SD5329 : The Preston Martyrs
taken 16 years ago, near to Preston, Lancashire, England
The Preston Martyrs
This statue commemorates four workers – George Sowerbutts, a 19 year old weaver from Chandler Street employed at Gardner’s Mill, Bernard McNamara, a cotton stripper aged 17 from Birk Street employed at Oxendale’s mill, William Lancaster aged 25 and John Mercer aged 27, a handloom weaver from Ribbleton Lane – who on 13th August 1842, at this end of Lune Street, in the presence of the Chief Constable and the Mayor, were shot by troops of the 72nd Highlanders. All four young workers died between one and six days after the shooting – death from gunshot wounds in those days was seldom instant.
As one of the leading centres of the industrial revolution, Preston was also a centre of class conflict – vividly portrayed in Dickens’ Hard Times, published in 1854. The late 1830s and early 1840s were a period of intense industrial and political struggle, which came to a head in a combination of factory strikes and Chartist agitation for Parliamentary reform that swept the country following the rejection of the People’s Charter by the House of Commons in 1842. In Preston this took the form of a head-on collision between strikers and the authorities on 12th and 13th August, of which the shootings were the awful culmination. Whether planned or not, the four deaths had the desired effect in quelling the agitation.
Source: J. S. Leigh, Preston Cotton Martyrs – the millworkers who shocked a nation (Palatine Books 2007).
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