Hugh Hornby Birley

Hugh Hornby Birley (10 March 1778 – 31 July 1845) was a leading Manchester millowner and Tory who is reputed to have led the fatal charge of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry at the Peterloo Massacre on 16 August 1819.

Hugh Hornby Birley
Hugh Hornby Birley after 1819.jpg
Born(1778-03-10)10 March 1778
Manchester, England
Died31 July 1845(1845-07-31) (aged 67)
Manchester, England
Known forPeterloo Massacre
Spouse(s)Cecily Hornby
Parent(s)Richard Birley

Early lifeEdit

He was the son of Richard Birley (1743–1812), merchant, who had four sons and four daughters. Hugh's brother, Joseph Birley (1782–1847), was the father of Hugh Birley who served as Member of Parliament for Manchester from 1868 to 1883.[1]


In 1814 he commenced the building of the Cambridge Street Cotton Mill in Chorlton-on-Medlock. He was a local magistrate and one of the commanders of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry responsible for the Peterloo Massacre at St Peter's Field in 1819.[2]

He assisted the Swiss inventor-engineer Johann Georg Bodmer by making space available to him at his Chorlton Mills and was instrumental in founding the Royal Victoria Gallery of Practical Science in 1839.[3] He was associated with the Royal Manchester Institution[4] and a moving force in the establishment of Owens College.[5] He was a director of the Manchester Gas Works and became a business associate of Charles Macintosh with the intention of putting the works' waste products to profitable use in the manufacture of waterproof fabrics.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

He married Cecily Hornby (1797–1843) of Kirkham, with whom he had four sons, including:[2]

Hugh Hornby Birley died in 1845 and was buried in the family vault in St. Peter's Church, Manchester.[2]


His nephew was Hugh Birley (1817–1883), a businessman and Conservative politician, and his great-grandson was Oswald Birley (1880–1952), the portrait painter and royal portraitist prominent in the early part of the 20th century.[7]


  1. ^ David and Linda Birley Genealogies, 2002–4, archived from the original (– Scholar search) on 23 November 2005, retrieved 10 August 2007 Check date values in: |year= (help) – features references to primary sources
  2. ^ a b c "Hugh Hornby Birley". Graces's Guide. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  3. ^ Kargon 1977, pp. 36–38
  4. ^ Kargon 1977, p. 41
  5. ^ Kargon 1977, p. 154
  6. ^ Kargon 1977, p. 137
  7. ^ "Entry on Birley family genealogy". Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.


  • Kargon, R. H. (1977), Science in Victorian Manchester: Enterprise and Expertise, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-0-8018-1969-8
  • Lobban, M. (1990), "From seditious libel to unlawful assembly: Peterloo and the changing face of political crime c1770–1820", Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 10 (3): 307–352, doi:10.1093/ojls/10.3.307
  • Walmsley, Robert (1969), Peterloo: The Case Re-opened, Manchester University Press, ISBN 978-0-7190-0392-9

External linksEdit