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This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

From Chetham’s Library

14: The Manchester Messiah
Michael Powell
IT IS SIMPLY a cross in a marriage register; neither of the couple married in Christ Church Manchester on 5 January 1762 could manage to write their own name. For mid-eighteenth century Manchester this was not unusual. Most of the names in the marriage registers were marked with crosses in lieu of signatures. But in this instance, the marriage between Abraham Standerin and Ann Lees, the rather shaky cross that accompanied the bride’s name is the nearest we can get, physically at least, to Ann the Word, the Woman Clothed with the Sun, the Mother of the Shakers and the Female Messiah. This cross is rarer than Shakespeare’s autograph.

The registers of Christ Church (now Manchester Cathedral) consist of over 450 volumes dating from 1573 to the present day. They comprise the longest run of parish registers of any church in the country. This is partly explained by the size of the parish and to the rapid growth in the town’s population in the industrial revolution, but it is also due to an anomaly which gave the church a virtual monopoly over the licences to perform ceremonies. Like most Manchester residents of the day, Ann Lee’s rights of passage are documented in the Church’s records. In addition to her marriage in 1762, we can trace her baptism aged 6 in June 1742, the baptism of her daughter Elizabeth in 1764 and her daughter’s burial two years later. All four of the children that she bore to Abraham Standerin died in infancy.

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