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My North & South Anniversary 7/7. Fashionable Fanny

This is the last post in the series celebrating my North and South anniversary.

A huge Thank You to all of you who participated and celebrated with me ūüôā

In my previous post, I wrote about John Thornton – the magistrate.

Margaret’s concern on whether Fanny will fit in the drawing-room may be humourous, but not unfounded.

Like any self-respecting middle and upper-class lady of her time, Miss Thornton slavishly followed the fashion on her day.

The Industrial Revolution created new wealth for investors, industrialists, and merchants and introduced a new middle class.

This group was preoccupied with exhibiting their wealth in the most ostentatious manner.

The fabrics were luxurious and expensive, and the shape underlined that this was the ‘leisure class’.

This meant that men were wealthy enough, and could provide, for the females in their family. The fathers and husbands were the guardians of women.

The woman’s domain was the house, and upholding the social status within the community.

New urbanization filled cities with workers for the new mills and factories.

 Working-class women worked long hours in grim, dirty, and often dangerous conditions.

This dictated what they wore, and sharply contrasted the with ladies who did not have to seek employment.

The fashions of the Victorian period created an often exaggerated, ostentatious look.

 These consisted of a light corsets, gigantic hoop-skirts, and bustles.

In the 1850s, tapered skirts that flared at the waist were the height of fashion.

The new hour-glass figure grew to exaggerated proportions.

This was achieved with the use hoop-skirts (also known as cage crinolines, or cages).

Cage crinolines, which produced the huge, voluminous skirts, were made of flexible sprung steel rings suspended from fabric tape.

Early versions of hoop skirts reached the floor, but hemlines rose in the 1860’s.

Lace was very popular in this period.

Sleeves were often tight at the top, opening at the bottom in a bell-like shape.

Wearing such a voluminous skirt had its perils. It was difficult to sit down or walk through the door. Very often the skirts caught fire, and the poor fashionista would go up in flames.

The corsets damaged the skin and caused a difficulty in breathing.

Fanny’s hairstyle could also be seen as extremely fashionable for the early Victorian¬†era, with ringlets either in front of the ears, or carefully arranged at the back of the head.

Unless you are a lady of leisure, let’s be thankful that women’s fashion has changed so much!

I was wondering what Fanny would look like if she lived in the 21st century?

Would she be a party girl, ala Paris or Kim K?

She would have the means to wear designer clothes, and lead a jet-set lifestyle ūüôā

My North & South Anniversary 6/7. John Thornton, Manufacturer and Magistrate

You can read my post on Victorian wallpaper here.

John Thornton, master at Marlborough Mills, a prominent manufacturer, and a leader in the Milton community.

He is also the magistrate in Milton, which is  a great honour, and shows his importance.

No wonder Mrs. Thornton is so proud of her dashing son.

A magistrates court is a court that deals with smaller crimes like  minor assaults, breaches of the peace, drunk and disorderly conduct, vagrancy and minor poaching,  etc.

Victorian magistrates would generally deal with local cases, and if the cases dealt with are quite serious, they would be sent off to the high courts.

In Victorian times theft  was considered, even of the smallest amount, a more serious crime.

While prostitution was a summary offense, Victorians viewed it as the “great social evil” of the time as they struggled to deal with issues of poverty and deviance from the norm.

The magistrates sentencing powers was limited.

They would also hear more severe cases, then refer them to Crown court because the possible  sentence for being found guilty is higher than they can impose.

Local parish Constables were strictly limited by their immediate superiors, the magistrates.

In industrial cities, it was the successful middle-class manufacturers that were nominated for the post.

This meant a conflict of interests.

When workers wanted to state their grievances towards their master, it would be a fellow mill owners that judged the case.

Although we can assume that Thornton would be a fair judge, he also used his power to his own advantage.

By ruling that the death of Leonards was accidental, he saved Margaret from a further embarrassing inquiry.

This must have cost Mr. Thornoton a great deal, as he used his influence to protect the honour of the woman who had rejected him.

In truth, it shows that people of a certain class would act to protect one another.

Had Margaret not been present at the station, Thornton would have demanded a further investigation.

This is yet another reason why it’s good to be loved by John Thornton!

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 ‚Äúpainted, printed or stained to serve as hangings.‚ÄĚ

 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.

My North & South Anniversary 2/7. Dinning at the Thorntons

I am continuing on the celebratory  theme of  North & South, you can catch my previous post on life in Industrial Manchester here.

You are cordially invited to Mrs Thorntons annual dinner party!

Upon agreeing on the size of the party, and establishing the list of distinguished guests, invitations are sent out.

 None of the guests should be superior, and all should be from the same social circle.

The invitations, dispatched by a special messanger, will arrive roughly 10 to 12  days prior to the event.

Should the invitation be declined, a messanger is to be sent immediatly, stating the reason for the non-acceptance. This will allow the hostess to invite other guests to make up the party.

The number of men and women should be equal, as every gentleman is given charge of a lady of similar rank to accompany her into the dining room.

His role is also to ensure pleasant conversation during the meal.

Punctuality is key.

The guests are expected to arrive 10 minutes prior to the time stated on the invitation. Keeping the dinner, and other guests, waiting will be regarded as a serious offence.

First, the guests assemble in the parlour.

Then, in order of rank, each man escorts the lady into the dining room, which Mrs. Thornton  will have decorated with oppulence.

Ladies wear gloves at dinner parties, which they remove in the dining-room.

The aim of the dinner party is to impress the guests, and to flaunt the status of the hosts.

 This means bringing out the finest silver, china dishes, stemware, and table-cloth.

The hostess will place an emphasis on the setting, menu, food selection, social pairing of her guests.

The furniture should be arranged so it does not interfear with the guests view of one another.

A card are to be placed with the name of each guest, next to the plate, if their is  large number of guests.

The host should sit at the foot of the table, the hostess at the head.

The food is served in two possible ways: a la Francaise (meaning that the course is placed in front of the hostess, carved, and passed around) and a la

Russe (meaning that the already cut courses are brought to the table).

The topics of conversation at the table should be agreeing and pleasing.

Two topics are best avoided‚ÄĒ religion and politics.

The hostess who possesses tact will not discuss music or painting with persons who have no taste for either.

Finger bowls with a sliver of lemon in the water signal the end of the meal.

When all the guests have finished eating, the hostess will rise and move to the drawing-room, followed by her female guests.

The ladies retired to the drawing-room while the men linger in the dining room or retired to the library for cigars and port.

Be sure to thank your hostess by visiting her within the week.

As men are far to busy, other female family members should perform this duty.

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 ūüôā

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