‘Something more than a tribute to the dead’: the story of Manchester’s cenotaph

It’s the 11th of November, 1920, and we’re in Albert Square, Manchester. Eleven o’ clock is approaching and the streets are packed. People have climbed onto the monuments in the square, they’re up on the roofs all around, and there are faces in every window. We’re standing next to a journalist from the Manchester Guardian … Continue reading ‘Something more than a tribute to the dead’: the story of Manchester’s cenotaph

Manchester, 1919: The centenary of Peterloo and the unfulfilled promise

23rd Manchester

In August 1919, the centenary of the Peterloo massacre focussed thoughts on the defence of principles and on how the lot of the average Mancunian had changed over the past 100 years. Its commemoration was also a high-profile event, providing a platform on which current grievances could be voiced. And, in 1919, many returned ex-servicemen  had good reason to feel aggrieved.

The golden age of “Cottonopolis” had been coming to an end in 1914; changes were already then making Manchester’s confidence creak. The First World War would exaggerate and speed up both the internal and external forces of change – so that the Manchester demobbed soldiers returned to was not the city of their childhood.

Over the course of the war, factories and warehouses had been turned over to munitions production. By 1917 Manchester was producing 2,000 4.5-inch shells per week. Engineering works shifted to manufacturing aircraft parts and dye…

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‘Honour the dead, remember the living’ – Peace Day and protest, 19th July 1919

23rd Manchester

With the treaty negotiations at Versailles finally complete and peace signed at the end of June 1919, a national celebration – ‘Peace Day’ – was fixed for the 19th of July 1919. Plans were announced to light a chain of bonfires down the country (nodding back to the beacons that were lit to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada on 19 July 1588) and a grand Victory Parade was being prepared for in London.

From the outset, though, there seems to have been some disquiet and confusion as to what ‘Peace Day’ was meant to represent – and whether it ought to be a jubilant celebration or a solemn commemoration. Its reporting in the Manchester papers reflects this ambiguity and the mixed enthusiasm for the project. ‘Anyone who goes outside his house and garden ought to be able to see by this time that the country as…

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“Lancashire will indeed be proud of them”

Bringing news of the Somme to Manchester, 1st July 1916 (and conveying it back again…)On the 1st of July 1916 Manchester newspapers carried exultant headlines. The Manchester Evening News reported that the British had broken into the enemy forward line over a distance of 20 miles, capturing many prisoners. ‘The public had for some days been led to … Continue reading “Lancashire will indeed be proud of them”