A student from The University of Manchester is rallying support behind her petition to remember more than 40,000 people buried in and around Manchester’s Angel Meadow.
Angel Meadow was known as the worst slum in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution and throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries thousands of poor people were buried in unmarked graves on the site.
In his 1844 book, ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, Friedrich Engels, author of the Communist Manifesto, wrote of the area: “If any one wishes to see in how little space a human being can move, how little air – and such air! – he can breathe, how little of civilisation he may share and yet live, it is only necessary to travel hither.”
Students on the University’s Masters of Public Health programme studied an 1831 cholera outbreak in the area as part of their summer course, and as a result they were taken on a visit to the site, which is now a park.
During the visit, a student named Lauren Robinson was angered by the lack of marked graves and remembrance signs, as there are only a small amount of flagstones in one corner to represent the thousands buried there, so decided to create a petition to place more signs around the area to publicly remember those who died.
Lauren, who is from Canada, said: “On the trip my fellow students and I were taken on a public health tour to learn about how cholera spread throughout the poorest parts of the city and wiped out whole families and communities.
“Angel Meadow was used as a burial ground for many people in the 18th and 19th centuries and it is thought that more than 40,000 men, women and children were laid to rest in unmarked graves in the area.
“It was a very moving experience but it’s not a place that I feel the city remembers well enough.”
With the support of her classmates and teachers, Lauren’s petition has already gained 116 signatures and aims to get 1,000 as soon as possible so that it can be presented to civic leaders and a change can be made.
As other changes and innovations around the area have taken place, Lauren feels that it is unfair to neglect the public remembrance of people, and in even some cases entire families, who were wiped out by poverty and disease and feels that it is an act of social responsibility and solidarity to remember them the best we can.
She added: “Watching people move throughout the park without knowing the significance of the grounds felt like an injustice to those souls laid to rest there, so the petition also asks for an area in the Meadow for their ancestors and the public to be able to reflect on the dead.
“Some remains have been found during work being done on the area, and there is potential for more remains to be disturbed so I can’t help but feel as though the powers that be may really be focusing on ’regenerating‘ the area in such a way that does not preclude disturbing the remains and I personally feel that it is disrespectful.”