Thursday 30 July 2015

Gardening up north

Wrap up warm, don your wellies and grab your umbrella - its time to celebrate the Rainy City’s summer garden festival again. Dig the City 2015 kicks off tomorrow and runs until Thursday 6th August, and appropriately here at the library we’ve been looking at the first gardening book written specifically for those of us who garden in northern climes.

A new orchard and garden was first published together with The country housewives garden in 1618. Our copy is actually from 1638, but the book was highly popular and was reprinted many times over the course of the seventeenth century.

Even in the (exceptionally long) title, William Lawson’s book makes it clear that, unusually, he is aiming his book at northern readers and equally unusually he has added a gardening book written for women:

A new orchard and garden, or, The best way for planting, grafting, and to make any ground good for a rich orchard: particularly in the north and generally for the whole kingdome of England, as in nature, reason, situation and all probabilitie, may and doth appeare. With the country housewifes garden for hearbes of common use, their vertues, seasons, profits, ornaments, variety of knots, models for trees, and plots for the best ordering of grounds and walkes. As also the husbandry of bees, with their seuerall uses and annoyances, all being the experience of 48 yeares labour, and now the third time corrected and much enlarged, by William Lawson. Whereunto is newly added the art of propagating plants, with the true ordering of all manner of fruits, in their gathering, carrying home and preservation.

Lawson was a long-lived Yorkshire parson and a real ‘hands on’ gardener: he declares his book to be written from ‘my meer and sole experience, without respect to any former-written Treatise’. His two passions were orchards and bees and he covers all aspects of his subjects, soil management, planting and pruning, the construction of beehives, the control of various ‘nuisances’ (including birds, deer and moles) and the harvesting of fruits and honey.

Lawson refers several times to the difficulties of the local environment and warns his fellow northern gardeners to ‘meddle not with Apricockes nor Peaches, nor scarcely with Quinces, which will not like our cold parts’. He also stresses how important it is to keep bees in weatherproof accommodation using a good northern term to explain that the ‘nesh Bee can neither abide cold or wet’!

However, he writes lyrically of the pleasures of an orchard: ‘your trees standing in comely order which way soever you look … your borders on every side hanging and drooping with Feberries, Raspberries, Barberries, Currents and the roots of your trees powdred with Strawberries, red,white and green, what pleasure is this?

Interestingly, in his advice to the country housewife, Lawson advises that every household should maintain two gardens, a kitchen garden and a flower garden. He suggests that the reason for this is that ‘your garden flowers shall suffer some disgrace if among them you intermingle onions, parsnips etc’.

The woodcuts which illustrate the book are delightful (Lawson tell us that he instructed the publisher to expend ‘much cost and care … in having the Knots and Models by the best Artizan cut’) They include patterns for knot gardens (the little prancing horse and the man with a sword represent topiary designs) and images of gardeners, sporting some very jaunty headwear, digging and planting.

Lawson’s summary of the satisfaction to be gained from gardening remains as true today as it was for his seventeenth century readers: ‘whereas every other pleasure commonly fills some one of or senses, and that only, with delight, this makes all our senses swim in pleasure’.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Is there a doctor in the house?

In these days of rising costs, waiting lists and funding threats to the NHS, almost everyone can relate to an exhibition that looks at the doctor-patient relationship. Last term, a group of students from the University of Manchester’s MA programme in Art Gallery and Museum Studies took that theme for one of their assessed modules, creating an exhibition proposal centring on books, manuscripts and prints from the Library's collection, and a selection of historical medical instruments from the Manchester Museum of Medicine and Health.

They had so much fun working on the project, that this summer they've returned, laden with doctor's bag and eager to turn that proposal into reality. The exhibition, which opens on 17 July, explores how the development of technical aides has changed the doctor-patient relationship, perhaps adding an element of impersonality, even as the implements have aided diagnosis.

Next Thursday evening, 16 July, Sense & Diagnosis formally opens with a special exhibition preview and performance event that is open to all.  See / Hear / Touch will feature one-to-one performances around the Library by Ayaka Furukawa, iOrganic, Tom Parkinson, River Lin and Andrew Houston. These performers will explore the relationship between the senses of sight, hearing and touch and medical diagnosis. The performances draw on a variety of influences, from personal experience and medical equipment to research into historical diagnosis techniques. The curators' blog is well worth a read, providing more information about the Thursday evening performance, as well as insight into how the exhibition was curated.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Belle Vue Bingo!

Chetham's Library Belle Vue Collection takes to the road again. This Saturday the 4th of July we will be at Mecca Bingo on Hyde Road in Gorton showing ephemera and artifacts from the Belle Vue Collection, including circus and zoo guides, photos, handbills and postcards. See a demonstration of our Virtual Belle Vue online photo archive! 

We will be joined by Belle Vue historians and collectors Brian Selby and Frank Rhodes, who will be talking about Belle Vue, and showing artifacts from their remarkable collections. Frank will have copies of his entertaining and informative books on the history of Belle Vue for sale. Come say hello, and maybe play a game or two of bingo while you are at it.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Chetham's in the naughty nineties

The 1890s, that is - the original and best naughty nineties, as our governing body the Library Committee insists. Many of them remember the period well and are still hoping for the Gibson Girl look to come back. We're grateful to Mrs Hazel Frances for coming all the way to the library to make us a gift of a splendid set of late Victorian postcard views of the dear Alma Mater, intended for the halfpenny post for postcards introduced not long before. Not a great deal has changed about the bones of the building and its main furnishings, but the detail has changed a little and they are full of atmosphere.

The tympanum in the Library's Reading Room, with Chetham's coat of arms. Many of the institution's portraits in oils used to hang here.

The stairs here now lead up to the flat of the Head of Chetham's School

The cloisters have changed barely at all

The desk in the Reading Room famous for the visits of Marx and Engels in 1845.We still have the pyramidal top, but it's not usually in use.

The Reading Room again, the central table pictured here without its large false top.The fireplace seems to have had some rather nice tiles, and again more art on the walls.

The Baronial Hall when it was still the refectory for the boys of Chetham's Hospital. 
The oak benches are now in the school library, but not much has changed.

The 'river steps' - already by the date of this picture the River Irk wasculverted away under Victoria Station and its associate access roads.

The 'Tudor Buffet' sounds rather as if you're going to a dodgy Christmas party, and we now believe this unusual item to be made up from an important late-medieval bed.

'The wickets' - reference to a wicket gate? 

The view towards the Audit Room, very little changed today,though our Chinese bell was not in its current position yet.

And finally the 'Secret Chamber', which we have long regarded as being called 'the Scriptorium' by the Victorians. It is neither secret nor a scriptorium.

Why not come down and see the place as it now is? Here are the details for visitors.