Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The life of a street hawker

Imagine this...
...it’s 1870 and as a wealthy member of Manchester’s higher society you are strolling through the streets of Manchester, maybe after a trip to the Theatre Royal on Peter Street, when suddenly a small boy approaches you.

“Buy a newspaper sir?” he pleads.

Looking at him you can see he is barely over 8 years old. He’s small for his age after a lifetime of living in a crowded basement flat in Angel Meadow, rarely getting enough to eat and being largely neglected by his careless parents. Their only words are to tell him to not bother coming home until he has enough money to buy them their drink for the night. It’s coming up to midnight and the anxious look on his face tells you that tonight he has not achieved this…

Street hawkers

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Come and see us at the Manchester Histories Festival!

Are you interested in the history of Manchester? Want to know more about the many different organisations who contribute towards our understanding of our historic city? Then you have to be at this year’s Manchester Histories Festival 2012!


Following on from its successful event in 2009 the Manchester Histories Festival is gracing our doorstep again with the aims to “both celebrate the familiar and reveal the new and hidden histories from across Greater Manchester”. The festival runs from Friday 24th February to Sunday 4th March 2012 with a whole host of talks, walks and events on subjects that will interest everyone. Highlights include finding out more about your family history, participating in an archaeological dig or getting involved in a football debate.

Annual Bazaar, 1930s
The main ‘celebration day’ takes part on the 3rd March, largely centred around Manchester’s fabulous town hall. This will be bustling with displays from around 80 organisations, representing all sections of Manchester's diverse history and heritage.

It will be a fantastic day which the Together Trust is delighted to be participating in. Why not come along and find out more about us. You never know, we may be the missing link in your family history!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Update - A love letter from overseas

Sometimes it’s as if the world contrives to know the end of a story. A chance encounter on Ancestry today revealed what happened to William, whose story is told in the last blog written on the 14th February. Until the 20th February, Ancestry are allowing free access to their Canadian Vital Records, which is perfect for people like me wanting to know the end to a certain love story….

On the 21st June 1916 William got married. The marriage took place in Hastings, Ontario around 60km down the road from Bethany where he wrote his lovesick letter. So what was the name of his spouse on the marriage certificate? 


Ethel Hobart

So our young romantic did not end up with his childhood sweetheart. He did however marry an English girl who we hope made him very happy!

Case closed.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A love letter from overseas

“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Spoken by Lysander, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, Scene I, Line 134, William Shakespeare.

Emigration party

As it is Valentine’s Day I thought it apt to tell you a love story from within our archive. This isn't easy as many of the children who passed through our homes were young. Boys and girls were housed in separate buildings and interaction between sexes was few and far between.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Education, education, education...

“He who plants a tree does well; he who fells and saws it into planks does well; he who makes a bench of the planks does well; he who sitting on the bench, teaches a child, does better than the rest.” Dean Farrar (Manchester and Salford Boys' and Girls' Refuges and Homes, Annual Report, 1936, p26).

I found this in the archive the other day:

Reformatory and Refuge Union, Educational Inspector's Report, 1892

It is one of our earliest examples of the education system in place at the Boy’s Refuge at Strangeways. The original set up of the Refuge back in 1870 was to provide food and shelter for those boys found on the streets of Manchester. Within a few months however, it became apparent that education and training was also needed. In 1870 the Elementary Education Act had come into being setting the framework for schooling of all children aged between the 5 to 12 years in England and Wales, although it was not compulsory for children to attend school until 1880.

For the children in the Refuge Homes, those under the age of 12 received an education, whilst older children learnt a trade. From the archives it is know that by 1900 (if not earlier) all the children in the Homes were attending local elementary day schools, to give them a more ‘normal’ upbringing.

In the reading room, Central Refuge, Strangeways, 1904

In the nineteenth century however, the children were taught at the Refuge itself. As displayed on the above education report of 1892, the children received 27 hours of learning per week concentrating on the three Rs, Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. Education may have been mandatory by 1880 but it did not appear to be obligatory to have trained teachers.

The education was basic but it was enough to give the boys a start in life. Of course some say that children today are "still blighted by Dickensian-style illiteracy"[1] when leaving school, especially in the poorest areas of society. This is despite sustained technological and social advancements. Is it time to go back to basics?

[1] Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, taken from The Telegraph, February 7th 2012

Friday, 3 February 2012


Monday sees the start of National Apprenticeship Week, which takes place from 6th to 10th February 2012. National Apprenticeship Week aims to raise the profile of apprenticeships amongst employers, individuals, teachers, parents and the media. Of course Britain has a long history of apprenticeships, stretching back to the guilds of the Middle Ages. Here at the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and Homes the charity partook in the training of apprentices for many of the boys who came into the Refuge on Francis Street, Strangeways.

Carpentry department, Central Refuge, Strangeways