Last summer my daughter and I spent a day in Manchester with my good friend Julie. While we were there I wanted to have a look at the street where my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Percival, was born.
She married Frederick Farnsworth, a warehouseman, in February 1878, but was widowed in June of the same year. Frederick died of meningitis and typhoid which was endemic in the area.
Sarah married my great-great-grandfather, Robert, see here, in May 1880, and moved to Nottingham, where they had five sons.
I knew she’d had a difficult start in life, her father had spent time in the Union Workhouse, but a quick bit of on line research revealed the dreadful conditions she was born into.
What’s left of Holbrook Street is now behind the Lass O’Gowrie pub on Charles Street, leading to an NCP car park on one side and the River Medlock on the other.
In 1854, the District Medical Officer, John Hatton, delivered a public lecture on the sanitary condition of Chorlton-Under-Medlock. He draws attention to the poor housing and over-crowding; mentioning James Kerrigan occupying the cellar of, “8, Holbrook-street. Only one dwelling room, twelve persons sleeping therein; the back place filled with (wood) chips, and the front, in addition to the twelve people domiciled, crowded with clothes hung out to dry.”
Hatton adds; “Although this list of overcrowded houses bears sufficient testimony to the distressing extent to which this system is carried, even in this township, it is nothing when compared with some parts of Manchester. The immense moral evils, the utter neglect of the ordinary decencies of life, which is occasioned by the indiscriminate intermixture of the sexes, blunts all feelings of modesty, and quite undermines those of morality. I shall be able presently to prove that these dens of misery are redolent with fevers, cholera, and all manner of diseases. The ventilation of these over-crowded and back to back houses,
would most appropriately be introduced here; but as there is a subcommittee, appointed by the Sanitary Association, to inquire especially into this subject, it is unnecessary for me to occupy your time, but I cannot pass over the matter without remarking, that if this overcrowding of dwellings were done away with, the condition of the poor would be ameliorated, and a great hot-bed of infection entirely removed.”
The whole lecture can be read here.
Just to make things worse – the family lived next to Manchester’s oldest ‘pissotiere’, which is exactly what the name suggests!