Friday 28 May 2010

Up in the air

Senior Librarian Fergus Wilde recently took the opportunity to enjoy the view from a platform sixty feet above Chetham's medieval buildings. The on-site arrival of a cherry picker for the essential inspection of guttering and roofs offered a photographic opportunity which proved impossible to resist.

The image above shows the quadrangle of the medieval building formed by the three-sided double cloister and the baronial hall. In the centre is the tiny cobbled yard known as Fox Court. Just behind the old buildings it is possible to see the Vallins Arts Centre, designed in the nineteenth century by Alfred Waterhouse.

This second shot shows the medieval buildings in the foreground, with the old steps descending down to the River Irk and the skylights set into the roof of the Priests' Wing giving additional light to the Library. The car park in the middle distance is on the site of the old Exchange Station.

Here you are looking down on the cobbled street known as Walker's Croft, underneath which runs the culverted River Irk. To the right of the picture you can see part of the construction works for the new building which will house Chetham's School of Music.

This shot of the cathedral also shows the view along Deansgate, with the partially obscured residential building known as Number One Deansgate just behind the cathedral tower. Also on the skyline are the Town Hall and the glass dome of the Royal Exchange, as well as other landmarks both old and new.

All of the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Friday 14 May 2010

An eighteenth-century scandal

This extremely rare, possibly unique, example of local print culture was bought from the bookseller Christian White of Modern First Editions, Ilkley. The work shows that the fascination for celebrity culture is nothing new and that nothing sells so well as a court case involving sex, money and the wealthy.

The thirty-two page pamphlet was published by Joseph Harrop, printer and proprietor of the Manchester Mercury soon after the court case. Sold for three pence, this was also given free to subscribers of Harrop’s newspaper, the 1770s equivalent to the free supplements which accompany today’s gossip magazines.

The tale, a story of bigamy and perjury among the aristocracy, gripped the nation.

In 1744 Elizabeth Chudleigh (1720-1788), maid of honour to Augusta, Princess of Wales, married a Royal Navy Officer, Augustus John Hervey. The pair decided to keep the marriage a secret so Elizabeth could retain her post at court. The marriage, however, failed and the couple separated. Hervey went back to sea and Elizabeth became the mistress of Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of Kingston.

After some time, Hervey’s prospects improved when he succeeded his brother as heir to the Earl of Bristol. Kingston, however, was the better catch. In 1769 Hervey and Elizabeth colluded to conceal evidence of their wedding. Elizabeth committed perjury in the consistory court, but was declared a spinster and married the Duke within a month.

In 1773 Kingston died, leaving her all his property on condition that she remained a widow. In March 1775 Hervey succeeded his brother as Earl of Bristol. Elizabeth’s marriage to Hervey was declared legitimate, despite her denials, and she was therefore legally Countess of Bristol.

The Duchess was forced to return to England to defend herself against a charge of bigamy. The trial, in Westminster Hall before the House of Lords, was a sensation and tickets for the public gallery were eagerly sought. After hearing the evidence, all 119 Lords took it in turn to deliver their verdict. Each pronounced her guilty.

Elizabeth left the country in a hurry, but retained her inheritance from Kingston. For a while she lived in Calais before moving to the court of Catherine the Great in St Petersburg. She continued to style herself Duchess of Kingston until her death in Paris in 1788.