Sam Bamford was born in Middleton on 28th Feb 1788. A controversial figure of his day, he was largely a weaver by trade but had a keen interest in poetry and reading, particularly the works of parliamentary reformers and radicals, no doubt an interest passed down from his own fathers involvement in the like. He began to write himself and penned articles, books and poems of his own.
Spurred on by the growing unrest regarding the oppressive state of affairs towards working class folk and the hardship and poverty suffered as a result, his passion for bringing about change for the better escalated to the formation of a club called 'The Hampden Reform Club' which was a Middleton branch of an already established club. Like-minded people became involved, all of whom were keen to campaign against the oppression and the industrial revolution sweeping the town, threatening the livelihoods of the traditional craftsman. Meetings were held in local pubs to discuss their cause. Sam and his group were prominent in the struggle for repeal of the corn laws and electoral reform.
At the height of this came the tragic events of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester on August 16th 1819. Aged just 31, Sam was not of a violent nature and believed in peaceful protests within the law. He led a large group of Middleton people to St. Peters Fields in Manchester to attend a reform meeting that had been organised. Things became horrendously out of control when unhappy officials became involved, deeming the meeting unlawful and ordered the Manchester Yoemanry in, who proceeded to attack the gathered crowd and a bloody massacre literally ensued. 11 Civilians were brutally hacked to death and many more, up to 500 including women and children were injured. Sams own written account is an invaluable source of information on the events of this day in history, and what a sight to witness it must have been! (today, maybe riot police would have got involved and people offered counselling for their trauma!)
Sam was jailed for a year for his involvement and after this, wound down his active contribution but continued to try to make a difference through his writing, also becoming a correspondent for a London newspaper. He died aged 84 (a long life for those days) on April 13th 1872 and is buried in the St. Leonards Parish Church cemetary where an impressive memorial structure commemorates his efforts.
Locally there were mixed feelings about Sams beliefs throughout his life and some supporters turned their back on him as those beliefs weren't always mutual such as his refusal to become involved in the popular chartist movement of the time but who can blame him for not wanting to go to jail anymore for fighting for others? It seems to me the ones who turned their backs didn't appreciate just how much he had done until now and his funeral was still well attended.
It's funny how almost 200 years on from Peterloo, not that much has changed and us working classes still often get a raw deal.
It's a pity we don't have a modern day 'Sam' in Middleton to strive for better for us!
Sam's works include, "Passage in the Life of a Radical" (1843) and "Early Days" (1849).