Welcome to the Angel Meadow Museum of Curiosities.
I was a long way down the path of writing my book when I started to seek out objects connected with Angel Meadow. In this new role as magpie-historian, I have gathered together a small collection of curiosities in the casual way of a beachcomber or a mudlark.
‘Artifacts’ is too strong a word for a collection that includes an old tobacco tin, some postcards, a few fragments of broken pottery and a key for a pocket watch. But this odd jumble of items has helped me to inch a little closer to the past and get a sense of Angel Meadow that was lacking from the history books. In this respect they have some value.
So, instead of putting them away to gather dust in a drawer, I thought I would exhibit them here so at least they can be enjoyed by others in a sort of virtual museum. I hope you enjoy visiting this museum of Angel Meadow curiosities and look forward to your feedback. Please sign the visitor’s book below – and don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave.
The CWS tobacco factory opened in Ludgate Hill in 1898. Eight people could produced 3,500 packets of cigarettes an hour. The factory’s most-prized workers were its cigar makers, whose nimble fingers could wrap and roll tobacco with the dexterity of classical pianists. Managers preferred to employ people from better class districts. This tin from the factory, which was made in around 1910, still has a strong whiff of tobacco.
This is a pocket watch key made by B Cramer jeweller and watch “factor” of Stocks Street, Red Bank, which was across the River Irk from Angel Meadow. Red Bank was home to Manchester’s Jewish community, whose businesses included jewellery shops and watchmaking. Watch keys, which were used for winding up pocket watches, acted as portable advertisements for the firms.
Death’s head clay pipe
Dozens of clay pipes such as this were discovered by archaeologists who have carried out a number of digs in Angel Meadow to find out about life in the Victorian slum. Mill workers smoked the broken stems of clay pipes like cigarettes and they became known as “nose warmers”. Clay pipes were also known as dhudeens, from the Irish Gaelic duidin. This pipe smells strongly of tobacco.
These broken shards of pottery from spoil heaps in Angel Meadow are worthless now, but once had an intrinsic value to the slum dwellers who owned them. They were once cups and plates – everyday objects that Victorian Mancunians touched and held in their hands as they sat in their homes or in the slum’s lodging houses. Perhaps more than other objects here, they tell a story of domestic life in Angel Meadow.