Edge Hill University to display at The Atkinson

Edge Hill University to display at The Atkinson

This article originally featured on Edge Hill’s website. 

An Edge Hill University student has been awarded funding to launch an exhibition featuring the stories of Southport’s most famous visitors, from author Charles Dickens to the circus ringmaster P.T. Barnum, who inspired Hollywood blockbuster The Greatest Showman.

The display will be showcased at The Atkinson and will focus on the fascinating stories behind the Victorian celebrities who visited the town during the 19th century, which have been rediscovered by Edge Hill student Michelle Caldwell.

Michelle, 44, who lives in Southport, said: “We’ll be celebrating the stories of some of Southport’s most famous faces, as well as highlighting the wider history of the town and its significance in the North West’s Victorian heritage.

“Being a resident of Southport, you feel as though you have a stake in the town. It’s such a lovely place to live and it has beautiful Victorian architecture, and we want this project to revitalise public interest in the town’s rich history.

“Places such as Lord Street, like many small-town high streets, have been hit hard during the pandemic. The majority of Southport’s tourism sector is based on its Victorian heritage, and we hope the exhibition can help to bolster that knowledge and show people how much history there is in this town.”

Poet Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony circa 1882

The project, The Southport Visiter, has been awarded funding by the British Association of Victorian Studies and is named after the town’s local newspaper the Southport Visiter, which was founded in the 19th century as a published list of visitors staying in the town.

One of the most notable figures to visit Southport was author and social critic Charles Dickens, who visited the town to deliver a lecture during his farewell tour of the region less than a year before he passed away in 1870.

Authors Elizabeth Gaskell and poet Oscar Wilde also visited the town, with the latter visiting Southport’s Pavilion and Winter Gardens in August 1884 to deliver a lecture on dress.

Michelle, who is studying MA Nineteenth-Century Studies at Edge Hill, added: “I hope that it will teach people something new about the history of Southport. It’s still considered a relatively new town, as it’s only around 200 years old, but there’s such as rich history that it would be a shame for these stories to be forgotten.”

Elizabeth Gaskell circa 1860

Dr Laura Eastlake, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader in English Literature, said: “Michelle is a fantastic researcher, and this funding award bears testament to her ability to apply her 19th Century specialism to real-word issues that exist in our society today.

“It explores the legacies that our society has inherited from the 19th Century, from the culture, architecture and the monuments on display in our towns. Michelle questions their place in today’s world, and how we can reflect on Southport’s heritage and history to support the town’s future aims, as it emerges from the pandemic and sets out on the road to recovery.”

The Southport Visiter is scheduled to launch at The Atkinson’s Discovery Box later this year.

Stephen Whittle, Principal Manager at The Atkinson, said: “We are really pleased to be working with Edge Hill University on this project. Michelle’s research is already unearthing some fascinating stories and bringing to light some of Southport’s hidden histories.

“Southport was an important tourist destination in the 19th Century, and it attracted a lot of well-known personalities and celebrities. We are looking forward to seeing new insights and different perspectives on Victorian Southport and to continuing our partnership with the University’s staff and students.”

EHU Nineteen, the University’s research centre for 19th Century studies, is working closely with Southport to support the town in its promotion of its Victorian heritage, in a bid to boost tourism in the town.

MA Nineteenth-Century Studies examines the literature, history, culture and digital humanities of the nineteenth century, with opportunities to participate in field trips to cultural heritage organisations and undertake work-based projects.

Specific aspects of English can also be explored in depth on our MRes Masters by Research, you can train to teach English on our PGCE Secondary English (Age Phase 11-16) with QTS, or gain practical skills in language learning and education on our MA TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

Posted on 21 January 2022 under General news

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