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Gardens and gardening in a fast-changing urban environment:Manchester 1750-1850

Uings, Joy Margaret (2013) Gardens and gardening in a fast-changing urban environment:Manchester 1750-1850. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The profound changes which led to the social, physical and economic separation of the classes and changed Manchester from a small market town to a sprawling metropolis with a deeply damaged environment caused the loss of the town garden, the rise of the suburban villa and the demand for agreeable leisure surroundings. This story of gardens is an element of Manchester’s history which has been neglected despite fundamentally reflecting the social and economic changes accompanying the industrial revolution. Manchester was once renowned for its horticulture and floriculture. At one time it was able to host as many as eight flower shows each year and it lay at the very centre of the gooseberry-growers’ world for more than a hundred years. Professional and amateur growers of plants were known – and their introductions disseminated – nationwide. Examining the various ways in which the love of plants and gardens were experienced reveals how, as in many other areas of life, class divisions grew and were aggravated. The middle classes attempted to impose their values upon the workers, whether through fear or altruism. Leisure was indivisible from gardens and the wider appreciation of nature, whether this was the private grounds of the wealthier, the public gardens with their range of activities, or places visited by the poor during Whit Week. Such activities also led to friction – theft of plants from private gardens; rowdy behaviour in public ones. Gardens exist within a social and economic framework and their story cannot be told without reference to this and how they and it altered over time. Personal and civic prosperity and poverty, social, legal and environmental changes and different philosophical ideas lie behind the story of Manchester’s horticultural heritage.

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