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Manchester through oral history
Manchester Jewish Museum
Tameside Oral History Project
Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust
British Asian cities: Manchester voices

Local history is another way in which the story of migrant Manchester has been uncovered. Julia Maine, from Didsbury in South Manchester, was inspired to investigate her own locality when she took a course in ‘Family and Community History’ at The Open University in the 1990s.  The results of her research show that, unlike Jewish North Manchester, which was a working class area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Didsbury was a middle class Jewish suburb. Cotton shipping merchants and professionals predominated, and the area was settled by Jews originating from both southern and eastern Europe (Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews). 

Read Julia’s study of the Jewish community of Didsbury online.

For more on Jewish Manchester, see books by local historian, Bill Williams, The Making of Manchester Jewry, 1740-1875, and Jewish Manchester: An Illustrated History, or visit the Manchester Jewish Museum.

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Moving People Changing Places

Manchester's creative writers

John Siddique, a poet of Anglo, Irish and Indian heritage, interviewed migrants in Piccadilly, Manchester.  He used the interviews to create a sequence of poems called ‘From a Seed to a Flower: five poems from real lives’.  The everyday lives of ‘Jali’, ‘Kitying’, ‘Abha’, ‘Maria’ and ‘Junmo’ are captured in words and photographs which also express their journeys and connections with home, and the isolation and displacement that is so often felt by migrants in urban Britain.

John won the ‘Moving Manchester’ creative writing commission in 2009.  His poems can be read on the Moving Manchester website.

Manchester has been home to many writers, artists, musicians and other creative people. You can read about some of them in the Moving Manchester writers’ gallery.

Shamshad Khan performing
Manchester poet, Shamshad Khan, performing her work.

Migrant Manchester


Today, Manchester has a multi-ethnic population, a quarter of which is from non-white minority backgrounds.  Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, African and African Caribbean communities have been settled in the city since the 1950s.  In terms of religious diversity, the Greater Manchester area, including the neighbouring towns of Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Wigan and others, is home to some 200,000 Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists as well as 1.8 million Christians and half a million ‘nones’, those with no stated religion.

Ethnic diversity is not a new feature of this part of Britain as the story of Juba Royton shows. Juba Royton was a ‘negro belonging to’ an Oldham linen manufacturer, Thomas Percival, in the mid-18th century.  It was not uncommon for wealthy merchants to own black servants, and Juba had probably been acquired in an exchange of goods for slaves as part of the transatlantic trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas.  How do we know about Juba?  His name is recorded in the baptism register of St Paul’s Church in Royton on the 2nd June 1760.   A later Parish record, from St Mary’s Oldham, confirms that Juba – who was by then a ‘waitingman’ – was married to Betty Mellor in March 1765.  Their three boys – Thomas, John and Robert – were baptised at St Paul’s in 1766, 1769 and 1771 respectively, the last in the same year as Juba’s own death.

Juba Royton baptism certificate1760: "Juba Thomas Royton, Negro belonging to Thomas Percival Esq of Royton", from Parish register, St Paul’s Royton

© Greater Manchester County Record Office



Oral histories of Manchester

Since that time migrants from Europe, the Indian sub-continent, Hong Kong and other parts of South-East Asia, the Caribbean and Africa have made their way to Manchester.  The lives of some have been recorded as oral histories.  The Manchester Jewish Museum, once a Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, has a collection of stories about Manchester’s Jews.  The Tameside Oral History Project recorded the memories of people who came from the Indian sub-continent in the 1950s and 1960s; and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust interviewed 70 local people as part of ‘Exploring our roots’, a project which investigated the heritage of Manchester’s Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Chinese, African Caribbean and West African communities.

If you are interested in interviewing members of your own family, you can find a helpful guide on the Bangla Stories website.