Updated: Thursday, 6th August 2020 @ 6:47am

Can You Dig It? University of Salford to excavate site of Peterloo Massacre at historic Hulme Barracks

Can You Dig It? University of Salford to excavate site of Peterloo Massacre at historic Hulme Barracks

By James Pomfret

A site from the notorious Peterloo Massacre of 1819 in Hulme, in which more than 700 people were left injured, is set to be excavated.

Archaeologists from the University of Salford, working alongside local community volunteers are set to excavate the historic Manchester Cavalry barracks.

The now retired military barracks once housed the troops sent out to disperse protestors in the notorious Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

The Hulme Barracks dig will be part of the wider, four-year, Dig Greater Manchester project, set up by the University of Salford, which gives local community members the chance to assist professional archaeologists.

Councillor Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, said: “Dig Greater Manchester provides a fantastic chance for local residents to help uncover the region’s past and reveal the history hidden beneath all our feet.

“Manchester has a fascinating history and this project will give a glimpse into the lives of the people that took part in the Peterloo Massacre, a defining moment of its age that had reverberations around the world.“

The dig will run from July 1 to July 13 and will investigate Hulme Barracks, home of the Peterloo Cavalry of the 15th King’s Hussars, who fought at Waterloo.

The barracks were occupied by the army from 1804 until 1915, reportedly housing more than 400 men at a time.

There are high hopes of recovering soldiers’ equipment and everyday items from over 100 years of continuous occupation.

In 1819, alongside the part-time Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, the 15th King’s Hussars mobilised to disperse 80,000 political reform protesters who had gathered in St Peter’s Field.

The Hussars were ordered to charge the protesters, leaving 15 dead and a further 700 injured, with the event being known from then on as the Peterloo Massacre, referencing 1815’s battle of Waterloo

Manchester cavalry moved out of the barracks in 1895, being replaced by infantry battalions until 1914 when the site was bought by Manchester Corporation who demolished the majority of the buildings converting the site to playing fields.

In the late 1970s, a successful campaign to save the largest remaining building, which had housed the officers’ quarters and mess, led to its conversion into a community centre – now a Grade II listed building.

An 1868 article, written in Manchester journal The Sphinx, describes in some detail what life in the barracks would have been like.

“Step into the barracks and see the soldier at home,” it says.

“It is literally a step, and a step only, from dirt and wretchedness to the very perfection of cleanliness and order.

“True, the barrack buildings are old and dingy, but military neatness works wonders, and there is plenty of space for such sun and breeze as can be coaxed into a region so near cottonopolis.”

The University of Salford see the Dig Greater Manchester project as an exciting opportunity for the local public to get involved with.

Ben Grimsditch, a senior archaeologist, said: “This is an extremely high profile excavation of one of the principal historic sites in Manchester, and one that would not normally feature public participation.

“However, due to the way Dig Greater Manchester is structured, members of the community will be able to find out more about a site that spans over 100 years of the city’s explosive development, and that was part of many of the great events that shaped Manchester throughout the Industrial Revolution.”

For more information on the project or if you would like to get involved, email Brian Grimsditch at [email protected]

Picture courtesy of Wessex Archaeology, with thanks.

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