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Manchester's Victorian underworld

Explore a nightmarish world of squalor and strife in this guided walking tour

Published on August 13th 2008.


Manchester's Victorian underworld

If you think Manchester was dark and depressing in the 1980s, be thankful you weren't around a hundred years earlier. While wealthy merchants were financing the construction of some of our most impressive buildings, and commentators were awed by the rapid growth of Cottonopolis, life for many citizens was far from pleasant. In this walking tour led by Blue Badge Guide Jean Bailo, the grim underbelly of Victorian Manchester is revealed in all its disease-ridden, laudanum-swigging glory.

Mothers who could afford to keep their babies but had to work long factory shifts kept the little ones quiet by spooning them Godfrey's Cordial – a soporific mixture of molasses and laudanum.

The walk's first stop is in Ancoats, which was once at the centre of the factory district. This area was home to some 7,000 people who just about scraped a living until the land was taken over to form a mass grave. Located adjacent to St Michael and All Angels church, this was the resting place for people who couldn't afford a proper funeral.

Next to the church is Angel Meadow, which sounds like a lovely place to live but was in reality an overcrowded, rat-ridden slum. Friedrich Engels wrote about it in his exposé of working class poverty, The Condition of the Working Class in England, and scenes from Charles Dickens's Hard Times could easily have taken place here. 'Ragged Schools' which took in abandoned children flourished in the area.

Mothers who could afford to keep their babies but had to work long factory shifts kept the little ones quiet by spooning them Godfrey's Cordial – a soporific mixture of molasses and laudanum.

The walk eventually ends up at the Police Museum on Newton Street. Here you'll hear tales of Manchester's own Sherlock Holmes, Jerome Caminada, who pursued those pushed by destitution into wrong-doing. With stories of harsh punishments and desperate crimes, this will be a suitably informative end to what looks like a fascinating tour.

To go on the tour, meet on the steps of the CIS building on Miller Street at 11am on Tuesday 26 August. Tickets cost £5. Call 07812129754 for more information.

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EditorialAugust 13th 2008.

Dear Pedant, dead right (literally), we've changed it.

Thoroughbred MancAugust 13th 2008.

Fabulous, I'm definitely going.

PedantAugust 13th 2008.

I believe Angel only had one meadow

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