Monday, 10 September 2012

Georgian Carlisle - Tullie House Exhibition


The Cotton Spinner's Quilt
Last week I went to an exhibition at Tullie House Museum in Carlisle called Georgian Carlisle. I always try to attend the exhibitions they have, they are usually very interesting and mostly free.  This exhibition looked at  all aspects of life in Carlisle during the Georgian period 1714-1836.  It was a time of massive change for the city, at the beginning of the period it was still a small, medieval, walled and highly fortified border city. But by the end of the Georgian era it was a much larger city in the throes of the industrial revolution, cotton mills being the major employer. There was a beautiful, large cotton spinner's quilt from the time on show which was full of symbolism. 

Times though were very hard for some people and the exhibition covered the terrible poverty many people lived in. There were also regular outbreaks of cholera and typhoid.  There were little boxes around the exhibition which you could sniff that gave you an idea of how unpleasant the smells of the city could be. Dr John Heysham's promoted the medical interests and sanitary welfare of the poor people of Carlisle, and in 1782 he founded the Carlisle Dispensary, where the poor of the City could obtain free medicines and vaccinations. When he died in 1834, Dr Heysham left £1,000 to the Mayor and Aldermen and Councillors of the City of Carlisle in trust for the creation of a people's park and place of recreation within the City. It took  hundred years, but in 1934 Heysham Park was opened for the first time on August 25th and to this day it is still a pleasant park in the city. I didn't know why it was called Heysham Park until I went to the exhibition, now I know the full story behind it!
Margerys Jackson's Amazing Dress on the Right 

Another character of the city was Margery Jackson who was a miser who lived a very frugal life even though she was really a wealthy woman. She was seen walking her dog around town on the end of a piece of string, and rentals on properties she owned had to be paid in gold coins.  She stored these in a trunk at her home. When she died in 1812 at the age of 90, it took  hours to count all the coins, and they amounted to one and a half million pounds in today’s money

Another item linked to Margery at the exhibition was her Court Mantua dress. It in blue, hand embroidered brocade and measured six feet across. It was meant to to worn at Court by 


The Pretty Muslin Empire-line Dresses
married ladies and no one really knows why the unmarried Margery had this dress. The Court Mantua was part of a selection of fashion from the beginning to the end of the Georgian era.  And like life through these years fashion also changed beyond recognition from the stiff,  formality to the loose, muslin empire-line dresses of the later years. I thought the muslin dresses were lovely and they must have been very comfortable to wear. 

I was surprised to learn that many streets and shops in Carlisle had gas lighting as early as 1820. There was a model of Carlisle at the beginning of the Georgian times and another surprise was that the street pattern in the oldest central area is still recognisable today.

I really enjoyed the exhibition. I love history and I learned quite a few things about my city. Well done Tullie House!

The "Two Lump Things" were the Citadel/Courts, (below)
Which Still Stand Today


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