Thursday 18 December 2014

Deck the Halls

The torrential rain this past couple of days on top of last week's 'weather-bomb' sent us to volume viii of The Boys Own Bookshelf, Indoor Games and Recreations: A Popular Encyclopaedia for Boys (1891) to re-think our holiday amusement plans. Although there are plenty of women on the Library staff, we haven't let that deter us from using this entertaining, if sexist, book to get some ideas for fun indoor activities. The fat volume is filled with a wondrous array of delightful poems, stories, games, puzzles and projects, all embellished with intricate wood engravings; plenty to keep us occupied over the stormiest Christmas week. 

We were first caught by the idea of 'the very useful and instructive pastime' of 'the construction of a sundial', but we regretfully concluded that it would get little use before next June. The chapter titled 'Fire-balloons and Gas-balloons: How to make and use them' also tempted us, especially since the new exhibition at Manchester Central Library has prompted us to admire some of our own balloon broadsides. 

But in the end, we've settled on 'How we made a Christmas ship' by C. Stansfeld-Hicks, author of Yacht and Canoe Building, etc., etc. What could be better for those of us who are 'tired of Christmas trees', as Mr S-H, so trenchantly phrases it? An elegant ship on the sideboard, small gifts hung from its rigging, presents an intriguing alternative to the more common Christmas tree. A quick trip around Google shows us that there seems to be a persistent maritime tradition around Europe which connects St Nicholas's gift delivery system with a ship rather than a sleigh. 

The good people of Ormseby Hall (picture above) are well ahead of us with this Christmas ship lark. They got the idea from former resident James Stovin Pennyman, who was raised in Greece, and who relates in an 1868 diary entry how he and his family spent the days of Christmas rigging out their own Christmas ship. You can see the replica of the Pennyman Christmas ship at Ormesby Hall this month, since theirs is ready to go.  

Taking note of the above warning from earlier in the book, we include a pdf of 'How we made a Christmas ship', in case you too find yourself stuck indoors with time on your hands. If you are making your own Christmas ship, we'd be pleased to receive a photo of the completed vessel.

Friday 12 December 2014

A fresh look at the Belle Vue project

Today we are delighted to introduce another of our work placement students, Courtney Stickland of the University of Manchester, who is working alongside Kathy on the Belle Vue Project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. Courtney writes:

"I studied for my undergraduate degree in History and Human Geography at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada), during which I spent a term studying abroad at the University of Manchester. I fell in love with the city, returned to pursue my Master’s degree, and am now  on a work placement for UoM’s MA (Modern British) History program, working on the Belle Vue Gardens Project at Chetham’s Library.

When I arrived at Chetham’s for the first time I was amazed by the building and the collection - so much so that I accidentally ended up on a mini-tour with guide Jess for fifteen minutes before eventually managing to pipe up that I was meant to be helping out in the office and was not a tourist. After a stream of apologies and nervous laughter, I got down to business with Chetham’s Cataloguing Librarian Kathy Whalen, and was introduced to the Belle Vue Gardens Project.

Obviously, being from Canada, I had never heard of Belle Vue, but was immediately interested in this place that was so prominent in Mancunian life and memory for nearly 150 years. Over the next few days I began to tell my course mates about the placement, and they all commented how their parents and grandparents used to go there, confirming to me how big a deal Belle Vue had once been.

Given my background in geography, I quickly took to Google maps with old Belle Vue guidemaps in hand to get a spatial image of the place in my mind but with no luck: few remnants of the area’s heyday as an entertainment mecca remain. The trapezoidal site from the guide maps of years past is roughly recognisable, bounded by Hyde Road, the A6010 and Kirkmanshulme Road, and the greyhound stadium is still there, but beyond that Belle Vue has been completely transformed into commercial and residential space.

While my geographical side was disheartened by the lack of built heritage to scour (who doesn’t love before and after photos of old buildings?), I was consoled by the wealth of visual and textual material in the Belle Vue Collection from which I can rebuild an image of the park’s past. And thanks to the toil of previous volunteers on the Belle Vue Gardens Project, I have a massive amount of material available to work with, much of it already digitised. My work placement partner Jacob and I are continuing to help with this important task of digitising and organising the Omeka database, but also in opening up the collection to the public, particularly those who experienced Belle Vue first hand and remember its glory days. In order to do this, Jacob and I are simultaneously uploading material from Omeka and the library’s holdings to a variety of social media websites, including the existing Chetham’s Library Flickr and Twitter, as well as a Tumblr page specifically for the Belle Vue Gardens Project which I have created.

View of the dashboard of the bellevuegardensproject Tumblr dashboard, already making use of the park’s great visual materials

I decided that Tumblr would be a beneficial social media platform for dispersing the Belle Vue Collection because of my own personal experience with the site. Amongst the sea of hipster pictures and fan posts about Harry Potter, one can find a variety of history-related accounts that share interesting information about the past, usually highlighting the humorous and bizarre bits of history that don’t typically make it into textbooks (some of my personal favourites are Oxford University Press, This Day in History and Mad History). Furthermore, like Flickr, the microblogging platform of Tumblr favours visual material - a perfect outlet for the myriad of striking images contained in the Belle Vue Collection. By using relevant hashtags on uploaded images, a wider range of users can be introduced to Belle Vue who would otherwise not know about its existence or its interaction with certain aspects of history. For example, one of the site’s first visitors was a Davy Jones fan page which reblogged a photo set of Jones, Pelé and Gracie Fields casting their hand and foot prints in the 1960s for Belle Vue’s Wall of Fame, subsequently sharing the Belle Vue page with all of their followers and increasing awareness of the park’s history of celebrity appearances. I am hoping that by highlighting the visual history of Belle Vue, I can lure new audiences to the Belle Vue Collection (using links to the Omeka database, the Chetham’s Library blog and Flickr page), particularly local Tumblr users who are unfamiliar with the park or the Library’s collections.

Some challenges I am anticipating with the Tumblr page are maintaining a regular posting schedule, striking an even balance of content and establishing a visible web presence. Thankfully the Tumblr platform includes a queueing option, so I can upload and schedule a number of posts on my days in Chetham’s. In regards to content, I will need to suppress my intense interest in nineteenth-century British history and include material across the park’s long history, but also use a wide array of sources, including photos, maps, pamphlets, newspaper articles, videos and ephemera. Lastly, increasing traffic to the site will be largely reliant on effective tagging of posted material (it was jokingly suggested that I tag everything with ‘baby animals’ to increase traffic, though this will definitely be employed in zoo-related posts) and advertising the Tumblr through the Chetham’s Library Twitter and Facebook accounts.

I am looking forward to working with the collection and staff at Chetham’s in the upcoming months, and learning more about Manchester’s local history!"

You can find out more about the Library's Belle Vue collection and see the images on the Virtual Belle Vue site here.

Thursday 11 December 2014

The Ariel Poems

In 1927, long before the Christmas shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a young director from the publishing company Faber and Gwynne came up with an innovative and elegant idea for the Christmas gift market.

His name was Richard de la Mare, the son of the famous poet Walter and his idea was to produce a series of small illustrated pamphlets which would combine a single, previously unpublished, poem by a major poet with an appropriate illustration. The poems were christened the ‘Ariel Series’ and all were to have a seasonal or Christmas theme. The format was simple: a folded card cover featured the title, author and illustrator and occasionally a small line decoration. The two inside sheets were folded to give four pages for the poem and an original illustration, which was printed in three colours only. The poems were printed by the Curwen Press and, apart from a small limited edition which were sent as Christmas greetings to important clients, were priced at one shilling.

When Richard de la Mare began to approach poets he was able to say not only that his father Walter had promised a poem, but so had his fellow director at Faber, T.S.Eliot. Those who eventually agreed were a stellar list, including Thomas Hardy, G.K.Chesterton, Siegfried Sassoon, Edith Sitwell, W.B.Yeats and D.H.Lawrence. The resulting poems were wonderfully varied and range from overtly religious themes to meditations on winter and the magic of Christmas seen through the eyes of a child.

Interestingly, the poets did not know which artist would be chosen to respond to their poems. Richard de la Mare consulted with the printer Henry Curwen and selected a number of up-and-coming young artists as well as some established names, including David Jones, Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Paul and John Nash, and Eric Gill. Many of the resulting combinations of poem and image are inspired.

Between 1927 and 1931 Faber published thirty-eight poems in the Ariel series and then, in the early 1950s, after a gap of twenty years, it was decided to revive the series. The library has five of the later series, all published in 1954, two by Eliot, one by De la Mare, one by Edwin Muir and one by Cecil Day Lewis. They each have great charm and have been illustrated by renowned artists including Robin Jaques, E.McKnight Kauffer and John Piper. They are part of the Pickles Collection which was donated to the Library by Anne Pickles in memory of her late husband.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Manchester: Alchemical City

Don't miss Jeanette Winterson's new documentary 'Manchester: Alchemical City', which airs on Radio 4 next week. Jeanette, who is one of our Honorary Patrons, takes a personal look at the history of the city which shaped her young life, and visits Chetham's Library as part of her investigations.

The programme is on daily at 1.45pm.

Thursday 27 November 2014

An early work of botany, and a political cow


A reader recently requested this splendid folio work by the seventeenth-century French physician and botanist Dionys Dodart in collaboration with the engraver Nicolas Robert. Dodart (1634-1707) was elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1673 and was notable for his early studies of plant growth and respiration, working with Robert on several illustrated works. 

This is a first edition of one of the most important books in the history of botanical illustration, a work which grew out of an idea first proposed to the Academie Royale des Sciences by Claude Perrault in 1667. Following Dodart’s election to the Academy, he set to work on the task of representing thirty-nine species of plant, with descriptions, attributes and sources. Robert made the drawings for the engravings from life, and the intention was to reproduce the images as large as possible to allow maximum detail.  Gavin D.R. Bridson and Donald E. Wendel, in their Printmaking in the Service of Botany… describe the plates as ranking ‘among the best botanical engravings ever produced’. 

The volume has a beautiful contemporary red calf centrepiece binding by the Imprimerie Royale, with a stamp of the French royal arms surrounded by a wreath. The endpapers are of magnificent marbled paper. 


Our copy has an eighteenth-century Jacobean armorial bookplate belonging to Phillip Carteret Webb (1702-1770), an English barrister and antiquarian who sat for the rotten borough of Haslemere from 1754-1768 and inspired a ballad entitled ‘The Cow of Haslemere’ which had eight calves, each eligible to vote in Webb’s interest.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Lunchtime closure

Some of you may know that we have been trialling lunchtime openings since the beginning of the academic year. Regrettably we have now made the decision to revert to closing for an hour between 12.30 and 1.30, but hope to be able to revise this at some point in the new year. We will of course keep you posted of any future changes to the opening hours.

Thursday 13 November 2014

From Flanders Fields to Worsley Hall

One hundred years ago many of the great houses of Great Britain were converted into temporary hospitals to treat wounded servicemen home from the fighting on the Western Front. Worsley Hall in Greater Manchester was one of these. In 1914 Lord Ellesmere loaned his property to the British Red Cross which opened up a hospital unit of around one hundred beds to treat wounded and sick soldiers. The staff, many of whom were distinguished in their field, were drawn from local hospitals. One of these was Ernest Bosdin Leech. During the last months of 1914 and the early months of 1915 he treated a number of patients at Worsley Hall. Not only did he keep a diary of this time, part of the extensive Leech Family Diaries, he also kept a notebook in which his patients wrote their names, regiments, and in some cases their home address in their own handwriting. They often noted the battles they had fought in, the reason they were in hospital, and in some cases a more detailed description of their experiences, or some verses of poetry. In a few cases they made a drawing. There is something uniquely powerful in reading these accounts of the war in the handwriting of men so recently returned from the front.

The patients of 1914 were largely from Britain’s professional army which bore the brunt of the fighting alongside the French and Belgium armies. Many of them were involved the the bloody fighting around Mons and the weeks of rear-guard action that followed. Herbert Rhodes of the 60th Battery Royal Field Artillery left England on 8 August and fought throughout the 'retirement' from Mons. 'I was on my horse’s back for a week and when I did get off my horse I could not stand and was very sore'. He had little time to recover. The German Army was defeated at the Battle of the Marne and withdrew to the high ground. This marked the end of the mobile war and the beginning of trench warfare. The first battle of this new type of warfare was the Battle of Aisne. Herbert Rhodes was there: 'I then went to the Battle of Aisne where we were in action for a month and two days and blew the Germans out of the caves where the French were defeated in 1870'. He went on to Ypres where he was wounded in the leg.

Not all the patients had suffered physical injuries. Even at this early stage of the war the psychological strain was manifest. Private John Purdy of the Leinster Regiment wrote, in a shaky hand, that he 'took fits over three of his chums getting killed by a Jack Johnson' (a type of shell). A contemporary newspaper report of the hospital remarks that although the soldiers make light of their experiences by day, at night the depth of their trauma emerged. 'Though their waking hours are very light, at night time many of the men suffer terrible nightmares. They imagine themselves back again in the trenches fighting phantom hosts and frequently the nursing staff have much difficulty in calming the poor fellows.'

A surprising number of patients were admitted not as a result of enemy action, but because of that other fight against the elements. Living outside through the cold and wet of a northern European autumn and winter, in a constant state of anxiety and physical exhaustion, took its toll. One such victim was Private W. Hilton of the Sutherland Highlanders: 'Went to the front on August 12. Was at the Battles of La Cateaux, Aisne and Messines. Sent home with ague, rheumatism and nervousness through sleeping out in the wet'. As the war dragged on through the first winter an increasing number of men were admitted with frostbitten feet. Other soldiers were admitted because of the inadequacy of their equipment. Private Irving of the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment was invalided home on 2 January 1915 with a septic ankle caused through 'marching with bad boots'. How many fighting men were lost to the British Army through lack of warm socks and properly fitting waterproof footwear?

Most of the patients wrote entries that were positive or neutral in tone. Some were humorous. Bertie Caldwell of the 21 Sherwood Foresters, who had received six bullet wounds at the battle of Aisne on 20 September, obviously wanted to make the nurses smile with a cheeky ditty:
'The Sultan got sick of his harem
And invented a scheme for to scarem
So he caught him a mouse
Which he loosed in the house
The confusion is caused harem scarem'.

However sometimes their despair comes through as in this entry from Private H. Mace of the 1st Glosters Regiment: 'Wounded in the Battle of Aisne September 22nd, left leg amputated. Sent back to Worsley Hall as nobody else wanted me.'

A number of patients at the hospital were from the Belgian army. These men had fought in a desperate delaying action from the first days of the war. They succeeded in preventing the German army from gaining control of the channel ports, a critical strategic defeat for the German High Command. Many of these men were conscripts rather than professional soldiers. Pierre Walbroeck and Henry Robins both of the 7th Regiment of Infantry, were cousins wounded at the Battle of Yser in October 1914. Henry, who had been a student at Ghent University, was wounded by rifle bullets in both legs and received a fractured tibia, an injury which in itself often proved fatal due to the difficulty of moving wounded men in battlefield conditions. One of their comrades Guillis Georges Fergeus of the 2nd Regiment of Sisjue had been wounded on 22 October and drew this accomplished but rather prematurely optimistic picture of a terrified Kaiser Wilhelm fleeing the fighting.

The contradictory attitude to the war held by these men is evident in verses written by two men. One a call to arms, the other a plea to just end it and go home.
John Beckett of the Worcestershire Regiment wrote:
'Why do they call sonny, why do they call
For men who are brave and strong
It is naught to you if your country falls
And right is smashed by wrong
Is it football and the picture show?
The pub and the betting odds
When your brother stands to the tyrant’s blow
And Britain’s call is God’s.'

Sergeant Green of the XII Royal Lancers, who was wounded at the Battle of The Marne on 2 November drew a picture that could be seen as reflecting this martial spirit and the need to fight to the end.

However some of these men were already deeply weary of the war and Lance Corporal Mills of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment wrote:
'I want to go home
I want to go home
I don’t want to go to the trenches no more
Where the Jack Johnsons go whistling over
I want to go home to the sea
Where the Kaiser he won’t catch o ’me
Singing ho my'.

One wonders how many of these men had to go back and how many lived to witness the peace of 1919?

Many thanks to our volunteer Paul Carpenter for taking the time to write and research this blogpost.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

On the radio

Catch us on BBC Radio 6 Music on Sunday afternoon between 2-4pm, when Guy Garvey looks at Manchester's rich library heritage as part of 6 Radio's week of special library-themed programmes. Manchester tour guide and friend of Chetham's Library, Jonathan Schofield, will be talking about the collection and telling the story of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who studied here together in the summer of 1845. Don't miss it!

Monday 10 November 2014

Happy Birthday William Hogarth!

William Hogarth was born on this day in 1697. You can read more about our wonderful collection of prints from his studio on our 101 Treasures page here.

Friday 31 October 2014

A ghost-cat for Halloween

Haunted England: A survey of English Ghost-lore by Christina Hole, illustrated by John Farleigh, Batsford, 1940.

This fearsome moggy is the subject of a local legend relating to the parish church of St Andrew at Leyland. The villagers of nearby Whittle-le-Woods had attempted to build a church in their village on land donated by a local miller, but night after night the stones were moved to Leyland by the devil in the form of a huge cat. The cat sprang upon anyone who had the misfortune to catch it at work and killed them. In another version of the story, the parishioners actually completed the church and it was then moved in its entirety 'by a huge cat with unearthly looking eyes and a tail with a barbed end'. Quite why the devil should have intervened in the location of a church is not clear, although it appears to have been quite a common phenomenon in Lancashire: apparently a flock of demons in the form of pigs prevented St Peter's church in Burnley from being erected in Godly Lane…

The author of the book, Christina Hole, had connections with the North West, for she had worked in Cheshire before the Second World War as an organiser and speaker for the Conservative Party. She became fascinated by folklore, published her first book Traditions and Customs of Cheshire in 1937, and became an active member of the Folklore Society. Her obituary describes her as 'rather eccentric' on the grounds that  she refused to have a telephone installed in her home and 'was surrounded by well-behaved cats whose idiosyncracies gave her great pleasure'.

It is the bizarre and beautiful black-and-white line drawings by John Farleigh (1900-1965) which are the most striking feature of the book. Far from being the folksy, gothic images that one might have anticipated, many of these elegant wraiths and spectres have a distinctly surrealist look to them.

Farleigh was renowned as a wood engraver, and famously illustrated George Bernard Shaw's The Adventures of the Black Girl in her Search for God, published in 1932. He was a great campaigner for crafts and became chair of the Crafts Centre of Great Britain, publishing articles, lecturing and broadcasting.

Special Collections at Manchester Metropolitan University have an archive collection of Farleigh material including a hundred wood blocks, prints and drawings and copies of articles, lectures and texts.

Monday 20 October 2014

Travels and discoveries far and near

We are very sorry to be saying goodbye to David Thomas, who has been volunteering with us on the Belle Vue project over the last few months. David is headed to Reading to begin a new adventure as a graduate trainee at the University Library, and we wish him all the best with this new chapter in his life.

Meanwhile, David has written a wonderfully engaging review of one of the books from our collection which caught his attention, Denham and Clapperton's expedition to Africa, published in 1826. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did:

Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa, in the Years 1822, 1823, and 1824

This is an account of a British expedition to encourage trade in Northern and Western Africa organised by Henry Bathurst, 3rd Earl Bathurst (and a Knight of the Garter) who was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. With the dust barely settled after the Scottish referendum, it is a reminder that even in Britain’s imperial heyday the Scots and the English didn’t always get on. It was written by the English Major Dixon Denham, who was accompanied by two Scots, Captain Hugh Clapperton and Doctor Walter Oudney. Alongside the British North-South bickering, the expedition is notable in that they were the first Europeans to successfully complete a North-South crossing of the Sahara desert.

The principal reason for the group’s falling out was that Denham was late to the party and then tried to impose his leadership. One of Denham’s friends said that 'he was the kind of man who must have adventure or he rots'. Clapperton and Oudney were down as the original leaders before Denham used his connections to join at the last minute. The group arrived in Tripoli in November 1821 where for an unknown reason, Denham was kept from leaving until March 1822 while Oudney and Clapperton went on ahead in February. Luckily Denham eventually left with over 200 Arab horsemen to find that his colleagues in Murzuk (known along with Marrakech, as the ‘Paris of the Sahara’) had fallen ill and the local bey (tribal leader) had taken their camels away. Denham had to return to Tripoli to raise funds and try and get the Pasha Yusuf Karamanli to provide an armed escort for the expedition. Clapperton showed little appreciation, writing that 'His absence will be no loss to the Mission, and a saving to his country, for Major Denham could not read his sextant, knew not a star in the heavens, and could not take the altitude of the sun'.

After this false start the expedition finally left Murzuk a year after they had reached Africa, in November 1822. The three men were now accompanied by a carpenter by the name of Hillman, four camel drivers and five servants. They became the first Europeans to see Lake Chad on 4 February 1823 and then reached Kuka (now Kukawa, Nigeria) in the Bornu Empire on 17 February. It was at this point that relations really soured. Ignoring Clapperton’s protests, Denham went on a slave-raiding expedition and was nearly killed himself. He then proceeded to write false reports to London accusing Clapperton of having an inappropriate relationship with one of the servants.
Things only got worse when Denham surveyed Lake Chad (see map) and Clapperton and Oudney left him to travel to the Hausa states. Oudney succumbed to an illness in January 1824 but Clapperton reached Kano and Sokoto before returning to Kuka. Reuniting with Denham the two men set out back across the Sahara to Tripoli without talking to each other once for the entire journey of 133 days. They finally returned to Britain on 1 June 1825.

Clapperton quickly returned to Africa which allowed Denham to write (as you may expect) rather one-sidedly about the expedition. He did acknowledge that the artist Sir Robert Ker Porter ‘perfected several drawings’ (shown here). Porter was very well-travelled himself; he had been Alexander I of Russia’s historical painter, toured the Middle East and eventually became the British consul in Venezuela. Clapperton died in 1827 and his journals were thought lost but they were found in an archive in South Africa and published in 2000. It is arguable that he had the last laugh; whereas Denham is largely forgotten, Clapperton is often counted as one of Britain’s leading early explorers of Africa.  

Friday 17 October 2014

Men and the Fields by Adrian Bell, with drawings and lithographs by John Nash

In addition to the exceptional collections of early printed books in the Library we also have a huge variety of more modest volumes with their own quirky charm and which often provide interesting glimpses into social and publishing history.

Men and the Fields was published in the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of World War Two. The gentle, nostalgic scenes of country life described by the author Adrian Bell and the delightful colour lithographs and black and white drawings by the artist John Nash evoke an idyllic rural world which was soon to be lost. Nash illustrated three other books for Batsford and unusually all four titles were printed by the Curwen Press, who were renowned for the quality of their lithographic printing.

The book was actually the result of a radical new publishing strategy adopted by Batsford, a traditional family firm founded in 1897, who were renowned for their high quality books on architecture and building. As Charles Fry, one of the directors, wrote in 1943 'the financial depression of the thirties brought a crisis which we had to weather, and the only way to do it was to change our fashion to suit the times. A wider public had to be reached with books of a cheaper price'

Fry goes on to describe how the three directors: himself, Harry Batsford and Brian Cook, took the decision that they 'would begin an entirely new kind of book...Britain, its churches, its houses and its landscape. But we planned to put more than a hundred illustrations in each book, to present them with Brian's attractive wrappers, and in editions so big that we could afford to sell the books for as little as seven shillings and sixpence each....'

They began with the 'British Heritage' series and went on to establish the 'Face of Britain', the 'Pilgrims Library', and 'British Nature Library'. The books were a huge success, although Fry commented that 'elderly architects and some old customers said quite frankly that Batsford were going to the dogs and... prostituting architecture and history by making it available to the general public'.

Batsford, Fry and Cook actually travelled up and down the country in Fry's old Austin gathering material, drawings and photographs for some of the books. The Cathedrals of England, published in 1934, includes an amusing acknowledgement in the preface: 'we owe much to the patience and courtesy of the cathedral vergers who have led us conscientiously over roofs and up towers, along the dark ridge-passages of vaults and the giddy footwalks of triforiums and clerestories'.

Between the wars a strong conservationist lobby had developed which campaigned on country issues. The Council for Preservation of Rural England, Ramblers Association, Footpaths Preservation Society, and National Trust all sounded warnings that rural life was fast disappearing under a tide of modernity. Batsford's initiative in publishing their various heritage series tapped into the zeitgeist, and by the mid nineteen-thirties, the developing political situation and threat of war heightened the mood of nostalgia for pastures green and chocolate box cottages.

The 1937 Batsford book North Country by Edward Vale, however, includes some images which paint a much darker picture of changes which had already happened and hints of worse to come. The black and white photographs with titles such as 'The street of unemployed,Tyneside' and 'Derelict industry Co. Durham', are a sombre contrast to the other scenes of lakes, farms and fells. In his foreword, Vale speaks of the state of flux in the region amongst industry, agriculture and workers and goes on to remark that 'at the same time the outside world is in a greater state of flux than has been known for a long while in history and, whatever turn things take the results are bound to have what politicians call “important repercussions”'...

We are very grateful to Patti Collins for researching and writing this blogpost, as well as many others on this page. Patti has volunteered at the Library for many months and has unearthed numerous treasures from the collection as well as undertaking sterling work with exhibitions and general library housekeeping work. We couldn't manage without her!

If you would like to volunteer at Chetham's Library we would be delighted to hear from you. We are particularly interested in people for front-of-house roles, so if this sounds like you, do get in touch with us at or ring us for a chat on 0161 834 7961.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Belle Vue Event

Thursday 30 October, 6.30 pm to 8.00 pm
Spend an evening at Chetham's Library with artists, illustrators and authors 
    Inspired by Belle Vue

Livi Michael & Anna Mainwaring from the Manchester Writing School will be reading their stories 'For one day only' and 'Maharajah: the elephant who walked to Manchester'.

The original illustrations for these stories which were created by Bethany Thompson & Nabihah Shireen will also be on show.

Meet some of the artists from Manchester School of Art who created the work in our current exhibition Sampling Belle Vue. 

Preview our new 'Digital Belle Vue' website & talk with Belle Vue Project Volunteers.

Autographed copies of the short-story anthologies Timelines and Crimelines, where Livi and Anna's stories may be found, will be available for purchase.

Wine, juice and snacks will be served.

Eventbrite - Inspired by Belle Vue

Thursday 2 October 2014

Manchester Literature Festival 6-26 October

We will be hosting two events for the Manchester Literature Festival this year, and both will be held in the atmospheric Baronial Hall.

The first event, on Monday 13 October, will be 'The History Girls', a discussion by the novelists Suzannah Dunn and Maria McCann on the historical novel. Tickets are £6/£4 and the event begins at 6.30pm. More information here.

Then on Friday 17 October we host the glittering prizegiving ceremony of the Manchester Writing Competition. The event will be hosted by James Draper and Matthew Frost and tickets include entry to a pre-event drinks reception. Tickets are £5 and the event begins at 7pm. More here.

We hope that lots of you will be able to come and enjoy the combination of cultural excellence with the wonderful atmosphere of the lovely medieval buildings. 

Friday 26 September 2014

The Theatre of Insects, or the tangled web of Elizabethan entomology

We know that many of you enjoyed our recent tweet of the bumble bee woodcuts from Thomas Moffett's Insectorum… so we decided to take a closer look at the book.

Published in 1634, the Latin title translates as 'The Theatre of Lesser Living Creatures'. It has a curious and tangled publishing history, as, of the four authors listed on the title page (Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner, Thomas Penny and Thomas Moffett)  not one of them lived to see the book actually printed.

Thomas Moffett and Thomas Penny were lifelong friends who first met at Cambridge as medical students. Although Moffett had a close brush with death from food poisoning after dining on mussels, both men eventually graduated and established successful medical practices in London. They shared a passion for natural history and were part of a group of young men living in the Limehouse area who collected all manner of exotic plants, animal specimens and drawings from travellers and explorers, including Sir Francis Drake, who allegedly showed Moffett a flying fish.

Thomas Penny had aspirations to publish a magnum opus on insects. To this end he acquired the papers of Gesner (with whom he had worked briefly) and Wotton, both of whom had planned books on insects but died before completing them. Penny spent years adding his own observations and researches but he also died before finishing his book. He left his manuscript to Moffett, who complained that the manuscript was 'delapidated' and that getting the torn sheets repaired 'cost a great sum of money'. He was not at all impressed with the literary style of his friends and decided he could improve it, commenting, ‘I have amended the method and language…’ Moffett also added all manner of myths, legends and unsubstantiated accounts to the scientific research. The length of the manuscript and his plans for quantities of elaborate copper engraved illustrations meant that he struggled to find a printer willing to take the financial risk of producing such an expensive work. In 1590 Moffett finally arranged to have the book printed in The Hague but he could not stop adding more and more material, and eventually in 1604 he died without completing it. The book which we have in our collection was finally published by Sir Theodore Mayerne in 1634, but is a smaller and cheaper edition than that which Moffett had planned, and the detailed engravings were replaced with 'rude but spirited' woodcuts (including the charming bees).

There is an intriguing footnote to the story of Dr Moffett and his book of insects. Moffett was apparently particularly fond of spiders, and he also had a small daughter called Patience upon whom he doted. Legend has it that this was the source of the nursery rhyme ‘Little Miss Muffet’, and it would certainly be a delightful memorial to a man who spun quite a scholarly web.

As a further footnote, it is worth pointing out that in our Incline Press collection we have a copy of their 1993 edition of Enid Marx's beautiful book of nursery rhymes, first published in 1954 by Chatto and Windus. The woodcut she has made to illustrate Little Miss Muffet does look strangely familiar…

Friday 19 September 2014

A closer look at the Palatine Building

The Palatine building which stands on the west side of the Chetham’s site was not originally built as one single structure, but was constructed in three distinct parts between 1837-45 by the Manchester and Leeds Railway Company. These consist of the south building nearest the Cathedral, which operated as livery stables and offices, the middle building, which was offices and shops, and the most significant section, that to the north of the site next to Hunt’s Bank, which was built as a railway hotel. This was designed by J.P. and I. Holden, architects, and constructed in 1842-43 as a railway hotel for the newly opened Victoria Railway Station - one of the earlier hotels of its kind, although not the first.

The Palatine buildings, then, were not constructed as part of the School and Library and were not part of the site either of Chetham’s or of its predecessor, the College of Manchester. The buildings have not been granted listed status, unlike the medieval buildings to which the Palatine buildings are attached, which are Grade I-listed. Nowadays it would be inconceivable for a building to be placed right up to a Grade I-listed building, but the Palatine building not only runs right up to the medieval building but is physically joined to it at one point, with the sandstone wall embedded within it.

Putting a hotel next to a school created problems, and Chetham’s was forced to build enormous wooden hoardings to prevent hotel patrons from overlooking the school. By 1911 the Palatine Hotel had closed for business, and the buildings were converted for retail use. Since then, the buildings have undergone many changes to accommodate a variety of different uses and have been stripped externally and internally of their original architectural features. All the original glazing and all the chimney stacks have been removed.

The Palatine buildings were acquired by the Trustees of Chetham’s Charity in 1969 and were intended to provide accommodation and school rooms for the newly founded Chetham’s School of Music. They were converted by the architects Thomas Worthington and Son as a temporary refurbishment intended to last no more than ten years. The buildings were completely unsuitable for their new purpose: they had no sound-proofing and they provided very poor residential space. They were also extraordinarily expensive to maintain. The basements regularly flooded and the roof leaked. But Chetham’s made use of them not for the ten years they imagined but for over forty years until they were eventually vacated in favour of the new school building, opposite Victoria Station, which opened in 2013. In 2009 Chetham’s trustees put the Palatine buildings up for sale to see if a developer or builder would take them on, but the proposed sale attracted no interest. They are now completely empty and are unsustainable, and are scheduled for demolition in the next twelve months.

We recognise that taking down the Palatine buildings is only justified if the results are a significant improvement on what was there before, and in this instance there is no question that the demolition has two huge positive outcomes. Firstly it opens up what is arguably the most important archaeological site in the city: beneath the Palatine buildings lie the House of Correction, the great tithe barn, the inner ditch and the castle, and some of the lost buildings of the medieval town. Our aim is to ensure that by removing the Palatine buildings we are able to open up the archeology that remains beneath them to the community. We have been in discussions with archaeologists for some time to make sure that these sites are sensitively and appropriately investigated. Secondly, their removal opens up the medieval College House to Manchester and Salford, a view that has been hidden since the 1840s. We have no wish to open up the site to improve our own view, which will be of a car park, and, if proposed developments take place, two large tower blocks, but we do think that opening up one of Manchester’s very few remaining medieval buildings to public view is important. By taking down Palatine we are able to open up the medieval College House and the Library as a proper visitor attraction, and we are working in consultation with the City, the Cathedral and architects to put this site to the best possible use. We are currently in the process of making an application for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to update and improve the medieval buildings as well as to restore and adapt the Grade II-listed nineteenth-century Alfred Waterhouse building which is currently hidden from public view by Palatine. It is our intention to create new public space as well as improving accessibility to the medieval buildings, and we welcome constructive suggestions for future developments. We are also working with artists-in-residence as well as photography students from Bolton University on a project to properly record the building and document the regeneration of the site.

We recognise that the heritage of the site on which Chetham’s stands is of great significance and is valued by many, and it is our full intention to take each decision about its future intelligently and sensitively. Naturally, the loss of an early nineteenth-century railway hotel is regretted by all who have worked in and around it as well as by members of the wider community and those who care about its architectural importance, and we understand that any decisions made regarding its future will have detractors as well as supporters. We are, however, confident not only that all possibilities for the realistic survival of Palatine have been exhausted, but that the decision to demolish it will make way for developments and improvements which will have a very positive effect on this part of the city and all who love and appreciate it.