If you’re a regular reader of this blog or my Planes, Boats, Trains blog, you’ll know my fascination for the Library of Congress archive, and especially the gigantic panoramas of industrial, urban and dockyard scenes.
So you imagine my delight when I saw this gigantic panorama taken in Oldham in 1876 at the Grafters exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. It was taken by Squire Knott who stood on the roof of a mill and took 9 exposures on glass plates. This was during the annual wakes week when the northern mill towns shut down for a holiday and the skies were famously clear of smoke and it was possible to see across the urban landscape.
What was particularly impressive about this panorama was that it was displayed around all the walls of a room, thus making it quite immersive. And being printed so large, it is possible to immerse oneself in the detail of the landscape and see things that would be otherwise missed if printed at a smaller scale. As such, it is an image that rewards both close examination and standing back to take in the bigger picture, so to speak.
What it portrays is a landscape in transition, with building work ongoing on new houses and mills, and open areas of land that would no doubt soon be built on. But it also shows a landscape that is now largely gone – the coal mines in Oldham had all gone by the 1950’s, and relatively few of the 100+ chimneys that can be seen now remain.