Bolton HA on the radio

Branch secretary Jenni Hyde chatted to Kevan Williams of community radio station Bolton FM on Friday 19 May about the work of the Historical Association nationally and in Bolton. She invited everyone to join the branch at our special event on Wednesday 24th May 2017 10.30am-12.30pm at Bolton Museum, Le Mans Crescent:

Dr Henry Miller: ‘Political caricature and satirical prints in Britain, 1700-1840’, followed by hands-on workshop in the museum.

You can listen again to the interview for the next seven days.

Come and join us in the archives!

There are still places available for our free

HA Bolton Special Event: Lecture and Archive Workshop

Wed 24th May 2017 10.30am-12.30am at Bolton Museum, Le Mans Crescent – Dr Henry Miller: ‘Political caricature and satirical prints in Britain, 1700-1840’, followed by hands-on workshop in the museum.

In a joint venture between the Historical Association’s Bolton Branch and Bolton Library and Museum Service, Dr Henry Miller (who moves to Durham from the University of Manchester later this year) will speak on ‘Political caricature and satirical prints in Britain, 1700-1840’.

The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the golden age of caricature in Britain. Single sheet prints, often vividly coloured, became a key part of urban culture and public life, especially in London, and caricaturists like James Gillray and George Cruikshank achieved great fame. This lecture firstly examines the key features in the emergence of political caricature and satirical prints in this period, discussing the formats and style of the prints, including the use of grotesque physical exaggeration and different printing technologies. How far prints, which were often expensively priced and sold in West End shops to an aristocratic clientele, were genuinely popular with a wider public is worth considering in the light of recent scholarship.  Secondly, the lecture discusses the role of caricature in politics, particularly during the tumultuous period of the wars with revolutionary and Napoleonic France (1793-1815) when Radicals and Tories both made use of caricature to ridicule their opponents and win the propaganda war.  Finally, the lecture considers the apparent decline of political caricature and satirical prints in the 1830s and 1840s, the reasons for this and their legacy.

It will be followed by an opportunity for 20 people to experience at close quarters the sort of cartoons that Dr Miller uses for his research, with a hands-on session in the museum.  Although the lecture can accommodate a large audience, due to limits on the archive material, booking is essential for this workshop.  Please contact the secretary on 01772 930330 or for details.

Worktown Event

We have been sent the following information by Bolton Local History Centre about a Worktown Walk on Friday 23 June 12 noon-2.30pm

Discover all about the extraordinary story of Mass Observation and their pioneering study of Bolton, which they called “Worktown”, in the late 1930s. Beginning our walk in the Bolton Archives History Centre with a chance to view Humphrey Spender’s internationally celebrated “Worktown” photographs.

Local Walks

Please see below information passed on to us by Bolton History Centre from the Kingfisher Trail and local walks.


Friday 12th May – Seven Acres LNR to Ringley Village,

 Friday 19th May – Ringley Village to Philips Park.

 This walk will focus on wildlife by going for a nice wander and seeing what is in flower, singing, flying etc. along the way.

 On Saturday 13th May, absolute genius Ian Pringle and the Friends of Prestwich Forest Park will be leading a guided walk around Philips Park focusing on History, Landscape and Nature. The walk will start at 2pm from the Barn visitor Centre (Park Lane, Whitefield, M45 7QJ) and will last around two hours. Ian literally wrote the book on Philips Park and is an all-round lovable chap so don’t miss out on this one!

 The next day (Sunday 14th May) the Friends of Seven Acres will be leading their annual Dawn Chorus walk. It’s an early wake up with the walk starting at 6am but it will be well worth it, with over 100 species of bird recorded on site Seven Acres is the perfect place to hear the full splendor of the chorus. The walk will last until 8am. If you don’t fancy getting up that early but still want something to do the group will be running a pond dipping session starting at 10am and running until 12noon. Both events start from our office, the Environmental Resource Centre (499 – 511 Bury Rd, Bolton, BL2 6DH).

 We’ll be joining in with the celebrations at Prestwich Clough Day on Sunday 21st May. This annual event attracts thousands and has a lovely community atmosphere with lots of groups who are active in the local area. Come and say hello to us if you are there (look for the Halcyon rainbow bird). It is held in St Mary’s Flower Park and runs from 12pm – 5pm.

 Finally, don’t forget we have the first of our Kingfisher Trail family Festival days happening on Sunday 18th June at Philips Park. As you will have guessed from my emails this is one of our favourite sites and it would be lovely to see everyone there to celebrate it with us. There will be lots of wildlife related activities, surveying, crafts for children, storytelling, heritage information, folk music and a warm welcome guaranteed. There are a lot of hard working people who keep the Croal-Irwell Valley the special place it is and we’ll be bringing as many of them as we can together in one place so why not come and join us?!

Bolton School Will Host Lecture to Raise Funds for Great Britain Junior Water Polo Squad

The Great Escaper: The Life and Death of Roger Bushell – Love, Betrayal, Big X and The Great Escape

Bolton School Arts Centre
Friday 19th May, 7.00pm

 Simon Pearson, the author of The Great Escaper, will present an illustrated talk about the extraordinary life of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell who masterminded ‘The Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft III. He was given exclusive access to Bushell’s family archive before writing his book, which was the first biography of this great wartime hero.

 Roger Bushell was, by any standards, a remarkable schoolboy. A fine rugby player and cricketer, he became a first-class scout – one of the first in the country – learnt French and German and led the debating society before going to Pembroke College, Cambridge to study law.

 He grew up to be an even more remarkable man – a romantic loved by women and men – who in 1944 would lead the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III, a story that was immortalised in the classic Hollywood film.

 When he left the sixth form in 1928, his final report said: “His popularity in house and college was due to his indomitable spirit”.

 During the course of the Second World War, the Nazis felt the full force of Bushell’s spirit. 

 As the commander of a Spitfire squadron, the former barrister with a reputation for making a party swing was shot down over Dunkirk on May 23, 1940. He would become no ordinary prisoner-of-war, and the mass breakout he led from Stalag Luft III would be no ordinary escape.

 It was an act of war prosecuted by one of the most belligerent, imaginative Allied “armies” ever to confront Hitler’s tyranny, with Bushell leading the way.

 This event is free and open to the public. After his lecture, Mr Pearson will take questions from the floor.


To book a free place or for more information please email Dr Michael Yates (

This talk has been arranged by Bolton School Boys’ Division to raise funds for the Great Britain Junior (U19) Water Polo squad, which includes many boys from Bolton including School pupils. A collection will be made after the talk in support of the squad and Mr Pearson will sign books sold in aid of the team.

The Cotton Famine in Lancashire

The last evening lecture of our 2016-17 season took place in March.  We were pleased that our audience was swelled by a large group of sixth form students from Bolton School Girls’ Division, two of whom wrote about the lecture for the website.  Our first review is by Tilly Rodriguez:

On Monday 6th March David Brown delivered a lecture at the Historical Association on Distress in Lancashire and the Cotton Famine during the American Civil War. He began by talking about the context of this event. The South in America produced cotton through slavery and it was their main economical income; they believed it was ‘supreme’. When the civil war broke out it was economically devastating to the South as they had invested more in their slavery than the North had in their factories, railways and banks combined. Some 20 million people were involved in the cultivation of cotton. Although a disconnect existed socially between the North and South, economically they were equally balanced.  

The main body of the lecture was split into two parts: the significance of cotton in Lancashire and why the British government did not intervene in the war. Textiles were vital in the 19th century and cotton changed the way people lived; it had no parallel. It could be used for fabrics, clothes etc. 1,678 cotton mills existed in the Lancashire region and 1/10 of the British capital invested in southern cotton. The latter was known as ‘King Cotton’; it was thought that southern cotton was superior as it was of a higher quality due to the stronger fibres. It soon became a monopoly to Britain and 80% of cotton in England came from the Souther slave states. During the civil war president Lincoln blockaded southern ports and it was consequently suggested he was to blame for the cotton famine in Lancashire, despite the blockades not being all that successful. 

Confederate agents existed in the UK to produce propaganda to argue for the above, such as James Spence in Liverpool. These agents were trying to sway the British public into fighting for the southern states in the war to obtain their cotton. However the British government had more important ideologies over which to fight. From 1861 to 1862 the cotton supply plummeted from 1.2 million batches to 100,000. Only 497 of the previously mentioned 1,678 textile mills were in use. 80,000 textile workers were unemployed and those who still had a job saw their weekly wage decrease from £250,000 to £100,000. 75% had shortened hours due to their services being no longer needed as thoroughly. From these figures, it is clear to see how the cotton famine caused poverty and even death in the 19th century, as claimed by some historians such as Mason.  

With regards to the question of why the British government didn’t intervene, the situation on Britain at the start of the American civil war must be considered. They has large piles of raw and finished cotton and the over production of cotton would have led Britain into a depression anyway. Furthermore, the effects of the cotton famine were uneven over Lancashire, for example Preston and Blackburn suffered more than anywhere else, and it did not spread to most the UK, therefore pressure wasn’t on for the government to intervene. Mill owners weren’t overly effected and due to the social hierarchy at that time it would have been their responsibility to ask the government to intervene. But they had savings and believed they could help their employees by teaching them to read or write. Cotton could also be sourced from elsewhere such as India. India also aided the UK by donating money to organisations committed to welfare and relief of those struggling with the consequences of the cotton famine. 

Overall I enjoyed the lecture and found it interesting, concise and well structured. I learned a lot and it has widened my knowledge of how the world was affected during the civil war. In my history course at school we are studying the American Civil War but I still believe it is important to get a wider picture of the world at that time.  

Our second review was provided by Humairaa Haider:

Studying the American civil war allows me to acknowledge how cotton was a key factor in southern industrialisation. From this lecture I gained a more thorough and relevant insight into how cotton was a material which benefited everyone globally. My understanding of cotton’s role in industry and worldwide has increased greatly and has allowed me to gain further depth on an otherwise overlooked topic.

During the 1850s cotton was a material which had an extremely substantial effect on the economy both positively and adversely. Acknowledged by James Henry Hammond as being ‘supreme’, the cotton industry was predominantly featured in the South of America where about 3/4 of the worlds supply was manufactured, particularly for the British who relied on 80% southern cotton as it provided the best grade cotton. This meant that Britain was always like to experience an economic disaster when the cotton famine hit and the cotton supply plummeted from 1.2m bales in 1861 to 200,000 in summer of 1862. The ‘well oiled machine’ of America which was based on the fundamental of cotton started to deteriorate resulting in economic hardship in areas in Britain and 80,000 British textile workers losing their jobs. Hence it resulted in the complete reconfiguration of the global economy.

Although cotton was a prominent feature of the south, it was also linked by cities in Great Britain which were greatly connected and suffered the consequence of cotton decline as southerners did. As 20 million people worldwide and 1 of 65 cultivated and produced cotton. Textiles were at peak manufacture for the British economy, this essentially revolutionised people’s lives, in the sense of what they wore and how it was worn. The cotton industry was in its own league with no parallel coming close to compete during the 19th century. However although there was a prominent divide between North and South America in terms of social mannerisms, their economic development was what united them. Therefore when the industry began to collapse it brought about a worldwide downfall resulting in economic catastrophe.

As a result of the civil war, the South’s main source of income and economic advancement was targeted by Lincoln causing the blockade of southern ports in 1861, allowing nothing to be imported or exported. However the blockade was not very effective as there was 3,500m of southern coast and 12 major ports to cover. Nevertheless Gideon Wells was aided by 42 ships to control the ports, which resulted in an effective way to make the south vulnerable. Britain was quick in their reaction, ensuring that they could aid the cotton industry directly but more indirectly the south, whom they relied on for imports. Quick action was taken by building the CSS Alabama ship in Liverpool which was commissioned by the Confederates, who successfully managed to attack the Union ships. It was acknowledged as one of the most successful raider ships.

Although Britain was involved in the famine their reaction was relatively delayed, due to the uneven spread of famine as areas like Wigan were not invested in cotton; however areas like Preston and Blackburn heavily relied upon it as they produced high quality goods. Nonetheless for mill owners finished and raw cotton were piling up, moreover they needed to know if they were able to make a return investment on their stocks, therefore their reaction was delayed as they had no shortage of cotton. Eventually Britain began to take action as supplies began to dwindle: they poureds hundred of thousands of pounds into countries like Brazil and India, in the hopes of restoring cotton. British imperial power was invested into these countries. Although this may sound like a victory for Britain, countries like India suffered the consequence as the misery was exported around the globe and workers were substituted to unfair conditions.

Nevertheless this didn’t stop the workers from continuing on with their strong work ethic, as they were very proud people who considered themselves the most advantageous amongst others. Moreover they were prepared to discuss and negotiate as well as co-operate with their employers. The cotton industry, thanks to the British, was beginning to rejuvenate itself but also money was poured in from the world to help relieve the aftermath of the cotton decline as well as setting up local relief organisations which channeled money where it was needed and administrated in an acceptable way.

To conclude the cotton famine was a catastrophic event which had a knock on effect for Britain. As trading began to decline and 500,000 workers in Lancashire suffered from shortened hours and 75% laid off by 1862. Therefore although history acknowledges the South as being directly impacted by cotton famine the effect in Lancashire seemed to be just as detrimental. Additionally this lecture was extremely educational as it contributed to my understanding of the cotton decline but as well as this allowed me to gain insight on how Britain suffered the consequences just as much as the South, however without this understanding my knowledge would be limited as this lecture allowed me to understand how Britain responded by cultivating cotton production in various countries like India, which began to eventually relieve the depression which was caused by the aftermath of cotton famine. As a result Britain no longer had a need to go to war with the union as they were beginning to successfully rebuild the cotton industry as income from cotton, was coming from elsewhere than the South. 

The final event in our programme will be our joint venture with Bolton Museum and Archive Service on 24 May.

Bolton Museum Hands-on Session

We are now taking bookings for our joint venture with Bolton Library and Museum Service:

Wed 24th May 2017

10.30am-12.30pm at Bolton Museum, Le Mans Crescent

Dr Henry Miller:

‘Political caricature and satirical prints in Britain, 1700-1840’

followed by hands-on workshop in the museum

Dr Miller’s public lecture on the golden age of caricature in Britain will be followed by an opportunity for 20 people to experience at close quarters the sort of cartoons that Dr Miller uses for his research, with a hands-on session in the museum.  There is no charge for either the lecture or the workshop.  Although the lecture can accommodate a large audience, due to limits on the archive material, booking is essential for this workshop.  Please contact the secretary at to book your place.

Britain in the Nuclear Age

Our February lecture saw Dr Jonathan Hogg of Liverpool University visit the branch.  Audience members who braved the  unpleasant weather were rewarded with an interesting lecture on the changing reception of nuclear technology in twentieth-century Britain.  The following comments were made by James Hyde, a GCSE pupil at Longridge High School:

Recently I saw Jonathan Hogg’s lecture about the nuclear age.  I found it fascinating because I have just started my GCSEs and it joined both my passion for science and my passion for history, as well as revealing that I didn’t know about how nuclear weapons were created and used.  I think it will be very useful for me as next year I will be studying the Cold War in history and radioactivity and nuclear power in physics.

Rachel Ibberson of Bolton School Girls’ Division wrote the following description of Dr Hogg’s lecture:

After describing the origins of nuclear science in Victorian times, the lecture was focused on the history of nuclear science in Britain since 1945, showing the cultural and social impacts nuclear resources have had after the dropping of the atomic bombs at the end of World War Two.

 Through presenting us with primary sources of newspaper articles, songs, films and government files, Hogg demonstrated the large scale impact that developing nuclear science has had on Britain and how people have become split in their attitudes towards the use of nuclear resources and their potentially devastating impacts.

 As well as recognising that nuclear science had been affecting British culture since before the Second World War, Hogg also showed how government policies, civil defence policies and people’s feelings towards the use of nuclear have changed, to give different perspectives on how the use of nuclear resources has affected different people across time. From nuclear being used to create wartime weapons, to nuclear being incorporated in everyday life, we saw not only the evolution of the uses of nuclear energy but how its effects can differ depending on the circumstances in which it is used.

 Hogg also made clear that we cannot predict how nuclear may be used or managed in the future. The growing problems of nuclear waste, and using radioactive substances in nuclear power plants and weapons, raises different issues to those seen in the post war period, and made clear that the impacts of nuclear resources on Britain are constantly adapting to our times.

 What I found particularly interesting was looking back on how frequently nuclear weapons were tested by countries such as America and Russia and how obsessed certain countries became with developing these weapons nationwide. I also was interested by the questions posed by Hogg as to the future of Nuclear activity in the U.K. Should nuclear energy be used more in Britain and if so how do we deal with the waste and potential disasters it may cause? If circumstances arise, should nuclear weapons be used or not? Hogg’s speech was not only a compelling view of the history of nuclear technology in Britain, but was thought-provoking into the future of nuclear science and the ever evolving impacts it has on Britain.