Drilling Practice

Extract from notes written for the trial of Henry Hunt, 22 November 1819. The authorities considered that an insurrection was planned based on view that drilling had taken place beforehand.

(Catalogue reference TS 11/1056 f43)



These Revolutionary indications as well as the denunciations of vengeance not only from the press but by anonymous communications produced their intended effect, a corresponding degree of intimidation among the well disposed –

A new feature in the case, was the establishment of Female Union Societies, and schools for the Instruction of Adults, as well as Children in the Principles and Doctrine of Sedition and Infidelity –

Whilst many of the Leaders of the disaffected were thus engaged in poisoning the minds of the Lower classes, others were no less diligent in teaching large bodies the Principles of Military Movements –

These formidable preparations long and extensively pursued in the most populous Districts giving confidence to the disaffected, could not fail exceedingly to increase the danger of every succeeding display of Physical Force.

In this state of affairs a General Meeting was advertised to be held at Manchester on the 9th August for the purpose “of taking into consideration, the most speedy and effectual mode of obtaining Radical Reform in the Commons,


House of Parliament, being fully convinced that nothing less can remove the intolerable evils under which the People of the Country have so long and do so still groan; and also be considered the prosperity of the unrepresented Inhabitants of Manchester Meeting a person to represent them in Parliament, and adopting Major Cartwright’s Bill.”

The Magistrates deeming such a meeting illegal, issued a Notice to prevent it, No meeting therefore took place on that day, but another was appointed for the 16th August, which though called by a different form of Advertisement, was recognised by Mr. Hunt in his letter of the 11th August and in his address from the Hustings on the 16th of August as a postponement of the former –

The interval between the 9th and 16th of August was occupied by increased activity in drilling, and arrangements for securing a full attendance of the organised bodies at the Meeting of the 16th, which he parties themselves in their favourite paper described as likely to be a tremendous meeting –

A principal place for Military Training was a piece of ground near Middleton called White Moss. To this place two respectable constables of Manchester repaired early in the


morning of Sunday the 15th August for the purpose of making observations. – They found considerable numbers assembled, but being immediately recognised as Constables they were assailed, severely wounded, and one of them after having been compelled to abjure his allegiance was left in almost a lifeless state. –

During the whole of Sunday the 15th of August the Magistrates and Municipal Officers of Manchester (as well as many of the principal Inhabitants who lent their assistance to the Civil powers were in constant attendance and consultation as to the measures to be adopted, and every report from all parts of the country confirming them in the apprehension that the meeting of the 16th would be a most imposing and formidable description, the Borough reeve and constables issued cautionary notices to prevent the attendance of women and Children. Arrangements were also made to the civil and military powers to be in readiness early in the morning of 16th.


The warrant was delivered to one of the constables of the Town, when he, as well as Mr Nadin the Deputy Constable, represented the impossibility of its being executed without Military assistance-The Military therefore, (who were placed at convenient stations in the neighbourhood of the Meeting were ordered to advance to the Ground in the aid of the civil power. A part of the Manchester Yeomanry about 60 in number first arrived on the Ground, and as they were forming before the House where the Magistrates were assembled, they were


received by the direction of Hunt with shouts of insult and defiance from the People, who at the same time waved their Hats and brandished their sticks- This was returned by the Yeomanry and Constables giving a general huzzar –

The Boroughreeve and Constables having, on the receipt of the Warrant, placed themselves on the left of the column of Yeomanry, proceeded along the line of Special Constables towards the Hustings, the Special Constables following and closing in with them in their advance– When they had arrived within about 15 yards off the Hustings, Mr. Nadin called out to the Yeomanry to surround the Hustings—The Yeomanry in extending themselves for this purpose unavoidably occasioned considerable pressure on both sides, and there appeared great difficulty in approaching the Hustings from the compact body linked together by which they were surrounded—This occasioned delay in the progress of the Constables and Yeomanry, at which period they were assailed with sticks, stones, and Brick-bats, in consequence of which considerable confusion took place in surrounding the Hustings, and in apprehending the Prisoners — [Henry Hunt and three others who accompanied him]

The other Military now arrived upon the Ground and under the impression that the Constables and Yeomanry were overpowered they were directed …to disperse the meeting, and the general dispersion of the meeting, with as much moderation and forbearance as could possibly be exercised, was the consequence –

Return to Protest and democracy 1818 to 1820, part 2