Monday, 25 January 2021

Just before midnight on Princess Street …………1963

This is one of those pictures I wish I had taken.

We are on Princess Street approaching Whitworth Street, and given that it’s almost midnight the streets are empty.

I like the effect of the streetlamps, which along with the absence of people and vehicles makes for a very atmospheric scene.

Of course, the buildings running down from 113 to Whitworth Street have long gone, although they survived until relatively recently, after which the site was an empty plot for ages.

But as I write the plot is being developed with speed, with the boards promising “Luxury City Centre Living”, with the name Manchester Square.

Location; Princess Street

Pictures; Princess Street, 1963,  "Courtesy of Manchester Archives+ Town Hall Photographers' Collection",

For the Friends of Hardy Lane ......... a gate post

Now for those who have fond memories of Hardy Lane from a time before today, here is the last of the short series on the road that for some will rival Route 66.

Hardy Lane, 1966
It started as a small lane at Barlow Moor Lane and ran off on to the flood plain, passing a group of cottages and Hardy Lane.

And yes once Barlow Moor Road was called a lane and not a road.  The cottages were known as the Block and 1907 the lane had acquired a cricket ground which also boasted a Pavilion.

And that is all I am going to say, other than to thank Neil Simpson who tells me is from  "the Town Hall Photographer's Collection Digitisation Project, which is Volunteer led and Volunteer staffed, is in the process of systematically scanning the 200,000+ negatives in the collection dating from 1956 to 2007.

Hardy Lane, 1907
The plan is to gradually make the scanned images available online - initially on Manchester Archives+ Flickr and later on other Archives+ digital platforms."*

And then just after I posted, Catherine got in touch and left this comment which of course had to be included.

"Andrew, not only have you found the gate to the cricket club, the small gate on the left of the picture at the other end of the hawthorn hedge is our gate, 55, Hardy Lane. 

The gate ....... and beyond
The tennis courts were behind the hawthorn hedge. The courts had their own pavilion/changing rooms.

Tennis was very popular being played all weekend and night matches during the week in the summertime. 

There were grass courts and hard surface ones. I too played on the 'bars' with my friend. If you stepped over the white marker line of the cricket pitch the groundsman would be after you! 

Just to the right of the gate is the corner of what was my aunt and uncles garden. 

Andrew, thank you so much for sharing these Chorlton pictures, it's been a treat seeing them." 

Location; Chorlton

Picture; Hardy Lane, 1966, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and Hardy lane in 1907

*Manchester City Council Archives+ Town Hall Photographer's Collection Flickr Album.

To keep or throw away things ..... that tell a story

It’s one of those fault lines running through our house.  

I have a tendency to collect which if truth be known is just hoarding and there are others who relentlessly declutter.  It is that age old dilemma of which pieces of paper to keep to throw away?  Now I know it is easier now with paperless bills and emails but it remains a problem for me.

Not only do I have the entire collection of Beano’s from 1985 to 97, assorted runs of Look and Learn but during the 90s I went back and began buying whole volumes of the Eagle comic, which I first read in 1957.
More importantly there are the family documents, nothing I grant you as grand as a signed letter from minor royalty or the plans drawn up by Capability Brown for a new garden estate.  Ours are more down to earth.

They include wartime letters faded photographs and quite a few negatives which I reckon haven’t seen daylight for over 80 years and lots more.  Earlier I wrote about the family identity cards and today I want to share a medical certificate which I guess my father had to possess so that he could carry on working.

It is the International Certificate of Vaccination or Revaccination against small pox issued by the Ministry of Health.  Now I haven’t found out yet which European countries required it but as dad worked across Western Europe it could have been any one of many.  Or it may just have been that because of the outbreak of smallpox here in Britain in 1962 our neighbours naturally enough wanted to be sure he was free of the disease.

And smallpox was still a killer.  Today through the efforts of the World Health Organisation it has been eliminated, but in the early 20th century stretching back into time it was both feared and dreaded.  At best it could leave an infected person terribly disfigured and of course often proved fatal.

Now I remember the 1962 outbreak only because were vaccinated as were thousands of children across the country. Now like all these things there is a blog devoted to the outbreak so I’ll let you go there to get the full story.

But had Dad not kept the certificate and had I in turn not stored it away there would be no record of the impact on the disease on my family.

Not perhaps great page turning history, but history.

Pictures; Certificate of vaccination, 1962from the collection of Andrew Simpson

More from the Royal Herbert and that unknown nurse

"Myself" date unknown
Now while I am pretty sure where this picture outside the Royal Herbert  was taken I am no nearer to finding the identity of the nurse.*

The caption just says “myself” and while there are plenty of others in which she appears none have her name.

They all come from collection of photographs she compiled into an album of the staff and patients of the Royal Herbert during the Great War.

These picture books were an important part of the life of the hospitals and cover both military hospitals and those run by the Red Cross and St John Ambulance.

Some like this one are just photographs, but others contain comments, poems and drawings from men recovering from wounds and illnesses.

"Sister Heard and myself"
They represent an important part of the men’s recovery and while many of the names of the staff and patients are lost some are recorded and can be tracked.

In the case of John Henry Harrington De Graves of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who appears in an autograph book for a Red Cross Hospital in Cheltenham my friend Susan researched the Canadian side of his life both before and after the Great War.**

In time I am sure we will be able to do the same for some of the men and nurses of the Royal Herbert.

What makes this book just that bit more interesting is that the pictures include some from Gallipoli showing our unnamed nurse at Salonika.

So there you have it, a history book all on its own, which just leaves me to say I will be doing more research and to thank David Harrop from whose collection the album comes.
The Royal Herbert, date unknown

Location; Woolwich, London

Pictures; from the Royal Hebert collection, 1915-16 courtesy of David Harrop

*The Royal Herbert, 

**The Man Behind the Autograph,

A history of Didsbury in just 20 objects ... number 15 ……. Parrs Wood Environmental Centre

The story of Didsbury in just twenty objects, chosen at random and delivered in a paragraph or more.

The Parrs Wood Environmental Centre, which once went under the grand name of the Parrs Wood Rural Studies Centre has been delivering ‘countryside’ the children of our inner city from the late 1940s.

It occupies land which was previously the kitchen garden and orchard of the small 18th century country estate centred on Parrs Wood House.

In 1922 Manchester Corporation bought the estate and following the outbreak of the Second World War, the gardens were cultivated as part of the Dig For Victory campaign.  Then in 1947, the Council opened the Rural Studies Centre with a remit to provide classes in gardening and natural history.

What followed was an exciting project funded by the City Council, which involved schoolchildren from all parts of the City, who were bused out to Parrs Wood for either weekly or fortnightly half-day sessions, during which the children cultivated their school's own plot.

There were 3 or 4 teachers dealing with 64 schools, which visited every fortnight, with an extra teacher dealing with other aspects of environmental work for single school visits. The grounds were tended by a team of four fulltime gardeners and three administrative staff.

In 1990 the Centre underwent a series of challenges with the threat of closure, but these were successfully seen off, and despite another period when it looked like the project would come to an end, in April of 2003 the first gardening groups were reestablished.

Location; Parrs Wood

Picture; School Children’s Produce, Anthony L Jones, pre 1990, courtesy of The Parrs Wood Environmental Centre

The full story can be read in Manchester Pubs-The Stories Behind the Doors,-Didsbury, Andrew Simpson, Peter Topping, 2018

Occupants of Bamburgh House .......High Lane ... a story from Tony Goulding

 Bamburgh House on High Lane, Chorlton-cum-Hardy is almost exactly 150 years old and has been the home during that time of a number of interesting individuals. 

Bamburgh House, 2018

Some of them have already had their stories told in Andrew’s recent posts on this Blog, below are a few others. Most were gleaned from instances where Bamburgh House residents featured in press reports I found in “Find My Past’s” newspaper archive. 

The earliest reports are dated 15th & 16th May, 1874 from the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser which record Henry Marshall winning the first prize (£10 and a silver cup or plate) at the International Horse Show being held in the Royal Pomona Gardens in Cornbrook, Manchester. His victory came courtesy of his black pony “Tommy” in the “pony, under 12 hands, to carry children” class. Henry Marshall seems to have been the house’s first tenant, appearing in both the 1871 census and that year’s Chorlton-cum-Hardy rate book.

 After an interval of a quarter of a century another resident of Bamburgh House shows up in the archive; Will Willis is shown in several issues of “Stage” the journal of the theatre industry. The issue of 10th August, 1899 carried an entry from Mr. Will Willis in which he is touting for work describing himself as a comedy and character (actor). Later editions indicate that he did successfully follow his chosen career path as in January, 1910 at Liverpool, Pavillion, February, 1910 Manchester’s, Queen’s Park Hippodrome, and in the Chorley Hippodrome in January, 1915.

Queens Park Hippodrome, Harpurhey

The 1900 rate book for Chorlton-cum-Hardy township has an entry for the property giving the owner as John S(quire) Diggle,1 who had also occupied the house for the previous decade before moving to Southport. The occupier was recorded as Berth Barcroft, who for the present remains a bit of a mystery. Mr. Diggle was born in 1869 in Radcliffe, Lancashire; intriguingly, none of his census entries show him following any occupation, in 1891, 1901, and 1911 he is shown as “living on own means” He died on 11th March and cremated on Wednesday 13th March, 1940. In the previous year’s register, he is shown as “retired” born on 11th February, 1868 and living at 222, Clarendon Road, Whalley Range, Manchester. John Squire Diggle was a well-known breeder of Collie dogs during the 1890’s. On the 4th October, 1893 at the Scottish Kennel Club’s Dog Show in Edinburgh he won the President’s Challenge Cup in the collie bitch class with his “ Chorlton Precilla”. He also won prizes at the Cheshire Agricultural Show in Stockport in September 1891 and the Oban Dog Show in December 1895 when his tricolour “Ringleader” was placed first in the Collie open dog category.

 One of the residents of Bamburgh House in 1939 was Margaret Heathcote Jack2 whose former occupation was given as a kennel maid. The following year she married George William Kenneth Savage a very colourful individual who appears in the press archives on three or four separate occasions. He was born in London on the 17th December, 1911 as shown in his papers on joining the Merchant Navy ship Helder in September, 1939. (these also record he had brown eyes, fair hair & complexion, a scar on his forehead and stood 5’ 91/2” tall. In February, 1933 several papers carried a Reuters account of an epic 30,000 mile “hike” he had been on for 2 years. His adventures included being attacked on an African river boat, wandering in the desert for 23 days, spending a week in jail in Egypt after entering that country without a permit. Later after returning to Europe he hiked through the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy in such intense cold that he walked continuously for 16 hours for fear of freezing to death.

  On arriving back in Manchester, he set up in business as “Kenneth Savage Boarding Kennels Riding Master” The business soon got into some financial difficulty and he was made bankrupt. His bankruptcy was finally discharged in August, 1946. 

 The Liverpool Daily Post on the 4th September, 1945 carried a report that he, his wife, and 31/2 -years-old son, David, were rescued, the previous morning, by the coastguard at Cemaes Bay and the Holyhead lifeboat when his small yacht was spotted drifting on to the dangerous Skerries reef of Anglesey. 

 On the 13th October, 1948 Mr. Savage also featured in a story in the Manchester Evening News after appearing in court charged with smuggling 30,000 cigarettes from Switzerland. He said he bought them to “use-up” his winnings from a cassino in the South of France. He was found guilty and fined the not insignificant sum of £400 (which equates to almost £15,000 today)

George William Kenneth Savage died on the 9th September, 1961 at 13, Avenue deo Broursailles, Cannes, Alpes Maritimes, France while he was residing on Avenue Font de Veyre, Cannes Le Bocca.

Pictures; Bamburgh House - 2018 from the collection of Tony Goulding, Queens Park Hippodrome, Harpurhey m06605 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http// 

 Notes: -

1) John S Diggle was married to Harriet Eleanor (née Oakes). The baptismal register of St. Clement’s, Chorlton-cum-Hardy has an entry for the baptism of the couple’s daughter, Violet, on the 27th January, 1892, she was born on the 29th October, 1891. The father’s occupation is recorded as “Gentleman”.

2) Margaret Heathcote Jack was born on the 24th January, 1920 in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport, Cheshire. Her father Thomas Alexander was a ladies’ skirts and costumes manufacturer. Her mother was Elsie (née Heathcote) was born on the 15th November, 1885 in the Sefton Park area of Liverpool.

"Found on the Battlefield" .............. three picture postcards from the Great War

There is always a story behind a picture postcard.

In most cases it is the image which takes you to a place or an event long gone and the interest fastens around matching the scene with a similar one today.

And then there are those family portraits especially popular during the Great War.

If you are lucky the identity of the people will be known and possibly even the fate of the young earnest looking man in his ill fitting uniform.

But equally compelling can be the message on the back revealing much about everyday life at the time the card was sent.

Sometimes both the image and the “sentiment” on the reverse combine like those suggestive seaside postcards with a slightly less but still risqué comment on the reverse.

This one is just a little different.  It was one of thousands which played on those powerful feelings  caused by the separation of loved ones with perhaps also a hint of something else.

It was a popular image and reappears in similar form in two other cards.  All three show the same model in pretty much the same clothes accompanied by a man in uniform.

But what makes all three just a tad different is the message on the back which simply  says “Found on the Battlefield.”

And that sets the imagination going.

They could have just been lost or perhaps thrown away or there might be a more tragic explanation.

Of course we will never know.

They belonged to the grandfather of Bob Jones who may have found them or was given them.

Either way they were never used by the person who purchased them and offer just a hint of mystery.

Picture; La Balance des coeurs, date unknown, from the collection of Bob Jones