Thursday, 5 March 2015

Music and Manuscript

Whilst Chetham’s Library doesn’t specialise in music, it does have quite large holdings of music. These range from liturgical pieces from the fifteenth-century to late nineteenth-century folk songs and ballads, and includes a wealth of seventeenth and eighteenth-century material, including pieces by Purcell, Handel, Blow and Eccles. 

This event provides an opportunity to hear some of the music contained in the historic Library and to visit the Library to see an exhibition of some of its musical treasures. 

Book online here. We recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment as tickets may sell out on the day.

A journal, commenced Dec 1st 1820

We have just acquired a fascinating addition to our manuscript collection in the form of a 19th-century journal. Begun on 1 December 1820 and concluded in February 1822, the journal was written by a 14 year-old boy, C. Whitworth from Manchester. He records a tour with his papa to Buxton, London and Brighton, and across the Channel to Dieppe, Rouen, St. Germain en Laye and Paris.

There are seventeen engraved plates in the journal, two of which are hand-coloured. An engraving of Brighton Pavilion is accompanied by a detailed description of the 'elegant structure, built in the Chinese form'. His account of Paris, where he spent four weeks, covers 38 pages, and includes detailed priced lists of the menu at their hotel – the soups, hors d’oeuvres, entries of beef, veal, mutton and fish, fancy dishes and wines. In London he particularly enjoyed the 'new pantomime of Mother Bunch', and they also saw Othello at Drury Lane, and the new comedy of Tom and Jerry at the Adelphi. The journal concludes with their return to Lancashire where they 'shortly arrived at the Temple'.


Although little is known of the author, he appears to have belonged to the Whitworth family of Manchester, a member of which founded a woollen manufactory, and we know what he looked like thanks to a pencil sketch of him at the beginning of the volume.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Marx in red pencil

The article ‘A German Account of the Newton Review’ appeared in the Volunteer Journal for Lancashire and Cheshire on 14 September 1860. This article would not merit much attention today were it not for the fact that it was written by Friedrich Engels and was the first of a total of twenty-nine articles that Engels would contribute to the Volunteer Journal between September 1860 and March 1862.

The Volunteer Journal was established in Manchester and edited by Captain Isaac Hall and published by W.H. Smith and Sons, who sold it on their railway bookstalls. This first article by Engels, which appeared in only the second issue of the journal, was written as a review of the Volunteers held at Newton-le-Willows racecourse on 11 August 1860. It originally appeared in the Allegemeine Militärzeitung on 8 September and was then translated and reprinted in the Volunteer Journal

According to Karl Marx, the article was sensational and made a stir in the London newspapers and was even reviewed in the Observer. But as Engels pointed out, this was not without some effort on the author’s part. Engels had sent copies of the Journal to all the London newspapers with his own article marked in red pencil. It was strangely unavoidable.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Good bye and good luck, Jess

We always hate to see our volunteers leave, even when it means they are moving on to bigger and better things. Jess Purdy, the longest-serving volunteer on our Belle Vue Project, is moving on to a full-time job in the city--good news for her new employers, but we will miss her hard work and cheering presence on a Monday morning.  Before she left, she wrote the following post reflecting on her time at the Library:
After completing my undergraduate degree in Medieval and Early Modern History at Manchester Metropolitan University, I began volunteering at Chetham's Library in June 2014. My intention was that volunteering at the Library would allow me to gain valuable insight into the daily lives of librarians and archivists before I committed myself to a full-time Masters degree in this field. On my first visit to the Library, I was told that I would primarily be working with the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens collection. The name "Belle Vue" rang a few distant mental bells, but to me it was initially nothing more than the name of a place my dad once mentioned he'd visited as a child.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was already knee deep in circus programmes, zoo guides and all manner of weird and wonderful items that have been lovingly collected and stored by a full range of people who have fond memories of Belle Vue. One of my most important achievements during my time at Chetham's has been sorting out the vast collection of Belle Vue memorabilia donated by the Marshall family, who are related to William Morris Marshall, one-time general manager of Belle Vue. This involved taking hundreds of items and ensuring they were correctly sorted into categories, and counting and numbering each item before making a 'finding aid' or a list of everything in the collection. This was a great experience for me, as it was a process undertaken over the course of a few weeks, and enabled me to gain a deep knowledge of what was included in this collection.

The Marshall Collection, as it is known by those that work at Chetham's Library, brought home to me the sheer scale of Belle Vue itself. It was not just a zoo, or a circus, or a fairground, but also had a huge exhibition centre, was visited by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and hosted Trade Union Conferences. It really must have been the destination in the north of England in its heyday. The Marshall collection contains Speedway programmes, tens of programmes for various boxing and wrestling matches, and menus for restaurants on the site and event leaflets for the King's Hall and the Speedway. It is truly fascinating to see old photos of performers who are now considered legends, such as Ken Dodd, as well as a few who are now totally disgraced, such as Jimmy Savile.

Meeting many people who had fond memories of Belle Vue at the Library's 'Inspired by Belle Vue' exhibition in October was truly memorable. It really brought the site to life, which, as a history student, is very important to me. A place or event is always much more special when it is almost tangible, when you have firsthand accounts of that place or event. I really got a sense that Belle Vue was an important part of a lot of peoples' childhoods, and still continues to hold special memories for them today.

And so, in my first and last blog post for Chetham's, I would like to thank all of the staff at the Library for allowing me to be a part of the great undertaking that is the digitisation project of the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens. I have certainly learned a lot, in terms of information about Belle Vue, but also about what it is to work as a librarian and archivist and the important work they undertake in terms of preserving the past, for the sake of future generations.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Belle Vue comes to Gorton Monastery!

Sunday 8th and Monday 9th March from 12-4 pm 
Chetham's Library is bringing its Belle Vue Collection to beautiful Gorton Monastery for a Belle Vue Festival! We'll be joining other Belle Vue enthusiasts for a day of fun and memories. Remember the magic  of Belle Vue with friends and family.
  • Free entry
  • Free parking
  • Heritage stalls -- History talks
  • Photos and memorabilia from the Library's collection
  • Print your own Belle Vue Memory
    with Graham Moss and his Adana printing press
  • Free family fun pack!

Sunday 8th
2pm Story reading with Livi Michael
3pm Talk with Frank Rhodes and Brian Selby

Monday 9th
3 pm Talk with Stephen Sayers

The Monastery, Gorton Lane, Manchester M12 5WF
0161 223 3211 email:

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Wallpaper, the Whitworth and William Henry Arnott...

We recently noticed on a lower shelf in the library, an attractive, if slightly shabby, blue daisy patterned box. The pattern on both the box, and the jacket of the book inside it, is a single colour version of William Morris's 1862 design 'The Daisy', the first Morris wallpaper to be put on the market. The book inside the box is  'A history of British wallpaper 1509-1914' which was published by Batsford in 1926.

There is a letter ‘tipped in’ to the front flyleaf from the Assistant Secretary of The Wallpaper Manufacturers Limited, Manchester Office, King Street West which indicates that the Chetham's Librarian, Charles T.E. Phillips, had approached them for a copy of the book shortly after it was published.

By the mid-nineteenth century Britain was considered to be the world leader in the industrial production of wallpaper both in terms of design and technology, and Manchester was arguably at the heart of this industry. The book is illustrated with both black and white images of historic wallpapers and with tipped-in colour plates and the introduction claims that it is the first to offer a comprehensive account of the British wallpaper industry. Chapter headings include 'Chinese papers and English imitations' and 'The coming of William Morris' .

Skimming through the pages of the penultimate section, 'Mill Records', one of the library volunteers was startled to see the name of what she realised was a family firm – Mitchell, Arnott and Co. She was aware that the Arnott family had owned a 'paper staining' business in Golborne but knew little of its origins. The company was formed when expansion by the East Midland Railway forced the block printers Mitchell and Hammond  to move from their Manchester premises (at Jackson Street, off London Road). In 1863 they found a suitable temporary mill in Golborne and by 1865 had built a completely new factory there, Brookside Mills, where shortly after they were joined by a new partner, W.H. Arnott – Great, Great Grandfather to our volunteer.

William Henry Arnott was previously employed by the well-known Manchester paper stainers Heywood, Higginbotham and Smith, and he and William Mitchell went on to build a very successful business in Golborne, specialising in the production of 'sanitary goods' or washable wallpapers. A visit by reporters from the Leigh Chronicle in the 1880's, describes how the mill covered one and a half acres and employed more than 200 people from the village. So, when fire broke out at the mill in December 1886, and the entire complex burned down, the Chronicle described it as '..the greatest disaster that has ever befallen Golborne’. However, the business must have risen from the ashes, as the book records that it was taken over by The Wallpaper Manufacturers Ltd in 1899.

Interestingly, in 1967,  The Wallpaper Manufacturers donated a huge collection of samples to the Whitworth Art Gallery which formed the bulk of its renowned collections. These should be accessible again very soon at the newly re-opened gallery.

This is the only family photograph of William Henry (in top hat and impressive facial hair) standing next to a gentleman cyclist and a penny farthing bicycle, outside a house which is probably 'The Laurels' in Lowton.  

He died quite suddenly in 1900 at the age of 72 and had clearly become the proverbial pillar of the community. His obituary lists at some length all the positions he held - magistrate, chair of Leigh Rural District Council and of the School Attendance Committee, overseer of the poor, and eventually County Councillor. However, our volunteer is not sure whether she and her ancestor would have got on well, as the obituary also records that ‘in politics he was a strong and unbending Conservative and for some time was chairman of the Golborne Conservative Club...' Strangely, William Henry died intestate, which might explain why there has been no trace of any family fortune...

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The origin of the Sun King?

Charles Perrault, Courses de testes et de bague faittes par le roy, et par les princes et seigneurs de sa cour, en l'annee 1662

This collection of exuberant engravings of prancing stallions and ringleted riders has actually been extracted from a seventeenth century 'festival book' . The original volume was published to celebrate the Carrousel (or tournament) held in June 1662 by Louis XIV, which was the last fete held in Paris before he moved the court to Versailles. Opinion varies as to whether the event was staged for his mistress Louise, Duchesse de la Valliere or to celebrate the birth of his son, Louis.

Festival books were published to record the magnificent festivals and ceremonies that took place in Europe between 1475 and 1700 such as the marriages and funerals of royalty and nobility, coronations and other grand events. As official publications, they were essentially PR jobs designed to impress and promote the image the court or government wanted to project. They are idealised rather than being strictly factual.

The book from which our extracts have been taken was lavishly illustrated, with 97 engravings, and was published by the Royal Press in 1670 in both French and Latin, so it could be circulated outside France. Louis XIV was particularly proud of this publication and had his own copy hand coloured. The original French text was written by Charles Perrault, who became famous as the author of what we know as the 'Tales of Mother Goose' and the engravings were created by Israel Silvestre and Francois Chauveau.

Allegedly organised by the 24 year old king himself, who was a gifted horseman and enjoyed performing, the Carrousel involved 55 participants and horses, divided into teams (or 'quadrilles') which competed in a course de bague (a game which seems to have resembled polo, where the riders attempted to spear a ring whilst riding at full gallop). The teams represented different nations - Romans, Persians, Turks, East Indians and Native American Indians - with the king and four of his noblemen acting as chiefs. Each team was elaborately costumed in specific colours and the decorations and motifs worn by the team members all had symbolic and heraldic meaning. The Romans, led by the king dressed as a Roman Emperor, were in red and gold. Significantly, Louis's device was a sun, and it appears that this was the first record of his use of the emblem which became such a key part of his identity as the Sun King.