The American Civil War and the Lancashire cotton famine

Figure of 'Blind Joe'

Made in England, about 1900

Object number 1903/1
Given by Henry Hoyle, 1903

See this object at Gallery Oldham This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.

Figure of 'Blind Joe'

This small figure, made at a local brickworks, is a copy of the oldest statue in Oldham's Alexandra Park. Joseph Howarth was a celebrated local personality, a blind man who acted as the town crier and was also able to recite passages of the Bible from memory. Today this park and its landmarks are symbols of civic pride, but Alexandra Park owes its origins to a time of great hardship and uncertainty.

In the early 1860s, the American Civil War disrupted supplies of cotton to Oldham's mills and many workers' hours and wages were reduced. For a time, Oldham was a town of soup kitchens; a place where people survived on charitable donations of food and clothing. To offer alternative employment, Oldham Borough Council applied to a special national hardship fund and borrowed £34,000 to build a new park for the people. Other local schemes included road improvements and sewage works.

This information was provided by curators from Gallery Oldham.