Monday, 25 October 2021

“that wickedness, whereby an hundred thousand Africans are annually murdered” ………stories of Chorlton and slavery .... part 1

I doubt that anyone will be surprised that there are links between Chorlton-cum-Hardy and the slave trade.

Thomas Walker, 1794
I first visited the links* a few years ago prompted by a new onsite database on the Legacies of British Slave-ownership and reprised the story recently. **

But long before that, I had come across the remarkable Thomas Walker, who had lived at Barlow Hall, and was the Boroughreeve*** for Manchester.

He was at the centre of radical political thought arguing for civil liberty, constitutional reform and the abolition of the slave trade.

In a letter to John Cartwright he condemned “that Christian wickedness, whereby an hundred thousand Africans are annually murdered” and in another letter sought  help from Edward Cartwright, the  inventor of power loom to procure “me a list of Wool Spinners and other manufacturers to whom our [abolitionist] papers might be sent with effect.”

And as Chairman of the Manchester Anti Slavery committee along with Thomas Cooper, and others, he saw the opportunities for building on the growing opposition in Manchester to the slave trade.  He turned the visit of Thomas Clarkson in 1787 into a major propaganda event by persuading Clarkson to preach at the city’s Collegiate Church.

It was a great success, as Clarkson remarked “when I went into the church it was so full that I could scarcely get to my place; for notice had been publicly given.  I was surprised, also, to find a great crowd of black people standing in the pulpit.” ****

The success of that Sunday sermon was followed up by a petition to Parliament which the Committee had already planned.  In all over 11,000 people called for an end to the African trade.  This amounted to one fifth of the city’s population reflecting working class opposition to the slave trade and the practical campaigning skills of Walker and the others.

But for every Thomas Walker there was a Wilbraham Egerton whose family had owned great chunks of south Manchester including Chorlton-cum-Hardy since the mid 18th century.

I missed his connection to the Slave trade but was alerted to it by Cllr Dave Rawson of Chorlton Park Ward, and I went looking on that database.

The Insurrection, 1824
And there he was, listed as, “a trustee and executor for Mrs L.W. Boode in place of James Dannett, a role he shared with John Earl Brownlow".

Together as trustees they applied for and were granted on November 30th, 1835, £10058 15s 4d as compensation for the 185 individuals who had been slaves on the Greenwich Park plantation in Demerara in British Guiana.

The same database records that Greenwich Park had been owned by Margret Boode, née Dannett from 1817, passing to her daughter in 1826.

Back in 1817 the plantation owned 201 slaves, which had fallen to 190 in 1832.

Just how Wilbraham Egerton came to be a trustee is as unclear, but I know he took over from James Dannett, and that his fellow trustee, was related to the Egerton’s.

Nor is that quite all, because the Legacies database also records a young Emily Lawes Pink, who was born in Jamaica in 1819, lived in Chorlton on Medlock and was buried aged just 19 in our own parish graveyard, here in Chorlton.

The Egerton's proposed three routes for their new road, 1853
The Pink family also owned slaves, but as yet I can not make a connection with Chorlton-cum-Hardy, but it will be there, and in the fullness of time will be revealed.

I did however come across an account of the “Insurrection of the Negro Slaves in the Colony of Demerara” ***** in 1823, which was published the following year.

And this may offer up more information on Greenwich Park.

All of which leaves Wilbraham Egerton, who was a class ridden old representative of the aristocracy, opposed to any progressive moves during his time in Parliament and after.

And that in turn offers up the uncomfortable link with the road that bears his name.

The favoured route crossing Barlow Moor Lane, 1853
Or maybe not.

Wilbraham Road was planned in the 1850s and was not cut for another decade.

By which time Wilbraham Egerton was dead.

And it is likely that this superhighway linking Stretford through Chorlton to Fallowfield was the work of his son or grandson.

Wilbraham Egerton died in 1856 and was succeeded by his son William, who named his son Wilbraham.

Of course, the Egerton Papers, may well include details of the deliberations that led to both the road and to its name. *******

We shall see.

Location; British Guiana, and Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Pictures; Thomas Walker, 1794, front cover, Account of An Insurrection of the Negro Slaves in the Colony of Demerara, 1824, proposed routes for what was to become Wilbraham Road, 1853

*Who in Chorlton owned a slave in the summer of 1831?

**Legacies of British Slave-ownership, UCL,

***"The regulation of the police is in three officers, viz a Boroughreeve or Head-Borough, and two constables.  These officers are annually elected in October by a jury of the Leet summoned by the Lord of the Manor.  The Boroughreeve is considered the principle officer, presides at public meetings, is applied to upon all public business, has the distribution of certain charities...”  Walker, Thomas, A Review of some of the events of the last five years, London 1794 page 23, Google edition page 194

**** Correspondence of Thomas Walker, quoted from Culture Minister defers export of anti slavery campaigner’s letters, Department of Culture, Media and Sports, February 25 2010

*****Clarkson, Thomas, History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishments of the Slave Trade, John Parker, London, New Edition 1839, Page 244, Google edition page 263

******Account Of An Insurrection of the Negro Slaves in the Colony of Demerara which broke out on the 18th of August, 1823, Bryant, Joshua, 1824

********Egerton Papers, M24 /1/15, Central Ref

One hundred years of one house in Well Hall part 16 ........... a revolution on wash day

This is the continuing story of one house in Well Hall Road and of the people who lived there including our family.*

Now this was Dad's welcoming present to 294 when we moved in in 1964.

I say Dad's but the reality will be that it will have been mum who insisted on this piece of cutting edge technology.

And with that "keyplate" which "automatically selects the right water temperature, the right washing action, the right number of rinses and the right spin-drying time for what ever wash you are doing" we could really feel the future had arrived.

And on top of all that here was a front loading machine which was already plumbed in and needed no endless filling of water buckets to put into the machine.

I could also comment on the rather sexist headline but won't.

Location; Well Hall

Picture; advert for the Hoover Keymatic, The Observer Magazine January 30 1966 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*One hundred years of one house on Well Hall Road, 

Viking helmets, a Zapata moustache, and some fierce looking chariots …… the silly story

Now I grew up with horrible Vikings wearing wings on their helmets, Celtic war chariots driving into massed ranks of Roman soldiers, and more recently artistic reconstructions of Iceni warriors and marauding Danes with impressive Zapata moustaches.

None of which are historically accurate, although to be fair when some of them were drawn and reproduced in the history books I read in the 1950s they may have been based on accepted historical knowledge.

Others of course were pure tosh, arising from a vivid imagination and in the case of the chariot sequence in the film Ben Hur, old fashioned nail biting drama.

But then, when did historical accuracy count more than spectacle?

Of course, in the case of chariots and swords on wheels, Hollywood chose to believe that all ancient armies wouldn’t look the part without such vicious accompaniments.

And at the same time packaged up and distributed an image of the American West, which had been set in stone in the early twentieth century with the first cowboy films with Tom Mix and others.

As the editor in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance said,  "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."*

Leaving me just to reflect on that other way of reproducing scenes from the past where the artist is influenced by the present.

And here I am thinking of a collection of pictures drawn to illustrate The Making of the British which was a series published in the Observer Magazine.**

There were ten parts, and as you do I kept them all, but sadly I can no long remember when they were published, but I am thinking the late 1960s.

One shows Queen Boudicca, surrounded by an army of Iceni warriors and another of a Viking posing with sword in hand, and what they have in common is that pretty much all of them were sporting fine Zapata moustaches which were fashionable at the time.

And it reminds me of one of my favourite observations of the future, written by Thomas Hobbs in 1650, who wrote “No man can have in his mind a conception of the future for the future is not yet.  But of conceptions of the past, we make a future.”***

Which of course is equally applicable to those who attempt to depict the past, by drawing on the present.

I would love to have included the pictures, but fear I might fall foul of copyright.

So I won’t, but instead just comment that the rest of the Vikings were wearing helmets with wings or horns, while in another picture of a cross section of Saxon men, and all nine were indeed men, a fair few of them had very fashionable sixties haircuts.

The Observer followed up the series, with The New British, the British and the Sea, and The British and America, all three of which were published between 1973 and 1975.

But despite their historical sweep, there appeared no reference to those who came to live in Britain from the Commonwealth or the Common Market.

To be fair I am missing a few parts of the later series, but I suspect the Windrush generation, those from the Indian subcontinent, along with those from Africa and the European six were not included.

It may be that the Observer returned to the concept in the succeeding decades and addressed the omission, but by then we no longer took the paper..

So, not for the first time the story started on a silly note and closed in a direction I hadn’t anticipated.

Leaving me just to point out to all those who crave historical accuracy, that the picture showing units of the 7th and 10th Legions engaging Celtic forces during Julius Caesar's first invasion of Britain is equally wrong.

The armour and helmets worn by the Roman legionaries date from roughly a century later.

Location; the past

Picture; drawings  by J.C.B. Knight, from People in History, Volume one, From Caractacus to Alfred 1955 and Looking at History, 1956, R.J. Unstead, Riders of the Range, Eagle, Vol 10 No. 22, May 30th 1959

* The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962 directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and James Stewart.

**Hobbs, Thomas, The Elements of Law, Natural and Politics, 1650

*** The Making of the British, Observer Magazine, “A history – 10 parts – of the restless people whose coming together made Britain, and forged our national character”. The Observer followed it up with The New British, 1973, the British and the Sea, 1974 and The British and America, 1975

Salford Station ............ the one you miss

It’s the one you miss. Salford Central Station is on New Bailey Street and is set back between two railway viaducts.

So travelling out of Manchester into Salford even on foot it was not the most visible of places.  

Moreover the actual entrance seemed to retreat away from the road and so apart from the station’s name on the wooden canopy there was  really only the sign above the entrance announcing the way “To the ticket office” and the railway timetables which gave a clue as to what was behind the maroon door.

But all that has changed.  The viaducts have been painted and the detail highlighted, as have the pillars and the entrance is now behind a glass wall which draws you into the station itself.

It is one of our oldest stations having been opened in 1838 as the terminus of the Manchester and Bolton Railway and in 1843 the viaduct across New Bailey Street were built to connect with Victoria Station.  Only the Liverpool Road Station is older, but that closed for passengers in 1844 when Manchester Victoria was built.

Of course the purist will point to the fact that I am mixing up Manchester and Salford and treating them as one but I rather think that is being a wee bit pedantic.

The station has had many names.  For the first twenty years it was just plain Salford, was then renamed Salford (New Bailey) until 1865 when it reverted to its original name and in 1988 it was changed to Salford Central.

I suppose the fact that for a long time it was only open at peak times and is closed on Sundays does continue to make it a bit of a forgotten station.  So to bring it back I thought I would include the 1894 painting of the station by H. E. Tidmarsh from Manchester Old and New.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson and Manchester Old and New, William Arthur Shaw

October in Varese …. With the joys of a patisserie

Now, one of the pleasures of a Saturday out in Varese, is the opportunity of take a break from the shopping and pause for a visit to a patisserie.

And the town has plenty to offer.

Our choice was  C’Est La Vie, on the Via Giusseppe Garibaldi, which is one of those narrow streets fronted by a row of modern shops, a bank some apartments and a hairdressers called Beautiful.  

But at one end of the street is the Church of Madonnina in Prato, which began as a small shrine which was located  outside the city walls.  

By degree through the 15th into the 18th centuries it was transformed into a church, the entrance of which is protected by a porch and adorned with the statues of San Gioacchino and San Giuseppe.

Sadly none of us took any pictures of the the church, which we know quite well.

And anyway we were there for the cakes which are an art in themselves.

Still there will always be another time.

Location; Varese

Pictures; streets and a patisserie, Varese, 2021 from the collection of Balzano

Grey Days In Manchester …… no.1 .... water and rooftops

So, take an indifferent day in late October, which had promised much but delivered fine intermittent rain.

Not perhaps the best day to go taking a series of pictures of Manchester’s half-forgotten streets.

The project had been to record Fennel Street and Withy Grove as they appear today and weave the images into a story about this bit of the city in the early 20th century.

But the rain rather defeated me, and so after an hour and a series of short tram trips to find more promising and dry locations I gave up.

Location; Cathedral Gardens and Cathedral Street 

Pictures; Water feature, and Grey Roof Tops

Sunday, 24 October 2021

When the unthinkable becomes fascinating ………“and human existence was reduced to a thin strata in the geological record”

News stories ahead of Cop 26, that international meeting to discuss how to help the planet and pull it back from global catastrophe fill the airways.

A vision of the future, 1952
It is too serious a thing to make fun of so while at 72 I can be sanguine about the worst it can do to my lifestyle, I worry about our kids and their children, and the environment they will have to face.

Now I tend to be an optimist, but statements and recently announced policies of some of the powerful countries and those still reliant on fossil fuels do cast a doubt on just what can be achieved in Glasgow in a few days’ time.

When nature and humanity collide, 1952
So, my attention was drawn to a small item in the Radio 4 programme, Broadcasting House which occupies the 9am slot on Sunday, and amongst a discussion on which British City might win City of Culture status, a round up of what the Sunday newspapers had to say there was this piece on Cope 26.*

It was introduced by Justine Rowblatt with the chilling proposition that we lost that global battle, and “human existence was reduced to a thin strata in the geological record”.  In the light of the failed experiment which was the Age of the Dinosaurs, and work done to extract their fossils, it is perhaps not so fanciful an idea.

And yes I know I am cavalier with the word failed given that dinosaurs in their many different variations dominated the planet for about 165 million years.

But let’s stick with the premises, which is a sort of “if of history” which I am not over keen on but entertained me for a few minutes.

Essentially supposing some future intelligent species either of this planet or a visiting batch of tourists and interplanetary archaeologists were to explore what we left behind, roughly 100 million years into the future, what would there be for them to see?

The answer is a mixed bag.  Some of the coastal cities might have been submerged by rising waters and become “petrified”.  But what ever had survived of these vast urban areas anywhere would be limited to what existed underground, whether it be cellars, the subterranean transport networks or the deep concrete pillars which once held up the skyscrapers.

For sure there might be plastic detritus along with perhaps alarm clocks or mobile phones, but trying to make sense of their function might be beyond our visitors.  After all we know what they are because we made them.

The Succession of Life, 1952
In the same way I am often drawn back to a short story written by Arthur C. Clarke in the 1950s.  The account focuses on The Venusian Academy of Archaeology who had ponded for decades on the meaning of several objects recovered from the irradiated third planet circling the sun. 

It had been found by a research vessel high on one of the planet’s mountain ranges, consisted of part of a polished wood object, a thin strip of almost transparent celluloid and a metal object.  They had been hidden by a small band of survivors from the last of the Atom Wars, and remained undiscovered for centuries, until the small atomic clock attracted the attention of the passing Venusian spaceship.

The scientists of Venus took almost a century to create a device which would allow the strip of celluloid to be run at the right speed and project a series of images onto a giant screen, which was then beamed across the planet to all who wondered what the inhabitants of that third planet were like.

The result would keep archaeologists, behavioural scientists, and authors busy for decades, pondering on the images of two short creatures with tails and big ears, apparently shouting at each other, and jumping into a small four wheeled form of transport which they drove erratically and at great speed, bumping in to other such vehicles none of which sustained any damage.

It was a grim and frightening view and confirmed the Venusians opinion that their near neighbours had been a violent species who in all probability had destroyed themselves and the planet in an atomic Armageddon.

Many who watched the show were left with a sense of unease at the final clip which showed one of the creatures look directly into the screen, and smile, followed by the caption “That’s all Folks”.

It is a fanciful account but points to how easy we might have destroyed ourselves and still could, but also at how archaeologist and historians work from the data they have at their disposal, leading to historic descriptions as the Beaker People, and The Bronze Age.

How we think the Romans made our past, 1957
Leaving me with just one other example which comes from a BBC television schools programme which dated from the 1960s in which fictional archaeologists were trying to make sense of the artefacts they had uncovered.

Looking at a range of discoveries they concluded that from the vast collection of tea pots and coffee pots, the inhabitants of the planet were divided into the Coffee People and the Tea People.

So there you have it, reminding me of that observation of the future, written by Thomas Hobbs in 1650, who wrote “No man can have in his mind a conception of the future for the future is not yet.  But of conceptions of the past, we make a future.”**

And perhaps in some instances we make a conception of the past from what we know of the present.

Picture; from Adventure of the World, 1954, and Pictorial History, 1952, and A Valley Grows Up, Edward Osmond, 1957

*Broadcasting House, Radio 4,

**Hobbs, Thomas, The Elements of Law, Natural and Politics, 1650