Tuesday 31 May 2016

Second city of the Empire

We have just acquired a copy of the The Graphic thanks to our colleague Ian Mayer in Chetham’s School of Music. 

The Graphic was a British weekly illustrated newspaper, first published on 4 December 1869 by William Luson Thomas as a rival to the world's most successful illustrated paper, The Illustrated London News. Luson Thomas was exasperated by the unsympathetic treatment of artists by the ILN and created The Graphic as "a superior illustrated weekly newspaper, containing twenty-four pages imperial printed on fine toned paper of beautiful quality, made expressly for the purpose and admirably adapted for the display of engravings." The Graphic covered home news as well as news from around the Empire and devoted much attention to literature, arts, sciences, fashion, sport, music and opera. 

It continued to be published weekly under this title until 23 April 1932 and then changed title to The National Graphic between 28 April and 14 July 1932; it then ceased publication after 3,266 issues.

The volume that we have acquired is of particular interest because of a sixteen-page article published on 4 October 1876 devoted to Manchester. According to the editor, "We have an especial pleasure in endeavouring to depict 'Manchester' for it was in Manchester during our early struggles (when such an enterprise as ours was regarded as Quixotic) that The Graphic first took firm root; and we take it as a high compliment tour labours that the City so justly celebrated as foremost in collecting works of Art (long before the days when such collections became a matter of profit) should have always been a steady upholder of The Graphic.”

The article covers all of Manchester’s principal buildings, including the Cathedral, Chetham’s, Town Hall, Grammar School, Assize Courts, and Royal Exchange. There are two pictures of Chetham’s - boys dining in the baronial hall and a picture of the interior of the Library - one of the very few illustrations that we have that shows women visiting the Library.

As well as short descriptions of attractions, the article has lengthy accounts of ‘a bird’s eye view’, the history and religion of the city, and Manchester men, concluding that "'The second city of the Empire' is rapidly rivalling the first in eternal beauty and splendour, in setting an example of municipal administration which Londoners can only envy without the hope of copying it, and has a life of its own which points to a magnificent future. The climate may be depressing, the atmosphere heavy, the surroundings of the city unlovely, but all these things count for little when the spirit of the people is so high."

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Novel Experiences of Horses' Heads - the Origins of the Palatine Building

The Palatine Building demolition continues apace. It won't be long until it's gone and many more Mancunians will be treated to a view of our smiley faces waving to them from the windows of the lovely medieval buildings. Now seems an appropriate time to look at the origins of the building. Below is an excerpt from 1908's Manchester Streets and Manchester Men by T. Swindell...

"The next change to be noted took place in 1842, when the pile now known as Palatine Hotel and Buildings were erected. They were evidently put up in anticipation of the demand for hotel accommodation that would follow the projected extension of the Manchester and Leeds Railway line from Collyhurst to Hunt’s Bank. The speculator was Robert Gill of Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts, who was the manager of the railway company. Over the shops were a number of stables, and the top storey was intended to serve the purposes of a riding school. The approach to the stables and school was by means of an inclined slope to which there was a doorway next to the gateway of the Chetham College. It was a novel experience to see a horse’s head thrust through a window on the third floor, but such an experience was by no means rare. The venture paid for a while, but after the novelty had worn off patronage fell away, and about fifty years ago the stables and school were altered into sitting and bed rooms and added to the hotel."

Palatine Building with shop fronts

Current view of the site
Unfortunately, we don't have any pictures of said horse heads poking out of windows, although the demolition team have said that, if you listen quietly, you can hear faint neighing and a distant clip clop...

Thursday 19 May 2016

Samuel Bamford (1788-1872)

        ‘The more the bloody tyrants bind us
         the more united they shall find us.'

The Manchester Scrapbook is a fascinating miscellany of drawings, pen and ink sketches, watercolours, maps, prints and engravings depicting  Manchester places, buildings and people in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was compiled by Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere, and presented to the Library in 1838. Many of the characters portrayed are rarely remembered, but others such as Samuel Bamford are still familiar, at least to readers interested in Manchester’s radical history.  Finding Bamford’s portrait in the scrapbook led me to explore the library’s comprehensive collection of publications by and about Bamford.  His writing is particularly valuable as accounts written by working people are remarkably absent from our history. 

Samuel Bamford - Manchester Scrapbook portrait


Bamford, a silk weaver born in 1788, was a well known political activist immersed in the reform movements of the period. The library holds several editions of his two volume political autobiography, Passages in the Life of a Radical.  The 3rd edition was printed by Bamford's friend John Heywood, a local bookseller and printer.

Cover - Passages in the life of a Radical

Bamford's first hand account of his life as an activist from 1816 to 1821 contains vivid, passionate writing from a witness who conveys the excitement and optimism and well as the disapointments and bitterness of his struggles, for instance his response to the suspension of Habeas Corpus which :

 ‘… seemed as if the sun of freedom were gone down and a rayless expanse of oppression had finally closed over us.’

Many aspects of Bamford account will be familiar to today’s activists: meetings, discussions, resolutions, writing, marching, arguments, splits, arrests and imprisonment, although fortunately we are no longer hung for high treason.  Groups were also plagued by infiltrators and informers such as ‘Oliver the spy’ who reported on the activities of the  Middleton Hampden Club, which Bamford set up in 1816  to campaign for parliamentary and social reform:

'It was not until we became infested by spies, incendiaries, and their dupes – distracting, misleading, and betraying – that physical force was mentioned among us.’

Bamford was a man of strong opinions.  On the 1 January 1817 the Hampden club passed resolutions calling for universal manhood suffrage and annual parliaments.  Although he was committed to universal manhood suffrage, Bamford’s depiction of the 'bungling knavery' of the election process illustrates his objection to an annual repetition:

‘Behold the banners: hear the music; mere glare and noise; the speakers – one side yelled dumb, the other drummed deaf – good men bullied by ruffians, and spit upon by poltroons, - demagogues cheered – scurrility applauded – fraud devised and practised – truth suppressed – falsehood blazoned – friendship – severed hatred gratified – courage threatened - cowardice rewarded – vanity flattered – modesty disparaged – cupidity bribed – sobriety scoffed - gluttony indulged - conscience hushed – honour abandoned- wrong triumphant- right abashed and contemned.'

Bamford played a significant part in organising the Middleton contingent of the reform meeting in St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, that became the Peterloo Massacre.  His eyewitness account of the day, in Passages in the Life of a Radical, depicts the horror of the cavalry charge on the crowd:

‘The cavalry were in confusion : they evidently could not, with all the weight of man and horse, penetrate that compact mass of human beings ; and their sabres were plied to hew a way through naked held – up hands and defenceless heads ; and then chopped limbs, and wound – gaping skills were seen ; and groans and cries were mingled with the din of that horrid confusion. Then, “Break ! Break! They are killing them in front and they cannot get away ;” and there was a general cry of “Break! Break.” For a moment the crowd held back as in a pause ; then was a rush, heavy and resistless as a headlong sea; and a sound like low thunder, with screams, prayers, and imprecations from the crowd-moiled, and sabre-doomed, who could not escape.’

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Bamford was imprisoned in Lincoln Castle jail for his part in Peterloo.  After his release, his political activity became less central to his life.  He returned to work as a silk loom weaver but found it hard to make a living and started to focus on writing to supplement his income. In addition to his autobiographical writing, he was Manchester correspondent for the London based Morning Herald and wrote material about Middleton for the Manchester Guardian. 

The library has recently acquired a rare first edition of Walks in South Lancashire and on its Borders which Bamford published in 1844.  Marbling and gilt lettering on the cover make this a lovely volume. In this publication he portrays the lives and social and industrial conditions of Lancashire working people through a series of chapters and sketches with headings such as  'An Insane Genius', 'The Traveller', 'A Temperance Orator', 'Robert, the Waiter', 'Walks amongst the Workers' and 'What should be Done'?

Cover - Walks in South Lancashire


Bamford was interested in dialect even though he wrote most of his work in standard English.  He used the vernacular when reporting  working men’s dialogue in Passages in the life of a Radical and wrote a small number of dialect  poems such 'Tim Bobbin' Grave', published in Hours in the Bowers.

The library holds an 1850 edition of Bamford's Dialect of South Lancashire published by Heywood who was also a dialect writer.  John Collier, who was also known as Tim Bobbin, wrote the original volume but Bamford thought it represented Cheshire rather than Lancashire dialect so published his own ‘correct’ version.

Dialect of South Lancashire title page
Vernacular title page

This text takes the form of a dialect conversation between Tummus and Meary (Thomas and Mary) in which Tummus tells about his misfortunes on a journey to Rochdale. The piece is a fascinating illustration of how words become obsolete as language evolves over time. The glossary of words and phrases at the back is essential the modern reader confronted with passages such as:

‘Zeans! O' Inglanshoyr'll think at yoar glenting at toose fratching, byzen, cradinly tykes, at writ'n sitch papers osth' Test : an sitch cawf-teles as Cornish Peter, at fund a new ward, snying weh glums an gawries.’

‘Inglun-shoyer all England, Glentin glancing, Toose those, Byzen blind.’
We don't find Fratching' in the glossary, perhaps it was in common use at the time and readers didn't need to be told that it means quarreling.


The Library holds several volumes of Bamford’s poetry including Hours in the Bowers, 1834 and Poems, which he self published in 1843.  Miscellaneous Poetry was published in 1821 by Thomas Dolby at Brittania Press, The Strand, price 2s. 6d.  A clue to the  intended reader is seen in the description of the author as 'Samuel Bamford Weaver of Middleton in Lancashire, lately imprisoned in the Castle of Lincoln' as well as in the cover illustration by George Cruikshank,  a prolific and popular caricaturist and satirical politic artist. 

Miscellaneous Poetry front cover

There is an extraordinary warning in the preface:

'In laying before the public the poems of SAMUEL BAMFORD , the Publisher is totally unmindful of the swift and bitter arrows of Criticism.  His Author is unlettered. The arrows of Criticism which to Book Poets convey bitterness and and dismay , fall pointless and powerless against SAMUEL BAMFORD. He lives not in books. He sings to the motion of his loom…'

Bamford’s poetry is very variable. His prison writings include Eclogue, written when he was incarcerated in Coldbath-Fields prison awaiting trial for High Treason in 1817 and Hymn to Hope written in Lincoln Castle.  He wrote lyrical as well as political works, addressing themes of life, love, nature and death.

Bamford wrote for the rest of his life. In 1858 on his 70th birthday started a diary which has been edited by Martin Hewitt and Robert Poole and published as The Diaries of Samuel Bamford.  The diaries offer invaluable insights into the activities, contacts and reflections of a long lived working class man:

  ‘Above all, they reveal the poignant struggle for dignity of an old radical fallen on hard times and determined to set the historical record straight.’

Look in the library catalogue for publications by and about Bamford : http://www.chethams.org.uk/catalogue.html

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Poet's Corner - Manchester After Hours at Chetham's Library

Chetham's Library collaborates with the University of Manchester's MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice and MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies students to bring you an evening of entertainment as part of Manchester After Hours! Join us from 7-10pm in the Baronial Hall where there will be poetry and writing workshops, spoken word performances, live music and a specially curated exhibition!

As part of Manchester After Hours, this exhibition explores the artistic milieu of local poets, as well as the domestic and working lives of Mancunians in the 19th century. Brought to you by the MA Museum Studies and Art Management students from the University of Manchester, the exhibition showcases our finest collection of manuscripts and early printed books published in Greater Manchester.

The Poet's Corner, formerly known as the Sun Inn, was once situated outside Chetham’s gates and became a prominent hub of Manchester culture in the 19th century where authors and poets gathered to write and hold irregular social meetings. Some of the works produced by these poets are on display.

Facebook event

M is for Manchester

One of the nice things about working in a library is the opportunity to fill gaps in the collection, acquiring the book that we thought we should have but which was somehow overlooked at the time of publication. Sometimes these come by gift - and here we can flag up that we don’t have a Gutenberg Bible or a First Folio Shakespeare in case anyone is looking to downsize their library - and sometimes we pick things up at auctions or from bookshops. These don’t always have to be particularly rare or expensive: more often than not we’ve missed a cheap piece of printing that later turns out to be significant and collectable.

Roger Oldham’s Manchester Alphabet fall into this category. Oldham (1871-1916), a Manchester-based architect published his alphabet by the firm of John Heywood in 1906. It has a lot in common with a children’s ABC: 26 comical illustrations of scenes from daily life around the city of Manchester, many of them featuring local landmarks, accompanied by simple rhymes. C stands for Chorlton and not for Chetham’s, and L for Lord Mayor rather than for libraries. G, of course stands for the Guardian, and the problem letters of X and Z are used respectively for Exodus (the flood of people leaving town once the factories and offices closed at Saturday lunchtime) and Zoo, the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens.

Manchester Alphabet  provided inspiration for a recent artistic and literary production by MMU, 'A New Manchester Alphabet’, a snapshot of Manchester in 2015: illustrated by students from the Manchester School of Art and written by poetry students from The Manchester Writing School.

More details about the book can be found here.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

New Speedway Collection Comes to Virtual Belle Vue

The volunteers at Chetham's Library have been working hard to expand the collections on the Virtual Belle Vue webpage. A collection kindly given to the library by Eunice Dodgeon has now been digitised and uploaded to the Virtual Belle Vue site by Ciara Foley, an MA Public History and Heritage student from Manchester Metropolitan University. 
Syd Newiss
The collection contains many items that were previously owned by Syd Newiss, a Speedway racer who was a member of the Belle Vue Aces, born in 1909. Newiss first made his riding debut in 1923 when he rode at Audenshaw and had been described as a 'consistent racer' by the local newspapers. Newiss took part in the Speedway tour of Buenos Aires from September 1929 to the early months of 1930 with his fellow team mates. The tour included many trips through the streets of Buenos Aires, showing off their riding skills and also competing in races at the Club Athlético Huracán. The Speedway team also had fun aboard the liner 'Royal Mainline' and the collection has many pictures of the team aboard ship and playing games. Other team members that joined Newiss in Buenos Aires were popular riders such as Bob Harrison, Oliver and Oliver Langton, 'Sprouts' Elder and 'Dusty' Haigh. 

Syd Newiss, Bob Harrison, Oliver Langton and other team mates

Syd Newiss and team mates aboard ship
This collection includes many photographs of Syd Newiss, team mates and fans on tour in Buenos Aires. It also contains racing programmes, Argentinian newspaper articles and guidebooks from the tour, showing what the team got up to during their months abroad. Syd Newiss also collected signed postcards of the Speedway team, as well as Belle Vue programmes and newspaper articles from Manchester and other local areas. The collection also contains scrapbooks made by Newiss himself, that offers an insight into his interests and there is another scrapbook in the collection from the kind donor, Eunice Dodgeon. 

Speedway Beunos Aires Programme
Speedway racers on the track
We are hoping to gain more information about the Buenos Aires tour of 1929 and about the Belle Vue Aces team during that time, so we are calling for readers and Speedway fans to have a look at the colllection and either email us at librarian@chethams.org.uk or write in the comments box below the collection.

The Belle Vue Gardens. Newiss Collection can be viewed at http://www.chethams.org.uk/bellevue/collections/show/10