Tag Archives: manuscript

Where First I Heard of Peterloo

I first heard of Peterloo when I had been working at the Library for a few years and I was shown a little book, filled with names. It was the Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book (or English MS 172) a little notebook which records recipients of the Peterloo Relief Fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them.

Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book A list of recipients of the Peterloo relief fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them.

Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book
A list of recipients of the Peterloo relief fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them.

The next time I heard about Peterloo was during Manchester International Festival 2013 when Maxine Peake recited all 37 verses of Shelley’s poem, ‘The Masque of Anarchy’, directed by Sarah Frankcom, just yards from the site of the Peterloo Massacre itself.

But it was until Monday evening 5th October 2015, at a rally for The People’s Post organised by the CWU (Communication Worker’s Union) that I truly understood the significance of Peterloo and what went on at Peter’s Fields. When Lindsay German addressed the crowd of over 8000 people that had amassed in Cathedral Gardens, she spoke of the democratic reform that the Peterloo rally had been demonstrating for, and subsequently brought about.

Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, Monday 5th October 2015

Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, Monday 5th October 2015

I had not understood that those killed and injured at Peterloo had been taking part in a peaceful rally, much like the one I attended on Monday, to claim their democratic rights – and to defend the rights of the poor. In the back of the Peterloo Relief Account Book is a newspaper cutting, which is an account from a man named James Haslam, I have transcribed the cutting below so you can read about where first he heard of Peterloo:

‘When I was a boy I was very fond indeed of creeping into the handloom cellar at night – especially o’ winter nights – to hear the men of the moribund craft talk and sing and, by the way, swear about hard times. What a quaint, independent set of industrials they were. But they talked and sang sometimes of flowers, or love, or war, but mostly of hard social and political days. How they did anathematise the politicians of the hour, and, I am afraid, push revolutionary ideas into my young hear. I was to carry on – so Joss Wrigley said – their spirit of political revolt when they were dead and their wooden looms were made into firewood by the factory workers.

They were the Radicals of Lupton Yard, and when I read “The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane” I thought if Rutherford had known them he might have handed them to posterity.

It was there where I first heard of Peterloo.

“Peterloo, Peterloo,” was often the subject of fierce conversation and denunciation. There were four of them in the cellar, in addition to an old woman who, sitting in the middle of the semi-subterranean workshop, wound coarse weft bobbins for them on a wooden wheel and spindle.

Joss Wrigley was the leader of the poverty-stricken group. My father was the owner of the looms, all bought for a few shillings, and rented to the other three weavers for a few pence a week. Joss was a great talker. Ned Greenhalgh – gentle Ned – was a listener who nodded approval of Joss’s political outbursts. Nathan Clegg, who occasionally varied his weaving by a short term in the Debtors’ Gaol at Lancaster, helped Joss by swearing at capitalists and shopkeepers. Mary Miller, the bobbin-winder, sometimes shook with fear at the thought of what might be their plight if the police were to look in. Joss Wrigley had decorated – he called it decorated – one of his loomposts with verses from Ebenezer Elliott and democratic songs of Burns, cut from newspapers. My father sometimes played the fiddle to soothe their nerves – played old English airs and Jacobite songs.

There was a stove in the cellar, which was lighted when they could afford to buy coal. I used to hear most about Peterloo when the looms were silent and the stove was burning, and the decrepit weavers were “winding on” a new warp by candle-light. One of them would guide the threads through the healds, two would sit on each side straightening the yarn and picking out foreign particles; Joss Wrigley usually sat on a stool unfolding the warp, and, having the least responsible task, he would talk the most.

It was then that “Peterloo” rang mostly in my ears. Often I wondered where Peterloo was till I learned it was at Manchester, a few miles away.

A Plan of St. Peters Field in the town of Manchester. With the Avenues leading thereto.

A Plan of St. Peters Field in the town of Manchester. With the Avenues leading thereto.

Frequently I was puzzled to know why it was that they spoke so bitterly of it. Subsequently, I was informed that Joss Wrigley knew all about it, because he was there in support of the People’s Charter, as Joss described it. Joss was a slim, nervous man with white hair and long beard; for a man of 77 years he was still sprightly physically and alert mentally.

It was from these older-time weaver’s lips I first heard the names of Sam Bamford and Henry Hunt. There was only one picture on the walls of our “front” room, otherwise known as the parlour. To us a house was divided into a “front” room and a “back” room, or kitchen. At that time our “front” room was an odd-looking chamber. Owing to the height of one of the looms in the cellar it had been necessary to take up one or two flags – it ws a flagged floor, usually sanded – in the parlour to make room for the top portion of the Jacquard machine. All that the room held was this portion of the loom, protruding about a yard above the surface, two spindle-back chairs, a small deal table, a winding-frame worked by my mother, and the solitary picture alluded to, which was a newspaper print of Henry Hunt. The name was underneath – “Henry Hunt, Esq.” My mother knew no more of the August massacre of 1819 than she had learned from the heated harangues of Joss Wrigley, and it was she who told me that Henry Hunt was a man who had something to do with Peterloo.

I remember saying to my father one morning when he was playing his well-resined fiddle (his warp being “down”), “What was this Peterloo about?” “Ax Joss,” he said. “It were afore my time. Joss were theer. Fro’ what he says, it were a damnable thing – summat as workin’ folk should never forget!”

I was now particularly curious to know. And one day when Joss came from the cellar into the kitchen to beg some tea to drink with his meal of bread and cheese I put the question – boy-like- bluntly to him. I have never forgotton some of his Doric phrases. He drew me between his knees, and said, partly with pride and partly with indignation:

“Peterloo, lad! I know. I were theer as a young mon. We were howdin’ a meetin’ i’ Manchester – on Peter’s Field, – a meetin’ for eawr reets – for reets o’ mon, for liberty to vote, an’ speak, an’ write, an’ be eawrsels – honest, hard-workin’ folk. We wanted to live eawr own lives, an’ th’ upper classes wouldn’t let us. That’s abeawt it, lad. We were howdin’ a meetin’, a peaceful meetin’, an’ they sent t’dragoons among us to mow us deawn. T’ dirty devils – they sent t’ dragoons slashin’ at us wi’ their swords. There were some on us sheawtin’ ‘Stop! Stop! What are yo’ doin’ that for? We on’y want eawr reets.’ An’ they went on cuttin’ through us, an’ made us fly helter-skelter – aw because we were only howdin’ up t’ banner o’ liberty an’ t’ reets o’ mon. Bournes (Burns) says as ‘Liberty’s a glorious feast.’ But th’ upper classes wouldn’t let us poor folk get a tast on it. When we cried… freedom o’ action they gav’ us t’ point of a sword. Never forget, lad! Let it sink i’ thi blood. Ston up an’ feight for t’ reets o’ mon – t’ reets o’ poor folk!”

Peterloo poster, a public notice declaring illegal the public meeting to be held on the 9th of August 1819 near St Peter's Church, Manchester, and cautioning 'all persons' against attending. The meeting subsequently took place on the 16th August and became known as the Peterloo Massacre, after cavalry charged into the crowd causing death and injury.

Peterloo poster, a public notice declaring illegal the public meeting to be held on the 9th of August 1819 near St Peter’s Church, Manchester, and cautioning ‘all persons’ against attending. The meeting subsequently took place on the 16th August and became known as the Peterloo Massacre, after cavalry charged into the crowd causing death and injury.

“Banner o’ libery,” “t’reets o’ mon,” “t’ dragoons slashin among us wi’ their swords,” were dinned into my ears till I could not forget. I could not understand then why Joss was trembling with rage. I could not then understand why he, having lived for over fifty years after the event, should still permit it to disturb his mind. I suppose it had got in his blood, and he could not live it out. I presume also that continuous years of poverty, together with years of political injustice and vagaries, and dear food, through which he had lived, had helped to nurse his hatred, which he resolutely passed on to others.

An illustration from ' A Slap at Slop', a mock newspaper created by George Cruikshank and William Hone. Includes cartoons relating to the Peterloo Massacre which took place in Manchester in 1819.

An illustration from ‘ A Slap at Slop’, a mock newspaper created by George Cruikshank and William Hone. Includes cartoons relating to the Peterloo Massacre which took place in Manchester in 1819.

His political career began at Peterloo – a dramatic beginning, to be sure. It ended in a damp, dark handloom cellar, at the age of 81.

I remember asking my father years after – when thinking of the sayings and the songs of Joss – how much would be the earnings of Joss as a rule. I was told not more than 10s. to 12s. per week – sometimes a few shillings more, sometimes “nowt at aw.”

Yet to the very end of his hard days Joss rarely omitted, as far as I can recollect, to talk and swear about the struggle that began at Peterloo, and which he traced through the mob skirmishes in connection with the agitation for the first Reform Act, the aims of the Free Trade League, the Chartists, and the Plug Drawers. He talked and talked of these affairs of men, and the opposition to them, as he swund the shuttle across his loom, or as he sat in the impoverished kitchen or in the tavern at the corner of the mean street. He was only nineteen years of age when he escaped from the massacre of Peterloo. And who can say how much the working classes owe to men like Joss Wrigley – a poor handloom weaver who from his obscurity passed on their spirit and opinions to coming generations?’

Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book A list of recipients of the Peterloo relief fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them.

Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book
A list of recipients of the Peterloo relief fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them. The books contains a listing for a John Wrigley, but no Joss Wrigley.

Following the Peterloo Massacre a Relief Fund was established, supported by voluntary subscriptions, to provide financial support to those wounded and the families of those who had died. The John Rylands Library holds the Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book (see image) which has now been digitised and is available to view online.

Historians believe that the Peterloo Massacre was massively influential in changing public opinion, and played a pivotal role in winning democratic rights for ordinary people or as Joss Wrigley so eloquently put ‘for reets o’ mon, for liberty to vote, an’ speak, an’ write, an’ be eawrsels – honest, hard-workin’ folk’ (for the rights of man, for liberty to vote, and speak, and write, and be ourselves – honest, hard-working folk).

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Textus Roffensis, Foundations for the Magna Carta



Last year CHICC visited Rochester Cathedral to digitise the Textus Roffensis, a manuscript predating the Magna Carta, containing the Law of Aethelberht of Kent which dates back to 600AD – the only surviving copy of the oldest law in English.

Historian Michael Wood talks about the manuscript on the Rochester Cathedral site here.

The digitised manuscript can be found on the Library’s digital collections here.

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Photo a Day


This Freedom of the City of Manchester scroll presented to Mrs Enriqueta Rylands in October 1899. Mrs Rylands built the John Rylands Library as a gift to the people of Manchester. Thanks Mrs Rylands!

Throughout October The John Rylands Library will be running a Photo a Day campaign to increase the digital reach and exposure of the Library’s collections.

Each day, an image from the Library’s collections will be shared on Twitter and Instagram. The images will range from portraits of Alexandre Dumas to postcards from a Buffalo Bill scrapbook, and where possible, we will be supporting local, national and international festivals and anniversaries (such as Manchester Literature Festival and Gandhi’s birthday).

Please support the campaign by following us on Instagram and Twitter, retweeting images, commenting on Instagram or sharing your own images using the campaign hashtag #jrlphotoaday.

The account is @TheJohnRylands on both Twitter and Instagram.

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Yggdrasill Online

Recently digitsed and now available online are twenty-two manuscript copies of the Ashburne Hall Magazine, Yggdrasill, c.1901-1909. These beautiful magazines are a wonderful snapshot of life in the contemporaneous Hall and are undoubtedly a rich source of research material for scholars of many disciplines.  The post that follows has kindly been supplied by Sheila Griffiths, Honorary Secretary of the Ashburne Association.


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Amongst the documentary archive of Ashburne Hall, University of Manchester, is a unique collection of hand written magazines, giving us a glimpse into the lives of the first students of Hall.

In 1899, a public meeting was held in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in Manchester Town Hall. The aim was to raise funds for the establishment of a Hall of Residence for women. Professor Alexander, philosopher and supporter of higher education for women, had often heard complaints from Head Mistresses that there was a lack of pleasant accommodation for their girls in Manchester; they often advised them to apply to another university.

The public meeting raised £3,000 and Robert Derbyshire, lawyer in the city, generously purchased Ashburne House next to his own in Victoria Park. Other wealthy benefactors opened their attics, to provide furniture for the “Women’s College”. However, fearing that the women would be kept separate because of male opposition, it was decided it should be known as a Hall of Residence. Women were to be included in the university and wherever possible, taught side by side with men.

As late as 1905, the Manchester University Magazine comments that Ashburne House had originally been “only a venture”, but with growing numbers of women students, there was no question as to its viability Manchester was also a centre of the women’s movement, with many eminent professors and C.P.Scott of the Manchester Guardian advocating votes for women.The city was a vibrant focus for politics, science and the arts.

Into this academic hot house came the first dozen Ashburnians, desperate to show that they were both worthy and capable. New education grants for teaching made it possible for girls from modest backgrounds to read for a degree. Ashburne House was no finishing school for rich young ladies: it was for women who had to earn a living.

The hand drawn and painted magazines ceased in 1909, when the hope of the first editor that one day they would be printed was realized. The manuscript editions have great charm and freshness. Here was a lively community of young women ready for the fun of tennis parties, picnics and bicycling expeditions, yet with a deep sense of purpose, an awareness of how much there was to accomplish in the world.

In 1908, preparations were made to move to a larger site, The Oaks in Fallowfield, generously donated by the Behrens family. This became Ashburne Hall, the home now of over six hundred students

Like the Yggdrasill, the Tree of Knowledge, with its branches spreading wide, we now have Ashburnians all over the world, both men and women. Our annual magazine continues with the same name today.

List of Individual Magazines available:

Yggdrasill, Autumn 1901

Yggdrasill, Lent 1902Yggdrasill, Summer 1902Yggdrasill, Christmas 1902

Yggdrasill, Spring 1903Yggdrasill, Summer 1903Yggdrasill, Autumn 1903

Yggdrasill, Lent 1904Yggdrasill, Summer 1904Yggdrasill, Christmas 1904

Yggdrasill, Lent 1905; Yggdrasill, Christmas 1905

Yggdrasill, Lent 1906Yggdrasill, Summer 1906Yggdrasill, Christmas 1906

Yggdrasill, Lent 1907Yggdrasill, Summer 1907a; Yggdrasill, Summer 1907b

Yggdrasill, Lent 1908Yggdrasill, Easter 1908

Yggdrasill, Lent 1909Yggdrasill, c.1909




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Sketches by Wenceslaus Hollar

We are pleased to make available in its entirety, Rylands English MS 883, a book of drawings by the esteemed artist and master etcher Wenceslaus Hollar, 1607-1677.  Born in Prague, Hollar’s craft took him to various parts of Europe and he spent many years in England in the employ of Thomas Howard, the 21st Earl of Arundel.  Hollar was a prolific worker and there are collections of his work in both the British Museum and in the Royal Collection at Windsor.  The University of Toronto also has a significant online collection of prints.

The collection of sketches is fascinating; the pieces are beautifully executed original drawings with the exception of one etching, a portrait of J. Banfi Huniades.  The drawings (which do not appear in any particular order) are of various places in Europe, including London, Prague, Amsterdam and Cologne.  There are some sketches on loose scraps of paper and a good number that have been stuck onto the leaves of the book.  The digital bookreader object of English MS 883 is hosted in our Rylands Collection along with various leaves we already had digitised.

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Spectral Imaging testing at The National Library of Scotland

Combe MS 7382 page 6 in visible light (left) and in UV light (right)

Combe MS 7382 page 6 in visible light (left) and at 365nm UV light with image inverted (right)

On 2nd July the CHICC photographers travelled to Edinburgh for some Multispectral Imaging testing on some George Combe letterbooks at the National Library of Scotland. Francine Millard of the NLS writes:

George Combe (1788-1858) was an Edinburgh lawyer who was among the first converts to phrenology. This was a science which believed that people’s characters could be read from the bumps in their skulls.

The National Library of Scotland holds a remarkable collection of George Combe’s papers from 1804 to 1872. The collection begins with his apprenticeship as a clerk to Writers to the Signet and charts his promotion of phrenology which included co-founding the Edinburgh Phrenological Society in 1820 and the works Elements of Phrenology (1824) and The Constitution of Man (1828). Combe’s outgoing and incoming correspondence document his efforts to spread the causes of phrenology, secular education, and criminal and prison reform.


Combe’s letterbooks contain a large proportion of his replies to his brother, Andrew Combe, who was also a fervent supporter of phrenology, and to those seeking his help and advice both in Britain and America. Combe’s replies were copied by wet letter press copying (or wet-transfer) and some pages in these books have now faded to the point of invisibility.


The National Library of Scotland teamed up with CHICC in July to see if multi-spectral imaging would be able to render Combe’s words visible. These tests would inform the Library on what approach to take to preserve the Combe papers through digitisation.

To find out more, watch this short film of the work in action:

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Digitising Latin MS 113

CHICC recently digitised a beautiful 15th century chronicle roll here at the Rylands.

We decided to make a quick video of us working, showing how we tackle imaging a 20ft parchment roll.

Have a look at the video below, the images can be found on LUNA here.

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Blackburn’s ‘Worthy Citizen’: The Philanthropic Legacy of R.E.Hart

A few weeks ago, CHICC traveled over to the Blackburn Museum to digitise some wonderful manuscripts from the R.E. Hart collection.

The work forms part of a much larger AHRC funded project for an exhibition of parts of the collection at the Senate House Library in London.

Hart 20966, f. 106v, Venetian Book of Hours, c. 1470-80

Hart 20966, f. 106v, Venetian Book of Hours, c. 1470-80

From the project blog:

“On the 1st of May, James Robinson, head photographer of the John Rylands Heritage Imaging group, worked on-site at the Blackburn Museum. The session had been arranged by our team member, Tony Harris, and the specifications for our display needs were agreed between James and Tony. The beauty of the John Rylands expertise, is that all the photography took place at  the Blackburn Museum itself. The manuscripts and incunabulae were therefore spared transportation, and our project was spared that expense. Jamie managed to take sixty photographs over the course of the day, assisted by Vinai Solanki, the curator of the Museum , and myself. The kit which Jamie had with him enabled us to photograph items of great variety in size and shape, from a palm -sized English Book of Hours, to a fold-out fifteenth-century map of Jerusalem that extended to five feet in length. The images will be used on a display screen at the exhibition, to enable the viewers to see more of the manuscripts themselves, and to illustrate our catalogue for the show. Vinai will also use the images to raise the profile of the Hart Collection in the community itself.”

Be sure to follow the blog for progress on the project, and look out for the exhibition opening in November.

Image courtesy of Blackburn Museum

Image courtesy of Blackburn Museum

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CHICC Digitising the Archive of John Henry Cardinal Newman



CHICC are pleased to announce we have begun the digitisation of John Henry Cardinal Newman’s vast archive. The project is a collaboration between ourselves, The National Institute for Newman Studies, in Pittsburgh and Birmingham Oratory where the archive is kept.

A new blog is now live, following the progress of the digitisation project make sure to follow for regular updates!

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Rochester Cathedral’s “Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions” project wins £3.55 million in Heritage Lottery Fund support

The original storage box for the Textus Roffensis

The original storage box for the Textus Roffensis


The project will use the cathedral’s currently inaccessible and nationally significant archives as a catalyst for the development of exhibitions and workshops in the crypt and library.  These architecturally impressive spaces will be sympathetically opened up to allow access for all. The Textus Roffensis, older and considered by some to be a more significant document than the Magna Carta, is currently locked away for safety in the archives of Medway Council.  The project will make the Textus the jewel in the crown of an imaginative and dynamic treasury. For more info click here.

The CHICC team would like to send a huge congratulations to the team at Rochester Cathedral, on what promises to be a very exciting project!

(see below for a selection of image taken by CHICC at Rochester Cathedral – click on the thumbnails to see larger images)

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