You are now arriving at Manchester’s Peterloo Station: Petition to rename Piccadilly Station gathers steam

By Edward Roberts

Piccadilly Station could be renamed Peterloo Station if a campaign demanding a name change to the Manchester hub is successful.

The petition, which can be viewed here, hopes to rename the city’s biggest train station in memory of the Peterloo Massacre in which 15 protestors died and hundreds were seriously injured.

The idea was orchestrated by 76-year old retired teacher Michael Knowles who is lobbying for a greater recognition of Manchester’s history.

Mr Knowles, from Salford, said: “The station deserves a better name than one associated with London.

“There’s a memorial to Waterloo, there’s a memorial to Trafalgar, why not Peterloo? It was an enormous step in our democratic history and should not be forgotten.”

The Peterloo Massacre occurred in 1819 when a protest outside Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on St Peter’s Square was met with violent resistance from the authorities.

There was a total of 15 deaths and 600 injuries, the largest number of casualties in the city’s history.

“Changing the name of Piccadilly Station would be a fantastic way to remember it,” Mr Knowles said.

“With a train station the message would reverberate across the whole country on signs and tickets and everyone would know about it.”

The campaign has already secured support from actress Maxine Peake and campaigners hope to convince station managers Network Rail to get on board.

Mr Knowles and his supporters have already been in correspondence with MP Lucy Powell and Sir Richard Leese, the Head of the Council, over the matter.

They are now in the process of appealing for support from other local celebrities such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Pete Waterman.

Despite headway being made, Network Rail have said they will oppose the name change on the basis of financial reasons.

A representative said: “The railway industry is not funded to change names and the cost would be extremely high, we’re talking a six-figure sum and therefore a name change is unlikely.

“We have a duty to the taxpayer to make sure we’re spending our money correctly, before we’d have to see a great deal of support from the council and then we’d need to know plans to fund it.”

The company also said that Piccadilly Station was unsuitable for a name change because of its size, but indicated that a smaller and less busy station could possibly provide a better alternative for the petition.

Mr Knowles has rejected any recommendation to downsize the movement or choose another location.

He said: “Some small and –nationally speaking – obscure railway station won’t do. No, Peterloo deserves the best.”

The name-change crusade has been spurred on from the success of a previous campaign that lobbied for a permanent memorial in Manchester city centre.

Earlier this year the council announced plans to erect a commemorative statue as part of the redevelopment of St Peter’s Square.

On August 16 a group of more than 50 met at the site to pay their respects to those who lost their lives while actress Maxine Peake read out a list of the victims’ names.

The Peterloo Massacre, or Battle of Peterloo as it is sometimes known, marked the beginning of a series of democratic changes that later led to the universal right to vote.

One active member of the name-change campaign, John Brown, believes that the refusal to honour the incident is demonstrative of the nation’s attitude towards such events.

Mr Brown, 54, said: “I think the real worry that people have is that it’s a reflection that we have suffered and fought for freedom.

“Events like Peterloo are very muted in this country.”

While many have already supported the petition the public response has largely remained divided.

Zoe Sharples, 22, from Oldham, said: ‘What’s the point? It’s always going to be known as Piccadilly and even if you change it people are still going to call it that.’

Others such as Pam Grey, 29, from Wigan, was fully behind celebrating the heritage of Manchester.

She said: “If it helps us remember history then definitely, why not? It can only be a good thing.”

The petition is calling for a full name change to occur by the bicentenary in 2019.

Picture courtesy of Hugh Llewelyn, with thanks.

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