Victorian Manchester led the way in terms of new and radical political and social ideas, which challenged the old, landed order of British society. One of those who stood at the forefront of the Manchester radicals was Abel Heywood, who, having worked his way up to wealth and renown from the most poverty-stricken beginnings, was a Bowdon resident for the last twenty years of his life.
Joanna Williams, a historian and member of St Mary’s Choir, has published a biography of Heywood, the leading light behind the construction of the Town Hall, and who, as mayor, opened it in 1877. It was clear that many of his social and political aspirations would not be achieved in his lifetime. Many have been realised since his death but others still remain unfulfilled and the work continues.
He was acknowledged in his own time as a great father of the city; in 1891 he was given its freedom, a rare honour. His most striking legacy is the iconic Town Hall, recently the scene of vigils for the victims of the terrible atrocity at the Manchester Arena. He would have been very proud of the way the city has pulled together to face tragedy. It is the vindication of his constant faith in ordinary people, and a fitting manifestation of the success of the efforts that he and many others invested in the city he loved.
“Manchester’s Radical Mayor, Abel Heywood: the man who built the Town Hall”, by Joanna M Williams, sponsored by Living Ventures Group, is published by the History Press.
Joanna will address the Ladies’ Continental Breakfast on Sat 19 May 2018.