St Peter’s Square - History and Facts | History Hit

St Peter’s Square

Manchester, England, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

21 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About St Peter’s Square

St Peter’s Square is a public space in central Manchester with a history at the heart of the British working class movement. The surrounding area was the site of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, and today is home to a number of memorials and transport links around the city.

St Peter’s Square history 

On 16 August 1819, a crowd of 60,000 pro-democracy reformers gathered in St Peter’s Square – then called St Peter’s Fields – to protest the existing system of representation. In 1815, only 11% of adult males had the vote in Great Britain, few of which were in the industrial north where an economic slump was devastating many livelihoods. 

The Manchester Patriotic Union organised the rally in St Peter’s Square, where radical orator Henry Hunt took to the stand in address of the huge crowd of men, women, and children. Troops of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry were ordered to arrest Hunt, charging into the crowd and seizing him, while inflicting widespread panic.

The 15th Hussars were then ordered to ‘disperse’ the panicked crowd, and charged sabres drawn into the throng of civilians. 16 were killed and up to 600 injured in the ensuing violence, which was later dubbed the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in reference to the recent Battle of Waterloo.

St Peter’s Square today 

Today St Peter’s Square is one of Manchester’s main transport hubs following the installation of the tram system in 1992. It is also home to a number of memorials including the Manchester Cenotaph, commemorating the victims of the World Wars. A memorial to Emmeline Pankhurst was also unveiled in 2018, and a commemoration to the Peterloo Massacre victims may also be found nearby.

The square is surrounded by a variety of interesting buildings, notably the Midland Hotel, constructed in 1898 as a companion hotel to St Pancras in London. The Central Library is also situated on the square, whose domed ceiling and tall columns provide a picturesque backdrop to walks through the city.

In keeping with its history of democratic demonstrations, St Peter’s Square today remains the location of many protests in the city, where people gather as they did 200 years ago to make their voices heard.

Getting to St Peter’s Square

St Peter’s Square is located in central Manchester on Princess Street (A34). The Metrolink tram stop St. Peter’s Square goes directly through, while the nearest bus stops are the Art Gallery stop and Arora Hotel stop, a 3-minute walk away. 

Parking is available throughout the city centre, with the closest car park to the square the Q-Park Piazza, a 3-minute walk away. 

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