Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Now …. just what is the story behind 100 Vera Lynn 78s?

The answer is several ……… and they all start with David Harrop who bought all 100 from an auction house in Heaton Mersey.

The records come from an estate in Oldham, and while I haven’t the full list, the ones I have seen include, “Goodnight Children Everywhere”, “More and More”, “Jealousy”, “There’s A New World Over the Skyline”, "Nearest Thing to Heaven”, and my favourite “C’est La Vie”.

None of which are her famous ones.  

That said I bet "We'll Meet Again", “The White Cliffs of Dover", "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and "There'll Always Be an England", are there, and David will find them.

In the meantime, it’s just the six, all of which he photographed and sent over in an email.  I don’t have a date for any of them and despite finding versions of them on You Tube sung by Dame Vera, neither these or the site devoted to the lyrics of each song have offered up a year.

All that is except for Jealousy which she recorded in 1942.

Of course, someone will know, and will direct me to the place where the songs and their dates are listed, so that at present isn’t the story.

Instead it’s the sleeve covers which have caught my interest, because each of the six comes from a different record shop.

This I know because the names and addresses of the shops are printed on the sleeve cover.

And so I have been going on a Cook’s Tour across Manchester, from the Talkeries at 213 Deansgate, to The Elite Gramophone Depot, at 115 Manchester Road in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, and out to 653 Oldham Road in Newton Heath, where Manson’s claimed to be “The House of Music”.

There was also A Frank’s Ltd, the Gramophone Salon, with premises at 95-97 Deansgate and 46 Market Street, and E, Pennington Gramophone Specialist who sold his records from 1164-1168 Chester Road., Stretford.

Leaving me just Mazel Record Library on London Road which some will remember, and may well have visited to peruse the “40,000 records in stock”.

And when David has compiled the full list of stockists from the 100 78s, we will have a priceless record of shops from the 1940s into the following decade.

Added to which as some of them proudly display the date they were established we can begin to track the history of the gramophone shop across Manchester

All of which can be matched against the directories which contain the names of all such businesses from the late 19th century up to 1969.

What strikes me above all, are the descriptions, running from Gramophone Depot to the Gramophone Salon and the name the Talkeries, which hint at beginnings in the early 20th century and must even by the 1940s seemed outdated.

So that for now is the story …….. not Dame Vera, or the powerful songs, which evoke the war years, but the humble record shop of which there will be more stories to follow.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; sleeve notes from the records of Vera Lynn, 2020, from the collection of David Harrop

Chorlton Operatic Society ...... three programmes and a story

Now, sometimes what you know about a bit of our history just increases tenfold.

Dorothy, 1920
Yesterday I knew a little about the Chorlton Operatic Society, but not much.

I had the name of its secretary in 1910, who was a Mr Herbert Bayfield of 61 Claude Road, and the name of the conductor, added to which I had two small newspaper clippings of the society’s production of
“Dorothy" which was staged at the Pavilion Theatre in April 1914 and “Peg o’ My Heart” at the Chorlton Public Hall, eleven years later.

Included in the first revue was a photograph of the cast and in the second a fulsome account of “three successful performances”.*

But today thanks to an anonymous donor, I have three programmes, and the musical score and script for “Be Careful Bill” which may have been performed in 1936 or 1937.

The Rebel Maid, 1927
All of which means, that the story of the Society can now be traced from 1907 through to the mid 1930s.

This includes the names of the actors and musicians along with the subscribers and a full list of performances from 1908 till 1927.

According to the programme notes from La Fille De Madame Angot, “Two Operas are performed by the Society each Season, and throughout the winter months a series of Whist Drives, Concerts and Social evenings are held, when Subscribers and Acting Members have the opportunity of becoming acquainted.

The subscription is 10/- per annum, which entitles each Subscriber to two Specially Reserved Seats for each of the two Opera, which they have the privilege of booking before the general public.

Proportionate profits derived from the Season’s working are devoted to local charities, each Subscriber having a vote as to this distribution, also in the choosing of the Operas for the following season”.**

An earlier Dorothy, 1914
In 1914 one of the charities had been the Chorlton and District Nursing Association, and later ones included the Widows and Orphans Fund of the National Union of Journalists, and the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen.

The influx of new people into the township was sufficiently large and diverse to support many cultural activities and the Operatic Society were performing in the relatively new Pavilion on the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads.

La Fille de Madame Angot, 1913
It had been opened around 1904, soon changed its name to the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens and from 1909 was our first cinema.

Kemp’s Almanack and Handbook for 1910, listed everything from an amateur gardening society, a drama club and Literary Association along with our operatic society and an orchestral society.

And for those who fancied sport, there was cricket, football, tennis, golf and hockey clubs which vied with lacrosse, cycling and bowling to draw the more athletic resident out to play.

As yet many of these clubs are still sitting in the shadows, but the donation of the programmes not only offers up some fascinating detail about the Operatic Society but also on Chorlton during the first two decades of its existence.

The programmes contain adverts for local businesses, two of which made it into the 21st century and add to what we know about the public halls which were open for hire.  In 1913 the society performed at the Public Hall in West Didsbury and later at St Edmund’s Hall on Alexandra Road and in 1927 at the Public Hall in Chorlton which was attached to the Conservative Club.

Adverts, 1927
But what caught my eye was that at one stage they were based at the Davenport Hall on Stamford Road, which is that part of Brantingham which runs from Manchester Road to Albany Road. During 1912-13 this was their headquarters and it has long been a place with a history waiting to be uncovered.

“The Hall measuring 45 ft long and 16 ft wide with Ladies’ and Gentleman’s Clock Rooms, Kitchen, etc may be hired for Parties, Socials, Whist Drives, Meetings etc, on very moderate terms.  Crockery, Chairs, etc., may also be hired separately”. ***

And like the Operatic Society, which has now come out of the shadows, that small advert has added to our knowledge of long lost public hall.

Leaving me just to reflect on one last advertisement from one of the the programmes, and my favourite.

It  was for Charles Shaw & Sons Ltd., at 98 Barlow Moor Road who as well as having opened the first petrol pump available to the public, proudly declared that having been "established in Chorlton for 29 years we offer the finest service it is possible to give in motoring [with]  for hire a splendid fleet of landaulettes, with men in livery to take you anywhere. No hackney carriage plates on the back but a car that nobody can tell is not your own".****

List of  subscribers, 1912-13
Now if I had the imagination and the skill that could be the start of an opera with and impossible plot, and full of pompous people.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; the Chorlton Operatic Society April 1914 from the Manchester Courier, courtesy of Sally Dervan, and programs of Chorlton Operatic Society, 1912-13, 1919-1920,and 1927, donated anonymously.

*Chorlton Dramatic Society’s Effort for Charity, Manchester Guardian November 21 1915.

** La Fille De Madame Angot programme. La Fille De Madame Angot was performed between May 1st and May 3rd 1913, at the Public Hall West Didsbury

*** La Fille De Madame Angot programme

****The Rebel Maid Programme 1927

On rediscovering where you were born ............. The General Lying in Hospital at Lambeth

My hospital, 2007
We all have little bits of our past which we stumble across.

Most are too personal to warrant even a sentence in a history book but sometimes you know that there is a story and it is story which will pretty much touch lots of people.

I had never bothered looking up where I was born after all given that it happened on an October day in 1949 I just assumed like so many places in my life the hospital would long ago have vanished replaced by a dreary 1950’s office block or worse a car park.

But the General Lying in Hospital at Lambeth on York Road is still there although it closed for business in 1971.

Now if I am to be strictly accurate the building that saw me enter the world was the second Lying in Hospital.

The first opened on Westminster Bridge Road was replaced by my hospital in 1828 and in its time according to one source 150,000 babies were born there.*

All of which puts me in good company and no doubt once the story hits the web there will be some who come forward with their own stories.

Not that there is much to mine and until I began digging I had even got the name wrong believing that it was the Royal Lying in Hospital.

Nor do I have any memory of this grand building or whether I visited it when my four sisters were born.

I know that after its closure it fell into disrepair, went on to the Buildings at Risk Register and finally a shed load of money was spent on its restoration only for it to be sold to a hotel chain.

Perhaps it’s time for me to book a room there although I hardly think I will end up anywhere near where I resided 69 years ago.***

Picture; the General Lying in Hospital, August 27 2007, © Elliot Simpson

* The General Lying in Hospital,

**York Road, BHO British History on line 


The bridges of Salford and Manchester .......... nu 6 looking over the river from the Irwell Street Bridge

Now I have always taken this one for granted which is a shame because it is not only a fine looking bridge but stands out on the river.

But as Bill pointed out I omitted to include the Irwell Street Bridge in the picture.

And so you will either have to go back to nu 5 or wait for number 8.

Such is the joy of the blog.
Location; Salford

Picture; the Irwell Street Bridge, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Varese on a sunny day in September …… no. 13 …..messaging

Varese is a fine Italian town, north of Milan, and close to the Lakes.

Location; Varese

Picture; Varese on a sunny day in September, 2020, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

50 ways to use a gasometer …….. no. 32 a block of apartments

I collect gasometers.  

They are a vanishing collector’s dream, and I have to confess I restrict myself to pictures and stories.

Once every self-respecting town would have its own gasworks and the accompanying gasometer to store the manufactured gas.

As a kid I was fascinated by the telescopic ones, which rose and fell with the amount of gas they held, and have always thought the steel and iron lattice frame which contained them were things of beauty.

But then I never lived next to one.

And today few people do, as increasingly they are redundant and are on the danger list.

Many have gone, but occasionally some have benefited from a bit of imagination, like the surviving ones by the Regents Canal.

Now I have to confess that I have never walked the Regents Canal.

When I was growing up in south east London I had little reason to go and visit it, especially as we had our own near by in the form of the Surrey Canal.

And on the rear occasions we made a visit home, Well Hall and the family offered up all we needed for a holiday.

All of which brings me to “50 ways to use a gasometer …….. no. 32 …. a block of apartments", and my friend Bronwen, who alerted me to the fate of those along the canal.

She was reflecting on our conversation about gas holders and commented “I think there are many older buildings now part of tourist attractions but there is something interesting these re old gas ironworks. We were by Regents Canal not so long ago where they have incorporated the ironworks into apartments.  We came across them as  part of my brother in law's London Walks.*

So, there you have it, I can now add the Regents Canal gasometers to my collection, and for anyone who wants to know more about them, just follow the link to an interesting article from the Hackney Gazette, dated 2019.**

Leaving me just to thank Bronwen for sending up the pictures.

Location; Regents Canal

Pictures; Regents Canal, 2020, from the collection of Bronwen Woods


**“‘Regent’s Canal gasholders should be turned into a museum, not taken apart’ urges East End Waterway Group’s founder Tom Ridge”, Emma Bartholomew, October 15,  2019 Hackney Gazette,

A bit of sun, some boats, and a last walk along the Duke’s Canal

Now for all those wondering where the sunny weather went, here are Andy’s last pictures of an autumn day when the sun shone, and shorts could still be worn.

Yesterday he did the water walk from Northenden Road to Marsland Road, taking in a bit of a boat jam along the way.

The Duke’s Canal is one of my favourites, partly because it takes you into the heart of the city, and because it is full of history.

Added to which during the last decade the land on either side of the canal has and is undergoing a transformation, with the old brown sites cleared and slowly being redeveloped.

But yesterday Andy was less bothered with all that, and concentrated on the boats, the sunshine, and a stroll ……. Unlike today when the rain has adopted that particularly tiresome behavior of coming down not like stair rods, but just intermittently, making everywhere wet, grey, and pretty miserable.

The history of the canal is one I keep coming back to along with many of Andy’s pictures, so I shall close, with an eye of the weather forecast and the hope that by the weekend Sammy sun will be out again and there will be an opportunity to collect some wild fruit from the canal bank.*

We shall see.

Leaving me just to ponder on the intriguing gateway to Springfield Primary School.

In time I will explore its story, for now I note that there is a date of 1906 on the main building on Springfield Road, that it has a fine new addition and of course the grounds back onto the canal.

But I am confident someone will offer up something of its story.

Location; the Bridgewater Canal

Pictures; Northenden Road to Marsland Road, 2020, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*The Duke’s Canal,