Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Remembering the meadows in the 1940s ..... the power of oral testimony

The Meadows as they were
“I was interested to hear what you said about the way the Corporation tipped rubbish on the meadows.  

You see I was at school in the 1940s and we did our cross country runs from the Mersey at Jackson’s Boat to Hardy Farm.

It was before they began putting rubbish on the meadows, and I remember the grass as brilliant green and very lush.  What’s more the level of the land was much lower than now.  And then they began putting all sorts including bits of brick where once we ran.”

Such is the power of oral testimony, because in just a few minutes I was taken back to a time when the meadows were truly meadows and farmed as such.

I had been talking about the policy of the City Council to tip on the flood plain.  It was a practice well under way by the late 1930s and extravagant claims were made that this was new and proven to be the best method of refuse disposal which had the added advantage of building up the land to act as a defence against flooding from the Mersey.

Now the programme in the late 30s’ had been on the land further east and I was fairly sure that our bit of Chorlton did not get its infill till much later.

The meadows circa 1900
And here was the evidence, in a chance conversation at the end of an afternoon.

It was the sort of information the historian likes, for here was someone who had lived it and whose memory of events could be set against the paper trails and official records.

It also sat with the pictorial evidence which showed the meadows as an area of grassland and irrigation ditches which allowed water to be placed on the land for a set period of time to assist the growth of new grass.

Boat meadow a bridge across a ditch circa 1900
The main ditches were deep enough to warrant a plank or even a small bridge to be placed across and this is exactly what we have in our picture.

I doubt we will ever know who any of the people are and for once what has caught my attention is not the collection of Sunday trippers, but the land itself which is perfectly flat and just right for meadow farming.

Land suitable for meadowland, circa 1900
We are in Boat Meadow and the path in the distance would tale you towards Hardy Farm.  It is possibly some time at the beginning of the last century, just forty or so years before my school boy ran his run.

What is all the more remarkable is that some stretches of the meadows survived well into the 1960s and a decade before were still being farmed.

This is the Old Road, Hawthorn Lane as it heads out across Turn Moss and I guess it looks pretty much as it had done for over a century and more.

The Old Road and meadow land circa 1950
It has all gone now.  After the tipping came the years of neglect followed by the deliberate policy to plant trees and bushes on stretches of it or turn it over to football pitches.

Now I am not arguing for a return to what was that I fully accept has gone, but listening to my friend I can at least have some idea of what once was.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy Manchester

Pictures; from the Lloyd Collection

Painting Well Hall and Eltham ....... nu 7 tram sheds and missing the tram

An occasional series featuring buildings and places I like and painted by Peter Topping.

The Tram sheds, 2017 painted from a photograph, 1977
Now I always took the bus shelters for granted after all they had always been there and had always been bus shelters.

But not so.

They had started off as places to wait for the trams which began coming through Eltham at the beginning of the 20th century and which in turn were only made possible by the extension of Well Hall Road.

Neither of which I found out until recently.

LCC tram 1622, 2015
Of course it made perfect sense to extend Well Hall Road up from Sherard Road making a more direct route from Woolwich to the High Street.

And it made equal sense to start a tram service.

If I travelled on the old trams I have no memory, although Dad told me we made a special trip to see the last one arrive at the New Cross depot in 1952.

Sadly I can’t remember, and nor did he take a picture.

All of which just leaves the shelters as a testament to what had once been.

Location; Eltham, London

Painting; the tram sheds Well Hall Road © 2017 Peter Topping from a photograph by Jean Gammons circa 1977


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Picture;  LCC tram 1622, 2015, Crich Tramway Village courtesy of Andy Robertson

St Ann's Square, Snaps of Manchester nu 6

I have to say that there often seems to be building work on the corner where Old Bank Street runs into St Ann’s Square.

And so it as when this snap was taken sometime I think in the 1930s.

Back then the Royal Exchange was an exchange trading in cotton and after the completion of its extension between 1914 and ’31 was the largest trading hall in the country.

Now I might be slightly out with the date, the cars suggest the 1920s and it all hangs on whether what we see is the finished exchange.

Happily someone will have an opinion and provide an answer.

Either way it is another of those wonderful snaps from the collection of Sandra Hapgood, and as I have said before they are a valuable record of what the city looked like.

For unlike the carefully posed professional images these were instant pictures, taken by someone who just liked what they saw.

And so often are ones that no one else has taken.

Picture; St Ann’s Square, date unknown courtesy of Sandra Hapgood

Lost images of Whalley Range part 3 the Whalley Hotel

I only ever once visited the Whalley Hotel which I think was sometime around the summer of 1975.

There was never any particular reason for this other than it was always somewhere I passed on the bus from town home to Chorlton, and once on the bus it always seemed a faff to get off.

That said the place has dominated the corner since the 1890s.

From the outside it doesn’t seem to have changed much.

The hedges have gone as has the large building which is now the rear car park.

And the houses along Withington Road have also been demolished.

Like some of the other Whalley Range pictures I have been featuring I am hoping that these of the Whalley will stir a few memories which might appear as a post.

Of course it has now closed.

Picture; The Whalley Hotel, Whalley Range, Upper Chorlton Road, 1960, A.H.Downes, m40816, m40813, m40814, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

The bridges of Salford and Manchester ........... nu 3 how things change

I recently included much the same view along the river in the 1850s by the artist C W Clennell.

And now I am back in 2016.

Location Salford

Picture; the river and the bridge, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A little bit of continuity on Chorlton Green

Now I like the way that some buildings almost return to what they once were.

floral affair, 2017
So this is number 15 Chorlton Green which has been floral affair from 2015 and a century and a bit ago was a greengrocer.

Of course I have no idea if Mr Johnson Clark sold flowers back in 1903 but I bet the odd bunch of daffodils sneaked their way in to the shop with the apples, pears and potatoes bought from the markets in Manchester.

Had he been trading half a century earlier when Chorlton was full of market gardens I doubt that he would have travelled into the city, but by 1903 where we lived had pretty much lost its rural character.

Chorlton Green Supper Bar, circa 1975
And as if to underline that transformation within a few years number 15 and the adjoining property had become a fish and chip shop, and that will be how many people remember the building.

Only recently a friend shared a picture of the place when “Chippy Madge” was there and I bet there will be plenty of others with the odd snap of the steamy shop on a cold January night.

And more who will call the mix of gossip and banter exchanged by those waiting for their crispy chips and crunching battered cod.

I can’t be sure yet when the property was built but it is there on the OS for 1893 and with a bit of detective work using the census returns, street directories and rate books we will get close to knowing the date.

For those with a pressing need to know I think it might well have been 1893, because a first trawl of the rate books shows no property for that year or before which might suggest it was built in that year but unoccupied till later.

We shall see.

Location; Chorlton

Picture; Chorlton Green Supper Bar, circa 1975 from the collection of Tony Walker

Painting; floral affair © 2017 Peter Topping


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My Manchester

My Manchester, pictures without the words, ............ Looking out onto Exchange Square, 2013

Picture; Looking out on Exchange Square,2013  from the collection of Andrew Simpson