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Tag Archives: Manchester

Do the Thornton’s Own or Rent?

Every time I’ve seen North and South, I’ve always wondered about the following thing, and I was hoping we could get to the bottom of it.

Marlborough Mills is owned by Mr Bell and is then passed on to Margaret Hale.

The Thornton’s are renting out the property from the landlord.

We know the machines inside the mill are the property of John Thornton, as he has trouble paying them off.

The thing I’ve wondered about is the house.

We know it’s a place Mrs Thornton is very proud of.

It’s located next to the mill, therefore it would logically be part of Bell’s property.

Not many mill owners would invest their money in a home so close to an industrial area, often settling on the outskirts of a city.

When bad things start happening to John, he asks his mother to not be too upset about losing the house.

My question is:

Do you think the Thornton’s built the house, or was it part of the mill?

Could Mrs Thornton could be sad about losing the house because of the effort put into the decoration and the need to downsize, or  maybe because they are losing ownership of it?

Tell me what you think 🙂

My North & South Anniversary 5/7. Wallpapering Milton

I’m still celebrating my 1st N&S Anniversary. In my previous post I talked about death in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution.

What is it about wallpaper that upset the Hale ladies so?

Why focus on the walls when you find yourself in a strange place, so far from the home you loved, in a sub par dwelling?

Wallpaper popularity saw an increased in Elizabethan England, although its history dates back to the Medieval times, when patterns were painted on walls, and woven tapestries were attached to the walls of churches and castles.

 It offered protection against dampness, and hid the smoke stains from the fireplace.

It also provided a decorative element and enhanced the room’s interior.

By the early 1700s, wallpaper became so popular, a tax was introduced an any paper “painted, printed or stained to serve as hangings.”

 The industry continued to grow with the rise in popularity, and the development of a printing machine in 1839 that allowed for the printing of endless lengths of paper.

The Manchester Exhibitions of 1849 added to their popularity, and there was an entire wallpaper section at Great Exhibition 1851, showcasing an overwhelming variety of design, probably much to Fanny Thornton’s delight.

Wallpaper could display new-found interests, especially those connected to newly discovered cultures within the British Empire.

They were also a reflection of prosperity and status.

Fashion dictated that a bare room reveals poor taste.

During the Victorian era, wallpapers fell into two classes: simple, meaning repeated geometric patterns; and complicated, which would consist of flowers, vases, shields.

 Many appeared three-dimensional.

A standard Victorian parlour would be full of ornamented furniture, with knickknacks cluttering the surfaces.

The wallpaper meant to embellish this design, and to imitate fabrics, drapery, and architectural mouldings.


Others were to give the impression of marble, wood grain, leather or damask.

Mrs. Hale and Margaret chose a paper that most resembled the one at Helston. As we know, almost, but not quite.

It would stand to reason that Milton taste would differ from that of the south.

 As Fanny states, the fashion is the same, although it arrives in Milton delayed.

 John Thornton concludes: “On behalf of Milton taste, I’m glad we almost past muster”.

The paper chosen by the Hale family depicts a floral pattern on a beige background.

It would have been a point of honour for the Hale ladies to entertain their guests in an environment that reflected their status and social standing.

For more on the history of wallpaper, visit the V&A page

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 3/7. Fanny Thornton’s Big Day

This post is part of a series of loose thoughts on N&S to celebrate my 1st anniversary.

You can read about the Thorntons dinner party here.

Fanny Thornton had been preparing for her wedding to Watson with zeal, buying out most of the shop stock.

She was a huge strain on the Thornton budget, and it came at a very bad time, but having someone else take responsibility for her was a relief.

Undoubtedly, her choice of dress would have been dictated by the fashion of the time. Most middle and upper-class brides copied the style of Queen Victoria.

In the 1840s white was a very expensive fabric and colour, so only the wealthiest brides could afford it. They also wore Honiton lace.

During the Industrial Revolution, many hand-made products, like lace, started being machine-made.

 This caused many skilled labourers to become unemployed. The choice of lace as part of her wedding dress was not accidental.

Victoria’s wedding dress was made of a single piece of handmade Honiton lace.

By the 1850s and 60s, the trend for white wedding dresses had spread, and it had become conventionalized.

Prior to Queen Victoria’s white dress, most upper-class brides wore silver or metallic fabrics.

They were extremely expensive, and served as a reminder of the wealth of the family.

Victoria was not just a royal bride, a princes or Queen Consort when she married.

She was Queen, and as the leader of her country, she felt she needed to make a statement as the leader of an empire. It wasn’t her wealth or beauty that was to be displayed, but rather her duty to her kingdom.

Therefore, instead of flaunting her wealth in a gold or silver dress, she decided to wear a white gown, with the exquisite lace decoration, to show her support for the British industry.

Many believe that the bride wearing white as a sign of virginity and purity didn’t come into play until the mid 20th century.

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