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April 24th 2013, Society Rooms

Manchester Memories
a personal reminiscence by Lynne Hilber

Lynne took us back in time to the socio-economic emergence of ‘Cottonopolis’, namely Manchester. This she did by taking us back to how her family moved from Fife in Scotland in the mid-1850s to Hume, a district of Manchester.
Lynne highlighted the importance of Manchester: the 3rd most visited city after London and Edinburgh; the world’s first industrialized city; where the atom was first split; where the first computer in Britain was set up; the original site of the Rolls Royce factory; and more.
Reference was made to Engels (and Marx) in 1844 and to Elisabeth Gaskell’s North and South, where the authoress describes the “deep red-coloured cloud….smell of smoke…black smoke” of the industrial smog hanging over the city.
Lynne stressed the dire health problems within the urban congestion, but also how Manchester flourished though being a banking and insurance centre. No wonder Engels and Marx were acutely aware of the growing class divide.
The importance of the Manchester Ship Canal from Liverpool was such that colonial cotton could be brought directly into Manchester. Lynne’s two paternal grandfathers worked here, and when Queen Victoria opened the Canal, the event was witnessed by Lynne’s grandmother. This was real living oral history. Her grandmother worked in a cotton mill in the afternoons after morning school. She was ‘punished’ for her intelligence by reaching 5th grade at 10 years of age…and so going out to work full-time.
Lynne’s illustrated tour took us from the Cathedral, via Chetham’s Hospital (the world’s first public library!) and the neo-Gothic Town Hall to the City Art Gallery and the Museum of Science and Industry. We also saw how L.S. Lowry depicted the industrial urban scene.
A lively question-and-answer session followed Lynne’s much appreciated and enjoyed talk.

Andrew Milne-Skinner

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