The Massacre of Peterloo, Manchester, 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819

SAMUEL COLLINS - The Bard of Hale Moss
1802 - 1878

Samuel collins - the Bard of Hale Moss

It's difficult for most of us to claim, with any certainty that we have an ancestor, in our family tree, that was at Peterloo on that beautiful, sunny August day, the 16th, in 1819; the date that went down in history as a massacre; a shameful deed in Manchester's history.

However, there is one lady, Jennifer Tonge, who knows for sure that her 2x gt-grandfather was there and she, with her husband, has kindly helped me to put together the story, which starts off, for us, with her 3x gt. Grandparents.

On 2nd September, 1783, James Collins, a weaver, living in the Parish, married Sarah Marlor in St. Mary's Church, Oldham. Over the following years, at least 7 children, Joseph (1784), Sarah (1787), James (1790), Mary (1792), John (1796), Alice (1799) and Samuel (1802), were born to James and Sarah, and were baptised at St. Margaret of Antioch, in Hollinwood. At the time that the first four children were baptised, the family were living in Hollinwood. When Alice and Samuel were born they were living at Simister Fold. Samuel, their last-born child, is Jennifer's 2x gt. Grandfather.

'The Wild Floweret' - A book of poems by Samuel Collins
Title page of :
'The Wild Floweret'
A book of poems
by Samuel Collins
List of Samuel's and Rachel's chilldren
Names and dates of birth
of the children of Samuel &
Rachel - on the inside cover
of 'Poems and Songs'
by Samuel Collins

Poems and Songs'  by Samuel Collins
Title page of :
'Poems and Songs'
by Samuel Collins
Read some of his poems:

Samuel was born on the 1st December, 1802 and baptised on the 5th. We know more of Samuel's life because Jennifer provided me with a copy of two books of poems, written by him, called 'The Wild Floweret' (published in 1875) and 'Poems & Songs' which, very conveniently for us, have some biographical notes by B.B. from which (although informative, sound rather patronising, to a 21st century ear) I have extracted the following ...

"... The author was born on the 1st of December, 1802. His parents were then living in an antiquated cottage situated in Drury Lane, Hollinwood, near the turnpike road leading from Manchester to Oldham.
Samuel was the youngest of a numerous family of the Collins', seven of whom have lived to be fathers and mothers. None survive only the worthy subject of this notice.

The grandfather, Joseph Collins, was, I have been informed, the first individual who officiated as clerk at St. Margaret's Church, Hollinwood; commencing his duties about the year 1765, His son, James Collins, an honest, frugal and industrious handloom weaver, married a Miss Sarah Marlor, daughter of James Marlor, of Hollinwood, of whom our poet was born.

It can readily be imagined from subsequent characteristics, that Samuel Collins was one of those beings whom our grandmothers were apt to distinguish by the term 'old-fashined children,' as he had no sooner got out of his 'dadins,' than manifestations of an artistic bent began to show themselves. Drawing chalk figures on the house flags, cutting models in newspaper, were his first essays in a pursuit which, whatever might have been his early attachment, seems to have been abandoned in after years. It was not, however, until he had obtained those objects dear to aspiring children - a box of paints and a veritable camel's hair pencil - that that art found itself deserted by our youthful votary; as, from what I can learn, it appears that through his manner of handling the pencil during the production of farm-yards, hare and hounds, race-horses, etc., he acquired a habit that seriously interfered with his progress in the art of penmanship. Oftentimes might he have been seen squatting by the side of his mother, who instructed him in her homely manner whilst she plied the bobbin-wheel. How much of poetry may have been drunk in at this period.

When about 5 years of age, he was sent to school, the old one, near the Reservoir, then taught by Mr. Thomas Taylor, father of Mr. Edmund Taylor, the late schoolmaster. His stay with Mr. Taylor was but a short one, as he had not an opportunity of acquiring even a superficial knowledge of arithmetic until some years afterwards, during his attendance at night-school.

Like a good many of his brethren, who have been condemned to hopeless ignorance through the misfortune of being poor, Collins, when very young, was put to work. He became a bobbin-winder to those in advance of him. The younger branches of a weaver's family know how to appreciate such an infliction, for their portion of the ordeal is the most trying; and it is no wonder that they should take to wooden creations of 'Punch and Judys', birds' nesting and even donkey-riding (who has not indulged in the latter?) rather than be tied to the three-legged stool, and be heart-sickened by the never-ending supply of 'empties'. The bent of Collins' moral disposition was not, however, that of his doubtlessly vivacious companions, He was given to seek retirement and meditation. Such is the natural bias of a mind instinctively imbued with poetic feelings. When other boys were at play, he was perhaps engaged in poring over the pages of some historical work, for he was partially fond of history, especially that of his native land. Indeed we are not to be surprised if his partiality for historical reading led to his exploring other branches of literature, for many instances might be cited in which history and its co-attendant biography have formed the foundation stone upon which a literary eminence has been built. We find our poet next in happy conversation with the gifted - the immortal 'Tim Bobbin' - muttering, I dare say audibly, if we only knew, the eccentric dialogue betwixt 'Tummus and Meary', following 'Nip' through the chapters of her strange adventures, and perhaps echoing the exclamations of 'Meary', "Good Logus, Tummus!"

When about thirteen years of age, Collins confesses to have perpetrated his first song, which was on the occasion of a game at 'I spy!' He was sent out along with two others to hide, one of them (Nut Bradley) slipped the rest, and crept into a cart, in which a number of girls were playing; the song was to record the fact. One verse read as follows:

"One neet as we wur playin' at 'I spy!'
Ther' wur Nut Bradley, John Bocky, and I,
We went to hoide us, Nut fro' us did part,
An' went among th' wenches i' owd George' cart."

Collins became early associated with politics, and was an ardent supporter of Hunt and Cobbett when these two agitators were in the zenith of their popularity. He was present on the field during the ever memorable affair at Peterloo; not merely as an idle spectator of the scene, but as an earnest sharer of the views which led to the gathering. This occasion, and the associations connected therewith, perhaps induced him to enter upon the hazardous, and rather thankless task of writing political songs, and other pieces of a similar tendency. The literature of that period was strongly impregnated with the political element, and no doubt our poet fell in with the feelings it engendered in susceptible minds, and wrote what afterwards his more seasoned judgement would condemn; as few of his productions of that time survived the period at which they were written. But he was young at the time, and knew the strength of fancy's wing without the power to control its flights. A season or two at love making might have altered the train of his poetical ideas. Alteration does not, however, suggest improvement, and he is a wise scribe who can dip his pen in love's ink and write that which is fit for sober men to read. Some people have been more staid and thoughtful at seventeen than twenty-four. During the intervening years many a folly hath been caught up that may have coloured the after life with marked characteristics, 'a pair o' witchin' e'en' has become the life-image of many a poor slave of fancy, whilst upon the caprice of some wayward dispenser of favours, such as 'Tam o' Shanter' knew how to appreciate, many a poet's destiny has turned. Collins has been in some measure the slave of this weakness, if weakness it may be called, as may be traced in several of his poems. But whether it proceeded beyond the mere admiration of women generally is not a theme to be discussed in these pages; let it suffice that in the year 1826 he took one 'for better for worse' in the person of Miss Rachel Stansfield, who has made him an exemplary wife, and has been the means of sheltering his grey hairs behind a family composed of four sons and three daughters of whom the sons and one daughter are now living.

No class of work-people in the kingdom have been subject to so many fluctuations in the remunerative principle as the great body of hand-loom weavers. Like the Stock Exchange, their prices current are continually ebbing and flowing. To adjust the differences which have often occurred betwixt the employer and the employed through these changes, Samuel Collins has many a time served upon weavers' committees and deputations, and may claim to have been instrumental to the bringing about of a reconciliation without sacrificing the interests of one party or the respect of the other. In 1838, when Chartism sprang up, our poet re-entered the political arena, and did battle with the pen on behalf of the unenfranchised. He joined a branch association of that body, which held its meetings at a private house on Ralph Green. This place of meeting was subsequently abandoned for a more commodious building situated at Pew Nook. Here the association held together for several years. A Sunday and night-school was established in connection with the society, and the members may take credit upon themselves for having been the means of forming a reading public in Hollinwood, and of giving an impetus to that reform movement which is now reaping such a large popularity throughout the country. Collins, it appears, wrought conspicuously on behalf of this association, and indeed for the cause of reform generally. He was often deputed to attend council meetings held both in Lancashire and Yorkshire, but more in the character of an adviser than as an agitator, He suffered a little odium through his denouncing the land scheme propounded by Feargus O'Connor, and his disapproval of the notorious Chartist leader, with regard to corn-law repeal agitation.1 This odium he has, however, out-lived, and has had the gratification of seeing that the fruits of the two contemporary movements have been in accordance with his anticipations.

But little can be added to this notice, as the life of a hand-loom weaver presents few features of sufficient interest for a biographer to dilate upon. We may sum up his career in one sentence - A CONTINUAL STRUGGLE FOR BREAD. Collins has experienced all the bitterness of such a struggle. He has wrestled hard with poverty, yet in the strife he has had the consolation dear to every man, that of having a good helpmate to take her share of the work. Though apparently enjoying robust health, he has suffered more of less from asthma during a period of nearly forty years, and that may have had much to do with sharpening the pangs of poverty, as well as giving a seeming irritability to his disposition, which may be considered the roughest point in his otherwise amiable nature. Uneducated, for he must be classed amongst the unfortunate in that regard; he has, nevertheless, been a reading and thinking man. He has subscribed to one or other of the Liberal newspapers for a period of fifty years, and that is saying a great deal for one in his position.

He says, "I have never slept more than a dozen nights away from Chadderton," and that circumstance may account in some measure for the local character of his poetry. He has been continually hovering about home; that home, which from what we can glean through his writings, has been, and continues to be, as it were, a part of his existence. His song, 'Ancient Cottage, Fare Thee Well,' breathes a strain whose echoes are getting fainter as time wears on. It develops one of those traits of tender regard for old and long-cherished associations which are rapidly disappearing in a people who, from the nature of their pursuits, are becoming more migratory in their character, and more superficial in their attachments to past memories. The time is coming when we shall cease to sing 'Still dear to me is the home of my childhood', for it will be a matter of uncertainty as to which of the many tiers of red glaring brickwork round about us contains such a home ..."
B.B. [Ben Brierley?]
Manchester, May 26, 1859
1Just to clarify, O'Connor was strongly opposed to the repeal of the Corn Law.

We have now, that which Samuel's biographer did not have ... easy access to census returns and parish registers etc. From these sources we can piece together his family in some more detail.

In 1826 Samuel married Rachel Stansfield in the church of St. Margaret of Antioch, in Hollinwood.

Samuel's first two children were Mary and Sarah, both of whom died in infancy, Mary in 1828, age 15 months and Sarah in 1830 age 9 months.

On the 1841 census we can find Samuel living with his wife Rachel and four subsequent children, Betty (bap.1831), Joseph (b.1834), James (bap.1835) and Algernon Sidney (b.1839). They were living on Drury Lane, Chadderton and Samuel's occupation is recorded as 'S Weaver' (ie., 'silk' weaver).

Samuel and his family (those still living at home) continued to live in the same area, although not at the same address, until his death in 1878. He is always recorded as a hand-loom silk weaver on the census returns. Similarly, his wife, Rachel is always referred to in the same way until after Samuel's death. In 1881 she (as 'head of household') was living with their son John Volney on Ashton Street, Chaddderton, next door to John and Betty with their family. In 1991 she was living with son James and his family, on Thompson Lane, in Chadderton. Rachel died in January 1892.

Samuel and Rachel's daughter daughter, Betty, was the first of their children to marry and leave home. She had married John Whitehead, a builder, in 1840 and, on the 1841 census they were living next door, to her parents. John and Betty would have a total of 7 children (identified from the census returns). Betty died in 1895, in Southport, and in 1901 John was shown as keeping a lodging house on Manchester Rd., Southport.

Samuel and Rachel's eldest son, Joseph (who was Jennifer's gt. grandfather) was with them on both the 1841 and 1851 census, then married Mary Ashton, in 1859, with whom he had two children. Mary died, in the early 1870s and Joseph married again, this time to Mary Holland, with whom he had 3 children. One of these three children was Samuel, born in 1878, who was Jennifer's grandfather. In 1881 the family were living in Hale Moss, and Joseph was no longer a silk handloom weaver but a labourer. By 1891 Joseph had again been widowed and in 1901 he and his youngest son John are to be found living with his daughter Alice and her husband Thomas Duncalfe.

Joseph's son, Samuel, had married Agnes Ellen Forrester, in 1900, at Failsworth Wesleyan Church. In 1901 they were living on Long Lane and Samuel was a cotton spinner. By 1911 Samuel and Agnes Ellen have had 2 sons and 2 daughters (their first son died in 1905, the first year of his life). The family were still living on Long Lane. Samuel and Agnes Ellen would go on to have 2 more daughters and 2 more sons, between 1911 and 1919. Samuel Francis Collins (who would become Jennifer's father) was born on the 9th Mar 1914, in Chadderton and died in February 2000 in Failsworth. On the 1939 Register we can find Samuel and Agnes Ellen living in Chadderton at 72 Chestnut Street (one additional entry is redacted).

Samuel Francis Collins married May Chesworth in August 1939, in Failsworth Bethel Methodist Church. Their daughter, Jennifer, was born in Failsworth in 1944 ... a direct descendant of the Peterloo veteran, Reformer and Chartist, Samuel Collins, The Bard of Hale Moss.


A Selection of Samuel Collins's Poetry, to Read


Census Returns:
Surname sometimes recorded as 'Collins', sometimes 'Collin', and occasionally as 'Collinge'.
Referred to as 'Collins' throughout this narrative.

Samuel & Rachel living on Drury lane, Chadderton, with Betty (age 10), Joseph (age 7), James (age 5) and Algernon (age 2)
Occupations: Samuel was an 'S weaver' [ie. silk loom weaver].

Samuel & Rachel living at Whitegate End, Chadderton, with children, Joseph (17), James (15), Algernon Sidney (12) and John Volney (age 7)
Occupations: Samuel (48) - handloom silk weaver, Rachel (48) - handloom silk weaver; all the children were also handloom silk weavers except the youngest, John Volney.

Betty (daughter now married to John Whitehead) living at Whitegate End, next door to Samuel and Rachel.
Occupations: John (23) was a bricklayer, Betty (20) was a handloom silk weaver.

Samuel & Rachel living at Hale Hill, Chadderton, with James (25), Algernon Sidney (22) and John Volney (17)
Occupations: Samuel (59) - silk hand-loom weaver; Rachel (59) - silk hand-loom weaver; James - silk hand-loom weaver; Algernon Sidney - silk hand-loom weaver; John Volney - a cotton piecer

Daughter Betty (Married to John Whitehead) living 4, Long Lane, Chadderton. With them are children: Thomas (8), Samuel (6), Mary Alice (4) and James (1)
Occupations: John (33) is a bricklayer; Betty (31) is a silk hand-loom weaver.

Son Joseph (married to Mary Ashton) is living at Whitegate End (near Hale Hill and Hale Moss)
Occupations: Joseph (26) is a bricklayer's labourer; Mary (25) is a silk hand-loom weaver.

Samuel & Rachel living at Hale Moss, Chadderton, with son John Volney (27).
Occupations: Samuel (68) - silk weaver; Rachel (68) - silk weaver; John Volney - Coalminer

Betty (Married to John Whitehead) living on Henshaw Lane (near Hale Moss) Chadderton. with them are children Thomas (18), Mary Alice (14), James (11), John Henry (8), Martha Jane (6), and Sarah E. (2)
Occupations: John (43) is a bricklayer employing 14 men; Betty (41) is a 'bricklayer's wife'; Thomas is a bricklayer's apprentice.

Joseph (Married to Mary Ashton) is living on Long Lane with John James Taylor (son age 15), Joseph (10) and Alice (8)
Occupations: Joseph (37) is a silk weaver; Mary (34) is a silk weaver; John James Tayor is a cotton piecer.
They are next door to brother James Collins.

Son James (Married to Sarah Thompson) is living on Long Lane with their children: William (11), Hampden (8), Samuel (7), Thomas (4) and Jane (10months)
Occupations: James (35) is a silk weaver; Sarah (35) is a silk weaver; son William is a 'weaver's assistant'
They are next door to brother Joseph Collins.

Son Algernon Sidney (married to Mary Clough) is living in Wrigley Head, Failsworth, with children Elizabeth (6), Samuel (4), Sarah (2) and Stuart (1)
Occupations: Algernon Sidney (32) is a spindle forger; Mary (30) is a silk weaver.

SAMUEL Collins died in 1878

Rachel (now widowed, 78, head of household) is living at 6, Ashton Street, Chadderton, with son John Volney,
Occupations: John V. (40) is a bricklayer's labourer.
They are next door to daughter Betty and husband John Whitehead.

Betty (Married to John Whitehead) is living at 8, Ashton Street, Chadderton, with Mary Alice (24), James (21), John H. (18), Martha Jane (15), Sarah Elizabeth (12), Rachel Ann (9)
Occupations: John (53) is a farmer; Betty (50) - a 'Housewife'; Mary Alice - 'housework', James - bricklayer; John H. - bricklayer; Martha Jane - cotton reeler;
They are next door to Betty's mother, Rachel Collins .

Joseph (widowed but now married to 2nd wife, Mary Holland) is living at Hale Moss, Chadderton, with children: Alice (16), Mary Alice Holland (14); and their children Rachel (4) and Samuel (3).
Occupations: Joseph (47) is a labourer; Alice - is a cotton operative; Mary Alice Holland - is a cotton operative;

James (Married to Sarah Thompson) is living at 5, Long Lane, Chadderton, with children: William (21), Hampden (18), Samuel ( 17), Thomas (14), Jane (10), Rachel (8), Sarah (6), Lucy (4), Mary (2). also there is Jenny Thompson (50), James' sister-in-law.
Occupations: James (45) is a silk weaver; Sarah (44) is a silk weaver; William - a spindle finisher; Hampden - a cotton piecer; Samuel - a cotton piecer; Thomas - a cotton piecer.

Algernon Sidney (married to Mary Clough 39) is living at 2, Cooperation Street, Failsworth, with children: Elizabeth Ann (16), Samuel (14), Stuart (11), Sarah (7), Allen (2) and Algernon (1)
Occupations: Algernon S. (42) was a mule spindle forger; Elizabeth Ann was a speed tenter; Samuel was a piecer.

Rachel (88) living at 15, Thompson Lane, Chadderton, with son James (head of household - married to Sarah Thompson, 55), with children: William (31), Hampden (18), Samuel ( 27), Jane (20), Rachel (18), Sarah (16), Lucy (14), Mary (12). also there is Jenny Thompson (60), James' sister-in-law.
Occupations: James (56) - silk weaver; William - mule spindle printer; Hampden - cotton operative; Rachel - cotton operative; Sarah - cotton operative; Lucy - cotton operative.

Betty (Married to John Whitehead) is living at 52, Manchester Road, Southport. With them are children: Mary Alice ((34), Sarah Elizabeth (29), Rachel Ann (19).
Occupations: John (63) is a 'Lodg.[?] Company House Keeper'; Mary Alice is a dressmaker.

Joseph (now widowed again) is living at 150, Long Lane, Chadderton. With him are children: Rachel (14), Samuel (13), John (9). Also there is [stepdaughter] Mary Alice Holland (27), recorded as a 'boarder'
Occupations: Joseph (57) is a bricklayer's labourer; Rachel is a cotton weaver; Samuel is a cotton piecer; Mary Alice Holland is a cotton mill operative.

Algernon Sidney (married to Mary Clough 49) is living at 3, Cooperation Street, Failsworth, with children: Sarah (17), Allen (12) and Algernon (11)
Occupations: Algernon S. (52) is a mule spindle forger; Sarah is a card room tenter; Allen is a piecer; and Algernon is a 'Salter tin whistle shop boy'.
The census return appears to show that, also living in the house, as a separate 'household', are Martha Jane Hibbert, widow age 36, living on her own means and her son, William Hibbert age 9 months. [Martha Jane is Algernon Sidney's niece, and his sister Betty's daughter].

Rachel Collins died in 1892
Daughter Betty Collins (Married to John Whitehead) died in 1895

Joseph (67, widowed) is living at 134 Turf Lane, Chadderton. Head of the household is Thomas Duncalfe, (37) who is married to Joseph's daughter, Alice (38). Also living there is Joseph's youngest son, John (19).
Occupations: Thomas is a 'horse shoeing smith'; Joseph is a retired labourer; John is a 'planer in an iron works'.

James (Married to Sarah Thompson 65) is living at 15, Thompson Lane, Chadderton, with children: William (41), Jane (30), Rachel (28), Sarah (26), Lucy (24), Mary (22).
Occupations: James (65) living on own means; William - steel spindle maker; Jane, Rachel - reeler: Sarah - reeler: Lucy - reeler: Mary - reeler.
Living next door at number 17, Thompson Lane, is James' son, Thomas with his wife and young family.

Joseph's son, Samuel (age 23), (married to Agnes Ellen Forrester age 25), is living at 150 Long Lane Chadderton.
Occupations: Samuel is a cotton spinner.

Algernon Sidney (married to Mary Clough 59) is living at 573, Oldham Road, Failsworth, with children: Allen (22) and Algernon (21)
Occupations: Algernon Sidney (62) is a spindle forger at the iron works; Allen is a cotton spinning machine minder; Algernon [jnr.] is a spindle forger at the iron works.

Algernon Sidney age 72, (married to Mary Clough but now widowed) is living at 'Thornleigh', Hawthorne Road, New Moston, with his son Samuel (44) and his wife Elizabeth (41). Also there is Samuel's son, Stuart Mill Collins age 20.
Occupations: Samuel was a self actor minder; Stuart Mill was a Picker.

James (75) (Married to Sarah Thompson age 74) is living at 15, Thompson Lane, Chadderton, with children: William (51), Jane (40), Rachel (38), Sarah (36), Lucy (34), daughter Mary Kershaw nee Collins (32) and Sarah Kershaw, her daughter, age 1
Occupations: William is a labourer for a spindle maker; Jane is a worker at home; Rachel is a reeler; Sarah is a warper; Lucy is a reeler; Mary Kershaw nee Collins is a reeler.

Samuel (Joseph's son and married to Agnes Ellen Forrester age 35), is living at 150 Long Lane, Hollinwood. With them are their children: Emily (8), Winston (4), Alice (10 months).
Occupations: Samuel (33) was a cotton operative - minder.

Samuel and Agnes Ellen would go on to have 2 more daughters and 2 more sons, between 1911 and 1919.
Samuel Francis Collins (who would become Jennifer's father) was born on the 9th March 1914, in Chadderton and died in Feb 2000 in Failsworth.

Algernon Sidney Collins died in 1919

On the 1939 Register we can find Samuel and Agnes Ellen living in Chadderton at 72 Chestnut Street (one additional entry is redacted).

Information and help from Jennifer and husband Frank, which was greatly appreciated.

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