Which movement involved a regal robe, a bicycle and milk? The Temperance movement, of course.
The People’s History Museum, located in Manchester’s old pump house, accommodates this exhibition now in its final few months. Midweek the museum is rather empty, so the demography of the few visitors wandering around while I was there was limited to students and thirty-something’s, while the child-orientated activities draw families on weekends.
Originating in Liverpool and moving swiftly to Preston and the rest of the North West, the Temperance movement developed out of the Beerhouse Act of 1830. This Act hoped to increase competition between breweries, thus lowering the price and weaning the public off more alcoholic drinks such as gin (given frequently to children to keep them quiet, have you seen Sweeney Todd?), but subsequently fuelled beer consumption. The movement drew on the newest scientific information of the time to support economic, moral and social arguments against drinking, whilst providing social alternatives for its members; men and women, adults and children.
Despite some repetition and if you can either overlook or are happy to participate in the activities for children, the abundance of historical memorabilia is worth a visit: archive film footage, maps, photographs, posters and artefacts from the movement spanning a century.
Those interested in a specific and largely unknown social movement in the nineteenth century will enjoy this exhibition. In fact, students wanting to adopt a nineteenth century substitute for alcohol would benefit from a visit. The real gem however, was the museum itself. Its modesty in the museum world makes it a pleasant place to peruse, where you can take tea with a view of the canal and get some reading done in the Study Centre.
To find out how the regal robe, the bicycle and milk are connected, pay a visit.