Policing Manchester in the Early 19th Century

The birth of the modern police force in Britain, the typical ‘Bobby’ is a fascinating and complicated process which I spent a good deal of time researching for my undergraduate dissertation.  Delving into the archives held at Central Library I found a good opportunity to revisit this topic by looking at how policing reform impacted on Manchester.

Unlike other nations, the British had for centuries been sceptical about establishing a police force, seeing them as a way for tyrannical leaders to oppress the people.  However by the start of 19th century these objections were increasingly looking outmoded and impractical.  The demobilisation of thousands of soldiers at the end of Napoleonic War, combined with the mass migration of people from the countryside towards industrial centres like Manchester, created the perfect conditions for a nationwide crime wave.

Unfortunately the government’s laissez faire attitude to law and order meant policing remained disjointed and almost non-existent outside London.  In Manchester, for example, a 1792 Manchester and Salford Police Act was supposed to have set up a police force for the city but was never really implemented.  By 1800, with a population nearing 100,000, the city continued to be administered under the old medieval system with a Borough Reeve (chief city official) in charge of law and order.  Despite the growing population, maintaining the law fell to a handful of men; a deputy constable, four beadles and, when required, 200 special constables.  All of whom were paid for out of the Poor Rate (a forerunner to the modern council tax).  Their role in combating crime and disorder was mainly limited to patrolling the streets.

Nadin, Joseph, Deputy Constable (1802 - 1821)

For much of the early 1800s the policing of the city was dominated by one man, Joseph Nadin, who became Deputy Constable of Manchester in 1802. Before taking the position Nadin had worked as a thief-catcher a profession notorious for corruption and collusion with criminals. Jonathan Wild, an 18th century thief catcher had been revealed to be simultaneously running the entire London criminal underground while posing as an upholder of the law. Nadin own reputation for corruption followed him into his new position where he was noted for turning every offence into a felony, which allowed him to gain the greater reward. Looking through the Borough Reeve documents held at the Library I frequently came across his name as he held various other city positions during his term as Deputy Constable, and he was known to embezzle funds and take bribes. This allowed him to supplement his £300 a year income and by the time he resigned in 1821 he was able to retire to Cheadle Mosley in the Cheshire countryside. When he died in 1848, he left his family a small fortune, with a various properties in the North West to his Sons and £100 to his son’s three daughters.

First page of The Last Will and Testament of Joseph Nadin 1763-1848 - The noted Deputy Constable of Manchester.

However this corruption and misuse of his position left Nadin with enemies and it was his involvement in the infamous Peterloo Massacre in 1819 that almost cost him his life. The incident occurred when a large crowd gathered at St Peter’s Field (modern day St Peter’s Square) to protest against the lack of political representation. The city authorities decided to break up the meeting and arrest the instigators by reinforcing Nadin’s small force with the cavalry of the local Yeomanry. Nadin arrested the leaders of the meeting but in the process 11 people were killed and 600 were maimed.

 Policeman's truncheon (1819) Truncheon used at Peterloo

His involvement in what was a national scandal made him even more unpopular than he already had been, and looking through the archives I came across a newspaper article from a few months after the massacre detailing an attempt on his life.  While he was walking home one night he was shot at and the bullet passed through the crown of his hat. The article went on to say that a £500 reward was offered for the apprehending of the offenders, a considerable amount of money.

Intended Assassination of Mr Nadin, The Deputy Constable of Manchester 1819

Following Nadin’s resignation in 1821 the policing situation did slightly improve. Nadin was replaced as Deputy Constable by Stephen Lavender, who’d previously been a ‘Bow Street Runner’.  ‘Bow Street Runners’ were the closest thing to a modern police force in Britain before the establishment of the Metropolitan police in 1829. They were set up in 1750 in London’s Bow Street Magistrate Court by the novelist Henry Fielding, and were the first carry out the detection of crime rather than just prevention of it. I was unable to find much about Lavender’s career in Manchester but it is likely that he took what he had learned in London to improve the running of the city. I did however come across a document from the Borough Reeve dated 1831 in which it was decided that due to the problems of public finance, Lavender’s salary would have to be reduced from £600 to £400, highlighting the continuing inadequacies in funding police forces.

In a future blog I will continue the story of the emergence of the modern police force in Manchester, taking it up to the end of the nineteenth century.

This blog post was written for Archives+ by one of our volunteers as part of our Heritage Lottery Funded project.

The writing on the wall


Our Archives+ partners at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre have a great new post on their blog so we thought we’d share it with you!

Originally posted on Reading Race, Collecting Cultures:

Our archive volunteer Helen has uncovered a fascinating story about women confronting racism in 1970s Manchester…

wall newspaper
Decades before Facebook and Twitter allowed people who had never met to communicate anonymously, a group of women from Manchester decided to use a real life ‘wall’ to gather views from local people on the subject of racism. The women, from Longsight and Levenshulme, were united by their opposition to the National Front, a right-wing, racist organisation that was responsible for preaching racial hatred and carrying out violent attacks on members of Britain’s ethnic minority communities. On discussing how to react to a planned National Front march in the city, the women came up with the idea of a ‘wall newspaper’ where they could get local people to air their views on the National Front. The wall newspaper was put up in Longsight’s main shopping street. According to the women:

This was only a few days…

View original 397 more words

Happy Birthday Central Library!

July 17th 2014 was the 80th anniversary of the official opening of Manchester Central Library by King George V.

Thousands of people lined the streets to get a glimpse of the King and Queen and to celebrate the opening of the new Library.727.8, Central Library Royal OpeningThe beautiful building, designed by architect E. Vincent Harris is actually the fourth Central Library in Manchester’s history and due to its neo-classical style often mistaken for being much older.

Following Central Library’s refurbishment we thought it only fitting to celebrate the 80th anniversary in style. We commissioned a birthday cake and a group of year 8 students from Our Lady’s R.C. High School in Blackley helped Councillor Rosa Battle and Head of Libraries Neil MacInnes cut the cake. They also sang Happy Birthday!Happy 80th Birthday Central Library!We also took the opportunity to have some of our archive collections relating to Central Library out on the handling table in the Archives+ exhibition area. These items included one of the handkerchief‘s given to school children who attended the official opening, 2 large scrap books including press cuttings from the day and several items relating to the Royal visit such as the original menu.Happy 80th Birthday Central Library!If you’re interested in the history of Manchester Central Library then come and take a look at Library City part of our exhibition showcasing the history of Libraries in Manchester.

Here’s a close up of the lovely cake, made by Martin’s Bakery. In case you were wondering, there wasn’t a crumb left.Happy 80th Birthday Central Library!


The Origins of Manchester City

Manchester City Football Club has become a huge presence on the global stage.  Part of this transformation has seen the club and its Arab owners begin transforming East Manchester into a sporting haven.  It is quite a fitting move for a club which in its humble beginnings was established in a philanthropic manner.

A long time before Sheikh Mansour, Sergio Aguero or even Colin Bell and Mike Summerbee, what is known today as Manchester City began life in 1880 as St Mark’s, Gorton.  It was a project established by members of the church of the same name who were looking to stem a tide of unemployment, lack of opportunity and ill behaviour from local young men.  The club began as an all round sporting endeavour with rugby and soccer being played on alternate weekends, as well as its cricket side in the summer months established a number of years previously.

St. Mark's Church, West Gorton

There became a cluster of football clubs around the Gorton area around that time with the St Mark’s side adopting the name Gorton A.F.C in 1884, following an unsuccessful merger with neighbouring side Belle Vue.

St Marks Gorton

The ‘Gortonians’ slowly began to establish themselves in the northern football scene, picking up victories in various cup competitions against their local rivals.  The beginnings of what would become the biggest rivalry of all was also evident.  Newton Heath, who would become Manchester United, faced off against the Gorton side numerous times throughout these early years.  Newton Heath dominated the early period of this rivalry recording a 3-0 victory in what could be considered the first ever Manchester derby in 1881.  The height of this dominance came in 1886 when Newton Heath beat Gorton A.F.C a resounding 11-1, this result came at a time where big changes were about to occur for the East Manchester side.

The club was hampered by difficulties with its ground; struggles to find and keep hold of suitable playing fields plagued the club throughout its early years. It would be in 1887 that they managed to find somewhere suitable when an unused piece of land on Hyde Road was discovered which offered the ideal setting for a football ground.  As a result of this move the club changed its name once again and became known as Ardwick FC to better reflect their new location.

Ardwick FC continued for a further seven years in which time it achieved its first Manchester District Cup win, beating Newton Heath in the final.  They also gained an invitation to the Football League, being amongst the first teams in the newly formed Second Division.  However, financial difficulties hit the club hard and in 1894 restructuring was required.  After finishing second bottom of the Football League and folding, the team was re-established as Manchester City Football Club.

Manchester City at Hyde Road

After achieving financial security, acquiring exciting talent such as Billy Meredith and having a ground to house its growing fan base, the club went on to have great success in the early Twentieth Century following their promotion to the First Division in 1899.  The Hyde Road ground would house City for a further two decades until it was deemed too small and too dangerous to continue to use.  The club would move a few miles across town to Maine Road and, as decades went by, they probably faced more ups and downs than any other team in the country.  However its beginnings as an attempt by the church to give young men an outlet, chime well with the clubs current attempts at building facilities to inspire Manchester’s youth and harness their sporting talent.

Chinese Consulate in Manchester visit Central Library


Central Library and Archives+ hosted a tour by the Chinese Consulate in Manchester on Thursday 5th June. The group were accompanied by the Consulate General and the aim of the tour was for the group to see the wonderful restoration of Central Library and to visit the Archives+ search room where a selection of the Chinese archive held at Central Library was on display for them to look at. The group stopped for photos after admiring the wonderfully restored Shakespeare window.
Chinese Consulate on tour stopping near Shakepeare window
The Chinese archive along with all our other archives and material from our rare books and special collections are stored in our strong rooms on the lower ground floor at Central Library. You can book to view material from the strong rooms here with advance notice of 24 hours. This material can be viewed in our search room which is open Monday to Saturday.

Chinese consulate visit to Archives+ search room

The Formation Of The Professional Footballers’ Association

Manchester is renowned throughout the world of football for its two great clubs and the history in which they are both steeped in. However, it is perhaps forgotten that Manchester was also the birthplace of one of the most important parts of the professional game. At the Imperial Hotel in Manchester, on the 2nd December 1908, a group of players led by Manchester United duo Billy Meredith and Charles Roberts formed what was then known as the Players’ Union.

Charles Roberts in football kit

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th Century football players were heavily regulated in regards to the amount of money they could receive. Wages were capped at £4 a week and there was no way of players being able to negotiate bonuses or signing on fees for themselves. Clubs and players which tried to circumvent these strict laws were more often than not discovered and punished harshly with fines and suspensions.

For Billy Meredith, Welsh international and regarded as one of the finest players of the early 20th Century, he not only felt the need for a union to represent the needs of the players because of these strict financial terms but also because of allegations which reared their head regarding supposed match-fixing of the 1903 FA Cup Final. It was accused that Meredith and his team-mates had bribed opposition players and as a result of this the entire squad was suspended while the club was subject to huge fines.

Billy Meredith standing in front of stand, n.d.

The Welsh winger would go on to sign for Manchester United while serving his suspension but he saw his experience at Manchester City as a just cause for setting up the Players’ Union, believing players deserved the right to put up a case for any contract disputes and ensuring a fair treatment off the pitch, akin to what workers in other industries had.

This culminated in the meeting at the Imperial Hotel where Meredith, his team mate Charles Roberts and six others from Manchester United, as well as representatives of seven clubs agreed to the formation of the Players’ Union. Their aims were to ensure players were represented in any disputes with their clubs, players were taken care of should their career ended through injury and most importantly to fight for the players right to a fair wage and contractual freedom as other workers had done.

The formation of the Players’ Union caused uproar at the Football Association who saw the new Union as a threat to their control over the game and was concerned about the prospect of striking players. As a result the FA refused to recognise the Union and prior to the start of the 1909/10 season sought to end its influence once and for all by suspended any player who retained their membership to the Union. The FA’s action nearly worked as the majority of clubs and players relinquished their support, however, the Manchester United players failed to do so.

Manchester United Outcasts FC

Led by captain Charles Roberts and goalkeeper Herbert Broomfield, secretary of the Union, the United players stood firm and refused to bow down to the FA’s demands. This resulted in the entire United squad being suspended and the prospect of Football League fixtures going unfulfilled as the season drew closer. The FA eventually backed down as support from players outside of Manchester began to rise again following Everton forward Tom Coleman coming out on the side of the Union. The Football League did get underway as planned and it was success for the Union.

Cover of Player's Union Magazine

While in the following years the Players’ Union would go on to help many indviduals in football who had been treated unfairly, the long contested minimum wage issue would go unresolved for more than half a century. However, the success of the Players’ Union, or Professional Footballers’ Association as it is known today, was undoubted, through helping injured footballers find a new trade to ensuring the widow’s of former players were financially secure, the work of Billy Meredith and his Outcasts is an important story and one which began in a hotel in Manchester.

Archives+ On Tour

We learned last year that the summer season is a busy one for all sorts of events and this year has kicked off with a bang.Manchester Mega Mela 2014On Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd we took part in the Manchester Mega Mela on Platt Fields Park. The Mela is the largest celebration of South Asian Culture in the North of England and is always a wonderful mixture of food, stalls and fun activities. We were based in the Arts and Crafts tent and decided to make bee themed bracelets to remind people of Manchester. These were popular with people of all ages.
Manchester Mega Mela 2014
We also decided to recreate the globe on Manchester’s crest by asking people to place bee stickers on the far flung parts of the globe that they have travelled to. Some of the furthest places included Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Mauritius.
Manchester Mega Mela 2014
On Sunday the 22nd of June we also had a stall on Albert Square as part of the Manchester Day Parade Celebrations. We took the opportunity to show off our bee themed handling box and took another globe for people to add bee stickers to.
Manchester Day Parade 22nd June 2014
Both events were great fun! Keep your eye on our website, Facebook and Twitter to see where we’ll appear next.