Tag Archives: Manchester Heritage

The Manchester Ballads

Ragbag Lyrics

 

The Manchester Ballads is a collection of thirty five broadside ballads dating from the time of the industrial revolution. Collected by two local historians and folk music enthusiasts, and published with financial help from the education offices at Manchester City Council, The Manchester Ballads was produced in a handsome hardback card case, and is in the form of a folio collection of loose- leaf facsimile prints of the original penny broadsheets. There is accompanying text with many of the ballads, giving the biography of the song and, where necessary, a glossary of dialect terms. There are tunes suggested to allow the ballads to be sung communally in pubs and at home, and whilst penny broadsides were produced in the hundreds, many were written to be sung to well known tunes. The impoverished audience would, with few exceptions, have no ability to read music (Boardman and Boardman 1973) and many would also be totally illiterate, only learning the songs through the oral tradition of singing in pubs, at markets and in local homes.

The Manchester Ballads are, in essence, a snapshot of Mancunian life in the industrial era. However, they are a snapshot from a very selective source, and the themes, events, places and characters that are outlined within the lyrics of the ballads should be seen in the context not only of their chance survival, but also of the reasons for publication.

The themes in the Manchester Ballads speak of struggle (The Spinners Lamentation 1846), poverty (Tinkers Garden 1837), civic uprisings (The Meeting at Peterloo 1819) and communal tragedy (The Great Flood 1872). However, they also recall good nights out (Victoria Bridge on a Saturday Night 1861), day trips around the region (Johnny Green’s Trip fro’ Owdhum to see the Manchester Railway 1832) and the various innovations and achievements of industrial Manchester are mentioned, and praised, throughout.

New CD to be released on 19th February

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On Friday 19 February 2016, English roots musical collective Edward II release ‘Manchester’s Improving Daily‘, a collection of rare and historic songs, known as the Manchester Broadside Ballads, dating back over 200 years to the Industrial Revolution.

Beautifully designed, packaged and presented, the physical CD is the culmination of a 15-month project, ‘Manchester’s Improving Daily’.  accompanied by a book, written by social archaeologist David Jennings, explaining the history of the songs and providing an informative commentary to these rare glimpses into the lives of working class Mancunians in the Victorian times.

The CD is to be distributed through Cadiz Music and can be ordered through any good record store, this website and all main digital outlets.  Physical copies only will include the book about  the broadsides.

Ordering info:-

Artist: Edward II

Distributor: Cadiz Music

Album Title: Manchester’s Improving Daily

Catalogue No. E2MID1819

The Execution of Allen, Gould & Larkin.

One of the most harrowing stories recorded in the Broadsides, was the execution of the three members of the  Irish Republican Brotherhood,William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien.  In the attached image from the time, O,Brien was named Gould.

‘ They were executed for the murder of a police officer in Manchester, England, in 1867, during an incident that became known as the Manchester Outrages. The trio were members of a group of 30–40 Fenians who attacked a horse-drawn police van transporting two arrested leaders of the Brotherhood, Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy, to Belle Vue Gaol. Police Sergeant Charles Brett, travelling inside with the keys, was shot and killed as the attackers attempted to force the van open by blowing the lock’.

Wikipedia

Allen Gould & Larkin Story

Peterloo

The growing urban discontent that led to the infamous meeting in 1819, like other occasions of civil unrest covered in the Manchester Ballads, grew out of a combination of circumstances that, seen in hindsight, were almost bound to end in conflict.

On the 16th August 1819, the area around St Peters Square in Manchester was the site of a peaceful protest that ended in bloody confrontation with the authorities. Quickly dubbed ‘Peterloo’, the name is a satirical comment on what was seen as the cowardly actions of the soldiers and yeoman who attacked unarmed civilians. By using the term Peterloo, protesters and social commentators were mocking the troops with a name redolent of the famous battle at Waterloo, where the bravery of men was taken for granted, and a matter of national pride. Peterloo, in contrast, was seen by most as a matter of national shame. The speakers platform had banners arranged that read

“REFORM, UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE, EQUAL REPRESENTATION
and LOVE”

however, events on the day prove just how hard the fight was for the working classes in industrial Manchester and Salford.

The French Revolution of 1789 was still in the minds of many radicals in England, and the word of various activists added to the unease that many workers felt under the increasingly dominant and often abusive grip of the factory owners. Thomas Paine’s rhetoric was typical, and captured hearts and minds across the working classes.

 

Peterloo

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Band Wall Glen

Nothing New Under the Sun (or clouds…)

The Great Flood of 1872

The Great Flood Lyrics

The River Medlock rises in the hills above Oldham and empties into the River Irwell in central Manchester

The Medlock has reportedly burst its banks and flooded areas of the city on a fairly regular basis. However it was on 13th July 1872,  after two days of torrential rain which takes its place most notably in the history books, as this account from a Manchester newspaper, written at the time, describes:

“It was about half past twelve when the floods came … the banks of the Medlock were overflowed to such an alarming extent and the first intimation of the flood was the sweeping away of a footbridge near to Philips Park … It must have been very strongly fixed, for it not only bore the rush of the flood for a considerable time, but it resisted it to such an extent that the water backed up for a considerable distance. The flood increased in depth and power, and at a length swept in a fierce torrent over a large portion of ground apportioned to the Roman Catholics at the Bradford Cemetery carrying away not only tombstones but actually washing out of their graves, a large number of dead bodies. Indeed from the first indication of danger, so far as works on the banks of the Medlock were concerned, dead bodies were observed floating down the river, and those watching could easily see that the bodies had been disinterred out of the Bradford cemetery. It is impossible to calculate how many had been swept out of their final resting place but the number is not short of fifty.” (source:Manchester Courier, 15 July 1872)

So, no great shakes for soggy electrical cables and knocked down gazebos, but interesting that this most remarkable of events took place in early July, just when we all least expect it.  There really is nothing new under the sun, or a grey cloudy Mancunian sky!

The full version of this article can be found at http://www.medlockvalley.org.uk/Sites/MedlockValley/Objects/PDFs/The_Great_Flood.pdf

Angel Meadows: A Hell on Earth

The Angel Pub, where we perform on 5th July and which also features in the song ‘A soldiers Farewell to Manchester’ (one of the better known of the Manchester Broadsides), sits on the boundary of a neighbourhood Angel Meadows.  Now thoroughly re-developed, many of the buildings and streets still retain titles reminiscent of its less than  illustrious past.  In fact this is the part of town that Marx and Engels would walk into from Ancoats and Swan Street where they reportedly sat in the pubs looking over at the poor souls working the gravel pits on the edge of Angel Meadows.  In fact Freidrich Engels described this residential  neighbourhood as a ‘Hell on Earth’ and we can only imagine how horrific it would have been to live there.

However, three hundred years ago, Angel Meadow was a heavenly landscape with views over fields and hills. Indeed, the name conjures an image of some pastoral idyll.

By the mid-19th century however, thanks to Manchester’s new industrial age, it had become one of the city’s worst slums.

Angus Reach, a London-based journalist, visited Angel Meadow in 1849.

“The lowest, most filthy, most unhealthy and most wicked locality in Manchester is called, singularly enough, ‘Angel-meadow.’ It 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.’

Friedrich Engels in the slums of Manchester
 Such is the Old Town of Manchester.. and the frightful condition of this Hell upon Earth. Everything here arouses horror and indignation. 
Friedrich Engels, writing in The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1844

Bounded by Rochdale Road, Miller Street, Cheetham Hill Road, and Gould Street, Angel Meadow covered 33 acres on the edge of the city centre.

Its population of 20,000 to 30,000 was made up predominantly of destitute Irish who had fled the Great Famine to find work in industrial Manchester and now lived in squalid conditions in cellars beneath lodging houses.

Recalling one particular cellar he visited, Reach wrote:

“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… the inmates 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.”

BBC news website

Quotes courtesy of The Gangs of Manchester by Andrew Davies and The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels (1844).

Heaven knows I’m miserable now

Heaven knows I’m miserable now : Mancunian Social Identity portrayed in the arts.

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The paintings of LS Lowry are perhaps one of the best known examples of art reflecting northern life in the dying days of heavy industry. Lowry painted what he saw first hand, often producing subdued images of “faceless figures, over-sized factories, underfed bodies and drab housing” (Winterson 2013) that evoke the poverty and deprivation common across Salford and Manchester.

Seen through the eyes of twenty first century Britain, the protagonists in these artistic depictions live in a different world, and yet they are often walking the same streets, using the same buildings and doing the same jobs. Recent excavations in the city centre have revealed remains of the conditions Lowry depicted. Sites at Birley Fields, Angel Meadow, Danzig Street and Salford

Crescent have all revealed the remains of the slum housing that blighted the lives of workers during the industrial revolution.

It is well known that the works of Marx and Engels are rooted in the conditions they observed whilst living in the Angel Meadow area of Manchester, and Engels despaired at the slum housing and harsh conditions endured by Mancunians when he wonders how “such a district exists in the heart of the second city of England, the first manufacturing city in the world.”(Engels 1846: 65).

Most of the buildings from this era have been lost to gentrification, development and demolition, but where they remain they provide evocative indicators of the way social identities were played out. In public spaces, this was via the demarcation of clear – and often clearly labelled – social spaces such as markets and licensed premises.

 

Angel Inn

The Angel Inn, on the edges of Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter, is a perfect example. Although much altered and rebuilt since the Angel Inn of the eighteenth century, this is the site of the pub that is mentioned in the 1859 version of ‘The Soldiers Farewell to Manchester’, the first broadside in the Manchester Ballad collection. Today, the Angel Inn stands in the middle of the area dominated by the new ‘Noma’ development by the Co-operative group, with apartments and plush office blocks now surrounding the pub.

When the Angel Inn was opening, it appears that Swindels Printers were commissioned to print a partially re-written version of a much older song as a form of advertising for the opening (Reid 15).

The message within the ballad is clear – The Angel Inn is the place to meet the prettiest girls in Manchester. The rest of the song is a variant on a common theme, with a girl vowing to wait in chastity for the return of her true love.

Victoria Bridge on a Saturday Night

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Victoria Bridge is a stone arch bridge in Greater Manchester, England. Completed in 1839 and named after Queen Victoria, it crosses the River Irwell, connecting Salford to Manchester.

The bridge replaced an earlier medieval structure, Salford Old Bridge, which dated from the 14th century. The old bridge was built on the site of an ancient ford, from which Salford took its name. Contemporary accounts of its design are complimentary, but by the 19th century its narrow construction was viewed as an impediment to traffic, and it was demolished. Construction of the new bridge began in 1838, the year of the great gathering on Kersal Moor.   It is mentioned in the reports from the time that the throngs marched passed the construction site on their way to Bury Rd and on up to the Moor.

Vic Bridge 2

At the time, this was the heart of the city, where the gin houses attracted the crowds and street traders filled the streets, all trying to make a living in the rapidly expanding city, connecting Salford with Manchester and joint the two towns together.

The lyrics of the song ‘Victoria Bridge on a Saturday Night’ describes it as well as anything else.

Victoria Bridge and Black Your Eye

(wikipedia)

 

How Balloon Street got its name

Mr Sadlers Balloon lyrics

Sadler worked as a pastry chef in the family business, The Lemon Hall Refreshment House, a small shop in Oxford.[1]

Sadler was the second person to make a balloon ascent in England, very soon after the Tuscan Vincent Lunardi‘s flight on 15 September 1784 in the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company at Moorfields. However, James Sadler was the first English Aeronaut having made his ascent during the month after on 4 October 1784 from Christ Church MeadowOxford. The balloon rose to about 3,600 feet and landed near Woodeaton, around six miles away. His second ascent on 12 November, this time in a hydrogen-filled balloon, reached Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire after a twenty-minute flight.[2]

In May of the following year he took off near Moulsey HurstSurrey, accompanied by W. Wyndham MP, hoping to reach France, but in fact descending in the Thames Estuary, and thus failing to repeat the earlier exploit of Jean-Pierre Blanchard and his passenger.[3]

Sadler made two further ascents in May 1785, the first of which was from a field behind a gentleman’s garden on the site of what is now Balloon Street in Manchester. On this flight he was accompanied by a cat and landed in Radcliffe.[4] On his second ascent he travelled alone and having risen to 13,000 ft. travelled 50 miles before landing near PontefractWest Yorkshire. On this occasion, he sustained bad injuries after being dragged for around 2 miles by the balloon, which eventually threw him clear before taking off again empty.

Wikipedia (See link)