On Sunday 1 October, Robert Peston and the crew of ITV’s Peston on Sunday took over our historic 1830 Warehouse to broadcast the show live. Amid the deep political questions and issues raised by guests, social media users had another important question…
Why was nobody eating the croissants?
No, it had nothing to do with Brexit or the difficulties of eating elegantly on live television. On this occasion Peston and guests couldn’t eat their croissants because we had told them they simply weren’t allowed. The reason? Because crumbs are one of our conservation team’s worst nightmares.
The 1830 Warehouse is an incredibly important historic building—it was the world’s first railway warehouse, and is now a Grade I listed building. As such, it is important that the museum team looks after it for visitors to enjoy for decades to come. And that means that the phrase “Oh crumbs!” becomes a bit more sinister than you might ordinarily think. No matter how careful people are, crumbs that drop between the floorboards lead to the arrival of tiny pests such as beetles or clothes moths, and larger critters including mice and rats. These pests then attempt to make their homes in the fabric of the building, gnawing away at the woodwork, making holes in the original beams and scratching away at the 187-year-old brickwork. And eventually that can have a devastating effect on the structure.
Sticking to the same theme, we can also reveal that the coffee mug on Peston’s desk was completely empty. Bottled water only is allowed in the warehouse, as most other drinks contain sugar that will attract pests, or will leave a stain on the building if spilled. In fact, when we asked our Conservation and Collections Care Manager Rachel Rimmer what the biggest danger to our historic buildings was, she said that food and drink was second only to dust in the damage it can do.
Of course, food wasn’t always banned in the 1830 Warehouse. In its heyday, when it was still used for its original purpose it housed a huge variety of goods, from corn to cotton, oranges to flour, butter to shellfish. We know this because in our archives are two original stock books from the warehouse that provide a unique insight into the stock which passed through one of Manchester’s busiest goods depots. Nowadays, however, we’re afraid Peston and co couldn’t nibble so much as a croissant.