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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Manchester Suffragettes and Suffragists

Lydia Ernestine Becker, suffragist.
Today a statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett was unveiled near Parliament. My latest feature for Discover Your Ancestors online magazine explores the fight for women's rights by Manchester suffragettes and suffragists during the late nineteen and early twentieth centuries.

In the mid-to-late 1860s, Manchester committees to campaign for women’s property and voting rights were founded by Elizabeth Wolstenholme (later Elmy), Lydia Ernestine Becker, Emily Davies, Alice Scatcherd and others.

‘Suffragists’ like Lydia Becker and Margaret Ashton argued that voting reform should be fought for using only peaceful, constitutional means. The suffragists scored a major victory in 1869 when property-owning women were given the right to vote in local government elections and act as Poor Law Guardians.

But women (and working-class men) still could not vote in national elections. Sheer frustration at successive governments' refusal to give women the vote led 'suffragettes' like Manchester-born Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters to take direct action. However, it was not until 1928 that all women over the age 21 of were given the vote, and put on an equal footing with men.
The Pankhurst Centre, Manchester

My book Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors has several tips for researching suffragette and suffragist sources in Manchester libraries and specialist archives. I also thoroughly recommend visiting Emmeline Pankhurst’s home at 62 Nelson St, Manchester, which is now a museum and heritage centre, if you wish to find out more about the suffragettes' story.

Lydia Ernestine Becker (1827–1890), an early campaigner for women’s political rights and founder member of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1867. Manchester Faces and Places Vol. 1, J. G. Hammond & Co., c. 1895. Author’s collection.

62 Nelson St, Manchester, now the Pankhurst Centre. Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters lived here from 1897–1907. © Sue Wilkes.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Jane Austen and Landscapes

Dr Syntax 'drawing after Nature'.
This year it's the bicentenary of the death of landscape gardener Humphry Repton. Gallop over to my Jane Austen blog to read more about Austen and her landscapes! You can also read my special feature on Austen and gardens here at Pride and Possibilities, published last year in the e-zine for the Jane Austen Literary Foundation.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Bath Abbey
My latest feature for the 2018 Discover Your Ancestors bookazine (order here) is on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. This landmark novel was published 200 years ago (Arizona University has a celebratory project here). Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus electrified the reading public when it first appeared. The story of hapless experimenter Frankenstein, his Creature’s torment, and the fearful revenge It wreaked on his creator, is now embedded in our cultural mindscape. 

The Shelley Frankenstein Festival is planning more events to commemorate Frankenstein, including a theatre production of a re-imagined version of Frankenstein, at the Shelley Theatre, Boscombe in May.

West front of Bath Abbey, Penny Magazine, 13 July 1833.  During the autumn of 1816, Mary worked on ‘Frankenstein’ while she, Shelley and Claire Claremont stayed in lodgings near the Abbey. Author’s collection.
The Galvanic apparatus.Coloured engraving, 1804, by J. Pass, after H. Lascelles. Courtesy the Wellcome Library, no. 47529i.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Radio Chat

Crown Hotel, Nantwich. 
I was thrilled to be asked to appear on Redshift Community Radio last week (it's based in the Nantwich area). I really enjoyed chatting to Liz Southall about life in Cheshire in Jane Austen's day, plus tips for tracing your family tree. If you missed it, you can listen the Scarlet Ladies show here on Soundcloud.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Full Steam Ahead! Made in Manchester

Ancoats mills at dinnertime.
The earliest factories were water-powered, so they were built by fast-flowing streams. The advent of steam power meant that factories could now be built wherever coal was plentiful, so Manchester and Salford were prime spots for industry.

One of the first manufacturers to use steam to power his mill machinery was Peter Drinkwater, who built a cotton-spinning mill in Manchester in 1789. Drinkwater’s mill had the first Boulton and Watt steam engine in the city. Around this time, James Bateman and William Sherratt set up a factory in Salford which made mill machinery components, and a pirated version of Boulton and Watt’s rotary steam engine.

Cotton factories and their contents were highly combustible, and Philips and Lee built the first ‘fireproof’ mill in the area (with cast-iron beams) in 1801.This mill, on Chapel Street in Salford, was also the first factory in Britain lit by gas.

By 1816, Manchester contained forty-three working mills; the largest employer was McConnel & Kennedy, with over 1,000 workers. These early factories ran day and night, which was very hard on their child workers.

The Manchester Statistical Society reported in 1837–8 that Manchester had 5,272 cotton spinning and weaving mills powered by steam; Salford had 761 steam-powered cotton mills. Manchester had 756 bleaching, dyeing and print-works powered by steam, and Salford had 521 steam-powered factories. Foundries, silk mills, breweries, saw-mills, collieries and chemical works in the area were also steam-powered.
Nasmyth's factory flat at Manchester. 

Scotsman James Nasmyth (1808–90), one of the most famous engineers of his day, set up his own business at Dale Street in Manchester in the 1830s.

He later founded the Bridgewater Foundry at Patricroft, Eccles, and the first steam hammer in Britain was forged there.

Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803–87)’s Chorlton Street works in Manchester made machine tools, guns and cannon. William Fairbairn had a huge works on Canal Street in Ancoats which made boilers and bridges. Platt Brothers made textile machinery at Oldham; this firm also had its own forges, rolling-mills and brick-works. Sharp, Roberts & Co.’s world-famous Atlas Works, founded in the late 1820s in Manchester, made locomotive engines.

As Victoria’s reign advanced, Manchester’s industries continued to thrive. At Gorton, Beyer-Peacock began manufacturing locomotives in the 1850s, the Ashbury Railway Carriage Company made railway carriages and waggons, and Crossley Brothers made engines and pumps.

The steam-engine galleries at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry often have the engines in steam, and you can get a real sense of their sound and energy when they are busy working!

Nasmyth’s restored steam hammer on display near Eccles. Copyright Sue Wilkes.
Nasmyth’s Dale Street factory.
A steamer passing Trafford Swing Bridge. Illustration by H. E. Tidmarsh, Manchester Old and New Vol. III., Cassell & Co., c.1894.
James Watt’s first rotary steam engine.
Ancoats mills at dinnertime, Manchester. Illustration by H. E. Tidmarsh, Manchester Old and New Vol. II, (Cassell & Co., c. 1894). 

Monday, 8 January 2018

William Cowper's House

Hares sculpture, Cowper Museum garden.
Happy New Year to all my readers! I hope you had a good Christmas.

If  you pop over to my Jane Austen blog, you can read about my visit to the Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney.

The museum has an exhibition devoted to the local lace-making industry; little girls worked very long hours making lace in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 
Lace on display at the Cowper and Newton museum.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I'd like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I'll be back in 2018 with more blog posts about social history.
If you pop over to my Jane Austen blog, you can read about the fun the Austen family had with their Christmas theatricals.
Illustration by Cecil Aldin, courtesy the Wellcome Library.