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Collection Bite: Manchester, Maps, Beer and Victorians

A Collection Bite from the Visitor Engagement Team focusing on Manchester Geographical Society Maps


Manchester, Maps, Beer and Victorians

Welcome to our collection encounter – Manchester, Maps, Beer and Victorians. Normally this collection encounter would be run in our fabulous Historic Reading Room by a member of our Visitor Engagement team. As a team, it is one of our favourite activities to be part of at the Library, as it allows us to bring out some of the amazing items from our collections and share them with everyone. As we can’t have a chat about these items in person at the moment, we thought we could still bring them to you via this blog. So let us dive in and have a look together at this wonderful map collection.

In this encounter we will be looking at the University of Manchester’s Map Collection, specifically at maps from the Manchester Geographical Society Collection.
The Manchester Geographical Society was founded in 1884 by a group of Manchester-based businessmen, whose aim was to publish geographical research on the north-west of England, to pursue geographical knowledge and to encourage interest into the topic. The Map Collection at the University is one of the largest collections in the North West, with over 140,000 maps sheets and 1,300 Atlases, spanning every country in the world.

The Manchester Geographical Society Collection contains amazing maps of the city where it was founded. The map below produced by William Green was the first large scale map of Manchester. The original print measured over eleven feet by nine feet. The map shows the expansion of Manchester as a powerhouse of the industrial revolution. Interestingly in this map you can see areas where streets have been plotted but not yet built upon.

At the top of the map we have this wonderful illustration of Manchester personified. Here Manchester is represented as a woman, on her left hand side stands Britannia representing trade and to her right kneeling is a figure representing industry. At the feet of the figure on the right hand side you can see a beehive surrounded by the tools of Manchester’s industrial success, bobbins and shuttles. This is also one of the earliest depictions linking Manchester with the bee, a symbol that can be found across the city from lampposts to buildings. The bee appeared as a symbol of Manchester during this period, the worker bee representing the hard working labours and the city being a hive of activity at the time.

Maps were not only created to show Manchester’s changing landscape, they were also used to keep track of other things – for example, beer. When people think of drinking maps, it is often associated with pub-crawls and long summer days, following a route more often than not marked out on Google Maps. However, anyone attempting this route would more than struggle to get through every public house shown on this drink map of Manchester, published by United Kingdom Alliance in 1889.

Drink Map of Manchester United Kingdom Alliance C17:70 Manchester (3)

Each red circle on the map shows buildings where beer can be consumed in Manchester. In this close up we have zoomed into Deansgate, the home of our own library. Back then there would have been a few more places for our staff to have after work drinks.

Drink Map of Manchester United Kingdom Alliance C17:70 Manchester (3)

This map was not only created to mark out the establishments, but was also used as part of an anti-drinking campaign created by United Kingdom Alliance, a Temperance movement. During this period public houses were the centre of the community in Victorian society. They were a place for people to meet and talk. But they also provided an escape from harsh working and living conditions. The warmth and liveliness of the pub and the availability of cheap beer due to the Beerhouse act of 1830 was an irresistible pull to those living in cold, squalid and cramped housing. The first drink map of Manchester was commissioned by the City Mayor and was produced for the use of local magistrates who were responsible for issuing drink licenses. Different licences were required for different types of premises and the type of drink they sold (beer, wine or spirits). Licensed vendors were shopkeepers who could sell a range of alcoholic drinks, whilst beer houses or beer shops could sell only beer, to be consumed either on or off the premises.

The drink map provides an insight into how maps can be used to form differing viewpoints. There is no such thing as a perfectly accurate map. All maps distort reality and convey bias in one form or another (whether deliberately or not). In the case of the drink map, it was first created for administrative purposes and for the issuing of drink licenses, then it was published in the Manchester Guardian in 1889, accompanied by an article about the drink trade in the city.

The map was then taken up by a Temperance movement, a movement that was founded as an anti alcoholic group in response to the rise in crime and poverty in industrial cities, which was seen to be caused by alcohol . Temperance societies worked hard to tackle the drink trade and relied heavily on print culture to disseminate their message through books, magazines, sermons, tracts and biographies of reformed drunkards. They used visual images (including the drink map) to great effect to promote their cause. The United Kingdom Alliance, reproduced the map again, this time with a commentary employing it as a tool of propaganda to argue against the distribution and consumption of alcohol. This was used to show that pubs and beer houses were concentrated within working class districts such as Ancoats, Hulme and Harpurhey whilst the more affluent suburbs are characterised by much fewer licensed premises of any type. The movement used the map to encourage a system whereby people could argue against a liquor licence being granted in their area. Looking at it from a social and historical perspective, the maps shows us that there are clusters in poorer areas of the city.

Alcohol was seen as being responsible for increased crime and poverty, placing an unwanted burden on a prospering city. The map shows the extent of liquor outlets like a rash all over the face of the city, with clusters in the poorer districts. The design of the map (red spots on a white background) reinforces their message. Accompanying text refers to “The foul blotches of drink that disfigure the map” and goes on to describe how money wasted on alcohol robbed decent trades of their profits. This further reinforces the message of alcohol as a blight on society.

Maps like these from our Manchester Geographical Society chart the history of our world and our city. Maps can tell us the thoughts and opinions of those that drew them and used them, as well as offering us a glimpse into the past. Though times have changed and technology has advanced, maps continue to help us navigate and understand the world around us. We hope this collection bite has provided an insight into Victorian Manchester and our map collection. Personally, it has been interesting to see the change in Manchester and at how the city was viewed from a Victorian perspective. Let us know what you thought of these maps and if you have enjoyed this map snapshot from our collection.

Many thanks to Carly Richardson and Donna Sherman for all of their help and research provided to write this piece.

1 comment on “Collection Bite: Manchester, Maps, Beer and Victorians

  1. Michael Ryan

    If ever a map should be available for print, this is it, absolutely stunning depiction of how the pub landscape has changed.

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