Ancoats Brotherhood

Ancoats Brotherhood

A well-intentioned initiative to introduce ‘serious’ music to the streets of Ancoats – ‘presumably to soothe the savage breasts71 – was launched by the Ancoats Brotherhood, founded by Charles Rowley in 1878, with the aim of bringing art, music and literature to the working classes. Rowley, art dealer, philanthropist and a liberal councillor for Manchester, brought many leading intellectuals and artists to give lectures, including Ford Madox Brown, William Morris and George Bernard Shaw, who said that Rowley was ‘the only man who could induce any sane man to go to Manchester’.72

GBS, himself a noted music critic, was later to doubt the success of the Brotherhood, saying ‘Ancoaters who are by nature recalcitrant to Bach and Beethoven simply do not join the Brotherhood.’73

And a recent commentator stated:

‘Local pubs and music halls had little to fear from activities of the Brotherhood’71

At the end of the 19th century, it certainly was not the Brotherhood that was feared by the local pubs; rather it was legislative changes that made life difficult for the smaller brewers and their pubs and this included the McKenna empire including their flagship hostelry, the George & Dragon.

71‘Ancoats History, an Introduction’

72website of the Working Class Movement Library, The Crescent, Salford

73George Bernard Shaw, quoted in C Rowley, Fifty Years of Work without Wages (1911) & quoted in ‘Ancoats History, an Introduction’ p 11