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My North & South Anniversary 4/7. The Dying Man and the Industrial Machine

You can read about the Victorian wedding here.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the living conditions in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution were harsh.

The death rate was related to wealth, with the poor living the shortest.

There was a chronic lack of hygiene, minimal knowledge of sanitary care, and little awareness about how illnesses spread, let alone how to cure them.

Diseases such as cholera, typhoid and typhus were devastating to the population of the overcrowded city, and the bigger the population, the worse the problem got.

Accidents occured in many mills and factories, with fire and machine malfunction being a major cause of death.

Respiratory problems caused by pollution and working in cotton mills, as well lung diseases like TB contributed to te high death rate.

The working conditions were as atrocious as their living ones, and the workers diet was poor.

Malnutrition was seen as a cause of lower immunity, and therefore a cause of many illnesses.

Every time I watch North & South, the sight of those pig heads parked on the street make me shudder.

Then I noticed some more meat on the streets of Milton, when Mr. Thornton was passing by.

This time is was an unusual display of chickens hanging by their feel, no doubt waiting to be plucked.

The Manchester working-class were at the mercy of the food suppliers. Because of the sheer size of the population, the choice was limited.

Let’s remember that this was a time when canned goods were more expensive than fresh, and transporting perishable goods was a complicated process.

The mill masters and their families, like the Thorntons could afford expensive delicacies like fruit, but poor workers would often go hungry.

The average death age for a laborer was just 17.

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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