Showing posts from 2017

revising my attitude to Scarfolk

Following a brief twitter conversation with @langrabbie and @owenhatherley about an old blog post I wrote on here :, I'd like to revise what I said about Scarfolk, the fictional world invented by Richard Littler, 

At the time (Jan 2015), I complained that it was a little too obvious in its satire, and that it didn't seem to have a political purpose. What has happened since that date and today has made me rethink this - now, each new post by Littler is deliberately and often sharply political. And a few times, the news breaks and you're left thinking 'this is too bizarre/cruel/shocking, even for Scarfolk'.  

It's still perhaps not as perceptive and deep as the 'fakelore' of Hookland, but Scarfolk has indeed become much more relevant and topical.

York civic and election procession routes 1830s

Yorkshire Gazette, 29 July 1837 - York city election
York Herald, 24 June 1826 - Yorkshire county election
Yorkshire Gazette, 23 June 1838 - Coronation procession

report on my Luddite Lecture at Huddersfield, April 2017

Here's a lovely write-up of the lecture I gave at the University of Huddersfield as their annual Luddite Lecturer:

comparison of Goad's insurance map with Google Earth 3D

Manchester St Peter's Square, Goad's insurance map 1886, overlain on google earth with 3D buildings

comparison of Ancoats maps

lower bit of Great Ancoats, 1849, 1934 slum clearance, and today.

200th anniversary of the March of the Blanketeers

On Monday 10 March 1817, over five hundred men from Manchester and its surrounding towns met in St Peter’s Fields. Carrying blankets to sleep in at night, they set off to present a reform petition to the Prince Regent in London. The March of the Blanketeers evinced a bold determination to represent the grievances of the unrepresented, legally and directly, to the source of national power. The movement was the march, and the march was the movement.

The Manchester magistrates arrested the leaders on St Peter’s Fields, but not before about several hundred men had set off. About two hundred were arrested at Stockport bridge, but the postmaster of Macclesfield reported that multiple ‘groups of about twenty or thirty’ arrived in his town by four o’clock in the afternoon. That some got as far as Leek in Staffordshire, thirty miles from home, and one man apparently managed to reach London, was testimony to a belief in the connection their determination to defend the right to pe…

Field notes from a east-west walk of the radical sites of Manchester

Although I spent the last blog complaining of an over-emphasis on flaneurs and psychogeography, in effect I did a mini-derive across north Manchester last week. Hypocritical, I know...

Here are my field notes. I will develop these into a proper deep-mapping study of the sites over time soon.

My most important finding was that walking radially, east to west, across the spokes of the main roads that lead into the centre of Manchester, is not an obvious or natural direction. The sites are not far from each other, but feel isolated and definitely worlds apart. I'm still working out whether they would have felt so in the early 19th century.

Total distance: 2.4 miles/3.85km
Highest elevation 57m above sea level.

Started at Piccadilly, down Ducie Street, and down Great Ancoats, from warehouse conversions and the canal to some old-school post-industrial 80s pomo retail units. Very polluted road; I had to hold my scarf against my face to block the fumes. Masses of tightly packed new…

radical walking and the problem of the flaneur

On Friday 17 February, I gave the opening talk at the Radical Walking conference, part of the Radical Voices season at Senate House Library.

The audience were a good mix of academics, postgraduates and activists, including people from the Loiterers Resistance Movement group of Manchester and Croydon Modernist Society.

The speakers included the inspiring David Rosenberg of East End Walks , Michael Eades of the Bloomsbury in a Box project, and Blake Morris, discussing the Walking Library for Women project. These were the most activist and 'applied' projects of radical walking.

I and Rosenberg in particular spoke about why walking - using the eyes of history to examine the traces and parallels in the past - is an activist practice, and one connected directly with politically activist histories. Morris picked up on this also, observing how when on a walk of suffragette London, his group tried to find monuments to any women en route and failed to find any.

The other speakers focus…

3D mapping of the 1851 census

Here is a small extract of Lees Street, off Oldham Road, St George's District, Manchester, on the 1849 town plan and data from the 1851 census.
Green houses = born in Ireland
pink houses = born in Manchester

typologies of early 19th century processional routes

I'm back working on procession routes in the early 19th century. Here is a sneak peek of a typology I'm building, but I'll leave you guessing as to the towns mapped:

Sheffield Park Hill today and 1823

Layering old maps on Google Earth with the 3D buildings option on. Here's Park Hill, Sheffield, on a 1823 map

archives and manuscripts for sale on Ebay

Ever come across archives and manuscripts for sale on Ebay or other auction sites and thought, 'that should be publicly accessible to everyone rather than being sold privately and never seen again?'

I've set up a database of interesting items for sale which might become useful for historical research. It's:

I keep an eye out for anything interesting relating to my own research, and have realised that sellers and dealers on ebay have done us researchers a service - essentially digitising a whole load of archives that are unavailable publicly. So this site will hopefully help to collate a small fraction of them for future use.

I hope it will also mitigate against that impression researchers sometimes get when they've 'finished' looking through an archive at a record office or local studies library, and think that they've seen everything relating to a particular place or topic. One look at Ebay suggests that there's a hu…

Newport Chartist Convention 2016

The website has published some great photos of Newport Chartist Convention, which took place on 5 November 2016. It was a lovely day, with an inspiring set of speakers and activists, and wonderful to see the John Frost School with their choir singing Chartist songs. Thanks to the Head of the school, who made us all very welcome.