Wednesday, 11 August 2010


For my first post in this little blog, I thought I'd share a piece of family history. Admittedly, after some tentative steps made towards researching my family history I've put it on the back burner, at least for the time being - although there are some interesting stories of drunken sailors, miracle cures and travelling performers, these fascinating stories were somewhat outweighed by sad stories of alcoholism, war and illness. It's something I will probably revist at some time, but for now I'll leave you with a photograph of my great-great-grandmother.

Great-great-grandma Durham, unknown mill, Preston Guild 1882

Great-great-grandma Durham was my maternal Grandma's grandmother, and like many Prestonian women living in the 1880s was part of the town's large cotton workforce. Sadly I do not know which mill the picture depicts, although it's clear from the photograph that it's trimmed up for the Preston Guild celebrations of 1882. I have no idea who the chap in the background is! Lancashire's cotton towns had a long history of employing adult females - the concept of a working mother was not alien to Lancashire's cotton operatives, even though more widely the idea of a working mum is still a contentious topic for many people.

Interestingly, whilst researching for a paper on Victorian photographs of Preston, this photograph was by far the oldest one of a mill interior that I came across. Most of the other old photos of mill interiors - mainly from the early 20th century, this photograph was quite a few years older than any other mill interior I could find- depict the mill while it was decorated, either for a royal visit or a Guild. Although many laws were passed during the Victorian period to improve conditions in factories, the machinery with its noisy, exposed belts was still hazardous and the mills would not have been a pleasant place to work - this perhaps explains the lack of photographs.

Sadly I don't know a great deal about Great-great-grandma Durham. I do, however, have a bit more of a story about my great-grandmother, Agnes Kenny, who I will post about with some photographs soon.
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