Friday, 3 February 2012

In search of a book ............... clues to the story of Chorlton in the early 19th century

An occasional series charting the research that led to Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Society Transformed

Crawling over other people’s lives is what we do as historians. You can wrap it up in all sorts of grand language but essentially it is about just that. And in the course of doing that we call on many different records, ranging from census returns to letters, legal documents and photographs. On the way there also wills, the registers of births, marriages and deaths and plenty of other things.

One of my favourites is the tithe document which records who owned the land, who rented it and where it was situated in a township. But more about tithe documents later.

Many of these documents are now online and this has become invaluable to the historian who might not be able to easily travel across the country from east to west or north to south. But there is still a thrill to that simple physical thing of actually touching the record and even more so if it was once held by a family member whose hand no less than their finger prints will be on the artefact.

For me the magic moment was when I held the minutes of the Vestry meetings held in the old school room on the green between 1839 and 1856. I doubt that few people had opened the book and read the contents since Edward Smith recorded the decisions of the meeting all those years ago.

So over the course of the next month I hope to share the clues that allowed me to tell the wonderful story of Chorlton in the first fifty or so years of the 19th century, a story full of everyday living along with the bizarre, the tragic and the comic.

Picture; detail of the tithe map of Chorlton showing the bottom of Chorlton Row where it joins the green

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