Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, Lecture Theatre 1
In March 2021, Misha Ewen joined Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that looks after six palaces including Hampton Court and the Tower of London, as its first Curator for Inclusive History. What attracted her to the post was the opportunity to reshape the narrative of these historic sites through the inclusion of different voices, examination of alternate archives, and excavation of other stories. In this paper, Misha discusses how her work researching and disseminating these stories has developed, including the gains to be had by bringing social history to bear on the early modern palace.
Dr Misha Ewen is an historian of early modern England and its empire in the Atlantic world. Before she joined Historic Royal Palaces, Misha held a Hallsworth Research Fellowship at the University of Manchester and postdoctoral position at the University of Kent. Her first book, The Virginia Venture: American Colonization and English Society, 1580-1660, is forthcoming with the University of Pennsylvania Press.
Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, Lecture Theatre 1
Dr Sam Agbamu (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Royal Holloway, University of London). Sam is a classicist who is especially interested in the relationship between Latin literature and post-classical imperialism, as well as the role of the discipline of Classics in the formation of discourses of ‘race’ and nationhood.
For more about his research, teaching and publications, see his RHUL profile
This jointly-hosted public lecture is open to all and is a hybrid event. Please ensure that you book either a ‘in person’ or an ‘online’ ticket.
Manchester gained its city status in 1853. The urbanisation of the city was a consequence of the boom in the textile industry which saw Manchester become the world’s first industrialised city. Cotton played a huge role in the growth of Manchester. The cotton famine (1862-1863) was a consequence of the American Civil War. A northern blockade of southern ports resulted in the cotton supply to England being cut off. As a result, workers in the Manchester cotton industry lost jobs and faced poverty. Despite this, many in Manchester supported the fight to abolish slavery. Observing the difference between the buildings and their purposes back then versus now highlights Manchester’s roots in the cotton industry and its evolution as a city over time. It also enables us to see the journey of the working women and men during the period and what each of these buildings meant to them.
The mills of Manchester were the heart and soul of the city’s success, witnessing many key moments throughout their history. The first mill, which is no longer standing, was built in 1783, on Miller Street for Richard Arkwright. The Crusader Mill in Ancoats that was built in 1830, is a key example of how cotton mills of Manchester evolved. Once used to provide the city with a wealth of resources, today Crusader Mill houses luxury apartments. Working class people would have spent a lot of their time in the mill, as they made a living and formed relationships with their fellow workers. Exposed brickwork, original cast iron columns and wooden beams have been left in-tact, honouring the building’s history. The use of the mills today shows the full circle moment of Cottonopolis. From the spinning of cotton in the 19th century, to meeting Manchester’s housing needs in the present day.
One of the most important and renowned buildings is the Manchester Town Hall. This building is situated in the centre of Manchester and has always been the hub of the city. Building for the Town Hall started in 1868 and finished in 1877; after the collapse of the Cotton industry and the famine. What is so important about it, is the architectural elements that gothic-style architect Alfred Waterhouse put in place. He makes numerous nods to Manchester’s cotton history. For example, statues of Richard Cobden and John Bright stand inside the Town Hall. Richard Cobden was a Radical and Liberal politician who campaigned for the Anti-Corn Law league which impacted the working-class mill workers of Manchester. He did this alongside John Bright who was a promoter of free trade policies and a prevalent figure around the Lancashire Cotton Famine. There is also mosaic flooring inside the hall, which includes the iconic bee symbol of Manchester, as well as a border of white strands and stylised cotton flowered on the mosaic floors. Currently undergoing renovation until 2024, the Town Hall continues to provide a central meeting place for workers.
Finally, the Manchester Free Trade Hall was another extremely important building during 19th Century Cottonopolis. It was constructed between 1853-56 by Richard Cobden; the Radical and Liberal politician. The building, shrouded in history still stands today and is situated on Peter Street, sitting on the site of the historic Peterloo Massacre. It was also the home of the Halle Orchestra. In December 1862 a meeting of cotton workers was held at the Free Trade Hall and their support was pledged to the Federal States of America in their struggles against the South. This moment signified Manchester and Lancashire’s support for President Abraham Lincoln who thanked the cotton workers. A statue of Lincoln stands in Lincoln Square to this day. The Free Trade Hall is now home to popular Manchester restaurant, Peter Street Kitchen and despite the change in interior the original beauty from the exterior of the building can still be seen.
Each of these locations throughout Manchester honour the history of Cottonopolis and the industry that allowed Manchester to boom and become a hub of culture. Although the city and its architecture may evolve, its roots and foundations, honoured through its buildings remain.
Nowadays, a lot of us rely on photos to preserve our memories, particularly those from our youth. It’s now common for our mothers to capture and save every detail of our childhoods, whether it’s in the form of a family photo album filled with awkward but nostalgic candid photos, travel photos from overseas, or even just domestic snapshots. Thus, for many, photographs are deeply personal objects that serve as physical reminders of our lives. Our family photos are commonly viewed as the keepers of our personal memories, a physical object that we can view whenever we wish. Documenting our domestic lives has become ingrained in our culture, and it all started with women.
Photography’s accuracy in taking and preserving memories has been utilised since the nineteenth century, and since then it’s only evolved. Most histories of photography’s beginnings overlook the importance of women. The medium was created primarily by men, but women embraced it as their own. Whereas practically all other pastimes had been dominated by men, photography gave women a means of self-expression that was also practical. If not for Victorian and Edwardian ladies, domestic photography would not exist like it does today.
Domestic photography is commonly used to describe the act of a non-professional taking and using photos. From our births to our deaths, it has been used to document and record practically every element of our lives. However, this was not the intention when the medium was created. It comes from the artisans who employed the method to aid in the creation of their artworks, viewing photography as a light-drawing technique.
However, people were unable to help falling in love with the medium as it continued to improve over time. By making it more accessible to the general public, by the end of the nineteenth century, photography had become a hobby for many. This resulted in a dramatic rise in amateur photography, with individuals taking pictures of their daily lives. The first Kodak camera was introduced in 1888, and it was believed that 1.5 million had found their way into individuals’ households barely ten years later. With Kodak’s more accessible camera being able to be used at home, individuals took advantage of the technology and generated a new use for it. It eventually evolved from a tool for artists to help with their craft into a tool for mundane folks to wield at leisure.
Moreover, women were able to easily learn how to operate the camera from the instructions because it didn’t require any formal academic training. Furthermore, when Kodak decided to focus their marketing on women, it transformed photography from a profession to a means of collecting and preserving family memories and domestic life. Women photographed what they could, which happened to be their daily, domestic lives. And the most prevalent thing in their lives were their family, which seem to be subject in most images found from the time. Some of them were more staged, with the family all stood in place in front of the camera, capturing everyone. Others were more candid, featuring the children playing outside in the sun, or even snow. Even the Royals engaged in photography due to its growing popularity. Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1878- 1842) was rather enamoured of the pastime.
Even though many women, including Lady Clementina Hawarden, treated photography as more of an artistic expression and received recognition for it (1822-1865). Hawarden utilised photography to document her private life since, like so many other women of her generation, she was restricted to fulfilling domestic responsibilities in her home. Thus, Hawarden’s eight children were heavily featured in her photos, through raw candid portraits. These candid photos showed not only a world of recreation but also a deeper narrative about the development of adolescents. Hawarden’s photographs can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Unfortunately, many of the ladies who documented their domestic, routine lives at this time are impossible to be identified, leaving only the pictures we inadvertently happen across. However, these images were the beginning of domestic photography, allowing us insight into how our older generations existed.
There is almost a nostalgic feeling while looking at these images, which were taken so long ago. Moreover, there is a sensation of familiarity because many of us can remember having our images shot under similar, if not exactly same, circumstances. We can be assured that the makers of these pictures did not intend for them to be understood as historical or even relevant by those looking at them today, a century from now. They were probably taken to capture and preserve the occasion, to be able to physically look back and remember.
Pictures taken at this time were not all that dissimilar from those we take today. There are elements of contemporariness in each photo, which serve as visual reflections of how little domestic photography has evolved. In addition, we can see the origins of domestic photography in our own modern images, such as how infants are photographed playing in the garden or how granny requests a photo with her grandkids. They serve as not only reminders of our current lives, but also the lives of our predecessors, demonstrating to us that humanity isn’t changing as drastically as we imagine.
Coe, B. and Gates, P. (1977) The snapshot photograph: the rise of popular photography, 1888-1939. London: Ash & Grant.
Di Bello, P. (2007) Women’s albums and photography in Victorian England: ladies, mothers and flirts. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
Kuhn, A. (2007) Photography and cultural memory: a methodological exploration, Visual Studies, 22:3, 283-292.
LEWIS, E. M. M. A. (2021) Photography – a feminist history: how women shaped the art. ILEX GIFT.
We are delighted to relaunch the Manchester Region History Review, with Volume 1 of this new edition. Many thanks to Dr Craig Horner for putting this together, as well as our authors and editorial board.
Anyone with a passing familiarity with English villages has probably been struck by the frequent presence of a large, even grandiose, parsonage—now often styled the Old Rectory and seldom occupied by the local clergyman. Many of these houses were built in the first half of the nineteenth century during a remarkable phase of renovation and rebuilding and renovation, funded in large part by a body called Queen Anne’s Bounty (QAB).
QAB was originally set up in the early eighteenth century to create a fund which could augment the often woefully inadequate stipends received by curates and some incumbents. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, new legislation empowered the governors of QAB to lend money for building as well as repairing clergy houses. Coupled with a new requirement for incumbents to be resident in their parishes, this led to a building boom, not least because many existing parsonages were small or in poor condition.
The extended or newly built parsonages funded by QAB mortgages varied hugely in size and appearance. From the mid 1830s, there was a growing taste for a style which might be called Tudor-gothic (see Figure 1), but most parsonages before then were of neoclassical design (as at Woodford) or in a broad vernacular style (Maidwell) —see Figures 2 and 3.
A growing proportion of clergymen were the sons of gentlemen or even aristocrats (think of Jane Austen’s Edward Ferrar, Henry Tilney and Edmund Bertram—all from wealthy and landed families), so parsonages needed to reflect their social standing. At the same time, however, there was a sentiment repeated in many architectural treatises that parsonages should not be too showy. Peter Robinson, then vice-president of the Institute of British Architects, thus presented plans for a Gentleman’s residence upon a scale sufficiently large to acquire the ordinary conveniences, without allowing the building to assume too much importance’ (Rural Architecture, 1836)—see Figure 4.
The combination of these various factors created a plethora of substantial, and sometimes very large, villa-style parsonages in villages across the country. Due to the bureaucratic process of acquiring a mortgage from QAB, there is also a wealth of documentary evidence available. This often includes beautifully drawn plans that detail the layout and appearance of the houses (Figure 5).
From these designs, we can see the importance of a large drawing room and dining room for polite entertaining; but also a study or, in grander parsonages, a library in which the clergyman could work and house their collections of books. These were a characteristic feature of the clergy, and often ran to thousands of volumes, as was the case with the Reverend Thomas Speidell of Crick in Northamptonshire, who had over 3000 books and enjoyed a [size] library as well as a private study.
The social standing of men such as Speidell is apparent from the substantial provision made for servants. Housekeeper’s rooms, butler’s pantries and bedrooms for housemaids were found in many of these new parsonages; some also had servants’ halls in which the domestic staff ate communally, as in country houses (Figure 6).
In many ways, the parsonages built with QAB mortgages were houses for the gentry, but gentry of a particular type. They were social yet learned; conscious of their status, but also their religious duties.
A few clergymen struggled with the practicalities of such large houses, not least the cost of mortgage payments and maintenance. The latter, of course, became unsustainable in many parishes in the later 20th century, a problem compounded by the incongruity of modern clergymen living in such grand surroundings. As a result, many were sold off. Yet many survive as private houses—a legacy of a particular episode in church and social history.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has raised difficult questions for how the international community should respond. To maintain the usual links and interactions might appear to condone Russia’s actions while the escalation of tensions runs the danger of precipitating a more widespread conflict in Europe and perhaps even superpower confrontation. Discussions about possible human corridors, ceasefires, and ultimately peace, take place at the state level. We tend to focus on relations between states, and alliances of states but the C20th and especially the post-WWII period saw the rapid burgeoning of links between town and cities. These civic links are variously known as twinning, partnership, sister city, or friendship arrangements and typically involve a formal agreement. The purpose of these agreements is generally to develop mutual friendship and understanding, typically they have encouraged the exchange of information and visits, the development of educational and cultural ties. Overall, the hope has been that more interactions would make conflict less likely. It has to be said, that some twinning agreements have proved more dynamic and enduring than others and some have become dormant without being formally ended. Town and cities have generally seen twinning and friendship agreements as ‘good things’, but don’t necessarily have the resources or the will to maintain and develop them.
Plymouth while initially condemning the invasion of Ukraine announced that they did not intend to end their twinning relationship with the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk arguing that this, ”would send the wrong message”. A Plymouth City Council spokesperson said: “Following the Novichok poisoning on UK soil in March 2018, Plymouth City Council agreed to revoke any invitations to Russian officials. And that they did not want to punish the people of Novorossiysk “for the barbaric actions of their government.” However, by early March Plymouth had moved to suspend but not cut its ties with Novorossiysk.
Doncaster, Nottingham, Wakefield, and County Durham have gone one step further and ended rather than just suspended their agreements. Doncaster has ended its agreement with Ozyorsk. Nottingham has ended its links with Krasnodar and the Belarussian city of Minsk. Similarly, Wakefield has ended its agreement with Belgorod and County Durham has ended its agreement with Kostroma. However, in these last two cases the links were already inactive. The Wakefield council leader noted that it had been “dormant” for many years and for County Durham and Kostroma, there have “been no active projects . . .for some time.”
If civic links are still seen to be an important means to develop international understanding, that they have a role to play in establishing and re-establishing contacts between peoples, what conditions will be needed in order to “unsuspend” relations?
Victorian Manchester was known to be a gruelling yet booming age. Whilst it was an era of technological innovation, social dynamism and cultural revolution, it was also a period where the average life expectancy was 26 and poor living conditions were at an all time high. Despite this, there were a host of pioneering individuals who navigated these circumstances to defy societal principals and expectations in subtle but long-lasting ways.
These are just a few of the historical figures and streets to be featured in an upcoming digital storytelling project called ‘The Strong Women of Victorian Manchester’ which is currently fundraising on Kickstarter. This initiative will explore the lives of each figure and as their lives cross over and intersect, users will have the ability to choose their destiny in this immersive experience.
Peter Street – Annie Horniman
Annie Horniman was a local celebrity, occultist and pioneer of the British repertory theatre movement in Britain. She leased the Midlands hotel as a 1000-seat theatre company for a trial season, before using £25,000 of her family’s packet tea fortune to purchase the Gaiety Theatre on 65 Peter Street in 1905.
Horniman was noted for her celebrity status, extrovert behaviour, eccentric style of dressing, heavy smoking and interest in the astrology. She was a member of an occult group called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and was noted for her daily use of tarot card readings. She embraced her love for the theatre, despite the disapproval of her wealthy family, and actively shunned restrictive Victorian values.
Quay Street – Harry Stokes
A master bricklayer, respected beerhouse manager and special constable, Harry Stokes was assigned female at birth but lived his life as a man. His gender variance became subject of both local and national news between 1838 and 1859, when his wife of 22 years told her lawyer about his sex in order to obtain a divorce.
After separating from his first wife, he set up home with a barmaid called Francis Collins. Together they set up an established beerhouse on 3-5 Quay Street. In 1859, Stokes body was found in the River Irwell. Despite the frenzy of local press headlines, Stokes’ gender variance was generally known and somewhat accepted by the working-class community after his death.
Bridge Street – Martha Partington
A passionate pro-democracy and anti-poverty protestor, Martha Partington was one of approximately eighteen victims of the Peterloo Massacre. On the 16th of August 1819, the mother-of-two marched from her home in Eccles to St Peter’s Field to support the Anti-Corn Laws movement. However, she sadly died whilst fleeing the scenes, having either been thrown or fallen into a cellar on Bridge Street. Her husband and children were reportedly awarded just £5 in relief.
The Peterloo Massacre resulted in over 700 serious injuries and remains a dark day in the city’s history. Whilst there were less women than men present at Peterloo, a disproportionate number of women were either attacked or injured, serving as a reminder of the brutality women faced for a cause they believed in.
Princess Street – Sarah Parker Remond
African American lecturer and abolitionist Sarah Parker Remond was born free in Massachusetts, 1826. As an international activist for human rights and women’s suffrage, she came to Lancashire in 1859 to appeal to mill owners and cotton workers to support the US anti-slavery movement.
She made her mark on Princess Street when she spoke at a meeting presided over by the Mayor in the Manchester Athenaeum. In her speech she declared, “When I walk through the streets of Manchester and meet load after load of cotton, I think of those 80,000 cotton plantations on which was grown the $125m worth of cotton which supply your market, and I remember that not one cent of that money ever reached the hands of the labourers.”
Great Ducie Street – Mary Burns
Perhaps best known as the lifelong partner of German philosopher, Friedrich Engels, Mary was a working-class Irish woman who is thought to have grown up in the Deansgate area. Whilst few details remain about her life, her impact on some of Engel’s major works are clear. She met Engels during his first stay in Manchester and is thought to have guided him through the worst districts in the region for his research on ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’.
After the German revolution, Engels returned to England where they set up a formal home arrangement together on Great Ducie Street, where they remained for 20 years. Burns died suddenly in 1863 at the age of 41, but her impact lives on vicariously through Engels’ seminar work.
The Strong Women of Victorian Manchester Kickstarter will be running through Women’s History Month 2022. You can help bring the project to life by using this link: