Edwardian Era (1900-1914 Life in Manchester/Salford UK)

As most of you know, I am somewhat obsessed with researching my family history.  My maternal ancestors were English, and my grandparents were born in Manchester during the Victorian Era.

I have been transporting myself back to 1900-1914 in Salford where they lived before immigrating to Canada, through Roy Bullock’s book that I purchased on Amazon. The book is a compilation of interesting newspaper articles. Reading these accounts helped me glean information about life in the late Victorian times to the early Edwardian era. Some of what I learn, I put in my books.

Salford, as a community, appeared to be a group of individuals who often celebrated, came together on social issues, (yet were often divided, too, with references to socialism), and suffered through unemployment, poverty, and smallpox during this era. Articles dated 1909 gave great insight into the economic climate before my grandparents left in 1910. The times were harsh and unemployment rampant. A lot of social unrest in marches and speeches are in a variety of clippings.

Throughout these times, though, my second great uncle’s business, Robert Holland, of brickmaking and construction continued to thrive. He had accumulated wealth, owned streets of property all around his home, and possessed an active business and political career as well.  Recently, I’ve connected with one of this great, great grandsons through ancestry searches, who has provided me wonderful pictures of him and one of his sons. His picture above was taken circa 1905.  The street picture below is that of East Great Cheetham Street in Higher Broughton where he lived in a large Victorian home he built in 1889 off to the right-hand side of the picture.

Reading the accounts during this time period fascinates me, and I hope you might find them of interest too.  Below are highlights from the first half of the book. There is also another volume from 1914-1920. There are so many wonderful insights into life during those years, that I would be rewriting the entire content, so I’ve only taken a few that I found entertaining. I hope you enjoy a glimpse of the past as reported by Salford newspapers, which is part of greater Manchester.

  • January 1901 – The news of the death of Queen Victoria brought much grief to the streets of Salford. Men scarcely restrained their heartache, while wives and mothers broke down in tears. (The love of country is evidenced in many articles.)
  • June 1901 – 6,000 men, women, and children gathered in Peel Park on Saturday under the respective temperance banners in a demonstration against the evil “drink.” It was reported that Salford people spent £18,000 a week on alcohol. The borough has 44,000 inhabited houses selling intoxicating liquors. (These meetings apparently occurred annually. I noted, though, as the years went on, the attendance dropped.)
  • July 1903 – 184 cases of smallpox in Salford were reported since the outbreak of the epidemic. (Epidemics of one type or another were not uncommon.)
  • December 1903 – Meeting of the Workhouse Visiting Committee had a complaint from a residence that her supply of snuff had been taken away from her.
    Apparently the “old women” were upset about the stoppage of snuff, and they regarded it as a “great hardship.” (Sorry, but I had to laugh at this one.)
  • October 1904 – Harry Houdini performed at the Regent Theatre to a packed house. (Apparently, on this trip, his tricks worked.)
  • January 1905 – While riding the trams, the following is prohibited: obscene or offensive language and swearing, gambling, collecting money, spitting, playing musical instruments, being intoxicated, wearing offensive clothing, smoking or carrying lighted pipes, cigarettes, or cigars, or traveling with an infectious disease. Fines are liable not to exceed 40/-. (Another chuckle. I wish they could post those signs on our modern Max system in Portland, Oregon. The tram around here could use more rules.)
  • July 1905 – King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited Salford to open Number 9 dock. (Big celebrationsThe street in Salford that my second great uncle lived on in Higher Broughton, Salford, during the Victorian and Edwardian era.!)
  • January 1906 – Kruger the Great Dane owned by P. J. Gorman of a Tavern Hope was credited with saving the lives of two children. Apparently, he saw them in the road in danger of being run over by passing vehicles and pulled them out of harm’s way. Gorman was offered a significant sum of money to sell the dog but refused. (Ah, resident pet at a business becomes a hero. He had a habit of running out in the street and saving kids by grabbing them by their clothes into safety. Good dog.)
  • January 1907 – It was reported that 4,140 persons (including 841 women) were arrested for the offense of drunkenness in 1906, compared to 3,855 the previous year. Of the 4,410, 2,248 were not residents of Salford. The high figure was blamed on the Manchester police officers on the Salford boundary, pushing the drunks over the boundary line telling them to leave Manchester and get into Salford. As a result, the Salford police ended up dealing with the drunks. (That one gave me a chuckle.)
  • May 1907 – Three men and one girl were charged for shouting out while selling newspapers. (I’ve always had this picture with papers in hand, caps on boys’ heads, with knickerbockers, yelling the headlines of the day. Apparently, in Salford, no yelling allowed.)
  • July 1907 – An earth tremor caused by the Pendleton Fault hit on Sunday. People fell out of beds, pots fell from shelves, doors and windows rattled, the ground shook beneath their feet. It lasted for a couple of minutes. (That is the last place I would have thought had earthquakes.)
  • August 1908 – The depression was beginning to be severely felt in Salford. Large employers reduced staff, and some firms closed down. (Sad news begins.)
  • September 1908 – 1,500 unemployed marched to Unwin Square. They thought it was ridiculous for the Salford Corporation to borrow £20,000 when three-quarters of the population had been left poor and needy. (A lot of unrest with the city government spending money on frivolous things with starving people on the streets.)
  • December 1908 – Mr. Ben Tillet, prospective socialist candidate, gave a speech about the right of every citizen to live. Human life was more important than possessions. “We have to tell the starving people that it is a crime, a murder, for them to die of starvation.” He suggested if this legal murder, as he called it, continued, he saw no unrighteousness in the poor rising up and cutting the throats of the rich. (Wow, I thought cutting the throats of the rich a bit harsh, but it goes to show the anger poverty can bring.)
  • January 1909 – At the end of 1908, there were more poor in the Salford Union than ever before. There were 1,700 in the workhouse. 858 in Hope Infirmary, 289 in cottage homes, and 3,407 receiving outdoor relief. 670 were being maintained in the county asylum.(Over 3,000 living homeless on the streets. Reminds me of the scripture, “The poor will always be with you,” (Mark 14:7), because where I live it’s a huge problem even today.)
  • March 1909 – The Woman’s Suffrage movement began to make headway in Salford. Meetings were held, but the society has no connection with militant tactics. (Well, I’m not sure that’s totally true, because I have come across subsequent articles of women being arrested.)
  • September 1909 – Boys selling newspapers on Sunday mornings were a nuisance. The constable was asked to do something about this “evil practice.” (Those evil kids!)

The question I always wanted to ask my grandparents – why did you leave England? – has been answered. Troublesome times gave people the incentive to look elsewhere for a better life. My grandfather and great grandfather came to Canada in 1910. A year later, my grandmother followed with their son and my grandfather’s two sisters. My great grandmother refused to leave England. She is buried in a pauper’s grave at Southern Cemetery in Manchester.


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