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Manchester Celebrities: Authors & Poets


William Harrison Ainsworth

William Harrison Ainsworth

(1805-1882)
Born in 1805 in King Street, Manchester, the son of a solicitor, educated at The Manchester Grammar School, and articled at age 16 by his father in a law firm, Ainsworth eventually emerged as a prolific and renowned romantic novelist.
By the age of 20, his love for literature had developed and he had already penned several stories, contributed articles to magazines, and founded his own periodical - which failed. After his father's death he moved to London, married Fannie Ebers, whose father was a publisher, and published his first novel, "Sir John Chiverton", followed by "Rockwood" , both in 1834.
Ainsworth wrote more than 40 historical romances, and became widely read when his novels were stocked in the then new Manchester library.
His works typify Lancashire life, many containing passages in local dialects. Works include "The Lancashire Witches" and "The Manchester Rebels" . He died in 1882.

Samuel Bamford

Sam Bamford

(1788-1872)
Born in 1788 in Middleton, the son of a muslin weaver, Bamford was educated at The Manchester Grammar School, and worked as a weaver in Middleton. Always interested in literature and poetry, he studied the classical works of Homer and Milton, before developing his own poetry and a strong socio-political awareness. Active in local politics with a strong social conscience, and a great influence on fellow workers. Spoke publicly at the Peterloo Massacre, an event which prompted his writing of "Passages in the Life of a Radical" (1840-44). He had earlier given up weaving to become a correspondent of London newspaper, where he wrote radical working-class material, and other volumes of poetry. He died in 1872
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Benjamin Brierley

Ben Brierley

(1825-1896)
Born into a very poor home in Failsworth in 1825, "Ben" Brierley was to become one of the leading exponents of writing in the Lancashire dialect, and achieved local notoriety by his recitals of these works to working mens' clubs. An early love of reading, encouraged by his uncle, and inspiration from the works of John Byrom, Shelley and Shakespeare, maintained his devotion to literary matters, such that he took employment as sub-editor of The Oldham Times , where he worked until 1862. Cofounder of the Failsworth Mechanics' Institute, with the aim of improving the lot of working men. An original member of the Manchester Literary Club, he served as a City Councillor from 1875 to 1881, and on the Free Libraries Committee where he pushed for working-class reform. He had many of his writings published in local journals. He was popular and respected by all classes of Manchester society. He died in 1896.

John Byrom

John Byrom

(1692-1763)
Born in the Old Wellington Inn in Manchester's old market place in 1692, the son of a linen draper. He was educated at the Merchant Taylor's School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was awarded his MA in 1715. While at college several of his writings and poems were accepted and published in The Spectator . Later he studied medicine in Montpellier (France), though never qualified. He was a devout Jacobite supporter. Married his cousin and taught a form of shorthand (which he had invented while at Cambridge) to supplement his income. In 1724 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, and contributed papers on shorthand. Due to his intentional secrecy about the system, details were not published until after his death. Wrote many religious and political essays as well as numerous poems, and the Christmas carol "Christians Awake". The ancestral home of the Byrom Family is in Byrom Hall at Lowton near Wigan. He died in 1763.

Charles Prestwich Scott

C P Scott

(1846-1932)
The name of C P Scott is indelibly linked with The Manchester Guardian Newspaper (now simply, The Guardian ), of which he was editor for 57 years. Born in 1846 in Bath to a nonconformist family, educated in Brighton, Clapham and Oxford University, he made an early reputation as a radical speechmaker and social commentator, which principles he established later in The Manchester Guardian, taking over editorship aged only twenty-five years. He gathered a carefully chosen elite staff of reporters to report on events in England and abroad, and made the Guardian a heavyweight journal. He was elected Liberal MP for Leigh and held the position from 1895 to 1905, retiring after his wife's death in 1905. He continued as editor for The Guardian until 1929, and died three years later in 1932 at "The Firs" in Fallowfield.

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett

(1849-1924)
Born in 1849 at 385 Cheetham Hill Road in Manchester, the daughter of a small shopkeeper. Decline in the cotton industry led to diminishing fortunes after her father had died, at which time her mother sold up and moved them to Tennessee to live with her brother.
Frances began to write short stories based on those in popular English magazines, with immediate success and recognition. After her marriage to a local doctor, her literary success conflicted with his work and they divorced in 1898.
Her most famous novels were "That Lass o' Lowries" (1877), "Little Lord Fauntleroy" (1886) and "The Secret Garden" (1909). A controversial figure in later life, due to her strong-mindedness and her devotion to mystic cults. She died in 1924.

Richmal Crompton

(1890-1969)
Born on the 15th of November 1890 in Bury, the second of three children to the Reverend Edward John Sewell Lamburn and his wife Clara Crompton. Richmal inherited the double surname (Crompton-Lamburn) from both parents, though professionally she only used the Crompton part.
Her unusual Christian name had been a tradition in her mother's family since the early 1700s. Her father was a teacher at Bury Grammar School, and the family lived in the borough for many years, though Richmal attended schools in Derbyshire and Warrington, before winning a scholarship to the Royal Holloway College in London in 1911.
She graduated from London in 1914, and was by then an ardent Women's Suffrage supported and communicated regularly with the Pankhursts in Manchester. She went to teach at Bromley in Kent from 1915-1917, and it was while here that she began to write short stories.
Several stories were accepted for publication in Home Magazine, and by 1919 she had invented her most famous character, William. Her first "Just William" and "More William" stories were published in the same year, and were an immediate success with children. The robust, comic, anarchic schoolboy stories became best sellers. By the time of her death in 1969 there were 38 'William' titles and by 1977 over 9 million copies had been sold world-wide, in English and in translations to several foreign languages.
In the early 1990s the BBC produced many of her 'William' stories as a Sunday afternoon children's television series. She died on the 11th January 1969 at her home in Farnborough in Kent.

John Collier

(also known as Tim Bobbin)

John Collier or Tim Bobbin

( 1708-1786)
Born in Urmston in 1708, son to the Rev. John Collier, minister of Stretford. Collier was probably educated at home by his father, and took up employment when 14 years old to a Dutch-Loom weaver in Newton Moor. However, he soon left to become a schoolmaster at the Free School at Milnrow, near Rochdale, and remained working in this post from 1739 until 1786 - the year of his death. He was an inveterate caricaturist, poet and writer, and is best known for his writings in local Lancashire dialects which he studied extensively. His work was avidly bought by an appreciative public, particularly in the north of England where he was very popular. Wrote "Human Passions Delineated" and "The Blackbird" in which he used the non de plume "Tim Bobbin". He died in Milnrow in 1786 and is buried in Rochdale's St Chad's parish churchyard.

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This page last updated 6 Dec 11.