Monday, 23 April 2018

Looking for a paper clip and a hole puncher on Chapel Street

Everyone takes pictures of the old Police Station on Chapel Street, but not our Andy.

Instead he recorded the premises of George Ellis Office Equipment & Stationary which was next door.

Now there will be a story here and I bet the memories will come flooding in from those who as  young office workers were sent out to buy  2 dozen boxes of paper clips, assorted envelopes and some tinted card.

I wasn’t one of them, but those same memories might offer up a date for its closure which predates 2011.

And until then I will leave you with picture, secure in the knowledge that Derek the Developer won’t let this prime site remain empty for another decade.

But not quite, because Jac Marsh posted "Yes. I went for those paper clips. They also had photocopiers from a company I worked for later".

Location; Salford

Picture; Chapel Street, 2018 from  the collection of Andy Robertson

Buying a book at Wilcox's on Well Hall Road and a thank you

Well Hall Odeon, circa 1960s
It is pretty much one of those things that when you live somewhere you take it for granted.

Growing up in Eltham in the 1960s I don’t think I ever took a photograph of the place and most of the changes that occurred just passed me by.

That said I am not sure that there were many dramatic developments to Eltham during that decade.

The cinemas were all still there when I left as was the old station, and the shops on Well Hall Road just down from the Odeon were the same when I returned in the early 70s.

They included the radio shop where mum bought our first stereogram, the barber's shop next to the cinema where you always came out with a short back and sides no matter what you had asked for and Wells the Chemist and the cafe.

Some places have faded from my memory and others while still vivid have challenged me to remember their name.

Wilcox, Well Hall Road circa 1960s
So here I am with that shop at the top of Well Hall Road hard by Burton’s.

It sold everything from papers and sweets to books and on a Saturday morning it was one of the first ports of call before heading up the High Street to meet friends, or visit the library.

And only yesterday our Saul started reading the copy of Canterbury Tales which I bought from Wilcox’s sometime in the summer of 1967.

The book is much battered and is in danger of falling apart but it is a nice reminder of the continuity which binds me to the place where I grew up and still feel a pull for.

So I was pleased that I have come across a fresh collection of photographs from the community website This is Eltham and particularly pleased that they have given me permission to raid the archive.*

Some are very much part of my childhood while others look back to an earlier period of Eltham’s history.

But it is the one of Wilcox’s that has triggered off a rich cascade of memories and underlines for me the power of an image to reawaken the past.

And as these things go just as I finished the story, Lesley of This is Eltham, told me that Wilcox's  
"was my father's shop Andrew,  he had 5 shops in Eltham, 32 High Street, and there's a photo of my mother in that shop in 1938/9, then a haberdashery's in Well Hall Parade opposite the Pleasaunce, one with a Post Office in Westhrone Avenue and and a tiny, tiny one at the High Street end of Archery Road but that was probably gone by the time you came to Eltham."

Now that I think is just a perfect ending.

Pictures; Well Hall Odeon and Wilcox’s circa 1960 courtesy of This is Eltham

*This is Eltham,

Making their home in Chorlton, nu 2 the Clarke Family

The sales transaction, 1860
The Clarke family arrived on Chorlton in 1860 and worked the smithy on Beech Road for nearly 100 years.

I know this because I have a copy of the sale transaction he made between himself and the widow Elizabeth Lowe. He paid £55 for the “Goodwill, fixtures about the forge. Also the pig sty and wooden shed.....”

It is a remarkable document for many reasons. Not only does it shed light on what was in the smithy but it is in Clarke’s own handwriting which makes it one of only two dozen or so personal records from the period to have survived. But there is more.

This was a time when many were still illiterate and Elizabeth Lowe was one of these. Just a decade before in 1851, 45% of the women who were married gave a mark rather than a signature on the marriage certificate.

The Clarke family were to remain on the Row well into the 20th century, and their shop would have been at the heart of the rural community.

John Clarke and before him William Davis supplied the needs of the village, repairing broken tools, forging new ones and shoeing horses.

Charles Clarke, date unknown
When he was hammering and heating at his forge on the Row he acted as a magnate for people. Some coming to collect a repaired tool or bringing a horse which was in need of a new shoe would stop and pass the time of day.

And there were always requests to personalise a farm tool. This might mean making a left handed scythe or widening or narrowing hoe blades used to chop out weeds. Then there would be the endless procession of labourers needing tools sharpened from bill hooks and scythes to axes and all the other types of edged tools.

In the process William might well replace the broken or split staves

And all the time, gangs of children attracted to the smithy by the red hot metal and frequent shower of sparks would stand and stare rooted to the spot. Marjorie Holmes remembers being late for school in the 1930s because she, like countless young people before her had been lost in the magic of the smithy.

But as busy as they were they could still pose for a photograph, and so sometime in 1913 John’s son Charles stood outside the smithy and had his picture taken.

He was 55 and still lived beside the forge. He had been married for over 26 years and he and his wife Sarah had five children.

The two boys had followed their father into the trade. In the 1911 census John described himself as a plumber, and Charles the younger son as a blacksmith striker.

Lillian the eldest of the daughters described herself as a machinist while Ethel worked in a laundry and Florence was still at school...

Charles Clarke Junior, 1893
One of the boys was also active in the Chorlton Brass Band and in the summer of 1893 was also photographed when the band played at Barlow Hall. Sadly he was to die in Gallipoli in June 1915 aged 23.

Pictures; sale of the smithy October 1860, picture of Charles Clark, 1913 Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, picture of Charles Clark, DPA 328.18, 
Courtesy of Greater Manchester Archives, and photograph of Charles Clarke junior 1893 from the collection of Alan Brown

The story of British Home Children in just 20 objects nu 9 .......... the migration party 1897

Manchester Town Hall, 1897
A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, have been selected purely at random and will reflect one of many different stories.

The year is 1897 and we are on the steps of Manchester Town Hall which is a building I know very well.

The young people staring back at us are about to leave for Canada under the care of the Manchester & Salford Boys’ & Girls’ Refuges.

The scene will have been replicated countless times from the beginning of the practice and the Manchester & Salford Boys’ & Girls’ Refuges continued sending young people till 1914.

The Together Trust holds many similar images and for those of us with a BHC in our family, pictures like this are a powerful link to link to that person.

Now I never knew my great uncle who left Derby with the Middlemore organization in 1914, and I have no pictures of him and few letters and other personal effects, so in a way this is the best I can do.

Anyone who wants to nominate their own is free to do so, just add a description in no more than 200 words and send it to me.

Picture, Migration Party, Manchester Town Hall, 1897, courtesy of the Together Trust,

British Home Children ..... Bringing the story Home Day 10

Now if you really want to make people aware in Britain of the history of British Home Children, social media is a good place to start.

So following on from the work of our Canadian colleagues, we launched,  British Home Children .... the story from Britain, and it has been a success in its first ten days.*

At first most of those who wished to join were from Canada, but steadily we are now attracting people from across the UK, and not only are they posting their stories but are exchanging news.

Today Jenny wrote, “I belong to Balsall Heath Local History Society in Birmingham and we have just secured a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to research the Middlemore Homes and the children and their stories. We are at present in the process of appointing a Project Manager. 

Whoever we appoint will, I am sure, be very interested in your Facebook page and will want to make contact with people who have stories to tell.” 

Adding, “We are interviewing on May 4th and have had some very good applications. If you look up the Balsall Heath Local History Society Facebook page, you should be able to find something about this project. I think I posted the job advert and also our Gazette for March carried an article about the project”.

While Deborah added, “I've just written to Peter Calver of Lost Cousins asking him to mention the Group in one of his newsletters” and Elaine shared a radio programme going out tomorrow in the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch area, featuring two historian discussing BHC.

Poster; British Home Children ...... the story from Britain was designed to be downloaded and distributed to friends, groups and heritage Centres/libraries and societies.

* British Home Children ..... the story from Britain, www.facebook./com/groups/bhchildren

Sunday, 22 April 2018

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 101 ......... all the news

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Man thinks of buying an evening paper, 1978
Now, I have no idea what newspaper Joe and Mary Ann read, or if they took both a daily and evening paper, and of course they may have not bothered with either.

But that I find a little hard to accept given that for most people during the last century the newspaper through the letter box and the milk on the step was part of the routine of everyday life.

I think I can be fairly sure that Mr and Mrs Scott would have embraced the wireless as they did the telephone and the television.

Joe had a landline by the mid 1920s and their TV aerial was on the roof in a photograph three decades on.

And so they may well have got their news from the BBC as they sat in their front room which could have included Neville Chamberlain announcing that we were at war with Germany, watching  the Coronation and the horrors of wars from Vietnam, to Biafra and plenty of places in between.

la Repubblica, 2018
It is easy today to become casual at the wonders of that media revolution.  When Joe and Mary Ann moved in to the house in 1915, knowledge of home and international events was limited and relatively slow to arrive, but by Mary Ann’s death in 1973 the account of an earthquake in India or a nasty military coup in Latin America would be the stuff of “breaking news”.

Of course that term is itself very recent, but when Telstar broadcast live pictures from Paris and New York into homes here in Britain in 1962 it had arrived in all but name.

And now I have the pick of the world’s media at the click of a button allowing me to follow the online editions of the Guardian, the Telegraph and Jewish Chronicle along with Corriere della Sera from Milan and la Repubblica from Rome. Or if I so choose, edits from papers and news agencies pretty much everywhere.

Man not interested in the band, 1979
As a result we have joined that band who have forsaken newsprint for a flickering image on a screen.

If I am honest I do at times feel guilty, and given that we may soon be using a milkman again, perhaps the return of the heavy thud on the mat first thing in the morning is not so far away.

But a little bit of me grows weary at the 24 hour news coverage, which often means that the early evening and late night TV broadcasts have little more to offer from what I heard at midday and in some instances are the same reporter, with the same commentary with just the addition of a face at six and ten pm.

Fears for ice cream sales in a Manchester summer, 1980
None of which I suspect Joe and Mary Ann had to worry about.

Picture; newspaper seller, Man and a band, and woman with an ice cream Manchester 1978-80  from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the front page of la Repubblica

*The story of a house,

"Away, away with rum by gum,"* signing the pledge to forgo the demon drink

The temperance movement and in particular The Band of Hope haven’t always got good press.  

More often than not the campaign against “demon drink” is the butt of jokes and its adherents seen as dour kill joys.

And yet nothing could be further from the truth.  There was passion, humour and above all a real sense of commitment to addressing a social problem which plunged individuals and families in to distress and poverty.

Many employers still paid out in pubs with all the intend ant dangers of drinking the family money away and pubs were designed to be warm welcoming places which were often more pleasant places than the home.

And it was not till not till 1901 that was it made illegal to sell alcohol to children under the age of 14 and even then it did not apply if the container was in a corked or sealed container.

Earlier in the century according to Annemarie McAllister in “The lives and souls of the children”: The Band of Hope in the North West** “A select committee reported that in public houses in Manchester ‘on a single Sunday in 1854 there were 212,243 visits to drink shops and 22,132 of these were made by children, some of whom went to drink on their own account – some to fetch drink.’”

It is an interesting account of both the temperance movement and the degree to which children were encouraged to become part of that movement and remain lifetime abstainers.

Temperance was an important part of many of those working class organisations which developed in the 19th century to improve working conditions and generally advance the cause of Labour. "Temperance men and women " could be found in the trade unions, and in the co-operative movement, and there was even a temperance wing of the Chartists.

Much was made of the links between the the big brewers and the Conservative Party and abstinence was at the center of some of the religious groups.  All of whom saw alcohol as  dangerous to health, a source of family poverty and  a bar to social advance.  Some like the Cross Cross Mission Emigration Society which sought to assist working class families settle in Canada were totally convinced that a life without "drink" was a powerful weapon in families bettering themselves.

It extended into every community and even here there were those who fought applications for new pubs and supported such temperance halls like our own on Manchester Road.

Something of all this comes through from a new exhibition at the Pump House Museum*** Demon Drink? Temperance and the Working Class, which runs till February 24th 2013. “The Temperance Movement, in which people took the pledge not to drink alcohol, effectively began in the North West and played an important part in the lives of many in the region. Despite this, it is a little remembered aspect of our history.”

* Salvation Army Song, it has other titles, the author and composer is unknown, and the  verses grow with time,

** The Band of Hope in the North West, in Growing Up in the North West, 1850s-1950s, Manchester Region History Review Volume 22 2011

*** People’s History Museum Left Bank, Manchester,

Pictures; Band Of Hope, Open air Temperance Meeting in Manchester, 1910, m68996, Temperance Demonstration, m18044, Temperance Billiard Hall, Chorlton, November 1958,  A.H. Downes, m18044, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council