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The Manchester Banner Makers

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The revival of interest in trades union banners in recent years is most properly accredited. to John Gorman and his team of research helpers, who assisted him with the location of material for his book "The Banner BriPht" and the now legendary exhibitions at Whitechapel, Sheffield and Glasgow1. This renewed interest in the visual aspects of trades union ephemera has prompted others to enter the field of study of the use and production of not only banners but emblems or membership certificates by students as far afield as Birmingham and Munich. Several theses are currently under compilation by students of Art Colleges and Universities.2 The most recent study of banners is that of the Durham Miners Association by Arthur Moyes in The Banner Book.3

I have personally admired the banners of the various trades unions for many years and indeed have not only campaigned to raise funds for the purchase of one, but have played sister Anna with the banner on numerous occasions. It was perhaps the magnificent display of banners carried in the Trades Union Congress demonstration in London on 21st February

19714 against the Industrial Relations Bill, with its expression of the solidarity of one worker with another and its magnitude, that brought home to me the realisation of what the Trades Union Movement was losing by the rotting of many colourful banners in trade union offices and cellars throughout the Country-many of them too fragile to be carried. This exhibition has brought together some 33 banners of the many that are no longer carried either for reasons of age, a change in title of the society due to amalgamation or the demise of the union.

Much work has already been done to preserve these magnificent works of art and I do mean art:: Many of the banners of our movement were not only designed by eminent artists, but painted by them as well. The Workers' Union banner and that of the Electrical Trades Union were designed and painted by Walter Crane5. The series of District banners of the British Iron and Steel Trades Confederation were done by Herbert J. Finn, these are just a few examples of the heritage of the trades union movement, that until recently lay uncared for or wanted and many , either through ignorance or wilful neglect, were destroyed. John Gorman has already written a great deal about George Tutill & Co. of City Road, London, perhaps the most well known of the banner makers but little is known of the other manufacturers, that were either his predecessors or even his contemporaries. It is therefore with some trepidation that I submit this short paper on the Manchester Banner Makers in an attempt to throw some light upon other manufacturers.

Henry Whaite & Company
The Manchester group of Banner makers undoubtedly revolve around the firm of Henry '4haite & Co. of Blackfriars Street and Deansgate, who were the most respected of the manufacturers of the City6. Their premises stood on the corner of Deansgate and Blackfriars Street and were only pulled down after the blitz of 1940. They were rivalled by several other competitors in the same field of business during the last quarter of the 19th century, all competing f-r what at its peak, during the last quarter and 1st decade of the century, must have been a very lucrative side line to these established businesses, firms like John Tyrer and Co., J. Bibby & Co., R.M. Barratt, A Reece, Kenny & Co., not forgetting our London rivals of H. Bevis, Noah Nadion and George Tutill who advertised considerably in the National press.

It was Thomas Whaite (1796-1881) the eldest of the seven sons of John James Whaite and his wife, Mary, of Ancoats Manchester, who possibly first introduced the Whaite family to banner making7. It was Thomas Whaite who was reputed to have painted several of the banners that appeared at the huge demonstration of Radicals in St, Peter's Field, Manchester on August 16th 1819, and which became immortalised by the charge of the cavalry and yeomanry into the crowd,as the Peterloo Massacre. It was with his brother Henry and a brother-in-law named Richardson, that Thomas was first introduced to the Radical Movement. All were adherents of the cause of Radical reform so eloquently expounded by Henry Hunt8. An oil painting of the Peterloo Massacre by Thomas Whaite was said to have been so realistic that even the faces of the magistrates an' local radicals could be discerned. Unfortunately after his death his paintings were dispersed and the present whereabouts of the painting remains unknown. For many years after that fatefull day of the massacre, it was annually commemorated by the Radicals with a procession of working men headed by an immense banner on which a scene of the massacre was represented with startling effect, the scene being almost identical to tie scene on the oil painting9. The painting on this banner was also attributed to Thomas Whaite. According to one well known 19th century source, he was "an artist of no mean repute" and regarded by many as the best portrait painter in Manchester10.

It was Henry Whaite, the fifth son, born on the 20th August 1803, who first commenced employment in a Manchester warehouse where be might have remained for life, but with three of his older brothers, John, Thomas and William, all promising artists, it was deemed advisable that he should be taught a trade in connexion with the fine arts trades and he was subsequently apprenticed to the trade of Carver, Gilder and Picture Frame Maker.

Upon completion of his apprenticeship he spent a short period in London working in the more high class London Gilders and acquired a knowledge cf the latest technical skills. He returned to Manchester and commenced business in this trade in 1823 and after several years obtained premises at 75 Bridge Street, Manchester in 182811. By 1832 the business obviously expanded and larger premises were acquired at 4 Bridge Street adding to the description the title of Stationer.12. By 1841 to his other accomplished trades was added that of Printseller and looking glass maker13 and in 1843 for the first time is added the trade of Banner makers and Painters14. The whole of the Whaite family had attended Christ Church, Ancoats, known as Dr. o Schofield's Chapel where many of the Chartists often attended and where many Chartist lecturers delivered their address. No doubt this strong practical political connexion with the Radical and Chartist movement resulted in many orders for banners which were extremely popular during the Chartist period. His connexion with Independent Order of Oddfellows. Manchester Unity in all probability pushed a great deal of work in this field in his direction. He acted as a Lodge Secretary but served also on the Manchester' Board of the Order as well as fulfilling the obligations of a Deputy Grand Master and Grand. Master of the order.15.
The repair of one such Chartist banner for Mr. Turner of Kearsley a well known local Chartist, would tend to indicate that a volume of trade was done in this direction15a.

The flourishing aspects of the Whaite business were described by one of his contemporaries Louis M. Hayes, as follows: "At one time the most attractive looking establishment in the whole of Bridge Street was Whaite's Art repository where they kept the very best selection of artists materials of every kind, also large stocks of excellent engravings. They had, too at all times noted painting exhibitions in fact it was quite a place for Manchester people to visit and see everything new that they had to show"16.

The business, whilst trading under the title of Henry Whaite & Co, employed most members of the family in varying degrees according to their ability and trade. John Whaite (Snr) was an accomplished landscape painter, whilst Thomas Whaite was recognised as the best portrait painter in Manchester. John Whaite (Jnr) was an accomplished artist, so too was the seventh brother Septimus (1808-1892) who was to become a well known scenery painter17. All of them worked on banners , perhaps on a contractual basis dependent upon what was to be painted on the banners. The second generation of Whaites connected with the business engaged in pursuits that could usefully be deployed in the development and expansion of the business. Both the sons of Thomas Whaite developed a mastery of the new technical development of photography, James operating a business at 21 Leigh Street and 26, North John Street, Liverpool, between 1875-1894, as a photographic dealer and banner maker. Although advertising Vie far.!13.ty of banner making it is doubtful whether banners were ever made at Liverpool.

It seems more logical that they were made in Manchester18. Thomas, the other son, became the photographic expert at the Manchester establishment. Several of the second. generation followed in their father's footsteps and became artists with the Company. Thomas the son of John Whaite(Jnr) and the two eldest sons of Henry Whaite-Henry Clarence Whaite and George Augustus Whaite all became artists, whilst the two younger sons are listed as Printsellers and Carver and Gilder respectively.

Not all the Whaite family artists enjoyed painting on flag and banners. Henry Clarence Whaite P.R.C.A: R.W.S. (1828­ 191219 had a long and distinguished career as a landscape painter, was president of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts and became a member of the Royal Academy of Arts, wrote in his diary on the 4th January 1851 "Painting bunting flag for Mr. Whitehead, a sort of work above all others I detest". 'Thilst on the 8th April of the same year, he seemed in an eager mood when writing to Mr. Wallis "re the hanging of my banner at the Great Exhibition."20.

The quality of Whaite's banners was of a very high standard indeed. Several of Whaite's banners were supplied to Lodges of the Durham Miners Association and paraded at their gala in Durham in July 187221. The reporter of the Durham Chronicle eulogised as follows:"Thornley Banner graced the platform at the first big meeting at Wharton Park in 1871. This was a Whaite's banner depicting an Arbitration scene bearing an inscription "Blessed is the day when the strike shall die away". The reverse side showing a weeping widow and the motto "Compensation we demand when life is sacrificed". This example of banner handicraft elicited very complimentary eulogisms from all who saw it."22.

Similarly the banner of Philadelphia Colliery of the Durham Miners Association was described "This banner was one of the four best in the ground. The figure in the scene was an arbitration conference-one naturally delineated-The employers side consists of two gentlemen who are seated at a table whilst a body of working men on the opposite side stand. On the reverse side of the canvass is no doubt represented the pleasing results of the conference viz. a master and workmen shaking hands. The flag which was painted by W. Whaite of Manchester cost £24.14. We are informed that the principle figures sitting at the table are the exact likeness of the late Mr. Morton agent to the Earl of Durham."23.

The banner of Houghton Collieries at the same meeting got the following comments: "This banner was another of Mr. Whaite's creditable productions and was similar to the Philadelphia flag in design and style. The subject delineated on one side an arbitration scene whilst the other occupied with a picture of a group of miners who appear to be deeply engaged in listening to the advice and counsel of a fellowman to be true to the union for the protection of our industry-This flag like that of Philadelphia was surpassed by few on the ground."24

Other Whaite's banners are described by the Tamworth Examiner as belonging to the Cannock Chase District of the Amalgamated Association of Miners "Beneath the representation of a master shaking hands with workmen are the words "Henceforth we have been foes henceforth we will be friends."25

Similarly Cannock Chase Lodge banner " bore the representation of an arbitration scene with the master and men with the words "Blessed is the day when strikes shall cease" and "Compensation we demand when life is sacrificed"26

Whaite's in their publicity, advertised themselves in 1887 "the only prize medallist". Whether this was true is uncertain but they certainly achieved the distinction of winning medals at International Exhibitions in 1862 for their proficiency in banner making and may have won others, but it seems unlikely that other British firms did not at least gain some recognition27.

After 1850 the business of H. Whaite and Co. took on a different form principally due to the friendship of Henry Whaite with Charles Halle, the founder of the Halle Orchestra. The premises in Bridge Street were developed into a week-end entertainment centre where Mr. Halle's band entertained. It became known as Whaite's German Fair, but this fell out of favour with the national avenues of high class trade, of

which Whaite formerly had a large share, and so eventually it developed into a Christmas toy emporium, which children with their fathers and mothers, flocked to in the most unimagineable proportions at the close of each year to buy Christmas presents.28.

Whilst these changes were being undertaken, the business of banner making still continued to prosper but with the development of the cellars and other space of the Bridge Street premises into a Grotto, new accommodation for their production was acquired at 49-51 Blackfriars Street and 44a Deansgate, a corner shop.29

Examples of this period of Whaites workmanship survived'and can be seen in the banners of the Pendlebury, Pendleton, Clifton and Kearsley (Good Intent) Lodge of the Ashton, Haydock and Bolton Miners Trade Union which depicts two people with the fable of the faggots-one stick being easy to break, many sticks bound together being impossible.30.

The Northwich and District Amalgamated Society of Salt Worker, Rock Salt Miners, Alkali Workers, Mechanics and General Labourers is interesting in as much as it shows women workers of the period cutting blocks of salt and working at the salt pans. The painter leaves one in no doubt asto the arduous and obnoxious nature of the working conditions in the industry.31.
The Manchester Salford and Bolton Wood Packing Case Makers is another typical banner of Whaite's that has survived. The painting on one side delineates two packing case makers at work and on the obverse side the provident nature of the society in four pictures "Strike pay" "Sick visitor" "Payments to Widow" and "Legal aid".32

H. Whaite & Co. also entered the field of book publishing and are known to have published at least two books 1) The Plague of all nations and 2) Christmas.32a

The demise of the Company began with the deaths of the principle artists within the family. Thomas on 1881 and William and John and Septimus in 18,2. The Company was eventually sold to Jeremiah Bibby & Co. of High Street, Manchester, an old and established firm of Tent Merchants, Flag and Banner makers. Jeremiah Bibby & Co. had been established in 1847 as tent merchants and had entered the field of banner making and bunting makers in 1889. It was sold to them by George Augustus Whaite the second son of Henry Whaite the founder. Henry Clarence Whaite had not, for a number of years played an active role in the Company. Bibby's operated the company H. Whaite & Co as a branch of their own, tr .ding upon the Whaite reputation as high class banner makers until 1911 when they opened a Workshop in Union Street off Church Street, Manchester in close proximity to their establishment and closed down the Whaite premises on the corner of Blackfriars Street and Deansgate. This was the final demise of a much respected Company.33

John Tyrer & Co.
The influence of the Whaite family upon banner making in Manchester can be found even in its rivals. The major rival in the last quarter of the century was undoubtedly the firm of John Tyrer & Co. which was established by John Tyrer a decorative artist of 43 Peter Street, Manchester prior to 1865. In premises situated at 36 Bottle Street, Manchester for the;purpose of banner maker34. The business could not have been such a huge success in its early years for by 1869 to the pursuit of banner making had been added that of Tent making, with the running of a commercial coffee house as a further side line, to make ends meet at premises then situated in Atkinson Street, Little Quay Street, Deansgate.35 The fortunes of the company in the field of banner making changed considerably with the appointment of John Whaite (Jnr) as manager of the firm of John Tyrer & Co about 1872 -7336.

The firm increased not only in reputation but also in the quality of their productions. Early in the 1880's the company moved nearer the recognised commercial area with premises at 223 Deansgate37. By 1888 the expansion of the Company was such that it needed to operate not only commercial premises in Deansgate but also a workshop at 38 Crown Square, Hulme, Manchester.38

A further move in 1891 to 63 Bridge Street, Manchester, was made where they remained until 1910.39 Yet a further move was made in 1911 to 8-10 Oxford Road, Chorlton on Medlock40. In 1915 The business was acquired by R.M. Barratt & Son 41. Barratt had been a foreman artist with Tyrer & Co but had left to establish himself in his own business at 12C Broad Street, Pendleton42. After acquiring Tyrer & Co. he continued to trade at the same premises in Oxford Road, Manchester.

A fine example of Tyrer & Co. banners has survived in the banner of the Amalgamated Carters & Lurreymens Union of Bolton43 but a later banner of the same union was not made by R.M. Barratt & Son who took over Tyrer's business, but by Les Southern, late of Tyrer & Co. of Bridge Street (44. Southern, another of Tyrer's artists, later commenced a partnership with a colleague called Scott as Signwriters and Gilders in the Levenshulme district of Manchester. Banners are difficult to store because of their often unweildy size. They are fragile and frequently damaged when taken on demonstrations in inclement weather. There is an urgent need for recognition of these facts in each locality and for provision to be made with suitable facilities where these beautiful examples of craftsmanship can be properly preserved.


1: Gorman, John. The Banner Bright London 1973 p. 184. Catalogue Banner Bright Exhibitions Whitechapel, Mappin Art Sheffield July 1973 Kelvin Hall Glasgow Sept. 1973 25
2: Muller Munich University, Birmingham Polytechnic
3: Moyes W.A. The Banner Book Newcastle p.159
4: T.U.C. The Great March London 1971
5: Stevens W. The Story of the E.T.U. London p.60 & 67.
6: The Company survived under that title from 1828-1911 at a variety of addresses:
75 Bridge Street, Manchester, 1828-1832
4 Bridge Street, Manchester, 1832-1848
85-87 Bridge Street, Manchester, 1850-1868
64 Bridge Street, Manchester, 1869-1886
44a Deansgate, Manchester, 1888-1911
49-51 Blackfriars Street, Manchester, See Staters Directories of Manchester and Salford.
'7: Wardle & Wilkinson Directory of Manchester p. 209, See also correspondence Author and Dr. W.E. Whaite of Macclesfield 12.2.1974.
8: Banks Mrs. G. Linnaeus The Manchester Man Manchester 1898 P.477
9: ibid P. 476-477
10: ibid P.477 gating Bradley, the artist "Thomas Whaite was the best portrait painter in Manchester and that principal individual even in the faint photo are portraits any old inhabitant of the town might testify as I can."
11: Oddfellows The Quarterly - Magazine (New Series) July 1845 Vol.8 No.7 p.337-38, Ward & Wilkinson Directory of Manchester (1829) T.20, Slater Directory of Manchester (1828)
12: aater Directory of Manchester & Salford 1832
13: ibid 1841
14: ibid 1843 1845
15: Oddfellows The Quarterly Magazine Vol.8 No.7 July 1845 P.337
15a: as per quote 20.
16: Hayes Louis M. Reminicences of Manchester and some of its surroundings from 1840 , Manchester 1905 p.126
17: I am most grateful to Dr. W.E. Whaite for putting me right as to the correct relationship of the working relations and family relationship of the Whaite family. Dr. W.E. Whaite has done extensive research in his family tree and has given of his knowledge most kindly. See also correspondence with above Slater Directories of Manchester & Salford 1877-8, 1881
18: Gore's Directory of Liverpool 1875-1894 at 21 Leigh Street Liverpool (1875) 26 North John Street Liverpool 1886.
19: Swindells T. Manchester Faces and Places Manchester p. 121-3. Contemporary Biographies Art p.246
20: Diary of Henry Clarence Whaite extends from January 1851 to January 1857. By kind permission of Dr. W.E. Whaite to whom I am most grateful for permission to qu:Ae.
21: Durham Chronicle July 1872
22: Moyes op cit p. 31
23: Moyes op cit p. 29
24: Noyes •p cit P. 33
25: Tamworth Examiner 4th July 1874
26: ibid
27: Slater Directories of Manchester& Salford 1887-1888-91 Information supplied by Dr. W.E. Whaite
28: Hayes op cit p. 127, Swindells T. Manchester Street and Manchester Man 1906 p.126
29: Slater: Directory of Manchester & Salford 1887
30: Catalogue of Manchester 73 Exhibition College of Commerce Princess Street, Manchester.
31: Catalogue Exhibition of Trades Union Banner, Badge & Emblems. 14 January 1974 ― 23rd February 1974 at North West Arts Association, King Street, Manchester.
32: op cit Manchester 73 32a) Copies in Manchester Reference Libraries.
33: Correspondence. J. Willman of J. Bibby & Co. 45 Sherde Hill, Manchester 20th February 1935 to Dr. W.E. Whaite also Correspondence D.R. W.E. Whaite to John B. Smethurst 12th February 1974. Slater Directory of Manchester & Salford 1912.
34: Slater Directory Manchester & Salford 1865
35: ibid 1869
36: ibid 1872 ―3
37: ibid 1881 and 1884
38: ibid 1888
39: ibid 1891-1910
40: ibid 191.1-1914
41: ibid 1908-1915-16
42: ibid 1908
43: Catalogue of Exhibition of Banner Emblems & Bury held at Bury Metro Art Gallery January 1st-February 2Cth 1875.
44: ibid

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