As we are preparing to change the objects we have on display, we thought it would be a nice idea to share some of these items from our collection. In this post we will be focusing on something you wouldn’t expect to find in the Library, this is a sword belonging to general Wolfe.
It is not known how or when General Wolfe’s sword found its way into the Library collection, but by the early nineteenth century it was one of a number of objects displayed and pointed out to visitors by pupils of the school. Many of these were unrealistic, for example, a boot worn by Queen Elizabeth, Oliver Cromwell’s sword, arrows belonging to Robin Hood. Most of these items are no longer in our collection. However, General Wolfe’s sword was somehow overlooked and remained at the Library.
Major General James P. Wolfe (1727-1759) was a British army officer remembered chiefly for his victory over the French in Quebec, where he was killed at the height of battle by injuries from three musket balls.
Above: Wolfe’s Sword
The sword surprisingly, unlike the previous curiosities, following investigations was revealed to have belonged to Wolfe, and appears to date from his time as a young army officer in the 1740s. Given the 1740s date, the sword may well have accompanied Wolfe in his early days of service during the War of the Austrian Succession. It could also have been brought with him to the battle of Culloden in 1746, the final stand of the failed Jacobite Rebellion and the last pitched battle fought on British soil. A famous anecdote claims Wolfe refused an order to shoot a wounded Highland officer after Culloden. Whether the sword saw action at any point is unlikely due to its small size and basic handle. We are currently investigating the swords provenance so watch this space!
We thought we would share one of the treasures requested by our readers this week, the Cosmographia by Sebastian Münster. The Cosmographia, first published in 1544, was the earliest German-language description of the world. Sebastian Münster was a German cartographer, cosmographer, and Hebrew scholar whose Cosmographia was a major contribution to the revival of geographic thought in 16th-century Europe.
Above: Sebastian Münster aged 60
Cosmographia was a bestseller, a book that managed the rare feat of being both scientific and popular. Altogether, about 40 editions appeared between 1544 and 1628 in the original German, but also in Latin, French, English, Italian and Czech. In addition to describing and explaining the cosmos, it revolutionized how 16th-century readers thought about the physical world.
Above: A Crocodile from the Cosmographia
Münster obtained the material for his work by using a wide range of the available literary sources, in particular gathering original manuscripts for the description of the countryside and of villages and towns. He also obtained further source material on his travels (primarily in south-west Germany, Switzerland, and Alsace).
The Cosmographia not only contained the most up-to-date maps and views of many well known cities, but also presented a vast amount of detail about many aspects of the world. He included, for example, portraits of kings and princes, costumes and occupations, habits and customs, flora and fauna, monsters, wonders, and horrors.
Above: Terrifying Norwegian Sea-monster – the image our reader wanted
We have two Latin editions, both printed at Basel by Henricus Petrus (1508-1579), whose print-shop was also responsible for the German-language first edition of 1544. Our copies were printed in 1559 and 1572. . The Latin editions differ considerably from the German editions of 1553 and 1564, especially in the description of America which contains additional detail.
We are delighted to announce that the Library has acquired copies of a valuable contribution to local scholarship by Peter Hurst. Peter’s work edits and translates material from Latin to English, beginning with the seventeenth-century Almondbury Manor Court Rolls from the ancient West Riding village. After transcribing the Latin court rolls for Saddleworth, Peter began working on documents for Huddersfield, Meltham, Honley, Slaithwaite, and South Crosland. Peter’s research began when he consulted the Almondbury Rolls whilst investigating his family history.
Peter’s full list of works is as follows: Mercy of the lord; Almondbury Manor Court Rolls Part 1, 1627-40; Homages for the Lord Protector: Almondbury Manor Court Rolls Part 2, 1641-60; Lady of the Manor: Almondbury Manor Court Rolls Part 3, 1660-90; Survey of the Manor of Almondbury 1584; Where Was Somtyme A Castell: Ancient Records of Almondbury 1086-1638;and Garsomes, geld rents, and Gould: Manor of Saddleworth Accounts 1590-1630. All of these include records for Huddersfield, Honley, Meltham, Saddleworth/Quick, Slaithwaite, and South Crosland.
Where Was Somtyme A Castell: Ancient Records of Almondbury 1086-1638 takes the story back to the Domesday book and uses a wide range of sources outside the Manor Court rolls to create a broader narrative. The book is 450 pages and includes 57 documents covering the period 1086-1638. These documents include; Lay Subsidies, Taxes, the 1379 Poll Tax, Contrariants from 1322, plus many Surveys and Rentals. About 1,800 individuals are recorded and about 700 places. The book is in three parts and contains numerous copies of original documents complete with translations.
Primary source material has been used for all 6 books, mainly from the extensive Ramsden collection held by West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees, supplemented by original records from The National Archives, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, and West Yorkshire Archives Leeds. All books include extensive introductions, reviews, statistical analyses, personal, place, and subject indexes, and numerous illustrations, including an early 17th-century manorial tenant map. Records in Latin and one in Anglo-Norman have been translated. Many thousands of individuals are cited, often many times, as well as numerous place names, providing interest for family historians, and surname and place-name etymologies. This work is a very valuable resource for local historians and those tracing their ancestry, as these court records include names of the elected constables and assistants in the areas, as well as those guilty of various offences.
Above: Huddersfield borough arms incorporating the Ramsden Arms
An ancient network existed between the manor of Almondbury and the 6 townships of Huddersfield, Honley, Meltham, Saddleworth/Quick, Slaithwaite and South Crosland, each of which had their own manors, but was required for their courts’ jurisdictions formally to elect constables and other officers at the Michaelmas courts. Beginning in medieval times the courts of England divided the legal year into four terms: Hilary, Easter, Trinity and Michaelmas, This meant the towns had to present those in dereliction of manorial customs and township bye-laws at both the Easter and Michaelmas courts. This is why records for these townships are included during the periods covered, although simmering dissent and resistance by some townships is revealed. Court procedures were recorded on large parchment membranes, tied at the head, and rolled up so that, nearly four hundred years later, they are like coiled springs. Part 1 consists of 25 membranes; Part 2, 21 membranes; Part 3, 26 membranes. Membrane condition is variable: the best being thin and almost translucent with a clear calligraphic hand; the worst like thin cardboard, stiff and grey, with variable script, sometimes difficult to read due to serious wear and missing parts.
Peter was able to extensively research his own family history using the historic documents: ‘My great-Aunt, who lived to be 104, told me of an ancestor named Theophilus Beaumont (fondly known as Uncle Ophie) who married into the extended family. All she knew was that he went to America. Further research established that he left in 1862 during the American Civil War, where eventually he was discovered living in Nebraska. Following this, research for some newly found Nebraskan ‘cousins’ led from the discovery of records of two Saddleworth marriages of Joshua Beaumont, the first person with this name in Saddleworth, to extensive searching at West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees, where after some significant diversion searching likely records without success, entries for him were found in the Almondbury manor court rolls.
‘Amazingly, and unexpectedly, numerous entries for Saddleworth were found, and these were extracted, until eventually it seemed one full membrane might be translated. After that, another and another was translated, until the entire Part 1 was completed. After much work editing, checking, correcting, indexing, and so on it was decided to publish the results since it was clear these records were unknown to Saddleworth local historians, or if known had been ignored. The rest is history. Other publications followed over a period of years, working generally during the winter months. Subsequent research provided convincing evidence that Theophilus was a direct ancestor of Joshua, from whom large numbers of Beaumonts living in Saddleworth and environs are descended. As an aside, other relatives of Theophilus, including his father and an uncle left for America, one a leading chartist fleeing before being arrested. Sons of his became rich and famous engineers in Peru and Chile, where one can find descendants with Spanish forenames and Beaumont surnames, such as Santiago Beaumont et. al.’
Peter’s efforts mean that those wishing to undertake similar research will have an easier time deciphering names and locations. To buy your own copy of his work please contact Peter directly at email@example.com.
Last week we commemorated the death of Protestant martyr John Bradford on 1 July 1555, we thought this would be an excellent opportunity to go into more detail about this lesser-known Tudor martyr from Manchester. Bradford was born in Blackley and was educated at the Manchester Grammar School, going on to the Inns of Court, and then Cambridge. In 1550 he became an ordained priest and returned to the North West, going on to preach in churches in Lancashire and Cheshire.
Having initially begun a minor military career under the patronage of Sir John Exton in the 1540s, in 1547 Bradford had a change of heart, enrolling at Inner Temple. This career change coincided with Bradford’s conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism, having been influenced by the zeal of fellow reformers Thomas Sampson and Hugh Latimer. Bradford was ordained Deacon after his studies in Cambridge by Nicholas Ridley, the Bishop of London; Ridley also granted Bradford a preaching licence. Bradford then served as chaplain to Ridley until he became one of six chaplains in ordinary to King Edward VI. This appointment signalled Bradford’s high status in the protestant hierarchy. From 1552 Bradford began preaching in the North West of England whilst on leave from Court. In 1553 he would continue to preach his Protestant sermons under the reign of Mary I, who was in the process of returning the country to Catholicism.
Bradford was summoned to appear before the Queen’s Council at the Tower of London and was charged with sedition, remaining as a prisoner in the Tower before being moved to the King’s Bench Prison in March 1554. During his time in prison, he would continue to preach and would often disperse unrest amongst the other Protestant prisoners; he also composed various treatises in response to his Catholic rivals, among which were ‘To a Free Willer’ 1554 and ‘To Certain Free Willers’ in 1555.
As the Marian government intensified its prosecution of active Protestants, Bradford was examined on 29 January 1555 and proclaimed a heretic on the 30 January. He would be left in limbo for five months before his execution. This was due to his popularity amongst the Protestant population especially in the North of England. During this period the writ for his execution was withdrawn in February in the hope he would recant and convert to Catholicism, however Bradford continued to refuse. On 30 June 1555 he was returned to prison to await execution the next day. On the 1 July 1555 John Bradford was burned at the stake in Smithfield, along with John Leaf a younger Protestant prisoner. Bradford has been credited with the phrase ‘There but for the grace of God I go’
Above: Title page of Bradford’s Bible
Here at Chetham’s, we have some interesting items in our collection relating to John Bradford. For example, we have a bible that once belonged to him. The Bible is a quarto Vulgate, printed in Paris in 1552. As Bibles go, this is not particularly interesting or important, although has some rather attractive illustrations, not least some ninety-two woodcuts by Hans Holbein in the Old Testament. It might strike us as odd to find a Protestant reformer owning a Latin Bible, but the book is inscribed on the title page in Bradford’s neat and tiny hand and there are marginal notes by him throughout. The Bible was presented to Chetham’s in 1855 and has been used ever since as the Bible for all installations of the Bishops of Manchester.
In addition to the bible, we have one of the few existing portraits of the Manchester Martyr. Sadly the artist has not been identified. The painting was gifted to the library in 1684 by James Illingworth.
In our previous blog post, we mentioned our contribution to the Manchester City of Literature’s Festival of Libraries, a brand-new celebration of Greater Manchester’s 133 libraries. The festival was supported by Arts Council England and hosted a wide variety of digital content, and we’re all hoping that there will be a Libraries Festival next year too. The contributions we made are staying online on YouTube, and now the Festival organisers have also uploaded videos of the ‘Inspired by Libraries’ talks. For our talk, we were delighted to have musician and broadcaster Guy Garvey back in the Library (albeit virtually), in conversation with our Library Committee Chair, Professor Hannah Barker. They had fun exploring what drew them to libraries, and what kept them coming back:
There’s also a tour of the Library led by writer and library fan Rosie Garland:
Our own Visitor Services Co-ordinator, Siân-Louise Mason, tells you how it looks from our end in ‘Meet the Librarian’:
Our collaborations with artists and academics brought our ballad collection to life through song, including a very topical piece on vaccinations from the 19th Century. We also shared the fascinating story of a local furniture maker who became an expert in forgery and deceit. In addition to the adventures of a time-travelling 11-year-old, narrated here by young local reader Bella. The eerie absence of readers enforced by the pandemic was explored by artist Nick Thurston. For those of you who missed the series of online events, you can still bring the magic of the UK’s oldest public library into your home via our YouTube channel.
Here’s our tale of forgery and deceit revolving around Peter Lindfield’s research on Gothic furniture:
Peter has published widely on Georgian Gothic architecture and design broadly conceived, as well as heraldry and the relevance of heraldic arts to post-medieval English intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic culture. During the Gothic Manchester Festival 2019, Peter co-organised an event at Chetham’s Library titled ‘Faking Gothic Furniture’. This involved discussing the mysterious George Shaw (1810-76), a local Uppermill lad who developed an early interest in medieval architecture and heraldry, going on to create forgeries of Tudor and Elizabethan furniture for a number of high-profile individuals and institutions at the time, including Chetham’s!
Jennifer Reid brings our ballad collection to life through speech and song:
Jenn, the ‘Langley Linnet’, is a performer of 19th century Industrial Revolution broadside ballads and Lancashire dialect work songs. She has performed at the Venice Biennale, in New York for the Creative Time Summit, in Croatia for the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Brussels, in Switzerland and regularly in London, and of course the North West. Jennifer’s work is preserved in the Doc Rowe Archive and at the British Library, and she sits on the executive committee of the Society for the Study of Labour History.
If time travel is more up your street, you can follow Chetham’s Library and local publisher Seven Arches Publishing to celebrate ‘Atlanta Tully, Time Traveller the third in the Time Traveller series aimed at readers in the 8-12-year-old age range:
And why not immerse yourself in the many minutes of silence that public libraries are organised around in a short presentation featuring a sample of rough cuts from an artwork-in-the-making shot at Chetham’s during that liminal time between lockdown and the slow reawakening of cultural spaces. This piece was created by artist, writer, and editor Nick Thurston:
This June, Chetham’s Library will be taking part in the Festival of Libraries. This is the Manchester City of Literature’s first Festival of Libraries, a brand-new celebration of Greater Manchester’s 133 libraries. The festival, which is supported by Arts Council England, will feature an exciting programme that demonstrates what Manchester libraries have to offer, including areas such as: wellbeing, culture and creativity, digital and information services, and, of course, reading. Over 80 online events are taking place from Wednesday 9 – Sunday 13 June 2021.
The Festival of Libraries programme will take place in historically significant institutions as well as vital community libraries from Manchester. These include but are not limited to: Archives+, Central Library, Chetham’s Library, John Rylands Research Institute and Library, Manchester Poetry Library, NHS Libraries, The Portico Library, Working Class Movement Library, the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and Greater Manchester libraries (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan).
Above: A very topical ballad
Our contribution to the Festival will include: collaborations with artists and academics, who will bring our ballad collection to life through song, including a very topical piece on vaccinations from the 19th Century. Discover the fascinating story of a local man who became an expert in forgery and deceit. Hear the exciting adventures of a time-travelling 11-year-old, read by local children. Explore the eerie absence of readers enforced by the pandemic. This series of online events will bring the magic of the UK’s oldest public library into your home.
While we as Library staff are always pleased to welcome a new volume from the Chetham Society, which first met at the Library over 170 years ago, we are especially delighted to welcome our copy of A Bread and Cheese Bookseller, the fruit of a long collaboration between our late Librarian, Michael Powell, and his old friend and research colleague, Terry Wyke. It is poignant for us to consider how much Michael would have liked to be here to organise a launch event (we will have one and think of him when times are better), but we can rejoice in the appearance after a long gestation of a work which pays tribute to his scholarship and that of Terry.
Many of Weatherley’s papers, including the crucial account of his own life, are here at Chetham’s Library, and here Michael was able to carve out time away from his many other duties to begin to study this footsoldier of the Manchester booktrade, James Weatherley. Among the unexpected finds in his autobiographical account, Michael picked out and blogged this hitherto unnoticed nugget of evidence about the Peterloo Massacre:
‘The autobiography of James Weatherley, (1794?-1860), a bookseller of Manchester, contains an unpublished eye-witness account of Peterloo. In contrast to the official accounts, Weatherley saw the massacre in personal terms, attributing the main fault to the yeoman trumpeter Meager, who according to Weatherley first began the assault. He records that Meager ‘could never get rest in Manchester after this affair he was annoyed in every place and company in which he went he mostly carried a loaded pistol with him he would as soon shoot a man as a dog…’ Weatherley’s autobiography was acquired by Chetham’s at the sale of James Crossley’s library.’
Michael Powell and Terry Wyke, eds., A Bread and Cheese Bookseller: The Recollections of James Weatherley. Chetham Society, 2021, vol 55. £39.95.
Selling books on the streets of Manchester in the Industrial Revolution
There is no reason why we should ever have heard of James Weatherley. Like the vast majority of the poor who lived during the industrial revolution, he should have left only the smallest of footprints in the historical record. He was born in Salford workhouse in 1794 and, 66 years later, would have suffered the public shame of a pauper’s funeral had it not been for the kindness of friends. Weatherley lived in Manchester all of his life, spending many of those years selling second-hand books on the streets, close to the Exchange, on the appropriately named Pennyless Hill.
Shortly before his death he was persuaded to write an account of his life. The manuscript was acquired by Chetham’s Library in the 1880s where it has remained unopened and forgotten. It provides one of the very few first-hand accounts of an ordinary working man’s experiences of living through the industrial revolution.
Weatherley, who began working in the cotton factories when a child, was to witness Manchester transformed from a small market town into the ‘the city of tall chimneys’ – a place of extremes that appalled and fascinated observers. When trade was slack in the mills, Weatherley made money by selling Eccles cakes on the streets. Aged 17, he left the mill, having decided to make his living selling books on the street. It was to prove a hard and precarious life, but one which was to bring him into contact with the lower reaches of the book trade and its customers – the honest and dishonest.
Fortunately, Jem Weatherley was possessed of an exceptional memory, able to recall the details of not only those who had cheated him out of pennies but also those wider events such as the Peterloo Massacre and other protests that came to define Manchester’s history.
Weatherley is a unique voice. His recollections provide a view of history from the gutter rather than simply history from below.
This new volume edited by the late Michael Powell and Terry Wyke provides the full text of Weatherley’s manuscript.
Michael Powell, Librarian of Chetham’s Library, published on local history, the book trade and bibliography of the Manchester region. He was an active member and supporter of many local societies, including the Chetham Society and the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society. He died in 2019.
Terry Wyke taught social and economic history at Manchester Metropolitan University, retiring in 2016. His publications focus on the Manchester region including its bibliography, the cotton industry and public monuments. He was a founder editor of the Manchester Region History Review.
Michael Powell and Terry Wyke, eds., A Bread and Cheese Bookseller: The Recollections of James Weatherley. Chetham Society, 2021, vol 55. £39.95.
Most of us probably harbour an impression that with the accession of Charles II the age of the Puritan was over for good or ill. Theatres re-opened, Christmas was brought back, and Charles himself seems to represent a less than morally meticulous approach with his mistresses and well attested appetite for oranges. That impression is perhaps partial at best; his administration could be pretty exacting when it came to enforcing a suitably abstemious Lent, and the enforcement of other ‘fish days’. We visit a Proclamation of 1660 (see the whole thing here) to see if anything fishy was going on.
Charles II in one of the Library’s charters – not all banquets and Nell Gwynne
The motivation has a topical ring for 2021 in one aspect: the proclamation claims to be acting for the benefit of the fishing industry. ‘the encouragement of Fishermen to go the Seas for the taking of Fish’. There is a reason more strictly to do with Lenten observance: ‘all sorts of people have for many years last past taken up on them such a Liberty to kill, dress and eat Flesh in the Lent-season, and on other dayes and times prohibited, as now it is become so inveterate and evil, that it will require more than ordinary care to redress the same’.
The rot stops now seems to be the main theme, to bring about: ‘the Reformation of so great and growng an evil, which is so great an Enemy to the Plenty of this Our Kingdome.’ A ‘strict conformity’ to the ordinance is required. The potential financial penalties are serious enough, and rather than risk having to prosecute and raise fines after the event, ‘all Inholders, Keepers of Ordinary Tabels, Cooks, Butchers, Victuallers, Alehouse-keepers, and Taverners’ within London or Westminster will have to find two ‘Sureties’ prepared to put up twenty pounds each, and themselves put up forty-pound bond. Outside the capital, ten and twenty pound bonds are similarly to be put up.
The more jaded among you may wonder whether there is not some slight element of exchequer greed going on here; at best this seems a forced loan. The signs are small, but perhaps telling: ‘… the Principal in Forty pounds, and their Sureties in in Twenty pounds apiece to Our Use.’ The final two words may make youir average Inholder or Keeper of an Ordinary Table a little suspicious.
So no going out for a steak – what about a home cooked one?
It seems not, or not unless you can get the bishop to give you a dispensation, and even he is being told not to. You need to stick to fish or you’ll feel the weight of royal justice.
So, having understood all this and decided obedience is probably in your best interests, what about nipping out for a fish supper? It seems not.
The whole body of Inholders, keepers of Ordinary Tables, etc. are under pain of punishment ‘not to make any supper for any person or persons upon Friday nights, either in Lent or out of Lent’. Not frying tonight.
A good deal more follows; it seems an ill wind. It doesn’t even help the fishmongers, who might be expecting a price bonus for their goods as meat is off the menu. They are told in no uncertain terms that the Crown will be after them if they raise their prices.
In our Library newsletters recently we’ve been taking a look at items from the series of 101 Treasures in our collections, and today’s blog post, taking the minute book of the Albert Memorial Committee of Manchester as its starting point, will focus on the Albert Memorial in Albert Square and the Cromwell statue now in Wythenshawe. It will explore the history of the statues and the connection of these figures to Manchester.
A detail from the minute book of the Albert Memorial Committee, which was given to the Library by Colonel A.F. Maclure in 1924
Prince Albert was the husband and consort of Queen Victoria from their marriage on 10th February 1840 until his early death (possibly from typhoid fever) on 14th December 1861. Although the couple were initially unpopular in some circles, Albert went on to be remembered because of his public support for various humanitarian causes. His first public speech, in June 1840, was given to the Society for the Abolition of Slavery, he took an active interest in the reform of child labour, broadly supported free trade over the Corn Law interest, and supported the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes. While we might see many of these interventions as against the expected political neutrality of the royal family and entourage in our own age, the contrast with the Georges or William IV’s political approaches is striking. In addition, Albert was a patron of the arts, science, trade, and industry. His dedication to these areas culminated in the Great Exhibition of 1851 which drew public attention and appreciation to these areas both in England and abroad.
What is perhaps less well known is Albert’s specific connection to the city of Manchester. For example, in 1857 Albert firmly supported the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester. This was a display of fine art and photography held in Manchester and remains the largest art exhibition held in the UK. It attracted millions of visitors and went on to influence the display of numerous art collections in England. Albert and Queen Victoria lent the greatest number of art objects to the exhibition. Albert even travelled to Manchester to open the exhibition on 5 May. Following this, renowned sculptor Matthew Noble (1817-1876) donated a marble bust of the Prince to Manchester.
The Albert Monument in its entirety, with Worthington ‘s canopy and architectural framing in a photo prepared for the minute book
Albert remained a popular figure in Manchester until his death, when it was decided an appropriate memorial should be created in Mancheser to commemorate him. A practical memorial such as a hospital or a School of Art was initially considered. However, Thomas Goadsby, the Mayor of Manchester, offered to donate £500 to finance the creation of a statue of the prince on the condition that it be housed in a “proper temple” somewhere in the city. The rest was publicly funded which is a testament to Albert’s popularity in the area. Noble reprised his role as sculptor of the statue and Manchester architect Thomas Worthington created the enclosing shrine. The monument was completed in 1866.
Matthew Noble’s statue itself in close up
As well as being positive commemorations, monuments and statues can also prove controversial. This brings us to the second statue of the post which is that of Oliver Cromwell now located in Wythenshawe. There are some interesting parallels between the two statues. For example, Matthew Noble also created a bust of Oliver Cromwell at the same time as he sculpted the bust of Albert for the Exhibition of 1857. Noble was to put aside his work on the creation of a full-length statue of Cromwell in order to concentrate on completing the statue for the Albert Memorial.
During this period Oliver Cromwell was viewed as a champion of Public Reform by liberal radicals including Manchester railway king and free trader Edward Watkin. This opinion was shared by Manchester Mayor Thomas Goadsby, who supported the idea for his commemoration in the 1860s. Upon Goadsby’s death his widow Elizabeth would continue the petition for a statue. At the time societal views regarding Cromwell differed greatly. This division would be revealed once the statue was unveiled in 1875.
Cromwell’s statue prominently placed next to Manchester Cathedral (right of shot) and providing somewhere to sit while failing to impress Queen Victoria
Oliver Cromwell was the former Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland after the British Civil Wars (1642-1651). He came to power after the victory of the Parliamentarians and dissolution of the monarchy in 1649. Cromwell was a controversial figure, in part due to massacres of Royalist garrisons in Wexford and Drogheda during his final military campaigns in Ireland, continuing oppression in Ireland, and a regime of harsh public reforms at home. As a result, he has been a ‘marmite’ figure in history, seen by some as a champion of liberty and regarded as a seventeenth-century tyrant and butcher by others.
Cromwell had local as well as national significance as both symbol and historical figure. Manchester was besieged by Royalist forces under the future Lord Derby during the Civil War and became a successful parliamentarian stronghold, with Chetham’s Baronial Hall and buildings acting as a prison and munitions store.
When she visited Manchester, it was noted that Queen Victoria was less than impressed with the presence of the statue of her ancestor’s killer prominently and pointedly sited close to the west door of the Cathedral that she, as head of the Church of England, was bound to visit. Cromwell’s likeness was relocated – perhaps we might say exiled – in the 1980s to Wythenshawe Park whilst inner city developments were taking place. This was appropriate as Wythenshawe Hall was where Parliamentarian forces besieged a Royalist garrison under Robert Tatton in the winter of 1643. The monument still divides opinion today, and was recently sprayed with less than complimentary graffiti in September 2020.
Cromwell rusticated to Wythenshawe park, prior to informal re-captioning.
As the Christmas holidays approach, we might remember that if we had listened to Oliver there would be no holiday, no break and no celebrations either religious or secular.
Some of you will remember the recent blog post covering conservation and how we care for the books and library space. In this post we will be discussing our recent installation of conservation blinds within the library and the negative impact sunlight has on historical objects. We would also like to extend warm and heartfelt thanks to the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund whose generous support made it possible, among several other equally good things, for us to acquire and install the specialist conservation blinds.
The Fund and DCMS staff made it easy for us as an outfit with a very small staff to work with them, and were generally lovely. We’re also grateful to Mark Pearce of KPS architects, H. Lord & Son, Joiners, and Sun-X, all of whom worked with us to make the project a success under the tricky constraints of a 1420s, grade-one listed building!
The notoriously strong Manchester sunshine pouring in – nice for people, not for books
The installation of these blinds falls into the preventative conservation category as they help to prevent the damage to our books caused by sunlight. They are made from a material that allows visitors to still see out of the window but blocks harmful UV light. In conservation terms, the exposure of historic objects to sunlight is referred to as lux levels. Lux hours is the unit used to measure the time of exposure of objects to light. In the museum environment light sensitive objects have recommended light levels allocated to them. The highly sensitive objects which include paper and dyed leather is 50 LUX, whereas moderately sensitive items are allowed 200 Lux.
The library aims to keep light exposure for very light sensitive material to below 150,000 lux-hours per year and for less sensitive material to below 300,000 lux-hours per year. This equation is based on the average opening times of museums in the UK being 3000 hours per year, for example 50lux X 3000 hours = 150 000 lux hours. This is monitored and recorded through our light plan and hand-held Solex Digital Lux Meter.
A new Sun-X blind in place – UV greatly reduced, but the view still there
This brings us to the importance of our conservation blinds; these have been created with the express purpose of limiting lux levels within the heritage environment. The company used was SunX, whose products are created to National Trust specifications and are tailored to suit individual requirements. They are unique in that they are very discrete and do not impact on visitor experience once in place.
The blinds actually improve visibility of the building and collections by reducing glare
Due to the library being housed in a 15th century building, new panels had to be added to our window frames not only to hold the blinds securely, but more importantly to replace the nasty, black-painted hardboard that had been substituted some time in the 20th century for the original oak panels in the window heads. The City Council Conservation Officer mandated (as appropriate for a grade one listed building) that the hardboard had to be replaced with hand-made oak panels. Architect Mark worked with Lord and Son to get these made – as always in the medieval building, no two panels were quite the same!
Before – crumbling hardboard tacked over the medieval roof timbers and painted black
This involved a new panel for almost every window in the two wings of the Library, and great was the amount of dust and number of old birds’ nests that came down with the hardboard.
After – handmade oak panels match the few existing originals in the window-heads, and the panelling in the reveals
It has been a lot of work! However the results are virtually invisible, provide the gold standard in conservation care regarding light exposure and Lux Levels, and will improve the visitor experience by making it easier to see what’s on the Library’s shelves.