Tuesday 31 March 2015

Law and order

Another new addition to our collections is a quarto manuscript notebook containing, amongst other items, the constitution and minutes of a Lancashire-based Prosecution Society. The society was founded by "Matthew Pollard Innkeeper in Little Marsden" on 14 December 1805. His aim was to "take into consideration the propriety of entering into a Society for the prosecution of Felons, trespassers, and those who may be guilty of other misdemeanours". A list of members follows, along with plans for further meetings, the election of officers and "Rules and Articles". There is an ambitious proposal to print 100 copies of the Rules and Articles for the members.

Cases include "Ann Marriott, who has suffered damage by trespassers" with the theft of potatoes, followed by a conviction with named individuals and fines; a prosecution for "Stealing a parcel of Stockings", followed by a petition with 26 signatures of those who pledge to "contribute towards the expence of prosecuting the persons committed to Lancaster Castle for stealing a parcel of Stockings". The society appears to have lasted until 1808 and occupies 14 pages of the manuscript.

The rest of the volume was used as a day book and commonplace book by George Hartley and is devoted to issues such as the arrival in 1833 of "four inspectors required by the Act to regulate the labour of children in mills", with their names appended ; a copy of a will dated August 1807 relating to the Manor of Colne ; financial land dealings ; wage accounts and recipes, including one for "Domestic yeast to make bread, cake etc".

Monday 30 March 2015

Animal in the Archive

This past Friday (27 March) Chetham's Library welcomed delegates from around the country for the 'Animal in the Archive' conference. Organized by Dr. Peter Yeandle (Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Manchester), this symposium invited academics to present papers on the animal turn in historiographical research. Work placement student Courtney Stickland was in attendance and reports:

For those unfamiliar, the 'animal turn' is concerned with the cultural meanings of animals in human history. Rather than just writing a history of animals (where they are from, what they do, what they look like), the animal turn interrogates the human world's relationship with fauna to understand ideas of power, emotion, gender, economics, race and much more.

We started bright and early on Friday morning, and following a brief welcome by Peter and Belle Vue Project worker Kathy Whalen, the delegates were taken to the Chetham's Library Reading Room to explore some pieces from the Belle Vue collections related to the zoological gardens. On display were postcards and photographs, a book by George Jennison himself (Noah's Cargo), the turn-of-the-century animal acquisition and care guides (you can find them in pdf form on the Virtual Belle Vue website), and a table of zoo guides from around the world.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

A Dicey moment for Tricky Dicky?

Among Chetham's Library's Halliwell-Phillipps collection lurks another item of anti-Richard III black propaganda. If you're a committed Ricardian, you may not consider it such an excellent song; 

but William Dicey, who seems to have printed this about 1720, certainly wasn't here to sing Richard's praises. What with all the Bosworthing that's been going on, you'll remember that Richard wan't Edward IV's only possible heir - so what happened in the tower? Dicey knows!

 So as we come to bury Richard tomorrow, are we interring the good deeds with his bones (apols to Caesar, Brutus and Shakespeare)? Is the continuing row over his reputation really the evil that he did, living on after him? Is Professor Starkey right in identifying our Yorkist king's fans as 'loons'? As many years of debate on both sides comes to a head (crowned or otherwise), regular readers of this sage blog will not be surprised if they don't come to a conclusion. Dicey's broadside goes into considerable detail about the complex web of family relationships that fed the Wars of the Roses, but he doesn't appear to have cared to spend anything on a new woodcut for his illustration:

Some rough dealings by vaguely gaoler-ish types, but the victim seems both too old and too solitary to stand for the young princes.

Thanks to James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps' passion for the single-sheet item (he gave us over 3,000 of them), you can read the Dicey tale for yourselves, and perhaps even try to sing along with the lyric.

As a Library that likes to maintain scholarly balance, we reserve judgement, but offer our dusty blessings to roses red and white.

Friday 20 March 2015

Eclipse fever, 18th century style

 Manchester eclipsed? Panic rising? A dastardly scheme by Liverpool? Surely not! Only partially eclipsed, and this was the view from the Library roof around 9 o'clock:

But today's eclipse put us in mind of the total eclipse of 1715, known as Halley's eclipse thanks to Edmond Halley's remarkably successful predictions. His predicted timings were off by only four minutes.

Not quite 300 years ago (22 April 1715, in the Old Style Julian year Britain used then), eclipse fever was building, and then as now a great deal of material was published about it. Here at Chetham's we collected not only a sheet published under his signature predicting the path of the eclipse, Description of the passage of the shadow of the moon, over England, in the total eclipse of the sun, on the 22d. day of April 1715 in the morning, over England, but also his later Description of the passage of the shadow of the moon, over England, in the total eclipse of the sun, on the 22d. day of April 1715 in the morning, which triumphantly showed how well the predictions had worked.

  The mathematics may have eluded the masses, but as we learn (thank you, OU!) from the Penny London Post or The Morning Advertiser, issue 753, March 4, 1748, in which another panic was being run for its own times: 'In 1715, was a great ECLIPSE of the SUN, and was presently followed by the rebellion at Preston.'

We urge readers to calm their nerves and not to worry - until the next eclipse ...

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Sail away

These fantastic ink sketches come from a recently purchased volume which celebrates the Manchester Ship Canal. The identity of the artist is unknown, but he or she created 13 meticulous drawings of the Canal, Barton aqueduct and various ships, including the Tabaristan and the Nero.

At the back of the volume there is a plan of the Ship Canal and a scale drawing detailing the dimensions of the docks, along with some facts and figures about the Port of Manchester, the Dock Estate, locks and oil tankage. Anyone interested in discovering more about the 36-mile-long inland waterway, which opened for traffic on 1 January 1894, will be fascinated to learn that the Canal was navigated regularly by “twin-screw vessels of 12,500 tons D[ead] W[eight]”. Regular lines sailed along the Canal to ports in numerous countries including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, India, Greece, Syria and Russia. 

The manuscript appears to have been created some time shortly after 1905, the year “dock no. 9”, then the largest of the docks, opened for business. Its creator’s eye for detail can be seen in the information he or she provides as well as the illustrations. The “Particulars of Tankage Installation” are provided, along with notes about the Dock Estate’s two grain elevators (with a capacity of 40,000 tons each), the several portable elevators, and the “14 five floor transit sheds filled with most modern appliances”. 

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Happy Days

'Happy days.' We heard that phrase many times during the course of Sunday and Monday when our Belle Vue Project Team escaped from the confines of their office into the glory that is Gorton Monastery. Carrying a stack of ephemera, two computers primed with recently scanned digital images of the zoo and pleasure garden and some large-scale posters of some of our favourite images, we hoped to engage with people who had actually visited Belle Vue Gardens in its heyday. 

The doors opened at noon on Sunday, but even before then the crowd gathered; by Monday afternoon over 1000 people had turned out and generously shared stories and memories of happy days and nights spent at Belle Vue. We saw Speedway tattoos, old photographs of Consul the Chimp, and Top Ten Club membership cards with Jimmy Savile's name scrawled across. We were thrilled to be entrusted with Tommy Kelly's treasured scrapbooks full of photos of his father Matt Kelly, the renowned Zoo Keeper, so that they might be included in the online archive. The following day saw Derek 'the Mudguard' Adrian with a Belle Vue scrapbook for us under one arm and Belle Vue artist Syd Lane's son in tow. Mr Lane showed us fabulous photos of his father painting firework backdrop models and promised to come to the Library so we can scan those, too. 

Friends and fellow Belle Vue enthusiasts swelled our ranks: Frank Rhodes brought his local history books to sell, including the ever-popular Belle Vue; Graham Moss came with a printing press ready to help people print Belle Vue Roadshow Keepsakes, and Brian Selby displayed items from his glorious Belle Vue souvenir collection including a cup and saucer with a lion transfer that we eyed with pure envy. 

Both days offered Belle Vue-related talks. On Sunday Livi Michael's reading of her short story 'For One Day Only' captivated the crowd, while Monday featured Stephen Sayers reading from his evocative novel about growing up in the shadow of Belle Vue. Both days included Frank and Brian's popular double act relating the history of Belle Vue, Brian's slideshow punctuated with Frank's humerous anecdotes. Balladeer Jen Reid sang Belle Vue Ballads from the Library's collection before the more formal talks. The Histories Festival loaned banners from last year's exhibition, and the Monastery, in addition to providing the stately venue, and invaluable support, laid on games for the children, a remarkably good cafe, and a friendly welcome for all. 

Outreach is often portrayed as a gift from a museum or library to the local community. We 'give back' to the community, we share 'our' precious collections. These two days were a powerful reminder that outreach is a two-way street. Although it was great fun to see how much pleasure our collection provided, we gained far more than we gave. 

The stories and memories we heard filled gaps in our understanding that we didn't even realise were there. Meeting person after person who worked at Belle Vue underlined the economic impact of Belle Vue, and helped us better understand how the loss of Belle Vue was so much more than just 'the end of an era' or 'fun times past', but a real hardship for those whose livelihoods were inextricably bound up with the zoo, circus, restaurants, rides, stalls and hundreds of other jobs. The importance of the role Belle Vue played within the community was brought  home to us time after time.

Colleagues whose enthusiasm for the Library's medieval manuscripts and early modern books have sometimes blinded them to the wonders of circus guides or photos of elephant rides were as moved as we were by the sheer number of people and their amazing stories. We are amused (and rather smug) that they are now as enthusiastic as we are about the value of our Esm√©e Fairbairn Collections Trust grant-funded Belle Vue Project. Bringing Belle Vue back may be an impossibility, but this weekend renewed our conviction that its chapter in Manchester's history must never be forgotten.

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.