Saturday, 27 August 2016

Waiting for a tram going through St Peter’s Square

Well that interruption to the tram services through St Peter’s Square seems to have lasted for ages.

But soon .......... in just a few days the trams will rumble past Central Ref again which for anyone who has had to terminate their journey at Deansgate Castlefield will be good news.

I was in the city yesterday and just had to take the picture on a spot which was free of metro traffic.

The Cross is back in place and the line will be open for business from Monday.

Location; Manchester

Picture; looking towards St Peter’s Square, August 26, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Almost a century of cutting hair on Wilbraham Road with the Stevenson family

Now there will be plenty of people with fond memories of Stevenson’s the hairdressers.

It did the business of cutting, shampooing and much more from 432 Wilbraham Road from 1908 until almost the end of that century.

I remember it well as does Bob Jones who shared with me some of his wife’s photographs of when she worked there in the 1960s.*

And just last week leafing through an old souvenir book I came across this 1908 advert for the shop.

Nothing quite prepares you for how different shop fronts were more than a century ago.

It starts with that large ornate lamp at the entrance which carried Mr Stevenson’s name and I guess would have been lit by gas.

And from there your eye is drawn to the shop window which conforms to that simple marketing approach of fill every bit of space with something to sell which included everything from shampoo, to umbrellas and even wigs.

Now I have no idea just how much call there was for wigs back in 1908 but Mr Stevenson described himself as not only a “hairdresser” but also “a wig maker and fancy dealer.”

I have to confess that the term “fancy dealer” had me stumped but it describes someone who sold imitation jewellery and ornaments which in the context of the shop made perfect sense.

After all having had your hair done for that night out it made sense to buy something special to go with it, and no doubt Miss Emma Stevenson who assisted in “the sales department” could be relied on to offer up expert advice.

At 27 she was 15 years younger than her brother and may well joined the business when Mr Stevenson made the move from his shop on Barlow Moor Road which I think he opened in 1899.

Back then he employed two male hairdressers and seems to have made the move to Wilbraham Road sometime between 1903 and 1908.

Now in 1903 the row of shops from Albany down to Keppel Road had yet to be added on to the front of what had been a fine set of terraced of houses.

Such I suspect was the demand for more retail properties with the growing population that the owners of the terrace recognised the commercial advantages of the conversion.

And that has seemed to have been a sound decision.  For decades it was a prime place to do business, just yards from the railway station and almost directly opposite the post office.

So much so that the Stevenson family along with Burt’s the “gentleman’s outfitters” saw no reason to move and continued offering perms and ties to generations of Chorlton people.

At some point Mr and Mrs Stevenson moved out of the flat above the shop and settled on St Werburgh’s Road where Mr Stevenson died in 1936.

But as they say that’s another story.

Location; Chorlton, Manchester

Picture; advert forJ.R.Stevenson’s, 1908 from the Souvenir of the Grand Wesleyan Church Bazaar, 1908, courtesy of Philip Lloyd and three young stylists at Stevenson’s circa 1965, from the collection of Bob Jones.

*Stevenson's the hairdressers, cutting and styling from 1909 on Wilbraham Road,

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 27 ............ Royal Exchange arcade

Now I doubt that anyone using the arcade as a short cut from St Ann’s Square would agree that its either lost of forgotten, nor for that matter the shop keepers.

But for any one of my generation the arcade was always one of those ways you got to the underground shopping precinct which offered up a fascinating range of out lets, from a coffee emporium to the small but magic shop selling old model railway locomotives, and carriages.

And of course before that it was Boots the Chemist which you entered at street level and descended to the floors below.

I can’t remember when Boots gave way to the shopping precinct or for that matter when the precinct closed, although I know it in the case of the precinct it seemed a death by a thousand closures with businesses shutting down and nothing replacing them.

Since then I get a feeling that something is about to happen but never does.

So it's less a forgotten street and more a lost precinct.

Location; St Ann’s Square

Picture; Royal Exchange arcade, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The young bride from 73 West Chislehurst Park, Eltham, living a new life with her family in the Canada of the 1900s

Now I am in reflective mood and have returned to stories of those who left Britain to start new lives in Canada and even further afield in Australia and New Zealand.

Maud and Edwin and the boys 1909
So here is the first of three from Carol Spencer some of whose family left south east England for the wide expanses of Canada just before the Great War.*

"Edwin Norman Harland along with his wife, Maude Mary Harland and two sons Lloyd and Ron set sail for Canada on the Montrose out of Liverpool, England.  They were heading for a better life in which free land was promised.

At that time to encourage settlers 160 acres of land was offered with a few conditions. First you must pay $10. Next a home must be built in the first year and 10 acres ploughed. Lastly you must live on the land for at least 6 months of the year for three years.

It really sounded so simple and easy to become a landowner!

Who could resist when owning land in Britain was almost an impossibility!

The family landed in St. John, New Brunswick in late March of 1912.  It was still winter in Canada.

They went to a restaurant for a meal and were really looking forward to it after the long voyage on the boat.

The restaurant served the best tea Maude had ever tasted and she asked the waitress what it was.

In Canada in 1912
Orange Pekoe became her tea of choice ever after.

The waitress was very friendly and struck up a conversation with them asking about their plans.  They were planning on heading west to Manitoba in hopes of finding work and possibly learning a little about Canadian life.

She gave them some excellent advice. The little boys, ages 3 and 5, were dressed in their best short pants and socks made of cotton.  She advised them to purchase long woollen underwear and heavier outer clothing otherwise they would freeze on their way west.  Clothing was upgraded and they were very grateful for the advice.

The train was boarded along with their settler’s effects which were few.  Maude did bring a few treasures with her.

A large brass bed warmer, which her great grandchildren always thought was a banjo minus the strings, a cut glass dish which was a wedding gift and her grandmothers  silver-plated bean pot.

They travelled by train for 3 days to Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Once in Manitoba work was readily available on farms.  Edwin got work as a farmhand and Maude became the housekeeper and cook for two bachelor farmers.  Edwin got on well as there was someone there to instruct him.

Maude was on her own and had to learn to cook many things in a new way.  Things were not the same as in Britain.  Two items in particular caused many trials.  Yeast for bread was dry not the same as home.  It needed to be soaked to make yeast sponge before mixing into the flour.

This was unknown to Maude and several batches of bread were mixed and buried when they would not rise!! Only to later rise out of the ground when the sun warmed them sufficiently!!

Being a very proud, independent woman, she had difficult time asking for help.  Pies were another experience.  They were made from dried fruit and unless soaked beforehand, would not work.

After dismal failure of turning out hard shells with fruit rattling around inside Maude waited for an opportunity to watch and learn.  She had acquired a hired girl and told the girl she should go ahead and make the pies and Maude would prepare the vegetables.

Maude kept a sharp eye on the girl and discovered her mistake while saving her pride."

© Carol Spencer, 2013

Pictures; courtesy of Carol Spencer

*The Harland Family,

Rediscovering a bit of police history half a century ago

Now here is another of those books whose contents has passed into history.

The Eagle Book of Police and Detection, was published in 1960.

At the time I can remember thinking how modern most of what I was reading was but now with the passage of over half a century much of it looks as dated as those rattles carried by Peelers in the 1830s.

All of which offered up a fascinating hour or so of reading from the CID, and fight against crime on the Thames, to new the new technologies and methods of detection which were at the cutting edge of police work in the late 1950s.

Of course I am well aware that this book which was one of the Eagle collection will not be available to many people.

I long ago lost my copy and had to buy this one from Brian the Book on Beech Road in the 1980s and I doubt that many copies still exist.

So for those who will never come across a copy I shall just leave you with this image.

The caption reads “Old and new together in the City of London; a mounted officer of the exacting City Force with a walkie talkie apparatus.  City Force are distinguished by the brass on their helmets and the red stripes on their arm bands.”

For me the term walkie talkie is as familiar as the trolley bus and the telegram but for many they will be as remote as the horse drawn omnibus and the films of Tom Mix.

But then until last month I still had a clockwork mobile from the last century and a preference for the music of Glen Millar, all of which made my 1960 book on the Police a familiar friend.

Pictures; from Eagle Book of Police & Detection, 1960

*Eagle Book of Police & Detection, Richard Harrison, 1960

On passing one of the tallest buildings in Salford

Now I am pleased Peter painted Highland House which is on Victoria Bridge Street for a variety of reasons.

It is after all one of the tallest buildings in Salford, has one of those interesting histories which says much about our recent past and is the hotel that my sisters always stay at  when they come north from London to visit.

It was originally built for the Inland Revenue, finished in 1966 and sold on in 1994. According to one source, it used a revolutionary form of construction which  enabled the lower floors to be occupied as the upper ones were still being built.*

But not all went well and during construction after a particularly windy night some of the windows ended up in Salford Bus Station which may seem an urban myth but the source offers up a reference to the event.

But for me it will always be a place to meet our Jill, Theresa and Elizabeth and their partners.  The staff are always friendly and so I am looking forward to being down there in October when my sisters are back in the city.

They like it because it is pretty easy to get to from Piccadilly Railway Station, is equally close to the metro and offers up lots of opportunities to wander off into Salford and Manchester.

Peter tells me “inspired by Blackpool Tower I have started a tall structures in the UK theme and where better to test it out but Salford. This is one I did in 2013."

So that is about it.  But as they say this is only the start.

Location; Salford

Painting; Highland House, Premier Inn Salford. Painting © 2013  Peter Topping

*North Tower(Salford), Wikipedia,

Friday, 26 August 2016

Down on Chorlton Green with the Penny Savings Bank

I like the way stories have a habit of coming around all over again.

And so it is with the Penny Savings Bank.  It was set up in 1887 and according to the bank “any sum may be deposited between One Penny and £50. When the account reached £1 it is transferred to the Manchester and Salford Savings Bank. “

Our branch met every Saturday between 6 and 7 in the old school on the green.

And in placing the Penny Savings Bank on the green “the Trustees and managers” were clear in their own minds that perhaps this area was more likely “to see a large increase in the number of depositors, and cottager’s domestic servants, and parents on behalf of their children.”

After all this was the old centre of Chorlton and still retained something of its rural character including those of meaner means.

All of which was in direct contrast to the new village or New Chorlton which was centred on what we now call the Four Banks but which many will still remember as “Kemps Corner.”

This area grew quickly in the years after 1880 and catered for the new middling people who were moving into Chorlton attracted by its pleasant surroundings but also by the quick rail connection into the heart of the city and later by the extension of the Corporation tram network.

So swift and complete was the development of the area that its old name of Martledge was lost and forgotten in a generation.

And it led to that division of Chorlton in to the “old village” and the new, a division which was still there in the minds of many who were born here.

My old friend Marjorie who had been born in the old village and lived on Provis Road remained a little aloof at that “other bit” which she maintained was all “fancy cakes and silk knickers.”

Now that might have been a tad unfair but from the 1880s that was where the money was in the form of the professional, managerial and clerical classes.

And in turn that was where the banks were leaving us at the other end down by the Green with a post office and a Penny Savings Bank which with the passage of time has now left us with neither.

So I am drawn to both Marjorie’s memories of attending the bank in the 1940s and also by Sandra’s advert she sent me of the Penny Savings Bank dated 1934.

Marjorie remembered depositing money there along with her sister and it was a story I had let slide to the back of my memory.

But Sandra’s ad brought it all back along with that division of the two parts of Chorlton.

Today of course that distinction has pretty much receded in to the past along with Kemp’s Corner and the old school on the green.

And it was yesterday’s story of the conversion of the school and a painting by Peter Topping that prompted Sandra to show me the advert and set off today’s memories

Picture; advert for the Penny Savings Bank, 1934, from the collection of Sandra Hapgood, a Post Office Savings Tin circa 1940, courtesy of David Harrop

Painting; The school on Chorlton Green, © 2012 Peter Topping

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