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The Horrors of Eating, Drinking & Living in Victorian Manchester


Next tour: Tuesday 29 September 2020, if the guide manages to finish porking his way through that plate of cow pie.
Meet: Victoria Station wallmap, 2.30pm.
Booking: Please press here to book with eventbrite.

Horrors? Most certainly. Towards the end of the 19th century the Ministry of Health conducted a survey of local milk. Of 62,133 samples tested, 4,773 were found to be impure. In one case the milk contained one heaped-up teaspoonful of cow dung per gallon. They also found that self-raising flour contained traces of lead and arsenic, and jam small pieces of ham bone.

Until the late 19th century all sorts of nasty things went into beer. A typical pint of the time might contain a pinch of fox-glove, a plant with large purple flowers and a bitter taste which taken in quantity induces nausea and giddiness. Or it might include a trace of green copperas, an iron-based compound which gave porter a frothy head and was therefore a must for the enterprising landlord.

No wonder everyone died a painful death at a young age!

And we haven’t even got political yet. The Irish starved in the 1840s due to the potato crop failure, so must have found Irish Town in central Manchester (now Angel Meadow) a paradise of cow heels, black pudding and tripe when they arrived to man the factories for a pittance.

By 1900, there were 206 tripe shops in Manchester alone. “Creamy white, bleached blanket, honeycomb, bible or raggy, tripe was eaten cold with vinegar or hot with milk and onions”, as food writer Laura Mason put it.

These are the horrors we will be relating on this appetising tour. We will end the tour at the Marble Arch pub. There you will find sumptuous 21st century alum-free food and proper beer with not a hint of foxglove.

Bon appetit!