Bamford was one of five children born to Daniel Bamford (a muslin weaver and part-time teacher, and later master of the Salford workhouse), and his wife, Hannah. He was baptized on 11 April 1788 at St Leonard's Church, Middleton.
After his father withdrew him from Manchester Grammar School, Bamford became a weaver and then a warehouseman in Manchester. Exposure to Homer's Iliad and with the poems of John Milton influenced Bamford to begin writing poetry himself.
On 24 June 1810, he was married to Jemema (or Jemima) Sheppard at the Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George, in Manchester, England, which is now known as Manchester Cathedral. In 1851 or thereabouts, Bamford obtained a comfortable situation as a messenger for the Inland Revenue at Somerset House. However, he soon returned to weaving as an occupation. The 1861 England Census records that Samuel, as a "public reader and agent" resided with Jemina in Hall Street, Manchester. The couple appeared to be childless.
Bamford's radical political beliefs led him to be heavily involved in resistance to the English government and to witness to several important historical events relating to working-class advocacy and public defiance.
Arrests for treason
In 1817 he was remanded in jail to the New Bailey Prison in Salford on suspicion of high treason, on account of his political activities. From there he was taken to London and examined before the Privy Council, presided over by Lord Sidmouth as Home Secretary. After promising future good behaviour, Bamford was then released and allowed to return to his cottage at Middleton with his wife Jemima.
In August 1819, he led a group from Middleton to St Peter's Fields for a meeting that pressed for parliamentary reform and repeal of the Corn Laws. There they witnessed the Peterloo Massacre, and Bamford was arrested and charged with treason. Although there was no evidence shown that either he or any of his group had been involved in the violence, he was found guilty of inciting a riot and sentenced to a year in Lincoln prison.
The experience of the massacre made a deep impression on Bamford, convincing him that state power would always succeed against radical militancy. He came to be seen as a voice for radical reform, but opposed to any activism that involved physical force. Addressing the accusation that his political group had used violence in pursuit of their reforming ends, Bamford responded in Passages in the Life of a Radical and Early Days (1840–1844), "It was not until we became infested by spies, incendiaries, and their dupes – distracting, misleading, and betraying – that physical force was mentioned amongst us. After that our moral power waned, and what we gained by the accession of demagogues, we lost by their criminal violence, and the estrangement of real friends."
Poetry and other writings
Bamford was the author of poetry mostly in standard English, but of those in dialect, several that showed sympathy with the conditions of the working classes became widely popular. His Passages in the Life of a Radical (1840–1844) is an authoritative history of the condition of the working classes in the years after the Battle of Waterloo.
In 1850, he published Tawk o'Seawth Lankeshur, by Samhul Beamfort, which, following the first one written in standard English, even adds a second title page and publishing information in local dialect. It begins:
Good lorjus days whot wofo times ar' these,
Pot bos ar scant, and dear ar seawl an cheese,
Eawr Gotum guides us seely sheep dun rob,
Oytch public trust is cheyng'd into a job;
Leys, taxes, customs, meyn our plucks to throb.
Continuing his interest in dialect, he also compiled The Dialect of South Lancashire in 1854.
Death and legacy
Bamford died at Harpurhey on 13 April 1872 at the age of 84 and was given a public funeral in Middleton on 20 April, which was attended by several thousand people. A memorial obelisk was unveiled in Middleton Cemetery in 1877. Its inscription reads in part: "Bamford was a reformer when to be so was unsafe, and he suffered for his faith."
In 2000, The Diaries of Samuel Bamford were released, as edited by Robert Poole and a critical Martin Hewitt, according to whom "Bamford's career, not least its virulent anti-Chartism, have tainted him with reformism, and left him to be invoked as an example of the weaknesses and limitations of early nineteenth-century working-class political assertion."
Bamford's publications include:
- 1817: An Account of the Arrest and Imprisonment of Samuel Bamford, Middleton, on Suspicion of High Treason
- 1819: The Weaver Boy, or Miscellaneous Poetry
- 1834: Hours in the Bowers: Poems, etc.
- 1843: Homely Rhymes
- 1840–44 Passages in the Life of a Radical (published in parts with many later editions, includes a glossary of Lancashire words).
- 1843: Poems
- 1844: Walks in South Lancashire and on its Borders. With letters, descriptions, narratives and observations current and incidental
- 1849: Early Days
- 1850: Tawk o'Seawth Lankeshur, by Samhul Beamfort]
- 1853: Life of Amos Ogden
- 1854: The Dialect of South Lancashire, or Tim Bobbin's Tummus and Meary, with his Rhymes, with Glossary
- 1864: Homely Rhymes, Poems and Reminiscences
- S. Bamford, "Early Days", (London 1849) p. 1 "I have always been given to understand that I was brought into this world on the 28th day of February in the "Gallic era-eighty eight ;" "
- Ancestry.com. Lancashire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812[database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Lancashire Anglican Parish Registers. Preston, England: Lancashire Archives.
- Ancestry.com. Manchester, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1541-1812[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Anglican Parish Registers. Manchester, England: Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives.
- Spence, Peter. "Bamford, Samuel (1788–1872)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2008-02-15. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Ancestry.com. Manchester, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930 (Cathedral) [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Anglican Parish Registers. Manchester, England: Manchester Cathedral. Images produced by permission of Manchester Cathedral and Manchester City Council.
- London, England: Oxford University Press; Volume: Vol 22; Page: 56. Stephen, Sir Leslie, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1921–1922. Volumes 1–22. London, England: Oxford University Press, 1921–1922. Dictionary of National Biography, 1921–1922, Oxford University Press, London, England.
- Class: RG 9; Piece: 2974; Folio: 69; Page: 6; GSU roll: 543058. Ancestry.com. 1861 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1861.
- Lockett, T. A. (1968) Three Lives: Samuel Bamford, Alfred Darbyshire, Ellen Wilkinson. London: University of London Press; pp. 9–10.
- Bamford, Samuel. Passages in the Life of a Radical and Early Days, Volume 2. Unwin, 1893, p. 14. Reprint.
- Hollingworth, Brian, ed. (1977) Songs of the People. Manchester: Manchester University Press; p.151
- Bamford, Samuel. Dialect of South Lancashire: or, Tim Bobbin's Tummus and Meary. Manchester, p. 3.
- Class: RG10; Piece: 4065; Folio: 169; Page: 20; GSU roll: 846347. Ancestry.com. 1871 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1871.
- Ancestry.com. Manchester, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Anglican Parish Registers. Manchester, England: Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives.
- "Samuel Bamford Memorial". National Recording Project. Public Monument and Sculpture Association. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2008-02-15. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Hewitt, Martin. "Radicalism and the Victorian Working Class: The Case of Samuel Bamford." The Historical Journal, volume 34, number 4, 1991, pp. 873–892.
- 1817: An Account of the Arrest and Imprisonment of Samuel Bamford, Middleton, on Suspicion of High Treason.
- The Weaver Boy, or Miscellaneous Poetry.
- Homely Rhymes.
- Jarndyce catalogue: The Romantic Background c.1780–1850 (London, 2015), item 219. Retrieved 31 March 2015[permanent dead link].
- "Bamford, Samuel".
- 1844: Walks in South Lancashire and on its Borders. With letters, descriptions, narratives and observations current and incidental.
- 1849: Early Days, 2nd ed. 1859.]
- 1850: Tawk o'Seawth Lankeshur, by Samhul Beamfort.
- 1854: The Dialect of South Lancashire, or Tim Bobbin's Tummus and Meary, with his Rhymes, with Glossary.
- 1864: Homely Rhymes, Poems and Reminiscences
- Works by or about Samuel Bamford at HathiTrust
- Works by or about Samuel Bamford at Internet Archive
- Works by or about Samuel Bamford at Google Books
- Works by Samuel Bamford at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Works by or about Samuel Bamford in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Works by Samuel Bamford at Bamford's "Passages in the Life of a Radical" and "Early Days" in two volumes edited with an introduction by Henry Dunckley ("verax") London: T. Fisher Unwin, Paternoster Square: MDXCCCXCIII
- "Archival material relating to Samuel Bamford". UK National Archives.
- Biography & selected writings at gerald-massey.org.uk
- Biography at thisismiddleton.co.uk
- Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1885). . Dictionary of National Biography. 3. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. .