to the bonnet she was wearing. She married William Robinson (4 great granddad in 1835. She was listed as a widow when they got married and had serval children. They lives at serval addresses in Manchester, mainly Rusholme.

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Rosemary Hill - Joseph Buckley and John Brierley, Descendant

Since I retired in 2005 I have been doing some family history research into my maternal grandparents and their antecedents.

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Frank Carman - Thomas Hailmark, Descendant

Thomas Hailmark. 1774-1851

August 16, 1819: Thomas, my 4th Great-Grandfather, lived with his young family, close by, at 23 Gregson Street, off Deansgate (Great Northern Railway Company’s Warehouse, below the archway ‘Yorkshire, North of England and Scotland’).

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Diane Scrivens - James Jaques, Descendant

I am a descendant of someone who gave a witness statement, he was James Jaques, my 5 x great grandfather, and a calico printer.  His wife Lydia was sister to Edmund Buxton, owner of the house where the magistrates went to view the proceedings and give their orders.  Edmund was the son of Samuel Buxton, one of Manchester’s biggest builders at the time. James Jacques lived and worked round the corner on Quay Street, and his father had a city centre draper’s business in Leeds.  Both James Jacques and his brother-in-law Edmund Buxton were young men, with wives and young families (Edmund Buxton was not the age portrayed in the recent Peterloo film!)

I am not especially proud of them, but there are two sides to every story, and Edmund and James were on the sidelines worrying about their families, property and business prospects.  James’s father had himself signed a petition in Leeds along with many other tradespeople and others concerned about ‘attempts to produce disaffection … exciting popular assemblies, promoting political clubs, and thus setting the ignorant and uninformed in judgement over their rulers’.  January 23rd 1817 – the Leeds Declaration. There was a similar one signed for Halifax, I don’t know about Manchester, but it does present the other side of the story, even if it isn’t one with which you would agree yourself!

Georgia Mollington - Thomas Shenton, Descendant

I was told about 40 years ago by Shenton relatives that my ancestor, Thomas Shenton, played an instrument called a “serpent” at Peterloo.  The serpent was allegedly cut in half by a sword when the soldiers charged. I have recently found a reference to this in Music in the British Provinces, 1690-1914, by Peter Holman – please see link below.  I was told this story as a child as I played the clarinet, and there was talk of a “family clarinet” which would be passed on to me. I don’t know if this was the instrument they were referring to, as it is now in the Rossendale museum

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Frances Healey - Miles Ashworth, Descendant

I have been researching Miles Ashworth from Rochdale.  He was the first President of the Rochdale Pioneers and is a direct ancestor – his daughter Elizabeth married John Healey.

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Denise Southworth - Mary Heys (Heyes), Descendant

My name is DENISE SOUTHWORTH and I am the 5 x Great Grand daughter of Mary Heys who died as a result of injuries sustained at Peterloo. Mary was pregnant with her sixth child and joined the masses gathered near her ramshackled home on Oxford Street (where Macdonald’s now stands). She was trampled by a horse which left her disabled and suffering from daily fits. Four months later she gave birth to a premature baby, Henry, and died in childbirth.

My interview with the BBC includes information about how the crowd was dispersed and the injuries to my GGGGG grandmother Mary.

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Kevin Parslow - James Moorhouse, Descendant

I am the 4 x gt grandson of James Moorhouse, who was a longstanding radical arrested for his alleged role in the planning of the Peterloo demonstration. He put Henry Hunt up in his house in Stockport on the night of 8 August, and travelled round Manchester with him the following day. He stood trial with Hunt, Bamford and the others in York but was acquitted.

James was born in Stockport in 1764. Perhaps unusually for a radical, he seems to have been an Anglican all his life. He lived in Underbank for a long period of time. His professions were successively staymaker/tailor, auctioneer and coach proprietor. He was married twice: to Elizabeth Timperley (married Stockport December 1783; Elizabeth died January 1809) and Anne Walmsley (married Prestbury May 1809) and had large families with both. He died in Stockport in July 1822.

He was a member of radical societies in Stockport and the Greater Manchester area, including the United Englishmen and the Stockport Union for the Promotion of Human Happiness during their existences.

I have a lot of material on James , much of which I’ve found myself but I was sparked into finding out more after reading ‘Urban Workers in the Industrial Revolution’, by Robert Glen (with whom I have corresponded and met), that has several references to James. Hopefully, a biography of James will come out at some stage.

John Spooner - James Entwistle, Descendant

James Entwistle Snr, born 1743, was my 4 x great grandfather. At the time of his son James Entwistle Jnr’s baptism in 1770 he was a fustian cutter in Manchester (cutting fustian being a crucial part of the process of producing corduroy). By 1819 James Jnr had moved back to Manchester with a wife Elizabeth and son Thomas after 21 years as a royal marine and was working as a weaver, and James Snr had been living in Queen Street, Deansgate for several years.

During the events of 16th August James Snr, ‘an Old Man’, was ‘Cut on the Shoulder to the Bone’ and was disabled for three weeks. I haven’t found out when he died but James Jnr moved with his family to King’s Lynn in 1822 where he worked as a fisherman.

During my time studying German in Manchester in the 1970s I learned that the reputation for quality of corduroy produced in Manchester was such that the German for corduroy was (and still is) ‘Manchester’. So I take pride not only in James Entwistle’s small part in an important moment in British history, but also that the skill of my ancestor (and his fellow fustian cutters) led to a word in the German language.

Frederick Vickers - Martha Clay, Descendant

My great great grandmother Martha Clay was at Peterloo when she was 10 years old, she lived in the Castlefield area of Manchester. I have a photo of her taken when she was an old lady. Her granddaughter was my grandmother who died when I was 17. 

Elaine Polshaw - Thomas and James Goodwin, Descendant

I believe at least two of mine were there and were injured. 

They were Thomas Goodwin and James Goodwin who I think were brothers.

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Harry Johnson - Middleton Banner

Of all the banners carried to Peterloo only one survives.  For some time it was in the care of my great great uncle.

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Sherren Laybourn - Family Connection to Sam Bamford

I am responding to the request in the spring 2019 edition of the BALH Local History News for people to make contact if they think they might have a family link with Peterloo 1819. I believe it is very likely that ancestors from my family resident in Middleton, Heywood, Hooley Bridge etc were present at St. Peter’s Fields, but, to date, I have not been able to verify that idea. However, I believe I do have evidence of family connections with the reformer Sam Bamford who on 16 August 1819 led the Middleton contingent to St Peter’s Fields for the meeting that pressed for parliamentary reform and repeal of the Corn Laws and concluded as the Peterloo Massacre. 

In summary, my Walker/Harrison families were the landlords of two public houses that he frequented for many years throughout his life until his death in 1872 in Market Place, Middleton: the Assheton Arms and the Masons Arms. I believe the Assheton Arms association began c.1834 with my 4x great grandparents William Walker (b.c.1800-d.1856?) being the licensees; William was landlord from approximately 1834, while his wife Betty (b.c.1800-d.1881) was landlady from about 1838 until 1874, just two years after Sam’s death. Certainly, in Sam’s middle to later years my ancestors from 4x great grandparents through to 2x great grandfather, Henry Harrison (b. 1854, Heywood – d. 1889) and their families were residing at the pub/hotel. Henry’s sister married into the Booth family; as wealthy business owners, employers and local politicians, no doubt they were well known to the reformer. 

Sam referenced the Assheton Arms in his autobiography and diaries. For example, he describes being taken there in 1817, having been arrested and charged with treason, by Manchester’s notorious Deputy Constable Joseph Nadin. Over ‘a couple of blunderbusses and some pistols’ the men shared a drink, Nadin stating that ‘Yor a set o’ roof devils…i’ this Middleton.’ Some forty years later, Sam reviewed the refreshments, commenting that on 11/10/1858 he preferred a whisky toddy as ‘I can’t drinke ale house ale as my wife’s brewing has spoiled me for that.’ 

Interestingly, some years after Sam’s death, during Betty Walker’s reign, a dinner was held at the Assheton Arms to raise funds for Sam’s Middleton memorial. Although family names abound in Sam’s diary entries between 1858 and 1861 regarding the Masons Arms, just one is verifiable to date, Alderman and president of Middleton’s licensed victuallers, William Walker (b.c.1850-1909), but this falls beyond Sam’s lifetime. Presumably, the family held sympathies with Sam’s political beliefs.

Su Bindless - Edmund Dawson, Descendant

David Dawson (1757-1821) was my 4 x great-grandfather. He and his wife Betty (Lees) had 11 children. There were three girls and eight boys. One of his sons was Edmund (1801-1819).  He was just 18 when he suffered two sabre wounds to the head on St Peter’s Field on 16th August 1819. He died in Manchester infirmary on 31st August 1819.

He was buried on 4th September at Lees Chapel. Ashton under Lyne. On that same day an inquest which, lasted 6 minutes, was held on him, which concluded that ‘He died by a sabre wound, but how the deceased came by his death, there was no evidence before the jury: wilful murder not allowed’

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Eyewitness Account

Ray Tomlinson - William Tomlinson, Descendant

William Tomlinson, from Bullock Smithy, was my GGG Grandfather. He was born in Bosden (a constituent part of the then Bullock Smithy) circa.1797 to [as far as I can determine] Thomas and Mary [Platt]. He was possibly one of 5 children.

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Stuart Dixon - Elijah Dixon, Descendant

I am of course equally delighted to be proud of the part my great great grandfather Elijah Dixon played, not just in this connection but in the wider social history of Manchester.

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Justin M. Doyle - Richard Carlile, Descendant

First, some biographical information is in order.  My name is Justin M. Doyle, the fourth child of Leonard J. Doyle and Elizabeth Anne Finegan.  I have resided in Minnesota, U.S.A., most of my life.  Because I am a direct descendant (great-great-great grandson) of Richard Carlile,  I will be in Manchester this coming August, 2019, to honor his memory and the memory of all the martyrs and survivors of Peterloo.

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John and Julie Boardman - Thomas Tuke, Descendant

My family on my dad’s side have been in Middleton for generations and are likely to have come down with Sam Bamford from Middleton, though I have no proof. However my grandma who was a Fitton was related by marriage to Sam’s family, so would have known him and were of a similar radical bent.  My grandma was a suffragette and one of the first women to work for the Post Office in Manchester.

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Michael Gorman - Edward Curran, Descendant

My GGGrandfather was John Curran b. 1801 in Ireland and came to Manchester in 1818 to work as a silk weaver and lived in the Ancoats/New Cross district – Pott Street.

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Ed West - John Tyas, Descendant

My great-great-great grandfather was John Tyas, who was there from the Times that day. My father and grandfather were also journalists.

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