Weaste Cemetery

Biographies of people buried between 1910 & 19

William (Bill) Horrocks (1843 - 1918)


William (Bill) Horrocks was one of the pioneers of Socialism in Salford and was organiser of the Salford Gasworkers Union. Not a lot is known about his early life as it would appear that there are no census records.


He was born in Bolton in 1843 and came to Salford at an early age. He was a Turner by trade and a member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. At one stage in his life he lived at 36 Leigh Street Pendleton, but at the time of his death, his address was 1, Eliza Street, Salford. It is reported that he always lived in humble circumstances and often used to declare that he would not be rich if he could see others who had nothing.


In 1876, Bill married Sarah Ann Harlow at St Matthew's Church, Liverpool Road, Manchester. Although the record shows her maiden name of Harlow, she had actually been married to Thomas Staveley. The 1881 census shows they lived at 9 Hope Street, Pendleton, where William was an Ironworks Labourer. Also in the house were three Staveley children and their son John William Horrocks, aged 4.


By the mid 1880s Bill was an Organiser of the Salford Branch of the Social Democratic Federation and preached socialism to large crowds of spectators near Trafford Bridge. In 1888, Bill was involved in the Salford Gasworks strike, and on the formation of the Gasworkers Union, he became its local Organiser. He became a member and leading light amongst Salford Socialists and used to advertise meetings by chalking the notices on the pavements. He also stood as a Socialist candidate in Municipal elections and Salford Board of Guardians without success.


In January 1894, he was invited to speak on behalf of Manchester Anarchists at a mass meeting in Albert Square, Manchester. He stood on the steps of the Albert memorial and just as he was about to speak he was arrested and charged with obstruction. Bill was taken to court and fined 21 shillings. However, he appealed and in February he said that as he was standing on the memorial steps he was not obstructing anyone. Unfortunately his notice of appeal was not carried out correctly and the case was dismissed and he had to pay the fine and costs. In July 1894 he was arrested again by speaking to a large crowd in Stevenson Square.


In November 1904, Bill spoke at a meeting of 400 unemployed men in Regent Square, Salford and was appointed to the delegation to see the Mayor of Salford, Sir William Stephens. The Council recognised the plight of the unemployed and took steps to create work and relieve hardship.


There is some mystery surrounding his death on 23rd April 1918 as he was found drowned in the Bridgewater Canal in Patricroft. The funeral at Weaste Cemetery was attended by many Socialists from the Northwest and Wales.  The hearse carrying his body was preceded by a comrade carrying a red flag, and the mourners sang socialist hymns along the way and at the graveside. He was 75 years of age.