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By Katie Belshaw on

Tiny clogs and child poverty in the Industrial Revolution

One of the most poignant objects to be added in to the textiles gallery is a tiny pair of leather children’s clogs dating from around 1870.
A small pair of black leather clogs
The tiny clogs will be on display in the textiles gallery

Practical and hardwearing, clogs were the work-a-day shoe of industrial Manchester’s women, children and men. What is unusual about this pair is that the children who wore them never owned them. They were lent by Charter Street Ragged School in Angel Meadow to children whose families could not afford to buy shoes. They are stamped ‘CSRS loaned, not to be pawned’, to stop poor children or their families pawning them for money.

A woman with brown hear wearing a green dress and blue gloves sits in a museum room inspecting a small pair of leather clogs
Curator Katie Belshaw inspects the clogs prior to them being added to the gallery
A pair of blue-gloved hands holds a small leather clog, on which a stamp can been seen reading "CSRS loaned, not to be pawned"
The stamp on the clogs is clearly visible

The clogs were selected for the gallery to show the precarious lives of industrial Manchester’s workforce.

Workers could earn good wages in Manchester’s textile mills, but work was never guaranteed. Cotton shortages or low demand for cloth could shut the mills. Workers then had to go without wages. Many struggled to afford food, clothes and a place to live. So called ‘ragged’ schools like Charter Street in Angel Meadow, by the middle of the 19th century one of Manchester’s worst slum districts, provided food, clothing and basic education to Manchester’s poorest people.

A cotton gin has been added to the textiles gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry

Other new items added in to the gallery include a cotton gin that tells part of the devastating story of slavery and a host of colourful shipper’s tickets featuring exotic and unusual designs.

The gallery will paint a vivid picture of how cotton transformed Manchester into a city like nothing the world had ever seen before, populated by ingenious makers and determined profit seekers, spinning and weaving cloth to sell around the globe. In this sprawling, swarming, rain-soaked city of extreme wealth and poverty, the cotton industry reshaped the lives of Manchester people, creating a new kind of urban community.

As well as the new items, much-loved objects from the gallery’s current form, such as Richard Arkwright’s incredible Water Frame that revolutionised cotton production, will be redisplayed in a way that will increase visitors’ enjoyment, and the ever-popular Explainer shows among the working mill machinery have been updated to give an even deeper and more exciting insight into the birth of the industrial revolution.

The Textiles Gallery reopens on Saturday July 21. Admission is free. For more information, visit our website.

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