Skelmanthorpe Flag of Freedom Flies One More Time

We are delighted that from Spring 2019  the Skelmanthorpe Flag will be a highlight of an important new exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester

What is The Skelmanthorpe Flag

The Skelmanthorpe Flag has been a symbol of liberty and democracy for 200 years.  It was created in 1819 by the people of Skelmanthorpe to support the campaign for universal voting rights. For 60 years it was paraded at marches and gatherings across West Yorkshire though it had to be hidden between meetings: if it had been found its custodian would have been arrested and it would have been destroyed.

Now it is making one more journey, to Manchester, with a team of specialist conservators who will make it ready to star in next year’s exhibition commemorating the Peterloo Massacre that inspired its makers.

What was the Peterloo Massacre?

On August 16th 1819 60,000 people gathered at a political rally on St Peter’s Field, Manchester.  The rally was peaceful but the authorities soon became nervous and troops charged the crowd, leaving 11 people dead and hundreds injured. The Skelmanthorpe Flag bears the legend ‘Pouring balm on the wounds of the Manchester sufferers’ and is a very rare and important memento of the events.

Why was it important?

Peterloo was a turning point in political history and its 2019 bicentenary is being commemorated with exhibitions, events and a major new film, directed by Mike Leigh. The Flag will be at the centre of these events, in the exhibition Disrupt? Peterloo & Protest at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

Exhibition curator Michael Powell said;

‘The Skelmanthorpe Flag is one of eight key objects in our up and coming exhibition. We feel privileged to have such a significant object on loan from Tolson Memorial Museum, as we see it as a key object in the reform movement after Peterloo that represents the atmosphere of fear and repression felt at that time after the implementation the six acts.’

The flag has been on display at Tolson Memorial Museum for about 20 years.  It is being thoroughly checked over by the conservators at the People’s History Museum and cleaned up if needed, to ensure it will last another 200 years.

When will it return?

The Skelmanthorpe Flag will return to Tolson Museum in the spring of 2020 where it will once again feature in the Ramsden’s Town gallery, which tells the story of the early days of Huddersfield.

Graham Turner, Councillor for Denby Dale and Skelmanthorpe, said;

“As a long standing resident of Skelmanthorpe, and a lifelong resident of the Denby Dale ward, I am very proud that the Skelmanthorpe flag will be part of an exhibition in Manchester commemorating the Peterloo massacre.

Skelmanthorpe was very much at the forefront of the political struggle in the early 1800s as ordinary working people fought for the right to be represented in Parliament. The flag appeared at many rallies around the Huddersfield area and is a lasting symbol of that campaign.

So it’s very fitting that the flag, which commemorates the Peterloo massacre, will form part of the exhibition, and I am looking forward to going to see the flag and the exhibition next year.”

Disrupt? Peterloo & Protest runs from 23rd March 2019 to 23rd February 2020 at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. See this link  for details or phone 0161 8389190

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