Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Chorlton Row, a road half as old as time

You have to get up early to see Beech Road at its best, preferably on a spring or summer morning when there is no traffic on the road.

 Only then can you can get a real sense of how it twists and turns following long forgotten obstacles like the old beech tree which stood for most of the 19th century almost opposite Reeves Road and the field boundaries which cut into the road.

For me the best vantage point is at the corner of Wilton Road by the railings of the Rec. Look up towards Barlow Moor Road and its twists and turns more than once, while its lazy route down to the green is even more pronounced.

I guess it will be almost as old as time, linking Barlow Moor Road with the village green and in probability was there before the Tudor buildings which include the Horse & Jockey. Various dates have been suggested for the block but its position beside the road as it turns onto the green would suggest that it post dates the road.

Picture; detail from the 1841 OS by kind permission of Digital Archives Association, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

What we found in Daisy Nook ……. trees ..... canals ....... and a lost hall

Daisy Nook is one of those places that just keeps giving.

It’s the country park that runs through the Medlock Valley and offers 40 hectares of woodland meadows, water ways and a lake.*

And despite having lived in Ashton-Under-Lyne for three years back in the 1970s I had never been, and so, with the sun shining and the weather promising to be good, we ventured there on Sunday.

As ever I should have read up on the place before we went, but instead fell back on that limited knowledge which pretty much started and stopped with the Benjamin Brierley, who wrote about Daisy Nook in a book published in 1859.

But more about him another time.

For now, it was the walk, through Boodle Wood beside the river Medlock, with some stunning views across the valley that occupied us, until we came to the wall, some overturned stones and an entrance which went nowhere.  

Clearly what ever lay beyond the ghost entrance had been a significant building, leading me to speculate on a mill or a country home.

As it turned out it was a country home, which shows up on the 1854 and 1894 OS maps for Lancashire as Riversvale Hall.

The maps and pictures show that it was an impressive building set in its own grounds with ornamental paths, a fountain and heaps of trees.

So far I have only dredged up fragments of its story, which suggest it dates from around 1843, was demolished in 1946, and was for a time the home of the Bradbury family and in particular to Kate Bradbury who was a well known and respected Egyptologist.

At which I know that someone will come up with chapter and verse, which will take the story much further.

But for now, that is it, and like countless others we walked over the Valley Bridge and along the path which had once been the carriage approach to the hall and now by degree leads to a section of the Hollinwood Branch of the Ashton-Under-Lyne Canal.

For those with canals running through their blood, this stretch may sadden them, for while there is water still there it is overgrown with vegetation.  

It was still in use in 1928 but there after suffered from the general decline in canal usage, and local subsidence, and it “unofficially closed in 1932, although parts of it remained navigable. It was not until 1955 that most of it was officially closed and the short remaining section from the main line at Fairfield Junction was officially closed in 1961.”**

Riversvale Hall, 1894

My copy of Priestly, tell me that in the 1830s it was used by several collieries along its route with a “collateral cut to Fairbottom Colliery”***

And just north of the water way were the Warmby Wood Colliery and the Copperas House Colliery both of which were bringing up their dark stuff in the 1850s.

We left the canal just as it reached the remains of a set of weirs which led back to the visitors centre.

So, I fully intend to go back, armed with copies of the 1854 and ’94 maps to make sense of this last bit.

But again someone might beat me to it.

In the meantime I shall make contact with who will be able to tell me more about the canal, and will close with a reference to Riversvale Hall by Richard Unwin, which describes the history of the hall.*****

Location; Daisy Nook

Pictures; walking the Medlock Valley, 2021, from the collection of Andtrew Simpson. The Medlock Valley, 1894, from the OS map of Lancashire South, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, https://digitalarchives.co.uk/

*Daisy Nook Country Park, https://www.visitmanchester.com/things-to-see-and-do/daisy-nook-country-park-p85061

**Hollingwood Branch Canal, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollinwood_Branch_Canal

***Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, and Railways Throughout Great Britain, J Priestley, 1830

****Hollinwood Canal Society, http://www.hollinwoodcanal.co.uk/

***** Riversvale Hall by Richard Unwin. 40pp. A5. 2007. £4.50

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester .......... nu 9 Town Hall Lane

Now this is Town Hall Lane and looking at it you half expect that it would once have gone somewhere but was long ago doomed to become a dead end by the grand plan of a developer.

But not so as early as the 1790s it led off from Cross Street and finished at the back of a building.

That said in 1793 you could have walked along its length stepping off into a side alley on the northern side and by degree squeezing down a very narrow alley onto Tib Lane.

But by the 19th century our lane just ran beside Town Hall buildings and so hence the name.

Not that any of the maps bothered to record a name, although Goad's Fire Insurance map did refer to it as Town Hall Buildings.

But by then the Town Hall had gone, replaced by the more majestic one in Albert Square.

I have Antony to thank for alerting me to this one.  I have to confess that in all of my 40 odd years in the city I had not once given it a thought.

Location; Manchester

Pictures;Town Hall Lane, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A little bit of the Woolwich I remember

Now I am back with another of those excellent photographs of Woolwich from the collection of Stephen Bardrick.

I don’t have a date but it can be no earlier than 1935 when the Woolwich opened its grand new headquarters just here.

The cars will be the clue to fixing the time the picture was taken and for me it is far more familiar a scene than the present one.

But that I suppose is the fate of the ex pat.  You leave somewhere you grew up thinking that the buildings and even the street patterns are parked and will just be where you left them and then you come back and it is all different.

For me it started with the entrance old railway station which looks nothing like the wooden building I remember moves on to the row of shops on either side and ends opposite with that open space in front of the 1935 building.

At which point I am in danger of sounding like one of those grumpy old uncles who comes for Sunday tea and can’t quite come to terms with seeded granary sandwiches, the absence of carnation milk to pour on the equally absent bowl of tinned fruit and yearns for fish paste  and sliced ham.

Still I bet he would have been able to date the picture and may just have been old enough to remember when the Woolwich had its headquarters at 113 Powis Street and may like many of us disapproved when it ceased being an organization owned by its members and became a bank in 1997.

I can’t remember what I did with my account but liked the old TV ad “I’m with the Woolwich” and was pleased that for almost a decade they sponsored Charlton but less pleased that they were bought up Barclay’s ending what had been a proud independent history which stretched back to 1847.

Picture; Woolwich Equitable Building Society Offices, date unknown, courtesy of Steve Bardrick

Glass, reflections ....... and the new build at the MRI ……..

It’s the picture we all take at sometime ….. that mix of glass and reflected buildings, which in this case is the new corridor in the sky.

I have to admit to not having been down to Outpatients for almost a year, and usually don’t take a camera.

But it was an early appointment, the sun was shining and what better way to while away a bit of time while waiting to be collected?

In the last three years I can lay claim to having been a regular visitor at three of our local hospitals, with an option on another two back at the beginning of the century.

And like so many people I am impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the staff, and the treatment I have received.

Yesterday was just a blood test, but one under Covid conditions. There were fewer people, dedicated and sign posted routes, and more staff ensuring I got to where I needed to be.

The procedure was quick leaving me more time than I bargained, but  the sun was out, the sky was blue and all around me the NHS just got with the business of caring for people.

And that is it.  I pondered on writing about the National Health Service, and the history of the MRI, but some of that I have already done.

So it’s just sun, blue sky and a new building.

Location; Grafton Street

Pictures; The MRI, 2021, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Monday, 19 April 2021

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester .......... nu 8 the one with the umbrellas

It's that short cut through that takes you from King Street to South King Street and of course it is the one with the umbrella's half way along and some delightful stone motifs.

I can't remember when the umbrella's appeared but they are one of the fun things I like to show visitors.

I have to confess I didn't know it had a name, but according to Goad's Fire Insurance maps of the late 19th and early 20th centuries it is listed as St Ann's Passage.

In time I will track its history but it was there by 1849 as a covered passageway and back in 1793 was an open lane connecting King Street to what was then Back King Street.

So who would have thought that this cut through had a history?

All of which just leaves me to ask if anyone remembers the umbrella's being installed.

I rather think it was the mid 1970s but I can't remember.

I am guessing some of the motifs were made at the same time.

And that is it

Location; Manchester

Pictures; between King Street and South King Street, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Letters to Germany ........ from Derby in 1947

Union Street near Hope Street, late 1940s
What did my grandfather do on a muggy Monday evening in 1947?

Well there were plenty of cinemas in the town but I doubt that he would have bothered with a film.

Alternatively there was the pub of which there were lots more within walking distance of Hope Street where he had lived with my grandmother for over twenty years.

But while he liked a drink Monday was some way off from pay day so on that Monday evening of October 13th he took to writing a letter to my grandmother who had left for Germany the week before.

It was the first time they had been apart since they returned to England in the early 1920s.

This was the first of a number of letters he sent during that October. They were full of the ordinary things that happen to couples, a mix of gossip, local news and the mundane trivia which kept grandmother in touch with a familiar world.

Nana and granddad mid 1930s
Uppermost was the story of how the Corporation had “made a fellow give up his bungalow under the Town Planning Scheme” for a pittance only to allow a local Councillor to move in after it had been renovated. There were also the usual references to the weather and the comings and goings of relatives, friends and neighbours.

But it was food that featured most consistently through the letters. There was the Sunday meal of “stewed steak with peas and onions, stewed apple with the top of the milk bottle for dinner and bread, cheese, tomatoes for tea,” along with the references to the absence of sausage meat and the promise to try and get hold of some coffee to send to Germany.

It is easy to forget that food was still rationed and that during 1946 and ‘47 this had been extended to include bread and potatoes. Apple crumble that mainstay of school dinners and quick puddings had evolved in the war. Due to strict rationing the ingredients needed to make the bases of pies contained too much flour, fat and sugar while a crumble mixture used less.

On the Sunday he had met up with my mother and passed over her ration coupons before returning home to trade some of the family food. “Mrs Rushton brought me some tea, sugar and margarine which was traded for eggs.” Despite this he still managed “bacon eggs and toast for breakfast” on Sunday, all the more remarkable given that eggs were in such short supply and that the weekly allowance of bacon per person was just 113 grams [4oz].

Amongst all the trivia came a more serious note. Away in Germany something had gone wrong. It is not clear from his letter but it is enough to know that he “thought it was a rotten thing to happen” and he asked that grandmother “give my expression of sympathy to Liesel,” and pondered on what could be done.

Mrs Bux, one of my great aunts, date unknown
“It is only a suggestion of course, but would it not be possible for her to come over here, under this foreigners Scheme, perhaps work at Cleanese or somewhere and live with us.”

The scheme which had begun in 1947 was a Government response to the need to find workers for essential industries, including agriculture, coal mining and textiles.

They were recruited from the millions of east Europeans who had been ripped from their home to work for the German war machine.

Now as they languished in Displaced Persons Camps across Germany and fearful of returning to what were
Soviet controlled areas, they were offered one year contracts to come to Britain. They were known as European Volunteer Workers and it was this scheme that grandfather pinned his hopes.

It seemed to come to nothing. Liesel remained in Germany and grandmother returned. But it would be to a changing landscape. Her daughter, my mother had moved to London, and my grandmother would within a few years exchange the two up two down in Hope Street for a fine big house in Chellaston and grandfather would retire.

Picture; Union Street near Hope Street, late 1940s, from the collection of Cynthia Wigley, my grandparents, mid 1930s, and one of my great aunts, in Cologne, date unknown, from the collection of Andrew Simpson