Collecting History is History

The physical exhibition is no more and the collection has been dispersed but this blog will stay as a lasting document of the project. What we found here also lives on in the next string of events at Manchester Craft & Design Centre as they continue to celebrate their 30th year, starting with Crafting History and sampler-cultureclash on 14th July 2012, read about all the events on the MCDC website here.

A sincere thank you to everyone who has contributed to Collecting History, it’s been awe inspiring just how many leads and fantastic stories I have managed to discover in eight weeks. Thank you and adieu.

Transfer, Refsnart

John Gibbons kindly came into MCDC to talk to Dena the exhibitions officer and dropped off these photos of the stand he shared with his mother up until the retail fish market closed and they relocated elsewhere. I am still catching up with his tales of the fish market as it was but one of the most striking ideas included the language of the market traders where they spoke backwards to one another to disguise their discussions.. You can read more about the Gibbon’s stall in this post.

A scan of Ellen Gibbon’s sales ledger from 1935

John Gibbons

Custom Made

Anne from RA Studio shared these detailed order sheets from some of the special commissions she’s taken on over the years. The relationship between the customer and the maker is often collaborative in situations like this, with customers bringing ideas and personal feedback to the maker who facilitates the scope of creation in order to make these ideas a reality. The top sheet was a tardis ring for a US customer and one of her most memorable personal commissions involved having an After Eight mint (with a bite taken out of it) cast in sterling silver, mounted with an emerald for a pendant.

The Resident Craft Cow, Mods and Rockers

Submitted by Amy Wilkinson, from studio 1 via email:
I miss our resident craft cow! He used to be in the garden at the front of the building. From the Manchester cow parade. I think he was left behind? I love this picture of him in the snow, it really brought out his colours! (I think he is a he?!)
Amy also sent in a photo of a mod invasion from 2009 which reminded me of another photo I’d picked up of some of the vintage cars at a Teddy Boy meet on the other side of MCDC in 2011. The Northern Quarter certainly attracts a diverse group of people with a common yearning for the values and aesthetics of the past, be it vintage or subculture fashion, craft beers and real ales. Investing in hand crafted objects fits into this landscape with customers, visitors, tenants and staff all investing in the valuable emotional and historic connection made between maker and product, item and owner.




By that time the market had been there since the late 18th Century.   It is seen on the OS map of 1844 although it appears that at that time it was mostly an outdoor market.

David Boardman of Manchester History kindly allowed me share these two maps showing the layout of Smithfield Market which you can see, along with many more fascinating images over here. I think they really give a sense of scale and, bearing in mind the current market hall that MCDC inhabits was twice as long, provide a poignant reminder of how much has gone.

Visitor Comments






Collecting History finishes next week so if you have a story to contribute you have one more week to get it in! Thank you to all the people who have talked to me and left their stories on the blog and in the exhibition space. The exhibition ends Saturday 30th June at 5.30 and we have audio interviews to listen to, pictures of the Northern Quarter past and present, and fascinating snippets left behind by tenants, customers, local residents and visitors. This blog will continue to exist and the history collected informs the next exhibition at Manchester Craft & Design Centre. Crafting History runs from 14th July – 10th November 2012, read all about it here.

Children of Drowned Fishermen

Another gem from Eddie Cartwright’s research, kindly transcribed by Kaylee at MCDC:
On the 10th October 1891 the first ever “Lifeboat Saturday” was held in Manchester, passing through the Fish Market. The worst ever lifeboat disaster occured in 1886, when The Mexico struck a sandbank in rough sea. Three lifeboats reached the scene, and a total of 27 lifeboatmen lost their lives helping others at sea. A fund was set up shortly after to help the victims of this disaster, which raised a total of £50,000. Soon after this a Lancashire Businessman recognised that the RNLI should not only receive money for disasters, but instead deserved annual support. He became the creator of Manchester’s Lifeboat Saturday, which attracted 30,000 people.
The fund-raising parade featured orphans of the drowned fishermen and helped the city’s RNLI to raise their annual contribution from £200 to £5,500. Its founder, Sir Charles Macara, wanted funds to not be solely dependent on wealthy investors but funding should come from “the streets” too. Following this 1891 parade Lifeboat Saturdays became hugely popular, continuing to this day under the name of “Flag Day”.