Thursday, 6 August 2020

Stories from Beech Road …….

Now, it is stating the obvious to say that Beech Road has changed a lot.

All that is modern, 2020, in the grounds of Mr. Sharpe's house, circa 1830

In the 44 years that I have lived in Joe and Mary Ann’s house facing the Rec, the road has gone from one which supported a range of traditional shops to a strip of cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Beech Road, circa 1980s
During the 1980s it hit the doldrums, with some businesses closing and little likelihood that they would be replaced with more of the same.

But with the opening of Café on the Green, the deli Buonissimo, followed by Primavera and the Lead, the future was set.

And for anyone living in the last quarter of the 19th century, the transformation of Beech Road must have been equally striking.

Until the 1850s, it was a narrow twisty lane, fronted by a few farmhouses, some wattle and daub cottages, and three homes of the gentry, with great stretches of it given over to fields.*

So, the buildings which are now the shops and bars, pretty much date from the 1870s onwards.

Beech Road, circa 1880s, with Mr. Clarke's smithy
Only those at the Chorlton Green end are there a few buildings which date from the 1830s and of these only the two shops beside the Beech Inn have survived, and they can claim to being the oldest two commercial properties still trading.

Here too could be found the blacksmith, and the road’s only drinking establishment which by the 1840s was run by Samuel and Elizabeth Nixon.  Mr. Nixon’s father was the landlord of  the pub over the water, which today is Jackson’s Boat but in its long history has had other names, of which the Greyhound was but one.  One of their son’s occupied the stationer’s and post office, and his son was the first occupant of the newsagent’s which now belongs to the Etchell’s family.

The Launderette, 2020
Sadly, all three of the fine houses of the gentry have gone.

Beech House which stood in its own substantial grounds at the Barlow Moor Road end of Beech Road went in 1908, while the remaining two were lost this century.

But already the very name of the road had gone.  Originally it was called Chorlton Row, and the name of the fields that stretched from what is now Cross Road down to Acres Road had been known as Row Acre.

And some time in the late 1870s it became Beech Road.

I bet there will have been those in the Traveler’s Rest which was the name of the beer shop run by the Nixon family who muttered into their beer about the unwarranted changes which started with rows of shops and ran on with the change from Chorlton Row and the slow loss of Row Acre to new houses.

Bar San Juan, 2020
I still lament the loss of Mr. Sharpe’s fine house which was demolished in favour of a Co-op, but am reconciled to the closure of the launderette, and pleased that after a long time of sitting empty what was the Parlour has been taken over by Bar San Juan.

Change is in the air, and I shall close with the thought that launderette’s helped do for the traditional laundry, one of which operated from Crossland Road, and while our own launderette is no more we have a new one on Wilbraham Road, in the old Gregg’s.

And that is it.

Location; Beech Road

Pictures; Beech Road, 2020 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson, 2012, The History Press, 

**Beech Road,

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 13, the school photograph

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

I have no idea of the date but would guess sometime in the early 20th century, if not a little earlier.  If that is the case the picture will have been taken in the yard of the old school on the green, which was built in 1878, replaced an earlier one from the 1840s which in turn had replaced an even earlier school.  In the way of things school photographs do not change over much.  They are drawn from a range of the social groupings, and the children stare back with that mix of seriousness, curiosity and in the case of the little girl on the second row a delightful smile.  In many ways their school experiences would be not so different from their parents but a world away from those of today.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

A hat ...... a lost industry and our Dad

Now this is a hat story.

That hat
There is nothing over remarkable about the hat opposite, which belonged to my father and long ago migrated north from London to Manchester, then sat in our cellar for decades gathering dust, until it ended up with our eldest, who wanted something of granddad’s.

All of which is natural enough and I bet many of us will have something similar whether it’s a pocket watch a ring or an old diary.

Ours just happens to be a hat although we do have the ring, the diary and plenty of other odd bits and pieces.

And when I post the story, my sisters will recognise the hat instantly because Dad always wore it, although he varied it with a beret.

Dad, circa 1930s
But the beret was only for going to work while the hat was for trips to the High Street and further afield.

Likewise my granddad and his brother would never be seen without a flat cap when they were out and about.

I think all four of us will be hard pressed to remember a time when Dad didn’t wear something on his head when he left the house.

And that of course was because he was of that age when virtually all adults wore something whether it was a hat, a beret or a scarf in an unbroken chain stretching back into the past.

All of which was good news for towns like Denton and Stockport which thrived as centres for hat manufacture well into the last century and for those with an interest the hat museum in Stockport is an excellent place to learn about the trade.

But in the 1960s wearing a hat started dropping out of favour.

I don’t recall wearing one or ever wanting to do so and only briefly took to a hat after Dad died but always remained a tad self conscious about being out wearing one.

All of which means I suspect that mine is the generation that helped kill off the fashion and by extension contributed to the demise of a whole industry.

Economists will point to deeper reasons for the end of a centuries old business but I cannot escape a bit of the blame.

So I am pleased we still have dad’s hat, if only to remind me of him and a piece of clothing which has all but vanished.

Payn's the outfitters, 1960s
I can’t be sure how old our hat is but I am guessing it must be at least from the 1960s, and was bought from G A Dunn.

Dunn’s were chain of men’s outfitters dating back to 1887 with shops across the country.

As well as hats it sold suits, shirts ties and jackets and trousers.

I chose Payn’s in the High Street rather than Dunn’s where I bought my first “sports jacket” in 1966, a Norfolk jacket the following year and a selection of those knitted ties which were the bee knees back in the ‘60s.

Me, the sports jacket and the two Ann's, 1968
What has only struck me just now as I look at the hat, is the connection between me and Dad, because although I never wore a hat we shopped at similar places, although I doubt Dad would ever have gone into Harry Fenton’s almost opposite Payne’s which was the cutting edge of all things “mod”.

But the clothes from Payn’s and Dunn’s were designed to last and so long after I had discarded the ties and cuff links dad was known to have added them to his wardrobe.

Now long after the two jackets, the knitted ties, cuff links and shirts that I bought have been lost, we still have the hat.

It has been cleaned and brushed and looks very much like it did when dad wore it and now has pride of place amongst our Ben’s clothes.

But stories should always end where they began.

So, just after I had posted this story, our Elizabeth sent over another picture of Dad's hat.

Other uses for Dad's hat, 1963
I had quite forgotten this photograph of the hat, and my two sisters.  With the the picture, Elizabeth added "Here is a picture of our Theresa wearing Dad's hat. Think she is not happy with me as I have the scooter and I think she wanted it".

Leaving aside the family squabble, what strikes me is that Dad allowed his hat to be used as a plaything, but, then judging by when the photograph was taken which looks to be summer, Dad would have been away and mother was always a little more casual about letting us play with "grown up" clothes.

And for those who want to know, it will be the summer of 1963, and we were in the garden of 26 Lausanne Road, in Peckham, before the move to Well Hall in Eltham.

Location; Eltham & Peckham

Picture; Dad’s hat, circa 1964, dad and “friend” circa 1930s, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, an advert for H C Payn, from This is Eltham, 1967, the sports coat, 1968 courtesy of Ann Hatch nee Davey and our Elizabeth and Theresa and Dad's hat, 1963, the Simpson Collection

A greatcoat …… works clothes and other surplus stuff …….. on Denmark Road

 This is a shop I grew up with.

It supplied Dad with a variety of work clothes, the odd selection of tools and when I was older provided me with great coats, and battle dresses which many of us students bought as cheap alternatives to High Street fashions.

You could find the shops in any town, and they were a wonderful cornucopia of cheap and durable products, many of which were Government Surplus.

Today those great coats, and combat gear, tun up in Retro shops and retail at silly prices, but in the decades just after the last war they were for sale at knock down prices, and were a good bargain.

But even then in the 1950s, there were fashions for surplus stock amongst us kids.

One year it was green fabric bags, which  might have once have held a gas mask or rounds of ammunition, but were perfect for carrying a packet of sandwiches , a bottle of lemonade or Tizer, and if we were very lucky, a slice of cake.

The bags cost just a shilling, which was still a big chunk of your pocket money which weighed in at 2/6d, but they were a must to have, and along with a balaclava, set you up for an adventure.

In the case of the balaclava, it didn’t matter that the sun was cracking the paving stones, and the last bout of rain had been a month ago, they were just a required part of what you needed to have fun.

This shop was on Denmark Road, but it is so like the ones I used to go to in Peckham and Woolwich, and  similar to ones across  Manchester.

Like the local ironmonger’s surplus stores had a distinctive smell, which I guess was derived from the musty clothes, shoe leather, and the well worn bare floor boards, added to which there was usually that lingering scent of paraffin stoves, which were lit even in summer.

Look closely and hanging up just over the door are a selection of military jackets, and I rather think the centre one might well have been scarlet, which were particularly fashionable in the mid 60s.

And here, I know there will be friends who took the path of a military career, and while I slouched around  the College of Knowledge on Aytoun Street*,  for them,  those ex-surplus uniforms were just what they wore for the day job.

Our picture dates, from 1967 and it is typical of these sorts of shops, but what makes this one just that bit different are the two figures either side of the owner who stares out at the camera.

Now I have tracked the two of them across the collection and they reappear in areas zoned for house clearance, and in many of them the woman carries a map or a notepad, which suggests they are from the Architects or the Planning Department and are engaged in the survey of the area.

And their presence like the albatross in the sky may have signalled the end of S.Small & Sons, with pretty much the rest of this stretch of Denmark Road

Location, Denmark Road

Picture; great coats, work clothes and much more, Denmark Road, 1967,Courtesy of Manchester Archives+ Town Hall Photographers' Collection,

*The College of Knowledge was actually the College of Commerce, which became the Faculty of Commerce in 1969 when Manchester Polytechnic was established, and was where me,, Lois, John, Mike and Jack passed three happy years between 1969-72.
And as I write is being converted into residential flats.

For all those who left Didsbury a long time ago ………

I am not a great fan of the now and then sets of pictures.

Kings Lynn Close, 2020
But I have to be careful, because I did collaborate on a then and now book on Didsbury’s past, so I shall push on with these two.*

We are on Kings Lynn Close on a bright day in February.

And for those that remember the day, it was pretty much the only dry day for weeks.

So as the rain wasn’t coming down like stair rods and the clouds were not scrapping the tops of buildings I set off into the township.

By the time I got back on the tram and headed into town the weather had turned, but that’s another story.

For now it is Kings Lynn Close and the view up towards Wilmlsow Road.

Kings Lynn Close, 1967
For some the value of the image will be in the snap shop of shops on the main road, which will stir a few memories.

But I am equally interested in the clutch of buildings to the left.

There is much the same, including those large metal trolleys and the simple observation finding a parking spot back in 1967 was like today, a reward in itself.

Location; Didsbury

Pictures; looking out from Kings Lynn Close, 2020, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and in 1967, Courtesy of Manchester Archives+ Town Hall Photographers' Collection,

*Didsbury Through Time, Peter Topping & Andrew Simpson, 2013, A new book for Didsbury,

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Mr. Shevloff’s superior warehouse on Cannon Street ………..revealed

Now for obvious reasons, descriptions of the interiors of our 19th century city centre warehouses are thin on the ground.

Mr. Shevloff's warehouse, 1967
The architectural plans will have long ago been thrown away, while professional photographers preferred recording the exterior of buildings, along with street views, leaving only those who toiled in the properties, and they were far too busy to have set down their thoughts.

And now most of those warehouses have gone, some because they reached the end of their useful life, others succumbed to Mr. Hitler’s bombs, leaving what was left at the mercy of the planners and their grandiose redevelopment schemes.

And so, it was with Mr. Shevloff’s warehouse which will date back to at least the middle of the 19th century.

It finally went with the clearance of that maze of streets, squares and courts which were bounded by Cannon Street to the north, High Street to the east, and Market to the south with Corporation Street on the west.

It was a victim of the desire for a modern looking commercial and retail area, which was to become the Arndale Centre.

Streets, squares, and courts, 1951
Of all those buildings across that area, I have become interested in just one, which was no. 44 Cannon Street.

In its final days, it was home to the Shevloff family's textile business.

They had been trading in various locations since the early 1920s.

I was first drawn to them while researching their family home in Chorlton, and as you do, I adopted them, which led to a series of blog stories.

These sparked off memories from people who bought materials from Mr. Shevloff, and yesterday from someone who worked there.

Stephen Davis, “worked at Shevloffs in 1966 as a school holiday job. [and]  well remember Mr. Shevloff Sr whose son Mr. Lander was by then the MD.

I remember the unmodernised warehouses in the Victorian court behind the building that we used for storage. 

It also housed a small business making watch glasses or something like that. 

The main wholesale warehouse had four floors with a manager on each. 

Mr. Lander’s son, who was at school with me, became a successful restauranteur in Soho”. 

Stephen’s description complements the records from Goad’s Fire Insurance maps, which are an invaluable source for the details of buildings across the city.

No. 44 Cannon Street, circa 1900

They were compiled  during the last decades of the 19th century and revised during the early years of the next century.

The buildings are coloured coded as to use, show the materials used in the construction, as well as the number of floors and features like skylights, windows and doorways, as well as hoist and crane doors.

And because the emphasis was on security from fire, party walls were highlighted as were the materials used in the construction of roofs, with reference to slate, tile, metal, cement and felt with tar.

44 and 50, Cannon Street, 1967
The detail is quite striking, extending to the width of streets, reflecting  concerns about how a fire could spread.

So, we can see that nu. 44 was a given over to wholesale and factory  use, with glass skylights, and backed on to Marsden Court.

All of which fits the historical records which shows that it was a shirt manufactures  at the start of the 20th century, and continued the link with textiles during its occupation by Mr. Shevloff’s business.

Together they offer up a wonderful insight into one building which was typical of the area and which vanished with the Arndale.

But that is not quite the end because the area was also home to a collection of pubs and clubs some of which feature in police reports.

The Wishing Well, 1967
Happily, the Wishing Well which was two doors down was bit more reputable and popular, and according to Stephen a place he visited, along with the legendary Twisted Wheel, Oasis ad Time and Place.

And I shall leave the last word to Stephen who reflected that the year he worked at Shevloff’s was “the year we won the World Cup and I think the Brazilian team trained in the Manchester area. 

One of the managers managed to get a Brazilian team sticker for his car (no merchandising in those days) which he felt set him apart somehow. 

The destruction of the whole area for the Arndale upset me considerably and influenced me to become very involved in conservation for the rest of my life”*

Location Cannon Street, Manchester

Pictures; Cannon Street, 1951, from the OS map of Manchester, 1951, the three properties, 1967, "Courtesy of Manchester Archives+ Town Hall Photographers' Collection",, and no. 44 Cannon Street, circa 1900, from Goad’s Fire Insurance Map, circa 1900, Courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*With thanks to Stephen Davis

Turning back the hands of time ………… the ink pot

I have no idea of the age or origin of the carved bird’s head.

It has just always been part of my life, first as a child growing up in Well Hall, and then as an object which has travelled with me.

For years it sat on a bookshelf, was briefly hidden away in the cellar, and is now back on the desk in the study.

And its final resting place is where my parents intended it to be, when they gave it to me.

Just when that was I can’t remember, and a bit of me wonders if it was actually a present from my Uncle George, who would hunt out “interesting things” at jumble sales, and secondhand shops.

Wherever it came from I have to say it is indeed an “interesting thing”.

I think it is a unique piece of work, possibly owned by the person who carved it.

Nor is it just a decoration, because the head is hinged and when opened reveals a space for an ink pot, which suggests we are at a time beyond the ball point pen or the fountain pen.

And as the first mass produced fountain pens only date from the 1880s, I suspect our bird may predate that event, and come from that time when dip pens were still in use.

Of course, I have no way of knowing, and there lies the fun of it.

It may be that someone will be able to date it, and dispel my assertion that it was hand crafted, offering up the name of a firm or cottage industry which turned them out in their thousands.

We shall see.

Leaving me just to say that I did once use it for what it was intended for.

The ink came from a shop, and the dip pen from school, which would have been Samuel Pepys County Secondary Modern School, which  I attended from 1961 till 1966.

In the early 1960s, dip pens were still widely used in the school, as they had been in the Juniors I attended.

I may even have been one of the ink monitors who every morning and at the start of the afternoon, were tasked with filling the porcelain ink pots which sat in  recessed holes on each desk.

With them came blotting paper, and countless ink stains, from accidental spillages to deliberate acts of vandalism, which sometimes resulted  in inky walls, stained clothes and damaged textbooks.

Looking back, those who railed against the slow intrusion of the ball point pen, were not only attempting to hold back the future, but were condemning thousands of school children to blue fingers, the temptation of ink pellets, and a lot of grief from parents angry at the ink marks on shirts, ties and jumpers.

There was a brief moment when I thought about filling it again with some ink, but it lasted just a few seconds, and sat beside my dream of opening up the coal cellar and is as impossible as turning back the hands of time.*

Location; our house

Picture; the ink pot, 2020, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Jimmy & David Ruffin - Turn Back the Hands of Time,