chapter
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Living with smoke

At Manchester scientific investigations concerning air pollution's effects on light in the city and its suburbs, carried out by the Air Analysis Committee of the Manchester Field -Naturalists and Archaeologists' Society, supports impressionistic evidence concerning the seasonal variation of the smoke cycle. The committee discovered that in both 1891 and 1892 the atmosphere was at its clearest in September, while November, December, and January were the city's darkest months. 201 Their experiments also revealed that in winter the city's most densely populated residential districts, such as Hulme, received on average only half the light of nearby suburbs like Didsbury.202 However, even during the brightest weather the city's ever-changing smoke cloud was found to be extremely effective in blocking out sunlight. Statistical evidence of average yearly sunshine records for the years 1905-09 unsurprisingly shows Manchester trailing far behind Bournemouth, Cambridge and other residential towns. Furthermore, the city languished at the foot of a 'sunshine league table' of manufacturing towns that included Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow, Leeds and Sheffield, as Manchester received only 25 per cent of all possible annual sunlight.203 The meteorologist Frederick Brodie recorded a very similar yearly average for bright sunshine at Manchester between the years 1881-1910 of 26 per cent of the available duration. But, more importantly, he disclosed that Manchester's average fell markedly to just 11 per cent of what may be termed 'expectation of sunshine' during the months December to February, when the demand for a warm, bright coal fire was at its greatest?04 The smoke cloud, then, was a durable shifting mass, constantly altering its bulk and rhythms under the variable influence of climatic conditions and human action. Industrial smoke was the underlying wellspring of the city's uneven smoke cycle, while the periodic habits and routines of the people played an unspectacular but crucial role in dictating the ebbs and flows of air pollution in Manchester. But what effects did the smoke-filled skies have on the day to day lives of Manchester's citizens?