Miss P Wilson (b.1918-) Life and Labour – Writing Lives

Miss P Wilson (b.1918-) Life and Labour

It was his proud boast that his children never wore clogs. . . I used to long for clogs, to go running down the street making sparks like my friends.”

Within Miss Wilson’s autobiography, she often writes about her extensive family and often defines them by their job. How working formed her own and her families’ identities plays an integral role throughout her writing.

From a young age, the notion of hard work was instilled in Miss Wilson. She began working at the age of seven, helping in her uncle’s shop, her most notable- and least favourite- job being the cleaning of the steep steps joining the shop to the house. Her father and uncle’s were a great source she could derive work ethic from. Many of her uncle’s were successful mill workers who made more than the average employee. It was because of this that they could afford certain luxuries than other families in their community could not afford. All of her “friends thought they had money but they really didn’t”, they were perceived to be slightly better off by the rest of the community and although Miss Wilson does not seem to suggest any ill-treatment by their slightly less wealthy neighbours, she felt no different until they began remarking that she had more.

It seems as though this may have ostracised her due to never knowing

anything different from what she already had. To her, her life was nothing but normal. She states she had, “an inside toilet and a bath, or running hot water which was a luxury in those times; but I never appreciated it, I had never know anything different”.  Stephen brook in his journal called, “Class Identity in Britain During The 1950’s” examines this notion of solidarity. He argues that although “working class living standards were undeniably improved by full employment and welfare provision”, this suggests that although the conditions for common folk had improved, it was perhaps this prosperity that “worn away the singularity and coherence of working class identity.

“They would have black pies served in a cup and generally enjoyed themselves”

Once she passed her sixteen pluses, Miss Wilson returned to live with some of her relatives. She then lived with her auntie and uncle at 90 ginseng street, on the corner of Rodney street. Miss Wilson’s love of bed seemed to be genetic. Although her Auntie would have to be in the Mill across the street by 6am, she wouldn’t get up put of bed until 5:55am each and every morning. This Mill ended up becoming Islington Mill in Salford. It was famous for being one of the most productive mills in Manchester, Miss Wilson’s Auntie being a core member of their team. She would also lead all the women from work to a night school by Ancoats hospital. They were taught how to do household tasks like “sewing, cooking and general house management”. Although she never went herself, Miss Wilson comments of the fun she imagines they had and the solidarity it formed between them all. 

Retail space, leisure space, even public open space, as well as housing and work environments are quantifiable and comparable in financial terms as the ultimate test of their value. This conception of urban space as units of capital has its origins in the industrial development of centres such as Manchester where, largely unencumbered by earlier urban patterns, the idea of the modern city could thrive.”

Eamon, Cannife in his piece, “The Morphology of the post-industrial city: Manchester mill as ‘Symbolic form’ tries to tackle the notion that it could only be in a thriving industrial centre like Manchester that could fully mechanise and evolve faster into metropolitan home for everyone.


Canniffe, Eamonn, Routledge, Journal of Architecture and Urbanism, 02 January 2015, Vol.39(1), p.70-78

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