Peterloo and Dunham Massey

A print depicting the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester.

To mark 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre, we're looking at the connections between Dunham Massey and the events that led to some of the rights we have today.

On the 16th of August 1819 thousands of pro-democracy and anti-poverty protesters gathered in St Peter’s Field in Manchester. A cavalry charge to disperse the crowd left an estimated 18 people dead and nearly 700 injured. The massacre was a turning point in our democracy, leading directly to the founding of the Manchester Guardian newspaper and becoming a catalyst for Chartism and other workers' rights movements.

George Harry Grey, 6th Earl of Stamford & Warrington
George Harry Grey, 6th Earl of Stamford & Warrington
George Harry Grey, 6th Earl of Stamford & Warrington

George Harry Grey, 6th Earl of Stamford & Warrington became the owner of Dunham Massey after his father’s death in 1819, and served as Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire at the time of the massacre. One of the Lord Lieutenant’s most important responsibilities was keeping the peace and good order within the county, by order of the King.

On the day of Peterloo George Harry was not present, but he was within the chain of command that instructed the Cheshire militia to attend the meeting. We know from sources at the time that George Harry believed that those in charge of the protest incited the working classes to believe they had a chance of personal liberty, and in doing so endangered their lives. Whilst he couldn’t have known the extent of the casualties on the day, evidence suggest that he did still support the suppression of this protest.

In 2019 we'll be marking the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre through new artwork inspired by conversations with people about rights and responsibilities, freedoms and the power to create change. Under the artistic direction of Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller, we'll be working with artist family Grace Surman and Gary Winters and their two young children Hope and Merrick on two artworks; one at Dunham Massey and one at Quarry Bank.

The artist family
The artist family of Grace Surman, Gary Winters and their children Hope and Merrick
The artist family
" At Dunham Massey we’re looking at the Grey family’s situation and circumstances in the days around Peterloo. We are using historical research to portray the Grey family, and imagine their discussions and correspondence from their perspective of the tragedy. We’re trying to empathise with both sides of the story. People, especially children, might understand the Peterloo story better through our films. We hope they will convey different, and maybe less obvious, perspectives on Peterloo. "
- Grace Surman, Gary Winters and their children Hope and Merrick

The resulting artwork will be on display at both places as well as being part of Peterloo 2019, a special commemoration project being led by Manchester Histories and the People’s History Museum.

The Peterloo art commision is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and with additional support from Art Fund.