Tag Archives: Edward II

Heaven knows I’m miserable now

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


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


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



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)

Marx and Engels were here

Many of the Manchester Ballads date from the period that Engels and Marx lived and worked in Manchester. In his introduction to Engels Condition of the Working Classes in England, David McLellan notes that Engels’ “personal observation was supported by reading masses of papers, statistical reports, and pamphlets” (McLellan 1993: xiii). It is intriguing to think Engels’ work was perhaps informed in part by reading some of the broadside ballads, perhaps even some included in  The Manchester Ballads


He lived around Angel Meadow (McLellan 1993), which is just a few minutes walk from the Swan Street area of New Cross, a major loci of broadside production at the time. Many of the pubs in the area lay claim that Marx and Engels were visitors, and they probably heard the broadside tradition being sung in pubs and markets around Shudehill. There is a table next to a window in Chethams Library where they are known to have worked – the same library that held many of the broadsides in its collections.


The music industry starts here, including protest songs and profiteering publishers!

The commercial appeal of penny broadsides meant printers would produce what could be sold, and many were not really interested in the content, as far as is known (Boardman and Boardman 1974,  1973). It is the case that some printers would even scratch out the name of other printers, and then reprint a ballad for sale without any permission from the original writer and printer (Vicinus 1973).

This can be seen on several of the Manchester Ballads. It also seems that many printers produced ballads without any credit to themselves in order to avoid any legal repercussions from the authorities, as the content of many ballads encouraged and celebrated uprising and dissent (Reid 2015), behaviour likely to land a publisher in trouble.

For example, the version of ‘The Meeting at Peterloo’ reproPeterloo lyricsduced in the Manchester Ballads has no  printer credited, see Fig 3. The same is true of the ballad about the meeting at Kearsal Moor (Fig 2), which is, alongside Peterloo, one of the defining industrial protests of the industrial era, and the authorities did not want to see such events glorified in popular song in the pubs across town.

David Jennings 2015


Money’s too tight to mention…

The temperance movement had strong roots around Manchester, and when set alongside the numerous pubs and breweries that grew up around the factories and houses, the competing messages can be seen when the ballads are read carefully. In contrast to some of the bawdy drinking songs that were a common and popular topic for penny broadsides (Palmer 1980), Rag Bag is a cutting commentary on the exploitation of drinkers by greedy, lying landlords :

“The landlord fattens on things that are choice,

And doth chatter, and flatter, and lie;

While his customers starve – both his wife and the mice,

When seen have a tear in the eye.” (Rag Bag 1861)

Billy Brown is a cautionary tale of a girl who is abandoned by a man when he finds out she is pregnant. Having agreed to marry her the next day, he joins the Navy, never to return:

“He consented to marry her,

It should be seen the next day,

But instead of marrying this poor girl,

He too shipping, and he sail’d far away” (Billy Brown 1837)

The Spinners Lamentation is a story about unemployment and the decline of work that led to poverty and distress during the cotton famine:

“Come listen dear neighbours to these lines I have made,

Its concerning these times, and distress of our trade,

In both town and country our trade is so bad,

You may search where you will, there’s no work to be had”

(Spinner Lamentation 1846?)

The Spinners Lamentation has a printers stock number printed at the bottom that dates it to before 1846, and Boardman notes that “before the days of unemployment benefit, one of the ways unemployed people eked out a living was by going round singing and selling ballads” (Boardman and Palmer 1984: 18) so it may well be that an entrepreneurial Mancunian sold copies of this very song at a penny a piece, having first sung it in the pubs, streets and markets around Manchester.

This collection clearly shows that whilst a ballad may describe a prison (New Bailey Treadmill 1824), an execution (Allen, Gould and Larkin 1867), a new technology (Mr Sadlers Balloon 1785) or a soldier leaving to go to war (The Soldiers Farewell to Manchester c1800), the underlying message of a defiant, happy and resolute Mancunian spirit is never far away.

Ragbag Lyrics

The Content of the Ballads.

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. Whilst some ballads are songs about specific events (The Manchester Exhibition 1857) , and are little more than a brief account in order to spread news around the illiterate population, there is often an agenda within many of the ballads that is not always apparent at first glance (Boardman and Palmer 1984).

Spinner Lament Lyrics

The Manchester Ballads

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 (Fig 2), 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 many 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.

By repeatedly using well known tunes, the songs could reach a wider audience. This also meant that publishers could pay ‘hack writers’ to add new words to existing music, saving money on the production costs (Palmer 1980) as composers were rarely employed. The earliest ballad in this collection dates from 1785, the latest 1882, although within the wider collection of broadside ballads there are printed versions of songs that date back to 1550, and many are thought to be derived from folk songs passed down through the oral tradition for many years before they were ever printed (Boardman and Boardman 1974).

David Jennings (2015)

Manchester Ballads cover

More info coming up on the website… http://ift.tt/1HpbOyh

Edward the Second | Roots, Folk, Reggae
Edward II Edward II, the English roots band that uniquely blend the rhythms of the Caribbean with traditional songs from the British Isles, have been secretly working on a totally new project and will be back in 2015. Temporarily turning away from the rural songs of the middle England Morris teams,…
More info @ http://ift.tt/1HpbOyh
Automated post from Edward the Second – http://ift.tt/1wWutNO
May 23, 2015 at 07:59PM