Sunday, 23 September 2018

Looking for the lost 32 cottages and 15 cellars, home to 208 people

Looking down Commercial Street, 2015
Now I first wandered down Commercial Street sometime in the 1980s looking for Omega Street, and its neighbours Alpha Street and Fogg’s Place.

And I must have missed them by just a few years.

That said I don’t think they would have featured in any glossy guide to comfortable inner city living.

In 1853 they had formed a complex of back to back housing consisting of 32 cottages and fifteen cellars inhabited by 208 people.*

Commercial  Omega Street, 1849
Directly opposite was the Egerton Mill, while behind them there were two more and the surrounding area was dominated by more textile mills, a handful of iron works and the Hulme Brewery.

And I doubt even the most optimistic estate agent could gloss over the noise from the nearby railway or the smell from the river Medlock which flowed in a curve close by.

Back in the 1980s you could still see the outline of the house walls in what at the time was a temporary car park but when I returned some 20 years later these had vanished under new tarmac and there was nothing left to show what had once been there.

Looking across to Omega Street from Commercial Street, 2002
Now another thirteen years on and the surrounding buildings had either been demolished or made genteel and the worst I suspect in the form of pollution comes from the noise of loud music in the flats opposite or the conversation of the office workers making their way home.

And even that car park is now boarded up which may soon mean even space inhabited by those three streets and 32 cottages will be lost for ever.

Location, Manchester

Pictures; Commercial Street, 2014 courtesy of Andy Robertson, Omega Street, 2003 from the collection of Andrew Simpson and area in 1849 from the OS for Manchester & Salford, 1842-49, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

* Report of the Manchester and Salford Sanitary Association 1853

The Wool Shop on Beech Road

Now I belong to a generation that was dragged round wool shops as a child.

My mum, her friend and later my sisters all knitted and so the trip to the shop was a regular part of my Saturdays.

It started with the knitting pattern, went on to an endless discussion about the colour of the wool and finished with walking home with loads of the stuff.

Then there was the smell. Wool shops had a distinctive smell, which was a sort of warm perfume smell which followed you home and stayed where ever mother was knitting.

There was something else about the wool shop which for years I couldn’t quite work out what it was, and then recently it came to me, it was always so very quiet, as if there were secrets about knitting that could only be uttered in a low almost conspiratorial way.

Ours was a traditional wool shop. The wooden shelves which reached to the ceiling were made of a deep dark wood which shone in the sunlight and were heaped high with wool.

 And then there were the wooden and glass counters which today you only see in shops pretending to be old. Through the glass top you could see more wool and all sizes of knitting needles.

So the day Mrs Rogers announced that she was going to try out a knitting machine it was if she had admitted to multiple affairs over the preceding twenty years. I wouldn’t mind but it wasn’t even that she was going to buy one; all she wanted to do was try it out.

 But that marked her out as a flighty thing who would soon be buying a Christmas cake instead of making one and no doubt had already used custard powder and meat spread.

Nor did the torture of the wool shop stop there. Once home the wool had to be wound into balls, which could be only done using the back of a chair but usually involved me having to stand with my arms outstretched and the wool was pulled from me and went into balls.

So I suppose I chose to ignore the wool shop on Beech Road.

But talking to people they remember it with affection as place where you could get what you wanted and be given helpful advice, which I reckon makes our wool shop a bit of an exception.

It had moved from the building that juts out from Daniel Sharp’s house beside the old Methodist chapel to a more central spot near the post office.

It’s demise says much about the way Beech Road has gone, but then it is too easy and cheap to complain that while you can buy novelty cards and interesting glassware it is no longer possible to buy a lamb chop or do all the veg shopping along the road. People have voted with their feet and prefer to buy everything under the same supermarket roof at the same time.

This really is a shame because between Muriel’s’ green grocery shop, the Italian deli, George’s wholefood shop and Etchells I could buy all the family wanted with just the odd visit to Hanbury’s.

 It became a proud boast that I never had to go off Beech Road. Still things are looking up with the new deli so perhaps we can have a mix. Well perhaps not yet a wool shop, the tide has yet to come back for that.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; the Wool Shop Beech Road July 1978 from the Lloyd collection

Off Greenwich, 1904

The first of five picture postcards of Greenwich.

This is called Off Greenwich and the original was painted by Professor Van Hier

Location; Greenwich

Picture, Off Greenwich in the series, On the Thames, issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

The tower by the arboretum and stories of unsettled times ..... the French picture

Now I like Ann’s picture of this 13th century French tower close to where she lives.

Part of the reason is just because I like other people’s pictures, and their insight into what is interesting.

Added to which it is a beautiful photograph, and conjures up a sense of tranquillity which I don’t always feel and according to Ann the tower “is surrounded by an arboretum, which was planted by a wealthy merchant in the 19th century, and is a wonderful place to walk our dog”.

But the details of the tower offer up a far more grim reality, and remind us that across Europe the Middle Ages were an unsafe place.

The windows on the tower are small and the single entrance is equally small and easily defensible.

Many similar fortifications would have had the added precaution of a door way higher up which would haven accessed by a flight of wooden stairs which in an emergency could be destroyed.

So much for tranquillity.

And having read the draft I sent to her, Ann added that this is the Tour du Guesclin, and "When we first came over our French neighbours took great delight in telling us the story that the English, who were in possession of the tower, allowed some French woodsmen in to deliver wood, as they were very cold. The French turned out to be soldiers, and slaughtered the English,  and 'there was blood everywhere '! So much for tranquillity. . Time moves on".

Location; France

Picture; Tour du Guesclin13th century, 2018, from the collection of Ann Love. 

Adventures in Salford ............... part 2 walking down a Victorian street

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be” nevertheless the past can be a cosy and comforting place. I was reminded of this recently when I was telling a friend about Larkhill Place that reproduction of a Victorian street in Salford Museum and Art Gallery.*

Lark Hill Place was originally created in 1957 when many shops and houses in central Salford were being demolished to make way for new developments. Some of the shop fronts that were saved restored and interiors were added with authentic objects, recreating the way they were used in Victorian times.

Here along the street are Mathew Tomlinson's General Store, a music shop, printers, pub, smithy and wheelwright as well as the chemist and druggist and dressmaker.

Today such theme places are more common than they were in 1957 and there is a danger that they present a sanitized interpretation of the past. The real noises smells and unwashed humanity are missing from the streets as is the dirt and ever present evidence of poverty.

But as an introduction particularly for children it is first rate.

Now my introduction to the museum was not the result of a random visit or even a wet Saturday afternoon “what can do” trip, but one planned to show young history teachers just how a museum can be used to tell a story of the past.

Now it is all very well knowing about what happened but it’s no use if you can’t get young people to engage and begin to understand for themselves what a “knocker up did” or that there was a time when people routinely repaired their leather shoes and shared just two room where they ate, slept and just got with the business of living.

And that is what Larkhill Place does well continuing to offer a sense of the magic of the past as it has done since 1957 through to when I went there in 1974 and continues to do so today.

Of course to many the museum will be an old friend but there may be some who haven't been for a while or those who have never been.

Location; Salford Museum

Picture; the interior of one up one down cottage, in Larkhill Place, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and  picture postcard of Ye Bulls Head, circa 1916 from the collection of David Harrop

*LarkHill Place,

In the Albert in Didsbury ............... once a long time ago

Now, there will be those who mutter that if you can remember the Albert in Didsbury you are either an old resident of Didsbury or just old.

Now I hasten to add that my friend Andy Robertson is neither, but he first went into the pub “on January 8, 1972” which is very impressive because I couldn’t tell you when I first went in, although I have to admit it will have been a bit more than a decade later.

It is now of course the Fletcher Moss, and is a pub I do visit occasionally.

After his first visit in perhaps 40 years, Andy observed it has “been extensively enlarged since my first visit but that small room remains much the same except there used to be a dartboard where the mirror now is. 

I guess the last time I went here was late 1970s”.

And I do confess that when I first walked in through the door a couple of years back, I failed to recognise the place, and it took me a few visits before I realised that this was indeed where I have gone for late night drinks after work.

In my case what threw me, was the large extension on the back and the disappearance of  two of the small rooms.

Of course those who want to be unkind might assert it had more to do with the amount I have drunk, which is an assertion I can only deny.

On a serious note, given the number of pubs that have vanished over the last few years, it is good to see the Fletcher Moss is thriving.

Location; Didsbury

Picture; The Fletcher Moss, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Looking for Lloyd Street ........... the lost roads of Chorlton part 2

Now you won’t find it in Chorlton but it did exist and it was that short stretch of Whitelow Road running from the corner of Beech Road to that point where Whitelow bends to the left.*

This was once Lloyd land.  He was the second largest landowner in Chorlton buying into the township at the end of the 18th century and so I guess naming this little lane after him made sense.

Even now it is narrow  and hints that once it was just country lane with a few buildings on its eastern side and the large garden of William Cookson directly behind the Horse and Jockey.

But it is an interesting little place and reveals much about the life of our village.

Just at the end of the lane was the home of William Griffith.  The Griffith [s] family were active Methodists.

They appear in the ’41 and ’51 census in the tithe schedule rate books and Chapel registers.  William was a market gardener and one of his sons a wheelwright and his possession of freehold houses on Lloyd Street qualified him for a Parliamentary vote in 1832 1835 and 1840 which in turn marked him out as one of just 30 or so men who could vote.

For me an even more interesting man was Thomas Taylor.  He can also be found in the electoral registers for 1832, 1835, 1840 and 1854-55 by virtue of freehold houses for rent at end at the bottom of Beech Road and round into Lloyd Street.

These included what are now numbers 68-70 Beech Road and possibly whatever was on the site of the Beech Inn and extended on to the modern Whitelow Road.  Back in the 1840s nu 70 was the Travellers Rest which was a beer shop and nu 68 was a stationer’s and later the post office.

And it is his hand in the strange case of the loss of the Methodist Sunday school which had been in a building on the corner of Lloyd Street

This too had been built by subscriptions, and for a while was used by James Renshaw for his day school.

But the building was not secured by a trust and so reverted to the Lloyd Estate who sold the building to Thomas Taylor.

For a while Taylor charged the Methodists an annual rent but eventually in 1827 served notice on them to quit and the building was converted into cottages.

No detailed explanation has survived as to why the Methodists lost control of the building they had sacrificed so much to build but it was on Lloyd land and George Lloyd was devoted enough to the established church to give land for the building of the new National School on condition that “the school to be conducted upon principles consistent with the doctrines of the Established Church.” But it could equally have been a decision based purely on business.

Looking at the value of the cottages and the rents Thomas Taylor received it is easy to see that this might just have been a cash consideration, but more about this and the people who lived there another time.

Picture; Lloyd Street today, from the collection of Tony Walker, the Oven Door was the Travellers Rest back in the 1840 and what is now the Beech Inn may in part be all that is left of the cottages on Lloyd Street, map showing Lloyd Street from the OS map of Lancashire 1841-53, courtesy of Digital Archives,

* It was still Lloyd Street in 1871