Lunchtime seminar – February 3rd: Erin Beeston (University of Manchester)

CHSTMSeminar Erin Beeston

The goods depot, the library and the fair: negotiating institutions and crowds on the Camp Field, Manchester 1840-1880

This paper focuses on an area of Manchester known to contemporaries as The Camp Field and will demonstrate that this area was re-formed from an outside space, open to people and markets, to an indoor site of controlled consumption. This transformation was shaped by attitudes to the area harboured by Manchester’s civic elite. The space on the field was occupied by regular fairs, but also by protestors and was a popular meeting place located just above the Shipping Shed of Liverpool Road Railway Station. Liverpool Road Station had been a gateway to travellers into Manchester, which was turned over to goods transportation in 1844 with the opening of Victoria Station. The railway companies believed passengers would benefit by entering the town closer to the commercial centre of Manchester: The Exchange. The intermittent markets and annual fair at The Camp Field were not of interest to the businessmen and wealthy passengers on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Whilst passengers no longer travelled through the area, hundreds of railwaymen and warehousemen worked in the yards and warehouses of the station complex. Employees interacted with the local population, with some living on streets at the edge of the station. Across from the station stood the Hall of Science, a building used for lectures and meetings by Owenites and Chartists alike during the 1840s. This building was re-opened as Manchester’s first Free Public Library on 5 September 1852, an event marked by speeches celebrating the replacement of the socialist institution as an act ‘benefitting every class of our inhabitants’. Evidence from library officials show that the area around the library was perceived as rowdy with many ‘nuisances’ and ‘evils’. Two market halls opened on the field in 1878 and 1882 as a part of Deansgate Improvements, owing to the Markets Committee, which prevented people from gathering freely. Buying goods or seeing exhibits was now done indoors under the supervision of the market police. Contemporary perceptions of this intersection of people, ideas and things on the Camp Field over a forty year period will present new insights into the relationship between the goods depot, the library and the fair.


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