Last April I wrote here about teapots, and the trade in silver between Manchester and Fes (Mancunian Silver). Since writing that piece I have learned a lot more (and already blush slightly at some of the over-simplifications and errors I made there!). I have done this partly through my own research in British sources; but largely through the contacts that people in Morocco have made with me as a result of the blog-post. I am very grateful to all those who have been in touch to say that their grandparents or great-grandparents were born or lived in Manchester; and who have supplied memories, stories, even the occasional document.
I am increasingly sure that this story is an important Anglo-Moroccan story that needs to be well told, and I plan to write and publish a book on the subject. It is a complicated sort of historical research, blending records-based work in Britain with oral history in Morocco – and I believe that the two can be used to build a full and very illuminating picture of this element of Anglo-Moroccan relations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a beguiling mixture of family history, commercial history, design history and even at times diplomatic history.
It has already brought me into contact with many Moroccans and made me new friends here; and I am sure it will do more. This note is an appeal to Moroccans with family memories of Manchester to get in touch with me and to tell me what they know. In the absence of written records (though of course I’d love to find some of those!) it is the stories and the relationships that will make this history come alive. (How did the Manchester business pass from father to son and uncle to nephew? What were the commercial links at home in Fes and Rabat? Who married who in these great expatriate commercial dynasties?)
So if anyone reading this could pass it on to relatives and friends who have these precious Manchester memories, I would be very grateful indeed. My work as director of the British Council in Morocco is in cultural relations, and this story, hardly known and all too quickly being forgotten, is a wonderful tale of cultural relations – of shared history.
5 thoughts on “Manchester and Teapots Again”
Lynn Shephard of High Atlas has put me onto you…..I don’t know if we can be mutually helpful, but I am writing a book on my great grandmother who was born in Mogador in 1857. Her parents were from London and her father was connected with the East India Company and traded in tea between 1854 and 1859. I assume her father was an agent to a merchant as he was only 23 at the time and had been a clerk in London. I’ve been to the Archives at Kew a few times and there is a surprising (to me) amount of info on Anglo Moroccan relations. I had never heard of Mogador before and had no idea that such a cosmopolitan town existed.
I’m trying to find out what sort of life these expats lived in the mid 1850’s. Any information would be much appreciated.
This is quite late as a comment to this 2013 post. Just in case this is still of interest to you, have you heard about a book written by a Mancunian morrocan : fi a tofola, by Abdellajid Benjelloun, where he depicts life of Moroccan traders in Manchester ?
Thank you Anas – yes, I know and love the book. It’s our only real picture of Moroccan Manchester. I have an essay on that coming out soon.
Buona sera,..immagino che ormai non si interessi più delle teiere Manchester,comunque vorrei riportare la sua attenzione sul discorso teiere io ho trovato in un mercatino dell’usato una teiera Manchester però placata oro con tanto di certificato sul fondo c’è una scritta in arabo poi “Manchester ” e un numero di serie mi chiedevo a quale periodo risale e se è originale grazie.Attendo un giorno non troppo lontano una sua risposta 😊per il momento mille grazie…
You’ve found a gold plated Manchester teapot with marks on the bottom. I’m not sure I can tell you much about it, though I notice you don’t say it has a Richard Wright mark. I’ve written an article in the Journal of North African Studies called ‘Silvery Singing Voices: Moroccan Manchester and the Puzzle of Richard Wright’. It’s available online, and is due to be published in the hard copy this spring. It sets out what I have discovered about the whole business of Manchester plate exports to Morocco, which is quite a lot. My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that the teapot is likely to be made not by a Manchester firm at all, but by a Moroccan imitator. There were a lot of them, all cheerfully stamping ‘Manchester’ on work made in Fes. Mi dispiace per aver scritto in inglese, pero il mio italiano non e molto corrente – ho dimenticato la maggior parte della lingua che parlavo tanti anni fa. Best wishes, Martin Rose