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THE NAME of Henry 'Orator' Hunt will be associated forever with the Peterloo Massacre.

But he was already an accomplished radical campaigner before the slaughter at St Peter's Fields, Manchester, on August 16th, 1819 - indeed, that was the reason he was there - and he went on to have a distinguished career in politics.

A rabble-rouser he might have been, but Hunt had no working class credentials. He was born in 1773, the son of a gentleman farmer in Upavon, Wiltshire, and at the age of 24 inherited 3,000 acres in Wiltshire plus a large estate in Somerset.

A dispute with his neighbour over the killing of some pheasants ended with him spending six weeks in prison in 1800 and it was while there that he met radical lawyer Henry Clifford. He came out of gaol a died-in-the-wool radical, immersed himself in politics and quickly earned a reputation as a public speaker.

He had plenty to get his teeth into. The expected upturn in England's fortunes following the final victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 never materialised. Instead, the country plunged into deep depression, with continental markets failing to absorb British industry's over production, orders for military material cancelled, and 400,000 demobilised men swamping the job market.

As distress spread, the radical movement became more vociferous, and violence among the crowd at a reform meeting

in Spa Fields, London, in December 1816, prompted the Government to introduce the Coercion Acts, which among other things strengthened their hand in dealing with seditious meetings.

By 1818, Hunt was standing as radical candidate for Westminster on a platform advocating annual parliaments, secret ballots, universal suffrage and the repeal of the corn laws. But although he was loved by working men, they did not have the vote - and only 84 Westminster people voted for him.

At St Peter's Fields, Hunt was due to speak along with Richard Carlile to a crowd estimated at more than 80,000.

But before they could get under way, the Yeomanry were sent in. Eleven people died and Hunt and local radical Sam Bamford were arrested. Hunt was charged with holding an "unlawful and seditious assembling" and got 30 months in gaol.

On his release, he continued his campaigning and linked with William Cobbett to form the Radical Reform Association. In 1831, he was elected MP for Preston - one of the few towns where all male taxpayers had the vote - but he declined to support the 1832 Reform Act because he believed it did not go far enough.

That cost him his seat in the 1833 election and he then retired from public life, dying at his Hampshire home in 1835.