‘Manchester Heroes’. Contemporary print showing the Peterloo Massacre, courtesy Library of Congress.

Regency Manchester: Guest Post by Sue Wilkes

We are delighted to welcome back to our blog, author, Sue Wilkes. Sue is the author of several history and genealogy titles. Her latest book is Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors. As well as being an author, Sue, also hosts two great blogs which you might wish to check out – Sue Wilkes and  A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England.Tracing Your Manchester & Salford Ancestors: a guide for family & local historians by Sue Wilkes. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Manchester-Salford-Ancestors/dp/1473856353

Late Georgian Manchester was a buzzing hive of industry thanks to its canal and road links. People flocked to work in its textile factories. In about 1816, it took mail-coaches about thirty hours to travel from London to Manchester. But this was no provincial backwater; it had thriving religious and cultural institutions.

Interior of Manchester Collegiate Church. Gallery of Engravings, Vol. II, (Fisher, Son & Co., c.1845).
Interior of Manchester Collegiate Church. Gallery of Engravings, Vol. II, (Fisher, Son & Co., c.1845).

The Collegiate Church (later the Cathedral) was the town’s main place of worship. It was renowned for the mass baptisms and marriages which took place regularly there (because people had to pay extra fees if these ceremonies were carried out in other local churches). But other denominations had recently built their own places of worship. Roman Catholics had two chapels (Rook St, (1774) and Mulberry St (1794)). The Dissenters had had a chapel in Cross St since 1693 (nearly destroyed by a mob in the early 18th century), which had been extended in 1788.

The Methodists had a large chapel in Oldham St (mostly funded by William Brocklehurst), along with several other chapels in the area, including one at Gravel Lane in Salford. At this date Manchester only had a small Jewish population, who worshipped at the Synagogue in Long Millgate; they had a burial ground in Pendleton, near St Thomas’s Chapel.

The Infirmary, Dispensary, Lunatic Hospital and Asylum. J. Aston, A Picture of Manchester, c.1819. Courtesy Google Books.
The Infirmary, Dispensary, Lunatic Hospital and Asylum. J. Aston, A Picture of Manchester, c.1819. Courtesy Google Books.

The famous Literary and Philosophical Society (1781) met regularly at George St. Members had to be elected to the Society, which had a whopping 2-guinea entrance fee, and a guinea yearly membership fee. Its members included the famous scientist John Dalton. A News Room and Library (the Portico) opened in 1805; four years later, the New Exchange opened, where businessmen and merchants met to transact their business dealings.

The town had had a theatre since 1753 (possibly earlier), and stars from the London theatres regularly trod the boards here. The first Theatre Royal (in Spring Gardens) burned down in 1789; the new Theatre Royal opened in Fountain St in 1807, but like many other establishments, it was bedevilled by financial problems. By 1816 the Theatre Royal had ‘elegant saloons’ in the boxes (4s admission), or you could pay one shilling to sit in the gallery.

Regency gentlemen and belles graced the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms in Mosley Street, with its glittering chandeliers and mirrors. Dancers refreshed themselves in the elegant tea-room. Regular concerts were held at the Assembly Rooms.

The Sir Ralph Abercromby pub, believed to be the only surviving structure from the era of Peterloo close to the site of the massacre. © Sue Wilkes.
The Sir Ralph Abercromby pub, believed to be the only surviving structure from the era of Peterloo close to the site of the massacre. © Sue Wilkes.

Manchester was also home to many charities such as schools, Sunday schools, and hospitals. Did you know that Manchester had its own ‘spa’ at the end of the Infirmary Walks? Well-to-do locals could subscribe to the Public Baths supplied by a local spring; it cost half a guinea for a year’s subscription. Bathers could enjoy the Cold Bath, Hot or Vapour Bath, or the ‘Matlock or Buxton’ Bath.

St Ann’s Church, consecrated in 1712. © Sue Wilkes.
St Ann’s Church, consecrated in 1712. © Sue Wilkes.

But Manchester had its darker side. There was a recently built prison in Salford (the New Bailey), which opened in 1790 and replaced the former unsanitary House of Correction at Hunt’s Bank. Weaver Samuel Bamford and the orator Henry Hunt were imprisoned at the New Bailey following their arrest in 1819. They had been attending at a mass meeting at St Peter’s Field to campaign for parliamentary reform. Several people were killed when local magistrates sent yeomanry cavalry into the crowd to arrest Henry Hunt – the infamous ‘Peterloo massacre’.

Header Image:

‘Manchester Heroes’. Contemporary print showing the Peterloo Massacre, courtesy Library of Congress.

 

 

Fascinating gypsy genealogy resource

Following on from our last two blog posts looking at Queen Victoria’s connection with the Cooper gypsy family just a few short months before she became monarch, and the fact that we delve into Romany history in our latest book, we thought that today, instead of one of our regular blog posts, we would instead recommend a brilliant online resource for anyone interested in taking research into gypsy genealogy further.

Travelling Gypsies by Thomas Barker (1769-1847).
Travelling Gypsies by Thomas Barker (1769–1847) The Holburne Museum

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History follows two generations of the British royal family’s ancestors, charting their respective – and scandalous – love affairs and unions. The second of these two marriages was between a well-connected young Oxford University student (he was nephew and grandson to two successive Dukes of Portland, great-nephew to the Duke of Wellington and grandson to Marquess Wellesley) and a girl from humble working-class stock who had gypsy blood flowing through her veins.

We have spent many years researching certain Midlands gypsy families and this was how we first stumbled onto the story which sparked A Right Royal Scandal. For any of our readers who, like us, are interested in finding out more we recommend a fantastic site run by expert genealogists Eric Trudgill and Anne-Marie Ford.

Ibbetson, Julius Caesar; Gypsies with an Ass Race; Birmingham Museums Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/gypsies-with-an-ass-race-33357
Ibbetson, Julius Caesar; Gypsies with an Ass Race; Birmingham Museums Trust

Their site, ‘Gypsy Genealogy’, publishes at least two new articles on the first Monday of every month, and they are always full of information. Some give the history of a particular family while others give helpful tips on how to conduct your research for, as we have found, when researching gypsy families you often need to employ different methods to obtain results. So, we’d recommend bookmarking this fascinating resource and popping back to it regularly.

A Gypsy Encampment by William Shayer (c) Nottingham City Museums and Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A Gypsy Encampment by William Shayer
(c) Nottingham City Museums and Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Header image: Gypsy Encampment, 1795 by George Morland

 

Princess Victoria and the gypsies, part 2

We’re delighted that you have joined us for the second part of this post. So, following on from part 1 we have managed to tease out a whole list of names that Princess Victoria was given by the gypsies she met at Claremont, so we wanted to explore the family group in more detail to see if we could find out what became of them after their royal encounter.

Firstly, Princess Victoria confirms for us the family name – Cooper  – and that a baby was due to a member of the family very soon. She also told us when the child was born and that she hoped they would name the boy, Francis. The couple in question were Matthew and his wife Eliza (née Lee and aged around 20-years) and sure enough in the baptism register for Cobham appears the child’s entry for 1st January 1837; Francis, son of Matthew and Eliza Cooper, travelling gypsy.

 

Checking through the newspapers and almost a year later the story of Victoria meeting the gypsies had become somewhat distorted with the child that was born becoming a Walter rather than Francis! Contrary to the newspaper report, as far as we can tell the gypsies did not tell Victoria’s fortune!

windsor-and-eton-express-25-november-1837
Windsor and Eton Express 25 November 1837

We followed Francis’ life and he lived to a ripe old age, married Alice Ayers and had children, but remained true to his roots living in a tent/caravan for the majority of his life. Princess Victoria would have been delighted to have known that probably through her kindness he survived, despite living outdoors through many a cold winter.

Secondly, Victoria provided information and drawings for another member of the family – Sarah Cooper who had a child, George, but no husband with her. Sarah was baptized at Chalgrove in Oxfordshire on 28th July 1805, the daughter of Richard and Mary Cooper, ‘a gipsey by name‘.

Her son George was baptized on 4th April 1824 at Upton Grey in Hampshire, the son of Sarah Cooper ‘a travelling woman of Chargrove [sic] Oxfordshire‘. George was known to use White as a surname in later life, so possibly this was his father’s surname.

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Sarah Cooper. Courtesy of the Royal Collection.

Next we have Mary Cooper, who would have been born in the 1780s and was the wife of Richard/Henry Cooper (either the same man going by two different names, or possibly she successively partnered two brothers, something not unknown amongst these families) and pictured here as the matriarch.

She was mother of Sarah, Leonard, Nelson and Matty/Matthew, all of whom were camped at Claremont, and it was Matty’s wife Eliza who was due to give birth very soon. Matty would achieve renown as rat-catcher to Queen Victoria at Windsor; did the queen take a lifelong interest in this family, recognising him as the father of the baby who she had shown such an interest in?

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Mary Cooper dated Dec 31 1836. Courtesy of the Royal Collection.

We travel  back to the early 1800s to a couple born shortly after the turn of the century – Leonard Cooper and his future wife Phyllis (Philadelphia Smith). The couple lived as man and wife for some considerable time but finally tied the knot on April 20th 1851, Leonard named at his marriage as the son of Henry Cooper, a horse dealer and Philadelphia the daughter of John Smith, a rat catcher; a Caroline Smith was a witness. Leonard’s brother was Matty/Matthew Cooper, rat catcher.

Leonard and Phyllis travelled around Surrey and Berkshire selling their wares, so would have been well-known within those communities. The couple produced several children including Job, Nelson (named for Leonard’s brother), Diana and Thomas, who was a young babe in December 1836. As the children grew up they too married and began to travel around the same patch along with their families.

Job married Selina, Nelson married General Buckland; Diana married a Henry Hazard and Thomas, a Sarah Coleman in 1855 at Christchurch St Marylebone.

Gypsy families are notoriously difficult to find in census returns as they were either ignored by the officials collecting the information, or they themselves chose to remain ‘under the radar’ so either conveniently disappeared on census day or gave inaccurate information. It is quite common to find a group of people at the end of a census return who don’t know their name, age or place of birth!

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Phyllis Cooper and her son, Nelson. Courtesy of the Royal Collection.

Of the children in the picture below with Sarah we have been able to identify Nelson, Job and Dinah (Diana) as children of Leonard and Phyllis, and Britannia was the daughter of Leonard’s brother Nelson and his wife Isabella.

We’re sure that someone out there will be able to help us trace Emmeline and the possible Helen (could she possibly be Misella, another of Nelson and Isabella’s daughters?).

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Courtesy of the Royal Collection.

Misella was born c.1832, possibly in London, Britannia was baptized 13th January 1833 at Putney and in the June of 1835 the couple baptized a son, Dangerfield. The young Princess Victoria doesn’t name Isabella in her journals, but did meet her and noted that she had a baby; possibly this was the eighteen month old Dangerfield.

If you have enjoyed this, why not check out our book, A Right Royal Scandal, which shows how, but for a young Romany girl, our present day royal family might look very different indeed!

 

Sources:

Gypsy Genealogy

Header image: 

Visite à Claremont House, 1844 from the Government Art Collection.

 

Singleton, Henry; The Pastor's Fireside: The family of Sir Thomas Acland, 10th Bt, Being Read to by the Vicar of Silverton; National Trust, Killerton

An Infamous Mistress reviewed in Family Tree Magazine

Feb FT MagWe’re delighted to be featured in the February edition of Family Tree Magazine. As well as a great review of our new book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, we have also penned a genealogy article for them titled ‘The Truth Will Out’ showing how even the best documented facts can sometimes belie the true story.

There are also many other fascinating articles in the magazine, plus free access to selected records at The Genealogist, so please do check it out. Details on the February issue can be found by clicking here.

And for more details on An Infamous Mistress, head over to the Pen and Sword website.


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An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835