Literary Lancashire

ACCRINGTON Jeanette Winterton (b. 1959 in Manchester), is the famous contemporary author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, an account of her childhood in Accrington.

ASHTON-UNDER -LYNE A blue plaque commemorating H.V. Morton (1892-1979) is permanently located in Henry Square, Ashton-under-Lyne, close to his birthplace at Chester Square. He wrote many iconic travel books about Britain and the Middle East, of which In Search of England (1927) and In Search of Scotland (1929) are particularly characteristic. Simon Hoggart (1946-2014), journalist and broadcaster, was born in Ashton-under-Lyne. He wrote witty, but perceptive columns for both The Spectator and The Guardian, and numerous books.

One of H.V.Morton's most popular Travel Books.

One of H.V.Morton’s most popular Travel Books.

ASHTON-UPON-MERSEY Stanley Houghton (1881 – 1913), playwright, was born here. He was a prominent member, together with Allan Monkhouse and Harold Brighouse, of a group known as the Manchester School of dramatists. His best known play is Hindle Wakes (1912). It was, for its time, open about sex and, thus, highly controversial. The Georgian poet Lascelles Abercrombie (1881–1938) was born in Ashton upon Mersey, part of Sale. He became a lecturer in poetry at the University of Liverpool.
BLACKBURN Jessica Lofthouse (1906-1988) was born in Wilson Street, Clitheroe in 1906. She moved to Blackburn in 1917 and began her teaching career in Liverpool, but returned to Blackburn to teach Art and Local Studies. In 1938 she had a series of articles printed in the Blackburn Times illustrated with her own drawings. This was the basis of her subsequent career. Her many highly successful books include The Curious Traveller Through Lakeland (1954). Alfred Wainwright (1907 – 1991), author of the much revered Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, is commemorated by a plaque at 331 Audley Range, Blackburn reading “The birthplace of Alfred Wainwright author and fell walker” (1907-1991)
Josephine Cox (b. 1941), the author of some fifty “north country” novels, the first of which was published in 1988, was also born in Blackburn.
BLACKPOOL Alistair Cooke, the broadcaster famous for his Letters from America, moved to 10 Vance Road, opposite the Bus Station on Central Drive, from Manchester in 1917. He attended Blackpool Grammar School. There is a plaque:

Alistair Cooke, the broadcaster famous for his Letters from America, moved here in 1917, later attending Blackpool Grammar School.

BOLTON Monica Ali (b. 1967) was born in Dhaka, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to a Bangladeshi father and an English mother. When she was three, her family moved to Bolton. She went to Bolton School and then studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Wadham College, Oxford. Her controversial first novel, Brick Lane (2003), illuminates Bangladeshi life in Tower Hamlets. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Bill Naughton (1910 -1992) was an Irish-born British playwright, best known for his play Alfie, lived in Bolton.
BOWDON Alison Uttley (1884–1976), children’s writer, who was born in Derbyshire, moved to Bowdon in 1924 and wrote the highly successful Little Grey Rabbit books while living there. There is a blue plaque at Downs House, 13 Higher Downs, Bowdon, where she lived from 1924 to 1938. Juliana Ewing (1841–1885), a significant Victorian children’s author, also lived, for a comparatively short time, in Bowdon.
BURNLEY Philip Gilbert Hammerton (1834 –1894), artist and art critic and author, was born on 10 September 1834 at Laneside, near Shaw, Oldham, but he was brought up on the outskirts of Burnley.

The Oriinal 'Just William' book.

The Oriinal ‘Just William’ book.

BURY Richmal Crompton (1890–1969), author, was born on Manchester Road, Bury (a blue plaque marks the house).  The Oriinal ‘Just William’ book. However, it was in London that she wrote her Just William books, the first of which appeared in 1922 and the last, published posthumously, in 1970. Dodie Smith (1896–1990), playwright and novelist, is best known as the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians. She was born in Whitefield, Bury but grew up in Old Trafford; there is a blue plaque on her childhood home at 609 Stretford Road, Manchester. Her highly successful plays included Autumn Crocus, and Dear Octopus (1938). Her first novel, I Capture the Castle (1949), is semi-autobiographical and is an enthralling book, subsequently made into a film. It has become a Virago Modern Classic. Howard Jacobson (born 1942), novelist, was born in Prestwich (see Manchester).

The Clergy Daughters' School, Cowan Bridge

The Clergy Daughters’ School, Cowan Bridge

COWAN BRIDGE The Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge was established in 1823 by the Revd William Carus Wilson (the prototype for Mr Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre). It became notorious as the original of Lowood Institution in Jane Eyre (1847). Charlotte Brontë entered the school in 1824 with her sisters. She always blamed the school’s harsh regime and punitive religious discipline for the early deaths of Elizabeth and Maria, her two older sisters, and her novel graphically portrays the pupils’ sufferings. Controversially Mrs Gaskell identified the school and its head teacher in her Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857). The school, much improved, was removed in 1833 to a new site at Casterton.
DARESBURY (Cheshire) Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson] (1832 – 1898), was born in the little parsonage of Daresbury near Warrington and Runcorn. When Charles was 11, the family moved to Croft-on-Tees, North Yorkshire.
HURSTWOOD Edmund Spenser (1552?–1599), the Elizabethan poet, is supposed to be descended from a local family, and it is assumed that he composed his Shepherd’s Calendar while staying with his relatives at Hurstwood. He is said to have lived between 1576 and 1578 in an attractive building constructed of gritstone known as Spenser’s House or, sometimes, Spenser’s Cottage. The Shepherd’s Calendar contains many dialect words and accurate descriptions of Lancashire wildlife. Spenser’s most famous poem is his Faerie Queen, said to be dedicated to a local girl, but rejected by her.
KNOWSLEY HALL Between 1832-1836 Edward Lear (1812–1888) was employed at Knowsley by Edward Stanley, the thirteenth Earl of Derby. He drew sketches of the estate, and the plates to accompany the ‘Knowsley Menagerie’. He was popular with the Derby family and also wrote the Book of Nonsense for the Earl’s grandchildren. This was published in 1846, and along with a number of subsequent volumes published in the 1870s, popularised the limerick. His verse include eternal favourites such as the ‘Owl and the Pussy Cat went to Sea’

Lancaster Priory Church

Lancaster Priory Church

LANCASTER In September 1914 The Times published For the Fallen, Laurence Binyon’s most famous poem:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

Laurence Binyon (1869–1943), an art historian and poet, was born at 1, High Street, Lancaster and educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School. This Georgian poet was associated with both Gordon Bottomley (see Silverdale) and Lascelles Abercrombie.
Garry Hogg (1902-1976), travel writer, studied English Language and Literature at Oxford, and became a schoolmaster who in the late 1940s and early 50s taught at Lancaster Royal Grammar School. Robert Woof (1931–2005), literary scholar and museum director, was head boy at the School. Born at Royal Albert Farm, Lancaster, he completed a PhD thesis at Toronto on ‘The literary relations of Wordsworth and Coleridge’ (1959), and became a literary scholar, and biographer. As a museum director he presided over the transformation of the Wordsworth museum at Grasmere into one of the most distinguished institutions of its kind.
Lancaster’s other literary associations are, perhaps, rather slighter. Charles Dickens stayed at the King’s Arms Hotel in 1857 & 1862. He informs us that “They gave you bride cake every day after dinner”. U. A. Fanthorpe (1929–2009), the first woman to be nominated as Oxford professor of poetry (1994), who won the queen’s gold medal for poetry in 2003, was “Writer-in-Residence” at St Martin’s College, Lancaster (now part of the University of Cumbria) from 1983 to 85.
John Kelsall (1683–1743), Quaker minister and diarist, was brought up at Quernmore, near Lancaster. Richard Adams (1620-1661), poet, is buried in Lancaster Priory church, where he is commemorated by a wall tablet in the chancel. Tom Stephenson (1893–1987), writer and promoter of rambling, received an honorary doctor of law from Lancaster University in 1986. He played a highly significant part in the establishment of the first National Parks. Terry Eagleton (b. 1943), the celebrated literary scholar and cultural theorist, is Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University.
LIVERPOOL A number of prominent authors have visited Liverpool including Daniel Defoe, Thomas De Quincey, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Hugh Walpole all of whom spent extended periods in the city. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), the American novelist, lived in Liverpool as the United States consul between 1853 and 1856. His English Notebooks provide an interesting depiction of Britain in Victorian times.
william roscoeIn the eighteenth century William Roscoe (1753–1831), historian and patron of the arts, had considerable literary importance in Liverpool. He was born at the Old Bowling Green House, Mount Pleasant, and later lived at Allerton Hall. He became an MP, and made an important contribution to the fight to abolish slavery. Roscoe’s Life of Lorenzo di Medici was considered a remarkable achievement at the time. In addition to his historical works wrote nursery rhymes and other stories for children. There is a plaque at 114 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, where he was born (1753) and another at Roscoe Gardens, Mount Pleasant which reads:

1753-1831 William Roscoe MP Solicitor & slavery abolitionist ‘Greatest of Liverpool’s Citizens’ buried here

Roscoe’ fifth son Thomas Roscoe (1791–1871), writer and translator, was born at Toxteth Park. Like his father he was fascinated by Italy and things Italian. William Stanley Roscoe (1782–1843), poet, was William Roscoe’s eldest son, and was in turn the father of William Caldwell Roscoe, (1823–1859), poet and essayist.
James Currie (1756–1805), physician and author, was born in Kirkpatrick Fleming, Dumfriesshire. He had a distinguished career as a medical man in Liverpool where there is a plaque at 53-57 Church Street:

Dr James Currie humanitarian & first biographer of Robert Burns lived here

Like Roscoe he fought for the abolition of slavery. Together they wrote a poem entitled The African about the slave trade. Joseph Blanco White 1775-1841, theologian, poet & political exile, is buried at Roscoe Memorial Gardens, Mount Pleasant.
Rodney Street, named after Admiral George Rodney, was laid out by William Roscoe in 1783–1784. William Ewart Gladstone, four times prime minister, was born at No. 62, but the street also has several literary associations. No. 9 was the birthplace of Arthur Hugh Clough, and of his sister Anne, first principal of Newnham College, Cambridge. Lytton Strachey, biographer, historian & member of the Bloomsbury Group, lived at 80 Rodney Street. Nicholas Monsarrat (1910-1979) was born at 11 Rodney Street. A plaque states that he was Lieutenant Commander RNVR in the Battle of the Atlantic; famous seafaring son of Liverpool and author of The Cruel Sea.
Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859), visited friends in Liverpool in the summer of 1801 and was brought into contact with Roscoe, of whose poetry he had a poor opinion, but he thought highly of Roscoe and James Currie as abolitionists. In 1803 he went to stay at Everton, then a village, for three months and kept a diary, only published in 1927.

"The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck"

“The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck”

Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793–1835), poet, was born at 118 Duke Street, Liverpool. She is best known for her highly popular poem Casabianca (known as The Boy stood on the Burning Deck) published in 1826. It is about the fate of the ship Orient during the Battle of the Nile. A prolific poet, Hemans was well regarded by Wordsworth. Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861), poet, was born in Liverpool. In 1829, he entered Rugby School; there he formed lifelong friendship with Matthew Arnold. His first poetry was original and experimental. He is best known for his epic poem The Bothie of Tober na Vourich about a reading party in the Highlands. Clough’s reputation seemed to diminish during his lifetime. At one time he was thought of as a future poet laureate.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870), the pre-eminent novelist, visited Liverpool in 1838, and from 1842 until 1869 he was a frequent visitor, giving readings from his novels to large audiences. Margaret Oliphant (1828–1897), novelist and biographer, was born in Scotland, but in 1838 her father became excise clerk in the custom house at Liverpool. They changed house in Everton several times before moving to Grosvenor Road in Birkenhead. Her first published novel, Passages in the Life of Margaret Maitland (1849), set in Liverpool, attracted the attention of both Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë. Herman Melville (1819-1891), who is best known as the author of Moby Dick, used his 1839 visit to Liverpool as the basis for his fourth novel, Redburn, or His First Voyage, published in 1849. Redburn was a fictionalized version of Melville’s own first voyage. It provides a lively account of Victorian Liverpool. It begins with Redburn following the path his father must have taken took through the city many years before. Melville visited the city again in 1856 and then travelled to Scotland searching for his own ancestors. Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Are Now (1875) has a scene set in Lime Street Station. Blanche Atkinson (1847-1911) Victorian novelist and author of children’s books, was born in Aigburth. She is noted for her and friendship with John Ruskin. Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), poet, served as a priest 1879-1881 at St. Francis Xavier’s Church, 11, Langsdale Street, Liverpool, where there is a plaque.
Late Victorian and Edwardian literary figures associated with Liverpool include Augustine Birrell (1850–1933), author and critic, who was born at Wavertree, and Richard Le Gallienne (1866–1947), poet and essayist, born in West Derby, and Robert Tressell [pseud.] (1870–1911) He is best known for his novel The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. He was born in Dublin and died at Liverpool Royal Infirmary in February 1911 from tuberculosis. There is a plaque at 70 Pembroke Place. ragged trousered philanthropistsHall Caine (1853 –1931), popular novelist and playwright, was born in Runcorn (Cheshire}. His father emigrated from the Isle of Man to Liverpool, but at the time of Hall Caine’s birth was working in the Cheshire town. The family returned to Liverpool, where Caine was brought up. He was educated at the Hope Street British Schools. He discovered the poetry of Coleridge and the writings of John Ruskin, both of whom influenced him and, for a time, he was secretary to D. G. Rossetti. His best sellers were set in the Isle of Man whence he returned after his parents died. Wilfred Owen (1893 – 1918), war poet, was brought up in Birkenhead between 1898 and 1907. He went to the Birkenhead Institute until he was 14. Liverpool is associated with two significant book illustrators: Walter Crane (1845–1915), illustrator, designer, and painter, was born on 15 August 1845 at 12 Maryland Street, Liverpool; and Shirley Hughes (b. 1927), author and illustrator, has written more than fifty books, and illustrated more than 200. She twice won the Kate Greenaway Medals for British children’s book illustration. She was born in West Kirby, then in the county of Cheshire (now in Merseyside), and she grew up on the Wirral.
Late nineteenth and early twentieth century Liverpool is connected with several considerable novelists. Hugh Walpole (1884–1941), the New Zealand-born writer, served as a lay minister at the seaman’s mission in Liverpool in 1906. In later life he lived in Cumbria and wrote the Herries novels there. Malcolm Lowry (1909 –1957) was an English poet and novelist who is best known for his novel Under the Volcano (1947), inspired by his residence in Mexico. He was born in Wallasey. James Gordon Farrell (1935 –1979) was a Liverpool-born novelist of Irish descent. He gained prominence for the series of novels known as “the Empire Trilogy”: Troubles, about Ireland, The Siege of Krishnapur, about India and The Singapore Grip, about the occupation of Singapore. The novels deal with the political and human consequences of British colonial rule. From the age of 12 he attended Rossall School.
Much is made of the popular music of Liverpool of the sixties but, at the same time there was a flowering of performance poetry. Indeed, the two were sometimes indistinguishable. The anthology The Mersey Sound was published by Penguin in 1967, containing the poems of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten. It brought these three poets to national attention. Adrian Henri (1932–2000), born in Birkenhead, was a poet and painter best remembered as the founder of poetry-rock group the “Liverpool Scene”. His poetry remained highly Liverpool orientated throughout his life. Roger McGough (b.1937) was born in Litherland, on the outskirts of Liverpool. He is perhaps best known for Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death. However, he has written much poetry distinguished, in the opinion of The Oxford Companion, by ‘high spirits, wit and accessibility’. His infectious enthusiasm for poets and poetry is illustrated in broadcasts on Radio 4. Brian Patten (b.1946) poet, was born near Liverpool’s docks, and attended Sefton Park School in the Smithdown Road area of Liverpool. He has published several collections of verse and written a great deal for children. In 2002 the three were given the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.
John McGrath, (1935–2002), playwright and director, was born at 3 St David Road, Birkenhead. Jimmy McGovern (b.1949) initially a writer on Brookside he went on to write Cracker starring Robbie Coltrane and the film Priest as well as the reality based drama Hillsborough based on the tragedy. Peter Tinniswood (1936–2003), writer, was born at 5 Granard Road, Wavertree. When his father was offered a job on the Manchester Guardian the family moved to Manchester. His ironic pieces about village cricket made good broadcasts.
Beryl Bainbridge (1932–2010), actress, writer, and artist, was born at 294 Menlove Avenue, Allerton and brought up in Raven Meols Lane, Formby. In early married life she and her husband settled in Liverpool in a house at 22 Huskisson Street, on the edge of Toxteth, but the marriage later broke up.
An acclaimed writer, nominated five times for the Booker Prize during her lifetime, she finally received a posthumous award in 2011. Dame Beryl Bainbridge’s first job was at the Playhouse Williamson Square. She based her 1989 novel An Awfully Big Adventure on her experiences. Many of her early stories are set in Liverpool In these books Bainbridge constantly ransacked and reinvented her past. Her aunts Margot and Nellie were central to The Dressmaker (1973). The Bottle Factory Outing (1974) drew on Bainbridge’s brief experience of working on a bottle-labelling line. A Quiet Life (1976) returned to the troubled setting of her Formby upbringing, dramatizing the relationship she had begun at fourteen with Harry Franz, a German prisoner of war, a decade her senior, whom she had met in the pinewoods near her home. Even Young Adolf (1978), which imagines Hitler’s visit to his sister-in-law in Liverpool, was set ‘with all the streets I remembered and the people I knew’
Dorothy Kathleen Broster, (1877–1950), novelist, was born at Grassendale Park, Garston She produced her best-seller about Scottish history, The Flight of the Heron, in 1925. Broster stated she had consulted eighty reference books before beginning the novel. Broster followed it up with two successful sequels, The Gleam in the North and The Dark Mile. Barbara Pym (1913-1980), novelist, studied at the Huyton College, in Liverpool, 1925-1931.
MANCHESTER Manchester’s literature reflects the industrial evolution and the growth of the city as “Cottonopolis”. Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859), author and intellectual, best known for his Confessions of an English opium-Eater (1821) was born at Cross Street, Manchester where there was a plaque. He also lived at The Farm, Moss side and Greenheys. He attended Manchester Grammar School, but his principal literary achievements are associated with Scotland, and the Lake District. Samuel Bamford (1788-1872) Born in 1788 in Middleton, the son of a muslin weaver, Bamford was also educated at Manchester Grammar School, and worked as a weaver. He was always interested in literature and poetry, and he spoke publicly at the Peterloo Massacre. This event which prompted Passages in the Life of a Radical (1840). Charles Swain, (1801–1874), poet, was born in Every Street, and baptized at St Ann’s. His verses were very popular and often set to music. He died in Prestwich where there is memorial in the parish church. Harrison Ainsworth (1805–1882), novelist, was born 21 King Street, Manchester, where there is a plaque:

Wm. Harrison Ainsworth 1805-1883 novelist was born in a house which stood on this site.

He wrote 39 (usually historical) novels, among which the best-known is The Lancashire Witches (1848).

Mrs Gaskell

Mrs Gaskell

Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) grew up in Knutsford, and two of her books are based on the town: Cranford, and Wives and Daughters. After her marriage to a Unitarian minister in 1832, she lived at various places in Manchester including Chorlton-on-Medlock and 84, Plymouth Grove where there is a plaque:

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (1810 – 1865) Novelist and Authoress of Mary Barton, Cranford and many other works lived here (1849 – 1865).

This fine regency house is open to the public. Mary Barton (1848) was Mrs. Gaskell’s first novel and an immediate success. It is a realistic portrait of industrial life in Manchester, and vividly displays her social concerns. As a result of her literary reputation she was visited by key mid-century literary figures including Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle and Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Cross Street Chapel

Cross Street Chapel

William Gaskell, Nonconformist minister and writer, a pioneer in the education of the working class, was appointed Minister of Cross Street Chapel in 1828, and served until his death in 1884. There is a plaque at Chapel Walks, Cross Street:

First School and Chapel House built here 1734. Early meeting place of Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society founded 1781. Elizabeth Gaskell (1810 – 1865) worshipped here.

Intriguingly another Unitarian Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), writer, sometimes thought of as the first woman sociologist, was once engaged to a young minister at Cross Street Chapel, Manchester, but he died in 1827. She used her acquaintanceship with Manchester to write what is regarded as the first work of fiction to deal with industrial relations, A Manchester Strike (1832). Later in the same decade Frances Trollope (1779–1863), novelist and traveller, also wrote much fiction which dealt with social themes. For a time in the 1840s Dickens saw her as a serious rival. In 1839 she visited Manchester for purposes of research and published an exposé of child labour in Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy (1839–1840):

In the very poorest agricultural village, the cottages which shelter its labourers have the pure untainted air of heaven to blow around their humble roofs; but where forests of tall bare chimneys, belching eternal clouds of smoke rear their unsightly shafts towards the sky, in lieu of verdant air-refreshing trees, the black tint of the loathsome factory seems to rest upon every object near it. The walls are black, the fences are black, the window-panes (when there are any) are all veiled in black. No domestic animal that pertinaciously exists within their tainted purlieus, but wears the same dark hue, and perhaps there is no condition of human life so significantly surrounded by types of its own wretchedness as this.

Charles Dickens was very familiar with Manchester and knew both Harrison Ainsworth and Elizabeth Gaskell. He visited town in 1837 and stayed there in 1852. His industrial novel Hard Times (1854) is generally considered to be set in Manchester.
Manchester was where Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) began to write Jane Eyre. A plaque at the Salutation, Boundary Street West reads:

In 1846 The Revd. Patrick Brontë came to Manchester for a cataract operation accompanied by his daughter Charlotte. They took lodgings at 59 Boundary Street West (formerly known as 83 Mount Pleasant) It was here that Charlotte began to write her first successful novel Jane Eyre.

In June 1851 Charlotte first called on Mrs Gaskell who eventually wrote her biography. A lesser figure in this web of literary relationships was Mary Louisa Molesworth (1839–1921), writer of children’s stories, was born in Holland, but she returned to England, first to Preston and then to Manchester. She called Manchester “Smokytown” in her children’s books, but the family were able to move further from the centre, finally to the select suburb of Whalley Range. In adolescence she attended the private classes of the Reverend William Gaskell.
Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), novelist, was born at 385 Cheetham Hill Road in Manchester, but after her father died, her mother sold up and moved to Tennessee to live with her brother. Burnett’s most famous novels were Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The Secret Garden (1909). The Victorian novelist George Gissing (1857-1903), novelist, was born in Yorkshire, but attended a boarding school in Cheshire and got a scholarship to what is now Manchester University, but he was expelled. John Hay Beith [‘Ian Hay’] (1876 – 1952) novelist and playwright born at Platt Abbey on Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, Manchester. His best-liked play was The Housemaster (1936). He often collaborated with other writers including, for example, P. G. Woodhouse. Dodie Smith (1896 – 1990) author of One Hundred and One Dalmations lived at 609 Stretford Road, Old Trafford, as a child. It was so quiet and semi-rural that the corncrake could still be heard. [see Bury] Howard Spring (1889-1965) journalist and novelist, lived at 26 Hesketh Avenue, Didsbury from 1920 to 1931 when he was working on The Manchester Guardian. His most successful novel was Fame Is the Spur (1940), which describes the rise of the socialist movement in Britain from the mid19th century to the 1930s. Louis Golding (1895 –1958) novelist wrote a succession of popular novels of which Magnolia Street (1932) is the best known. It is set in Hightown and deals with the relationships between Jews and others. He was born at Red Bank, Manchester. Adrian Bell (1901–1980), writer about rural issues, was born on 4 October 1901 at 5 Birch Avenue, Stretford
Anthony Burgess, novelist (1917-1993) is probably best remembered for The Clockwork Orange, (1962) made into a film by Stanley Kubrick. He was born in Harpurhey, Manchester. He became perhaps, Britain’s leading novelist of the 1960s and 70s. He was also an accomplished musician who composed more than 250 musical pieces, including, for example, a Shakespearian ballet. He was also a linguist of some distinction. There is a plaque at Manchester University:

Anthony Burgess 1917-1993 Writer and Composer Graduate BA English 1940

A generation later than Burgess came Howard Jacobson (b. 1942) novelist and critic, who was born in Prestwich in 1942; eventually he went on to teach at the Wolverhampton Polytechnic, which provided the source material his first novel. It was the first of many amusing, but highly perceptive novels including The Mighty Walzer (1999) based on the Jewish community in Manchester during the 1950s. In October 2010 he won the Booker Prize for his novel The Finkler Question, a witty look at Jewish culture.

There are two distinguished twentieth century playwrights associated with Manchester: Robert Bolt (1924–1995), scriptwriter and playwright, was born at Sale, now a part of Manchester. Both A Flowering Cherry (1958) and A Man For All Seasons (1960) were outstandingly successful in the West End. His screenplays include Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Ryan’s Daughter (1970). Trevor Griffiths (b.1935), playwright and screenwriter, was born in Ancoats, Manchester. He entered Manchester University and read English. He has written for the theatre, television and cinema since the late 60s. His best-known play, Comedians, has been in production since 1975. Jack Morris Rosenthal, (1931–2004), the equally distinguished television dramatist, was born on 8 September 1931 at 27 Kendall Road, Crumpsall, Manchester.

Carol Ann Duffy CBE, FRSL (b. 1955), Poet Laureate, was born in Glasgow. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain’s poet Laureate in May 2009, the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly bisexual person to be laureate. Her collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), which won a Scottish Arts Council Award; Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award; and Rapture (2005), winner of the T S Eliot Prize.
MILNTHORPE (Westmorland) Constance Holme (1880–1955), novelist and short-story writer, was born on 7 October 1880 at Owlet Ash, Milnthorpe, Westmorland, the youngest daughter of a land agent. Constance Holme’s formal education began as a weekly boarder at a small Methodist school, Oakfield Place, in nearby Arnside. She loved the estuary and hill landscape which provided the inspiration and setting for all her work and was a minor poet. She aroused critical interest with The Lonely Plough, and its dramatic climax drawn from the great River Kent flood of 1907, established her national reputation as a regional novelist of uncommon distinction, and became the book most identified with her name.
Soon after her marriage, she settled at The Gables, Kirkby Lonsdale, where she spent the next twenty years. She returned to Milnthorpe, to live again at Owlet Ash. In February 1954 she moved to a small terraced house, 13 Orchard Road, Arnside.

MORECAMBE Providing an unlikely literary connection, John Osborne, (1929–1994), playwright, wrote his game-changing “kitchen sink” play Look Back in Anger in May–June 1955, partly on the pier at Morecambe, where he was appearing in Seagulls over Sorrento, and partly on a Chiswick barge .

NELSON CLR James (1901 –1989), left-wing author, intellectual and writer on cricket, was invited to live in Nelson by the cricketer and diplomat Learie Constantine. He later moved to London.

OLDHAM Benjamin Brierley (1825-1896), weaver, poet, essayist and writer, was born in Failsworth. A bronze statue was erected of him in 1898 in Queens Park, Manchester. “Ben” Brierley was to become one of the leading exponents of writing in the Lancashire dialect, and achieved local notoriety by his recitals of these works to working men’s clubs. An early love of reading, encouraged by his uncle, and inspiration from the works of John Byrom, Shelley and Shakespeare, maintained his devotion to literary matters, such that he took employment as sub-editor of The Oldham Times, where he worked until 1862. Cofounder of the Failsworth Mechanics’ Institute, with the aim of improving the lot of working men. An original member of the Manchester Literary Club, he served as a City Councillor from 1875 to 1881, and on the Free Libraries Committee where he pushed for working-class reform. He had many of his writings published in local journals. He was popular and respected by all classes of society. He died in 1896. There is a plaque at ‘The Rocks’ 466 Oldham Road, Failsworth, Oldham:

Ben Brierley 1825 1896 Lancashire author & poet
Was born in this house 26th June 1825

Roy Fuller (1912 – 1991), an English writer, known as a poet was also born in Failsworth, but brought up in Blackpool. He published much highly regarded work and was Professor of Poetry at Oxford 1968-71.

PADIHAM Padiham is perhaps best described as an overgrown village on the edge of industrial Lancashire. Charlotte Bronte visited Gawthorpe Hall as a guest of Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, who was a great friend and admirer of hers. The house was completed in 1604 and much of its Jacobean character remains. As well as good furniture and portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, the house contains a remarkable collection of textiles and needlework.

PRESTON Both Francis Thompson and Robert Service were born in Preston. Charles Dickens came to report on the Preston strike of 1854 – where cotton mill owners were refusing to raise salaries. It is said that he used Preston as the background to Hard Times, although Dickens repudiated it. Francis Joseph Thompson, (1859–1907), poet and writer, was born on 18 December 1859 at 7 Winckley Street, Preston, Lancashire where there is a plaque, quoting from his noted poem “The Hound of Heaven”:

Francis Thompson Poet was born in this house Dec 16 1859. “Ever and anon a trumpet sounds From the bird battlements of Eternity”

robert service
Robert W. Service (1874–1958), the poet and writer associated with the Yukon Gold Rush, was born at 4 Christian Road, and lived for a time on Winckley Street in the city centre. There is a Blue Plaque commemorating him on Christian Road, near the railway station.

Angela Brazil (1868–1947), writer of school-girl stories, was born at 1 West Cliff, Preston.

A Schoolgirl Story

A Schoolgirl Story

Robert Leighton (1822–1869), poet, was born in Dundee but worked for the LNWR at Preston for many years. His Poems by Robert Leighton was published in 1866 .
ROCHDALE Edwin Waugh (1817-1890), poet and wit, was the son of a shoemaker in Rochdale. He became one of the most successful of Lancashire dialect poets. It was in 1856 that his first dialect poetry appeared, including his most famous, “Come Whoam to thi’ Childer an’ Me”. He wrote many reports and essays on social and economic matters affecting working people and their poverty. Waugh died at New Brighton in 1890 and is buried at Kersal. Anna Jacobs (born 1941), romantic novelist, was born and lived in Rochdale before emigrating in 1973 to Australia. She continues to write historical novels set in Lancashire and about Lancastrians in Australia. Mike Harding (b. 1944), songwriter, poet, and performer was born in Crumpsall, but is known as ‘The Rochdale Cowboy’.
the saintROSSALL Among former pupils of Rossall is Leslie Charteris [pseud.] (1907–1993), writer, who was born Leslie Charles Bowyer Yin in Singapore, the son of a wealthy Chinese surgeon, and Lydia Bowyer (1876–1953). In 1919, Yin and his mother went to England, where he attended Rossall School His most famous fictional character was Simon Templar, ‘the Saint’.

SALFORD Rather unfairly, Salford often gets subsumed into Manchester. However, it has such a highly distinguished cast, particularly of twentieth century literary giants that it deserves to be treated separately. For example both the novelist Walter Greenwood (Love on the Dole) and the dramatist Shelagh Delaney (A Taste of Honey) were born in, and wrote about, Salford. John Byrom (1692-1763), comic poet and creator of a system of shorthand, was born at Kersal Cell, Broughton, now in Salford. It is said that he wrote the hymn “Christians Awake” there, but it is more likely that it was written at the Old Wellington Inn in Manchester’s old market place. Byrom was educated at Merchant Taylor’s and Trinity College, Cambridge. He also studied medicine in Montpellier and, later, was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was an ardent Jacobite and wrote:

God bless the King! I mean the Faith’s Defender.
God bless—no harm in blessing—the Pretender!
But who Pretender is, or who is King,
God bless us all, that’s quite another thing.

In later life Byrom retired to Stockport. George MacDonald (1824 –1905), novelist and poet, was born in Scotland, but trained as a congregational minister in England. From 1854 he stayed at 3, Camp Terrace, Lower Broughton. In 1857 he took a room in Renshaw Street, Eccles and in 1858 his first major book appeared. His fantastic fiction includes At the Back of the North Wind (1871) and Lilith (1895). Mary Louisa Armitt (1851–1911), author and founder of the Armitt Library, Ambleside, was born at 19 Melbourne Terrace, Salford. She was the youngest of three daughters all three becoming versatile writers. Initially they attended Islington House Academy; later Mary studied music at Manchester Mechanics’ Institute.

The 1953 film of Hobson’s Choice

The 1953 film of Hobson’s Choice

Harold Brighouse (1882–1958), playwright and novelist, was born at Inglewood, 25 Ellesmere Avenue, Eccles. He was educated at Clarendon Road School, Eccles before winning a scholarship to Manchester Grammar School. In 1900 he attended a season of plays by F. R. Benson’s company at Manchester’s Royal Theatre, which kindled his interest in drama. His best-known play was Hobson’s Choice (1916) set in Salford, the tale of a rebellious daughter. There was a 1953 film by David Lean. Brighouse was part of the group known as the Manchester School of Dramatists.
Walter Greenwood (1903-1974), novelist and screenwriter was born in Ellor Street, Salford He is best known for the book Love on the Dole (1932) which detailed the plight of the Lancashire poor during the depression. It was turned into a successful play [see Accrington] and a film, made in 1941, starring Deborah Kerr. Greenwood wrote further socially-conscious novels which never quite matched the success of his earlier work. Alistair Cooke (1908–2004), broadcaster and writer, was born at 7 Isaac Street, Salford, but when Cooke was eight the family moved to Blackpool.
Ewan MacColl (1915–1989), songwriter, folk-singer, and playwright, was born at 4 Andrew Street, Broughton. Ewan MacColl (best known for “Dirty Old Town” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”), attended North Grecian Street Primary School. There is a plaque:

Ewan MacColl 1915 – 1989, Working Class Movement Library
Marxist, Singer songmaker and dramatist lived in this neighbourhood.

Shelagh Delaney (1938-2011), playwright, was born in Salford of Irish descent. She attended Pendleton High School, where she was actively encouraged to write by an enlightened headmistress. Her writing was steeped in her childhood experiences of life in the industrial north-west of England, and her roots were to provide the background to many of her most celebrated plays and novels. Perhaps her most famous is her debut work, A Taste of Honey (1958), set in 1950s Salford. There was a film in 1961. There is a plaque at 77 Duchy Road:

The childhood home of Shelagh Delaney celebrated writer, proud Salfordian and cherished daughter, mother and grandma. 25.11.1938 – 20.11.2011

Mike Leigh (b. 1943), playwright and film director, was brought up in Higher Broughton, Salford. He is a director and writer, known for Secrets & Lies (1996), and Vera Drake (2004). Leigh was the son of Alfred Leigh, originally Lieberman, eventually a general practitioner in Higher Broughton, “the epicentre of Leigh’s youngest years” and the area closely remembered in his television film Hard Labour (1973). The film is clearly drawn from Higher and Lower Broughton where he grew up., indeed one of the scenes was shot in a house just two doors along from where the Leighs had lived in Cavendish Road. John Cooper Clarke (b.1949), performance poet, is from Higher Broughton. On his website he recalls Salford:

I’m from Higher Broughton, on the corner of Bury New Road and Great Cheetham Street East, opposite the Rialto picture house, and I used to go there loads. We lived above a chemist’s called Friedman’s and that corner was a really happening place actually. Potter’s Club was there where all the North West snooker players used to go. It was open 24 hours and if you were a member you got a key so you could knock about there for as long as you wanted. It’s where John Virgo, Alex Higgins and John Spencer used to practise their shots.


SILVERDALE Elizabeth Glaskell (1810-65) Victorian novelist, was author of Wives and Daughters, Cranford, and other novels. She was married to a Manchester businessman and spent much of her time in Lancashire [see MANCHESTER]. She often went with her daughters to Silverdale, where some of her books were written, in Lindeth (or Gibraltar) Tower, a summer house in the grounds of the farm where they stayed. In 1858 she wrote to a friend:

“We are going to Silverdale, close to Lancaster Sands and Morecambe Bay, and there we shall remain for six weeks, all get as strong as horses….. The house is covered with roses, and great white Virgin-sceptred lilies and sweetbriar bushes grow in the small flagged square court. At the end of the garden is a high terrace at the top of the broad stone wall, looking down on the Bay…”

Some Elizabeth Gaskell followers believe that she based her novel ‘Cranford’ on the nearby town of Carnforth, but this is highly unlikely.


Gordon Bottomley

Gordon Bottomley [Image:  Howard Coster]

Gordon Bottomley (1874–1948), poet and playwright, was born in Yorkshire, and was an invalid for much of his life. Apart from his writing and a little travelling, his life was uneventful. He devoted himself to the arts, and even when his name was well known he was reclusive. In 1905 he married Emily Burton. Their picturesque home, The Sheiling, in Silverdale was originally built by Mrs. Gaskell’s daughters. It was celebrated by Edward Thomas (1878-1917) in a poem, composed when he visited Bottomley on his way to the front early in the Great War. Bottomley’s work often involved his Scottish roots, for example, his play Gruach was a prequel to Macbeth.
SOUTHPORT Nathaniel (Nat) Gould (1857-1919), sporting novelist, was born at 127 York Street, Cheetham, Manchester, but educated in Southport. His novels were generally set in Australia whence he moved aged about twenty seven. Elsie Jeanette Dunkerley [Elsie Oxenham] (1880–1960), author of children’s books whose father was also a novelist lived in Southport. Lucy Maria Boston (1892–1990), writer, was born on 10 December 1892 at 8 Scarisbrick Street, Southport. She was educated at local schools in Southport and Arnside. She later lived in a fine house at Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire. Her children’s books included the Green Knowe series of stories. Much mocked Mary Webb [née Meredith], (1881–1927), novelist and poet, went to finishing school in Southport. However, Southport’s most striking literary personage was Michael Arlen (1895–1956), novelist. He was of Armenian extraction and was born in Rustchuk, Bulgaria. In 1924 came The Green Hat, a bestselling novel which was highly acclaimed. It epitomised glittering nineteen twenties. Arlen went to Hollywood and, among other things created “The Falcon” and wrote storylines for films starring Greta Garbo and Bette Davis.

george sanders

STALYBRIDGE Benjamin Disraeli used Stalybridge in Coningsby. At about the same time Friedrich Engels (1820 – 1895), political scientist, published The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), based on personal observations of factory towns in and around Manchester, used Stalybridge аs аn example:

… multitudes оf courts, back lanes, and remote nooks arise оut оf [the] confused wаy of building … Add to thіs the shocking filth, and the repulsive effect of Stalybridge, in spite of its pretty surroundings, may be readily imagined.

The children’s author Beatrix Potter (1866–1943), the author and illustrator of the Peter Rabbit books, visited Gorse Hall many times as a child which was built by her maternal grandparents. There is a Blue Plaque to commemorate this. During the industrial revolution two local poets came to work in Stalybridge from elsewhere. John Jones (1788–1858), poet, known as ‘the Welsh Bard’ as he was born in Wales, came to Stalybridge and was popular there. He was buried next to the Wesleyan chapel, at Grosvenor Square where there is a memorial tablet. Nearby at Hob Hill Mews a plaque recollects Samuel Laycock (1826-1893):

A dialect poet whose work presents a vivid impression of mid-nineteenth century working class life. He drew on his personal experience in the cotton industry. He came to Stalybridge aged eleven. He was the librarian at the Mechanics Institute from 1865 until 1871.

Laycock published two books, Lancashire Rhymes (1864) and Lancashire Songs (1866). These poems record the everyday life of cotton workers.
STOCKPORT Ronald Gow (1897–1993), playwright, born in Heaton Moor Stockport, is best known for his play Love on the Dole (1934) based on Walter Greenwood’s novel about unemployment in Salford during the Great Depression. He lived in Altrincham, attending and later teaching at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys. Wendy Hiller played the lead in the play and, in 1937, Gow and Hiller married. He wrote much material for her later work on stage and in film. Christopher Isherwood (1904–86), novelist, had his family home at Marple Hall, though he was born at nearby Wybersley Hall. He was the author of Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939)
STONYHURST Stonyhurst School near Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley has inspired poets and authors who include a former classics teacher Gerard Manley Hopkins, some of whose poems feature details of the local countryside.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Earth, sweet Earth, sweet landscape, with leav’s throng
And louch’d low grass, heaven that dost appeal
To, with no tongue to plead, no heart to feel;
That canst but only be, but dost that long–

Thou canst but be, but that thou well dost; strong
Thy plea with him who dealt, nay does now deal,
Thy lovely dale down thus and thus bids reel
Thy river, and o’er gives all to rack or wrong.

And what is Earth’s eye, tongue, or heart else, where
Else, but in dear and dogged man?–Ah, the heir
To his own selfbent so bound, so tied to his turn,
To thriftless reave both our rich round world bare
And none reck of world after, this bids wear
Earth brows of such care, care and dear concern.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who named Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, Moriarty, after a fellow pupil, attended the preparatory school and then the senior school, from 1868 to 1875. The school grounds in the Ribble valley later reappeared in his fiction, notably “Baskerville Hall” which was modelled on Stonyhurst, the yew walk, the observatory, and the mists were transferred to Dartmoor in The Hound of the Baskervilles. J. R. R. Tolkien wrote part of The Lord of the Rings in a classroom during his stay at the college where his son taught Classics; his “Middle-earth” is said to resemble the locality. John Cunliffe (b. 1933), children’s book author who created the characters of Postman Pat and Rosie and Jim, attended Stonyhurst.
Alfred Austin DL (1835 – 1913) also attended Stonyhurst. He was an English poet who was appointed Poet Laureate in 1896 on the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Oliver St John Gogarty (1878–1957), Irish poet, writer and wit, was educated at Stonyhurst, as was Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840–1922), poet.
WIGAN John Critchley Prince (1808–1866) was an English poet born at Wigan. Prince was the son of a poor reed-maker for weavers. He learned to read and write at a Baptist Sunday school and became addicted to poetry. He published several books of his own verses which were well received. Prince died at Hyde in 1866. James Hilton (1900 – 1954) author of Goodbye Mr Chips and Lost Horizon, was born was born in 26 Twist Lane, off Wilkinson Street in Leigh, and was buried at St. George’s Church there. He went on to win an Academy Award for his screenplay for Mrs Miniver, which starred Greer Garson. Other award winning films based on his novels included ‘Half a Sixpence‘ (later made into a musical starring Tommy Steele) and ‘Random Harvest’. By this time a successful author, script and screen writer, he had moved to live in Hollywood in California. A blue plaque has been fastened to the wall of 26 Wilkinson Street where James Hilton was born on September 9, 1900.

The Road to Wigan Pier

The Road to Wigan Pier

George Orwell (1903-1950) wrote the memorably entitled The Road to Wigan Pier, first published in 1937. It is about the wretched conditions of the working class in the North of England at the time. He travelled widely in the North but it is in Wilton Street, Wigan that there is a plaque:

The writer George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903, received national acclaim for the books he wrote between 1920 and 1950 describing living conditions in Britain and abroad. He is known to have stayed nearby in Darlington Street and Warrington Lane in February, 1936, and afterwards published his well-known book “The Road To Wigan Pier”


WYCOLLAR The picturesque, secluded hamlet of Wycoller, close to Colne and near the Yorkshire border, has been a source of inspiration for writers. It is thought that Charlotte Bronte fashioned ‘Ferndean Manor’ in the novel Jane Eyre after the deserted Wycoller Hall, a 16th century country house in the village, which is now in ruins.

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