Wednesday, 26 July 2017

A story of recent Chorlton in 20 objects nu 1 ......... A Blockbusters card

Now most of us will have one lurking somewhere.

In my case the card made its way from my wallet to a cupboard long after the shop closed but never quite got thrown away.

And now of course it has passed into history and now even the shop has gone.*

But for a long time Blockbusters offered up a cheap way to see a film with the added bonus of being able to rent something for the kids at a knockdown price becoming as much a part of home entertainment as the old TV rental shop and the weekly delivery of the Beano and the Dandy.

It wasn’t the first such shop, that I think was  almost opposite Beech Road which is now an off license and for a time there was that other one on Wilbraham Road facing the Post Office.

Over the last thirty or so years we have used them all, walking out first with VHS tapes, then DVDs and later plenty of games.

So much did it become part of family life that it even provided work for one of our sons.

Now I am always a hoarder and can make an argument out for keeping  the oddest bits of the past and I am pleased I have kept the card.

After all it is now almost as obsolete as the telegram and the telephone card, but it has its place in the story of those Friday nights which became pretty much a ritual.

One of you went off to collect the takeaway while the other sorted out the kids movies, dodged the demands for three packets of popcorn and then argued about who took the films back the following day, which more often than not you forgot to do and so  incurred the fine the next time round.

Pictures; of the Blockbuster card from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the Blockbuster shop courtesy of Andy Robertson

*The Essoldo, Blockbusters and plans for a new Morrisons on Barlow Moor Road,

The Manchester soldier outside Burrage Grove school in 1915

Outside Burrage Grove school in 1915
Now I rather think this photograph will set off a trail of comments.

We are on Burrage Grove sometime around 1915 and the picture comes from the George Davison collection.

George Davison was born in Manchester, enlisted in the Royal Artillery and for part of 1915 and again 1918 was stationed in Woolwich.

I can’t be sure but I don't think this is Mr Davison.

What fascinates me is the way the picture draws together a number of different stories, not least the fact that

I grew up not far from Burrage Grove and will have friends who may attended the school.

And here is one of those first lessons in dealing with photographs from the past.

Knowing that George was from Manchester I misread the name above the gate and went off on a fruitless search for Burnage Grove School.

When this drew a blank I looked again at the picture and found the name of a the photographer who had premises at 40 Plumstead Road, Woolwich and with that came Burrage Grove School built by the London School Board sometime after 1872.

Now this I know because the London School Board was established in 1870 and the OS map of 1872 does not yet show the school, that said it will have been built sometime during the next two decades, and I have every confidence someone will come up with a date.

All of which just leaves our soldier mounted on his horse outside the building.

Burrage Grove, 1872
Looking at the photograph and the map of 1872 Burrage Grove has changed dramatically although the pub on the corner is still there.

So it begs the question of why focus on this obscure picture of a place long gone?

Well I think because like all lost images this one deserves to come out of the shadows.

In time I will find out more about the school along with the circumstances behind this particular picture and perhaps even who he was.

I know that George Davison spent some time in Woolwich in 1915 and returned briefly on his way to France.  It was on this second period in London that he hastily produced a will which was witnessed by two of his colleagues.

It may also be that he spent another spell here in 1917.  There are no letters to his wife for this year and we know that she spent time in London living near him.

But that is to stray into speculation so that just use leaves us with this picture of a soldier from Manchester in Plumstead sometime during the Great War.

And just after the story was posted Phil contacted me with this, "I've had a search through the British Libraries online local newspaper archives about the school for you. 

The earliest reference that I could find is from the 12/09/1878 with references the 'Burrage Grove Board School' in Plumstead donating £2 10s to the relief fund for the families of the deceased of the liner Princess Alice which was lost in the Thames with the loss of 600 lives following a collision. 

That hopefully helps narrow down an opening date."

And so it does, thank you Phil.  All I need now is some one who who knows who the chap on the horse was.

Picture; from the collection of George Davison, courtesy of David Harrop and Burrage Grove from the OS map of London 1862-72, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

The Steedman's of Woolwich a family remembered

I have featured those new books on the history of Eltham and Woolwich by Kristina Bedford already so I was pleased when Ms Bedford agreed to write a story for the blog.*

Powis Street, early 20th century
It is the way that when you sit down to write a history of a place there is much that has to be left out.

So here is the  story of the Steedman family by Kristina.

When planning the running-order for the illustrations in Woolwich Through Time, I was delighted to be able to close the book on a personal note, with a rare Carte-de-Visite memorialising the grave of the Steedman family, 19th century Woolwich residents whose local migrations mirror the spider’s web of connections between Woolwich and its neighbour villages of Charlton and Plumstead.

The Steadman  family grave
Although near- indecipherable on the small CDV, digital scanning brought up the full text of the headstone, which reads

The Family Grave of
James Steedman
Edward Street Woolwich
Affectionate Remembrance of
Wife of James Steedman
Died January 10th 1869
Aged 49 Years

Born in Scotland in 1812, engineer James Steedman married Fanny Joyce on 14 December 1840 at Deptford St Paul, by banns.

The following year’s census, taken in June, records the couple living on Dock Street in Poplar, Tower Hamlets, a district dominated by shipwrights and watermen.

They had moved to Blackheath by the time the birth of their first son James Thomas was registered under the September quarter, migrating again within two years to Charlton, where son John was born in 1843, and son Henry in 1848.

Powis Street,early 20th century
The 1851 census lists the family at 12 Paradise Row, Charlton, revealing that Fanny was herself born in Woolwich, where they had re-located by the time daughter Fanny was born on the 2nd of July, christened on the 24th of that month at the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, their address recorded as No 8 Edward Street.

Despite commemorating Fanny with the Rolls Royce of Headstone Monuments in the most expensive row at Woolwich Cemetery in Plumstead, widower James, now working as a money scrivener, re-married only six months later, on 22 July at Southwark St Saviour, the home parish of his bride, spinster Eliza Brumage.

The site of the family grave today
The 1871 census records the couple as living at No 8 Edward Street with Fanny Jr, who was attending school, Eliza’s widowed mother, and one domestic servant.

Edward Street had been re-christened Powis Street by the time of the 1881 census, when James, Eliza, Fanny, and one servant were living at No 158.

James had retired to a house named “Thames View” on Humber Road in Greenwich by the time of the 1891 census, where he lived on his own means with wife Eliza, daughter Fanny, and ‘scholar’ grandson Henry.

The National Probate Calendar reveals those means to have been considerable: “STEEDMAN James of “Thames-view” Humber-road Westcombe-park East Greenwich Kent died 15 July [1899] Probate London 16 September to Eliza Steedman widow James Thomas Steedman scrivener’s-clerk and Anthony Michael Brumage retired engineer from the Royal Navy Effects £17182 15s. 6d.” 

James Steedman, aged 87, was buried with his first wife Fanny in Woolwich Cemetery on 19 July 1899, joined on 11 July 1908 by second wife Eliza, three days after her death.

Despite the considerable financial investment James made in the family grave he took such pride in, the memorial was demolished and the plot planted over with grass during a general clearance at Woolwich Cemetery during the 1960s, to make the grounds easier and cheaper to maintain.

I hope that he would find some compensation in his family being re-commemorated in Woolwich Through Time and here in Andrew Simpson’s Blog.

© Kristina Bedford

Pictures; from the collection of Kristina Bedford

*Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, 2014, Amberley Publishing,

Eltham Through Time, 2013, Amberley Publishing,

Ms Bedford also has an interesting web site, Ancestral Deeds,

Elizabeth Gaskell ......... gone and never said goodbye to me

Now there will be those who say most unkindly that when it comes to buildings and Andy Robertson’s  photographs there should be a government health warning pinned somewhere to the property.

I say this with great fondness and heaps of respect for Andy’s work but it seems to be a fact that soon after he has made a building the subject of a new series it vanishes.

Of course that is not strictly fair because part of Andy’s work is to record the end of buildings whether they be gentile old houses that have reached the end or warehouses long abandoned and most recently the Odeon.

So here are a few from his latest series.  What was Elizabeth Gaskell College and is no more which I suspect will bring a few nostalgic comments from past students and sadly a simple observation that I missed its passing.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Elizabeth Gaskell now and then from the collection of Andy Robertson

Down on Regent Road in 1876

Now one day I will go and research W.H. Bailey & Co the Albion Works Regent Road but not today.

The sun is out and the grass needs cutting, so you’ve had it.

Other than to say it is another of those fine adverts from Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford.

Brought to you by the Society for the Preservation of old Victorian Adverts [Salford Branch] Membership 1, but open to applications from Alan Jennings, Bill Sumner, Neil Simpson, and anyone else with an interest in silly things.

Picture; advert, from Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford, 1876

A not so festive request ................ in the event of being bombed out December 1941

I cannot think how it must have felt to have sat down and planned for the unthinkable.

But across the city and across the country that was what people were being asked to do in the event that their home was destroyed by enemy action in the December of 1941.

Now the Corporation had already put out warnings about what to do in the event of an air raid, had organised the transportation of children out of the city at the outbreak of the war and administered much else to do protecting its citizens.

Earlier In the September of 1939 the Government had undertaken what amounted to a mini census which formed the basis of much war time planning from ration books and indemnity cards  to the establishment of the post war National Health Service.

And by December 1941 people will have been used to the detailed government regulations, restrictions and inquisitiveness which burrowed deep into everyday life.

Even so it must have been hard to fill in a form which told the authorities where you planned to go in the event of being bombed out.  It was the unthinkable and in its way no less awful than the one that confronted my generation about what do in the event of a nuclear strike by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

What is all the remarkable is the way that these little bits of that earlier conflict have survived, not in a museum or in an archive but in someone’s home, casually put away at the end of the war and then with the passage of the decades become part of the collection of “things” which are part of one family’s history and by extension what defines them.

So I have Jayne to thank for this document entitled “HOUSES DAMAGED BY ENEMY ACTION, MUTUAL AID BILLETING ARRANGEMENTS.”

It fell through the door on December 1941 a full year after our Christmas Blitz, but having filled in the form was never sent off, I suspect because there was no one that they could go and stay with.


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A chance discovery, finding a family and the magazine Canada 150

Now there is always a big element of chance in history and if I hadn’t discovered that one of my great uncles had been shipped off to Canada as a British Home Child I doubt I would ever have developed an interest in the subject or have been reunited with the Canadian side of my family.

But there you are I did make that chance discovery and as a by product we are now linked up to more cousins that I could ever have imagined.

The process of discovery is little different to most who find out that one of “theirs” for any one of a variety of reasons crossed the Atlantic in the care of children’s charity.

And in the decade since I uncovered the story of our great uncle Roger I have seen BHC become an area of historical study which is mature enough to support differing interpretations and a developing body of information backed up by books, societies and interest groups.

Along the way I have done some talks, written regularly about it on the blog and have contributed to the newsletter produced by Lori Oschefski for British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association.*

All of which is a roundabout way of saying the special Canada 150 magazine arrived from Canada today containing a mix of articles on 150 years of Canadian history and the story of British Home Children.

My one contribution focuses on what might have been one of our first families to leave for the New World.  Strictly speaking we are not directly related but my great aunt who followed Roger over in 1925 married a descendant of that family who incidentliy left from Salfrod just a few miles away from where we live today.

It all get complicated as family history does so I shall just recommend the magazine which is available from the BHC site.*

Leaving me just to add that I have also met lots of new Canadian friends along with Patricia from Sheffield.

Picture; cover of Canada 150

*British Home Children in Canada
**British Home Children in Canada