Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Angel Meadow ........... reading the book by Dean Kirby

Now Angel Meadow is one of those places which draws you in and offers up a slice of the darker side of life in Manchester.

The book
For many it has become a byword for life lived on the margin standing beside Little Ireland on the other side of the city and equally notorious slums like Seven Dials in London.

Over the last four decades I have dipped into it through the writings of Engels and others explored the site as it went from empty wasteland, through landscaped park followed by more neglect and regeneration and a couple of years ago watched as the archaeologists uncovered something of its past.

To some of my Canadian friends the mismatch between the name and the reality is not easy to understand.

But there you are, it was in the words of Robert Roberts “a place where poverty busied itself” and those entering might well have echoed Dante’s warning “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

Hope there may not have been much of but the area was home to thousands who lived out their lives in the cellars and overcrowded dwellings which were past their best long before the old queen came to the throne.

Uncovering the past, 2009
All of which is an introduction a new book on the area written by Dean Kirby who can trace some of his family to  those mean streets in the 1860s.

The book “takes readers on a hair-raising journey through the alleyways, gin palaces and underground vaults of this nineteenth century Manchester slum, which was considered so diabolical it was re-christened 'hell upon earth' by Friedrich Engels.”

For those wanting an introduction to Angel Meadow there is an excellent article in WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? which gives the context to the book and a little of the reasons why Mr Kirby wrote it.**

Angel Meadow, 1849
And having read that piece I am off to buy my copy.

Location; Angel Meadow Manchester

Picture; cover of Angel Meadow, 2016, cellar dwellings at the Miller Street dig October 2009, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and Angel Meadow in 1849 from the OS Manchester & Salford, 1842-49, courtesy of Digital archives Solution, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

*Angel Meadow: Victorian Britain’s Most Savage Slum, Dean Kirby £14.99

**Archaeologists unearthed my ancestor’s slum home, Gail Dixon WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Issue 112, May 2016

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