Tag Archive: oldham

  1. 2020 Pandemic: A Personal History by Joan Stott

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    Joan Stott shares her personal experience of living through the first part of the pandemic.

    He went to bed last night muttering and complaining but it’s not as if you can do anything about it.

    We were together at the beginning, listening to the news on the television. There was something strange happening in Wuhan in China; something about a new virus that was making people very ill and they were all going into lockdown. People had to stay indoors and not venture out. You could see them at their windows or on their balconies, sometimes shouting encouragement to each other across the divide. You felt sorry for them but they were so far away, almost too far away. But yet it was Chinese New Year and you knew deep down it would spread.

    It becomes a terrible fascination and you watched as the virus began to devour like a circling shark until it was lapping and snapping at your own front door. On the news again, Italy is the next country to feel the full force. You watch as the people struggle against seemingly overwhelming odds. Pictures flit across the screen, nurses with damaged faces, and strange silent funerals with almost no one there to say good-bye.

    You wonder how this could hurt so many people. It all seems so desperate but nevertheless you and many others soldier on. At times there are little snippets of hope which you relay to him praying it will lift up his spirit and bring him out of the lethargy and despondency that lurks like a cloud. He potters around the garden, ‘takes me mind off things’ he says.

    The virus grip begins in earnest and now you are not allowed outside or even go to the shops and even more heart breaking cannot visit your family, no not even for a minute. A strange sort of madness takes hold and gazing in wonder at the television screen you see forlorn empty shelves and grown adults fighting over toilet rolls.

    Shadows, submitted to Oldham’s Lockdown Museum by Linda

    You begin to count every second and then you stand looking out of the window hoping against hope that the sun will start shining and you can at least feel some warmth on your face. You look at your walking boots standing forlorn and unused in the porch, you imagine your feet encased in the leather, and the boots wet from the grass you have walked over.

    Then you silently curse old age, and the isolation you have yet to endure. But then, at least you are safe and you begin to notice the numbers creeping up and you thank God that no one you know has yet to fall victim. Still you look at the prone figures lying vulnerable and alone on their hospital beds and you rage against the helplessness of it all.

    Then Frank. Frank, struggling against dementia, falls victim in his care home and you think about him and remember the times you saw him walking around with his little shopping bag talking to everyone he met. The funeral is a on a bright May morning where the mourners stand apart and strain to hear the priest as his words are drowned by the sound of birdsong. You sprinkle earth on the coffin and wish that Frank could have had the proper send off he deserved in the church he loved.

    Yet there are moments uplifting and heartening. You can hear the dawn chorus in the morning, you smile more as strangers pass by your window and you listen for the crescendo of noise as neighbours clap earnestly for the struggling staff of the National Health Service. Children paint their rainbow pictures and paste them onto their windows and the shoots of normality slowly begin to form.

    You decide it will be safe to venture out but outside is an unknown and foreign place where you stand in queues at the supermarket and stern figures tell you that you are only allowed in one at a time.

    There is a kind of hiatus. Young people flock to the pubs and attend impromptu parties and you are envious of their unconcern and freedom. You yearn for family and friends but then, as you scan the pictures of lost faces, you remember the thousands who mourn. Then you reflect on the small snippets that gave you inspiration, the wonderful Italian voices drifting downwards towards eerily empty streets, the resurgence of nature, the silent empty roads and the sheer resilience of human beings in the face of adversity.

    He passes you a cup of tea, ‘come on love drink up, grandkids will be able to visit very soon.

    For further creative responses to the pandemic and to submit your own, see Oldham’s Lockdown Museum.

  2. Remember When? Retail therapy

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    As we all dash to the shops now that they are reopening for some retail therapy, we’re stepping back in time to look at some of the shopping incentives used in Oldham to get people spending on the high street.

    High Street, Oldham

    In 1928 the Oldham and District Chamber of Trade launched a publicity scheme aimed at encouraging people to support local shops. The highlight of the scheme was ‘The Shopping Festival’ which ran throughout March, and the launch of the ‘Blue Star Shops’ scheme where shops displayed a blue star in their windows. Shoppers who supported these traders then earned coupons which entitled them to enter a draw for a chance to win £500.

    ‘I confidently appeal to all residents to heartily co-operate with the Chamber and to support the present Festival, which will, I trust, prove to be the most successful effort which has been put forth’.

    Mayor, E H Shorrocks

    Another Shopping Festival was held in 1932 as part of the Oldham and District Chamber of Trade Ideal Homes & Industries Exhibition which ran from 6 October to 20 November 1932. The idea of the Festival was to encourage people to shop in Oldham.

    ‘The traders of Oldham & District are in a unique position to provide all your wants, both as to quality and price, and there is no need to purchase outside the area prescribed by Oldham & District Chamber of Trade.’

    Mayor of Oldham
    Tommyfield Market

    As part of the Centenary celebrations in 1949 the Oldham Markets Shopping Festival was held between 21-28 May 1949 to encourage people to shop in the market.

    Now as shops begin to re-open perhaps all shoppers should think that perhaps there really is no need ‘to purchase outside the area’ of Oldham.

    We have hundreds of photographs in the Oldham Local Studies and Archives collection, why not explore using our online collections search?

  3. Natural Connections

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    Blue Butterflies from Richard Cottam collection

    Links between Oldham and Stepney Museums

    Oldham and Stepney Museums are 230 miles apart but were connected for more than one reason in the early twentieth century. Here, we explore the natural connections.

    If you have read the Painting reveals a hidden Oldham Story blog you will already have come across the Fred Stubbs connection. Fred volunteered at the Oldham Municipal Library, Art Gallery and Museum during 1908. When a vacancy arose at Stepney Museum’s Nature Study Centre, Fred applied and secured the post. When Fred moved to Stepney from Oldham in 1909 Stepney was already at the cutting edge of natural history museum development.

    Fred Stubbs shown in The Naturalist by George Henry Wimpenny

    The School Nature Study Union was set up in 1902-3 to help educate families in crowded inner-city areas who may have had no experience of the natural world. Miss Kate Marion Hall, the first woman museum curator in the country, was employed by Whitechapel Museum later Stepney Borough Museum, from 1894 to 1909. She introduced a number of new ideas during her tenure in one of the poorest areas of the country. Kate and the curate of the parish Claude Hinscliffe with the help of an anonymous donation transformed a small disused mortuary building in a churchyard in to a Nature Study Museum. This was a welcoming place for all and remained open till 10pm, with up to a thousand visitors a day. She included living plants and animals including an observation beehive, an aquarium and a weather station alongside traditional museum objects such as taxidermy. So this was where Fred worked and absobed ideas.

    When Fred returned to Oldham ten years later he would have taken up his post in our 1883 building. However I am in doubt as to where the ideas came from when Werneth Park Study Centre (WPSC) opened its doors in 1938 after its donation to the town by the Lees family. WPSC had aviaries, bee hives and glass houses as well as traditional museum displays. Some older readers will remember it. It is sad that Fred died suddenly before the work was completed but all the Stepney innovations were used at WPSC.

    Small Coppers from Richard Cottam’s collection

    Further Connections

    However, there was still a further Oldham connection. Richard Cottam also of Oldham became student assistant to Fred at Stepney Museum for 3 years – approximately 1911 -1914. Fred and Richard knew each other from their Oldham days where they were both members of the Oldham Microscopical and Natural History Society. Then Richard was a piecer in a cotton mill studying insects in his spare time. He worked in Stepney until 1914 when he took the post of Assistant Economic Entomologist in the Sudan and Egypt working for the government where he stayed until he retired returning to the UK in 1949. Gallery Oldham took the bequest of Richard Cottam’s Butterfly collection in 1963.

    Museums hundreds of miles apart but connected through natural history.

    The Stepney Nature Study Museum closed during the WW2 but the building remains and sadly is on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register.

    Written by Patricia Francis, May 2020