Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Snow in the city ........ Hulme Street 1912

It has been snowing across Canada for the last month.

It began up in British Colombia in October and by late November was falling on Ontario according to friends, and soon no doubt our family who live in the north of Italy will report the first real falls of the coming winter.

Already Simone will have fitted his snow tyres as he does every year.  They live hard up against the Swiss border and often have to cross that border to visit relatives who live and work on the “other side.”

Of course here it is less likely, but the child in me lives in hope, especially as we head to Christmas.  So here over the next few days are a series of pictures and stories of when the snow fell in Manchester.

This is Hulme Street at the junction with Oxford Street in February 1912.  Today the narrow street is dwarfed by tall modern buildings mainly given over retail and accommodation.  Back in 1912 it was occupied by a collection of cabinet makers, engineers, mechanics and fancy box manufacturers and the Salvation Army sorting offices.

There is at first glance that almost Christmassy card appeal, with the snow and steam blotting out the harsher industrial scene. But I don’t suppose Hume Street on that February morning was that pleasant.  Leading the heavily laden horse drawn carts along a snow covered road would not be my choice of how to spend the working day or for that matter carrying a set of ladders either.

And it is a further reminder of just how much was still done by horse or by hand just a hundred years ago.  Seven months earlier the carters had come out on a strike in a bitter and at times violent industrial conflict and levels of unrest rumbled on into the new year.*

None of which should surprise us given this was a period of wage cuts, poor working conditions, and rapid inflation.

Between 1889 and 1910 the cost of food rose by 10 per cent and the cost of coal by 18 per cent.

The life expectancy for working men was just 50 years of age and 54 for women, five per cent of children aged between 10 and 14 were already at work and the richest one percent held 70 percent of the wealth.

So a snowing wintry scene but not one that should hide the harsh realities for many of those making their way along Hulme Street in the February of 1912.

But I shall finish on a lighter note and refer again as I often do to my debt to the local image collection held by Manchester City Council Public Libraries.  Here can be found over 80,000 pictures and prints of our city’s history.

Picture; Hulme Street from Oxford Street, February 2nd 1912, taken by J.Shaw, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m19353


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