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Daily Archives: July 5, 2012

My North & South Anniversary 1/7. A Revolution in Manchester

It’s been a year since I watched first North & South, and I’ve decided to celebrate!

The next couple of posts will be related to this mini-series.

It’s not like I haven’t written about it before, but I hope to mention a few things I have observed the many times I’ve re-watched it.

I’ll start by something a little more personal.

I was raised in Manchester, though I often joke with RA fans that it was Milton.

Of course, the post-industrial reality of my upbringing differed significantly from the one we could observe in the series.

It was this city where Marx and Engels cooked up the Communist Manifesto.

Manchester was also the original industrial city, leaving London far behind during the Industrial Revolution.

It become the largest centre of manufacturing in the world, a place where ambitious, people could make a fortune and make a name for themselves.

Chimneys and factories were larger and loomed over churches and palaces. The air was polluted, and the city was shroud in a cloud of smog.

The shocking rise in the industrialised society in the 19th c. were evident in the horrible conditions caused by the rapid and uncontrolled development.

Manchester was an example of what to avoid when industry in he United States started becoming more significant. The idea was for the US to remain a pastoral landscape, with farmers growing cotton, and leaving the filth of the industrial world to the British.

The masters of the mills built fine residences and libraries, but the workers conditions were dire. They lived in shacks scattered around the factories. Outbreaks of illnesses like cholera were common, and the death rate of infants was over 50%.

The death rate was connected to wealth.

The workers were weighed down by poor wages, impossibly long working hours, dangerous and unsanitary working conditions.  The working day lasted on average 14 hours, although without any laws restricting the  amount of hours, the mill masters that often forced their employees to work longer.

There was little or no health provisions.

Working class children played an important role in the economy of Manchester. As they were paid ten times less than adults, they were eagerly hired.

The youngest children were employed to crawl beneath machinery while still in operation.  They had to gather up loose cotton, and many died by getting caught up in machinery. Those who did survive to adulthood had permanent stoops or were crippled from the prolonged crouching.

There was little sympathy for the ‘under class’, as the attitudes tended to be laissez-faire.

Acquiring wealth was seen as a sign of virtue, therefore, the poor were bad, and the rich were good.

Through hard work one could be expected to be rewarded by an increase in wealth.  As much as the elderly and widows could expect aid, the unemployed were seen as lazy, and could expect no such help.

My experience of life in Manchester, over 100 years later, was of course different, although I do like looking through pictures from the Victorian times.


I was raised in a middle-class residential area of The Greater Manchester area called Northenden, which was mentioned as Norwordine in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Despite the urbanisation process of the 19th century, Northenden remained predominantly rural area, but later absorbing the overspill of  southern Manchester


I remember my childhood, like most do, in idyllic terms, with my primary school at the end of the road, garden parties at the Old Rectory (picture above), Bonfire Night fireworks, events at St. Wilfred’s Church.

These are very fond memories, indeed 🙂

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