Saturday, 25 March 2017

Of Naples in 1961 and Little Italy in Ancoats in 1901


Rosa in Naples 1961
This is one of my favourite pictures of Rosa.

It was taken in Naples when she was just 21 during the summer of 1961 just after she had collected her passport.

Later that year she left Italy with Simone her husband and moved to Cambridge.*

They were two of those economic migrants much derided by some who sought a new life in a new country.

In the same way and just sixty years earlier my father’s parents crossed the border from Scotland and settled in Gateshead while just a little later my maternal grandfather  came home to Derby with his German war bride.

And it carried on.  Dad and mum finally made their way to London where I was born and over the course of twenty years moved around south east London, and just under a decade later I left for Manchester.

All of which reinforces that simple idea that people move around, make new homes in new places and along the way add to the communities they have joined.

Nor is it all one way.  My great uncle left for Canada in 1914 followed by his sister eleven years later. One of my uncles carved out a career in India and east Africa before settling down in South Africa and to close the Italian connection Rosa and Simone finally left Cambridge for Italy returning not to Naples but Varese in the north.  Only for one of their daughters to return to Cambridge, relocate to Manchester and in the fullness of time to set up home with me.

13-15 Blossom Street, 1903
All of which is an introduction to the many who found a home here in Manchester in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ours was the shock city of the Industrial Revolution and the mills, engineering plants, chemical works and collieries drew in the rural poor from the surrounding countryside, which were added to by those fleeing the famine in Ireland and later still those escaping the persecution in eastern Europe and the grinding poverty of southern Europe.

For some this was the eventual destination while for others it was the half way stage before crossing the Atlantic.

And their presence can still be found in the synagogues and Torah School of the Jewish community of Strangeways and Redbank and in names like Little Ireland and Little Italy.

Most have had their historians who have recorded their presence, ** which is all to the good because these communities have by and large vanished.  Little Ireland which had become one of our worst slums fell victim not to the sweep of town planners but to the railway, which cut through the area.

Not for the first time did a  railway company act as a means for slum clearance.  Much the same happened to sections of Angel Meadow in the north of the city and to parts of London’s slums.

In the case of the Jewish communities of Strangways and Redbank it was that other familiar social development which saw the better off moving out along Cheetham Hill Road to leafy more pleasant places.

Jersey Street, 2011
And so finally to Little Italy in Ancoats which became home to those from Italy who were seeking a better life.

They came from the great cities of the north like Milan, Turin and Genoa from the rural hinterland as well Naples, Sorrento, and Palermo.

It was a small close knit community inhabiting the area behind Great Ancoats Street and primarily located around Jersey Street, Blossom Street, and Henry Street.


Jersey Street, 1908, with No 2 Jackson Court to the left
Now as I often maintain if someone has done the research I have no intention of stealing their thunder, so for those who want to know more about Little Italy there is not only Anthony Rea’s book Little Italy, which was first published in 1988 but his equally fine site where you can find a wealth of information, stories and pictures.***

Added to this there are links to a whole range of other sites which give a comprehensive picture of he life they left and the contribution they made to their adopted city.

Pictures; Rosa in Naples, 1961 from the collection of the Balzano family, 13-15 Blossom Street,  A, Bradburn, 1903, m11033, and Jersey Street, 1908 m10153, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass and Blossom Street from Great Ancoats Street with Gun Street and Henry Street beyond, 2010 from the collection of Andrew Simpson



*Messy history .......... Part One Migration, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/messy-history-part-one-migration.html


** Bill Williams, The Making of Manchester Jewry, Manchester University Press 1976, Jewish Manchester: An Illustrated History, DB Publishing, 2008, and a new book on Manchester’s Pre Black History 1750-1926, Anthony Rea, Little Italy, Neil Richardson, 1988, and of course Little Ireland in Conditions of the Working Classes in England , Friedrich Engels, 1844

***Manchester's Ancoats, Little Italy, http://www.ancoatslittleitaly.com/index.html


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