People’s History Museum is marking the 199th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, one of the nation’s most defining historic events, by putting on display for the first time this week a rare commemorative medal that it has recently acquired.
The New Peterloo Medal, which was created in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre, is believed to be the only one of its kind uncovered to date. On 16 August 1819 60,000 people had gathered on what was then known as St Peter’s Field in Manchester seeking the reform of parliamentary representation, however when troops charged the crowd, the peaceful protest was turned into a massacre with 18 people losing their lives. It is thought that the medal may have been produced to raise funds for the victims of the massacre.
There were a number of commemorative medals produced following the massacre, with a different example already on display in the museum. However, this new acquisition is believed to be an earlier example and features a much more combative and aggressive slogan than its counterparts. The front of the coin depicts a scene with the yeomanry riding into the crowd, with one individual holding up a cap of liberty on a pole. The inscription on the back reads, “The magistrates and yeomanry of Manchester God confound them”, and round the edge “These things will not endure or be endured”.
The medals were one of many artefacts created after the massacre to commemorate this major historical event. These items included handkerchiefs, jugs and other ceramic items, all of which could be easily mass-produced and examples of these can be seen in the main galleries of the People’s History Museum. As the national museum of democracy, Peterloo is the starting point of a story that tells of the hard fought quest for representation and equality.
The New Peterloo Medal has been acquired thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme that supports museums, libraries and archives to develop their collections through acquisition projects. The arrival of the medal will coincide with a special event at the People’s History Museum, Radical Manchester: Meet the Activists on Thursday9 August (6.00pm – 7.30pm) which will also champion the spirit of Peterloo.
The event is part of the museum’s monthly Radical Lates, when the museum stays open until 8.00pm, and will give people the chance to meet activists who champion today’s ideas worth fighting for. Campaign groups from across Greater Manchester will be there on the night, giving insight into their work and providing useful information about when and where they hold their meetings and protests, as well as the campaigns people can get involved in today.
This event will be presented in partnership with Manchester Histories, who along with the People’s History Museum, is planning a year of events, activities and exhibitions to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre in 2019. There will be information available for those wanting to get involved to mark this watershed moment in Britain’s struggle for universal suffrage.
Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections at the People’s History Museum, comments, “As we head towards the 200th anniversary of Peterloo and during the centenary year of the first women obtaining the vote, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to reflect upon the themes of protest and democracy which this historical event brings to the fore. The New Peterloo Medal is an incredibly exciting and rare addition to our existing Peterloo collection and provides another piece of the jigsaw in the fascinating story of the aftermath of the protest. It’s definitely a must see for anyone who wants a taste of what’s to come at the People’s History Museum in 2019.”
“Between now and 2019 the People’s History Museum, in partnership with the Working Class Movement Library will build on the strengths of both collections by acquiring material related to the fight for the vote, from the Peterloo protest in 1819 to lowering the voting age in 1969. It is thanks to funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures programme, that the museum can address collecting gaps while ensuring the collection is at the heart of the visitor experience, increasing engagement and community accessibility.”
The New Peterloo Medal will be on display for the very first time at the People’s History Museum from the evening of Thursday 9 August to Friday 31 August 2018. The Radical Late Meet the Activists event on Thursday 9 August is free to attend and booking suggested via Eventbrite.