STEVE ROWELL


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William Wyld (1806-89), Manchester from Kersal Moor, dated 1852
Queen Victoria had visited Liverpool on 9 October 1851 and Manchester over the following two days, and commissioned a watercolour of each of the cities from Wyld soon after. Manchester was then the world's greatest producer of cotton textiles, and with Salford had grown rapidly to a conurbation of almost 400,000 inhabitants by mid-century. The overcrowding and slum conditions of the workers' housing were a severe social problem, and the Queen noted in her Journal: 'The mechanics and work-people, dressed in their best, were ranged along the streets in their button-holes; both in Salford and Manchester, a very intelligent, but painfully unhealthy-looking population they all were, men as well as women'. Wyld's view of the city is however overtly romantic. The smoking chimneys serve only to accentuate the golden light of the setting sun...