Friday 28 February 2014

A bird in a tree and the matchless Orinda

This charming little paper cut was found recently between the pages of a seventeenth-century volume of poems. Poems by the most deservedly admired Mrs Katherine Philips: the matchless Orinda was published in 1669, five years after the death of the author from smallpox. Katherine Philips (1 Jan 1632 - 22 June 1664) was an early modern Anglo-Welsh poet, translator and woman of letters whose translations of Pierre Corneille’s Pompee and Horace also appear in the volume with separate title pages. Orinda was the name she adopted as founder of the Society of Friendship, a group of literary friends who celebrated Platonic love and took pseudonyms from Classical literature.

An edition of the collected works of Katherine Philips is soon to be published by Oxford University Press, and we were contacted by the authors asking if we could find any evidence of ownership marks in our edition, during which search we found this delightful papercut. The work was given to Chetham’s in 1870 as part of the Byrom Collection and the cut must therefore date from before this. Although Byrom himself was known to have had an interest in paper cutting, his work tended more towards silhouettes, and so it is possible that the cut is by a family member.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Elizabeth talks about Belle Vue...

Find out more about what's happening to the Belle Vue Collection: watch our Development Manager Elizabeth Coulson talking to the Manchester Evening News about Belle Vue and our recent successful grant application to the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund:

Friday 21 February 2014

A very tall story

The Reading Room clock has returned! It has been on tour to several specialist restoration experts over the last few months who have lavished love and attention on this beautiful piece of furniture.

The barometer in the front of the case has been mended and restored, the case repaired, and the clock itself cleaned and recalibrated. Along the way, a few very interesting discoveries have been made: read more about its adventures on the website.

Friday 14 February 2014

Oh! How I would squeez my Juice in thee...

Stuck for appropriate verses for Valentine's Day? We can help! What about a few lines from this extremely bawdy ballad from the Halliwell-Phillips Collection, in which the lovelorn dreamer imagines the object of his affection in various guises ranging from a loaf of bread to a pot of chocolate. You will have to read the ballad itself to discover his lustful intentions - to which end we have thoughtfully transcribed it below. You may want to turn the shower on cold before beginning:

Last night a Dream came into my Head,
Thou wert a fine white Loaf of Bread;
Then if may Butter I could be,
How I wou’d spread,
Oh! How I wou’d spread myself on thee:
This morning too my thoughts ran hard,
That you were made a Cool Tankerd;
Then cou’d I but a Lemmon be,
How I would squeez,
Oh! how I would squeez my Juice in thee.

Lately when fancy too did roam,
Thou wert my Dear a Honney comb;
And had I been a pretty Bee,
How I would suck,
Oh! How I would creep, creep into thee:
A Vision too I had of Old,
That thou a Morter wert of Gold;
Then cou’d I but the Pestle be,
How I wou’d pound,
Oh! How I wou’d pound my spice in thee.

Once too my Dream did humour take,
Thou wert a Bowl of Heffords Rack;
Zoons cou’d I then the Ladle be,
How wou’d I pour,
Oh! How wou’d I pour out Joys from thee:
Another time by Charm Divine,
I Dreamt thou wert an Orchard fine;
Then cou’d I but thy Farmer be,
How I would plant,
Oh! How I wou’d plant my Fruit in thee.

Soon after whims came in my Pate,
Thou wert a Pot of Chocolate;
And cou’d I but the Rowler be,
How wou’d I rub,
Oh! How wou’d I twirle and froth up thee:
But since all Dreams are vain my Dear,
Let now some Sollid Joy appear;
My soul still thine is prov’d to be,
Let Body now,
Let Body now with Soul agree.

The ballad dates from c. 1715 and was written by Thomas d'Urfey, a prolific composer of 'country songs' and a great friend of the writers Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, whose portrait hangs in the Library Reading Room, providing the perfect scholarly connection and lifting this post far above any scurrilous allegation of gratuitous filth...

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Monkey business

By popular request, may we present one of the heroes of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, the much-loved Consul the Chimp. Consul, who was often dressed in a cap and jacket and seen smoking a pipe or riding a bicycle, was actually two chimps, Consul the First and Consul the Second. The first Consul died rather soon after arriving at Belle Vue, perhaps due a combination of his pipe-smoking habit, too much beer, and his chocolate addiction (he quickly worked out how to operate the chocolate machine opposite his cage). His intelligence and ability to entertain caught the imaginations of all who visited the zoo, and he became a poster-boy for Belle Vue, drawing thousands of visitors to watch his antics.

Both Consuls became particular favourites of James Jennison, and they would often accompany him to board meetings and even on trips to the country. This reminiscence by George Jennison is taken from his memoir The making and growth of the famous Zoological Gardens, Belle Vue, Manchester, and the history of its competitors: a century of Lancashire open-air amusements 1825-1925*:

Consul the first was probably the more intelligent of the two, but lacked the striking bicycle and tricycle riding of the other. There was a chocolate machine opposite its cage which it worked without instruction. It could find the proper key from a bunch, open the door and come out, and very likely made keys of its own, for it was found on more than one occasion outside the monkey house at night, and no one knew how it got there. 

Mr Jennison took it out continually. Consul knew the treat in store, and would pop into the carrying box and close the door for the journey to the hotel, but always fought hard to avoid the return journey. The piano was a source of great interest, whether played properly or banged by itself. Pictures gave great pleasure but one of a monkey caused fits of ungovernable rage. These household visits were varied by trips to the country. Mr Jennison had farms at Tideswell; the railway journey was full of interest, the ride in the waggonette was equally attractive, and it dearly loved the scamper along the fields and over the stone wall.

The death of the first Consul provoked a great sadness, and led to the publication of the memorial booklet shown below, sold for a penny. The Lancashire dialect poet Ben Brierley was inspired to write this elegy to the much-loved chimp:

‘Hadst thou a soul?’ I’ve pondered o’er thy fate
Full many a time: Yet cannot truly state
The result of my ponderings. Thou hadst ways
In many things like ours. Then who says
Thou’rt not immortal? That no mortal knows,
Not e’en the wisest - he can but suppose.

’Tis God alone knows where the ‘Missing Link’
Is hidden from our sight; but, on the brink
Of that Eternal line where we must part
For ever, sundering heart from heart,
The truth shall be revealed: but not till then -
The curtain, raised by the Almighty, when
Mankind must answer for the deeds of men.

This anthropomorphisation of a chimpanzee would no doubt be frowned upon today, but there is not doubt that Consul brought huge entertainment to thousands of visitors to Belle Vue, and is still much beloved today.

*Soon to be published as an ebook by Zoe Willock

Thursday 6 February 2014

Worth getting out of bed for!

There was great excitement this morning when we welcomed architectural historian Jonathan Foyle, furniture historian Ian Coulson and furniture restoration expert Tim Garland to the Library to examine the carved 'bookshelf' in the Reading Room, which has been revealed to be made out of a rare early C16th bed.

The bed was made for Lancashire gentleman Adam de Hulton between 1506 and 1517, and is believed to have been slept in by Bonnie Prince Charlie. At some point turned into a sideboard with the addition of part of one of Humphrey Chetham's chained libraries, the piece of furniture was donated to Chetham's in 1827 by William Hulton, one of the Library governors.

A single back panel was carefully removed from the rear of one of the lower sections to reveal the beautiful carving, which offered more clues to the construction and provenance of the piece.


The three also looked at several pieces made by the Uppermill furniture-maker and architect George Shaw, and made some fascinating discoveries. Look out for a BBC4 documentary on their findings sometime later this year.

Wednesday 5 February 2014


Today is the birthday of famed Lancashire and England cricketer Ernest Tyldesley, who was born in Worsley in 1889. His elder brother, John Thomas Tyldesley, also batted for Lancashire and England, and they both still top the table of first-class runs for the county.

The prolific run-scoring abilities of the two brothers brought them great fame and public acclaim, as this early fan material from the Mullineux Collection shows. As well as the more orthodox shots showing the cricketers in action with bats aloft, less usually there were also commercially produced postcards of the brothers' birthplace, and this rather extraordinary photo-montage of the Tyldesley family, which has in this case been annotated on the reverse with details of the family tree (below). Today's cult of the celebrity notwithstanding, it is difficult to imagine souvenir memorabilia of this level of quirkiness being produced in honour of Freddie Flintoff or James Anderson.

 For more on the Mullineux Collection, have a look at our Flickr set.