Monday, 18 April 2016

At the factory gates in Bolton in 1937

Outside the Flash Mill Street compound in 1937
I am back with that wonderful collection of images from Worktown.

And today I have been drawn to these two pictures of Bolton at work in 1937.  It is a world that has all but gone, but one that says much about how we made our wealth from the early 19th century through to the 1960s.

They are of course iconic pictures which are what many people associate with the North and of course this was how it was.

When we first moved to east Manchester in the early 70s there was still much heavy industry most of which disappeared during the following decade.

Cycling home
For most of us looking at the picture, the first thing that you notice are the bikes, and in other pictures particularly of Trafford Park what amazes you is the number of people leaving work on a bicycle.

And then I suppose it is the preponderance of woman workers and lastly the tram lines.

The photographs were part of a Mass observation “project founded in the late 1930s by a group of young writers and intellectuals, led by Tom Harrisson. They believed that British society was deeply divided, with very little understanding or consideration given to the lives and opinions of ordinary people.

Unknown Bolton Mill, 1937
The first focused study carried out by Mass Observation began in 1937 in Bolton, which they called Worktown.

Bolton was chosen as a ‘typical’ northern working class town, and Harrisson recruited a team of men and women who tried to capture a vast range of information about the local population using observation techniques."*

They remain a wonderful and powerful record of life in the industrial north during the late 1930s.


Pictures; courtesy of Bolton Library Museum Services, from the collections, Workers leaving the Flash Street Mills compound, 1937, image ref 1998.83.12.15 and a Bolton Mill, image ref, 1993.83.0120

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