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People’s History Museum Celebrates Radical Manchester

6 August 2018

Rare medal goes on display to commemorate 199th anniversary of Peterloo

People’s History Museum is marking the 199th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre (16 August 1819), one of the nation’s most defining historic events, by putting on display for the first time (Thursday 9 August to Friday 31 August 2018) a rare commemorative medal that it has recently acquired.

This rare Peterloo medal, which was created in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre, is believed to be the only one of its kind uncovered to date.  On 16 August 1819 60,000 people had gathered on what was then known as St Peter’s Field in Manchester seeking the reform of parliamentary representation, however when troops charged the crowd, the peaceful protest was turned into a massacre with 18 people losing their lives.  It is thought that the medal may have been produced to raise funds for the victims of the massacre.

There were a number of commemorative medals produced following the massacre, with a different example already on display in the museum. However, this new acquisition is believed to be an earlier example and features a much more combative and aggressive slogan than its counterparts. The front of the coin depicts a scene with the yeomanry riding into the crowd, with one individual holding up a cap of liberty on a pole.  The inscription on the back reads, “The magistrates and yeomanry of Manchester God confound them”, and round the edge “These things will not endure or be endured”.

The medals were one of many artefacts created after the massacre to commemorate this major historical event. These items included handkerchiefs, jugs and other ceramic items, all of which could be easily mass-produced and examples of these can be seen in the main galleries of the People’s History Museum.  As the national museum of democracy, Peterloo is the starting point of a story that tells of the hard fought quest for representation and equality.

This new acquisition of a Peterloo medal has been acquired thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme that supports museums, libraries and archives to develop their collections through acquisition projects.  The arrival of the medal will coincide with a special event at the People’s History Museum, Radical Manchester: Meet the Activists on Thursday 9 August (6.00pm – 7.30pm) which will also champion the spirit of Peterloo.

The event is part of the museum’s monthly Radical Lates, when the museum stays open until 8.00pm, and will give people the chance to meet activists who champion today’s ideas worth fighting for.  Campaign groups from across Greater Manchester will be there on the night, giving insight into their work and providing useful information about when and where they hold their meetings and protests, as well as the campaigns people can get involved in today.

This event will be presented in partnership with Manchester Histories, who along with the People’s History Museum, is planning a year of events, activities and exhibitions to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre in 2019.  There will be information available for those wanting to get involved to mark this watershed moment in Britain’s struggle for universal suffrage.

Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections at the People’s History Museum, comments, “As we head towards the 200th anniversary of Peterloo and during the centenary year of the first women obtaining the vote, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to reflect upon the themes of protest and democracy which this historical event brings to the fore.  This Peterloo medal is an incredibly exciting and rare addition to our existing Peterloo collection and provides another piece of the jigsaw in the fascinating story of the aftermath of the protest.  It’s definitely a must see for anyone who wants a taste of what’s to come at the People’s History Museum in 2019.”

“Between now and 2019 the People’s History Museum, in partnership with the Working Class Movement Library will build on the strengths of both collections by acquiring material related to the fight for the vote, from the Peterloo protest in 1819 to lowering the voting age in 1969. It is thanks to funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures programme, that the museum can address collecting gaps while ensuring the collection is at the heart of the visitor experience, increasing engagement and community accessibility.”

Currently showing is the People’s History Museum’s exhibition exploring the past, present and future of representation, to mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act (1918) when all men and some women won the right to vote in Britain.  Represent! Voices 100 Years On exhibition is open daily, is Family Friendly and is free to enter.

From January 2019 the museum’s exploration of the legacy of Peterloo will begin with a new display of banners, specially selected to reflect key moments of protest, and in spring the museum’s headline exhibition Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest will open.  This will feature objects from the museum’s unique collection, including original Peterloo artefacts alongside newly acquired pieces including this rare medal.

This Peterloo medal will be on display for the very first time at the People’s History Museum from the evening of Thursday 9 August to Friday 31 August 2018.  The Radical Late Meet the Activists event on Thursday 9 August is free to attend.

People’s History Museum is open seven days a week from 10.00am to 5.00pm, and is free to enter with a suggested donation of £5.  Radical Lates are the second Thursday each month, 10.00am to 8.00pm.  To find out about visiting, its events programme and more, visit


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About the People’s History Museum (PHM)

The People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester is the national museum of democracy, telling the story of its development in Britain: past, present, and future.  The museum provides opportunities for people of all ages to learn about, be inspired by and get involved in ideas worth fighting for; ideas such as equality, social justice, co-operation, and a fair world for all. PHM offers a powerful programme with annual themes; 2018 looks at representation and commemorates 100 years since the first women and all men got the vote, and 2019 will see a year of activities around protest movements to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, 1819. Current winner of Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

The New Peterloo Medal was purchased using the HLF Collecting Cultures Fund. Collecting Cultures supports museums, libraries and archives to develop their collections through strategic acquisition projects.

Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow HLF on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.

About Arts Council England (ACE)

PHM is an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation (NPO).  The work of PHM is supported using public funding by ACE, the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives.  ACE support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.  Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us.  In short, it makes life better.  Between 2018 and 2022, ACE will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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