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Post by Stanley » 21 Apr 2012, 08:26

[Transcribed and published with the permission of the Editor and Author. Chris Aspin.]

EXTRACTED FROM ‘MANCHESTER AND THE TEXTILE DISTRICTS IN 1849 BY ANGUS BETHUNE REACH. Edited by Chris Aspin and published in 1972 by the Helmshore Local History Society.


8. The quest for knowledge

I HAVE already, in general terms, noticed the almost universal testimony borne by those who know the Manchester “mill hand” best, to the mild and inoffensive character and bearing of the cotton population. The colliers and metal workers throughout the north, indeed, profess to hold the men of the loom and the mule in great contempt, as a set of spiritless milksops - as soft and pliable as the fibre which they twist. And truly there can be little doubt but that the men who habitually deal with bobbins and threads must form a very different race to the sturdier and more turbulent spirits whose lot is cast among sledge-hammers and pick-axes. A turn-out of the cotton workers is a very different, and, generally speaking, a far less riotous affair than a strike in the districts of iron and coal.

As a general rule, the men of cotton are essentially a peaceful and moral force generation. They are greatly under the influence of leaders, whose mental powers they respect. There are not a few of the weavers and spinners whose capacity for thought is considerable; and these again have to deal with a population whose faith is one of their most distinguishing moral attributes. The cotton mills of Manchester abound with hard-headed, studious, thoughtful men, who pass brooding, meditating lives, sometimes taken up in endeavours to sound those profound social problems which lie at the bottom of the relations between capital and labour; sometimes, again, occupied with the various phases of physical and mechanical science; and not unfrequently sturdy theologians, profoundly versed in the subtleties and casuistries of all the warring schools of Calvinism. In this respect, indeed, the Lancashire temperament is not unfrequently akin to that which so plentifully prevails to the north of the border. I have conversed with many operatives of the class which I have sketched, and generally left them with a very considerable respect for their self-acquired attainments, and their earnest if not enthusiastic tone of character. Such men often rise to be overlookers in their respective mills, and in many instances pass their evenings in teaching adult classes of their fellow labourers. As a general rule, they are nearly all either professed or virtual teetotallers, and as such are greatly given to the cant of temperance which denounces as a folly and a crime the most harmless degree of social indulgence. I had one long conversation with a man who was a good specimen of the class in question. He is now an overlooker in a mill in Hulme. He told me he had been a thoughtless scamp in his youth, and that he had led a vagrant sort of life, thinking of nothing but sensual pleasures until he became a man. Then he began to reflect upon the degrading life which he was leading, and to ask himself what was the use of his having a soul if he did not strive to elevate it; so, setting to work, he found - in his own words - that he was “endowed by God with a great capacity for study.” He liked mechanical science the best, and now it was a great pleasure to him to strive to make his children fond of reading, and to educate and enlighten his fellow workmen. He was at the head of a small library, principally scientific. “Did they admit novels?” “Yes.” with a melancholy shake of the head, “they found that they could not get on without something of that kind - the people liked stories.” My friend, however, did not seem by any means ‘up’ in the fiction department of his library, for he mentioned the “Pickwick Papers” and other works by Eugene Sue. He highly approved of the cheap summer trips which the railways were giving the people. He had thus been able to “take his good woman one hundred and twelve miles from Manchester,” and explained the country to her as they went along. Sometimes, in the department of which he was overlooker, they worked so fast that they got ahead of the others and had half a holiday. They were lucky in this respect lately. It was a fine day, and he had taken not only his own family, but all the workers in his department, out in a body to enjoy themselves in the fields, “afar better place than the public house.”

Another intelligent operative I encountered in his own house, just as he returned from work. The room was cheery and clean. Two little girls with fat dimpled legs and arms sat on a stool before the fire. The plates and pot lids shone as brightly as old china or armour from the white-washed walls. The wife bustled with the tea things, and the good man sat him down in his rocking chair - that delicious piece of furniture of which the Yankees borrowed the idea from Lancashire and now impudently take credit for having invented.

My friend was a Ten Hours Bill man: “The people had health, and time, and spirits now to clean their houses and teach themselves something useful. The cotton folks were improving. Oh, yes, they were; and the next generation would be better than the present. No one ever thought of schools for children when he was a child. No; he had wrought many and many a time for twelve hours a day when he was not eight years old. The children were lucky now to what they were in them old times. There were good evening classes too for the men and women, only he was afeard that a good many of them, particularly the boys and girls, were too fond of going to the music saloons, where they did not hear no good, and did not do no good. He had gone to one himself lately.---A look from his wife. oh, of course only to hear what was going on - only that - and he was disgusted, he was. Nigger songs,” and with a significant wink, “other songs, and nonsensical recitations and trash - and girls dancing on the stage with such short petticoats. Oh, places like them wasn't no good. But there was the Monday night concerts - there was music there was the place for a working man to have a rational night's amusement.” (14)

In prosecuting my Ten Hours Bill inquiries, I picked up a good deal of information respecting the evening pursuits of the rising generation. Girls and young men, by the score and the hundred, appear to be learning to read, write, cipher and sew. Some had friends in America, and they wanted to send them the news. Others were the oldest in the family, and it behoved them to set their little brothers and sisters a good example. The girls made their own clothes, too “clothes of all sorts - paletots and visites, and they were very fond of sampler work.” I have seen a great many of these samplers. in nine cases out of ten they commemorate the death of a relation - very often of a brother. They exhibit a tombstone and a weeping willow, with a verse of poetry or a sentence from the Bible beneath. The poetry was commonly of the ‘afflictions sore long time bore’ school favoured by the national churchyard muse. They copied it, they said, from books or from old samplers, but sometimes they composed it themselves. No young lady would, however, plead guilty to any of the elegaic effusions which were exhibited. The men had frequently learned to write since they were grown up. They were anxious to read well also that they might avail themselves of the libraries. The lads were in a great proportion of cases members of night schools. One stout young fellow whom I asked if he was learning to read, replied, “No, he professed - the fiddle,” and presently introduced a couple of youths who professed the fiddle likewise. Their musical preponderating over their literary tastes, the trio had clubbed together to engage the services of a master, and having got over the preliminary difficulties, they now met every night to practise and improve.

I have visited a great many children's schools - factory and mixed schools, and the first and last thing which struck me was that the children were decidedly smarter looking and more intelligent than the non-labouring juveniles. “They're not backward, sir” said the excellent and intelligent master of the Lyceum in Great Ancoats-street, “especially at mischief.” In the All Saints National School, Chorlton, there were no factory children. The master described the boys as being principally the sons of small tradesmen and artisans. They appeared unintelligent, noisy, and indifferent. The master spoke despondingly of the prospects of education in Manchester. The system he thought was too slight and superficial to produce much practical effect. There was, of course, a degree of anxiety on the part of parents that their children should be educated, or his “scholars would not be there.” The teacher appeared intelligent and conscientious, but he had evidently small faith in his prospects of success.

From his school I went straight to another, entirely a factory one, and situated in the most densely-peopled part of operative Manchester. The Lyceum is close to Union-street, and Union-street is a locality which merits a word or two of special description. As Lancashire is to England; and as Manchester is to Lancashire, so is Union-street to Manchester. The locality is the very incarnation of the spirit of the district. A more perfectly ugly spot you shall not find between sunrise and sunset. Fancy a street one side of which is all mills, huge square piles of mills, with six, seven and eights tiers of foul and blackened windows, the grimiest, sootiest, filthiest lumps of masonry in all Manchester. Through the thick, sunless air comes the throb and the boom of many steam engines, and the clattering whirl of hundreds of thousands of revolving pirns and bobbins. Look in at the lower ranges of filth-encrusted windows. What multiplying revelations of endless carding frames, and drawing frames and tenting frames. Above, ponderous masses of hammered iron, the limbs of toiling engines, appear ever and anon to rush to the open window, glance abroad, and then retreat to their dens. On the other hand lies a canal - the Rochdale Canal - a ditch of muddy water, very much like rotten pea soup. Curious, old-fashioned, highly-springing bridges span it. On the further side are tumble-down houses, smouldering edifices, sinking into their foundations of muck and mire - filthy wharfs, littered with dung, and bricks, and rubbish heaps of splintered stones lie along its course. Blacksmiths' forges are established in rickety old tenements, with every pane of glass in their casements long since dashed away. Mean streets, and patches of black waste ground, with mouldering fences and fetid pools back these wharfs and ruinous forges; and a dingy fringe of second-rate mills, with puffing steam gushes and everlasting volumes of smoke, shut in the cheerless picture.

Close to this dreary but characteristic street are the Lyceum Factory Schools. The establishment boasts of a News-room and a Library. In the former, a quiet comfortable room, a fair assortment of the London and local journals are taken. The library is one of three thousand volumes. In the day-time, the children from the neighbouring mills receive their three hours' modicum of instruction; at night, adult classes meet in the same rooms. The children are charged three pence and fourpence a week, according as they remain half the day or the whole day in the school. Adults pay two shillings a quarter for classes, library, reading-room and all. The afternoon studies were proceeding when I entered the noisy room. Before me, ranged with their slates upon benches, or standing round chalked rings on the floor, were some three score of the little carders and scavengers from the dreary mills of Union-street. A set of more animated dirty faces and brighter, twinkling eyes you would find nowhere. The little fellows were tolerably ragged, to be sure- and some of them shoeless - but full of life, fun and devilry. One class was copying, upon their frameless slates, the word ‘Britannia’ chalked upon a large blackboard. I asked them what was the meaning of Britannia. They looked at each other, shuffled their feet - half a dozen were about to speak, when one urchin roared out, “Britannia? Why, to be sure, 'Britannia rules the waves'.” And there was a great laugh at the appositeness of the quotation. Another class were spelling, under the care of an ‘apprentice teacher,’ a singularly fine-looking and intelligent boy. The pupils spelt very fairly a variety of dissyllabic and trisyllabic words. A third class were reading a simple account of the discovery of America. The school was not so crowded as usual, because one of the steam engines in Union Street had broken down.

“And what has the steam engine to do with it?” I naturally asked.

"Everything,” was the reply. “When an engine ceases here, everything ceases - there are no wages, no fees, no schools.”

Each spinner is obliged by the Factory Act to pay for the education of his piecers and scavengers. The fees are sometimes collected in the mills, but occasionally the boy is entrusted with the amount himself, the consequences of which piece of faith are not unfrequently a day's truant-playing, and a terrific debauch on unripe apples, toffy and gingerbread. Mr. Clay, the principal master of the Lyceum, informed me that he had great difficulty in instilling anything like a moral sense into the children - particularly as respects lying. They saw no moral degradation in the idea of a falsehood. It was only inconvenient to be found out. The boys, too, were obstinately dirty, and he had often to send them home to wash themselves. In summer they seldom wore shoes. Mr. Clay is confident that a vast deal is being effected for the factory population by the education now being provided for them.

“Do you lose sight of the children when they leave school?" I asked. The answer was cheering “No, especially the girls, for they come back often to the library for books.”

Mr. Clay teaches a night adult class. He has grey-haired scholars, and sometimes mothers bring their children. This class had “decidedly increased” since the Ten Hours Bill. The worthy teacher was anxious to impress upon me that the young men and women attending the evening schools were kept very carefully apart. “I sometimes tell the young women that they only come to pick up sweethearts; but I take care that the one set has gone before I dismiss the other.”

The Manchester Mechanics' Institution is supported by decidedly a better class than the average of mill operatives - that is to say, by workmen exercising a more skilled species of labour, and by shopmen. In the pianoforte class there are thirty-five pupils, generally tradespeople's daughters. The library is a good one. The books principally inquired for are, first, novels and romances; secondly, voyages, travels and biographies; thirdly, philosophic works. Books in foreign languages are rarely demanded.

Every London publisher knows that Lancashire furnishes no unimportant part of the literary market of England. I was very desirous of ascertaining, therefore, the species of works most in demand amongst the labouring and poorer classes. The libraries in the better parts of the town are of course stocked in much the same way as the libraries in the better parts of London. I wished to ascertain the species of cheap literature most in vogue and I accordingly applied to Mr Abel Heywood, of Oldham-street, one of the most active and enterprising citizens of Manchester, who supplies not only the smaller booksellers of the town, but those throughout the county, with the cheap works most favoured by the poorer reading classes. The contents of Mr Heywood's shop are significant. Masses of penny novels and comic song and recitation books are jumbled with sectarian pamphlets and democratic essays. Educational books abound in every variety. Loads of cheap reprints of American authors, seldom or never heard of amid the upper reading classes here, are mingled with editions of the early Puritan divines. Double-columned translations from Sue, Dumas, Sand, Paul Feval and Frederic Soutie jostle with dream-books, scriptural commentaries, Pinnock's guides, and quantities of cheap music, Sacred Melodists and Little Warblers,. Altogether the literary chaos is very significant of the restless and all-devouring literary appetite which it supplies. Infinitely chequered must be the morale of the population who devour with equal gusto dubious Memoirs of Lady Hamilton and authentic narratives of the “Third Appearance of John Wesley's Ghost”, duly setting forth the opinions of that eminent shade upon the recent speeches of Dr Bunting.

So much for the prima facie aspect of Mr Heywood's literary warehouse. I was courteously furnished with details of his business, which throws an unquestionable light upon the tastes of the operative reading world of Lancashire.

That species of novel, adorned with woodcuts, and published in penny weekly numbers, claims the foremost place. The contents of these productions are, generally speaking, utterly beneath criticism. They form as far as I can judge, the English reflection, exaggerated in all its most objectionable features, of the French Feuilleton Roman. In these weekly instalments of trash, Mr Heywood is compelled to be a large dealer, as will appear from the following statement :

Almira’s Curse
Claude Duval
Eardley Hall
Ella the Outcast
Gentleman Jack
Gambler's Wife
Gallant Tom
Lady Hamilton
Old Sanctuary
Royal Twins
String of Pearls
The Brigand
The Oath

These average 6,000 weekly sale. All this mass of literary garbage is issued by Lloyd, of London, in penny numbers.

Of similar works, published also in numbers at 1d. per week, Mr Heywood sells :

Adam Bell 200
'Claude Duval (Dipple) 400
Court of London 1500
Gretna Green 460
Love Match 750
Mysteries of London 1000
Nell Gwynne 700
Perkin Warbeck 100

Of the penny weekly journals, some of them, such as Barker's People, are political and democratic, but the greater number are social and instructive. The Lancashire sale is :

Barker's People 22000
Reynold's Miscellany 3700
Illustrated Family Journal 700
London Journal 9000
Family Herald 8000
Home Circle 1000
Home Journal 1000
Penny Sunday Times 1000
Lancashire Beacon 3000
Plain Speaker 200
Potter's Examiner 1500
Penny Punch 360
The Reasoner 160
Chat 200

Of these publications, the Lancashire Beacon and the Reasoner are avowedly infidel. I have not had an opportunity of seeing the latter, but in the number of the former which I perused, I found nothing more fatal to Christianity than abuse of the Bishop of Manchester. The Lancashire mind is indeed essentially a believing, perhaps an over believing one. Fanaticism rather than scepticism is the extreme into which it is most likely to hurry. In Ashton under Lyne, Johanna Southcote's bearded followers still meet under the roof of the New Jerusalem. In remote districts astrologers still watch the influences of the planets; and all quackeries, moral and physical - the remedies of Professor Mesmer or of Professor Holloway (15) - equally find a clear stage and very great favour.

But to return to the cheap book trade of Lancashire. Of the better class of weekly publications, generally selling at 1 ½ d., Mr Heywood makes the following return:

Domestic Journal 600
Eliza Cook's Journal 1250
Chambers' Journal 900
Chambers' Information for the People 1200
Hogg's Instructor 60
People's Journal 400

The cheap double-columned editions of Dickens' and Bulwer's works sell as follows :

Dickens 250
Bulwer 200

The sale of Punch is 1,200. The Family Friend sells 1,500 monthly at twopence; the Family Economist 5,000 monthly at one penny.

Mr Heywood informed me that the sale of cheap books has decidedly not increased in consequence of the Ten Hours Bill. The same assertion was made by another extensive though a much smaller bookseller in the vicinity of Garrett Lane. The department of the literary trade which alone seemed to have received any impetus from recent legislation was the sale of copy books. The only classification of the purchasers of cheap literature which I found it practicable to make was that the comic or soi-disant comic publications were usually patronised by clerks and shopmen, while tales were inquired for by the working classes, commonly so called. It is, indeed, by the links of a story that the operative taste seems to be most bound. For the encouragement of literary speculators, I may add that every cheap book is sure of a sale in Lancashire - at first.

At the library of the Mechanics' Institute, and at that of the Ancoats Lyceum, I was informed that the Ten Hours Bill made no change in the reading habits of the subscribers.

In educating the poor, the workhouses have unfortunately a great part to play - now more, now less, according to the pressure of the times. From the scholars who frequent either small private schools, often held in close, unventilated and incommodious rooms, and the scholars who resort to the larger and better seminaries, supported by, or in connexion with, the great Educational Association, and with local funds-from each and all of these scholars a weekly sum of pence is extracted. The fees of some schools are as low as 2d.; the terms of others, for the more advanced children, amount to 7d. But the pauper can neither have his two-pennyworth nor his seven-pennyworth of learning-those who feed and clothe must teach him, or he grows up a savage in his ignorance. When manufacturers have massed together vast populations so rapidly that the growth of the toiling crowd has far outstripped the decent and healthful accommodation which ought to be provided for it; and where, consequently, operative life is short, and sickness frequent and severe - in such social conditions the extent even of chronic pauperism must be considerable. But besides, the administrators of the Poor-law know well the perpetual crowd of hangers-on, which as it were floats round the skirts of northern industry - a crowd of nondescript composition, the supernumeraries of the cotton spinning cities - men and women who are content to live by a little labour and a good deal of charity - who pulsate backwards and forwards, as the shades of trade vary, between the workhouse and the mill. So, therefore, it happens that great hosts of children are always dependent upon the rate-payers for education as well as food. On the 1st of July, 1848, there lived in Manchester union 1,206 children under sixteen years of age; in the Salford union, 253; in the Chorlton union, 255. On the same day there lived in the town, as out-door paupers of the Manchester union, 7,048 children under sixteen years of age; as paupers of the Salford union 3,220; as paupers of the Chorlton union 1,603. This plain statement indicates at once the amount of juvenile pauper ignorance with which the Poor-law administration has to grapple - that of the children resident in the workhouse - and it indicates too, the far greater amount of juvenile ignorance over which the Poor-law administration can exercise little if any control- that of the outdoor pauper population. Making the proper deductions for children under a teachable age, it is the opinion of Mr. Browne, the Government inspector of parochial union schools for the North of England, that the number of out-door pauper children receiving “little or no education”, is not under 100,000 - being ten times the number of the children in the workhouses.

This fact only requires to be plainly and broadly stated. Of course, the ignorance of these young English savages is dense and deplorable. The statement of the schoolmaster at the Canal-street Workhouse in Manchester, that only one in twelve of the children who came into that establishment could repeat the Lord's Prayer, proves the fact only in a very modified degree; for the reports of the school inspectors as to the frequency with which children can prate a form of words compared with the rarity of their understanding the meaning, warrant me in asserting that perhaps not one in twenty four could give any intelligible account of the meaning of the prayer, or of the source from whence it came.

The children in workhouses throughout the manufacturing districts commonly attend school from nine to twelve o'clock in the forenoon and from two to half past four or five in the evening. In some workhouses the school-room is in the building. In others the children go to school beyond the union walls - sometimes to national schools, where “it is possible that the teachers do not always take the same pains with the young paupers” as with the other scholars - sometimes (I am still quoting Mr. Browne's Report for 1847-8) to schools “of a very inferior description, where the teachers are either negligent or incapable.” As a general rule, Mr. Browne finds the children sent to school out of the workhouse “ignorant and ill instructed.” But, indeed, the species of education generally afforded in the workhouse schools is very low and unsatisfactory. In twenty-five workhouses in Mr. Browne's district the teachers were paupers. Occasionally these men and women are neither precisely paupers nor independent persons. They live in the workhouses on the rates, but receive a small salary. Some of these teachers are, as might be expected, grossly incompetent - unable to write a decent hand or to spell an ordinary word. Those who have sunk into the workhouse from a good position, requiring fair educational attainments, are often morally unfit to be entrusted with the rearing of youth. In the Burnley workhouse, the teacher combined the duties of a porter with those of the school-room. The mistresses are frequently inefficient. One believed that Saul and Paul were identical; another described the miracles of Christ as having been wrought before Pharaoh. Neither of these persons is now a teacher. The position of a workhouse instructor is, however, described as being by no means an enviable one. It is a post of much confinement, of frequent collision with the union authorities, and generally of such a nature that no master who can procure a situation elsewhere will accept it. “The schools, therefore,” continues Mr. Browne, “are likely to remain stationary when a certain point has been reached - by no means advanced - and below that where education may be expected to make a lasting impression upon the child, and consequently to operate as a check upon pauperism.” But in many instances, ground has yet to be got over before even the lowest educational point worthy of the name is attained. For example, in Kirkham, an island was described as a “place where nobody lives.” In Haslingden, none could say in what county they dwelt; and in Preston, by a most singular confusion of ideas, ‘prophecy’ was defined as fortune-telling.

In a great many of the workhouse schools, however, education, though of a low species, is actually progressing, and the teachers, according to their capacity, strive to do their duty. The larger towns generally take the lead, and in these the inspector frequently found competent and intelligent masters and gradually improving pupils. In many instances the remark is ‘inefficient, but promising’, and teachers are often spoken of as earnest and painstaking. The two great cities of Lancashire support two great pauper educational establishments, which may in some respects be reckoned models. Manchester has its Swinton (16) and Liverpool its Kirkdale. In the infant school attached to the former establishment, the children could point to Washington and Iceland on the map. They named the books of the Testament, and understood what a thermometer was. In the girls' school, five sevenths of the pupils could read the New Testament. They were also taught to sew, knit, cut out, wash, iron and mangle. In the boys' school, the reading was “fair” and a “certain standard of education attained by many”; so that “material progress may be expected.” The industrial training consisted of tailors' and shoemakers' work, and clogging, and the general discipline was “excellent.” At the Kirkdale establishment, the boys' school was efficient; but the infant and girls' schools were less satisfactory, and the progress of the learners slow. The girls sew and do household work, being out of school one week in three.

I have endeavoured to collect together at least some portion of the facts which, in surveying the moral and educational condition of cotton-spinning Lancashire, come most naturally to the surface. I know that beneath that surface there lies dormant a terrible mass of unmoved stolid ignorance, and strongly developed animal passion and instinct; but from the machinery which is at work, from the ideas which are making way, I believe that that mass will be, sooner or later, shaken and probed to its inmost depths. Education is but yet opening its trenches and arranging its batteries. The social and sanitary pioneers, which must precede education, have but just begun in earnest to advance. I believe that we must have a comfortable and a cleanly living people before we have an educated or a moral people; and, odd as the conjunction may seem, I believe that neither church nor school will do what each is capable of doing until drains are dug, and men's homes are sweetened and purified, and rendered fit not only for the preservation of due physical health, but of due social decency and modest reserve.

9. Sunday schools

THE SUNDAY schools of the industrial North form not only a vast moral and educational engine, but a curious and characteristic social fact. The system originated by Mr. Raikes some seventy years ago took deep root in Lancashire, and grew with the growth of manufacturing industry. The serious cast of the Lancashire mind, and its earnestness and zeal, acting upon the facilities afforded by the order and discipline which it is the very nature of the factory system to instil, formed a soil in which the Sunday school system took very deep root and bore very rich harvests. I rather understate than overstate the numbers when I say that in the Sunday schools of Manchester may be found from 40,000 to 50,000 scholars, and from 4,000 to 5,000 teachers, inspectors and visitants. In 1832, the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the system was celebrated by a day of jubilee, and upon that occasion no fewer than 32,000 medals were disposed of, to be worn by members of the Sunday scholars' procession which defiled through the streets of Manchester. “Were it not for the Sunday schools,” I have been over and over again assured, “Lancashire would have been a hell upon earth.” Long before educational committees of the Privy Council and British and Foreign Societies were heard of, long previous to the era of Institutes and Athenaeums, the Sunday schools were sedulously at work, impregnating the people with the rudiments of an education which, though always rude and often narrow and fanatical in its teachings, was yet preserving a glow of moral and religious sentiment, and keeping alive a degree of popular intelligence which otherwise would assuredly have perished in the rush and clatter with which a vast manufacturing population came surging up upon the land. The early patrons and early champions of Sunday schools are now dying fast away. The great world has never heard of them, but yet amongst a large and, influential class in the north they have left immortal memories. Often and often have I lately had occasion to see the walls both of drawing-rooms and humble kitchen parlours, hung with portraits of grave, sober-clad men, whose names I have never heard of, and who were yet pointed out to me as among the greatest and most glorious of Englishmen. Local poets, too, have hymned the departure of locally famous Sunday school worthies. To those who know nothing of the excellent men commemorated, there is something which almost savours of the ludicrous in such a couplet as:

“Oh was it not
The meek and earth unblazoned name of Stott.”

Yet Mr. Stott was a hero in his way. He was for half a century the foremost champion of the Lancashire Sunday schools. When he commenced his labours he had to struggle against all the chimera terrors with which the first French Revolution peopled England. If he assembled a knot of children on the Sunday afternoon, he was accused of preaching Jacobinism to the rising generation. If he caused the children to walk in orderly procession from the school-room to the church, he was drilling them in military tactics, preparatory to the outbreak of an operative Jacquerie. Yet Mr. Stott worked steadily on. He began with two score pupils. In the school which he founded, I last Sunday saw two thousand six hundred. (17) Sunday schools in Manchester form not only a great educational engine, but a great social fact. Nearly every school has its library, and besides the library, many have their sick and burial societies. At Whitsuntide, the yearly week of rest in Manchester, nearly every school enjoys its gala and its country trip. Many of the richest and most prosperous men in Manchester will tell you, that to the Sunday school, which taught them to read and write, and inculcated honesty and sobriety, they now owe their villas and their mills. Sunday schools, as they are worked in Lancashire, more than any set of institutions which I know, tend to bind different classes of society to each other. Men in the middle ranks of life very commonly act as teachers, or at all events take a practical interest in the proceedings; and acquaintanceships first formed in the class-room, lead, in very many cases, to subsequent and often life-long business connections. It often happens that families are for generations connected, as pupils or teachers, with the same Sunday school. “A great number of the children before you,” I have been repeatedly told, “are the children of old scholars, and a great many of our teachers were themselves scholars in the classes which they now instruct.”

The education afforded in the Manchester Sunday schools is, of course, of an elementary and religious character. The pupils are first taught to read; then scriptural extracts or the Scriptures themselves are put into their hands, and instructions in psalmody are diversified by familiar moral and doctrinal addresses and examinations into the contents of the chapter or passage last studied. The general description applies pretty well to all the Sunday schools connected either with the Church or with Dissent. Most of the schools, however, meet upon week days and week evenings, when secular instruction is communicated, consisting principally of reading, writing, cyphering and a little geography. The Sunday education is purely gratuitous. For that which goes on upon working days a small fee, varying from 2d. to 6d. a week, is commonly charged. Many Sunday schools have adult classes for men and women. I have repeatedly seen grey-haired scholars. In general, the ages of the pupils vary from eight to twenty, the girls commonly remaining in connection with the school longer than the young men.

There are in Manchester, connected with the Church, about fifty Sunday schools. Upon Whit Saturday every year the pupils of most of these schools walk in procession through the streets; and turning to the files of the Manchester Guardian, I copy the names of the twelve schools which last year brought the largest number of pupils into the field. These are:-
St. Paul's, Bennett-street ... ... ... 2,600
St. Paul's, German-street ... ... ... 1,400
St. Stephen's ... ... ... ... ... 800
St. George's, Hulme ... ... ... 777
St. Simon's ... ... ... ... ... 580
St. John's ... ... ... ... ... 560
St. Michael's, Miller Street ... ... 550
The Cathedral School ... ... ... 500
St. Ann's ... ... ... ... ... 500
St. James's ... ... ... ... 500
All Saints ... ... ... ... ... 450
St. Mathias', Salford ... ... ... 400

Making a total of 9,617

The number of scholars attending the other schools ranges, with one or two exceptions, above 200 apiece, and the sum total may be taken, on a rough calculation, to be somewhere about 25,000.

Besides the Church schools, there are in the Manchester district two “unions,” as they are called, or communities of dissenting Sunday schools, termed respectively the Manchester and the Salford Union.

I have before me various published returns relative to the Manchester union, but I am informed that their details are so incorrect that I can only venture upon giving general results. The religious denominations in connection with the union are six - Independents, Baptists, Wesleyan Association, Primitive Methodists, New Connexion, and Welsh Calvinists. The number of schools is 28, with a total of 9,658 scholars. The average morning attendance is 4,527; in the afternoon the average is 6,525. The libraries connected with these schools contain a total of 16,527 volumes, and almost every school has its sick and burial society.

The Salford union consists of schools in connection with the following religious bodies:-

Wesleyan Methodists, 1 school 783 pupils
Primitive Methodists, 1 school ... 293 pupils

Independents, 6 schools ... ... 3,167 pupils
Association Methodists, 3 schools 657 pupils
New Connexion Methodists, 1 school 246 pupils
Baptist ... ... ... ... 386 pupils

Total 5,532 pupils

Besides these, there are schools in connection with bodies of Welsh and Scottish Calvinists. The exact numbers taught by the Roman Catholic Sunday schools I have not been able exactly to come at, but there are six or seven chapels, each having numerously attended schools connected with them. The above rough data will, I think, prove that my general estimate of the number of children attending Sunday schools in Manchester does not overshoot the mark. And, I may add, that more than half of these children attend school during the week likewise. Before proceeding to give a more particular account of the schools which I visited, I would wish to state - as showing the extent to which the moral restraint exercised by these institutions goes - that when, on the famous 10th of April, a great Chartist meeting was being held, under circumstances of intense public excitement, within three minutes' walk of the largest establishment of the kind in Manchester, the number of pupils in attendance was only six beneath that of the previous day. (18) The school is that of St. Paul, Bennett Street, the one founded by Mr. Stott, and that to which taking it as a good example of the Church schools - I last Sunday paid a very lengthened visit.

The Bennett-street Sunday school is a vast plain building, fully as large as an ordinary sized cotton factory, and exhibiting four long ranges of lofty windows. The number of pupils at present on the books is 2,611, and the average attendance 2,152. The number of Sunday scholars who learn writing and arithmetic, two evenings a week, paying for their paper, pens and ink, &c., is 260. The number attending the daily schools and paying twopence per week is 350. The members of the School Funeral Society amount to 1,804, and of the School Sick Society to 400. The total amount of relief afforded by these societies since their commencement is upwards of £7,285. I may add that in one evening in each week the female scholars are instructed in plain sewing and housewifery.

I have said that the building is composed of four stories; the girls occupy the two highest, the boys the two lowest. As to ages, the former ranged from little things of five and six, brought by their elder sisters, to well-grown young women. Many of them were the children of small shopkeepers and mechanics, the others were mill hands. Every girl there was decently attired and many of them were neatly and tastefully dressed. They sat in classes, engaged, according to their progress, in reading Scripture or Scriptural extracts. One roomful was preparing to go to church and practising choral versions of the responses, easily and gracefully arranged. The girls, however, did not sing with anything like the spirit and effect which the boys beneath threw into a concluding hymn. Perhaps the chanting of the responses presented more difficulties than the more familiar rhythm of one of Dr. Watts's hymns. Descending to the most crowded of the boys' rooms, I found that all the classes had just concluded reading the chapter in St. John giving an account of the interview of Nicodemus with Christ, and that one of the teachers, installed in a reading desk, was questioning the scholars upon the chapter. As a general rule, the questions were answered intelligently and readily - the demand for a definition of the word ‘Pharisee’ being the greatest stickler propounded. At the
courteous invitation of Mr. George Lawton, the superintendent present,
I selected a class to hear them read, pitching upon one composed of boys of medium age - say from 12 to 14. They read, without exception, fluently and correctly - the only marked feature in the performance being the inevitable pronunciation of the letter ‘U’ in ‘up’, for example, as if the word were spelled-‘oop’. But this is a common peculiarity of teachers as well as scholars. Glancing around the class, which was composed in the main of commonplace-looking boys, dressed, some of them, in fustian, others in coarse cloth, and
generally sallow-faced, thin and rather undersized, as Manchester
urchins too often are - I thought I would like to know something about
the social position of each, and accordingly, with the sanction of the
master, examined the boys seriatim. The following are the results:-

1. is ten years old. Works ten hours a day in the card-room, and makes 5s. 10d. a week, which he gives his parents. They allow him fourpence or sixpence for pocket money. Can read and write.

2. Is fifteen years of age. Is in a greengrocer's shop all day, for which he gets half-a-crown a week. Goes on week nights to the Lyceum school. Can write a little.

3. Is fourteen years of age. Works six hours and a half a day at a boiler-maker's. Only goes to the Sunday-school. Has 3s. a week. Gives it to his mother. Can write.

4. Is fourteen years of age. Also works in an engine-shop twelve hours a day for 3s. Can write, because he was taught at Sunday school.

5. Is thirteen years of age, and works in a machine-shop from six in the morning till eight and nine, and sometimes ten o'clock at night. Has 4s. a week. Would rather work fewer hours; but his father sends him, and takes the money.

6. Is fourteen years of age. Can write. Works at weaving and makes 5s. 6d. a week, working ten hours a day, and gives it to his aunt, who keeps him.

7. Is sixteen years of age. Works at factory, and has 6s. 2d. a week. Can write.

8. Is ten years of age. Works at a foundry for 13 hours a day, and earns 2s. 6d. a week, which his parents take.

9. Is ten years of age, and in a warehouse from half-past eight in the morning until eight o'clock at night. Learned to write here. Can make 3s. a week.

10. Is fourteen years of age. Works at factory in the spinning room. Has 5s. 9d. a week, and his father gives him 2d. a week pocket money. Can write a little. His father pays his fees at a night school.

11. Is fifteen years of age. Works at a factory, and makes 14s. or 15s. a week. Pays it all to his father, who sometimes gives him a shilling or so. Works from a quarter past five, a.m. until seven p.m.

12. Is twelve years of age. Works for his father, who is a painter, and who gives him 6d. a week to spend. Goes to a night school, for which his father pays 5d. a week.

13. Is eleven years of age. Works in a stone-yard for twelve hours a day. Has 4s. a week. Goes to a night school.

14. Is thirteen years of age. Works for 4s. a week at a ‘making up’ place. His father and mother give him 6d. a week for pocket money. Buys “a many things.”

15. Is eight years of age, and does not go out to work. Goes to school Sundays and week days.

16. Is eleven years of age. Works in a foundry from seven o'clock a.m. until eight or nine o'clock. Has 2s. 6d. a week.

The reader will perceive, from the above particulars, that boys are commonly employed in branches of trade, many of them of a laborious nature, for several hours a day longer than the term during which they could be legally employed in factories; and for a much smaller amount of wages than they would earn in the different processes of the cotton trade. In this one class were boys earning from 6s. to 7s. in factories, whilst those employed as workers in iron did not make much more than half the money. It must be borne in mind, however, that the future prospects of the young mechanics are better than those of the young spinners and weavers.

In the afternoon I visited a very large Dissenting Sunday school, connected with the Independent body - that attached to the Hope chapel in Salford. In this school it is not uncommon to see assembled, on one Sunday, three generations of the same family - children, their parents, and their grand-parents. There are three large school-rooms for the youthful scholars - from those who are mere children up to those of 18 or 20 years of age and separate rooms for the adult scholars of both sexes. The male adult class is managed by Mr. William Morris, the principal partner in a very large cotton-working establishment. Mr. Morris, who is one of the most respected citizens of Manchester, and who is justly proud of having worked himself up “from the ranks,” takes the deepest practical interest in the Sunday school and temperance movements, and is a distinguished advocate of both causes. He passes many hours every Sunday, surrounded by his adult class, in the Hope chapel. The total number of pupils taught in those schools is about 1,200, and the average afternoon attendance is about 924. There are 160 in the infant class, and about 600 above fourteen years of age. More than 100 of the pupils are married persons. The absentee children are visited by the teachers. In the day school connected with the Hope chapel there are about 300 scholars. To the sick relief fund there are about 100 subscribers. and to a clothing charity about 530. This school raises annually about £50 for missionary purposes. The number of adult scholars taught separately is about 250.

In the library there are nearly 1,000 volumes, consisting principally of books of a serious character, and including a number of religious and controversial novels. The books in the Bennett Street school library are of the same general class, and number about twice as many. Upon neither of these libraries did the Ten Hours Bill produce any perceptible change.

In general intelligence and acquirements the children of both the St. Paul's and the Hope schools seemed pretty much upon a par. The children from ten to twelve years of age were able to read with tolerable fluency and correctness. After hearing one of the reading classes, I proceeded to examine into the social position and standing of the scholars, as at the Paul's school, and with the following results :


1. Is fifteen years of age. Works in a silk mill, and earns 3s. 5d. per week, which she gives to her parents. Can read and write.

2. Is fifteen years of age. Works in a weaving room, and earns 5s. 2d. a week. Her parents allowed her the odd twopence for herself, and she put a penny of it weekly into the missionary box.

3. Is thirteen years of age, and earns 2s. 3 ½ d. per week at winding cotton. Has no pocket money.

4. Is sixteen years of age, and works as a piecer. Her wages are 8s. a week. Gives the money to a married sister with whom she lives, except twopence or three pence for herself. Can read and write.

Two girls, respectively seventeen and nineteen, who earned 10s. each as weavers, would not tell me what they did with the money.


1. Is ten years of age. Works at a brick-croft as long as there is light. Has 2s. 6d. a week.

2. Is sixteen years of age. Works at a dye-house, where he has 6s. 6d. a week. His mother gives him 3d. or 4d. every Saturday night, and he spends it in sweet stuff. Can't read much.

3. Is twelve years of age. Works with a joiner for 2s. a week. Is learning to read. Works more than twelve hours a day very often.

4. Is fifteen years of age. Works with an umbrella frame maker and has 1s. 6d. a week, which he pays to his father. Has no pocket money.

5. Is fourteen years of age. Makes 5s. a week at a bleaching field. Gives the money to his parents, and has 6d. a week to do what he likes with. Buys fruit and sweet stuff.

6. Is fourteen years of age. Can read well. Works at a brick croft from dark to dark, for which he has 5s. a week.

7. Is sixteen year of age. Can read and write. Earns 12s. a week in a silk factory, and gives it to his old mother, except 6d., which he spends himself.

8. Is fifteen years of age. Works at a bleach field, where he has 14s. every fortnight. Gives it to his aunt. Is going to a night school, to learn to read and write, as soon as possible.

9. Is fourteen years of age, and has 4s. a week at a warehouse. Is allowed 3d. for pocket money. Can read and write.

10. Is seventeen years of age. Makes 6s. a week as a piecer. Gives it to his mother, except 4d., which he keeps himself.

The remark as to the length of employment of “children and young persons” in occupations not connected with factories, made apropos of the pupils of the Bennett Street school, stands also good in the present case. I am informed that very young children are frequently employed in the brick crofts, or fields, for fourteen hours a day in summer, and that the number of them has increased since the Ten Hours Act came into operation. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the statements made by the Sunday scholars as to their giving their wages almost entirely to their parents; and the inference which one would naturally draw from the fact, knowing what we do of the general practice, is, that the Sunday school system has, to some extent, the effect of discouraging the generally speedy rupture of the family tie. I now pass to another subject, only pausing to remark that the ages of the boys, as stated by themselves, astounded me. From their appearances, I should have thought them, on an average, at least three years younger than they represented themselves to be.

10. Lodging houses

BEFORE going to see the vagrant lodging-houses in Manchester, I proceeded to inspect the model lodging-house recently established there. It is situated in the low and populous district of Ancoats, and was once the suburban mansion of the proprietor of a large neighbouring mill. It was curious to contrast the splendid sweep of the staircases, the mahogany doors, the rich cornices, and massy marble chimney pieces of many of the rooms with the style of the new fittings and the appearance of the inhabitants. We first went into the common dining-room. It was filled with plain clean deal tables and benches. It was after the general dinner hour in Manchester, and the few who had taken that meal in the house were gone. Two decent-looking young men only remained, smoking their pipes by the fire. In the ‘larder’ are 40 cupboards, shut in by doors of perforated zinc, and so situated as to be exposed to a cool through draft. Each lodger pays 1s. for his key, and when he leaves the money is returned. The lodgers cook their own meals in the kitchen, where fuel and cooking apparatus is found them. Two men were engaged by the range in frying beefsteaks, when I was in the room. The apartment was perfectly sweet and cleanly. The dishes were washed in an adjacent scullery. The bedrooms were somewhat like the wards of hospitals, but the beds were placed fully six feet apart from each other. They are spread on compact iron bedsteads; the material is flock, and there are coarse but clean linen sheets, blankets, and a coverlid. By the head of each bed is a square box for the occupant's clothes. Many lodgers, however, had trunks of their own besides. In one of the bed wards, partitions six feet high have been built, inclosing each bed, and forming a series of little chambers, each about the size of what is called a state room on board ship. As these partitions are screens rather than walls, the ventilation is not materially interfered with, while a proper degree of isolation is produced. It is probable that this arrangement will be made general. The superintendent, a very obliging person, showed me four beds in one of the upper rooms, which were being arranged for four young men of a religious turn, who wished to be accommodated together. Let me not omit that there are washing rooms, with plenty of water, copper basons and jack towels, a bathroom, where the lodgers can have each, in turn, a plunge into hot water, and a large enclosed yard behind, which is to be made into a gymnasium. The establishment has been open only eight weeks. It commenced with fifteen or sixteen lodgers, and has gone on slowly increasing in number. The accommodation provided is at present for forty. The charge to each lodger is 2s. a week. For this he has a comfortable bed, conveniences for washing, cooking, eating his meals, and perfect and wholesome cleanliness. The charge for a single night is 4d. Many of the lodgers only sleep in the house, taking their meals abroad. The occupants are principally mechanics. There are blacksmiths, joiners, ribbon makers, three mill hands only, a schoolmaster, and a doctor.

Having thus seen the decent and wholesome lodging which a poor man may have for a sum which amounts to a very little more than the sixth of the average weekly earnings of an adult in Manchester, I proceeded to visit the lodgings which many of the poor but generally speaking, of course, the exceptional classes, earning precarious livelihoods, do occupy.

The lowest, most filthy, most unhealthy, and most wicked locality in Manchester is called, singularly enough, Angel-meadow. It lies off the Oldham-road, is full of cellars, and inhabited by prostitutes, their bullies, thieves, cadgers, vagrants, tramps, and, in the very worst sties of filth and darkness, by those unhappy wretches the “low Irish”. My guide was a sub-inspector of police, an excellent conductor in one respect, but disadvantageous in another, seeing that his presence spread panic wherever he went. Many of the people visited that night had, doubtless, ample cause to be nervous touching the Presence of one of the guardians of the law. We first went into an ordinary “low lodging house”. The hour, I should state, was about nine o'clock at night. A stout man, partially undressed, was sitting, nursing a child, upon the bed of the outer room, and the landlady emerged from the inner apartment, whence followed her a great clack of male and female tongues. The woman spoke with profound deference to my companion, and began to assure him that the house was the best conducted in all Manchester. Meantime we had entered the inner room. It was a small stiflingly hot place, with a large fire, over which flickered a rush-light, or very small candle, stuck in a greased tin sconce. There were eight or ten men and women seated on stools and low chairs round the fire. They had been talking loudly enough a minute ago, but on our entrance they became as mute as fishes, staring stolidly into the fire, and only casting furtive glances at my companion and nodding to each other when his back was turned. Hot as the place was, most of the women had shawls about their heads. They were coarse-looking and repulsive - more than one with contused and discoloured faces. The men were of a class you often remark in low localities - squalid hulking fellows, with no particular mark of any trade or calling on them. The women were of the worst class of prostitutes, and the men their bullies and partners in robberies. The beds upstairs were broken and rickety, and clothes which were bundles of brown rags. These couches were placed so close that you could only just make your way between them. The regular charge was fourpence a bed. The landlady stoutly asserted that only two were allowed to sleep in each bed, but as to the sexes she was “noways particular-lodgers was lodgers, whether they was men or women.” In the room in which we stood, and which might be about fourteen feet by twelve, more than a score of filthy vagrants often pigged together, dressed and undressed, sick and well, sober and drunk.

These lodging-houses are under the superintendence of the police, and only a certain number of beds are allowed to be in a room. But the law is continually violated. “Shake-downs” are made on the floor, and threes and fours crammed into the same bed. In another lodging-house my companion suddenly exclaimed to the landlady, “Why, here's a bed more than you are licensed for,” pointing to a bundle of straw enclosed in a piece of coarse sacking and set upright in a corner. “Guide us a'," answered the woman in the richest patois of the Canongate, “guide us a', what's the body havering about ? It's my ain bed, man. Ye wad na hae me sleep on the stanes? But we'se remove it, if that be a';" and so saying, she caught up her couch and trundled it downstairs.

“Where do you generally sleep” I said. “Oh, just ony gate. It depends on whether the hoose is full - but or ben, or in the passage or ony gate.”

The nominal price of fourpence for a bed 1 found to be everywhere the same, and the general disposition of the bedrooms was equally identical. They consist simply of filthy unscoured chambers, with stained and discoloured walls, scribbled over with names and foul expressions. Sometimes the plaster had fallen, and lay in heaps in the corners. There was no article of furniture other than the beds - not even, so far as I saw, a chest. Still the worst of the places was quite weather-tight.

One street in this quarter is entirely composed of lodging-houses, and is well known to the police throughout the kingdom. It was called Blakely Street, but now goes by the name of Charter Street. There is a tavern here, with a coloured lamp like that of a doctor's, called the “Dog and Duck.” This is the house of call for the swell mob of Manchester and the superior class of “prigs” (19) When I entered the parlour, which differed in no respect from that of an ordinary low-class tavern, and which was hung with boxing prints, there were only two men present, drinking ale, and playing dominos for handfuls of coppers. In a beer-house close at hand there was a large assemblage of men and women, most of the latter like those I have already sketched, but a few whose faded finery proclaimed that they had formerly held a higher position in their wretched class. A number of bare-footed boys were drinking here. The rattle of dominos was heard on every side: the yellow dips which lighted the room burned with a sickly flicker amid the draughts and the thick tobacco smoke. Ensconced in the seat of honour by the fire was a villainous-looking black man without shoes, who said that he had just come to town, having “cadged it from Stafford”; and in a corner sat two pedlars, each upon his box. As we were leaving the house a boy about thirteen or fourteen, smartly dressed, with a tassel dangling from his cap, entered.

“Well, young ‘un,” said my companion, “Whose pockets have your hands been in this evening?”

The boy stared coolly at the inspector. The light from a lamp fell on his face, and I never saw a worse one - little deep-sunk eyes, and square bony jaws, with a vile expression. “What do you mean talking about pockets to me? I don't know nothing about pockets,” and turning on his heel he entered the house. The boy had been twice convicted, and several times in trouble. He walked Market-street at night, often in partnership with a woman.

There were few or no Irish in the houses we had just visited. They live in more wretched places still - the cellars. We descended to one. The place was dark, except for the glare of a small fire. You could not stand without stooping in the room, which might be about twelve feet by eight. There were at least a dozen men, women and children on stools, or squatted on the stone floor, round the fire, and the heat and smells were oppressive. This not being a lodging cellar, the police had no control over the number of its inmates, who slept huddled on the stones, or on masses of rags, shavings and straw, which were littered about. There was nothing like a bedstead in the place. Further back opened a second cellar, strewn with coats and splinters of wood used for making matches. Here, upon shavings, bits of furze, and intermingled rags and straw, lay two girls asleep in two corners. The party in the outer room had a few handfuls of nuts and apples with which they intended - it was the 31st October - to “keep” All Hallow's Eve. Half the people who lived in the den had not yet returned, being still out hawking lucifers, matches and besoms. They were all Irish, from Westport, in the county of Mayo. They lived on potatoes, meal, and sometimes broken victuals begged. There was no fever there, and there had been no cholera “Glory be to God.” “Sure they was poor people, but they was daysint and did their best.” After leaving, a woman followed me into the street to know if I had come from Westport to find out anything about them, and was greatly disappointed at being answered in the negative.

The last place we visited is, I am told, the worst cellar in all Manchester. The outer room was like that of others which I had seen, but following a woman who held a light, we proceeded into the inner cellars. They were literally vaults, three of them opening from one to the other. The air was thick with damp and stench. The vaults were mere subterranean holes, utterly without light. The flicker of the candle showed their grimy walls, reeking with foetid damp, which trickled in greasy drops down to the floor. Beds were huddled in every corner: some of them on frames - I cannot call them bedsteads others on the floor. In one of these a man was lying dressed, and beside him slept a well-grown calf. Sitting upon another bed was an old man maudlin drunk, with the saliva running over his chin, making vain efforts to rid himself of his trowsers, and roaring for help. In the next cellar two boys were snoring together in one bed, and beside them was a man sleeping in an old battered hat for a nightcap. “Is he undressed?” I said. The police officer, for answer, twitched down the clothes, and revealed a stark naked man, black with filth. The smell in this room was dreadful, and the air at once hot and wet.

“What's this you have been doing?” said my conductor to the landlady, stooping down and examining the lower part of one of the walls. I joined him, and saw that a sort of hole or shallow cave, about six feet long, two deep, and a little more than one high, had been scooped out through the wall into the earth on the outside of the foundation, there being probably some yard on the other side, and in this hole or earthen cupboard there was stretched, upon a scanty litter of foul-smelling straw, a human being - an old man. As he lay on his back, his face was not two inches beneath the roof - so to speak - of the hole.

“He's a poor old body," said the landlady, in a tone of deprecation, “and if we didn't let him crawl in there he would have to sleep in the streets.”

I turned away, and was glad when I found myself breathing such comparatively fresh air as can be found in Angel Meadow, Manchester.

11. Music and music halls

MANCHESTER is known as being of late years a decidedly musical place. Since the passing of the Ten Hours Bill, a great Monday night concert for the operative classes has been in successful operation. I visited it the other night. The musical attractions, to be sure, were rather mild - a small organ, a piano, an amateur chorus of some thirty voices, assisted by a few professors of only local celebrity. But the programme comprised selections from Handel, Meyerbeer, Rossini and Bishop; and if these were at the best only respectably performed, they were listened to with the most reverent silence, and then applauded to the echo by an assemblage of between two and three thousand working men and women, who had respectively paid their three pence for admission, and who took up nearly the entire area of the Free Trade Hall.

The first encore was won by Handel's beautiful melody, “Oh, had I Jubal's Lyre,” and to prove how catholic were the sympathies of the audience, they broke out into raptures when the vocalist, upon being recalled, substituted for the Handelian melody “Jeannette and Jeannot.” If the concert were not a musical phenomenon, it was at all events a moral one.

Let me try to describe a curiously characteristic place of amusement which I visited the other day in Manchester. I was anxious to see and judge of for myself one of the music saloons, of which I had heard so much; and so, ascertaining that the Apollo in the London-road presented a very good specimen, I waited until Saturday night should exhibit it in its greatest glory, and then set off for the hall of jollity and harmony. The London Road is full of cheap shops devoted to the sale of ordinary household matters. Stalls, covered and uncovered, heaped over with still coarser and cheaper wares, abound. Gas flares blazed amid the joints in the butchers' open shops. Faintly burning candies, enclosed in greasy paper lanterns, cast their dim and tallowy influence over tables slimy with cheap fish, or costermongers' barrows littered with cabbages or apples. The gin-shops are in full feather their swinging doors never hang a moment still. Itinerant bands blow and bang their loudest; organ boys grind monotonously; ballad singers or flying stationers make roaring proclamations of their wares. The street is one swarming, buzzing mass of people. Boys and girls shout and laugh and disappear into the taverns together. Careful housewives - often attended by their husbands dutifully carrying the baby, bargain hard with the butchers for a halfpenny off in the pound. In a cheap draper's shop, a committee of young women will be examining into the merits of a dress which one of them has determined to buy; while, in an underground pie-shop, a select party of juveniles will be regaling themselves upon musty pasties of fat pork. The pawnbroker is busy, for pledges are being rapidly redeemed, and flat irons, dirty pairs of stays, candlesticks, Sunday trowsers, tools, blankets, and so forth, are fast being removed from his shelves. The baker has chalked on a black board, in his boldest characters, “Down again to even money - a four-pound loaf for five pence.” Here a woman is anxiously attempting - half to drive, half to lure home her drunken husband; there a couple of tipsy fellows are in high dispute, their tobacco pipes in their hands, and a noisy circle of backers urging them on. From, byways and alleys and back streets, fresh crowds every moment emerge. Stalls, shops, cellars are clustered round with critics or purchasers - cabmen drive slowly through the throng, shouting and swearing to the people to get out of the horse's way; and occasionally, perhaps, the melodious burst of a roaring chorus, surging out of the open windows of the Apollo, resounds loudly above the whole conglomeration of street noises.

A bright lamp over an open door points out the entrance to lovers of harmony and beer. Here there is a check-taker, helped, and no doubt superintended, by a policeman, who will not allow drunken people to pass. An intimation stares you in the face that, in order to "keep the company select", a charge of twopence is made, on the payment of which a ticket will be given, entitling the bearer to two pennyworth of refreshments upstairs. Having complied with the terms of this reasonable proposition, you mount a broad steep staircase, and presently find yourself at the extremity of a long narrow room. On the occasion of my first appearance on the scene, the place was densely crowded by men and women, and the air was one roiling volume of tobacco smoke. I thought that to obtain a seat was out of the question, but a bustling personage, whom I soon found to be the landlord, was very busy packing away his guests into the smallest possible compass; and at length, he accommodated me with six inches of a bench, and about two square inches of a table on which to place the tumbler of porter - and not bad it was - to which my two penny coupon entitled me. I have said that the room was long and narrow. The walls were covered with paper representing carved woodwork. About midway on one side was a small bar, where the landlady was drawing ale and beer, the only liquors for which the house was licensed. Along the length of the apartment ran curiously narrow tables, with benches on either side, placed so close to each other, and occupied by such a dense swarm of people as to make it all but impossible for the female waiters to hand the malt liquor about, and accordingly the tumblers were often passed along from hand to hand. At the upper end of the place was a small stage, with a regular proscenium, built secundem artem, but so low that the performers' heads almost touched the ‘flies’. Upon the stage was what is technically called a ‘set scene’ of a cottage and a landscape. Beneath was an orchestra, consisting of two or three fiddles and a pianoforte. Of the audience, two-thirds might be men; the others were women - young and old - a few of them with children seated in their laps, and several with babies at their breasts. The class of the assembly was that of artisans and mill-hands. Almost without an exception, men and women were decently dressed, and it was quite evident that several of the groups formed family parties. When I entered, a man, dressed in the conventional ‘nigger’ costume, was singing one of those really pretty airs which have of late gained such popular renown, and singing it, too, with much feeling for the melody and less regard for the slang part of the business than are generally exhibited by London performers of a similar class. The audience joined in the chorus con amore, so that, just as I entered, nearly two hundred voices, male and female, were entreating Susanna not to cry for the minstrel who was “going to Alabama with his banjo on his knee.”

I stayed nearly an hour, heard half-a-dozen songs, and witnessed a couple of dances. The former were chiefly of that class happily characterized by Mr. Thackeray as the “British Brandy-and-Water School.” One of the whole number was objectionable from its double entendres, but it was vehemently applauded and uproariously enjoyed. The only female performer was a little girl about twelve, who sang a “Medley song", and danced a pas to correspond. The other saltatory artist was a young man who, dressed as a soldier, went through a sort of parody of the manual exercise, and then swinging round, exhibited himself with a mask tied to the back of his head, and his rear “made up” for the front of a theatrical sailor, in which character he performed a most energetic hornpipe.

“He's a clever chap, is that,” said a little dirty-faced man to me.


“Aye, he is. Why, sir, he works in factory with me.”

There was no answering such conclusive criticism. I asked the connoisseur whether the other performers were also factory hands? No; they were all mere "arteests", save the hornpipe man. So far as I saw, the company were quite as decorous as could be expected for a convivial assemblage of their rank. There was plenty of loud speaking, and now and then coarse speaking; but there was nobody drunk - an assertion which, however, I fear would hardly stand good a couple of hours afterwards. The only person who seemed inclined to be riotous and unruly was a middle-aged woman who had taken more porter than was good for her; and, what appeared to me worse, was successfully encouraging two young girls, whom she had brought with her, to do the same - vehemently expressing all the time her admiration at the masculine beauties of the bass singer, and repeatedly demanding (with reference to the gentleman in question) whether I had “ever seen such a lovely nose on a face ?”

Another evening I went to a favourite musical place in another part of the town, at the corner of the Oldham Road. Unhappily I had mistaken the harmonic night; but the landlord, to whom I explained my business, showed me the curious arrangements by means of which he manages to have the same performance in two rooms at once. There are two spacious apartments directly over each other. The floor of the upper, and the ceiling of the lower are perforated with a great square aperture like a hatchway in a deck. This vast trap can be covered or revealed by two flaps, which, when they are lifted, are secured back to back in the centre. In the upper room, upon a little platform on the brink of the gulf, the vocal performers stand, so as to be seen by all the audience in their own room and by about one half of those in the lower room, in which again just beneath the feet of the artists, is placed an extremely handsome barrel organ, the front consisting of plate glass, and exhibiting its musical snuff-box like machinery, and which can be seen by all the guests in the lower room and a few of those in the higher room. Thus the musical attractions are made as impartial as possible. The organ cost £194. The landlord wound it up for my benefit, and it went off with good effect into the overture of William Tell.

On my way home that night, I looked into two additional places of popular amusement. One was a sleight-of-hand exhibition in a small room up a rickety flight of stairs. The charge was 2d., and the benches were occupied principally by young men and women, evidently mill hands. One boy, not above sixteen, sat between two girls, with an arm round each of their necks; while the Sultanas, who were evidently jealous, exchanged scowling glances as they cracked the hazel nuts which all three were occupied in demolishing. The others of the company sat quietly enough. There were two elderly women, in faded shawls and limp bonnets, gravely discussing how the magical tricks were performed. Near them sat two young women, nursery maids apparently, with young children on their knees, and a sprinkling of grown-up men, with folded-up carpenters' rules protruding from their pockets and bespeaking their occupation, formed a party of their own. There was music, in the shape of a flageolet and fife, blown by two men seated at the end of the audience benches, while a lout of a boy in shoes, with wooden soles an inch thick, danced a Lancashire clog hornpipe, keeping up a monotonous rattle with his wooden-shod feet. At first I looked upon the young gentleman as an amateur, his performance being conducted in the audience part of the room; but from the unvarying clatter which he produced during the interval between any sleight-of -hand, I found he was one of the artistes of the establishment.

The last place of ‘amusement’ which I visited was a gratis concert-room, but frequented by a better class than the attendants at the Apollo, many of the persons present being evidently mechanics from the neighbouring Atlas Iron Works. (20) There were also women in the room, all of them, apparently, in their own fashion, respectable. The room was a comfortable one, with oil paintings, one representing the Vale of Tempe “in Italy.” There was a piano and some wretched sentimental singing, during which the habitues grimly smoked and drank their spirits and water. I soon beat a retreat from such dull quarters.

In returning last Sunday night, by the Oldham Road, from one of my tours, I was somewhat surprised to hear the loud sounds of music and jollity which floated out of the public-house windows. The street was swarming with drunken men and women; and with young mill girls and boys shouting, hallooing and romping with each other. Now I am not one of those who look upon the slightest degree of social indulgence as a downright evil, but I confess that last Sunday night in the Oldham Road astonished and grieved me. In no city have I ever witnessed a scene of more open, brutal, and general intemperance. The public-houses and gin-shops were roaring full. Rows, and fights, and scuffles were every moment taking place within doors and in the streets. The whole street rung with shouting, screaming, and swearing, mingled with the jarring music of half-a-dozen bands. A tolerably intimate acquaintance with most phases of London life enables me to state that in no part of the metropolis would the police have tolerated such a state of things for a single Sunday. I entered one of the musical taverns - one of the best of them. It was crowded to the door with men and women - many of them appearing to belong to a better station in life than mill hands or mechanics. The music consisted of performances on the piano and seraphine. (21) In the street I accosted a policeman, telling him of my surprise that music should be allowed in public-houses on Sunday evenings. Such a thing was never dreamt of in London.

“0h,- quoth he, -there is an understanding that they don't play nothing but sacred music.”

“Sacred music,” I said. “Well, it is the first time I ever heard the 'Bay of Biscay' and the 'Drum Polka' invested with the title.”


1.The National Anti-Corn Law League, which was founded in Manchester in 1839. Its brilliant political campaign led to the passing of the Repeal Bill in 1846.

2.Arkwright's spinning frame, patented in 1769, used pairs of rollers, revolving at successively faster speeds, to draw out the threads of cotton before they were twisted. Arkwright built Manchester's first cotton mill - a five-storey building, 200 feet long and 30 feet wide - in 1780.

3.For an account of public health and sanitary reform during the 1840s, see Arthur Redford and Ina S. Russell, The History of Local Government in Manchester, ii, 1940, p. 130f.

4.Following more than 15 years of agitation, the Ten Hours' Bill was passed on June 1, 1847. A month later it came into partial operation, with young persons (those aged between 13 and 18) and women restricted to 11 hours a day and 63 hours a week. From May 1, 1848, the hours were 10 daily and 58 a week.

5.The Longdendale Aqueduct, which runs five and a half miles from Rhodeswood Reservoir to Godley, was built between 1847 and 1850.

6.Reach visited Harvey and Tysoe's mill in Canal Street, Salford.

7. Capt. Hugh Hornby Birley was one of the commanders of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry at Peterloo (August 16, 1819). He died in 1845.

8.Gardner and Bazley ran a mill in Water Street, Manchester, and another at Barrowbridge, near Bolton.

9.Lord Ashley, later 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-85), was the Parliamentary leader of the factory reformers from 1833 until 1846. His statement that spinners walked more than 20 miles a day in working their mules was rejected by the mill masters, who put the distance at about eight miles. See Hansard, March 15, 1844, and Rhodes Boyson, The Ashworth Cotton Enterprise. Oxford, 1970, pp 181-2, for Ashley's dispute with the masters.

10.Piecers - Children who joined the broken threads.

11.It is interesting to compare these hours with those operating 25 years earlier. Sketch of the Hours of Labour, Meal Times, etc., in Manchester, published in 1825, summarised the results of a survey made in the previous year. The mills were said to work on average a 14-hour day. Some did not stop for breakfast and by no means all the workers had an hour for dinner.

12.W. Cooke Taylor, Notes of a tour in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire, London, 1842, p 261.

13.The Ten Hours' Act did not apply to calico printing works.

14See page 2.

15. Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) and Thomas Holloway (1800-1883). Mesmer, an Austrian mystic and physician, introduced Mesmerism (a forerunner of hypnotism), which was much in vogue during the 1840s. Holloway made a fortune from patent medicines, which were advertised on a scale previously unknown. Between 1845 and 1851, his advertising budget rose from £10,000 to £20,000 a year.

16.The Manchester Union Moral and Industrial Training School with accommodation for 1,500 children and staff was built by the Manchester Board of Guardians in 1843. Household Words, of July 13, 1850, called it “a pauper palace.”

17.David Stott (1779-1848), founder in 1801 of the Bennett Street Sunday School. See George Milner, Bennett Street Memorials, Manchester, 1880, pp 121-140.

18.April 10, 1848, was the day on which Chartists from all parts of the country presented a monster petition to Parliament. There had been widespread fears of an uprising in support of the reformers, but the event passed off peacefully.

19.Prigs - thieves.

20.Run by Sharp Brothers and Co. in Great Bridgewater Street.

21.Seraphine - an early type of harmonium.

[Transcribed with permission of the editor and author, SCG/29 June 2005]
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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