Wednesday, 24 June 2015

‘It had not been my intention to write a journal…’

A small journal written by a young lady from Jersey will be the focus of today’s post. Miss Mary Ann Lemprière began her journal on 6 January 182[5], the day she left her home to travel to Plymouth. She commences her journal by stating:
'It had not been my intention to write a journal but so many pleasant circumstances have happened which ought to be brought back to my recollection that I [shall] briefly state what has taken place'.
Throughout her journal Mary frequently refers to her brother and sister and travel companions, George and Jane. Following their arrival at Plymouth, where they spend a week in quarters at the Royal Hotel, they visit Bodmin and Launceston, before departing for France 'on Saturday morning at 6 o clock 3rd September 1825'.
Two pen and ink drawings accompany the text
The evening before departure Mary allows a friend to fill a page of her journal:
‘With Miss Mary Ann Lemprière’s permission a young man of the name of Frederick [Jauroin] opened this book [and] with the assistance of one of Miss Jane’s best drawing pencils was enabled to commence an interesting journal of her travels from the Isle of Jersey across the vast ocean which separates it from France [and] after having amused her readers made her readers shudder at the description of this sea voyage which was fraught with dangers of every kind she once more gets a footing on dry land then behold the scene changes on a sudden to the sublime [and] beautiful. The city of Granville is painted in all those glowing colours which so eminently distinguish the fair author’s style.’

They arrive at the port of Granville at half past nine in the evening, following an uncomfortable journey:
‘we sailed … for Granville expecting from the state of the weather to reach that port in 6 hours. But who can form plans on the water without being liable to be defeated in them!’
 As she travels to Paris Mary describes in detail the scenery of rural France. She has a particular interest in the architecture of domestic buildings and churches, occasionally roughly sketching parts of buildings to illustrate her text.

During their time in Paris Mary and her companions visit theatres, galleries and gardens and admire the fine architecture. They attend a number of plays and recitals, and spend an evening in the famous Théâtre de Vaudeville, which left her party unimpressed:
‘we were not much delighted with the musick and performance[s]’.
They have a more enjoyable time when they visit the Jardin des Plantes:
‘We were very much amused with a sight of the different outlandish animals and some beautiful birds.’
They also enjoy their visit to the ‘magnificent gallery of the Louvre’ and Notre-Dame Cathedral, which Mary says is ‘the finest Gothic I have seen since Rouen Cathedral’. The party leave Paris to travel to Rouen, and then back to Granville, where Mary ends her journal complaining of a hotel room with filthy floors and full of fleas.
'beds rather damp as at Caen ... however slept tolerably took our meals in George's room whilst at Granville ... attendance bad and floors filthy.'
Mary uses her journal as a notebook, filling it with accounts, copies of letters and various jottings

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Stone circles

As symbols of British summertime, the solstice and Stonehenge go together like strawberries and cream or mud and Glastonbury. With this in mind, we have been browsing through William Stukeley's book Stonehenge a temple restor'd to the British druids… published in 1740.

The historian Rosemary Hill writes of Stukeley that 'He was..the first person to realise that the thing [Stonehenge] was oriented in some way with the solstice... and once you do that, you are no longer in the business of just measuring things and digging things. You are now involved with something that has purpose, motive and meaning - so you have to try to work out what that might be'. 

Stukeley was from a Lincolnshire family, studied and practiced medicine and was eventually ordained and moved to a living in Stamford, Lincolnshire in 1730. His interests were many and varied. He became a fellow of the Royal Society and a friend of Isaac Newton. He joined the Masons and was a founder member of the Society of Antiquaries, and he took great pleasure in travelling up and down the country exploring antiquities, old buildings and ruins, including Stonehenge and Avebury, which at this time were being raided by locals to provide stone for building cottages, barns, pig sties etc.

Stukeley was well read and undoubtedly knew of the theories published by previous researchers on the origins of the stone circles, notably by Inigo Jones and John Aubrey. The most Notable Antiquity of Great Britain, Vulgarly called Stone-Heng on Salisbury Plain, Restored by Inigo Jones Esquire was loosely based on Jones notes but actually published posthumously in 1655 by John Webb. He had concluded that Stonehenge, since it was a structure of ‘elegancy and proportion’, had been erected not by the native Britons but by the Romans. In the mid seventeenth century the antiquary John Aubrey surveyed both circles and eventually published Monumenta Britannica, or, A miscellanie of British antiquities, in 1693. He concluded that the circles were attributable to peoples native to the British Isles and that, based on references by classical authors, this could only have been the priests known as Druids.

Stukeley undertook his own extensive fieldwork at Stonehenge and Avebury during the summers between 1718 and 1724. He made new discoveries - for example the earthwork avenue and the astronomical alignment of the stones - and although some of his interpretations were imaginative but incorrect, he laid the foundation for much of the research by future scholars. His book was based on the many notes, sketches, drawings, and measurements that he made.

 Stukeley is described as 'having drawn all his life' and his illustrations for the book manage to combine scientific detail with considerable quirky charm. Many of the images are so large that they are folded into place within the book's pages. He chooses to indicate scale in almost every landscape by including human figures - visiting tourists, bewigged gentlemen either on horseback or standing gesticulating at the stones with their walking sticks, ladies with fans, a reclining artist or a shepherd and his dog. 

Stukeley's interest in the stone circles became a very personal obsession - alongside his other interests he was an enthusiastic garden designer and his ideas on religion and the early British druids are clearly reflected in his designs for his own gardens. In October 1728 Stukeley writes to his friend Samuel Gale: 'If you enquire what I am now about: I am making a Temple of the Druids, as I call it, tis thus. There is a circle of tall filbord trees in the nature of a hodg [hedge], which is 70 feet in diameter, round it is a walk 15 foot broad circular too... When you enter the innermost circle or temple, you see in the centre an ancient appletree overgrown with sacred mistletoe...'

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The most cruel of all goddesses

The most cruel of all goddesses, a new film by Declan Clarke, is currently showing at the new HOME arts and cinema complex in Manchester. We feature as one of the locations in the film, which takes an oblique look at the life of Friedrich Engels. Engels famously studied at Chetham's Library with his friend and collaborator Karl Marx, and the desk where they worked together is a frequent place of pilgrimage for many of our politically minded visitors.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Lecture on George Shaw

There will be a talk by Jonathan Foyle at Saddleworth Museum in Uppermill on Saturday 13th June at 2pm for anyone who is interested in the 'Paradise Bed' which has historical links to the furniture in our Reading Room. We also have a large collection of furniture made by George Shaw. Looks like a great afternoon! Do go along. Tickets £10 from Ivan Foster:

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Duke of Bridgewater's Canal

Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater
Chetham's Library cuttings collection
We are lucky to have recently received on loan a book of accounts for the Bridgewater Canal compiled between 1760 and 1762. The first stretch of the canal, from Worsley to Manchester, was opened in 1761, so this manuscript was compiled early in the canal’s history.
The canal was commissioned by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (1736-1803), who sought a more efficient means of transporting the coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester. The coal had previously been brought into the city by river and packhorse, but the duke wanted to reduce costs and improve efficiency. He produced a plan of the canal with his estate manager John Gilbert, and in 1759 obtained an Act of Parliament which enabled work to commence. Following advice from the engineer James Brindley the initial route of the canal was altered, and a second Act of Parliament was obtained in 1760 to supersede the first. The original stretch of the canal was later extended from Manchester to Runcorn, and then from Worsley to Leigh. 
The opening page of the manuscript is headed ‘Account of things omitted being charged in his Grace the Duke of Bridgewater’s Navigation accounts 25 December 1760’. The first entry is an extra payment to Robert Watson ‘for 94 Roods of Cutting on Trafford Moss’. He was also paid for ‘back draining’ and ‘attending at Barton 16 Sundays’.
Anyone interested in researching the history of the Duke of Bridgewater's canal should visit the library to consult our cuttings collection. Along with numerous newspaper cuttings and manuscript notes it contains the following series of postcards dating from the early twentieth century, showing the canal passing through Worsley and Monton.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Gerald Iles at Belle Vue

We begin the week with an ending, a final posting from Courtney Stickland. Courtney, whose previous posts A Fresh Look at Belle Vue and the Guidebooks of Belle Vue you may remember, is working with the Belle Vue material as part of her soon to be completed MA in History from the University of Manchester. We shall miss her, and wish her luck as she starts on her PhD in the Autumn.

This week I got to delve into yet another new collection in the Chetham’s holdings: a massive box containing materials belonging to Gerald Iles, Belle Vue’s former head zookeeper.

Iles’ uncle John formed Belle Vue Manchester Limited in 1925 to purchase the park from the Jennisons, who had run the Belle Vue since its establishment in the 1840s. Continuing Belle Vue’s tradition as a family affair, Gerald’s father was appointed as general manager of the park and Gerald later became zoo director in 1933 at the young age of 21. A lover of animals since childhood, Iles studied Zoology at the University of Manchester and undertook a number of trips to European zoos, gaining inspiration for how to make Belle Vue a top-notch, modern zoo. Iles infused the zoological gardens with a renewed vigour throughout the 1930 and 1940s, utilising the media and celebrities to raise publicity and the profile of the zoo. While many of Belle Vue’s beloved animals died during the Second World War, in the post-war period Iles set out to revitalise the zoo with new, exotic animals to entertain and educate visitors. Iles served as zoo director of Belle Vue until 1957 when he moved to Montreal, Canada.

The materials come to Chetham’s Library by way of Gorton Monastery where we held our Belle Vue Roadshow open house 8-9 March 2015. The collection offers some familiar items, including copies of Belle Vue’s guidebooks and circus programmes from 1930s-1950s, which you can find on the Virtual Belle Vue website, as well as a plethora of new material.

As I usually find when digging into archival collections, the finding guide only scratches the surface of exactly what is inside. Within the covers of 3 huge (and very heavy) scrapbooks I found a ton of black and white animal photos of Belle Vue’s menagerie, as well as animals from zoological collections around Europe. Leafing through the various photographic studies of lions, tigers, and bears (literally!), one really gets a sense of Iles’ passion for animals, big and small.

Clockwise from top left: Feeding the giraffes at the giraffe house; giraffe in enclosure; boating lake and clock island; Belle Vue speed boats (all photos undated).

Clockwise from top left: Small deer (Chital?) in enclosure; cougar in enclosure; children enjoy an elephant ride; bison in enclosure; two elephants out for a walk; elephant ride with keepers; elephants in bathing pool with Bobs Roller Coaster in background (all photos undated).

Scattered throughout the box are loose photographs from Belle Vue’s Silver Jubilee Circus (1953/4), starring Iles himself in the ring — not as ringmaster, but as keen zookeeper, entertainer and educator. With a wide small he presents small crocodiles, pythons and lion cubs to the rapt audience, flanked by his zoo keeping team in their caps and smart uniforms, and the circus' camel riders in their ‘eastern’ garb.
Iles presents the python (1953/54)
These images truly illustrate the fusion of entertainments in Belle Vue Gardens, as well as Iles’ influence on the park. Zoological education is combined with the spectacle of the circus within the ring, delighting park audiences with exotic animals on display as specimens and entertainers.

Clockwise from top left: Iles with baby crocodile; with lion cub; with python (1953-54)
Iles’ interest wasn’t limited to his tenure in the park, and the collection includes a number of items from Victorian and Edwardian Belle Vue. A 1911 letter from Superintendent A.B. Baker at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park to George Jennison describes recently acquired East African Lions and fond memories of Belle Vue from a trip in 1909. A letter from 20 St. Swithin’s Lane, London (dated 21 September 1894) reads:
Dear Sir,
I have been away in Norway or would have written before. I enclose photos of the monkeys, which I am sorry to say are bad.
The only plan to take such (?) and different subjects is to take them out of doors in summer. If you think it worth while I will see if these plans can be informed in any way, but I think the better plan would be to try again under more favourable conditions.

Bad photograph of good monkey? (Orang-utan, 1894)
Attached to the letter with postage stamps are a faded portrait of a chimpanzee with a pipe and a baby orang-utan. The signature is difficult to discern but appears to read ‘Fraser Sandeman’. Sandeman was an English fly-fishing enthusiast who published two books on the subject: By Hook and by Crook (1892) and Angling Travels in Norway (1896), the latter possibly corresponding to the letter’s opening lines. You can read more about Sandeman here
Letter signed Fraser Sandeman (1894)
If you have read my previous posts you’ll understand that I was particularly delighted to find a number of photographs of the park grounds and interiors at the turn of the century, complementing Chetham’s existing holdings of photographs and postcards.
Two men enjoy the gardens
Ballroom interior, viewing stands along Firework Lake (undated)
The Iles Collection will not be digitised for Virtual Belle Vue at this time, but images from the other collections are still being added.

Monday, 11 May 2015

11 May - Politics can be Murder, Prime Minister!

Not in the case our newly elected one, of course - but the sad history of the demise in 1812 of PM Spencer Perceval, assassinated 203 years ago today in the lobby of the House of Commons by a rather severe critic, should remove the need for anyone to ride behind in Mr Cameron's chariot whispering 'remember you are mortal!'

This little work was out within two weeks of Perceval's untimely demise, and boasts that it carries not only an 'accurate likeness' of the unfortunate premier, but 'the only one ever taken':

There is the odd parallel to be found with the positions of PMs old and new - both keen to avoid closer European integration, although in Perceval's case the integration would have consisted of Napoleon taking over his job rather than a plague of straight bananas and square tomatoes. Both took over rather unpopular foreign wars and had to deal with the consequences, and there were some tough times economically, particularly north of the Trent. Some differences in style, certainly - it's hard to see Mr Cameron characterising Mrs Merkel 'as the woman in Revelation 17: 3–6, ‘who [sits] upon a … beast … the mother of harlots … drunken with the blood of the saints’, as Perceval saw Boney.

But it was none of these issues, nor Perceval's anti-Catholicism, his anti-slavery stance, nor his closeness to Pitt and matching distance from the King and Prince of Wales that brought him into the pistol-sights of his murderer.  John Bellingham, who 'coolly and deliberately' shot Perceval down, was filled with bitterness and resentment towards the government as a whole for its lack of consular support when he was taken to task for debt by the Russian authorities when trading in Archangel eight years before. Perceval's fault? Surely not, but for Bellingham, whom the authorities found sane enough to hang for murder, as the man at the top Perceval paid the price - the buckshot stops here.