May is Local and Community History Month, a time dedicated to increasing awareness of local history and promoting community engagement. Activities take place across the UK, including trips, library exhibitions, and lectures, providing a platform for groups to showcase their local heritage. In Bolton, the Lancashire Authors Association (LAA) and the Victorian Bolton research project are shining a light on the town's rich literary heritage and its significant role in the Victorian publishing world.
The Lancashire Authors Association (LAA) collection stands as a testament to Lancashire's literature, history, traditions, and dialect. Established in 1909, the LAA has been dedicated to promoting the reading and writing of Lancashire literature. The LAA Library, founded in Horwich in 1921, has since found its home at the University of Bolton, serving as a valuable resource for local history enthusiasts.
For more information about the Lancashire Authors Association, visit this website: Lancashire Authors Association Collection - Special Collections - University of Bolton Library at The University of Bolton
One remarkable initiative that utilises the LAA collection is the Victorian Bolton research project, led by Dr. Kim Edwards Keates. Focusing on the town's literary heritage and cultural legacies of the nineteenth century, the project uncovers the forgotten connection between influential authors and Bolton. Figures such as Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Margaret Oliphant, Florence Marryat, Thomas Hardy, and Arthur Conan Doyle were associated with the Tillotson Fiction Bureau and the Bolton Weekly Journal, which played a crucial role in the publication of Victorian popular fiction.
The Victorian Bolton project goes beyond literary connections by celebrating the lives of influential Victorian Boltonians who had a national impact or contributed to the town's transformation. The team's research is also reflected in the Victorian Bolton Map, which highlights significant sites and figures from the era. Through this work, the project aims to revive and appreciate the hidden narratives and heritage of Bolton, instilling a sense of pride and appreciation for the town's history.
Founded in 1871 by W.F. Tillotson, the Bolton Weekly Journal was a popular publication that catered to a wide range of readers. It featured news, serial stories, and literary selections, capturing the imagination of its audience. Despite facing criticism for its serialised novel "Jessie Melville" by David Pae, the journal gained popularity and influenced the publishing industry. In 1873, the serialisation of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's "Taken at the Flood" led to the establishment of the Tillotson Fiction Bureau, which revolutionised the literary market through innovative syndication practices.
During Local and Community History Month, it is essential to recognise the valuable contributions of organisations like the Lancashire Authors Association and projects like Victorian Bolton in preserving and promoting local heritage. Through their efforts, the rich literary history of Bolton and its impact on the Victorian publishing world are rediscovered and celebrated. The legacy of the Bolton Weekly Journal and the Tillotson Fiction Bureau lives on, reminding us of the town's influential role in shaping the literary landscape of the time.
The Library holds a range of other fantastic material reflecting the history and heritage of the local area including pamphlets, maps, pictures and more - and we'll be working on ways to surface this material and make it more publicly accessible in the coming years.
For more information about the Victorian Bolton project, visit their website: Victorian Bolton You can also follow them on Twitter @BoltonVictorian to stay updated on their latest discoveries and events. Let's continue to embrace and explore our local history, fostering a deeper connection with the communities we call home.