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Museum of Science and Industry

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This inspirational story is hopeful and positive, yet teaches your students about the grim reality of Victorian mill-children’s existence.

We meet four mill-children in Victorian Manchester, each with a different job. To escape the grim reality of their existence, they look for inspiration from a real-life, working-class hero, Pablo Fanque.

Fanque was the son of African slaves who was orphaned at an early age, but escaped the workhouse to join the circus, later becoming Britain’s first ever black circus proprietor.

The children use their imagination (and their skills) to turn their grim reality into the colourful world of the circus, inspired by Pablo to dream of a different life.

What will they learn?

  • How Victorian Manchester was dominated by the cotton industry.
  • About the working and living conditions of many children during the 19th century, specifically those working in cotton mills.
  • The different types of job that young children did, as scavengers, doffers, lap carriers and cleaners.
  • The true story of Pablo Fanque, a working-class hero, who ran the most popular circus in Victorian Britain and died in Stockport in 1871.