Practical and hardwearing, clogs were the work-a-day shoe of industrial Manchester’s women, children and men. What is unusual about this pair is that the children who wore them never owned them. They were lent by Charter Street Ragged School in Angel Meadow to children whose families could not afford to buy shoes. They are stamped ‘CSRS loaned, not to be pawned’, to stop poor children or their families pawning them for money.
The clogs were selected for the gallery to show the precarious lives of industrial Manchester’s workforce.
Workers could earn good wages in Manchester’s textile mills, but work was never guaranteed. Cotton shortages or low demand for cloth could shut the mills. Workers then had to go without wages. Many struggled to afford food, clothes and a place to live. So called ‘ragged’ schools like Charter Street in Angel Meadow, by the middle of the 19th century one of Manchester’s worst slum districts, provided food, clothing and basic education to Manchester’s poorest people.
Other new items added in to the gallery include a cotton gin that tells part of the devastating story of slavery and a host of colourful shipper’s tickets featuring exotic and unusual designs.
The gallery will paint a vivid picture of how cotton transformed Manchester into a city like nothing the world had ever seen before, populated by ingenious makers and determined profit seekers, spinning and weaving cloth to sell around the globe. In this sprawling, swarming, rain-soaked city of extreme wealth and poverty, the cotton industry reshaped the lives of Manchester people, creating a new kind of urban community.
As well as the new items, much-loved objects from the gallery’s current form, such as Richard Arkwright’s incredible Water Frame that revolutionised cotton production, will be redisplayed in a way that will increase visitors’ enjoyment, and the ever-popular Explainer shows among the working mill machinery have been updated to give an even deeper and more exciting insight into the birth of the industrial revolution.
The Textiles Gallery reopens on Saturday 21 July 2018. Admission is free.