This cotton flag or banner is a rare survivor of thousands of banners carried at meetings calling for electoral reform and suffrage.
It has a remarkable story. It was designed and made in 1819, to honour the victims of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester.
It was mounted on poles and taken to meetings throughout the 19th Century, starting with a reform meeting at Almondbury Bank in November 1819, then various meetings including the greatest reform meeting at Roberttown near Wakefield in 1837, attended by 250,000 people. The banner was also carried at meetings celebrating the end of the Crimean War in 1856 and the American Civil war in 1865. It was again paraded at a reform meeting in St George’s Square Huddersfield in 1884.
The banner had to be hidden between meetings: if it had been found its custodian would have been arrested and it would have been destroyed. On the way to one meeting it was hidden in a flour wagon. Immediately after meetings it was removed from its poles and buried in a specially made box.
The Skelmanthorpe Banner is just one of many treasures held at the Tolson Museum in Huddersfield. In 2016, more than 3,000 people signed a petition to save the museum.