Monday, 28 August 2017

Remarkable Women

Time flies, and I just realised I hadn't posted any more pictures from our great day in Manchester three weeks ago. Imperial War Museum North was a little disappointing because we found the lighting a bit dim. I appreciate that you have to keep artefacts away from bright light - but some of the displays had such poorly lit information panels that you couldn't find out what it was you were peering at. However, there was a feature on my Norfolk hero, Edith Cavell. Alongside a photograph of her prison cell in Brussels - where she was incarcerated until her execution in 2015 - was a display of her food tins, her crucifix and a few other pieces. A couple of weeks later Bob was able to enjoy a pint of Edith Cavell beer in Swanton Morley. This was developed 2 years ago, to mark the centenary of her death. Produced by the Wolf Brewery, of Attleborough, Norfolk,  the profits from this go to the Cavell Nurses Trust. 

After the morning at IWM, we met up with Steph and her colleague Jen for lunch. We walked back to their offices in Deansgate. Tangible is upstairs in this amazing building, which was formerly a Congregational 

The entrance plaque reads
This Church House which is intended to serve as a centre of Congregational Activity and is a memorial to the wise and large hearted munificence of the late Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands of Longford Hall in this County, who by the gift of the site, and a donation of half the sum required for the building, made its erection possible 
And here is the redoubtable Mrs Rylands- but this statue is not in the church/office block. It is up the road at The John Rylands Library - the marvellous place she had built in memory of her husband.
Mrs R had a fascinating life, and a strong faith- and was clearly a generous woman.
The JRL is utterly mind blowing - I want to go back and spend more time there
No this isn't my picture! It is from the website. It is a proper working library - not just collections of valuable books and historical artefacts, but also a place where students can still come to read and study.

I am intrigued by a woman born in sub-tropical Cuba [her mother Cuban, her father English] raised in romantic Paris [where her widowed mother remarried, to polymath Julian Fontana, great friend of Chopin] who came to love rainy Manchester. She left her Roman Catholic roots to become a Congregationalist - and married a man 40 years older than herself - Manchester's first multi-millionaire. Rylands had made his money in textiles, but was also involved in the development of the city, including investing in the building of the Canal.  
It seems their marriage was happy, lasting 13 years till his death at the age of 88. His widow's memorial has lasted and his name is remembered, as she wished it to be. The basis of the Rylands library was purchased from Earl Spencer, at Althorp [Diana's ancestor]
John was an amazing philanthropist - establishing orphanages, schools, public baths, homes for gentlewomen and [I love this one] "a home of rest for clergymen of slender means".
Exploring Manchester was great fun- and it was good to learn more about these two determined women who achieved so much. 
I am not sure what I achieved on my day in this fine city, other than meeting Steph's friends, eating lots of good food - and posting a letter in that blue pillar box.


  1. Edith Piaf, born at the end of 1915, was named after Edith Cavell. I gather there was a spate of French girls from that era named after her.

  2. I love the JRL, it's like a cathedral for books.


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