No, Manchester isn’t in the English Lake District, but it’s the nearest city that we could get a direct flight to from the D.C. area. From there it’s only an hour and a half train ride to Windermere. So I have to confess that Manchester started off as more a means to an end for us than a chosen destination.
One of my goals in any trip to England is to ferret out Regency inspiration, and Manchester seemed too Victorian for my purposes. Plus I couldn’t find a country house to explore nearby. (Since we don’t drive in England, our sightseeing options are limited to those that can be reached by foot or public transportation.) But of course we had a wonderful time exploring once we got there, and I even found a few things of special interest to a Regency writer.
This pub wasn’t called The Old Wellington Inn during the Regency, but it was apparently around then. (See its story here and here.) I’m not sure why we didn’t stop in. It was near our hotel and Mr. M. was quite interested in exploring British pubs. This picture was taken in the morning; it looked pretty busy in the afternoon.
Manchester was known as “Cottonopolis”—and we saw a very interesting demonstration of cotton manufacturing machines at MOSI. And manufacturing often meant canals, so I was on the lookout for such a waterway. We happened to stumble on one just as a couple was trying to get their narrow boat through one of the locks. The man had what looked like a metal wrench—I was trying not to be too much of a Nosy Nelly, so I didn't ask him for details—that he used to move half of the lock’s gate. Here’s a shot of the closed gate. If I remember correctly, he put the wrench on the metal bit that is sticking out of the gate arm in the lower left corner of the picture. Hmm. Or maybe it was the metal thing sticking out of the box kind of thing with the chain. Or maybe it was both.
Here’s a picture of the gate half open. You might be able to tell that the water level has gone down, and you can see water spilling over the upper lock.
I was hoping to be able to watch the boat move through the lock, but either it was a very slow process or something wasn’t working right. We gave up and moved along. Here’s a picture of the narrow boat waiting under the bridge.
Some of the other interesting places we visited were St. Mary’s, aka “The Hidden Gem”
and The John Rylands Library where Mr. M discovered a copy of Ackermann’s Repository from 1813 on display. The library is the building on the right.
We also stopped by the Manchester Art Gallery. To be truthful, we were mostly killing time on our last day before flying home. When we went in, I decided to start at the top back and work my way through, thinking the Gallery of Craft and Design sounded vaguely promising. WELL! They had many objects my characters might have used on display: coffeepots, chocolate pots, teapots, snuff boxes, candlesticks…I was in heaven. Poor Mr. M saw the entire gallery while I stayed glued to that one room. I couldn’t take it all in, but it turns out you can search the collection online!!
One museum that we didn’t visit, even though it was very close to our hotel, was the National Football Museum, below…football being soccer over here. It’s the building that looks like it might take flight.
One of the oddest things about Manchester and to some extent the Lake District (or at least the part we visited) was the weather. Mr. M. and I had just stepped out of a Waterstones bookstore—and yes, I spent far more time browsing the English history section than my dear husband could believe—when something seemed to be falling out of the sky. It was very fine, so at first we couldn’t figure out what it was or even if we were imagining things, but we finally realized that even though the sun was shining, it was raining.