Angel Meadow PhD research

book

This week I started a PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester Centre for Regional History. The subject? Angel Meadow.

I’ll be studying the origins and persistence of the slum, and trying to find out more about the people who lived there. I’ll use this blog to publicise some of my findings as I go along.

The book is now a key text for students on the Manchester and the City course at MMU and is on sale at Blackwells bookshop on Oxford Road.

I have a couple of talks planned as well in the next few months. I’ll be at the Chorlton Book Festival in November and at Manchester Central Library early next year. Please keep following this blog for the latest updates.

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Angel Meadow scuttler wars mapped

Fearless gangs of street fighters known as scuttlers waged war on the streets of Angel Meadow in the last quarter of the 19th century and struck terror in the hearts of slum dwellers. Wearing pointed, brass-tipped clogs and using knives, iron pokers and heavy belt buckles as weapons, they prowled the slum looking for a fight. They included Henry Burgess, the most feared man in Angel Meadow, who attacked his enemies with paraffin lanterns, and James Gallagher, known to his foes as the Red King.

Discover more about some of their most violent outrages with this clickable map (best viewed from a desktop) and read about these incidents and more in my book, which is out now and available to buy direct from the publisher, Pen and Sword. It is also available from Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmiths, the Guardian bookshop. Click on the book cover below to visit my author page on Amazon.

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Hot off the press

A big day today after the first copies of Angel Meadow finally arrived, hot off the printing press. That strangely comforting smell of ink and newly-pressed paper is now wafting through the house and five boxes of books are sitting in the hallway, waiting to be picked up and read. It’s hard to believe I can finally flick through the pages of the book and that nearly four years work has come to an end. The book is now available to order via Amazon, Waterstones and direct from the publisher, Pen and Sword Books, from 28 February.

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Angel Meadow’s tobacco factory

Angel Meadow’s tobacco factory loomed large over the slum’s skyline and added a sickly sweetness to the toxic atmosphere. The factory was built by the Co-operative Wholesale Society in 1898 and made cigarettes and cigars from leaves imported from as far away as Borneo, Sumatra, Brazil and Cuba. The most prized workers were the cigar makers, who could roll tobacco leaves with the dexterity of classical pianists. But the factory employed no local people, with managers revealing in 1902 that their workers came from ‘better class districts’.

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Angel Meadow: Victorian Britain’s Most Savage Slum, the first history of Manchester’s Angel Meadow district, is set to be released on 28 February, 2016. Find out how to buy the book here.

Sharp Street Ragged School


Sharp Street Ragged School had an inauspicious start when it opened its doors in the 1850s. Youths threw stones through the school’s windows, left dead cats on the doorstep and attacked the teachers as they were walking down the street. It took the teachers five years to win over hearts and minds in the slum and soon they were providing classes to 400 children each week.

 

 

 

The Spy, 1893

The dreary wastes of Angel Meadow. Down Angel Street, with its pestiferous lodging houses, with its bawds and bullies, its thieves and beggars, one had need to visit such a place when the sun is high in the heavens. When night falls I had rather enter an enemy’s camp during the time of war than venture near such dens of infamy and wretchedness, but the poor live here and die here.

The Real Sherlock

Bob Horridge

I was lucky enough recently to be invited by BBC’s The One Show to appear in a short film about Jerome Caminada, Victorian Manchester’s most famous detective and a true-life inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Caminada’s life is the subject of a gripping book by Manchester author Angela Buckley, entitled The Real Sherlock Holmes. Caminada’s arch-enemy, his real-life Moriarty, was the Angel Meadow “cracksman” Bob Horridge, who was known throughout the land as a fearless armed robber and an expert safe-breaker. But did Caminada, like the fictional Sherlock, finally get his man? Watch the film here to find out.