History About to Be Lost: Hard Times (After World War 2)

Your bad blogger is trying to get into gear again.   When was my last post, Dear Reader?  5 January.  5 January?  Some bloggers are at it every day… posting, that is.  I’d like to share with you some more ‘History About to Be Lost’.

Everybody is aware that life in the Lancashire cotton mills was tough during the mid-nineteenth century, when Charles Dickens was writing ‘Hard Times’ and Elizabeth Gaskell ‘North and South’.  Maybe you ‘did’ the Industrial Revolution at school, but I try to find the little things that won’t appear in the history books, the sorts of details you would definitely need if you were writing a historical novel.   Last week I was talking to my friend a week or so ago about life in Lancashire immediately after World War 2.

manchester-cotton-mill-in-1820_300A mother of three daughters – aged eight, five and eighteen months – loses her husband in the late 1940s.   She lived in a terraced house, on a street of terraced houses, cheek by jowl with her neighbours – this is important.   With a widow’s pension of only 15 shillings per week, she had no alternative but to go out to work at the local mill; this involves leaving the house at 7am and returning early evening.  In the mornings, a neighbour helped the daughters get up and make breakfast, then the girls walked to school together, dropping the youngest off at the childminder’s on their way.  At going-home time, they let themselves into their house and looked after themselves until their mother returns.  No harm came to them, because the neighbours always kept a watchful eye on them.   My friend refers to her neighbours as ‘aunties’, but they were more than that to her and her family.

Occasionally, the mill put the mother on short-time working, reducing her tight income further.  The neighbours got together to make large hot pots, some families contributing the meat, some the vegetables, some even less.  They all ate together.

There are no working cotton mills in Lancashire now.  If you want to see what one was like, visit National Trust Quarry Bank.  We did last autumn – it was fascinating, especially the deafening mechanical looms – but, when I suggested that my friend might like to go when she next visited Lancashire, she shuddered.    Maybe you have some memories of the Lancashire cotton mills, or factories elsewhere?  Dear Reader and I would love to hear from you.

You may not hear from me again for a while.  I’m going to the Association of Christian Writers Retreat over the weekend, then I’m off to India for a fortnight.  I may however use the time I’m sitting in the aeroplane to write up some book reviews for Dear Reader blog.


6 thoughts on “History About to Be Lost: Hard Times (After World War 2)

  1. Have visited Quarry Bank on a couple of occasions as it isn’t far from my home. Really interesting place, as was your post. Hope you’re enjoying your India trip?

  2. Please forgive me … but this is a topic I feel really angry about as a Lancastrian whose forebears worked in/around mills. I went to Quarry Bank Mill after visiting two working mills in Lancashire and it was a pale shadow by comparison. I wrote a ‘raging polemic’ – as someone described it – about the first visit, to Helmshore Mills https://memoirsofahusk.com/2016/03/15/helmshore-mills-lancashire-piss-poor-george-osborne-austerity/
    and a rather more calm piece on my other blogging site Madiinbritain – this one has several videos so you can see and hear machinery working and really making things!
    I feel guilty posting these here but honestly, it makes me so angry – the British Empire was built on its industry – whatever you think of it this is our history, for good or ill – and we are losing real treasures. While saving the odd masterpiece when we already have quite a few several and building a garden bridge in London Grrrr. (I still haven;t got the email alert system working again must do that now)

    1. Thanks for your reply, Mary, and for the links (which I will read with interest – thank you for providing them – but I am in India right at this minute). The point I was making is that – or rather that my friend was making – is that in times of hardship ordinary people pull together,

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