When asked to write a piece about an object in the photographic collection I currently work with at North Lincolnshire Museum, there was a clear image that stuck out in my mind.For me it portrays the romantic and exciting period at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Robert Scott and his team had just reached the South Pole; Suffragettes continued their campaign for women’s votes; news breaks that the Titanic has sunk and in a few short years Britain, like much of the world, would be at war. Yet in a small corner of Britain an excited crowd gathers to watch something which had never been attempted over the skies of Scunthorpe before. A small group of local aviation enthusiasts had arranged for Marcus Manton to fly an early monoplane over the grounds of Brumby Hall. Marcus, originally from Sheffield, received his pilots licence in 1912 and was taken on by Claude Grahame-White as an instructor. Early in 1914 he joined B. C. Hucks where they toured the country giving a series of aerobatic displays in Blériot XI monoplanes. Many postcards exist from this time of Manton entitled ‘The Wonderful Boy Aviator!’ probably in reference to his young age for a pilot.
On the outbreak of war, Manton tried to join the RAF but was rejected on medical grounds. Instead he became an instructor at Hendon where he taught many RFC and RNAS officers to fly. After the war Manton became a test pilot; firstly for Samuel White Ltd., and later Airco where he worked in connection to flights for the first London to Paris service. He later joined the English Electric where he tested a variety of prototype aircraft including the Little Wren.
During World War Two he worked as the Service Liaison Officer for Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, this was to be his last appointment before retirement and his death at the age of 68.
I often wonder when looking at old photographs, if the people in them had any idea of the life they were about to lead. Our collection is full of photographs of smiling children, blushing brides, stern Victorian businessmen and soldiers leaving for war. So often we do not have names for the people in these photographs never mind life stories like we do for Marcus Manton, so we are left to wonder about the jobs they did and the life they led.
– Lucy Lilliman
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