Caruso St John Architects

Location: Manchester, UK
Client: Manchester City Council
Project Status: Built

Caruso St John Architects have collaborated with Jeremy Deller on the design of the memorial to the Peterloo Massacre in central Manchester. The massacre occurred on 16th August 1819, when a crowd of sixty-thousand peaceful protesters, who had gathered in St Peter’s Field to call for parliamentary representation, were charged by cavalry, killing eighteen and injuring up to seven-hundred. The memorial is sited in the public square in front of the Manchester Central Convention Centre, very close to St Peter’s Field.

The design proposes a celebratory and colourful memorial built in stone, incorporating granites, sandstones, slates and marbles from all regions of the UK. The names of the dead are carved into the steps around the top. Around the bottom steps, the names of the villages and towns around Manchester, from which the protestors walked to the gathering in St Peter’s Field, are carved in positions that are accurate to their direction geographically. The horizontal stone surfaces have inlaid decoration with imagery associated with Peterloo. The design of interlocking circles has two centre points which mark the direction of other events from around the world, where peaceful protest has been violently broken up by the state. The memorial effectively acts as a compass, connecting itself not just to the immediate environment close to the Peterloo site, but to greater Manchester and ultimately the rest of the world.   

The artist’s intention is that the memorial will be a place of meeting and protest, particularly on the anniversary of the massacre when people in Manchester have traditionally gathered in commemoration of this important event. The stepped shape suggests a burial mound, a place to commemorate the dead, but is also intended to invite people to walk on it, to stand and sit on it together. The design of two interlocking circles, one of which is stepped and the other flat, was made so that everyone can stand on the stones of the memorial. Nevertheless an important part of the project, during the public consultation process and since permission was received, has been the consistent protest of access groups in Manchester who have campaigned to have the design altered to make it fully accessible to wheelchair users. Discussions between the access groups, the Council, the artist and the design team about changes to the memorial to accommodate these expectations are ongoing.