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Kersal Moor, 1842

Kersal Moor Racecourse

Kersal Moor, first called Karsey or Carsall Moor, has seen human activity as far back as the Neolithic age. The Romans also used a track across the moor to reach their outpost at nearby Rainsough from the Roman Road that later became Bury New Road. One of several forts placed to the north of Manchester to protect the valuable woodland and the Roman fort of 'Mancuniun' . Indeed in the 19th century the military importance of Manchester had remained, and after the events of Peterloo in 1819, the region underwent militarisation in preparation of further unrest. In the summer of 1842 that unrest did indeed bubble up, and riots swept the North of England

During the early 19th century Kersal was being used as gathering places for the political Chartist and Freetrade movements, but in the summer of 1842 it was striking colliers, distancing themselves from chartism who made the headlines.

Granby Fields Gathering, 1842

In the same year that Frederick Engles arrived in Manchester, and on the back of the continuing Chartist and Trade Union movements combined with threatened wage cuts for the workers of several industries, a wave of strikes, sometimes riots, swept across Lancashire and Yorkshire. In the May 1839, the Government (William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, and close political adviser of Queen Victoria) had moved regiments from the South of England in anticipation of the uprisings, and was prepared to defend Manchester from the North and East, by strategically controlling the bridges across the regions waterways. Manchester held massive importance to the government and military, not just as a centre of Industry (in fact the centre of the Industrial Revolution), it was also a major stop on the north/south marching route (as used by Romans, Jacobites, Parliamentarians and Royalists) but also had close ties to the Docks in Liverpool for movements of troops to and from Ireland.

The workers of Oldham and Ashton rose on the 8th of August 1842, and on the 9th the troops in the barracks on Tib Street in Manchester were deployed to New Cross (resulting in 1 fatality) and Stevenson Square, to stop the marchers from Oldham reaching the Manchester Exchange on Market Street. The march held a gathering at Granby Row fields before heading back towards Ashton turning out more mills along the way.

New Cross Riot, 1842

However, the military were somewhat surprised by risings in Stalybridge and Stafford which occurred around the 10th of the month. At Bridge Street Mill in Stalybridge, William Bayley, had announced a sixpence cut in wages. He attempted to withdraw the cut in the face of the (violent) reaction from his workers, but the snowball had been set rolling. Numerous professions such as tailors, cabinet makers etc held meetings around the region and turned out on strike in union. Mills and Works were visited by roaming crowds of strikers, and those that resisted turning out on strike were met with violence. The mobs also carried out retaliation attacks against the police, with a lockup in Cheetham attacked, setting free previously arrested rioters. On the 13th a royal proclamation offered a reward for the apprehension of strike leaders and Chartist agitators, and the Home Secretary (Sir James Graham of Robert Peel's Government) instructed the military commanders and magistrates that force was to be used. /td>

With the 16th of the month being the anniversary of Peterloo (1819) emotions and tensions were high, decades had passed with little improvements for the working class or their representation in Parliament. On the 20th August, a meeting of about 500 turnouts on Kersal Moor headed to Mr Bleakley's Dye Works in Sedgley and successfully turned the workers out on strike, before heading off to Pilkington and Unsworth. The groom of Robert Philips of The Park was exercising two horses in a lane near Prestwich, and was confronted by the turn outs and told to take the horses back in. Mobs near Kersal Moor of between 10 and 20 men armed with bludgeons, roamed the local houses demanding provisions or money.

Myrtle Grove Bleachworks, Bury New Road

Reading the Riot Act, Manchester Town Hall 1842

A section of 40 mounted police had also now been deployed to run communications between the outlying towns and the magistrates sat in the Town Hall on King Street, Manchester. [The Town hall in 1819 had been set up in the Police Office on King Street. The first purpose built Town Hall, which stood on the corner of King Street & Cross Street, had been built in 1822, the colonnade from the Town Hall now stands in Heaton Park]

Ref: 1842 Riots

Old Manchester Town Hall Colonnade

Kersal Hotel (demolished 2004) - site of the Turf Tavern

So it was when on the 27th August, about 500 miners had walked from Middleton, to attend a meeting on Kersal Moor, with reports that they were armed with bludgeons. The moor had become one of several regular meeting grounds for the strikers for several days, along with meetings occurring at Granby Fields, Campfield and St George's field in Manchester. Speeches were made to the crowd gathered near the Turf Tavern on the moor, advising the mob to focus on their demands for pay and cast aside chartism. The meeting resolved to stay out until they got a "fair day's wages for a fair day's work". After the meeting the crowd headed down Moor Lane and towards Agecroft Bridge with the intention of engaging the colliers at Jacob Fletcher's coal pit in Clifton and getting them to join the strike.

Kersal Racecourse & Turf Tavern

Matthew Fletcher
Matthew came from a family of Bolton mine owners, and first worked on Wet Earth Colliery in Clifton for its owner John Heatcote in the 1740's. Fletcher took the pit over in 1756, and sank Gal pit at 159 feet, he also sank the pit at Botany Bay, near Clifton Junction and developed Clifton Hall and Robin Hood collieries too. He extended the leat (water channel) from Wet Earth to Botany bay and ultimately widened it (1791) and eventually joined the Manchester Bury & Bolton Canal (1801, after a 5 years dispute), by a large lock measuring 20 by 90 feet that could take 3 boats at a time. The new waterway was renamed Fletcher's Canal. Fletcher followed the idea used at Worsley connecting his pit heads direct to the waterways which led straight to the heart of Manchester. Matthew died in 1808, succeeded by his nephew Ellis and when he died in 1834, to his son Jacob who died in 1857. Finally the estate passed to Jacob's daughter Charlotte once she had become an adult, six years after his death.

Manchester RacesThe first reference to the Manchester Races "On Carsall Moore" was in 1687, and had been stopped in 1746, (with the help of a campaign by John Byrom ). Regular races began again in 1759 through to 1846, when they moved to News Barns and then Castle Irwell. The nearby Agecroft Bridge Railway Station was opened just for the Manchester Races at Kersal, even though it had closed to passengers in 1838. The North side of the racetrack on the moor can still be walked along today.The pub was thought to have originally been known as the Running Horses(1776), then as the Racehorse, the Turf Tavern and the Griffin & Turf Tavern. It was described as having a bowling green, archery grounds, gardens, and it had booths that were rented out to Manchester shopkeepers on race day.

Kersal Races ,1830

In 1827, the Earl of Wilton at Heaton Park opened a race course in his grounds (after marrying the daughter of the 12th Earl of Derby - after whom Epson Derby is named). By 1829 the Heaton Park Races were extended to 3 days, and the final Manchester Cup was held in 1838. The last winner, the Earl of Wilton's "Jagger" was ridden by Captain Becher who had won it the year before on "Cowboy". The name of the jockey lives on in the Grand National race today, the next year the races had switched to Liverpool

Heaton Park Races

30,000 Chartists on Kersal Moor in 1838Only 4 years earlier, Fergus O'Connor led a rally of 30,000 on Kersal Moor. Chartism got its name from the People’s Charter, that listed the six main aims of the movement. These were:
a vote for all men (over 21)
the secret ballot
no property qualification to become an MP
payment for MPs
electoral districts of equal size
annual elections for Parliament

Sir Arbutnot's sword

The local Magistrates, Mr Wakley & Mr Wood, who had been closely monitoring the actions of the strikers, had called for the assistance of the Army. Two canons of the Royal Field Artillery, along with two companies each of the 1st Dragoons and Grenadier Guards set off from Regent Road barracks towards the moor, in all about 500 soldiers. The force was commanded by two Generals, Sir Thomas Arbutnot and Sir William Warre, along with Colonel Wemyss, and Captains Burke & Willis.

The colliers by now well practiced, had positioned a chain of sentries and lookouts along their route from the moor in the expectation that they would be acted against by the magistrates. This being noted, the magistrates directed the Dragoons and two canon to retrace their steps, via the suspension bridge in lower Broughton and, joined by 49 police in 3 omnibuses, they marched from Regent Road barracks under Captain Willis via Pendleton, and took Bolton Rd towards Clifton, so as to confront the colliers from the Clifton side of the river Irwell.

Military deployments of 1842In 1842, Robert Peel's Government had deployed 3 regiments totalling about 4000 soldiers to Manchester:
60th Grenadier Guards
65th Grenadier Guards
1st Dragoons

Salford also had a detachment of the 72nd Highlanders from Liverpool, for it's defence. During the first weeks of August, further reinforcements arrived with the 1st Foot Guards entrained from the south, and four six-pounder canons, plus two Howitzers from the Royal Field Artillery arriving. The 58th Rutlandshire Regiment also arrived from Dublin.

By 1844 there were large infantry barracks on Regent Road (started just weeks after Peterloo in 1819), as well as smaller barracks located at Clifton on it's border with Kearsley, and also at Swinton.

After crossing Agecroft Bridge , the colliers reached and turned out one of Fletcher's collieries in Clifton, before they were then surprised by the appearance of the Dragoons approaching from the Bolton Road, with their approach having been obscured by a bend in the road (could this be the bend as you head down "Doe Brow" from Bolton Rd into Clifton Country Park today?). Captain Willis gave the order for the Dragoons to "Gallop!", shortly followed by "Charge!", and ‘the colliers gave legbail, setting off in all directions – scampering over hedges, climbing gates, running through bushes, leaping ditches, swimming the canal, and wading in the river’. But the Dragoons were upon the colliers.

Old Agecroft Bridge - prior to the new road bridge & Thirlmere Aqueduct of 1892

"The scene was now exciting and animated in the highest degree ; and many a ludicrous incident occurred during that chase. The generals and their staffs pursued a party to the Bury and Bolton Canal, across which a barge was laid, with a plank to communicate with the opposite side; but, in the scrambling to get over, the plank gave way, and about a dozen of the rioters were immersed in the water. The dragoons made for a bridge at a little distance, and were in time to cut off their escape, and to capture nine, two of whom were so exhausted by the sousing they had in the canal, that they could not walk. They were handed over to the police, who handcuffed them, and conducted them to an omnibus. During this time, the remainder of the detachments had not been idle. Dividing themselves, they made a wide circuit, sweeping round in fine style, and driving as it were the mob into dozens, making them prisoners, and handing them to the police. When they had to ride some distance to get through at a gate or a gap, to follow the terrified turn-outs, they leaped the hedges after the runaways, and immediately secured them. One or two of the dragoons, however, who had unadvisedly followed some of the rioters upon Kersal Moor, stuck in the moss, and with difficulty extricated their horses. Many of the colliers took to earth, and burrowed in holes and pits, but they were found out; and a few lay down in the potato field, among the potato tops, but were discovered."

Location of the chaseWith the report stating the soldiers proceeded "nearly 5 miles down the road" to reach the colliers, and that the Colliery that had been turned out "adjoins the road", that would suggest that Wet Earth Colliery was the location of the skirmish. Though there were three pits in Clifton, and it is noted that Clifton Hall, operated by Andrew Knowles & Sons, would be the first pit the colliers would pass once over Agecroft Bridge , followed by the Botany Bay & Robin Hood pits which were also operated by Mr Fletcher and adjoin Rake Lane. Clifton Hall Colliery, with it's tram road to the canal, was positioned behind the present day recycle centre on Lumn Lane. Botany Bay with it's spur direct into the pit from the canal, was just West of where Pilkington Tile Factory used to be, and Wet Earth Colliery is at Clifton Country Park - see the map below.

It is also worth mentioning that the railway between Salford and Bolton was opened in 1838, so the colliers and dragoons would both have had to navigate the tunnels of the railway to reach the canal & river if they had been engaged at Botany Bay or Clifton Hall Collieries (as those collieries stood to the South of the railway embankment in much more steeper terrain). No mention of the railway is made in the newspaper articles of the time. So it's deduced that the chase ran eastwards from from Wet Earth Colliery, through the fields between the canal and railway, and back over the Irwell at Bradley ford and also at Agecroft Bridge.

Clifton Collieries

Some of the Dragoons forded the river and headed up towards Whitefield where they detained four men who claimed to be "pigeon flying to Oldham".

The old Prestwich to Pendlebury Road crossed the River Irwell at Bradley Ford (on the right edge of the above map). This used to be the main pack horse route from Prestwich to Salford and beyond, until the Clifton Aqueduct was built and canal became King. It is presumed that "Clive of India" who was a grandchild of Nathaniel Gaskell of Clifton Hall , would have crossed this ford to reach his classes at Stand Grammar, and later, to reach his property on Griffe Lane, near Whitefield.

Bradley Ford

The ex-Dragoon of Turf Tavern, Kersal MoorSamuel Dawson was a Corporal of Col. Lees Light Dragoons, served in the 16th Light Dragoons in the "Rebellion of Ireland" and appears in the 1841 census at the Turf Tavern Kersal Moor, with a Mary Dawson aged 60. Samuel is buried at St Mary's Prestwich, read more about Samuel here

Military Camp on kersal Moor (undated)

The General in charge , Sir Arbutnot went to the London Vale Print Works (later to become the Cussons Soap Works, and now used for housing) with a detachment of Grenadier Guards. He called on Thomas Coston, the proprietor, to gather his employees. The General then addressed the gathering, advising the workers that so long as they work, they have his protection, otherwise he would carry out his duty.

"I understand you are all willing and inclined to work?"
"Yes" came the reply from the workforce,
"Then I am come down from government to protect those men that feel so inclined, and I will protect them to the utmost of my power: if you should be annoyed by any of those men, protect yourselves as well as you can, and I will be here at the head of my regiment in 10 or 15 minutes to render you assistance"

In total 57 prisoners were deposited at the New Bailey in Manchester. Perhaps these conflicts, which were common place in the region during August helped convince Engles that England stood on the edge of revolution. By September though things had calmed down as the workers struggled to put food on their tables and returned to work, leading Chartists were also arrested.

Freetrade & Chartism It was another seven years before the corn laws were repealed, the chartist aims of secret ballots were introduced in 1872, MP wages in 1911, and male suffrage in 1918, with only annual elections not being adopted.