Wednesday 27 May 2015

The Duke of Bridgewater's Canal

Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater
Chetham's Library cuttings collection
We are lucky to have recently received on loan a book of accounts for the Bridgewater Canal compiled between 1760 and 1762. The first stretch of the canal, from Worsley to Manchester, was opened in 1761, so this manuscript was compiled early in the canal’s history.
The canal was commissioned by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (1736-1803), who sought a more efficient means of transporting the coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester. The coal had previously been brought into the city by river and packhorse, but the duke wanted to reduce costs and improve efficiency. He produced a plan of the canal with his estate manager John Gilbert, and in 1759 obtained an Act of Parliament which enabled work to commence. Following advice from the engineer James Brindley the initial route of the canal was altered, and a second Act of Parliament was obtained in 1760 to supersede the first. The original stretch of the canal was later extended from Manchester to Runcorn, and then from Worsley to Leigh. 
The opening page of the manuscript is headed ‘Account of things omitted being charged in his Grace the Duke of Bridgewater’s Navigation accounts 25 December 1760’. The first entry is an extra payment to Robert Watson ‘for 94 Roods of Cutting on Trafford Moss’. He was also paid for ‘back draining’ and ‘attending at Barton 16 Sundays’.
Anyone interested in researching the history of the Duke of Bridgewater's canal should visit the library to consult our cuttings collection. Along with numerous newspaper cuttings and manuscript notes it contains the following series of postcards dating from the early twentieth century, showing the canal passing through Worsley and Monton.

Monday 18 May 2015

Gerald Iles at Belle Vue

We begin the week with an ending, a final posting from Courtney Stickland. Courtney, whose previous posts A Fresh Look at Belle Vue and the Guidebooks of Belle Vue you may remember, is working with the Belle Vue material as part of her soon to be completed MA in History from the University of Manchester. We shall miss her, and wish her luck as she starts on her PhD in the Autumn.

This week I got to delve into yet another new collection in the Chetham’s holdings: a massive box containing materials belonging to Gerald Iles, Belle Vue’s former head zookeeper.

Iles’ uncle John formed Belle Vue Manchester Limited in 1925 to purchase the park from the Jennisons, who had run the Belle Vue since its establishment in the 1840s. Continuing Belle Vue’s tradition as a family affair, Gerald’s father was appointed as general manager of the park and Gerald later became zoo director in 1933 at the young age of 21. A lover of animals since childhood, Iles studied Zoology at the University of Manchester and undertook a number of trips to European zoos, gaining inspiration for how to make Belle Vue a top-notch, modern zoo. Iles infused the zoological gardens with a renewed vigour throughout the 1930 and 1940s, utilising the media and celebrities to raise publicity and the profile of the zoo. While many of Belle Vue’s beloved animals died during the Second World War, in the post-war period Iles set out to revitalise the zoo with new, exotic animals to entertain and educate visitors. Iles served as zoo director of Belle Vue until 1957 when he moved to Montreal, Canada.

The materials come to Chetham’s Library by way of Gorton Monastery where we held our Belle Vue Roadshow open house 8-9 March 2015. The collection offers some familiar items, including copies of Belle Vue’s guidebooks and circus programmes from 1930s-1950s, which you can find on the Virtual Belle Vue website, as well as a plethora of new material.

As I usually find when digging into archival collections, the finding guide only scratches the surface of exactly what is inside. Within the covers of 3 huge (and very heavy) scrapbooks I found a ton of black and white animal photos of Belle Vue’s menagerie, as well as animals from zoological collections around Europe. Leafing through the various photographic studies of lions, tigers, and bears (literally!), one really gets a sense of Iles’ passion for animals, big and small.

Clockwise from top left: Feeding the giraffes at the giraffe house; giraffe in enclosure; boating lake and clock island; Belle Vue speed boats (all photos undated).

Clockwise from top left: Small deer (Chital?) in enclosure; cougar in enclosure; children enjoy an elephant ride; bison in enclosure; two elephants out for a walk; elephant ride with keepers; elephants in bathing pool with Bobs Roller Coaster in background (all photos undated).

Scattered throughout the box are loose photographs from Belle Vue’s Silver Jubilee Circus (1953/4), starring Iles himself in the ring — not as ringmaster, but as keen zookeeper, entertainer and educator. With a wide small he presents small crocodiles, pythons and lion cubs to the rapt audience, flanked by his zoo keeping team in their caps and smart uniforms, and the circus' camel riders in their ‘eastern’ garb.
Iles presents the python (1953/54)
These images truly illustrate the fusion of entertainments in Belle Vue Gardens, as well as Iles’ influence on the park. Zoological education is combined with the spectacle of the circus within the ring, delighting park audiences with exotic animals on display as specimens and entertainers.

Clockwise from top left: Iles with baby crocodile; with lion cub; with python (1953-54)
Iles’ interest wasn’t limited to his tenure in the park, and the collection includes a number of items from Victorian and Edwardian Belle Vue. A 1911 letter from Superintendent A.B. Baker at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park to George Jennison describes recently acquired East African Lions and fond memories of Belle Vue from a trip in 1909. A letter from 20 St. Swithin’s Lane, London (dated 21 September 1894) reads:
Dear Sir,
I have been away in Norway or would have written before. I enclose photos of the monkeys, which I am sorry to say are bad.
The only plan to take such (?) and different subjects is to take them out of doors in summer. If you think it worth while I will see if these plans can be informed in any way, but I think the better plan would be to try again under more favourable conditions.

Bad photograph of good monkey? (Orang-utan, 1894)
Attached to the letter with postage stamps are a faded portrait of a chimpanzee with a pipe and a baby orang-utan. The signature is difficult to discern but appears to read ‘Fraser Sandeman’. Sandeman was an English fly-fishing enthusiast who published two books on the subject: By Hook and by Crook (1892) and Angling Travels in Norway (1896), the latter possibly corresponding to the letter’s opening lines. You can read more about Sandeman here
Letter signed Fraser Sandeman (1894)
If you have read my previous posts you’ll understand that I was particularly delighted to find a number of photographs of the park grounds and interiors at the turn of the century, complementing Chetham’s existing holdings of photographs and postcards.
Two men enjoy the gardens
Ballroom interior, viewing stands along Firework Lake (undated)
The Iles Collection will not be digitised for Virtual Belle Vue at this time, but images from the other collections are still being added.

Monday 11 May 2015

11 May - Politics can be Murder, Prime Minister!

Not in the case our newly elected one, of course - but the sad history of the demise in 1812 of PM Spencer Perceval, assassinated 203 years ago today in the lobby of the House of Commons by a rather severe critic, should remove the need for anyone to ride behind in Mr Cameron's chariot whispering 'remember you are mortal!'

This little work was out within two weeks of Perceval's untimely demise, and boasts that it carries not only an 'accurate likeness' of the unfortunate premier, but 'the only one ever taken':

There is the odd parallel to be found with the positions of PMs old and new - both keen to avoid closer European integration, although in Perceval's case the integration would have consisted of Napoleon taking over his job rather than a plague of straight bananas and square tomatoes. Both took over rather unpopular foreign wars and had to deal with the consequences, and there were some tough times economically, particularly north of the Trent. Some differences in style, certainly - it's hard to see Mr Cameron characterising Mrs Merkel 'as the woman in Revelation 17: 3–6, ‘who [sits] upon a … beast … the mother of harlots … drunken with the blood of the saints’, as Perceval saw Boney.

But it was none of these issues, nor Perceval's anti-Catholicism, his anti-slavery stance, nor his closeness to Pitt and matching distance from the King and Prince of Wales that brought him into the pistol-sights of his murderer.  John Bellingham, who 'coolly and deliberately' shot Perceval down, was filled with bitterness and resentment towards the government as a whole for its lack of consular support when he was taken to task for debt by the Russian authorities when trading in Archangel eight years before. Perceval's fault? Surely not, but for Bellingham, whom the authorities found sane enough to hang for murder, as the man at the top Perceval paid the price - the buckshot stops here.

Friday 8 May 2015

A fifteen-year-old boy's VE Day

In 2013 the Library was donated a remarkable set of diaries written between 1939 and 2012, chronicling almost the whole of a man’s life. John Reed decided at the age of ten that he would keep a diary: unlike many others he did not give up, but continued to write an entry for almost every day of his life, until shortly before his death in 2012. It runs to hundreds of volumes, tens of thousands of pages and millions of words. On the 70th anniversary of VE Day we thought it would be interesting to share with you some of the earliest diaries and reflect on how wartime Britain looked through a child’s eyes.

When war was declared in 1939 John and his younger brother Alan were on holiday with their parents in Littlehampton. John’s father was a joiner and the family lived in London. A decision was taken that the children should not return to London where they could face the danger of bombing. They had the great good fortune to have family connections with a village in Oxfordshire. Consequently the boys were able to avoid the often arbitrary decisions of the formal evacuation procedures and to live with people who knew and cared for them. They were also visited regularly by their parents.

John’s diary begins on 26th November 1939. He does not write about how he feels about being away from home and separated from his parents, but describes the day-to-day events of his life. In some ways the early entries read like a description of an extended holiday. The entry for 29th January 1940 is typical:

It snowed during the night and when we went to school their (sic) was only 14 there so we went home. We made a snowman and played fox and hounds in the wood. We played on the toboggan and then played snowballs. I did homework in the evening.

Sometimes the eternal voice of the bored child, familiar to every parent, comes through:
8th February 1940. Nothing much happened today.

When the New Year arrived in 1941 he made a resolution, the second part of which he certainly kept and which set a pattern for the rest of his life.
1st January 1941 New Year Resolution: Not to grumble or be naughty. To finish copying out my diary for 1940.

In September of 1941 John’s life changed dramatically as he won a scholarship to attend a private boarding school near Wood Green in Essex. This brought him much closer to the war. Sleep was often disrupted by regular air raids:

17th May 1943 The sirens went just before midnight. Went down to the shelter. Came up after the all clear went and when the siren sounded for the 2nd time we took the mattresses down and decided to make a night of it.

If John followed the progress of the war he rarely wrote about it. Only occasionally do wider events get mentioned as in this entry for 6th June 1944, D Day:

Chemistry test (6 questions). Rumours it is D Day in chapel. Cheese for dinner. D Day rumours confirmed. Write lab vocab in the afternoon. Do QWs. Syrup for tea.

However in 1944 the war was never far away as this entry from 26th June 1944 reveals in a way that is both funny and chilling. They are part way through a lesson with their teacher Mr Bloodworth (BW): 
I hear a plane and to annoy BW I shriek 'Sir I think that’s a bug' [Doodle Bug V1 flying bomb]. Bloodworth clouts me for interrupting then to the amazement of all the buzzing gets louder and louder and for fun and by instinct all fling themselves on the floor and to the amazement of all the thing blows up cracking the window. Then we all rush to the window to look out while BW vainly tries to pull us down. I say he punished me for warning of danger. He apologises.

In fact they experienced a near miss in which the village church was hit and other properties in the village were damaged.

By the beginning of May 1945 the diaries are full of anticipation of the end of the conflict in Europe. Seventy years ago when VE Day did arrive young John was not about to miss out on the celebrations. On May 8th he caught a bus back to London to be with his family. The bus was trailing streamers and no one bothered to collect the fares. Once back in London he and his family decided to join the celebrations in the West End. The journey from home took them through some of the poorer districts of London where he notes that the celebrations make those of the suburbs 'look tawdry' by comparison:

As we ride we see the bonfires in the side streets begin to blaze. We reach Whitehall where the crowds are solid. Bands are playing, people sit on bus shelters, there is singing and we all join hands to avoid being separated. We walk and are swept down the road, singing, until we reach Trafalgar Square. The column steps are covered, the Square packed, and the floodlights giving a milky water light are fed by humming dynamos ... sailors in various stages of undress paddle in the fountain and a soldier clad only in trousers leaps off the top into the pond around the base. Great fireworks streak across the sky, red and white. We walk down toward the Palace lights, blazes, braziers, people dancing on the roofs of ARP shelters, jumping fireworks, people dressing statues and lip sticking them ... The crowd cries and cheers for the King, sing the National Anthem and cheer and clap for half an hour. We are just going away disappointed when the little window behind the balcony lights up and on the balcony appears the Monarch and others. The crowd flattens itself against the railings and cheers madly. I put away my anarchistic views for a moment and become a monarchist and cheer. We have to walk home miles and miles. It is one o’clock and the last people are staggering home from the pubs, parties are blazing behind windows and bonfires are dying neglected and alone. Home at ten past two, supper and bed.

Thursday 7 May 2015

The conchologist's daughters

We've been looking at some of the library's early books on conchology (the study of shells) and musing on the art of scientific illustration. In Robert Hooke's words, a successful illustrator required 'a sincere hand and a faithful eye' to provide accurate and detailed images, which were also aesthetically pleasing. Martin Lister, the author of Historiae Conchyliorum, published 1685-1692, took an unusual approach to the provision of illustrations for his book by training his two eldest daughters to draw and engrave all the specimens.

Lister (1639-1712) was a successful physician and naturalist who became vice president of the Royal Society, sometimes deputising for Samuel Pepys. He was part of a group who met together to discuss new developments in 'natural philosophy'; his particular interests were insects, especially spiders, and rocks, fossils and shells. He became a close friend of the celebrated naturalist John Ray, and of Sir Hans Sloane, the founder of the British Museum, who lent Lister specimens from his travels in Jamaica. Edward Lhwyd, Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, wrote to Lister,  ‘I have sent by John Bartlet of the White Swan at Holbourn bridge, a small strawberry basket, with a parcel of your curious wrong turned snails of the woods.’ The snails were kept alive by being buried in wet moss.

However, Lister had never achieved a medical qualification and was also sensitive to criticism about his area of research, writing to a friend that there were 'censorious mouthes who think and say a man that writes on Insects can be but a trifler in Phisic'. When he embarked upon his masterwork, the Historiae Conchyliorum, he was determined that the quality of the work, including the illustrations, would secure professional respect from both scientists and wealthy collectors and connoisseurs. Using his daughters as his illustrators gave him ultimate control of the work.

The Bodleian Library has a collection of Lister's letters, papers, sketchbooks and even the copper plates used to create the Historiae, and it is clear from these that Lister started training the girls from an early age. He wrote to his wife in 1681, 'I did send home a Box of Colours in oil for Susan and Nancy [Anna] to paint with. As for the pencills sent with them, and the colours in shells, which are for Limning, I would have thee Lock them carefully up, tell I return, for they know nott yet the use of them.' The girls were then aged eleven and nine.

Lister was very knowledgeable about the process of engraving and illustration and there is also evidence that he and his daughters used microscopes in their work. He seems to have sat with his daughters while they drew the specimens, and he certainly pointed out the features they were to record and made notes against the drawings of shells in their sketchbooks.

By 1692 the book had expanded to 1073 plates of shells, slugs and molluscan anatomy, but there was no actual text, other than sectional headings and specimen names. Possibly because of the relative lack of text, Lister chose not to use moveable type and any text was engraved directly onto the copper plates, alongside the illustrations, which meant that additions and corrections were difficult.

J.D.Woodley describes how their styles differ, most noticeably in the way they represent shadows. 'Anne (whether painting or engraving) used bold parallel lines of graduated thickness, while Susanna used washes or cross-hatching' and he quotes R.Davies who remarks that ‘The plates are executed with great fidelity and spirit, and bear testimony to the extraordinary talents and industry of the artists’.

It is possible that Lister avoided having to work with (and pay) a printer by installing a press in his own home, he certainly chose to print the book on the same, very thin, watermarked paper which he used for his own correspondence. Many of Susanna and Anne's designs incorporated distinctive,decorative borders which meant running the sheets through the press twice and this put the thin paper under such strain that it sometimes tore and had to be patched. Our copy of the book contains an example of just such a repair to the image of 'cochlia trium orbium'.

The paper is so thin that beautiful, silvery grey 'ghost images' of the shells appear on the reverse of many leaves.

Historiae conchyliorum became the bible for conchologists for over a hundred years, and although 'Susanna and Anna Lister' are recorded on the title page, their subsequent fate remains something of a mystery. No further work has been recorded for either of them and, although we know that Susanna married, had a daughter and died in 1738, there is no further trace of Anna at all.

The sisters seem to have worked on the book for over ten years - in 1692 Edward Lhwyd wrote to Lister, ‘I do not wonder your workw[omen] begin to be tired, you have held them so long to it’. One has to wonder if they were willing and enthusiastic participants, if they had any choice in undertaking the work and indeed, if they ever received any payment from their father. Perhaps in the end, when the final version of the Historiae was published, they were simply relieved to return to normal life and anonymous domesticity!