Elderly man
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Samuel Bamford (28 February 1788 – 13 April 1872) was an English radical and writer, born in Middleton, Lancashire. Bamford was one of five children born to Daniel Bamford (a muslin weaver, dissenter, part-time teacher, and later master of the Salford workhouse), and his wife, Hannah. After his father withdrew him from Manchester Grammar School because he refused to allow him to be taught Latin, Bamford became a weaver and then a warehouseman, before settling down as a weaver in Middleton.[1]

Bamford married Jemima Shepherd (1788–1862) on 24 June 1810 at Manchester Cathedral; their daughter Ann had been baptised earlier that year.[1]

Political activism

Bamford’s political consciousness was aroused by the Luddite protests of 1811–1816. He was one of the founders of the Hamden Reform Club, Middleton, and his activitism led to his arrest for treason in March 1817. He was acquitted, and recorded his experience of the ordeal in the Account of the Arrest and Imprisonment of Samuel Bamford (1817).[1]

Peterloo Massacre

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A painting of the Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile
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On 16 August 1819 Bamford led a contingent from Middleton to St Peter’s Fields in Manchester, to attend a meeting pressing for parliamentary reform and the repeal of the Corn Laws. There they became caught up in the Peterloo MassacreCavalry charge on 16 August 1819 into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 gathered at St Peter's Field, Manchester, England to demand the reform of parliamentary representation ; Bamford was arrested and once again charged with treason. Although the evidence showed that neither he nor any of his group had been involved in the violence, he was found guilty of inciting a riot and sentenced to a year in Lincoln gaol.[1] The experience of the massacre made a deep impression on Bamford, convincing him that state power would always succeed against radical militancy. He came to be seen as a voice for radical reform, but opposed to any activism that involved physical force.[2]

Literary career

Bamford produced a good deal of radical working-class material. His semi-autobiographical Passages in the Life of a Radical (1840–44) is considered to be an insightful account of life for the English working class during the first half of the 19th century in the years following the Battle of Waterloo. He also wrote poetry, mostly in standard English;[4] of those in the Lancashire dialect, several express a sympathy with the conditions of the working class and became widely popular. He also compiled The Dialect of South Lancashire (1850).[5]

Bamford died at Harpurhey on 13 April 1872 and was given a public funeral, attended by thousands. A memorial obelisk was unveiled in Middleton Cemetery in 1877. Part of the inscription reads: “Bamford was a reformer when to be so was unsafe, and he suffered for his faith.”[5]

Selected works