Sunday, 23 April 2017

Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015 ....... leaving

Now I like railway stations which are only bettered by airports.

But unlike airports there is no air side which is really the mark of when the holiday begins.

Until then you have the hassle of the taxi, worrying that you have the right terminal and that your bags are the right size, the right weight and above all don’t show you up later on the carrousel at your destination.

So having smiled at the UK security officers who don’t smile back, once you are on air side that is petty much it and you can fell the holiday starting.

But trains are different, walking from the concourse on to the platform can’t be judged “as going airside.”

That said there is still that bit of excitement as you mount the train, find your seat and wait for it to pull out of the station slowly gathering speed.

And then in what seems just minutes bits of inner city Manchester whizz past and the adventure has started.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson



Growing up in Chorlton part one, the Rec, Acres Crack and the Bone Man

Bob on Beech Road in the 1950s
I made a new friend yesterday and from that friendship will come a whole raft of new stories about Chorlton in the 1940s and 50.

Bob Jones was born in 1944 and grew up on Kingshill Road, attended Oswald Road School and has vivid memories of playing in the Rec, and the local farms and shops.

We joked that a test of someone born here or with long memories of the place is that at some point the Rec and Acres Crack feature in the conversation along with the Queen and Paisley Laundry, the Palais de Luxe and the distinction between old and new Chorlton.

Now I am not going to steal Bob’s thunder, but I shall just leave you with these tantalising glimpses of growing up in Chorlton in the 1950s.

Back then at the age of six Bob did a part time job which involvedthe collection the milk from Higginbotham’s farm on the green and later for Mr Neil the butcher at the bottom of Beech Road close to the Trevor.

His father ran a pet shop in that first little shop next to the Beech and each week one of his jobs was to hand over any animals that had been put down to the Bone Man.

All of which is enough for now.

Picture; Bob outside Mr Neil’s shop sometime in the 1950s, from the collection of Bob Jone.

Of Eltham, Manchester and an artist from Wales

Now I like the way things have a habit of falling together in a most unexpected way.

Manchester  School of Art 1900
So recently when my friend Tricia found a painting looking down Well Hall Road with the parish church in the far distance my interest was tripped which was added to when Lesley stumbled across the fact that the artist had briefly lived in Manchester.

So given that I left Well Hall for Manchester in 1969 it was as they say “game set and match.”

Francis Dodd by the artist
The artist was Francis Dodd who had been born in Hollyhead, educated in Scotland and during the Great War was appointed as an  official war artist.

In 1895 he moved to Manchester.

I found him on the 1901 census living as a “boarder" in a house in Chorlton-on Medlock and three years later he was still there but is listed as the householder.

As yet I have no idea of what he did in Manchester other than that he “worked and taught” here.

He may have attended the prestigious School of Art as a student or even as a teacher.  Walter Crane was the Director of Design from 1893 to 1898, Adolphe Valette taught there from 1906 to 1920 and its graduates include

L.S. Lowry, Eugene Halliday, Liam Spencer and Ossie Clark.

I lost him after he left Manchester and only found him in Blackheath at the end of his life.

Entrance to  the School of Art  1972
All of which set Tricia off on a search and I have to say she found a lot.

“I have been out with my spade again doing some digging concerning the life of Mr Dodd  He was born 29.11.1874., 

He was the oldest child of parent Benjamin Dodd & Jane Francis Shaw. His siblings were Gertrude Helena Dodd bn 1876, Walter Stanley Dodd bn 1877 & Elsie Lilian Dodd bn 1881. 

He married  1911 to Mary Arabella Bouncker Ingle born 1871 Woolwich died 14.2.1947 Blackheath. Francis Dodd then went on to marry Ellen Margaret (Nell) Tanner born 1908 Chelsea. They married in January 1949 in Chelsea he was aged 74, she was 41. To my knowledge I can see no evidence of any children from either marriage.

Frances Dodd took his own life at his home in Blackheath in March 1949 two months after he married his second wife. The Daily Mail states of his death the following.

A short time after finishing an important picture Francis Edgar Dodd age 74, Royal Academican, took his own life at his home 51 Blackheath Park. It was stated at the Lewisham inquest that Mr Dodd was found by his gardener in a gas filled basement kitchen. 
Ellen Margaret Dodd

His wife out lived him by 34 years she died in 1983.


Being an old romantic I have a theory that maybe he pined for his first wife and thought by remarrying it would ease his broken heart but instead it made him miss his first wife even more. Just a notion I have with no evidence whatsoever to back it up.

The visitor at his home on the 1911 census Susan Mabel Dacre a fellow painter was also his benefactor for 14 years whilst he was living in Lancashire.

Miss Isabel Dacre born 1844 Leamington. She befriended Dodd & was his patroness for 14 year & affectionately know as Aunt Susan.”

And that of course brought me back to Manchester not only because of that house in Chorlton on Medlock but the School of Art is a place I know well.  Some of my friends  studied there, others taught there and for a while in 1972 I regularly stood in that entrance.

Odd world.  All we need now is a picture of the 9 roomed house in Blackheath.

Now that we didn't get but instead this from Michael Gorman,
"Isabel Dacre was an important artist in her own right - forming the Society of Women Artists whilst study at the Municipal School of Art and winning the Queen's prize. One of her contemporaries was Annie Swynnerton - who also attended the School - and was the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy."

Research by Tricia Lesley

Pictures; Mr Dodd and Mrs Dodd, sourced by Tricia Lesley, Municipal School of Art, 1900, m66425, and entrance to the Art School, 1972, H Milligan, m66434,and in 1972, m66433, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass



On coming across a Roman ruin

We came across the Largo di Torre Argentina by accident on the way to the Colosseum. 

The weather had been hot all week and so we had set out early to catch the cooler air, and as we came across the square I took some photographs and we moved on.

Only later when I did the research did I discover that here were four Republican temples and a bit of the theatre of Pompey which was also where Julius Caesar had been assassinated. Not bad going for our first morning in Rome.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

At the Tasty Corner in Sorrento and a lesson in why you should always wander

Now it is one of those little streets which you only find by accident.

We were following the line of shops along Via San Cesareo and cut through an arch in a building which opened up on the even narrower via degli Archi.

There will be the sniffy travellers who see only an alley but in the short distance it took us to walk its length there was a tiny sweet shop specialising in a range of bagged sweets including the sugar coated nuts which always go down well with the family and this tiny restaurant with a handful of tables inside and offering these two out on the street.

It was called L’Angolo Del Gusto or the Tasty Corner and its one review described it as  a family run “cafĂ© and bakery [with] good food that is very reasonably priced. 


They are very accommodating and it has just a few tables so you can eat there or take out. We enjoyed the service and the good food.”

Now given that we had paid €75 for a meal the Tasty Corner had an appeal but I couldn't fault where we had eaten and our position commanded a fine spot to watch as people went by so I was content.

I suppose I should have slid across and asked the couple if they were local but it isn’t the done thing.

So I shall just leave you at the tasty corner on hot day in Sorrento in late July with that observation that when is a new place never be afraid to wander off the beaten track.

Pictures; the via degli Archi July 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson


No more school at Langworthy Road ......... and in its place a military hospital

Now if you seven years old and going to school on Langworthy Road in Salford the only bright bit of news as the Great War rolls into its second year might be that your school was to become a military hospital.

In the March of that year the authorities identified five schools which they thought might be suitable “for new hospital accommodation required by the military authorities.”*

The five were Secondary School for Boys, Leaf Square, Grecian Street Girls and Infants Schools, Halton Bank School, Langworthy Road School and Tootal Road School, with the option to substitute “Leicester Road School for one of the others.”

The attraction of the five/six were that they were all modern school.
In the case of Langworthy it had only been opened five years earlier in 1915 and had a total intake of 376 boys, 376 girls and 442 infants.

By all accounts it would have passed an Ofsted visit with flying colours.  The average attendance was nearly 100% and it was judged good by a report in 1905.

All of which just left the difficult question of what to do with 1,194 students.

The authorities had not fully worked out the answer to that question in the March of 1915 but considered that “There a number of Sunday Schools and halls in Pendleton and Broughton districts which may be utilised and suggestion has also been made that schools in the neighbourhood of the five selected schools should have two courses a day – one from 8 am. To 1pm. and the other from 1pm.to 5 pm., - one for each school."

This half day schooling was also adopted by Manchester where by 1915 the number of schools taken over amounted to eight. The first was the Central High School for Boys and Girls on Whitworth Street which had a thousand students and became the headquarters of the 2nd Western General Hospital.

The following year another seven schools were taken over.

These were Alfred Street in Harpurhey, Alma Park in Levenshulme, Grange Street in Bradford, Lilly Lane in Moston, Ducie Avenue, Moseley Road and Heald Place which amounted to the loss of 3897 places.**

It had resulted in a degree of ad hoc provision for some at least. In the February of 1916 the Manchester Museum reported that it was providing effective instruction for 900 to a 1,000 children per week drawn from the higher standards of the elementary schools.***

A similar scheme was underway at the City Art Gallery, the Whitworth Institute, and “kindred institutes in the city” and had proved so popular that children not only travelled some distance to attend but even brought their parents.

And that pretty much is that.

Location Salford

Picture; Langworthy Road Military Hospital, circa 1915-17 from the collection of David Harrop

*The New Hospitals, Five Salford Schools to be used, Manchester Guardian, March 17 1915

** 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester, 1914-1919, Margaret Elwin Sparshot

*** War Service in the Museums, Teaching the Half Timers, Manchester Guardian, February 21, 1916

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Watching the hail storm and much more in the Bay of Naples

The VIA R. REGINALDO GIULIANI  July 23rd
Never underestimate the surprises offered up in the Bay of Naples

We arrived in Sorrento in the blistering heat of late afternoon and that was how it was for two glorious days before the rain.

Now I am used to those Italian thunderstorms which come out of nowhere, rage with the full force that nature can devise and are over as suddenly as they came.

But in that brief few minutes the sky darkens and the low rumble of thunder becomes defeating as streaks of lightening flash and the rain just comes down like stir rods.

All that we had and hailstones too which even the locals claim were bigger than anything they had seen before.

Then in a matter of minutes the storm had passed leaving a carpet of fast melting hailstorms and a few broken leaves.

But as ever the storm had cooled the air and cleaned the streets, so that the evening stroll on Sorrento was a pleasant affair despite the crowds of tourists who were all intent on capturing that little bit of Italian life.

And Sorrento did not disappoint, all of which is why we returned the following day.

Eating in the VIA R. REGINALDO GIULIANI 
We took in the odd museum and a fair number of narrow streets each with a bewildering number of shops offering all manner of stuff to entice the tourist and which were pretty much replicated in the next half dozen streets.

All of which led us by degree to VIA R. REGINALDO GIULIANI and a meal at one of the many restaurants that spread out across the road from its beginning to the point when the it becomes too narrow.

The meal was good and of course the position offered up plenty of opportunities to sit and watch.

It cost just €70 which for four seemed acceptable until that is we sampled the delights of Naples a place I have fallen in love with.

Rome will always be my favourite city which has the power to draws us back but Naples is something else.


But that is for another time.

Pictures; Sorrento, July 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson