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Ancoats: The Early Years

Statue in Arpino, central southern Italy, commemorating the many emigrants who left in search of work

The greatest influx of Italians into Manchester, north western England, took place in the years 1865-1900's, when thousands left the rural villages of their native regions of Italy. These farming peoples, working together in their enclave of "Little Italy", were to become the pioneers of the modern day British ice cream industry, making and selling ice cream, establishing their businesses, importing food stuffs from their native regions, and making this area a piece of Italy forever. Ancoats was in the parish of St Michael's, one of the many Roman Catholic churches in the area. This was the industrial part of Manchester, and its mills provided a very different landscape to the hills and mountains to which they were accustomed.

Around the mills were the rows of mill workers' houses, where the Italians made their homes. When the Italians arrived in Manchester, many of the streets and homes of Ancoats were over a century old. However these houses had separate kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and an outside privvy - true luxury to the newly arrived immigrants.

The Italian colony grew, and began to outnumber the English and Irish families in the parish.

In the early nineteeth century the district had been an unhealthy and violent place. A correspondent of the Manchester Chronicle in 1823 complained that it was dangerous to walk along Oldham Road in the evening:

'At the ends of many streets stand groups of Irish ruffians who appear to feel no interest but in ill-treating the peaceable and unoffending inhabitants.'

This was life in Ancoats just before the Italians claimed the area for themselves and it became known as "Little Italy", bringing this area to life with their hospitality.

 

 
Italian immigrants leaving the port of Naples for the many countries they settled in*
Making the heartbreaking voyage from their beloved homeland*
An uncertain future and a new beginning*
My grandfather's brother, Rafaeli Schiavi, in Frosinone, Italy

All text and images (unless marked *) Anthony Rea 2010
not to be used without permission. All rights reserved