Edward Wilbraham

Edward Bootle Wilbraham was born in 1771. Wilbraham lived at Lathom House near Ormskirk, Lancashire. A member of Parliament for Dover, Wilbraham was the Manchester's magistrates main spokesman in the House of Commons. Wilbraham defended their action during the debate on the Peterloo Massacre on 15th May, 1821.

Edward Wilbraham died in 1853.

Primary Sources

(1) George Wilbraham, speech in the House of Commons, 15th May, 1821.

At this time a number of the magistrates for Cheshire, who were also magistrates for that part of the county of Lancaster, together with some of the Lancashire magistrates, formed a committee, which met frequently at Manchester to devise means for preserving the public peace. The committee called Mr. Hulton to the chair. He was a leading man in the country of Lancaster, and I never knew an individual who possessed a greater portion of humanity and courage.

No less than thirty or forty thousand men, marched into the town of Manchester in bodies of several thousands, and with flags and banners. On their arrival on the field with all this military array, they formed six deep round the hustings. This, as might be imagined, created general alarm, and many persons, not timid ones, but those who had in a former period of danger stood forward in their duty, called on the magistrates to interfere, and deposed to the danger which they thought threatened the peace of the town. Some of the magistrates thought the reading the Riot Act would be a proper step to be taken in the first instance; and one magistrate, who had a remarkably loud voice, Mr. Ethelstone, read it from the window of the house where the magistrates had stationed themselves in view of the meeting.

One person saw several parties armed with sticks and bludgeons. He saw the men standing, twelve feet deep, before the hustings, linked arm in arm. He saw stones and brickbats thrown at the yeomanry cavalry; and one man near him struck at a yeoman and a bludgeon or short stick which he carried.

Another person alleged, that before a blow was struck by the yeomanry, he saw stones and brickbats flying about, directed against them from a variety of quarters. Mr. Hume, a trooper in the yeomanry having been knocked off his horse and hurt.

It has been said that the magistrates should have prevented the meeting; but I would wish to know how the passage of a body of 50,000 persons could be stopped. The magistrates saw the civil power, as well as the yeomanry, was in danger: added to this, they had the depositions of several respectable inhabitants, who swore that the town was in danger; and they did what they conceived would prevent it - they dispersed the meeting; by which the danger was completely averted.

That some persons had lost their lives and that a number were wounded and bruised, was a fact, but the accounts which attributed all those circumstances to the attacks of the yeomanry was quite erroneous. Many of the cases which were said to have occurred by wounds at Peter's Field were cases of accidental death. The first of these was on a woman who was said to have been cut down at the meeting; but by the coroner's inquest it appeared that her death was accidental. That she fell into an area and was killed. Another inquest was on an infant which had died of convulsions through flight. Other inquests which had been held by the Manchester coroner, between the 16th of August and the month of November; in none of which, he observed, did it appear, except in one case, that the party had died of sabre wounds; and most of them were accidental deaths, arising in many instances from circumstances not connected with the meeting. One of those cases was that of a man said to have been killed at Peterloo, as it was called, but who actually met his death whilst eating some mutton, a piece of which stuck in his throat.