Season 2021 - 2022
- 20th September: David Skillen - 'Bentley Boys'
- 18th October: Andy Smith - 'Living & working in Antartica'
- 15th November: Andrew Simcock - 'The story of the Pankhurst Statue'
- 13th December: Craig Wright - 'A History of Rose Hill Station'
- 17th January: Frank Pleszak - 'Second World War bombing of New Mills and Hayfield'
- 21st February: David Kitching - 'The history of Norbury Colliery'
- 21st March: Anthony Burton - 'Marple 1870-1930: 'A Favourite and Ideal Holiday Resort '
- 25thApril: AGM & Prof. Hannah Barker - History through objects: what samplers, books and ceramics can tell us about the past’
Hannah is chair of Manchester Histories, a charity based at the University of Manchester which works with people and groups in the Greater Manchester area on history and heritage projects. Hannah acts as a feoffee at Chetham's and as a member of the Chetham's Library committee, as well as being Historical Advisor for the National Trust at Quarry Bank Mill.
History through an Object:
Pink kid slippers over white kid and linen, 1800-1810:
copyright Manchester City Galleries
These slippers, from 1800-1810, were no doubt much finer than Quarry Bank’s child workers could afford, but they give an idea of the type of footwear that constituted a slipper in the early nineteenth century, and which were a world away from the sort of clogs that the children would have worn to protect their feet at other times.
There’s no denying that life was hard in the mills. Twelve hour days and six days a week was a hard régime but it did have some lighter breaks as Anthony Burton described in his thoroughly researched talk about Marple as “a favourite and ideal holiday resort” - not Anthony’s words but a description from a contemporary newspaper. So why was “Stockport’s Vale of Tempe” (another extravagant and somewhat fanciful comparison) the destination of choice in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century?
Norbury Colliery was full of surprises as David Kitching explained in his popular talk. With many more visitors than usual, it obviously attracted a wider audience from our area, not just the history buffs.
So what were the surprises? For a start Norbury Colliery was a lot older than we had thought. The first record dates from 1704 so coal was being mined here in the seventeenth century. It was also much bigger than it appears today. Now it is on one site, around Jackson’s Dairies, but in its prime there were three separate collieries. As well as the one we know at Norbury there was also one adjacent to the old High Lane station, just off the A6 on the Middlewood Way and a third colliery at Middlewood itself. Finally, we discovered that these collieries had their very own canal and very own railway, albeit not a very big canal and only a short-lived railway.
There cannot have been many occasions when the Methodist Church in Marple displayed two large swastikas on either side of the chancel, but our January meeting was one of them. Admittedly, they were only there momentarily as one of the illustrations for Frank Pleszak’s talk about the bombing of New Mills but they brought to life a largely forgotten incident which happened almost eighty years ago.
Frank started his talk by emphasising that, despite his name, he is a born and bred Mancunian. His father was Polish so, as a slight diversion, he very briefly related his father’s adventures in getting to England from a village in what is now Belarus. When the Russians invaded he was imprisoned in a Siberian gulag about as far from Europe as it’s possible to get but despite that he managed to make his way to Europe to fight with the Polish forces in Italy. A fascinating tale but if we want to know more we will have to go to another of Frank’s talks or buy his book. (Details on Frank’s blog. link )
It rained all day and, as evening approached it rained even more. Nevertheless, a hard core of history buffs together with some railway enthusiasts as guests, made up an audience of over seventy people to listen to Craig Wright talk about Rose Hill station. An impressive turnout in the middle of a pandemic. First, he had to prove his credentials to a dedicated audience. Craig comes from a family that has been involved in railways from his 2x great grandfather onwards. The progenitor of the tradition was originally an agricultural labourer who had recognised the tide of history, left his job and walked to Derby where he got a job with the growth industry of that era. He rose as the railways grew and finished his career as a station master.[click Derby Station 1906]
Rose Hill Station, Santa is on his way (click on image to see the 1954 station)
The November talk was the story of a statue. Not just any statue but the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, the iconic figure symbolising the fight for universal suffrage. And how fitting that she should be commemorated in Manchester, the city of her birth. Andrew Simcock took us through the various stages from conception to completion after introducing himself as a Manchester councillor for Didsbury East.
Andy Smith began his talk on Antarctica by listing some superlatives for the seventh continent; perhaps we should examine some of them:
No dispute there. The average temperature at Halley Research Station is -6.6⁰C - and that’s in summer! In winter the average is a chilly -28⁰C. And Halley Research Station is on the coast. If you want to know inland temperatures they would typically be -20⁰C in summer and, in winter, a bracing -60⁰C.
It is always a little tense preparing for the first meeting of the year. Have we forgotten anything after a three month break? Will the new season be as good as last year? Will there be as many members? And the first meeting of the year this time was different from usual. It was the first meeting after eighteen months, not just three months. To cap it all we had a subject that was rather different from the usual programme - The Bentley Boys. Yes, it was history. It was a story of the Jazz Age, the Roaring Twenties, when “Anything Goes”. Would our members be interested in this aspect of history?