Peter Tickle, Confectioner and Beer Seller

Peter Tickle, the second son of Thomas Tickle and Martha Hayes, emigrated to Australia in 1863. He was an entrepreneur and opportunist. I am grateful to his great great grand-daughter for providing me with information on his life.

Peter was born in Warrington, Lancashire, but his family moved to Manchester when he was a child. During the 19th century Manchester was at the forefront of the industrial revolution and become the second city of England. Thousands of families from the surrounding area came to live and work in the textile mills and factories, the Tickles among them.

Ancoats, Manchester

The Tickle family lived at various addresses in Bradford Road, Ancoats. Ancoats nowadays is an exciting, trendy area, with street food, numerous eclectic restaurants, and craft breweries, but it was once described as ‘the world’s first industrial suburb’ and was at the heart of the industrial revolution, gritty and dirty. The Rochdale and Ashton Canals cut through the area, with numerous wharfs for storing coal, limestone, and other goods. By the mid 19th century, the new railway network was growing rapidly but the canals were still important for cheap, bulk transport.

Brunswick Mill

There were many textile mills and factories in the area, including the Brunswisk Mill, built in 1840, which was close to where the family lived. The 1841 census shows Peter, aged 12, working as a picker, a job in a textile mill. Many children were still employed in the mills, although those under 13 were not allowed to work more than 9 hours a day.

In an earlier post I covered Peter’s marriage to his first wife, Eliza Pierson, in 1850. By the time of his marriage, Peter was employed as a joiner, and he graduated from this to become a pattern maker, a skilled trade, making wooden patterns. These could be for use in metal casting or, in a cotton town like Manchester, they might even have been for printing patterns onto the textiles created.. Peter and Eliza had five children – Elizabeth, b.1851, Eliza Ann, b.1853, Thomas b.1854, John, b.1856, and Mary Emily, b.1858. Although living conditions in Manchester were far from ideal, wages were comparably high and there were plenty of opportunities in the growing city.

The Confectionery Business

The Bradford Road area appears to have had a mixture of residential houses and small shops with living accommodation above or behind. At some point, Peter Tickle branched out from working with wood and began selling confectionery and household provisions.

Before the 19th century, confectionery was hand-made, expensive, and only available to the very wealthy. Among the new machines created during the industrial revolution were some that automated sweet production, making them cheaper. At the same time, there was increased availability of sugar from the West Indies. The Victorians believed sugar to be healthy and there was a big demand for the new, factory produced, sweets and confectionary such as toffee, boiled sweets flavoured with lemon or peppermint, and various jams. Peter seized the opportunity to sell these products to the eager population of the city. The sweets would be kept in glass jars and measured out and sold by weight to his customers.

Dalby’s Grocers and Confectioners Shop. West Yorkshire, Wetherby – circa 1906. (Photo by Past Pix/SSPL/Getty Images)

Peter’s wife, Eliza, and their baby daughter, Mary Emily, both died in 1858. Six months later, Peter married again. His second wife, a widow called Mary Hughes, nee Clough, also lived in Bradford Road. Mary’s first husband, Francis, had been a merchant and beer-seller, and Peter appears to have taken over the beer business, combining it with his confectionary trade. Mary had two children from her previous marriage, William and Ellen Hughes. She gave birth to Peter’s sixth child, a boy named Peter, in 1861. The family are shown on the 1861 census, living at 11 Bradford Street, New Cross, Manchester, with Peter’s three youngest children, Mary’s two children, baby Peter, and a 16-year old servant girl called Elizabeth Johnson. Peter is listed as a beer seller and confectioner.

In the 1861 census, his oldest daughter, Elizabeth, is shown living with her Aunt Ann and husband, William Ainley, who had no children of their own, at 152 Bradford Road. William Ainsley was listed as a farmer, employing 18 men. .

19th Century Beer Houses

Beer was the traditional drink of the English working-classes. but, in the early 19th century, it was heavily taxed and beyond the reach of many. Instead, common people drank spirits, especially gin. This led to widespread drunkeness and the government were keen to discourage it. In 1830, they passed the Beer Act, which abolished the beer tax, and introduced beer houses, premises which could only sell beer and cider, not spirits.. The aim was was to make beer cheap and very readily available. Beer was considered a harmless and nutritional drink, even given to children. It was certainly safer to consume than the untreated water available in Victorian times.

Fully-licensed public houses were regulated by local magistrates, who had the power to grant and revoke licenses. Beer houses, on the other hand, were controlled by the excise department. As long as a few basic conditions were met, you paid 2 guineas to the local excise officer, and could then brew and sell beer. Almost anyone could become entitled to manufacture and sell large amounts of beer and ale. Many beer houses simply consisted of one or two rooms within a normal house.. They often had few facilities; some even lacked toilets. They were open from 4am to 10pm and would have had a steady trade from the workers in the city.

In the 1860s, Peter ran one of these beer houses called “The English Taking China”. This is probably a reference to the Second Opium War, which was fought between the British and French Empires and the Qing dynasty of China. It lasted from 1856 to 1860.

One of the side-effects of the creation of beer houses was a boost for farming, as there was a high demand for barley for brewing. William Ainsley, husband of Peter’s sister, Ann was a farmer – perhaps he supplied his brother-in-law with ingredients for his beer?

In the mid 19th century, Manchester had many hundreds of beer houses. They were poorly supervised and often became the haunt of criminals and prostitutes, leading to concerns over law and order. Eventually, the law was changed to bring the licensing of beer houses under the control of the local justices, but Peter Tickle’s beer house operated before this happened.

‘A Den of Thieves’?

Peter had at least two run-ins with the law during his time in Manchester. In 1861 he was fined £1 for having a pair of ‘unjust scales’ – possibly for his confectionery business. Then, in 1862, he was called to South Lancashire Assizes as a witness to give an alibi for a William Gregory, who was one of a pair of men accused of an assault and robbery. The robbery took place close to Peter’s beer house, but he testified that Gregory had been in his premises all the previous night and so could not have committed the crime. The jury didn’t believe him and found the men guilty of the charge. The judge reportedly described the beer house as being ‘a den of thieves’ and regularly watched by the police. He considered charging Peter with contempt of court but did not do so.

The Next Chapter

Mary died in July 1863 in Chadderton, near Oldham. From her will, we know that she was living apart from her husband at that time. She and Peter had signed a deed of settlement prior to their marriage, so he did not inherit any of her assets. A month after Mary’s death, Peter and his three younger children, Eliza, Thomas and John Tickle, boarded the ship “The Fiery Star” heading for Queensland, Australia.

Peter was about to have another brush with the law ….

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