Wednesday, 17 August 2022

A kiss is just a kiss ......... postcards from Italy 1918

Now I have been thinking of the contribution made by the Italian community here in Manchester to the Great War and remembered this postcard from the collection of David Harrop.

It was sent by Fred to Flo and the army postmark is dated July 28 1918 although Fred wrote the lines a full month earlier in June.

Now Fred did not add his surname which will make it pretty impossible to identify him, but I may have more luck with Flo.

She was Miss F Hudson of 27 Nowell Terrace, Harehills Lane, Leeds and the census record offers up a number of possible women who could be our Flo and in time I am confident we will find her.

Of course the other intriguing thing is that the card was sent from Italy, and was “Made in Italy” with the message “The Kiss of Redemption.”

This shouldn’t surprise us as British army units were sent to Italy in 1917.

A year later Fred could say “I am still in the pink and hope you are the same [adding] How do you like this card? ‘Some girl’ isn’t she?

Flo’s reaction is sadly unknown and as yet I have no idea what happened to Fred.

But I bet both derived some comfort from a card which transcends nationalities and the centuries, focusing on that simple emotional message of two people separated in war.

I wonder if either picked up on the symbolism or just took it at face value.

After all a kiss is a kiss in any language.

And that is about it with just the promise of  more to come.

Picture; “Il Bacio dei riscatto” 1918 from the collection of David Harrop

On the streets of Manchester, polishing shoes, selling food and offering up fun balloons

It is one of those things about city life that there is always someone who will sell you almost anything.

Just over a hundred years ago down by the Cathedral walls, the artist H.Tidmarsh recorded the old man selling newspapers, a woman selling potatoes and a boy polishing shoes, while up by the Infirmary at the top of Market Street he painted another street vendor selling food.

Not far away by Hunts Bank late at night young children plied the streets selling newspapers in the early hours of the morning.

And a century and a bit later, out on Market Street the crowd surged past the burger van, negotiated the balloon man, and stopped to buy a political paper.


Pictures; Manchester street sellers by H.E. Tidmarsh from Manchester Old and New, William Arthur Shaw, 1894 and from the collection of Andrew Simpson, June 2013

And over the next few weeks I shall focus on more of the street vendors who plied the streets of Manchester  in the late 19th century and their counterparts who still do the same business today.






A new history of Chorlton in 20 objects, number 5, calling the emergency services

We are on Upper Chorlton Road in 1960 with what was once a familar object.

It serves to remind us that not too long ago the idea of a hand held communicator was judged pure science fiction and for that matter making a telephone call still meant going out of the house and depending where you were waiting to use the phone.  So it made sense for the emergency services to provide this service.

And yes of course this is Whalley Range but Whalley Range and Chorlton have pretty much walked together.

Location; Whalley Range




Picture; Emergency telephone, Upper Chorlton Road, August 1960, A.H.Downes, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass



Pictures from a family album, Dartford 1928

I have to confess I am drawn to old family photographs.

Nor does it matter that they are not my family.

In fact very few of ours have survived.  Now this may be simply bad luck or a tendency that runs through the family to always be the person taking the pictures not the subject.

Added to that some of those that have not been lost or destroyed have no name, or date and so they remain a mystery.

Now that should be a lesson to all of us, and even more so in the digital age where while the opportunities to take pictures are boundless the chances are that even less will stay the course.

We photograph what takes our fancy in an instant with a camera phone, may send it to friends but rarely save them for long.

Even if we are more mindful of the future the likelihood is that they will be stored on a computer with no hard copy made of the image.

All of which has been prompted by these delightful photographs of Harold Morris, who was born in Eltham in 1902, grew up in Welling and died in 1976.

His was a full and productive life.  He married Alma Minnie Shrove in 1928 and these are some of their photographs, courtesy of his niece who has written

“Young Harold's first love broke his heart, but when he was 26 he married a Bexleyheath girl, Alma Minnie Shove. 

The bridesmaid was his youngest sister, Dorothy who was Jean’s mother, a self-willed child. 

Her dress had too many frills in her view and so, on the bus journey to Bexleyheath she took scissors with her and cut off as many as she could before her parents noticed.”

Such are the stories from family weddings.

Pictures’ courtesy of Jean Gammons

A little bit of gentle fun at the seaside in the 1930s ............. no 16 "I cannot bare to leave”

A short series reflecting on a bit of gentle fun from the seaside.


Location; at the seaside in Wales

Picture; courtesy of Ron Stubley

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Remembering Miss Hilda Peare …….. a nurse from the Great War …. buried in Southern Cemetery

 Miss Hilda Peare has come back out of the shadows.

Hilda Peare, 1917
She was a Red Cross Nurse during the Great War, who died “of a severe attack of Scarlatina, contracted while she was engaged nursing the sick and wounded of the fighting forces”*

She was buried in Southern Cemetery with full military honours, and then quietly slipped into obscurity, until now when her contribution will be remembered at a special commemorative service on September 2nd in the Cemetery.**

And here I have David Rawson to thank for not only alerting me to the service, but doing all the research on Miss Peare.***

According to David, “Some years ago, the manager of the cemetery, Pete, came across a record of Hilda's burial and located the site. 

Given her war role he organised for a small marker memorial to be placed at the grave. Pete described her as a 'trench nurse'.

Last May, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission  held a war graves week, and I met Liz Marsland who is the public engagement coordinator for the CWGC in the North West. Pete showed us the grave and as the conversation developed about Hilda, we thought that she deserved a CWGC headstone.

Normally if a casualty has a memorial erected privately the CWGC does not then add one of theirs. So, Liz made the case for Hilda to get a CWGC headstone and they agreed”.

Hilda Peare was born in Ireland in 1894, “attended the French School in Bray, Co. Wicklow. 

This school was for young Protestant ladies from across Ireland. It was a boarding school and so Hilda would have been used to living away from home. We know that she was at this school age 17. Clearly a fairly well off family”.

Seymour Park School, 2022
In the autumn of 1915 she enlisted in the Voluntary Aid Detachments of the Red Cross for service administering to sick and wounded servicemen, and was posted to the 2nd Western General Hospital based at Whitworth Street, and from there was redirected to the Seymour Park Auxiliary Hospital on Northumberland Road in Stretford.

The hospital had been a school which was opened in 1907 and is still there today.

During the course of the war, some schools were requisitioned as hospitals along with other buildings like church halls and private residents which were donated by their owners.

Her death was widely reported in the Irish Press, with The Free Press commentating “that her devotion to duty was fully appreciated was evident from the remarkable demonstration of regret on the occasion of her internment. 

She was buried with full military honours, the gun-carriage and the firing party being supplied by the Commanding Officer of Heaton Park Depot. The sergeants of the local detachment of the Royal Army Medical Corps acted as pall bearers, and the band of St Joseph's School played the Dead March in Saul along the route. 

Beautiful wreaths and floral tributes were sent by the officers and men of the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Matron, Sisters, and Nurses of the various military hospitals in the locality, the ladies of the V. A. D., and the patients of the branch hospital where Nurse Peare worked”.

V.A.D., recruitment poster, 1915

And so, it is fitting that a century and a bit after that service she should be remembered in Southern Cemetery.

But that is not quite the end, because David has added  “as knowledge of this event spreads, our friend Cath Brownhill, was telling me that she was a Captain in the Army Reserve based at 207 Field Hospital.

WW1 memorial at the drill Hall, 2022

She has found that Hilda is remembered on the WW1 memorial at the drill Hall on King's Rd (207 HQ)

Cath took these pictures. Hilda is toward the top of the left hand column. Although she is down as Pearce rather than Peare".

There is much more, and David’s research offers up a wealth of information on the work of the VADS, and Miss Peare’s background, along with fresh avenues of research.

Added to this there is The Red Cross’s own data base of those who served as VADS, which is temporarily down for maintenance.

But for now, that is it.  

The ceremony will be held in Southern Cemetery, on September 2nd at 10.30 for 11am, and David tells me "I've just had a conversation with Liz (from CWGC) about the order of service. The Irish Consul General will be attending to represent the Irish Govt, which is great".

Pictures; Miss Hilda Peare, circa 1915-1917, Seymour Park School, 2022,  from the collection of David Rawson, V.A.D., Recruitment poster, 1915, Imperial War Museum and WW1 memorial at the drill Hall on King's Rd (207 HQ), 2022, courtesy of Catherine Brownhill.

Marker memorial to Miss Pearce, 2022 

*The Free Press, March 14th, 1917

** The ceremony will be held in Southern Cemetery, on September 2nd at 10.30 for 11am

*** David Rawson, is one of the three Manchester City Councillors for the Chorlton Park Ward.

In Eltham with the Reverend John Kenward Shaw Brooke and some revealing records

John Kenward Shaw Brooke from an engraving in the church
am sitting looking at a picture of the Reverend John Kenward Shaw Brooke and have been reflecting on what started as a simple piece of research about the man led me off in all sorts of directions.


John Kenward Shaw Brooke was vicar of St John’s in Eltham from the age of 24 in 1783 till his death in 1840.

Such was his reputation in the parish that on the jubilee of his tenure in office the newly built row of cottages owned by John Fry became known as Jubilee Cottages, a name they retained till their demolition in 1957.

He was in the words of the local historian R.R.C. Gregory “a man greatly revered of strong character, and holding the office of Vicar for the long period of fifty-seven years, he has left a mark upon parochial history more indelible, perhaps, than that of any preceding Vicar.”*

So much so that over 70 years after his death in the summer of 1909 there were engravings of the man “in many of the homes of Eltham ...and so impressive were the demonstrations that took place [to commemorate his fifty years on office in 1833] that the children and grandchildren of those who witnessed them find to this day, a congenial theme for conversational purposes.”

Cover of the by Rev Myers, 1841 
Nor was this all for just a year after his death his life and contribution were recorded in a 22 page booklet focusing particularly on his establishment of the National Infant and Sunday Schools, the endowment he left to the school and his other charity work.**

And as I dug deeper I got side tracked and despite serious efforts to return to our man I was led off on different tracks.

All of which began with the poll books which are not only a record of who could vote in Parliamentary elections but also how they voted.

John Kenward Shaw Brooke appears in a number of them from the late 18th century into the 19th and encompassing the great election after the 1832 Reform Act.

The first comes from 1790 and the last in 1838, and what they show is that the Reverend Shaw Brooke consistently voted Tory.

One of thast enteries by the Reverend Shaw Brook in December 1839
Nor is this all for like so many men of the period he voted in more than one place.

So along with Eltham he was registered in the parish of St Dunstan in the West in the City of London and Wickhambreaux which is just five miles from Canterbury.

And like so many clergymen of the period he also managed more than one church.

In his case the second living was at the Rectory of Hurst-Pierpoint, in Sussex, “where respect and esteem ever awaited him; and where, although his residence was limited to a few weeks annually, he lost no opportunity of promoting the well being of his parishioners, by his sanction and liberal support of every means of advancing their temporal and spiritual interests.”***

But it was in Eltham where he was most busy and trawling the parish records there frequently is his name and of course his handwriting which for any historian is an exciting link with both the man and the period.


Here too purely by chance I came across the burial record of Lucy Jeffery who died in her first year in the June of 1841.

Only weeks before I had uncovered her baptismal records along with her siblings and in the course of charting the family through from the 1840s noted she had fallen off the official records.  At the time I assumed she had changed her name on marriage, and thought that I would follow it up in the future.

Not so, she was buried on June 19th in the parish church yard, which led me to ponder on the ages of the others laid to rest during the period. In time I think it will turn into a major piece of research but for now of the 48 buried during 1840, 19 were under the age of 5 of which many were never to see their first birthday.

Burial record for John Kenward Shaw Brook
It is unscientific, lacks at present any details of the causes of death and is confined to that one year but most of us will I suspect reflect on the lost lives and unfilled futures which they represent.

John Kenward Shaw Brooke had died the year before aged 81 and was buried on December 23rd 1840.

Pictures; John Kenward Shaw Brookes from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, http://www.gregory.elthamhistory.org.uk/bookpages/i001.htm,

*The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909

**Rev W.T.Myers, 1841

***ibid R.R.C. Gregory