Saturday, 4 July 2020

Looking for the lost ...... one street over time in Ancoats ..... no 1 Homer Street

You won’t find Homer Street.

St Andrew's School, 1910
It disappeared sometime between 1934 and 1938 and I guess was part of an early clearance policy.

There will be ways of finding out but for now I am going to concentrate on the 100 or so years it was there when it was home to generations of families who worked in the factories the mills, and the timber and railway yards.

The project was prompted by my friend Bob Armato who commissioned a report on the area in advance of building a warehouse on the site.  By then Homer Street and the neighbouring properties on St Andrew’s Square, Gees Place, Dryden Street and Marsden Square had vanished so completely that they do not appear on any modern maps.*

Homer Street, 1851
But go back into the middle of the 19th century and they are all there.

It is difficult at present to get a sense of what the houses were like, but some at least were back to backs that looked out on to narrow and half enclosed streets and courts.

At the end of Homer Street was a reservoir and three streets down was the Mount Street Dye Works.

Sometime around 1851 the St Andrew’s National School was opened.  It is there on Adshead’s map of that year but is missing from the OS for 1849.

In time I will explore its story but so far I know that in 1911 the boys school had 248 students on roll although the average attendance was just 155, while the girls school had 272 with an average attendance of 160.

St Andrew Street, 1850
Some at least of the students would have been drawn from Homer Street.**

In 1851 it consisted of 15 houses which were home to 93 people.

The occupations of the residents included a porter, charwoman, several labourers, a carter and a number who did various jobs in the textile industry.

Most were from Manchester or the surrounding townships but a fair few as you would expect from the date were from Ireland.

At number 9 was Mr John McCormick a stone mason from Ireland living with his wife Mary who had been born in Manchester and their son James.  The house was also occupied by the five members of the Harris family.  Mr Harris and his wife were also from Ireland although their children were born here.

St Andrew's Church. 1960
There is much more and over the next few weeks I shall wander back to the beginning of Homer Street and forward into the 1930s in an effort to record some of the changes to the area and how the families of Homer Street fared.

But I shall conclude by observing that for almost all of its existence it didn't even get an entry in the street directories leaving me to fall back on St Andrew Street's listing for 1850***

Location; Ancoats

Pictures; St Andrew’s School, Homer Street, 1920, m48646, and St Andrew’s Church, 1964, T Brooks, m10604, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and Homer Street in 1851, from Adshead map of Manchester 1851, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Amato Food Products,

**Homer Street, Enu 1u 2-6, London Road, Manchester, 1851

***Slater's Directory of Manchester & Salford, 1850, page 90

When Gas was glamorous ............ in the show rooms of the South Metropolitan Gas Company at 36 Powis Street

Now the gas cooker, the central heating and the gas fired water boiler are pretty much taken for granted by most people.

Even given the ever increasing price of the stuff many of us will just get with using it, thankful that barring an accident the systems will come on at the push of a button or turn of the tap.

Most appliances are fairly utilitarian come in a number of shades of white and just do the business.

But back in the late 19th and early twentieth century’s gas could still be glamorous and it was the fuel of the future.

Read any of the handouts from the municipally controlled gas boards and you enter a world of cheap clean and safe living whether it be lighting the home or feeding the family.

Manchester Corporation both sold and rented gas cookers and in time did the same for electricity offering also very competitive rates for wring old houses.

All of which takes me to the show rooms of the South Metropolitan Gas Company at 36 Powis Street in Woolwich.

The South Metropolitan Gas Company was founded in 1829 and began an ambition programme of building gasworks at Vauxhall, Bankside and Thames St, Greenwich. These were extended by mergers with other companies, and bring me nicely back to the show rooms.*

The provision of gas along with its appliances was big money and to win over customers the show rooms had to look the part.

So I shall leave you with these scenes, all from postcards produced by Tuck & Sons in a series titled London, South Metropolitan Gas Company.

Now there is a piece of hard sell which can’t be bettered.

And just to doubly remind you of all the wonders of the place each picture post card had the times of opening on the back.

I think even I would have been impressed.

Pictures; from Tuck & Sons in a series titled London, South Metropolitan Gas Company, courtesy of Tuck DB,

*The National Archives,

When Stretford was sniffy about Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Now I know this will upset the residents of Stretford and no doubt bits of Chorlton too but it happened and here is the story.

Strolling by the park circa 1900
Back in 1913 the Manchester Courier reported on plans by the Stretford District Council “to establish a public museum at Longford Park”*

It was felt that “that among the residents many relics of Old Stretford, historical and literary, and probably natives who had removed further afield might have in their possession objects which would be of great interest to the present generation.”

And to this end one room of Longford Hall would be given over to the exhibits.

So far so good, but the chair of the Stretford District Council also chose to take a swipe at the residents of Chorlton commenting that the said Chorlton residents were “making a footpath across the park from the Ryecroft road entrance to that in Edge Lane.  If it still persisted he should feel it his duty to recommend to the Council to close the entrance from Chorlton-cum-Hardy.”

And that is all I shall say.

Location Stretford

Picture; on Edge Lane strolling by Longford Park in the early 1900s, courtesy of Sally Dervan

*Local Art Collection in Longford Park, Manchester Courier, July 2, 1913

The story behind the picture

Now I have always been fascinated by the stories which sit beside old photographs.

Rarely do you get the full story and more often than not much is left in the shadows.

But not so this picture which is one of the many that are now being revealed for the first time in four decades.

They belong to a huge collection of images that I took in 1978 through into the mid 80s using old fashioned film, smelly chemicals and a dark room.

Most never became prints and for those forty years sat in the cellar as negatives and after the enlarger and chemicals were thrown out remained just negatives.

But now I have one of those clever scanners and the software which do the trick in seconds, and so as you do, I have been playing; selecting strips at random and discovering all sorts.

Many are of London, with a lot more of demonstrations, when a man with a camera was not regarded with suspicion.

And that brings me to the picture.

It will date from 1979 or 1980/81 when some of us seemed constantly to be on a demonstration, be it against cuts in public spending, the rising unemployment figures, or the march of the Far Right peddling their message of racism and intolerance and later the installation of Cruise Missiles in Britain.

This one was Manchester, and it will have been an anti cuts demonstration.

The negative was chosen by chance, but what I was not expecting was that it included a picture of Malcolm selling newspaper.

I first met Malcolm when we were both on the same degree course.

By his own admission he had travelled far, from being a Moral Rearmer in the 1960s to embracing Socialism in the earlier ‘70s.

The journey took him via the Communist Party to the International Socialist Party and by degree into the Labour Party.

We lost touch with each other in the 1980s and only recently did I learn he had died.

Now given that I was born in the first half of the last century losing touch and later learning of the death of friends is becoming commonplace, so I am rather pleased that this image of Malcolm has come to light, leading me to reflect on that friendship which was never dull and more than once filled with a bizarre outcome.

Location; Manchester

Picture; a demonstration; circa 1980, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Budapest on a fine April day ...... from the camera of Julie Thomas

Now Budapest is not a city I have visited, so it has been fun to see the place through the camera of Julie Thomas.

Julie told me “I have my phone on the setting Noir so I will call these Budapest Noir'”

And that is all I am going to say.

Location; Budapest

Picture; Budapest Noir, 2018, from the collection of Julie Thomas

Friday, 3 July 2020

Guilty Men ...… Dunkirk 1940…. today on the wireless

Guilty Men is a book I bought secondhand 40 years ago and still haven’t got around to reading.

It was published by Victor Golllancz in 1940 and its authorship was listed as “By "CATO”.

I vaguely knew Michael Foot was associated with the book and assumed it was about the Great Depression, but as so often happens, it got put on the to do list and then fell off the table.*

But now it is off the bookshelf, sitting beside the computer and ready for the Radio 4’s programme Guilty Men,  which will be broadcast at 11 today and online shortly afterwards.**

According to the sleeve notes,

“In 1940, with Britain fearing invasion, an anonymous book appeared. Its attack on the government's 'guilty men' caused uproar. 

Eight years on, Phil Tinline explores the benefits and pitfalls of naming and blaming, then and now.

In late May 1940, as reporters got back to Fleet Street with the first interviews with survivors of the Dunkirk evacuation, three journalists - one of them the young Michael Foot - met on the roof of the Express building in Fleet Street. They decided they had to find a way to attack the ministers who had sent "heroes" into battle without "a fair chance".

They planned to hammer out a book, and publish it anonymously. Guilty Men was written in four days, and rushed it into print in less than a month.

It caused outrage for its denunciation of the ministers charged with failing to prepare sufficiently for war, and was promptly banned by the main bookshops. This was great free publicity. By the end of the year, it had sold 200,000 copies.

The book was so successful it kicked off a series of attacks on the old guard which ran through the war. It did not succeed in driving the Guilty Men from office. 

But it was crucial to establishing the idea that the 1930s was a time of government failure and timidity, driven by budgetary austerity, which brought the country to the brink of disaster - with ordinary people on the front lines paying the price.

Yet there is a twist – the book was far too lenient on the journalists' boss, Lord Beaverbrook, and on left-wing anti-war sentiment in the 1930s, in which Foot himself played a part. And for decades, it has been attacked by historians as unfair and simplistic.

So, Phil asks, should Guilty Men just remind us that polemics are a vital way to call out those who have done great harm, and to get rid of old thinking? 

Or should it also warn us that they can land too much blame on some, let others off the hook - and don’t necessarily help us avoid repeating our mistakes?

Phil explores how this played out in the Brexit debate - and how it might now play out as we process the impact of Covid-19.

Contributors include Ruth Dudley Edwards, Peter Oborne, Anthony Seldon, Dominic Frisby, Steve Fielding

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline”

Pictures; from Guilty Man, CATO, 1940

*Michael Foot, Labour MP and leader of the Labour Party between 1980-1981

**Guilty Men; BBC Radio 4,

Watching Woolwich and the Royal Arsenal change over the last century and a bit

I am looking at two pictures of the area in front of the old Arsenal gates which say much how about how Woolwich has changed.

The first dates from around 1905 and captures that moment when the shift has finished and the workforce is pouring out.

The second was taken by Colin on a Sunday morning in the September of 2013.

At one time the Royal Arsenal was an important part of the local economy providing work for thousands of people, but all of that is no more.

Now the extensive site is being redeveloped as a residential area, and includes The Royal Artillery Museum, and Greenwich Heritage Centre.

Location; Woolwich, London

Pictures; The Royal Arsenal, 1905, from the  series Woolwich Town & City, produced by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of courtesy of TuckDB, and the same spot in 2013 from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick