Thursday, 18 October 2018

At the Kings Arms waiting for Fred Wisdom to pull a pint

Now this is one of those familiar pictures of the High Street, looking east towards the church and Court Yard some time in 1915.

It comes from an excellent collection from Greenwich Heritage Centre which I discovered for the first time today.

On the surface it is interesting enough but it is the clues it offers up about some of the people who lived along this bit of the High street.

And because Mr Digby who took the picture focused on the Kings Arms I shall start with the pub and its landlord Fred Wisdom.

I can’t be sure when he took over the place but four years earlier he had been running the Railway Bell in Tonbridge.

He lived here with his wife Elizabeth, their two young children and his two nieces who worked behind the bar and described themselves as assistants.

And there is more because I know that Fred was born in 1878, Elizabeth two years earlier and they had been married in 1899.

I doubt we will ever know why they moved to Eltham but they were here by 1914 and were still pulling pints six years later.

All of which came from trawling the street directories and electoral registers which supply the names of the rest of the inhabitants on the block running up to Court Yard.

But for now my attention has been drawn to the big billboard on the gable end.

It is advertising the serialization of a story by Hall Cains who was one of the most popular novelists in the later Victorian and Edwardian period with many of his books being turned into films.

According to one source they were primarily romances, involving love triangles, but also addressed some of the more serious political and social issues of the day.

And as if on cue the book advertised as being serialized in the popular Reynolds’s News was Woman Thou Gavest Me. which I shall go looking for.

But I will just leave you back on the High Street in 1915.

Picture; the Old Kings Head, High Street Eltham, GRW 276,
courtesy of Greenwich Heritage Centre,

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 19, a Liverpool half penny dated 1791

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

For the last two objects I tried to choose one of the oldest and newest which help tell the story.  This Liverpool half penny is not the oldest object to have come out of the past that belongs to a silver half groat of Charles found in the parish churchyard but at 1791 the half penny is beaten only by a contract dating back to 1767.  Half pennies like these were not strictly coinage but tokens which were only redeemable at the warehouse of the merchant who issued them.  But during the 17th and 18th century there was little low denomination coinage issued and so enterprising businessmen here in Manchester and in Liverpool and other Lancashire towns made their own.  Our coin was issued in 1791 in Liverpool as part of a very large series by Thomas Clarke who produced ten tons of these copper coins between 1791 and ‘94.   Clarke was a Liverpool merchant. The coin itself although common remains a beautiful piece of work.  The obverse side shows a ship under canvas with crossed laurel branches beneath and the inscription Liverpool Half penny.  The reverse bears the motto and arms of Liverpool. Ours had not fared so well and part of the upper mast and rigging from the ship had worn away.  I have no idea how it ended up in the parish churchyard or whether it had been used or was just a keepsake, but its Manchester equivalents may well have circulated in the township and there may even have been a reciprocal agreements between the merchants of Manchester and Liverpool.  Read the full story in Chorlton-cum-Hardy a new history due out later this year,

Picture; detail from the report on the Archaeological dig conducted by Dr Angus Bateman during 1980-81

As others saw us ....... No. 1 ... the children’s charity

An occasional series featuring a comment from someone about the twin cities.

“Manchester has many glories but none I venture to think which shine brighter or reflect more completely on the city’s best self than the Refuges and Homes” The Right Rev F.T. Wood 1920

The Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’s Refuges and Shelters began in 1870, offering young homeless boys and bed and a meal for the night.*

It quickly expanded its activities to include homes for girls and boys, provided vocational training, migrated some to Canada as well as offering summer camps, and campaigned for the rights of children.

In 1920 it moved out to Cheadle from where as the Together Trust it still works today.**

The comment was supplied by the archivist of the Together Trust.

Location; Salford and Manchester

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust

*The Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’s Refuges,

**The Together Trust;

Shopping on Well Hall Road in the summer of 1907

Well Hall Parade in 1907
Now I am back with two more from Greenwich’s collection of old photographs.

They are both of Well Hall Road and are separated by just eight years.

Of the two the first offers up much more detail of what this row of shops looked like just over a century ago.

And it is a world away from today.

It starts with those ornate lamps protruding from the shop fronts which may have been lit by oil but I suspect will have been gas.

The chemist,  the fancy draper and the watchmaker, 1907
Then there are the large windows  with their iron frames which have just a hint of ornate decoration, which are topped by the names of the owners some of which will have been painted but others might have been etched on glass.

And finally there are the shop displays some of which adhere to that old Edwardian maxim of pile them high and sell them cheap.

Now I rather think it must either be a Sunday or early one morning as most of the shops have their blinds down, even though some have opened their large canopies.

On balance I would go for a Sunday afternoon sometime in the summer judging by the number of  pedestrians and the way the light is falling.

And for those with an even keener eye for detail there are no tram lines and of course a total absence of traffic bar the solitary horse and cart.

The caption says 1907 and assuming that there hasn’t ben a rapid turn over of shop keepers the shop on the corner with Greenvale Road opposite the Co-op was Mr William’s who was a cycle maker and seems to have left his shop signs propped up outside.

Little change in 1915 on Well Hall Road
And using the same street directory for 1908 it is possible to identify all the shops and their owners up to the chemists run by the London Drug Company.

Nor has much changed in the eight years that takes us up to the second picture taken in 1915.

By then the tram has arrived, there is a little more traffic which might just be explained by the fact that the shops are open and there are a fair few people about.

It is easy to forget that our parade of shops would have been as colourful as those of today and each would have displayed their names on the awnings which on this sunny day were pretty much all down.

Picture; Well Hall Road in 1907, GRW 378, and 1915, GWR380 courtesy of Greenwich Heritage Centre,

Holiday snaps ....... I keep coming back to nu 2 ... a Greek windmill and some olives

It was one of those places you find by accident.

It had long ceased grinding corn but the enterprising owner had turned it in to a bar and the olives were good.

But the display by four big cargo planes of the Greek air force practising flights over the bay rather spoilt the peace and tranquillity.

Location: Greece

Picture, Greece, 2009, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Under a midday sun in Alghero, and a passing nod to Noel Coward

Like most of us I had always had a passing affection for Noel Coward’s song “Only mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun” and it sorted of fitted with another of our adventures into the old town during that moment when morning passes into afternoon.

Except that Simone is Italian, and I doubt that with one German grandmother and two other Scottish grandparents I count as much of an Englishman.  Indeed the last remaining grandparent was no archetype Englishman either, well not the sort envisaged by Noel Coward.  And despite the humour and mild satire of the lines there is no getting away from the fact that it is to modern ears a tad racist.  But then it was written in 1931 as he drove from Hanoi to Saigon and the British Empire still seemed pretty invincible despite looking a little worn at the edges.

But the point is still true; few people who live in hot places will venture out in the midday sun.  Here in Alghero like most of Italy and the Mediterranean, shops close from 1 till 4 and only those catering for the tourists will be at their cash tills.

Much the same happens on the beach.  As the sun reaches high into the sky most Italian families leave for a meal at home and a quiet rest in the cool before venturing out for an afternoon by the sea.

All of which is a prelude to some photographs of our walk in the old town at lunch time.  Needless to say off the main piazza behind the fort and in the warren of little streets all is closed up.  A few tourist shops and bars are open but nothing much else stirs.

So we wander the old town and are confronted with ranks of empty restaurant tables.  I take a few pictures and make a note to return in the evening with the family which we do, and those tables are full, which all goes to show that only mad dogs and Englishman go out in the sun, or to be more accurate, only two old duffers away from the family on an adventure are daft enough to be out in that midday sun.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 18, a map and what we have lost since 1907

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

In just 40 short years much of our open land which had once been farmland and market gardens had been built over. Most of this development had happened around what was Martledge in that area stretching from the metro station west to Oswald Road and east along Barlow Moor Road. But to the south beyond Beech Road out past the Brook and onto the Mersey it was still by and large untouched, and the sight of meadowland and cows being brought back to be milked have only just   faded from living memory. Claude and Reynard Roads gave out onto fields and just a little further down Beech Road if I had a mind I could have walked the field boundaries all the way to the river.
Picture; detail from the 1907 OS map from the collection of Andrew Simpson