Manchester City Council

Designs for Jeremy Deller’s Peterloo memorial in Manchester unveiled

Designs drawn up by artist Jeremy Deller for a permanent memorial in Manchester to commemorate the Peterloo Massacre and those who died there have now been unveiled.

The artist has been commissioned by Manchester City Council to design a fitting memorial to be in place in time for the 200th anniversary of the massacre next year.

Peterloo was a watershed moment that would mark Manchester as a radical city like no other, and become a defining moment for democracy in Britain.

On Monday 16 August 1819, a 60,000-strong crowd walked to the meeting point at St Peter’s Field in central Manchester from as far afield as Wigan, Rochdale, Saddleworth and Altrincham.  They gathered to call for parliamentary representation. 

Shortly after the meeting began and whilst the orator Henry Hunt was making his address, local government forces charged into the crowd on horseback and, with swords drawn, injured around 700 people and killed 18 men, women and children.

Two hundred years on, the Deller designed permanent memorial to those who died at Peterloo will be erected at the junction of Lower Mosley Street and Windmill Street – just a hundred meters from the heart of St Peter’s Field, where the massacre took place.

The monument, designed by Jeremy Deller and Caruso St John Architects, is conceived as a landscaped ‘hill’ made of concentric steps.  It is designed to be both a gathering place and a platform for oratory, and makes indirect reference to the two carts that made up the make-shift podium from which Henry Hunt addressed the crowd nearly two hundred years ago. 

The concentric arrangement of the monument also commemorates and echoes the march of people from the surrounding towns and villages, gathering to demand recognition of their rights.

These place names - along with the names of the 18 men, women and children who died - will be engraved onto the vertical faces of the steps around the memorial, in positions that are accurate to their direction geographically. 

The horizontal surface of the steps will also have inlaid decoration, with imagery associated with Peterloo.

The design within the top of the memorial marks events similar to Peterloo from around the world, where peaceful protest has been violently broken up by the state.

Jeremy Deller said: “It’s important for the memorial to not just be something to admire.  It has to have a use for the public. It will articulate the story of Peterloo, but will also be a place of meeting and assembly.

“The shape reminds you of the form of a burial mound, a place to commemorate the dead.  But the stepped form also means that lots of people can stand and sit on it together.  In fact, once a year, on each anniversary of Peterloo, the memorial should almost disappear, as it becomes populated by the public. It should be a civic space in the best tradition of Victorian architecture.

“The memorial effectively acts as a compass – connecting itself not just to the immediate environment close to the Peterloo site, but to Greater Manchester and ultimately the rest of the world.”

The concept design proposes a memorial built in stone, using a variety of different minerals, chosen for their colour and texture.  The memorial will incorporate granites, sandstones, slates, and marbles from all regions of the UK and potentially further afield – places that would have been part of the British Empire in 1819.

The bright range of colours – along with the names, emblems and texts incised into the surface of the stones – make reference to the bold, celebratory graphics of banners calling for social reform that are traditionally held up by protesters at gatherings and marches.

The steps of the memorial will be constructed with solid pieces of masonry with fine joints, and will be very robust.  The decoration on the stones will be carried out using different techniques.  On the vertical faces of the steps, the names of those who died and the places they came from will be hand carved into the stone.  On the horizontal faces, the emblems will be made with inset stone, metal, or resin, to give a flush surface.

Deller's concept plans for the permanent memorial will be on display for three days in Manchester Central Library from 1 November as part of the council's pre-planning consultation on the memorial.

The designs will also be available on-line on the council's website for one week from 1 November to allow anyone who can't visit the library a chance to view the designs and comment on them.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Schools, Culture, and Leisure, said:  "Peterloo was a watershed moment in the history of Manchester and we have had the ambition to create a permanent memorial to it in the city for some time.

“The design concept Jeremy and the team at Caruso St John have come up with is as respectful as it is also unique and entirely fitting.  It is at the same time both a memorial and a meeting place – a useful space from which future debate and peaceful discourse can happen.

"This is the first chance people will have to see the concept design and we're keen to get people's views on it during this week-long pre-planning consultation period."

In order to ensure historical accuracy and context in relation to the memorial, Manchester Histories and the Peterloo Memorial Campaign Group have been working closely with both the council and artist Jeremy Deller on the concept plans for the memorial.  Manchester Histories will also be delivering a programme next year of learning, public events and creative exploration to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre.

Karen Shannon, Chief Executive of Manchester Histories, said: "Jeremy Deller's memorial to the Peterloo Massacre is an important milestone in our history.  It will remind us of the ordinary people who fought, died, or were injured in their struggle for representation and democracy, things we still fight for today. 

"It is beautifully conceived, so that it's as much a memorial as a meeting point, where people can come together, orate, reflect on the past, but also look to the future."

The permanent memorial will be unveiled next year on 16 August - exactly two hundred years after the massacre took place.

To view the design concept plans and comment on them visit www.manchester.gov.uk/consultations

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