Fifth Pan-African Congress 75th Anniversary Celebrations, 15-18th October 2020

By Professor Ola Uduku, Acting Joint Head of Architecture, MMU, Dr Shirin Hirsch, Senior Lecturer in British History, MMU, Dr Marie Molloy, Senior Lecturer in American History, MMU.

‘We are determined to be free. We want education. We want the right to earn a decent living; the right to express our thoughts and emotions, to adopt and create forms of beauty…. We will fight in every way we can for freedom, democracy and social betterment.’

‘The Challenge to the Colonial Powers’, Statement from the Fifth Pan-African Congress, Manchester 1945.

Delegates to the Fifth Pan-African Congress, Manchester. Copyright Manchester Archives Plus.

For the past 12 months, we have worked hard to forge a tripartite University Initiative celebrating the 75th anniversary of the fifth Pan-African Congress that took place in Manchester in October 1945. Despite COVID-19, and the implications that a global pandemic has had on us all, our plans for the PAC October celebrations have continued, albeit in an online form and we are thrilled with the upcoming three-day schedule of events   from 15-17th October 2020. These celebrations are vital as they not only draw on a historic event in Manchester’s history, but they also highlight present day issues connected to systemic racism that continue to exist across the world, as illustrated by the murder of George Floyd in the USA, which sparked a summer of BLM protests. The past and present are intimately connected and therefore in examining the Pan African Congress that took place in Manchester in 1945, we shine a light on the modern day struggle for racial equality.

‘In memory of George Floyd’ Heidi Molloy. Year 12 Graphics Communications Student. Brine Leas Sixth Form.

Photograph of the new Arts Building, MMU. Courtesy of Tim Brennan, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Despite the fifth Pan African Congress often being much forgotten within our city, this critically significant event played a key role in the shaping of modern world history. It was the first time after WW2 that emerging Africans took on the leadership of the struggle, to demand self-rule and freedom from British colonialism, supported by allies from across the world. The plaque commemorating this event is sited in the recently rebuilt MMU Arts Faculty Building facing onto All Saints Square in what had previously been Chorlton Town Hall where the six-day event had actually taken place. The congress had 200 attendees from across the world; including delegations from Africa, America, the Caribbean and Asia, as well as black and white delegates from Manchester and across the UK.

Plaque commemorating fifth Pan African Congress Conference, Courtesy of By KGGuewa

A number of future independent African leaders were delegates at the Congress, including Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Jomo Kenyatta. The Congress provided a forum, which would be a springboard for these key figures in connecting with each other and developing new national strategies towards hastening decolonisation and ultimately self-rule. The black American civil rights activist and sociologist W.E.B Du Bois, past organiser of the previous Congresses, attended as a delegate, whilst the writer Peter Abrahams represented pre-apartheid South Africa.

The Manchester 1945 meeting was a precursor to the development of a number of African independence movements that went on to successfully secure self-rule for countries across Africa. It also signified the movement of the intellectual discourse on African self-realisation and solidarity with other causes moving from the Americas and the West Indies to the UK and then on to Africa. Joe Appiah, the representative of the West African Students Union in the UK for example went on to play a key role in Ghana’s independence working directly with the nation’s first premier Kwame Nkrumah. His son Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah is one of the leading philosophers in the world and we are delighted to be hosting him in the marking of this anniversary, where he will be delivering a keynote lecture.

The demands for self-rule and decolonisation that were tabled at the Congress in 1945 are not far away from the Black Lives Matter protests that we are evidencing today. Our University campuses are also included in this movement. It is significant that the opening session of the Congress focused on the ‘Colour Problem in Britain’. We feel this anniversary comes at a critical time in our history and allows us to reflect on Manchester’s role in its support of the freedoms of the oppressed.

We are particularly excited to be hosting this 75th anniversary event in association with colleagues from the Universities of Manchester and Salford, echoing the solidarity formed across various peoples and nations of the Manchester Congress. In these extraordinary times, the celebrations will take place online with plans to have socially distanced events across the three University Greater Manchester campuses over the second weekend in October.

As part of these celebrations, we wanted to ensure that we reached the whole community, not just our students, but also the local community and schools. The History, Politics and Philosophy Department have worked closely with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust and will host an online sixth form conference on Thursday 15th October. Contributors include well-known speakers including Hakim Adi, Marika Sherwood, and Terence Dooley. There will be a live online Q and A session with leading scholars and aspirational figures, including writer Alex Wheatle MBE, Paul Okojie, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre and Education Trust, and student representatives. In the afternoon, students will be involved in creative workshops led by MMU academics, and colleagues, Jade Munslow Ong (Salford University) and Tunde Adekoya (Big Music Company) on issues relating to race through history, poetry and literature.

The MCPHH will be hosting a public history talk on the evening of Thursday 15th, also linked to Black History Month, with a talk by Ray Costello on what black lives were like in the region around the time of the congress. Ray is well placed as both a historical researcher and former Adviser for Racial Equality for Liverpool Education Authority Schools Inspection Department.  On Friday 16th October, we are holding a series of city based activities culminating in a keynote talk by Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, with expected contributions from Paul Gilroy and Afua Hirsch. On Saturday 17th October, there will be further conversations with academics with connections to Manchester that will take place at a number of physical venues and be relayed live digitally. Finally, we are hoping to host a reflective discussion amongst poets including Lemn Sissay, Jackie Kay and Carol Ann Duffy on Sunday to close the celebrations.

We will have interactive coverage of events throughout the weekend using various digital media, and participation in all public events will be free to all. This enormously important event aims to celebrate the past and critically supports the Black Lives Matter agenda by publicly celebrating Black history.

Professor Ola Uduku, Acting Joint Head of Architecture, MMU.

Dr Shirin Hirsch, Senior Lecturer in British History, MMU.

Dr Marie Molloy, Senior Lecturer in American History, MMU.

75th Anniversary Pan African Congress Talk by Dr Ray Costello, 15th October 2020, 5.30pm

Marking the 75th anniversary of the Pan African Congress which took place in Manchester in 1945 in the Chorlton Town Hall, now the MMU Arts faculty building, Dr Ray Costello will be delivering a pre recorded talk and live Q and A discussing what black lives were like in the North West around the time of the Congress.

Delegates to the Fifth Pan African Congress, Manchester. Copyright Manchester Archives Plus

Dr Ray Costello

We look forward to welcoming you to the talk. Please sign up using this link in order to attend. 


Forgotten Stories: Poorly Manchester and Salford Children sent to Switzerland for ‘Health Holidays’ in the 1940s

By Professor Melanie Tebbutt, Manchester Metropolitan University

Returning Home is a community engagement project exploring the experiences of ‘delicate children’ from Manchester and Salford who, in 1948,  were sent away to stay with Swiss foster families for three months to improve their health. The children were aged between 5 and 11. Most had bad respiratory problems for which there was little treatment at the time, other than good food and fresh air; antibiotics were not widely used until the mid-1950s.

The project is a collaboration with the NWFA and comprises  a small team of myself, Melanie Tebbutt as academic lead, Sue Reddish, creative lead, and Jim Dalziel, community filmmaker. 


These health stays in Switzerland weren’t unique. The Swiss Red Cross approached local authorities in cities across Britain after the Second World War with the offer of similar holidays in Switzerland for children. What is unusual about this project is the survival of archival film from 1948, which records the Manchester and Salford children’s return to London Road Station in Manchester. The film was made by Manchester City Council as a thank you gift to the Swiss Red Cross and later deposited in the North West Film Archive (NWFA). 

2018 was the 70th anniversary of the children’s return from Switzerland. The NWFA put out an appeal on regional television, showing clips from the archive film and asked adults who had gone on the visit to Switzerland as children to come forward. Several recognised themselves from the film. Others were volunteered by family members, many of whom had grown up hearing these stories of Switzerland. Dozens expressed an interest, sharing old photos, postcards, correspondence, memoirs and written accounts. Returners and their families attended a commemorative event organised by the NWFA and ManMet’s History Research Centre, which included a showing of the complete archive film.  This project has worked with about 20 of these returners and their families, exploring these ‘health holidays’ from the child’s perspective rather than the adult view of official documents.

After Covid-19 lockdown

Before the Covid-19 lockdown, we aimed to explore the personal and collective meanings of the children’s visits to Switzerland by recording interviews with returners and developing participatory groupwork and creative activities with them. We had started to record interviews with individuals, but groupwork and further interviews became impossible once Covid-19 and lockdown struck and we had to revise our plans.

The project moved online, developing a new Returning Home website of background features, memoirs and  images, including photos, letters, postcards and official documentation, which many returners had kept since their visit in 1948:

During lockdown, new returners’ stories and short extracts from completed filming were added, allowing returners to get a clearer idea of what the project was about. We also started editing our documentary film about their experiences called ‘Returners’ Stories’, which was finished in August.

Lockdown and dependence on remote contact altered the project’s dynamic and slowed the engagement process.  Working with individual returners, all in their late-seventies and eighties, became particularly sensitive because of the fears which accompanied social isolation. The mood of some returners changed and fluctuated over time; working with them involved becoming alert to when, and when not, a phone call might be appropriate. Some were without computer or internet access and entirely dependent on phone calls. Others who had the internet were reluctant to record an interview over Zoom or Skype, so phone calls, texting and emails became the main form of communication. 

Having lost our participatory groupwork, we looked to encourage involvement by developing a complementary project called Postcards from the Past, inspired by the postcards that Swiss host families sent to the parents of the children they hosted. These made the project more tangible and helped make it  more intergenerational and family orientated than originally envisaged. A postcard set was designed with questions as creative writing prompts for the returners, their children and grandchildren. Each family received a set regardless of whether they wanted to write a response.

Some accepted the set as a memento. Others used the postcard questions as memory joggers to think and write about their experiences. One family, chivvied by their mother/grandmother, wrote replies to all eleven postcards, some of which reflected on the family sadnesses of lockdown.

‘Slow’ public history

Gradually, we pieced together new stories from text messages, emails and phone calls, changed or corrected by the returners  as we went along and added, with their permission, to the website. The slow working of phone calls, texts and emails perhaps helped draw out more effectively than an interview the ambivalence some felt about their childhood visit to Switzerland, giving them time to reflect on their experiences and how they wanted to share them. Returners’ memories are mixed and working in this way helped draw out memories whose disclosure might otherwise have been more difficult. It became clear, for example, that several returners had only gone to the 70th anniversary event because their children had encouraged them to go along. Stories by Barbara Fowler and Judith Sie are moving examples of these careful excavations of memory.

Over the course of phone calls, texts and emails, Barbara started to explain why she’d been uncertain about attending the anniversary. She was only 6 when sent to Switzerland because of bad bronchitis and asthma. She suffered a relapse after returning to Manchester and was invited back to Switzerland to stay with her ‘Auntie Lucie’ and ‘Uncle Roger’ for another 18 months. Gradually, she revealed how the relationship with her Swiss foster family and childhood experiences of moving between countries had left deep, confusing feelings: loved by her mother, who sent her away for good reasons, yet also loved by ‘Auntie Lucy’,  who had no children of her own and who would like to have adopted her. In retrospect, Barbara  found that she had come to a different understanding of her foster mother’s kindness: It is so sad really looking back and understanding her pain. When her story was published on the website, she responded:

Some returners’ memories remain painful, making a sharp contrast with the gloss of official accounts. Judy Sie’s stay in Switzerland, for example, had an enthusiastic write-up in the local Wythenshawe newspaper on her return, but the journalist’s up-beat account jars with how Judy remembers her ‘Swiss holiday’: It was all so frightening. Judy stayed with a middle-aged doctor and his wife whose children had grown up. They were very detached and although she returned to Manchester much healthier, she was ‘terrified’ for much of her stay:

Other returners, like Maureen Fishwick, were much more positive. Maureen loved her visit to Switzerland, which she described as ‘awe-inspiring’. She emigrated to Australia in the 1960s and we interviewed her on a return visit to Manchester.  Over the course of the project,  we’ve kept in touch with her and her family in Australia through her daughter, Jacqui, who has passed on messages to her mum. The first time Jacqui saw the website she emailed to say how she felt:

Jacqui’s comments illustrate how the project’s website has become a focal point for returners and relatives scattered across the UK and the world.  So far, it has attracted over 1500 visitors and more than 4,000 views. [76% of visitors from the UK, with visitors from many other countries, including Canada, the US, Australia, other European nations (Ireland, France, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands), and China.

Sue Littler’s husband Joe, who died in 2017, wrote a memoir of his stay in Switzerland. He’d loved his visit and ‘wept bloody buckets’ when he had to leave. As lockdown loosened, we were able to film Sue outside, reading from his memoir. This has been incorporated into our 30 minute film, ‘Returners Stories’, the first such film to commemorate children’s experiences of this Swiss-British initiative: 

Concluding thoughts 

Lockdown  prevented us from developing Returning Home as originally envisaged. There have been disappointments, especially having to postpone a celebratory event for participants and their families because of continuing uncertainty about Covid-19.

Lockdown forced us to adapt to a different way of working. We lost our original objective of producing a joint output from groupwork and it’s been unsettling to work in greater isolation without a collective spark. We missed the human contact and personal connections of community engagement. We have, however, sustained relationships with the returners who have helped create a rich new website resource based on original oral, written material and films, a legacy of lockdown which will eventually be archived in the NWFA.

Kate Pahl conceptualises collaboration across universities and communities as ‘a kind of conversation’ – a process of active listening: fluid, provisional, often unsettling and taking unexpected directions, yet bringing engagement to life and opening up new possibilities. I think that has been the case with Returning Home during lockdown. We’ve had to be flexible and responsive (key to any form of community engagement) and had to develop different conversations as the project’s participatory nature altered. These changes led to us building relationships not only with the returners but their children, many of whom have grown up with their parent’s stories of Switzerland.  Personal stories may become stale through constant re-telling but with lockdown they became a medium through which to connect the generations. Returning Home didn’t develop as originally intended but social isolation had unexpected outcomes, including perhaps heightening sensitivity to the idea of a relative being sent abroad when so young. Lockdown nuanced familiar family tales with a different appreciation of the parent as child rather than adult. It also reinforced the realisation of how far the returner had travelled since the ill-health and poor conditions of a 1940s childhood.  These are moving stories which returners’ children have relived with them. As the daughter of one of the returners put it: ‘We feel so privileged to take part in dad’s journey and a little piece of Manchester/Salford’s history’. ‘We’ve really enjoyed reliving dad’s journey with him’.

If you would like to learn more about the project and the returners, see  the website: You’ll also find our documentary film, ‘Returners’ Stories’, about the children from Manchester and Salford who went to stay in Switzerland in 1948.

The Boys and the Lake District Holocaust Project

By Hayley Shaw *

From 1945, 732 child Holocaust survivors came to Britain, often collectively known and referred to here as ‘The Boys’; there were only 80 girls amongst them. The children came to Britain under the Central British Fund for Jewish Relief and Rehabilitation (CBF), later World Jewish Relief. A founding member of the CBF and chairman of the Jewish Refugees Committee, Leonard Montefiore, made applications to the government for permission to invite children to the country. Such applications were initiated after Montefiore visited Paris in May 1945. Shocked after seeing the first arrivals of camp survivors, he believed something had to be done to help the victims.  In June 1945 the Home Office gave permission for 1,000 children under 16 to be brought to England for recuperation and ultimate re-emigration overseas. The Committee for the Care of Children from Concentration Camps was soon established to monitor and care for the children.


Children in Auschwitz Concentration Camp (courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

In August 1945, 300 of the 732 children came to England from Theresienstadt concentration camp. My Masters dissertation focused on these 300 children, exploring how they, and other child survivors, were rehabilitated in the north of England. They were housed in Windermere at Calgarth Estate, an unused wartime village that had accommodated workers in the aircraft industry, and their families. In Windermere the children began their new life; they were taught educational lessons, the English language, how to break habits learnt in the camps, and the presence of an English Rabbi allowed religious teaching and the Jewish ritual to be maintained. From Windermere the children were sent to hostels in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and London. The 300 children had left Calgarth Estate by early 1946 and it had achieved its aim of being the children’s first step into rehabilitation and a new life in England.


Terezin-Theresienstadt Camp (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Lake District Holocaust Project (LDHP), located in Windermere Library, was established in 2013 to promote and preserve the history of The Boys. Following a programme titled “The Orphans who Survived the Concentration Camps”, aired on BBC One in 2010, a small permanent exhibition was located in Windermere Library. Large success led to the space being enlarged and improved in 2013 for larger displays and a separate exhibition space for temporary exhibitions. Prior to the establishment, eight years of intense research, education work, oral history interviews and various trips to European countries such as Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic took place. Such work and commitment set the level of effort and work that continues by the Director of the LDHP, Trevor Avery, and Senior Adviser Rosemary Smith.

The LDHP has done large amounts of work towards the preservation of The Boys memory and the history of Calgarth Estate, I have picked out several instances to reflect this. In August 2018 Trevor Avery appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? Robert Rinder. Rinder is the grandson of Morris Malenicky, one of The Boys. Rinder appeared on the programme and traced the contrasting experiences of two of his grandparents who came to the UK seeking a new life. As part of the filming, Rinder met with Trevor Avery and explored documents which gave information into his grandfather’s life in Windermere and subsequent journey to London. In November 2018 the story of The Boys in Windermere was presented by Helen Mark on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Open Country series, named The Windermere Boys. The episode included conversations with Trevor Avery and two of The Boys, Sam Laskier and Ike Alterman.

From 15th to 27th July 2019 an archaeological scan and dig took place on the site of Calgarth Estate, now The Lakes School. The project was named ‘From Troutbeck to Treblinka’ and I was lucky enough to take part in the dig. It was led by Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls, Professor of conflict archaeology at Staffordshire University. Numerous artefacts of interest were found such as a tube of baby curling gel, a keyhole and patterned china. The dig was filmed for Digging for Britain WW2 – Troutbeck Bridge to Treblinka. Rosemary Smith documented the dig, and a diary of the process and findings can be found in the further reading section below.

In January 2020, The Windermere Children, a film based on The Boys and their experience in Windermere aired, was commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The LDHP was the principal source of information about the film and its accompanying documentary The Windermere Children: In Their Own Words. The film focuses on some of The Boys in particular: Ike Alterman, Ben Helfgott, Arek Hersh, Sam Laskier and Harry (Chaim) Olmer, exploring their personal experiences. The accompanying documentary further tells the story of the rehabilitation of the children in Windermere and includes first-hand testimony from Ike, Ben, Arek, Sam and Harry, covering their experiences in the Holocaust and their arrival and life in Britain.

Alongside these large projects, the LDHP continues to host regular events such as the ‘In conversation with…’ series which has included talks with Sam Gontarz, Ike Alterman and Mala Tribich and commemorations to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Throughout my Masters study I was lucky enough to gain strong working relationships with both Trevor and Rosemary and gained an insight into the incredible work they do on a daily basis to ensure the memory and history of The Boys lives on through the exhibition and other projects. The LDHP and its success is a credit to them and to their determination.

*  Hayley is starting her Ph.D at MMU this September.

Further reading and information:

Gilbert, M., The Boys: Triumph over Adversity (London: Phoenix, 1997).

Hersh, A., A Detail of History (Nottingham: Beth Shalom, 1998).

Kushner, T., and Know, K., Refugees in an Age of Genocide: Global, National and Local Perspectives during the Twentieth Century (London: Franks Cass, 1999).

Kushner, T., ‘Wandering Lonely Jews in the English Countryside’, Jewish Culture and History, vol.12, (2010).

Wellbeing and heritage research in times of closure

By Amy Luck and Dr. Faye Sayer, Department of History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University

The current devastating outbreak of COVID-19, lockdown and social distancing measures have undoubtedly had a substantial impact on the heritage sector. Most museums, archaeology and heritage sites around the world are currently closed. Many heritage professionals have been furloughed. Fundraising and/or admission income has been affected. The prospect of attempting to adapt to reopening in a way that complies with constantly changing public health guidance means the immediate future is looking very unclear for the heritage sector and those researching and working in public history and heritage.

Dr Faye Sayer and I are no exception to this; our research focuses on assessing the impact of engaging with heritage on individual’s wellbeing. Heritage provides a role in helping people form connections, bringing together communities and creates feelings of shared identity. Heritage can help to rebuild communities and support both individual, community and societal wellbeing. Previous research by Dr Sayer has shown that taking part in archaeological excavations positively impacts individual’s wellbeing; participants were more interested, connected, happier and satisfied after taking part. We are currently expanding upon this research through multiple projects; my AHRC funded PhD research investigates whether visiting heritage sites impacts visitor wellbeing and Dr Sayer’s British Academy funded ‘Heritage and Well-being: Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ international project looks to understand and compare how diverse heritage activities, including museums, heritage sites and community archaeological excavations in a range of cultural contexts shape individual and communal wellbeing.

The ‘Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ project will comparatively analyse quantitative data from public participants from nine diverse public heritage projects from developing and developed countries around the world (UK, USA and India) to access the impact of participation in heritage on well-being and the link to social, cultural, economic and political factors. The project’s research methodology, developed and piloted in the UK and USA, employs quantitative wellbeing measures such as the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) and Modified Visual Analogue Scale (MVAS), to identify the role heritage plays in enhancing well-being.

Our current research activities would look very different if it not for COVID-19; we would be liaising with heritage professionals, planning research visits to the USA and India, and conducting research on-site at archaeological excavations, museums and heritage sites in the UK. These activities are not currently possible, and we currently do not know when they might be possible again. Heritage sites are unlikely to reopen in the immediate future and when they do, they are likely to be operating differently due to measures such as social distancing and introducing timed ticketed entry to ensure control of visitor numbers.[i]

However, despite these obstacles, heritage research is still very much possible. The pandemic has even inspired new research which will complement existing ongoing research projects such as our Virtual Heritage and Wellbeing project.

COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of the UK population; life satisfaction is lower, and stress and anxiety levels are higher than usual reported averages.[ii] At the same time, heritage organisations have had to close and move activities online where possible. A survey of 650 museums in 41 countries conducted in April 2020 by the Network of European Museum Organisations indicated that more than 60% of museums have increased their online presence since closing due to social distancing and 40% have experienced a large upsurge in online visits.[iii]

With virtual heritage becoming the main way to engage with, learn about and connect with the past, it is important to understand the impact this has on users. As a result, we have launched the ‘Virtual Heritage and Wellbeing’ project.

Using the same methodology as the ‘Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ project and adding a qualitative element (free comment space on surveys), this research will seek to:

  • Evaluate how engagement with virtual heritage sites can impact visitor wellbeing.
  • Understand how different types of virtual heritage sites and diverse demographics of visitors positively and/or negatively impact on subjective wellbeing.
  • Identify what elements of virtual heritage provide the greatest positive change to wellbeing.
  • Compare the impact of virtual heritage to that of in-person heritage experiences on wellbeing.

We hope that the findings of this research will allow both heritage and wellbeing organisations to ascertain the impact of a variety of online heritage on wellbeing, both during and after a pandemic and compare differences on wellbeing on virtual and physical visits. This could be used to ascertain the cost-effectiveness of future programmes and activities.

We are actively seeking participants to take part in this project. If you are interested in taking part, please visit:

We hope that our research will demonstrate that engagement with heritage is as important as ever. Whilst the global pandemic has undoubtedly impacted all our lives over recent months, we have and will continue to adapt. This holds true for the heritage sector too and as the way people are accessing heritage changes, we academics and researchers need to adapt also.

[i] Jim Richardson, ‘How Might Museums Look Different When They Reopen After Coronavirus?’, [accessed 18.6.20]

[ii] UCL COVID-19 Social Study, ‘Results’, [accessed 18.6.20]

[iii] Network of European Museum Organisations, ‘Survey on the impact of the COVID-19 situation on museums in Europe’, [accessed 18.6.20]

New Online: Thomas Barritt of Manchester

In collaboration with Chetham’s Library, Manchester, Dr Peter N. Lindfield FSA of MMU’s History Research Centre and Centre for Gothic Studies, has, as a Visiting Curator at Chetham’s, produced a series of online videos and an interactive map exploring the life and antiquarian work of Thomas Barritt: Manchester’s very own Georgian saddler and antiquary, available here.
Screenshot 2020-07-03 at 12.23.14
Exploring Barritt’s interest in collecting historic objects, conducting surveys of historic architecture, recording pedigrees and armorials, and creating his own imaginative heraldic and antiquarian art and artefacts, Dr Lindfield expands upon his two published journal essays on Barritt and he makes freely accessible over eight years of research into one of Manchester’s significant, but largely forgotten Georgian characters.
Dr Lindfield and the Librarian of Chetham’s Library will be running an online colloquium on Barritt and antiquarianism later in 2020.


For further details follow Peter on Twitter @PeterNLindfield



New Exhibition: Russia’s Second Patriotic War in posters, photographs and postcards.

Dr. Catherine Danks has worked with Manchester Central Library to launch the virtual exhibition: Russia’s Second Patriotic War in posters, photographs and postcards.

Screenshot 2020-07-03 at 12.15.21For Russia August 1914 marked the start of their Second Patriotic War. Just over a century before in 1812 Russia had triumphed over Napoleon in the Patriotic War. One the eve of war in the summer 1914 the Imperial Russian Empire was far from united. Even previously loyal non-Russian subjects were increasingly alienated, rapid industrialisation and continuing rural backwardness had also contributed to growing social and political unrest. 1905 had been marked by peasant uprisings, mutinies in the armed forces and strikes. In July 1914 on the eve of war, 80% of the factories and commercial centres of the capital city St. Petersburg were closed by a general strike and the Tsar-Emperor Nicholas II was jeered.

This exhibition focuses on the first two years of the Second Patriotic War, 1914-1916. It examines the images of Russia, its history and culture presented in posters and postcards used to mobilise support for the war, raise charitable donations and to sell war bonds. These images stress Russia’s endurance and long history of defeating invaders; they draw upon heroic figures from medieval rulers to contemporary Cossacks, Russia’s Orthodox Christian identity and the solid good sense and tenacity of ordinary people. They also demonise the enemy Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Turks as evil, stupid and cowardly. Russia’s enemies for their part present Russians as cowardly drunkards. Photographs from 1914 show Russian troops valiantly heading to war, but despite some successes, no amount of positive propaganda could maintain national unity and support for Tsar Nicholas, who was forced to abdicate in March 1917.

The exhibition is hosted by the History Research Centre, MMU and Manchester Central Library:


Manchester Metropolitan University

The St. Petersburg Association for International Cooperation

The Manchester-Saint Petersburg Friendship Society

Russian National Library, St. Petersburg


Football, Plans and Public History: Art of Ayresome and taking the archives to the wider world

By Dr Tosh Warwick, Manchester Metropolitan University. 

 The searchroom of an archive is unlikely to be the first place many associated with the football fan reminiscing about past matches, players and a long-lost stadium. Yet, by drawing upon the rich sporting collections of Teesside Archives spanning club records, oral histories, plans, photographs and programmes, the recently launched Art of Ayresome online exhibition has helped celebrate the heritage of Middlesbrough FC’s former Ayresome Park home by taking this rarely seen material into the homes of Boro fans around the world.

‘Engineering Archie’

Amongst the highlights on the sporting collections are a number of Ayresome Park football stadium plans by world-acclaimed stadium designer Archibald Leitch, recently digitised and currently on show as part of the Art of Ayresome online exhibition. Bringing together work from acclaimed architects, cartoonists, illustrators, painters, photographers and sculptors, Art of Ayresome features numerous historic items and explore the story of Ayresome Park in a creative, engaging and unique way.

6 - Archibald Leitch's Ayresome Park plans from Teesside Archives' collections feature in Art of Ayresome

Archibald’s Leitch’s Ayresome Park plans from Teesside Archives’ collections feature in the Art of Ayresome.

Born in Glasgow in 1865, Leitch has been described as ‘the world’s first ever specialist designer of football grounds’.[1] ‘Engineering Archie’ designed a number of Britain’s iconic football grounds including Arsenal’s former Highbury home, Glasgow Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium and Manchester United’s Old Trafford. In 1903, Leitch’s Glasgow practice was commissioned to design Boro’s new ‘Ayresome Park’ home as the club made plans to leave the Linthorpe Road Ground. Leitch’s designs for Ayresome Park that have survived and can be found in Teesside Archives form part of a wider collection of plans that chronicle the initial construction of the stadium in 1903 and subsequent enhancements and redevelopments over the decades.

Archie’s Ayresome on show

The Art of Ayresome online exhibition, hosted on the Middlesbrough FC website, features Archibald’s Leitch’s original 1903 plans for Ayresome Park and are the oldest works in the exhibition. The plans provide the visitor with an architectural introduction to Ayresome Park and a detailed, unique perspective on Middlesbrough Football Club’s move to their new home at the beginning of the twentieth century. The plans allow the visitor to explore in minute detail – down to the very foundations – the place that became a central part of life for the club, town and hundreds of thousands of Teessiders.

The plan of the new Grand Stand, received by Middlesbrough Corporation’s Borough Engineer on 21st March 1903, details some of the key features of a typical Archibald Leitch Grand Stand that are evident in Ayresome’s standout feature. In his Engineering Archie, author Simon Inglis describes the new main stand as ‘straight from the pattern book of the firm with which Leitch often worked, the Clyde Structural Iron Company of Glasgow.’ Complete with its barrelled roof, arguably the most notable feature of the new stand was the iconic Leitch semi-circular roof gable, which many fans will remember was adorned for many years with an advertisement for McEwan’s 80/-.[2]

A plan of the Ayresome Park grandstand - Archibald Leitch (Teesside Archives)

A Plan of the Ayresome Park Grandstand – Archibald Leitch (Teesside Archives).

In their detail of the new facilities that formed part of the new ground, the Leitch plans give an indication of the investment and ambitions for the club that underpinned the construction of a new stadium. As Shaun Wilson notes in the ‘Ayresome Memories’ project, Leitch provided a ‘new ground in keeping with Boro’s growing stature.’[3] Costing a total of £11,857, the stadium was a vast improvement on the facilities at the club’s former Linthorpe Road home. The Athletic News reporter ‘Vulcan’ described the new, modern facilities in detail ahead of the ground’s inaugural 1903/04 campaign:

The directors, with great faith and equal enterprise have fitted up their new ground at Ayresome Park in accordance with the most modern requirements. Altogether, well over £6,000 has been spent over the equipment of the enclosure, and £3,000 of this has been devoted to the erection of a new grand stand to seat 3,000 persons, from the designs of Mr. Archibald Leitch, of Glasgow. Underneath this there is a well-appointed gymnasium, a billiard room, offices for the secretary (Mr. J. Robson), a boardroom for the directors, baths and retiring rooms for the home and visiting teams, a referee’s room, and other useful accommodation…With the exception of the sixpenny end where it is terraced with earth ashes, there are stands practically all round the field, and the total accommodation provided is for 32,000, so that the North Yorkshiremen are ready for big business.[4]

The Leitch plan of the Grand Stand – initially disapproved by the local authority and subsequently tweaked – detail the features of this ‘big business’ outlook and the state-of-the-art accommodation of the pavilion in miniscule detail, including the specifications of the terraces to the location of urinals in the changing rooms.

The plan of the new Grand Stand at Ayresome Park details facilities including changing rooms plunge baths referees room and visitor facilities

The plan of the new Grand Stand at Ayresome Park details facilities including changing rooms, plunge baths, referees room and visitor facilities (Teesside Archives).

A rare insight into the Linthorpe Road Ground

As well as affording an insight into the design of Boro’s attractive new stand, Leitch’s work in Art of Ayresome also provides a rare insight into the club’s old Linthorpe Road Ground, for which there are no known photos showing the inside of the stadium. The June 1903 plan of the old Linthorpe Road Grand Stand – which would become Ayresome’s early South Stand – provides detail absent from photographs of the stand in situ at Boro’s ‘new’ stadium. When compared with Leitch’s textbook Grand Stand creation, the old Linthorpe Road structure appears primitive and lacks the elegance and grace of the Glaswegian’s creation. Nevertheless, the old stand went on to serve the needs of Boro fans for over three decades until a new Dorman Long constructed stand replaced it in 1937.

The front elevation of the old Linthorpe Road stand shows how the stand lacked the grandeur of Leitch's Grand Stand

The front elevation of the old Linthorpe Road stand shows how the stand lacked the grandeur of Leitch’s Grand Stand (Teesside Archives).

New audiences and visitor responses

By featuring Leitch’s plans in Art of Ayresome thousands of fans have been able to enjoy the designs for the first time and learn more about the architect and Boro’s history.

Entries in the Visitor Book and Feedback Questionnaire responses reflect positively on the exhibition’s historical component. One supporter commented that “some of the earlier stuff (i.e. before my time) was fascinating. Lovely half hour spent viewing these drawings”. Another visitor noted that it was “good to see original plans”. When asked if Art of Ayresome had helped respondents learn something new about the history of Ayresome Park or Middlesbrough FC, one answer pointed to the “original plans”, another revealed they had acquired new knowledge of the “Scottish designer of the stadium”, whilst another supporter described how “the artist sketches for the original ground were interesting.”

As a rare architectural example of Boro’s early history on a public platform (with the club still in the process of making their own archives more accessible), the plans have attracted press coverage and formed part of a BBC Look North feature on Art of Ayresome.

It is evident from the responses to Leitch’s plans and the initial early feedback on the Art of Ayresome that taking the Leitch material beyond the archives has been beneficial for the exhibition and visitors alike. As well as helping develop new knowledge, the exhibition has also evoked positive emotional responses to the Boro’s sporting heritage.

During the challenging times posed by COVID-19, Leitch’s plans have played an important role in an ‘uplifting exhibition at a difficult time for many’ and it is planned will continue to have a positive impact for visitors and engagement with Teesside Archives’ collections and the area’s football heritage.

[1] S. Inglis, ‘Archibald Leitch’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessed 10 June 2020)

[2] S. Inglis (2005), Engineering Archie: Archibald Leitch – Football Ground Designer (Swindon, English Heritage), p.68

[3] S. Wilson,  ‘The Linthorpe Road Ground and Leitch’s Plans’ (accessed 10 June 2020)

[4] Athletic News, 24 August 1903

New Generation Thinkers in conversation


Catherine Fletcher is Professor of History, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2015. Her book The Beauty and the Terror: An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance was published in March 2020. Catherine is also author of Our Man in Rome: Henry VIII and his Italian Ambassador, Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome, and The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici.

Griffiths BBC

Seren Griffiths is Senior Lecturer in Public Heritage and Archaeological Science, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2020. She is an Early Career Researcher, and Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded ‘Project TIME’. She will be talking about her research on the BBC ‘Free Thinking’ programme on the 23rd June.

Here Seren, at the start of her New Generation Thinkers Scheme, interviews Catherine about why she was interested in taking part, and why working with the media is an important form of public history and heritage work.

 SG: Catherine, what first attracted you to the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers Scheme?

CF: I applied three times, in fact. The first was back in 2010, the year the scheme was launched. I was working on Our Man in Rome, which a book for a general audience based on my PhD research, about the diplomats behind Henry VIII’s first divorce. This was just after the crash of 2008 and the academic job market wasn’t looking great so any opportunity to develop the Plan B career seemed attractive! I didn’t get selected that time, but I did manage to stick around in fixed-term contract jobs. I gave NGT another shot in my final year of eligibility, with a project related to The Black Prince of Florence, and got selected.

SG: What for you is the importance of public history and heritage?

CF: The idea that scholars wouldn’t want to talk to–and hear from–a broad range of people about our research always seems slightly odd to me. Obviously there are some elements of research that aren’t easy to communicate to non-experts, but whenever I do public talks and events I get questions that make me think in different ways about my work, and that’s hugely valuable. On a larger scale, I think it makes a difference to political life if voters come to their decisions informed about the past. All the big current questions–the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, Brexit–have historical contexts. History and heritage matter to citizenship.

SG: Has being involved with the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers Scheme changed or developed your practice as a public historian?

CF: Yes, definitely. Some of the programmes I’ve done have involved me reading and visiting exhibitions on topics that are well outside my usual expertise and giving my perspective on them–everything from seventeenth-century court music to contemporary art to ancient literature. It’s often quite easy in academia to end up siloed in your own discipline and not engage with other ideas out there. It’s also encouraged me to explore writing and performing in different genres – I’ve been experimenting more with fiction and I’ve done a few stand-up comedy/history gigs.

SG: What was the most surprising element of the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers Scheme?

CF: I think probably the range of research that’s out there and can work for a wide audience. In the broadcasts and events that I’ve been involved in I’ve heard contributors talk about topics from queer digital lives in South Asia to seventeenth-century cookery to the history of menstruation. You can always count on running into something unexpected.

SG: Obviously my experience of the scheme in a Corona virus 19 context, will be very different from your experience of the scheme. What do you see as the biggest challenges of doing public history or heritage in lockdown?

CF: Personally I’m really missing the audience. I’ve done one live comedy show online, which was fun, but it’s not the same as speaking face-to-face to a crowd of people and getting that immediate response and energy. I’m spending a lot of time in lockdown trying to sketch out material for the future, but I’m very conscious that live cultural events won’t be the same for quite some time and there’s a real risk of some arts and heritage organisations closing entirely if support isn’t forthcoming from government.

Luck in the Lockdown! Researching early women doctors in Manchester: Blog 2: Searching for Dr. Ross (c. 1874 to 1961)

By Ali Ronan

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The Duchess of York Hospital for Babies, Burnage (By Peter Ward, CC BY-SA 2.0,

This has been an exciting search! A group of volunteers have been researching pioneering women doctors in Manchester and I have been looking at three forgotten women who all were involved in the Manchester Babies’ Hospital after 1914:  Dr. Elsie Brown Hey, Dr Sheila Ross and Dr Dora Bunting. I choose them, at random, from a list sent to the volunteers by Dr. Peter Mohr.

Today I am looking at what I have discovered about Sheila Ross and how I used the archives during the lockdown. When I first looked at the Annual Reports of the Manchester Babies’ Hospital in the Manchester University Archives, I had noted a Dr. Ross as one of the initial committee members: but just a surname was frustrating as I couldn’t find out who she was. But I was undeterred!

Peter Mohr had signposted us to the Medical Biographical Collection, so I looked up Ross and found that Dr. Sheila Margaret Ross (GB 133 MMC/2/Ross) had graduated from Edinburgh in 1904 and taken the Diploma in Public Health in Manchester in 1909.  So, I was already thinking about her age and how I might find her on the census. I looked up Sheila Margaret Ross on the FindmyPast census and saw that there was an entry for the 1939 register. There was Sheila, describing herself as a retired Doctor of Medicine, living with a housekeeper in Kent and her birth date of 1873.

From there I could narrow down the census requirements. As she took her medical degree in Edinburgh, I looked for census returns in Scotland. In 1881, I found Sheila aged seven, a scholar, living with her mother and three siblings, all scholars and two servants. Screenshot 2020-06-18 at 11.03.00They were living in the Manse at Appin in Argyllshire where her father Duncan was the Free Church minister, although he was not home on census night in 1881. I could not find him anywhere on the 1881 census, but he was at home 10 years later – I hope he had not been away for ten years! Clearly not, as in the 1891 Census there were three more children at the Manse, Campbell born in 1882, Jeannie born in 1885 and Mary born in 1890. There was also a boarder Mary McLead and her brother Donald, an unemployed tea planter, both from North Uist in the Western Isles. Another intriguing story?

By 1891, Sheila, aged only 17, was also living as a boarder in Smith Street in Govan, Glasgow in a boarding house run by a Mary Edgar who was the secretary to a Church Mission and perhaps known to Sheila’s father. In 1891 Sheila declared on the Census form that she was attending classes at college or school called St George’s although the content of the classes is unknown. Interestingly, in the 1901 Census Sheila’s brother Campbell aged 19 was recorded as also staying in the boarding house, as another medical student.

However, it made me think Sheila was quite a bold and adventurous young woman, leaving home in the West of Scotland and moving to the city to study and indeed, some of the information I later discovered, confirmed this idea.  I could not find her at all in the 1901 census. I looked at the England and Scottish 1901 census but no luck at all. I wondered if she had travelled abroad but there was no trace of that either.

However, searching the 1913 Medical Register, which is also on FindmyPast, confirmed what the Biographical Collection had already told me: that by 1904 Sheila Ross had Screenshot 2020-06-18 at 11.03.15graduated from Edinburgh University with a Bachelor of Medicine Degree and then in 1906 gained her MD – as a Doctor of Medicine. So, I imagine that in 1901 she was in Edinburgh but somehow not recorded on the Census. I had googled her to see if anything came up and discovered that a digitisation project at Edinburgh University ( had found a medical thesis from 1906 written by Sheila M. Ross. It is entitled Acute hallucinatory insanity – a type of the confusional insanities, with clinical notes.  Sheila was awarded a medal from the School of Medicine in 1899 for Systemic Anatomy and the July 1904 edition of the British Medical Journal notes the graduation in 1904 where out of a class of 130, only seven were women including Sheila M. Ross.

An interest in Public Health meant that Sheila moved to Manchester to complete a Diploma in Public Health and in 1909 she graduated from the Victoria University in Manchester. Although at that time, she clearly maintained an interest in insanity, as she was recorded in the 1911 census as visiting the Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane (sic) in Surrey and staying with the superintendent W.D Moore, (1859-1926) and his family. They were a middle-class family with four servants and from the census return it seems likely that the Moores lived on the site.

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Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane in 1885 (Creative Commons, from Wellcome Collection)

Searching the 1911 Census for Sheila Ross taught me an important lesson: usually I look at the transcription of the census, in this case the transcription told me that Sheila Ross stayed with a W.D. Woore. I looked up this name to no avail and as it seemed such a strange name, I decided to look at the original image where it became clear that the enumerator had written the name Moore with a flourish, meaning that the transcription re-transcribed it as Woore. Once I realised that the name was Moore, many parts of this jigsaw felt into place. Sheila was at the Holloway Sanatorium as a visitor, citing her occupation as a Doctor of Medicine.A remarkable view into the lives of psychiatric patients at Holloway Sanatorium can be found in the recently digitised patient case books. Many of these case notes are recorded by W.D. Moore. Holloway Sanatorium was opened in 1885 as a hospital for the paying middle classes and W.D. Moore started work there in 1901. Set in 22 acres of lush parkland, the asylum was located to be visible from the nearby train station. The design of the sanatorium was based on the French idea that plain walls were obnoxious to the mad. Every inch of wall was “richly decorated including portrayals of small devils amidst the florid design”. (Wellcome Library Blog). I think Sheila must have still been interested in ‘lunacy’ at this stage and was perhaps building on ideas from her thesis written a few years before. The sanatorium was relatively new in 1911 and the place was one of the most extraordinary communities in England. The patients could wander freely down to the shops and back, mingling on equal terms with the locals.

By 1913 Sheila was working in the Public Health Laboratory in Manchester. Presumably, she needed a job. At that time the Public Health laboratory was under the auspices of a Swiss Doctor, Aguste Delefine (1855-1921), who was Professor of Bacteriology at the University and who developed a course for undergraduates in bacteriology and set up the bacteriological laboratories in the Medical school. This is interesting on several levels, firstly that Delefine was exploring ideas about public health and young children, particularly in relation to a diet of cow’s milk. Sheila Ross will have been aware of these findings, as the summer outbreak of infant gastro-enteritis had been one of the catalysts for the establishment of the Babies Hospital in 1914.  Secondly, Sheila Ross subsequently became a bacteriologist for the Public Health Department in Derbyshire in the 1930s, demonstrating the influence that working with Professor Delepine in the Public Health Laboratory had had on her.

By the early 1950s, Sheila Ross was working in some capacity, (possibly as a consultant as by the early 1950s she was in her late 70s) at the children’s hospital in Booth Hall, Manchester which had amalgamated with the Babies’ Hospital (now renamed the Duchess of York Hospital) when the NHS was established in 1948. Sheila Ross co-authored with paediatrician W.H. Patterson, an article in the British Medical Journal in February 1952, entitled: ‘GASTRO-ENTERITIS IN INFANCY’ AN ACCOUNT OF 286 CASES TREATED IN A GENERAL PAEDIATRIC HOSPITAL by N. M. MANN, SHEILA ROSS and W. H. PATTERSON. From Booth Hall Hospital, Manchester. Clearly the issue of childhood disease, in particular, sickness and gastro-enteritis, was a recurring preoccupation for Sheila.

I had suspected that Sheila Ross was adventurous, I discovered that during the 1920s, she travelled to Madeira at least twice and to Cape Town in 1923. In 1952 she travelled once again to Cape Town. I wondered if she visited the Manchester doctors Marguerite and William Douglas Drummond who had emigrated to Cape Town in 1926. Marguerite Douglas, born in Cape Town in 1881, was one of the doctors on the first committee at the Manchester Babies’ Hospital in 1914, she married Dr. Bill Drummond in 1915, and since 1912 she had been in charge of Maternity and Child Welfare as part of the Manchester Public Health department. Marguerite Douglas was also a signatory to the  Open Christmas Letter which was a public message for peace addressed “To the Women of Germany and Austria” signed by a group of 101 British suffragists at the end of 1914. This letter was also signed by Margaret Ashton who was the main benefactor and supporter of the Babies’ Hospital. Although Sheila Ross did not sign the letter, I am sure that these women will have been spoken of current events, and all will have been suffrage sympathisers and possibly critical of the war as well.

Sheila Ross died in 1961, she was 88 years old and died in Bromley, Kent, near where she had lived in 1939.