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Friday, 9 October 2009

The slums of Angel Meadow

I was very interested by a local news story on the BBC this morning, as I researched the subject for Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives.There was a report on the ongoing excavations of workers’ housing in the infamous Angel Meadow area of Manchester. Friedrich Engels explored its mean streets; he gave a vivid description of the horrors of the slum housing there in his Condition of the Working Classes in England. Ace reporter Angus Reach also visited Angel Meadow while reporting for the Morning Chronicle. In the filthy, overcrowded cellar dwellings, he found one man snoozing contentedly next to a large calf. One old man slept in a living grave; a hole had been scooped out of the bottom of the earthen cellar wall. It gave him just enough room to sleep; his face was barely two inches below the soil. His landlady said it was preferable to him sleeping on the streets.


Anonymous said...

I visited the site of the dig last summer when they held an open day. It was fascinating to actually see what remained of Angel Meadow.

It has become much more interesting to me since I have discovered my grear-great grandfather actually lived in Angel Meadow, in 1851, overlooking the graveyard that is now the urban park of Angel Meadow

Sue Wilkes said...

It is amazing that you have been able to trace your family tree so far back! It must have given you a real thrill to be inches away from where your ancestor lived.

Anonymous said...

It certainly did Sue, and still does when I go back. In fact I am quite pleased with myself for actually determining where Back Style Street was actually situated for my own satisfaction.

"Ah", you may say, "but the name gives it away". Well, yes, it does, but I had to prove it for myself. I could find no reference to it in the 1849 large scale Ordnace Survey Map. Obviously Style St itself was shown as a row of back-to-back houses, the rearmost fronting the old graveyard. Access to those houses appearing to be via a flight of steps from street level. The street not being named.

Gaulter's description of the 1833 cholera epidemic listed a case in Bk Style St. The location of the dwelling having an "open aspect". That seemed to clinch it; where else would there be an open aspect in Angel Meadow?

I have now received final proof. Having obtained a digitised copy of Adhead's map of 1851 (the same year the census showed my ancestors as living there), Back Style St is clearly marked on the map in the location I believed it to be.

Now what I really want to do is try and find out something of the history of the street, in a similar way to the way John St has been documented. Probably not an easy task, but an interesting one I'm sure.

Sue Wilkes said...

That sounds like a fascinating project! Forgive me if I am stating the obvious, but have you tried looking in the trade directories for the area for the 1840s and 1850s to see if your ancestors are mentioned?

Anonymous said...

I also visited the Angel Meadow site when it was being excavated in October 2010 just before they were almost ready to start re-filling in the exposed cellars and i am so glad i did. My great grandfather lived there as a beer retailer and my grandfather was born in Charter Street on the other side to the Charter Street Ragged School for Working Girls. It was a real thrill for me to walk in their footsteps. I took quite a few photos and wondered how on earth so many people could have managed to reside in such small spaces as those Courts!! No wonder there was such a lot of disease - poor people. There is a photo of Angel Meadow showing quite a few children on it and it broke my heart to see their little faces, so worried looking and small children holding even smaller babies. I myself was born in Hulme which once again was not the best of residential area, but we never suffered the terrible conditions those poor people did for which i am truly grateful. I have managed to trace my family tree in Manchester back to 1816 and i shall be looking for some of their names in the Trade directories, it may be my great grandfather being a victualler is mentioned. I do hope he wasnt a supplier to some of the 'Scuttlers' who frequented the area and caused mayhem!!

Sue Wilkes said...

How interesting! It sounds as if you are really enjoying tracing your ancestors' history. I think I have got a pic of Charter St Ragged school somewhere - if I can find it I will put it up on my blog tomorrow.