From Peterloo to the Pankhursts: A Radical Politics Trail

By Richard Moss | Updated: 05 October 2011
shows a lithograph of the Peterloo Massacre

The Peterloo Massacre is one of the most notorious events in Manchester's history. Picture courtesy People's History Museum.

From the Peterloo Massacre onwards Manchester has been a hotbed of political activism and reform. It’s a tradition that spans the earliest days of Luddism and the radical press through to the Chartists, the Anti-Corn Law League, Marx and Engels and the Women’s Suffrage movement.

A procession of reformers, activists and political movements had their genesis in Manchester and made an impact on the city, the UK and the wider world.

shows a photograph of a building with a banner hung on its outside - photographed from below.

The People's History Museum is a good starting point when exploring Manchester's radical tradition.

Developed in conjunction with the People’s History Museum, and utilising the extensive photographic collection of the Manchester Archives and Local Studies Collection held at the Central Library, the 24 Hour Museum’s trail starts by looking at the city’s role in the radical tradition of dissent that exploded across Britain in the wake of the French Revolution.

shows a colour photograph of a large circular buidling with classical pillars to the front of it and a large expanse of pavement in front.

The Central Library, abutting the southern end of what was St Peter's Fields, holds an important collection of historical images and documents relating to Manchester and its radical tradition. © Manchester Libraries.

The story of the Peterloo Massacre is then explored through the locations, the plaques and the collections that throw light on one of the darkest days in British political history.

The trail then moves on to explore the activities of the Anti-Corn Law League and the Chartists, before looking at the influence of Engels and Marx and the Pankhursts' pivotal role in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. You will learn how these people affected the political life of the city and how and where to discover the traces they left behind.

shows a blue mug commemorating the Peterloo Massacre.

A 'Peterloo pot' - one of the items held by the People's History Museum. © People's History Museum.

Featuring the collections of the People’s History Museum, The Pankhurst Centre, the collections of the Museum of the Manchesters, the Working Class Movement Library and Chetham’s Public Libraries, the Manchester Radical Politics Trail builds a fascinating picture of a city and its radical tradition.

St. Peter's Fields and the roots of radicalism

shows a porcelain jug with 'No Corn Bill' and 'Universal Suffrage' written upon it.

'No Corn Bill...Universal Suffrage' Porcelain such as this was just one means of keeping the radical tradition alive in Manchester. Picture courtesy Images Manchester © Manchester City Gallery

From the late eighteenth into the early nineteenth century, social unrest was endemic in many of England’s great industrial cities.

In Manchester during this time the cotton industry was booming and a growing underclass of poor textile workers meant that class divisions and social unrest became common.

As early as the 1790s there is evidence of secret committees being formed in many of the Lancashire towns to petition for a minimum wage and in 1812 there was a food riot at the Manchester Exchange and sporadic outbreaks of machine breaking by Luddites.

By 1815 and despite the defeat of French forces at Waterloo, war with Napoleonic France had brought economic disaster, depression, and mass unemployment.

A key factor in this urban misery was the Corn Law of 1815, which exacerbated the conditions of the urban poor by excluding competition from foreign grain. This had the effect of driving up the price of bread.

Groups of radicals and reformers emerged in the city to give vent to these frustrations, which were intensified by a lack of parliamentary representation and political rights.

Shows an old photograph of an urban street in the Victorian period.

Great Ancoats Street. James Wroe had a bookshop and printers here from which he distributed radical pamphlets and newspapers. Picture courtesy Images Manchester © Manchester Libaries

A notorious figure at this time was Joseph Nadin. A former weaver turned thief-catcher, the much-hated Nadin was made Deputy Chief Constable of Manchester in 1803 and was involved in the suppression of radicals in the area. In 1803 he arrested 38 weavers for political offences.

One man to suffer from his attentions was Joseph Wroe, editor of the Manchester Observer between June 1819 and February 1820. Wroe had a bookshop and printers on Great Ancoats Street and was prosecuted on many occasions for selling the radical press and other pamphlets.

Despite the attentions of the authorities and the proliferation of Nadin’s spies and informants, the speeches and ideas of popular radicals Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt and Major Cartwright (both of whom espoused the joining of middle class intellectuals with workers' groups) inspired local initiatives such as the Patriotic Union Society and the radical newspaper, The Manchester Observer.

The latter first began operating under the auspices of Wroe and his colleagues John Knight and John Saxton in 1818.

As the cotton industry expanded, working class radicalism in the cotton towns of Lancashire became fervent and Manchester was the natural rallying point.

shows a frayed old poster, with lots of writing on it.

A poster in the collection of the People's History Museum shows how cotton workers mobilised themselves in Manchester in the early nineteenth century. © People's History Museum.

St Peter’s Fields near the city centre became the focus for protest and discontent and in March 1817 it was the rallying point for the March of the Blanketeers.

The brainchild of three Manchester radicals, John Johnson, John Bagguley and Samuel Drummond, the proposed march to London, by men pointedly carrying blankets, was designed to draw attention to the plight of unemployed textile workers and drew support from mill workers throughout the region.

10,000 people are said to have attended the meeting on March 10 at St Peter’s Fields, but as speakers began to address the crowd the King's Dragoon Guards were sent in by the nervous local Magistrates to arrest the leaders and disperse the meeting. 29 men, including John Bagguley and Samuel Drummond, were taken into custody.

Despite this setback some ‘Blanketeers’ started out for London. One group was attacked not far from the city centre whilst at Stockport several marchers received sabre wounds and one man was shot dead.

shows a 3-d representation of a woman in early nineteenth century dress. She is surrounded by banners and other items from the period.

The People's History Museum features banners and other items from the pre-Reform Bill period in Manchester. Picture © People's History Museum

After these bloody events the Manchester Magistrates decided to raise their own military force for use during social unrest and, as a grim portent of events two years later, they decided to form the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry Cavalry.

The following year another reform meeting took place on March 9 at St Peter's Fields and on September 9 cotton workers and miners assembled to demand more pay, which resulted in a factory being attacked and one man killed.

These events led to a heightened state of mistrust and an ever widening gulf between the magistrates, who effectively governed the city, and the seething mass of workers who toiled there.

It was this schism, together with the fear of revolt that proliferated in England in the wake of the French Revolution that led to one of the most notorious and tragic events of the early industrial period...

The Peterloo Massacre

shows a black and white lithograph of a large crowd in an open area surrounded by houses. A group of cavalry can be seen ploughing into the crowd with sabres raised.

A view of St Peter's Fields at the time of 'Peterloo.' In the months and years after the massacre, lithographs and illustrations proliferated - expecially in the radical press. © People's History Museum.

The next time you approach the top of Oxford Road and head down towards Deansgate via Peter Street, take time to stop and reflect on one of the most notorious events in the city’s history.

On August 16, 1819 a large crowd, marching in formation and carrying banners assembled in the area around St Peter’s Fields. They had come to hear one of the greatest orators of the day, Henry Hunt, address them on parliamentary reform. The rally was the brainchild of the newly formed radical reform movement the Patriotic Union Society.

The march of time and the continued growth of the city during the nineteenth century smothered the open area of St Peter’s Fields a long time ago, but most of the street names remain. Today, as buildings change their function and new developments are launched, these names allow us to piece together the events of August 16, 1819.

shows a period drawing of a man in frock coat holding a top hat

Henry 'Orator' Hunt. © Manchester Libraries

Peter Street runs straight through the centre of what was St Peter’s Fields. If you stop outside the former Free Trade Hall you are directly in the centre of things.

Here on August 16, 1819 a crowd of people variously estimated between 50,000 and 100,000 swarmed across the whole area.

There were bands and a series of embroidered banners carried by friendly societies and fledgling unions that came from all over Lancashire. Amongst the crowd were many women and children.

shows a plaque commemorating the Peterloo Massacre

A plaque on the side of the former Free Trade Hall commemorates the Peterloo Massacre. Picture © 24 Hour Museum

Many of the banners proclaimed workers' rights, suffrage and political representation. Hunt and his fellow speakers, together with leading radicals and journalists, assembled on the hustings which were situated near Windmill Street.

If you can imagine an Old Trafford-sized crowd milling on either side of the road and a huge expanse of fields where the hotel now stands, abutted by merchants' houses lining Windmill Street you will begin to piece together the events of 1819.

In the adjoining streets, notably Bootle Street, Jackson’s Row and Windmill Street, hundreds of dragoons, militia and special constables began to assemble.

The Manchester Magistrates nervously watched the whole scene from a house in Mount Street, two streets to the south of the Free Trade Hall and owned by a Mr Buxton. Shortly after midday, as the largely peaceful crowd began to swell, the local magistrate Rev. Charles Ethelston ‘read the riot act’ from Buxton’s Window.

shows a black and white photograph of an empty cobbled street with large buidlings on either side. In the distance can be seen a large tower.

Mount Street, which runs along the southern end of what was St Peter's Fields, was the location for a house in which the Mnachester Magistrates observed and orchestrated proceedings on August 16, 1819. © Manchester Libraries

Before the men on the hustings had a chance to address the large crowd the magistrates ordered the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry and the assembled Hussars to disperse the crowd and arrest the speakers.

In the ensuing chaos, 11 people including two women were killed and some 500 injured – some were trampled by the crowd and the horses but an alarming number suffered blows from the sabres of the Yeomanry.

Following the massacre the government reacted quickly to quell any further disturbances by passing the Six Acts to ensure further reform meetings didn’t occur.

But popular opinion informed by press reports, pamphleteering and even the poetry of Percy Bysche Shelley made sure that the Peterloo Massacre - as it was ironically dubbed, continued to captivate the popular imagination.

shows a porcelain jug with a drawing of a militia man on horseback trampling over a woman who is carrying a placard with 'Liberty or Death' written upon it.

Porcelain commemorating the Peterloo Massacre proliferated throughout the Victorian period. © Manchester Art Gallery.

The arrest and subsequent prosecution of Hunt and his colleagues did little to quell Manchester’s appetite for reform. There was a lull in activity in the early 1820s, although men like James Wroe (who was imprisoned just weeks after Peterloo for seditious publication) kept the memory of Peterloo alive in people’s minds.

As well as the Manchester Observer a succession of popular ballads, pamphlets, posters and commemorative porcelain commemorating the event proliferated.

You can see examples of these pamphlets at the People’s History Museum, Manchester Archives and Local Studies and the Manchester City Gallery, which has some period examples of Peterloo porcelain as well as some contemporary illustrations.

shows a group of elderly people sat outside a cottage. They are dressed in Victorian working class clothes. They are all wearing hats with small pieces of paper in them. There are also Reform posters on placards behind them.

This remarkable photograph shows veterans of the Peterloo Massacre. It was taken in in 1884 by John Birch and can be accessed on the Manchester Libraries website Images Manchester © Manchester Libraries.

Before long the radical tradition was again burning bright in the city; when the Liverpool to Manchester Railway opened on September 15 1830, Manchester weavers threw stones at the Duke of Wellington’s carriage as it drew into the Manchester Terminus on Water Street because of his military association with the Peterloo Massacre and his opposition to the Reform Bill.

According to historian Asa Briggs, by the time of the Reform Bill of 1832, “Manchester enhanced its national reputation as a centre of social disturbances, even as a possible cradle of revolution.”

The Anti-Corn Law League

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Richard Cobden - a leading light of the Anti-Corn Law League is commemorated with a a plaque at his former residence, which later became Owen's College (the forerunner of Manchester University) and eventually a court of law. © Manchester Libraries.

Archibald Prentice, a liberal journalist and publisher of the Manchester Times, had voiced concerns about the wisdom of a large gathering in the city centre and had observed the meeting at St Peter’s Fields from the window of a friend’s house on Mosley Street.

It was his subsequent report of events, sent into London by night coach and published 48 hours later, that helped make the Peterloo Massacre a national story and in Manchester his newspaper continued to carry the torch of radicalism and dissent in the city.

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Richard Cobden's statue still resides in St Ann's Square in Manchester. © Manchester Libraries.

By 1838 he joined with Richard Cobden to form a branch of the Anti-Corn Law Association to oppose the Corn Law of 1815. By the following year the popular radical politician and orator John Bright had joined the organization and the focus of the national movement shifted to Manchester under the new banner of the Anti-Corn Law League.

The Anti-Corn Law League was a distinctly middle class radical movement - many of it's proponents were members of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Free trade ideas were strong in the city because of the cotton industry's reliance on imports and exports and the 1820s had seen the growth of the 'Manchester School' (Cobden and colleagues) of free traders.

shows a statue of a Victorian man in a frock coat. It is stood in an alcove in the interior of a building

Anti-Corn Law League member John Bright has two statues in Manchester, this one resides in the hallway of Manchester Town Hall. © Manchester Libraries.

There had been popular agitations against the Corn Laws, including a radical meeting in Manchester as early as January 1819. Again this took place at the city's epicentre of protest and discontent, St Peter’s Fields, shortly before ‘Peterloo’.

But it was Cobden who became a key figure in the history of Manchester and its struggle against the Corn Law. As well as being the national leader of the Anti-Corn Law League, the electoral changes ushered in by the 1832 Reform Bill allowed him to stand as MP for Stockport and later Rochdale.

shows an ornate statue of a man on a large plinth. Two children in Victorian garb are stood at the base.

Such is the importance of the repeal of the Corn Laws in Manchester that the man who eventually repealed them, Tory leader Robert Peel, has a statue in Manchester. © Manchester Libraries.

Today his statue can be seen in St Ann’s Square. His colleague and fellow League campaigner John Bright resides in Albert Square as well as in the halls of Manchester Town Hall. The man who eventually repealed the Corn Laws in 1846, Tory prime minister Robert Peel, has a statue in Piccadilly Gardens.

Early meetings of the Anti Corn Law League took place at the York Hotel on King Street with local mill owner George Wilson as the chairman. Now occupied by a bank, a blue plaque attached to the front of the building commemorates the meeting.

shows an old photograph of a street with buildings on either side. Men in late Victorian clothing appear to be stood on either side of the street.

The site of the first meeting of the Anti-Corn Law League can be seen at the York Hotel (the dark doorway with a man stood in front on the right of the picture). © Manchester Libraries.

Richard Cobden also has a blue plaque on the walls of the County Court on Quay Street where he lived in its former incarnation as a Georgian townhouse.

Historians now regard the League as one of the biggest and best organised political pressure groups of the era and as its popularity grew, no public hall in Manchester was big enough for their meetings.

shows a period drawing of a large hall with a classical frontage

The Free Trade Hall, built on the site of the Peterloo Massacre at St Peter's Fields epitomised the success of the Anti-Corn Law League in Manchester. © Manchester Libraries.

In January 1840 a temporary wooden building was built (reportedly by a hundred men in a hundred days) at St Peter’s Fields on the site of the Peterloo Massacre. In 1843 this first Free Trade Hall was replaced by a permanent brick structure that could hold up to eight thousand people.

The Free Trade Hall was again rebuilt in 1856 before succumbing to enemy bombing in 1940. Again it was repaired before recently being sold to a hotel chain for refurbishment into a five-star hotel.

Find out more about radicalism in the Northwest and in particular how it spread to towns like Rochdale at the Rochdale Libraries website Rochdale UK Living. This local studies virtual library features a fascinating selection of documents that covers everything from the March of the Blanketeers, the Peterloo and Massacre and Chartist activity in the area.

The Chartists

shows a printed manuscript with people's charter written across the top of it.

Chartism was an English working class radical movement centered on a 'People's Charter' (1837) of six points: annual parliaments; votes for all males over 21; secret ballots; no property qualification; equal constituencies and the payment of MPs. © People's History Museum.

Running parallel to the need for economic reform was the growing support for parliamentary reform. The Chartist Movement, begun in London, but taken up eagerly in Manchester and outlying districts, gave voice to these needs and became a growing force in the early nineteenth century.

Chartists wanted universal suffrage for all men, secret ballots and annual elections as laid out in their ‘People’s Charter’. As the century wore on, the pressure for political reform grew and once again Manchester and the numerous spinning and weaving towns surrounding it were at the vanguard of the movement.

A Chartist meeting was held at Kersal Moor in September 1838 and, despite the lingering spectre of the Peterloo Massacre, a second took place at the same site in May 1839.

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Great Ancoats Street with the Chartist's boozer, The Griffin Inn, handily marked by the arrow. © Manchester Libraries.

In the city there are records of another meeting in July 1840 at the Griffin Inn, which was located on Great Ancoats Street (not far from the bookshop of James Wroe who supported the Chartists in the 1840s), whilst six other meetings were held throughout Lancashire in 1841.

In August 1842, following the rejection by Parliament of the second Charter petition, another conference took place in Manchester and series of strikes protesting at wage cuts imposed by the factory owners broke out in Ashton before spreading across the city.

A key Manchester Chartist of this period was the lawyer Ernest Jones. In 1846 he converted to Chartism and promptly abandoned law for politics. Jones is credited as being one of the first Chartists to be influenced by the works of Karl Marx and he enjoyed a career as a Chartist politician, journalist, novelist and poet.

shows a Victorian studio portrait of a balding man sat in a chair

Novelist, radical and lawyer, Ernest Jones was a key Chartist and colleague of Fergus O'Connor and Karl Marx. He was sentenced to two years in prison in 1848 for delivering a seditious speech at Clerkenwell Green in London. © Manchester Libraries.

Jones was also a compatriot of the fiery radical Fergus O’Connor, but after a spell in prison as a result of his Chartist activities, he returned to law and opened a practice at Bow Chambers on Cross Street.

Today a commemorative plaque marks the site at 55 Cross Street, which is on the right hand side of the street as you walk from Albert Square.

Jones did however remain active in the campaign for universal suffrage and kept in contact with Marx, with whom he shared the revolutionary principle of drawing the broad mass of workers into the campaign for democratic reform. When he died in 1869 his funeral at Ardwick Cemetery became the scene of what was described as the 'last great Chartist rally.'

Other local men heavily involved in Chartism included William Chadwick and Abel Heywood who sat on the Executive Committee of the National Charter Association prior to its move to London in 1842. Heywood later became a councillor, alderman and was twice elected mayor of the city.

Peter Murray McDougall was a doctor who gave up his profession to champion the Chartist cause whilst Reginald Richardson, an extraordinary self taught carpenter who ran a bookshop in Chapel Street, Salford, was imprisoned for his radical views on several occasions. His 'career' encompassed Luddism, Chartism, Women's Rights (he wrote a pamphlet whilst in prison) and Trade Unionism.

You can find out more about these men and others like them on the Manchester based Working Class Movement Website.

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Fergus O'Connor was one of the most popular and formidable Chartist orators of the day. © People's History Museum

The political climate and in particular the popularity of Chartism continued to arouse the suspicions of the local magistrates and the post-Peterloo period saw the stationing of soldiers and yeomanry in key locations throughout northern England.

Again Manchester, with its ever expanding network of factories and slums was seen as a centre for potential revolt. “What a place! The entrance to hell realised!” said General Napier of the city in 1839. Napier was the man charged with commanding the troops in the north of England in case of domestic disturbance.

After an initial period in Ashton Town Hall the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry were stationed for a time at the Ladysmith Barracks at Ashton under Lyne, which was built in the 1840s in response to the growing unrest. Similar barracks were established in the potential Chartist hotspots of Bury and Preston.

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In its early years the Ladysmith Barracks at Ashton Under Lyne played a key role in the deployment of government troops in case of popular disturbances. Picture courtesy Tameside Local Studies collection.

The barracks in Ashton later became home to the Manchester Regiment. Their history can be explored at the Museum of the Manchesters in the city centre.

Today little is left of the barracks in Ashton save for the archway entrance, which has been preserved. It is illuminated at night together with an interpretation board.

Marx and Engels

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The social conditions of the poor in areas such as Ancoats (pictured here in 1899). © Manchester Libraries.

As the city of Manchester moved into the Victorian period it grew at an astonishing rate. In the early 1780s the population stood at around 40,000, by 1831 it had rocketed to 142,000.

With the population explosion came the attendant social problems of overcrowding, poor sanitation and ill health. Areas like Ancoats and Little Ireland became notorious for their squalid living conditions and soon they were the focus for writers and reformers exploring the conditions of workers.

Friedrich Engels, the son of a German industrialist, came to Manchester in the early 1840s to help manage his father’s cotton factory. He was immediately shocked by the harsh working conditions and poverty in the city and began writing an account, The Condition of the Working Classes in England, which was published in 1844.

shows a plaque on a wall of a warehouse building. It details the area of 'Little Ireland'

The area of Little Ireland can still be visited today - although the area is currenlty under redevelopment. Photo M. Luft © Manchester Libraries.

One of the areas that Engels focused on, Little Ireland, so called because of the number of Irish immigrants living there, was located to the south of the city centre, west of Oxford Road. If you visit it today you will find an area under redevelopment but you can still discern the subterranean dwellings where many Irish families lived in squalor.

The area was first cited in The Moral and Physical Conditions of the Working Classes employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester – a book by local physician and reformer James Kay that preceded Engels’ work by twelve years. Manchester-born Edwin Chadwick also picked up on these issues his 1842 report The Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population.

However for Engels, the graphic depiction of the slum areas of the city served as a backdrop for what he saw as the ‘mathematical certainty’ of proletarian revolution as espoused by himself and his colleague and political thinker in exile, Karl Marx.

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Subterranean dwellings where Irish immigrant families lived can still be discerned in the area formerly known as Little Ireland. Photo M. Luft. © Manchester Libraries.

The two first met in 1844 after Engels had been contributing to Marx’s journal, The Franco-German Annals. During this time Marx was constantly on the move in Europe (moving from country to country becuase of exile orders) and Engels used some of the royalties from his book to support Marx and his family.

As Engels and Marx became closer, they began to work together on their ideas and in July 1845 Engels brought Marx to Manchester. During their six weeks based in the city the two would repair to Chetham’s Public Library – a stone’s throw from Engel’s company office.

shows a colour photograph of an old large library building, built of brick

Chetham's Library was founded in 1653 and is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. It is still free and open to the public today. © Chetham's Library.

The office of Ermen and Engels was at 7 Southgate, behind what is now Kendal’s Department Store on Deansgate. The store now occupies the whole block that is bounded by Deansgate and Southgate on the eastern and western aspects and by St. Mary’s Street and King Street on the northern and southern aspects.

In this area was also the Golden Lion Public House, a key watering hole for radicals of the period and purportedly a favourite of Engels. Perhaps it isn’t too fanciful to imagine the two discussing revolutionary politics over a beer?

What is known is that the two frequently used Chetham’s Public Library, during Marx’s six-month stay with Engels in Manchester during the summer of 1845.

shows an alcove with a table in a wooden-floored room. The windows are small and leaded.

Seat of revolution - the alcove where Marx and Engels worked in the reading room of Chetham's Library can still be visited today. © Chetham's Library.

Chetham’s Public Library is the first public library to be established in Britain and is still open to the public although if making a special journey it is best to check with the library for details of access. The alcove in a reading room on the first floor where Marx and Engels worked is known by staff and can be visited – if you ask nicely.

Engels rented and lived in many houses during his stay in Manchester including a modest residence at 51 Richmond Grove, Chorlton on Medlock and the former Commercial Hotel at 63 – 65 Cecil Street, Moss Side.

At one time his revolutionary beliefs forced him to take residence at 252 Hyde Road with his partner Mary Burry under the assumed names of Frederick and Mary Boardman.

shows a black and white photograph of a modest end terraced house.

Thorncliffe Grove - one of the more modest Manchester residences of Friedrich Engels. Picture courtesy Images Manchester © Manchester Libraries.

You can view photographs of these and other residences of Friedrich Engels by accessing the Images Manchester website and by entering the search word Engels.

The Pankhursts and Women’s Suffrage

shows a photograph of a group of Suffragette Women stood in front of a banner

Emmeline Pankhurst (front left) was the leading light of the Women's Suffrage movement. Picture courtesy Images Manchester © Manchester Libraries

Pankhurst is a name that will always be linked with the women’s suffrage movement and the leading light of it, Emmeline Pankhurst, was born in Manchester in 1858.

Emmeline was born into a prosperous middle class family, her father, Robert Goulden, was a businessman who had been active in the campaigns against slavery and the Corn Laws. But it was her mother, Sophia Crane, who introduced her to the world of feminist politics by taking her to women’s suffrage meetings in the city in the early 1870s.

After a period at a finishing school in France, Emmeline returned to Manchester and soon met the lawyer Richard Pankhurst. Although several years her senior the two were attracted to each other and married soon after - one of the most famous political dynasties was born.

shows a photograph of a piano in a drawing room.

The Pankhurst Centre includes the old family piano - donated by Ruth Frow of the Library of the Working Class Movement. © The Pankhurst Centre.

The Pankhursts had four children, two of whom, Christabel and Sylvia, became active in the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Following Richard Pankhurst's death in 1898 Emmeline became a Poor Law Guardian at the Manchester Poor House at Sprinningfield, Deansgate. According to her own autobiography, the treatment of women here really crystallised her views on female emancipation.

You can explore the story of the Pankhursts at the family home, now a museum and study centre, situated at Nelson Street, which is a short walk from the city centre.

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Christabel Pankhurst. Picture courtesy Images Manchester © Manchester Libraries.

It was at the house on Nelson Street on October 10, 1903 that Emmeline Pankhurst and a small group of like-minded women started the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

In 1905 the WSPU hit the headlines when Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney caused a deliberate disturbance in Manchester. Arrested for technical assault after spitting at a policeman they refused to pay the five shilling fine and were sent to prison.

This action began a systematic campaign of civil disobedience and the Pankhursts together with their fellow suffragettes became national figures and a focus of support for the camapaign for women's suffrage.

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The Pankhurst Centre includes a recreation of the family drawing room. © Pankhurst Centre.

You can follow the story of the Pankhursts and the Suffragette Movement at the Pankhurst Centre - the accompanying website explains the history of the movement and how the centre continues to support Women's groups.

As well as displaying the work and struggle of women suffragettes, you can also get a flavour of the day-to-day life in the Pankhursts' parlour, which has been recreated to its Edwardian state. The centre is also carrying on a tradition as it is used as a meeting and resource centre for women’s groups and there is a crèche facility.

Because of the Pankhursts, Manchester became hotbed of women’s rights up until the First World War and beyond, but not all of it revolved around the Pankhurst household.

shows a photograph of an elderly Edwardian lady wearing a veiled hat and holding a placard which says 'Votes for Women'.

Hannah Mitchell was a lifelong campaigner for Votes for Women. Picture courtesy Images Manchester © Manchester Libraries.

Hannah Mitchell joined the local Manchester branch of WSPU in 1904 and by 1905 she became a full-time worker for them. But like some of her colleagues she became dissatisfied with the way decisions were taken by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and in 1907 she joined a breakaway organization called The Women's Freedom League.

A pacifist who refused to support the WSPU recruiting campaign in 1914, Mitchell joined the Independent Labour Party and continued to oppose the war through the No-Conscription Fellowship and the Women's Peace Council.

In 1924 she was elected to the Manchester City Council and remained an important political figure in Manchester until she retired. You can read about her life in her autobiography, The Hard Way Up and a plaque commemorates her at her former residence, 18 Ingham Street, Newton Heath.

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