A small selection of entries from the full copies of The Strines Journal have been chosen and commented on by Mel Smith. The list below is ordered by Journal Volume and page number.
Click each heading to open the original and full journal pages for that article.
Belle Vue was an entertainment park covering 96 acres near central Manchester, finally closing in 1982. It had provided a ‘day out’ for Manchester families from 1836; including a zoo, gardens and lake, annual circus and dance halls. The type of spectacle described here was repeated again as late as 1953 in honour of the coronation. It may seem bizarre that elephants and giraffes lived within a stones throw of the city centre.
In spite of the influx of tourism Castleton retains much of its original appeal. The Print Works certainly had a full day out, starting at 06.00am and arriving back by moonlight at 10.00pm. The band worked hard playing almost constantly - the rendition at the entrance to the Peak Cavern must have been unmissable, as was the tour of the cavern by candlelight! The energy and enthusiasm of the trippers comes through in this ‘Pickwickian’ outing.
This beautifully illustrated article describes a mock naval battle which took place at Spithead in 1853. Watched by a large number of spectators, including the Queen, the spectacle must indeed have been spectacular. The mighty men-o-wars of the East India Company (soon to be superceded by iron-clad steamers) often enveloped in smoke and noise provided a grand finale with a mock boat attack.
No part of the Journal better describes the social life of the Print Works than this article which took place on December 23rd 1853. It commenced with a tea for 200 children, the entertainment including ‘Dissolving Views’ (magic lantern) and ‘Voltaic Battery Show’? There then was a supper for grown ups starting at 8.30pm for 202 guests. This included a lengthy ritual of toasts. In one for the ‘work people of Strines’ it was mentioned that some of them had worked for the Company for 50/60 years. If this were true they would have commenced working at the formation of the Company in the 1790’s, and would be at least 70 years old. The ball then commenced in an elaborately decorated adjacent room. The venue was probably the two first floor rooms of the oldest part of the Works - the original ‘Block Shop’ adjacent to Strines Hall. The festivities continued until 06.00am Saturday, Christmas Eve (they certainly knew how to party in those days!).
John Gregory writes this article about a long weekend spent walking through the Peak District. His route was from Strines, Buxton, Bakewell, Haddon, Rowsley, Matlock and ending in Chatsworth, taking 3 days. The Peak was already a tourist destination with the Buxton Spa, fishing and walking being popular. Nonetheless the district would have been much more remote than today (he describes a number of primitive turf covered cottages), and many roads would be little more that tracks.
The extensive social and intellectual activities of the workers are described here, listed on the first page; they show a steady growth from 1853. Now sport is included (cricket). There is a juvenile band and gardening competition, part of the field now belonging to Whitecroft Farm near Strines Hall was allocated to the cottages as gardens. Two works visits to Manchester are mentioned in detail. By this time the journey is by rail, presumably from Stockport, as the Strines line was not yet laid. Gas was produced for the first time by the Works. Things were certainly moving on.
The unknown author (initials CS) of this article seems to have been a professional writer from Manchester to give a lecture at Strines. He starts with some moralising about the ‘work ethic’ and with fulsome praise for the Strines people. This is followed by a detailed description of his journey to Strines, the reception given to his lecture (subject not mentioned but probably light hearted) and a night spent in the Manager’s home next to the Works. Here he was shown the Strines Journal which he praised highly, and a piece of cloth printed with a dot pattern. This, the manager insisted, had been ordered by a Member of Parliament, 56yards of it were to be unrolled in the House to show Members just what ‘a million’ looked like! (Hard but tempting to believe). His descriptions, probably much exaggerated, nevertheless paint a pleasant picture of the Happy Valley.
How our method of testing children has changed! Here, all the children, dressed in their Sunday best are paraded in front of their parents, teachers and officials. The examination is entirely oral with subjects such as reading and spelling, scripture and history, and arithmetic, interspersed with songs. One item which caused much amusement involved pupils asking each other questions on any imaginable subject, some of the questions being strikingly original. Could we learn from this?