Thomas Paine, District Nurses and Peterloo – What do they have in Common?

Well there’s a good question!  Answer – The Working Class Movement Library, Salford.

Working Class Movement Library, Salford

This fabulous library is where district nurses used to live (the rooms housing the collection are former bedrooms), copies of Thomas Paine’s (1737-1809) controversial writings are held and a contemporary map of St Peter’s Fields planning the strategy for the now infamous gathering hangs on an upstairs wall.

A confession; although I knew of this library’s existence and have written about it, until Saturday, I’d never been. From the outside, it’s just a detached house but the inside is a cornucopia of treasures largely collected by Ruth and Eddie Frow who originally housed their library in a three bedroom semi in Stretford.   They must have slept in a cupboard…

The collection was moved to the current site opposite Salford Art Gallery in 1987 and it has become one of the most important repository for books and pamphlets about the working class.

Let’s face it, today the term ‘working class’ has connotations of skivers and scroungers but of course, the working class was society’s backbone; our ancestors beavering away as shoemakers, cabinet makers,  bookbinders, carpenters, watchmakers, spinners and weavers  and shopkeepers – everyone who worked for a living to survive – all of us. They were the working class and this library celebrates it.

Research and entrance to the library is free, see their website for catalogue details. Contributions are extra welcome.  I shall be returning soon – I want to discover more about my grandfather’s contribution to the General Strike, 1926, Did he know the Frows?