The Stockport ( Cheshire ) Anti Irish riots 1852

by Veronica

The Stockport Riots of June 1852 made national and international news and were based on racism and religious bigotry.

I have looked at old newspaper articles to gather evidence about the Stockport riots of 1852. Trouble started when famine starved Irish families had come to Stockport looking for work in the mills. This hard work was resented by the local community as taking English jobs and wooing and marrying English women.

At this time, religious processions which used icons or clergymen in vestments were banned. But each year, the Irish community held a legal procession for the children in the three local Catholic schools. It complied with the law and had no Catholic symbols, icons or clergy in vestments. The procession was therefore a legal one.

... is that the spark that fanned the flame... or was it waiting to happen?

The present Our Lady's
The present Our Lady's
Veronica's photo

This lovely church replaced the one destroyed by anti Catholic protesters .

contemporary picture of the riots
contemporary picture of the riots

The  Sunday before the riots, the 17th annual catholic procession had taken place with the usual  attacks on the children by the local community. The next day, the local Protestant Association  held a procession carrying an effigy of a priest and anti -catholic placards. A report about the riots in The Freeman's Journal July 3rd 1852  found that the children's procession was not the cause of the riots but that it had started as an attack on Irishmen in the Bishop Blaise pub the evening before.


The Glasgow Herald of July 2nd 1852 however recorded that, a young Englishman shouted abuse at the Catholic priest watching the Catholic procession and when this young man went into the Bishop Blaise  pub the following night he was a 'marked man.' This was it seems  the start of the riot but it seems that the town was a powder keg waiting to ignite. The local community were ready to attack and the Irish were ready to protect themselves. Many buildings were destroyed,  as were Irish homes on Rock Row. Catholic churches were looted and destroyed.


There would appear to be many causes; poor social conditions, racist Anti-Irish feelings, employment problems, political agitation, fear, alcohol and an ignorant  misunderstanding of what constitutes a legal procession.


The Riot Act
The Riot Act
Veronica's photo
Victorian stockport
Victorian stockport
Bing image

The Stockport rioters marched on the Catholic chapel at Edgeley determined to kill the Catholic Canon Randolph Frith who was hiding with protestant friends in the town. The house and the chapel were totally destroyed. The rioters stole alcohol and then set off  to burn down  St Michael's Catholic chapel, nearby. The military were called and The Riot Act was read. The Irish community had to leave their homes in Rock Row and camp out in the open in Crookley Woods nearby for safety  and then  worshipped in the ruins of their Catholic Chapel. The Church registers up to this time were destroyed.


Rock Row, poor Irish homes
Rock Row, poor Irish homes
Stockport Heritage

Investigations by The Daily News in 1852 found that there was no provocation by the Catholics. The procession held no sectarian symbols and was "an expression of justifiable pride of the Catholics in the tidy and intelligent appearance of their children attending the schools". It was a display which in a free and enlightened state, all have a right to make.

The Derby Mercury reported the trials. Stockport men received the largest sentences for incitement and attacks on Catholic chapels receiving between 18 months and two years hard labour between them.   Irish men involved were given sentences of between 2 months and 15 months hard labour for their role. 

The Freeman's Journal in July  1852 reported that  Canon Randolph Frith arrived in Dublin in 1852 appealing for funds to help to  rebuild the church. With his fundraising energy, in less than 12 months,  the canon had restored St Philip and St James. It is now called Our Lady and The Apostles and stands proudly in Stockport.

Updated: 10/28/2015, Veronica
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frankbeswick on 03/04/2016

While we have little day to day control over politicians, we hold them to account at elections.

Veronica on 03/04/2016

but WE won't be doing that. People talk about us in UK ruling OURSELVES away from Europe, "WE will govern ourselves" . NO we won't ; the politicians will still be doing it ; we won't .

frankbeswick on 03/03/2016

There are several depressed towns around Greater Manchester, roll on the devolution of responsibility to the Greater Manchester region, which will enable us to unleash our own energies to solve our own problems.

Veronica on 03/03/2016

I didn't know that. Ty. But then , sadly, Stockport is quite a depressed little town now.

arthurchappell on 03/03/2016

The Bishop Blaize only closed quite recently

Veronica on 10/01/2015

Thanks to all for the debate and comments. They have evolved beautifully into a very interesting discussion.

Veronica on 10/01/2015

You are right. Language may certainly have been an issue in the case highlighted by BSG.

Veronica on 10/01/2015

I think racism stems from fear.

You make an excellent point. There was no need for there to be three churches but the people felt less threatened as immigrants having their own church and it as not for religious reasons.

Great comment . ty for posting .

Veronica on 10/01/2015

I hope the management did something about it.

Veronica on 10/01/2015

They are also ugly , so there ya go !

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