Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

A Portrait of Rural Life ... Including a Prize-Fight ; MEMORIES

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

A Portrait of Rural Life ... Including a Prize-Fight ; MEMORIES

Article excerpt

A new book on the history of Chorlton-cum-Hardy sets out to tell the story of a rural community in the early 19th century close to Manchester. Author Andrew Simpson gives us a taste ...

THERE is a rich collection of material about the history of the city during this period but little about the small townships which surrounded it. So while we have detailed descriptions about how the city grew, and the awful housing conditions many endured, those living just a few miles away in the farming villages have been overlooked.

And yet their stories are as important. Not only did they grow the food that fed the city but they reflected the diverse nature of a rural community.

Most earned a living from the land and still lived in wattle and daub cottages but there were a few rich families who had escaped from the noise and grime of the city to settle in what was regarded as a very pleasant spot. There was even a steady Sunday trade from Manchester out for a walk in the fields or a drink in the pubs and beer houses.

And what the book reveals is a how a close knit society dealt with the demands of rural life, ranging from seasonal unemployment, overcrowding and poor housing conditions and the lack of medical provision.

Along the way it dispels the myths that we were an isolated community, that illegitimacy was frowned upon or that we were a deeply conservative place.

So not only were there plenty of comings and goings, but in the lanes and pubs you could have heard the accents of people from all over the country.

And throughout this period, and stretching back into the 18th century, at least one woman a year baptised a child and was recorded as a single mother. Indeed in some years the figure was much higher. Like in other rural communities there seems to have been no shame attached.

But rural traditions survived, like the public humiliation of wrong doers which involved a gang of villagers turning up late at night and banging pots and pans, blowing whistles and shouting loudly to affirm the village's condemnation.

villagers turning up late at night and banging pots and pans, blowing whistles and shouting loudly to affirm the village's condemnation. …

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