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1827 - Gregson, J S - Museum Chethamiense

Date 1827
Author Gregson, J S
Title Museum Chethamiense; or a Choice Oratorical Catalogue of the Rare and Valuable Curiosities contained in the College Library, Manchester
Mentions Robin Hood's Arrows (Chetham's Library)
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West to east: Salford Museum and Art Gallery, and Chetham's Library.
A 'blue-coat' boy from Chetham's College / Initial from: Banks, Mrs George Linnæus. The Manchester Man (Manchester, 1896), p. 96.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-03-01. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-03-05.


(Enter boy and boobies).
Boy—That's th' skeleton of a man—that's a globe—that's a telescope—that's a snake—over the snake's back's two watch-bills—those are four ancient swords—that with a white haft once belonged to General Wolfe—that's the whip that the snake was kilt with—that topmost's a crocodile—that bottomost's an alligator—that boot once belonged to Queen Elizabeth—that's an Indian pouch—that's an ancient stiletto—that's part of Humphrey Chetham's armour—that with the white face is a monkey—side of the monkey's a green lizard—side of the lizard's a turtle—those bows and arrows belonged to th' Indians—that's a porpus's head—those are various kinds of adders, worms, snakes, fishes, and venomous creatures—those are a pair of eagle's claws—that arrow belonged to one of the legions that fought under the Duke of Richmond at Bosworth Field, in the year 1485, when King Richard the 3rd, King of England, was slain—those arrows once belonged to Robin Hood—that's a sea hen—that's a sea weed—that's a unicorn fish—that's part of an Indian's skull—that's th' top part of it—that's part of Oliver Cromwell's stone tankard—those balls are took out of a cow—that's part of a loadstone—those two pieces of wood was almanacks before printing was found out—that's a hairy man—under the hairy man's a speaking trumpet—side o' th' speaking trumpet's Oliver Cromwell's sword—that's a leathern bag—side of th' leather bag's two cokey [p. 37:] nut shells—side o' th' porpus's skull's a pumpkin—side o' th' pumpkin's an American Cat—over th' pumpkin's a turtle—side o' th' turtle's a sea weed—that top one's a crocodile—under the crocodile's an alligator—under the alligator's a woman's clog that was split by a thunderbolt, an' hoo wasn't hurt—side o' th' crocodile's a sea hen—side o' th' sea hen's a Laplander's snow shoe—that in the box is the skeleton of a nightingale—that table has as many pieces as th' days in a year—this clock only strikes once a year—that's cock that crows when it smells roast beef—and that's th' way out."[1]

Source notes

Gregson's pamphlet is not available online. The passage is quoted instead from the Fifth series of Thomas Swindells's Manchester Streets and Manchester Men (1906-1908),[2]

IRHB comments

Through bequests Chetham’s Library gradually built up a veritable cabinet of curiosities during the 17th to 19th centuries, objects which a mid-19th century official unsentimentally referred to as "rubbish" (see quotation below). Before this assortment of oddities and ordinary objects with allegedly unordinary provenances was dumped on Salford Museum and Art Gallery at Peel Park, which conveniently opened in 1850,[3] it was one of the jobs of the 'blue-coat' boys from the 'Hospital', a charity school founded in tandem with the library, to act as cicerones to visitors when summoned by a bell. This they apparently did by rattling off at lightning speed a memorized catalogue of the objects on display, though not without adding, from time to time, bits of fresh 'information' in order to add to the interest of the assorted oddities.[4]

Thomas Swindells's introduction to the passage cited above is as follows:

 In the middle part of the last [i.e. 19th] century a visit to Manchester was not considered complete if it did not include a stroll through the college [i.e. Chetham's Library]. In those days there was on exhibition an assortment of curiosities which were explained parrot fashion by the boys who conducted open-eyed and open-mouthed visitors round the building. This was done in a style peculiar to the college boy, and although we cannot reproduce the voice, or adequately describe its characteristic features, we give below the list of articles then on view."[5]

Mrs George Linnæus Banks, née Isabella Varley, quotes the passage in an appendix to the 1896 edition of her novel The Manchester Man (first published 1874), introducing it as follows:

 It is just thirty years ago—1866—since I visited the College for the purposes of this story, and, after a brief chat with my old friend, Mr. James Crossley, the bibliographer, and Mr. Thomas Jones, the librarian, Mr. Richard Hanby, the gentle and genial house-governor, conducted me over the building, from cellerage to dormitory. I then discovered that "change," under the name of "Progress," had begun its work internally. To provide more room for the library, the old museum had been displaced, and the bulk (or the "rubbish," according to Mr. John Plant, curator) transferred to the Peel Park Museum, where its significance was lost. The dingy curios, there of no account, were part of the antiquity of the College, telling of a time before steam brought the ends of the world into contact, when an alligator or a porpoise was a curiosity to be prized and exhibited, and science had not made the human skeleton familiar to the young. To me it seemed as if a leaf had been violently rent from the archives of the Hospital and of my memory. How often had I in my childhood followed, with open ears and eyes alert, some Blue-coat cicerone as he ran over, like a parrot's roll, the list of curios ranged on shelves protected by a network of brass-wire, or mounted high on walls or over doorways, when I had wished he would not gabble on so fast, but leave time for closer inspection. There was generally another guide with a separate party close on his heels, and no doubt this frequent iteration would be annoying to studious readers who had only the holiday time for research, for one of these committed his irritation to print, and so preserved an inventory of an earlier date than that of Mr. John Rylance (himself an "old boy") or that the Rev. John Henn has included in his "Memoir of Richard Hanby." In producing [p. 469:] this catalogue, for which I am indebted to another "old boy," Mr. John Lea, of Sale, I am omitting a splenetic prelude little to the purpose, and beg leave to say it is otherwise precisely given as I have heard [...][6]

The 'Peel Park Museum', i.e. Salford Museum and Art Gallery, was a reluctant home, and many objects were further scattered.[7]




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