So here are tram cars numbers 46 and 45 on Barlow Moor Road on a summer’s afternoon in 1915 hard by the entrance to Southern Cemetery.
Just visible beyond the trams is the Oaks Hotel built sometime after 1911 and catering for the cemetery trade.
It was a huge rambling building with a fine staircase and plenty of rooms which would have suited cemetery parties. I suppose in its heyday it must have been a crowded and boisterous place, but when ever Tommy and I dropped in it just seemed empty and a little sad.
Perhaps the fact that to get to it you had to pass a line of businesses catering in cemetery goods was not conducive to a happy night out. In 1911 there were three of them, starting with J & H Patterson sculptures, then Hilton’s Monumental Works sculptures and finally Albert Fieldsend, monumental mason.
All of which made perfect sense given that the entrance to the cemetery was directly opposite. And the cemetery has been here since 1879 and was only the second in the country to have a crematorium which was opened in 1892.
So on this warm summer’s afternoon in 1915 there is much to see. The long line of parked vehicles suggests that a funeral was in progress, while another hearse waits by the gates.
It is one of those cross over points in time. The one solitary car looks a little out of place in that long line of horse drawn carriages, but in the space of the next decade and half all that will change. As will the fashion for top hats and formal funeral attire which custom dictated would continue to be worn for a set time after the service.
On April 6th 1930 the route from Cheetham Hill to Stretford Road saw its last tram. It was the first major conversion of a busy tram route anywhere in Britain and with revenue increasing after the change it paved the way for the switch. Only the war delayed its full implementation. Even so the last tram clanked its way through Chorlton on the Sunday of November 22nd 1942.
I doubt that any of the people on that warm summer’s day particularly those sitting on the tram could have predicted that change, or for that matter that the Great War would last for another three years and be merely a lull before a second even greater world war.
Still all that was in the future, I for one am quite happy to leave them to their busy day on that sunny afternoon in 1915.
Pictures; from the Lloyd collection and interior of a tram, 1926, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council m48358