In the aftermath of the Peterloo massacre of 1819, Henry Hunt, Samuel Bamford and eight other leaders of the Manchester rally were arrested and tried for sedition. The trial, at York, took place over two weeks and saw 85 witnesses called to the stand. Not one of those charged was found guilty of the more serious offence of sedition, but five were convicted of seditious intent, and on 26 April 1820 were gaoled.
Two apparently verbatim reports of this trial exist. The first can be seen on the Peterloo Witness project site. However, the second, held by the Working Class Movement Library, which originally belonged to William Hulton, chairman of the Manchester Magistrates on the day of the massacre, contains significant differences. The bound volume also includes the handwritten notes made by Hulton, who was in the witness box for seven hours.
With funding from the Society for the Study of Labour History, the Hulton version has now been digitised. Volunteers at the library have also produced a transcript of Hulton’s notes for publication. And all of this can now been freely accessed online through the WCML website.