Marching on Manchester, 1745 (Part 1)
A wary community watches as an army arrives…
Last time in Histories we met Dr Richard Kay (1716–1751), a young physician who sent his life in the area around Bury in Lancashire, near Manchester, tending to the ailments of local people and expressing his devout Nonconformist faith at Bury Chapel every week. In general his diary1 focuses very much on this community and his daily rounds, with little news from the outside world impinging. The one main exception to that was when an army was marching all the way from Scotland to Manchester and beyond.
I’m not going to go into great detail here about the Jacobite rising of 1745, but in brief this was the attempt by Bonnie Prince Charlie, i.e. Charles Edward Stuart and aka the Young Pretender, to reclaim the British throne for the Stuart dynasty, which had endured the Civil War and then finally fizzled out after the death of Queen Anne in 1714, at which point the long run of Hanoverian Georges took the throne.
In August 1745, Charlie gathered an army and quickly took Edinburgh; in October they resolved to invade England (the majority of whose army was caught up with fighting in Europe), believing there to be substantial support south of the border. (Remember that the Stuarts were Catholics, a faith legally suppressed at this point.)
Onwards they marched: Carlisle, 10th November; Preston, 26th November; then Manchester, 28th, where there was sufficient support to form a Manchester Regiment of around 300 men.
In Richard Kay’s quiet world, news travelled ahead of the army, and he first mentions it in an entry for 24th September 1745:
About 6 weeks or 2 months past we have been often hearing of a rebellion in Scotland in favour of a Popish Pretender; our Government have sent a body of men to disperse them and we hear this evening that our forces have engaged them and are defeated by them, at or near Edinburgh Scotland. Lord… we hope thou wilt preserve us from Popish slavery and vain idolatry…
Two days later he adds:
… spent the evening with Sister Baron in Bury, waiting upon Brother Baron coming home from Preston where the gentlemen of the county have been giving their hands and subscriptions towards raising money to help the government in suppressing the rebels in Scotland. Lord, Stand up for us; plead our cause against an ungodly nation.
The rebels had actually counted on support in Preston, where 30 years earlier a significant number of local Jacobites had joined in a previous rebellion there – but by November 1745, only three men of the town declared their support.
On 21st November, Kay reports the rebels had reached Penrith and were nearing Carlisle. By 27th, he says they “are not far from Manchester on their journey to London”, and now it becomes a matter of local concern.
28th November 1745
O, how persons are removing their families and effects out of Manchester. We have here a numerous family. We hear this evening a sergeant with one drummer belonging to the Pretender’s service are come to Manchester today, and have enlisted several into their service.
All the rebels from Scotland who are upon their march for London to dethrone our Majesty King George the 2nd and to set a Popish Pretender upon the throne of England lodge this evening in Manchester; they are supposed to be about ten thousand persons. [In fact the army may have only been little more than half that size.]
All things are in a hurry, business is confused. We have concealed our valuables mostly; the press has been so strong for horses that for fear lest ours should be seized we have sent them away today. Lord, send us better times.
[In early December Kay reports that various family and friends from Manchester are staying with them, and that daily they wait for news.]
Whether the rebels will meet our army in Derbyshire or they will slip by them for London is the subject of conversation today.
…as we were going to Bury Chapel, we met Coz. Doctor Kay and his Brother Coz. John Kay from Manchester who told us they were fleeing out of the way of the rebels who had marched to Derby near our army and retreated; Manchester with the assistance of the country people are intending to make a stand against them. Cousins would have me go to Rossendale with them about four miles from hence to raise the people there; I took a ride with them.
We hear all the Highland rebels from Scotland who have been as far as Derby towards London intending to set a prince upon the throne, a nursling from Rome, are this evening all in Manchester. Finding themselves not a sufficient force to engage our army they are making the best of their road for the Highlands. Our army about 1400 strong are pursuing them; we have another army in Yorkshire about 10,000 strong. The rebels plunder and do a deal of mischief. The Rossendale people, about 500, came our road towards Manchester today but ’tis thought proper not to oppose the rebels; they and thousands were dismissed. Lord, bring good out of these troublesome times.
Having never seen the rebels, or any in a Highland dress, I set out this morning on foot in company with some other friends to see them march on the road from Manchester to Wigan. We went to a place called Four Lane Ends in Hilton [possibly means Hulton], where the rebels marched from one o’th’clock till betwixt four and five o’th’lock in the afternoon as throng as the road could well receive them. I suppose their number may be near 10,000 men in all. We walked to Manchester afterwards to hear how the rebels behaved themselves there; I did not stay long in town, walked Home afterwards.
[Now the tide had turned. The Duke of Cumberland – George II’s youngest son – had been recalled from Flanders to command the Army’s response to the rebels and was marching up from London. The elderly Field Marshal George Wade, now in his 70s, led troops down from Newcastle, although failed to meet the Jacobites. At Derby, the rebels voted to retreat back to Scotland.]
This day hearing the Duke of Cumberland with the forces pursuing the rebels would be at Manchester this evening I took a ride with Coz. John Kay and Brother Robert to see them…
This day I spent at Manchester, some of the King’s forces came to town this evening.
This day we saw a great many of our Majesty King George’s forces pass through Manchester pursuing the rebels from Scotland with their Pretender… It gives abundance of joy to good people, to all true Protestants, to see such a number of fine forces…
By 22nd December, Kay has heard the King’s army has surrounded Carlisle, and by early January many of the English rebels from Manchester had been captured, with the rest of the Jacobites returning to Scotland. Come April 1746, Kay will write a brief note about the Battle of Culloden, but that’s a story for another time.
And before we leave Manchester, next time I can bring you a rather different account of the same events, by an English diarist firmly on the side of the rebels. Watch this space!