The Manchester International Festival production of Shelley’s epic political poem The Masque of Anarchy begins on Friday, performed by Maxine Peake. The poem was written in response to the Peterloo Massacre which took place on 16 August 1819, perhaps the most scandalous episode in Manchester’s history.
One of our most recent acquisitions relates directly to the Peterloo Massacre and is a satirical etching by George Cruikshank entitled ‘Preachee and Floggy too! Or hot & cold, with the same breath-exemplified in the clerical magistrate!’ The hand-coloured etching comments on the behaviour of clerical magistrates, and in particular one Charles Wicksted Ethelston, who was responsible for the reading of the Riot Act at the gathering at St Peter’s Fields.
In nineteenth-century Manchester, magistrates played a significant part in law enforcement, and were given the power to call upon the militia to deal with perceived social unrest. Magistrates came from established landowning families and were known for their intolerance of reform. A number of magistrates were clergy, including Ethelston. Cruikshank’s etching portrays him delivering a sermon at the Collegiate Church on the left hand side, and sitting in his magistrate’s chair on the right.