A CHESHIRE author and creative writing tutor has painted a fascinating picture of life for working people in Victorian Lancashire.
Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives by physics graduate Sue Wilkes, of Cuddington, describes the few choices available in the white heat and aftermath of the Industrial Revolution – work, starve or face the workhouse and the break-up of the family.
The illustrated paperback recreates everyday life for textile workers, canal boat families, coal miners, metal workers, navvies and glassblowers using contemporary eyewitness accounts and interviews.
It also depicts the dire state of towns and the dreadful hazards workers faced on a daily basis as their toil helped make Britain “Great”.
“I have always been keenly interested in history,” explains Sue. “I grew up in Salford, just as many of the great relics of the Industrial Revolution were being demolished.
“My book tells the story of ordinary working people, like coal waggoner Lump Lad who dreamed the mine was collapsing in on him, and Jane, a cotton worker who could afford to buy herself smart clothes with her earnings at the mill.
“I also discuss the terrible living conditions many endured, such as the damp, filthy, and overcrowded cellar dwellings in Liverpool and Manchester.”
Her research for the book revealed an insight into her own family history. Her grandfather and great- grandfather worked down the pits, her great-grandmother was a mill-worker and her grandmother was a weaver in a mill.
Sue is already working hard on her next book on Regency Cheshire.
“The Regency was an age of elegance, but also an age of upheaval,” says Sue. “Lords and ladies enjoyed glittering social occasions such as balls and assemblies while the textile workers had to watch every penny.
“Traditional ways of life were threatened as new industries changed the landscape forever.”
Sue is a member of the Society of Authors and has been published in a wide variety of titles, including BBC History magazine.
She haunts second-hand bookshops and her interests range from Jane Austen to Star Wars and Status Quo.