Saturday 20 April 2024

On a day in 1969 ……..waiting for the new Hulme.

Now, I am not going into the debate on the regeneration of Hulme in the late 1960s and early 1970s, other than to say, some tired old properties were swept away to be replaced by others which failed the test of time.

Instead I shall reflect on the picture which perfectly captures that a moment in the cycle of city regeneration.

In the distance are some of the flats already erected and beyond them the landscape of the city centre.

But the rest is just an open building site, pretty much cleared of the demolished houses, with few recognizable points of reference.

Location; Hulme

Picture; Regenerating Hulme, 1969,courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,


Ki-ora, a choc ice and Bambi ...... the lost picture houses of Plumstead no 1

Now a while ago I set down a challenge to find some of our lost cinemas, and quick as a flash Tricia came back with a first and the promise to find more.

So here is what she said and what I know about the Cinematographe in Plumstead High Street.

The Cinematographe
“That sort of challenge is right up my street Andrew. 

I will dig out my many maps of Plumstead & Woolwich & find one for 1913. The first time I ever went to the pictures was at the Cinematographe in Plumstead High Street although it was called the Plaza in the 1950's. 

I saw Bambi, I still remember sitting there sobbing when his mummy died. 

The Plaza was more or less where Iceland is now. It had one screen & seated 528 people. The second time 

And just before i it was demolished in 2012
I went to the pictures was to see Tom Thumb at the Century Cinema which although was classed as being on Plumstead High Street it was set back and  I think the entrance was in Garibaldi Street. 

That was a larger cinema than the Plaza although it still only had one screen and seated 913. 

It closed in 1960 after which the building was many things, in 2012 it was demolished & is now flats. The images are of the Century the second image after it closed but before it was demolished.”

And that I think has set me off on a new series, Lost cinemas of Plumstead, which might well become Lost cinemas of south east London.**

Location; Plumstead

Pictures; from the collection of Tricia Lesley

*Off to the “flicks” in the winter of 1913 and a challenge for today

The new way to learn about the history of Greater Manchester ......

If you think about it the idea of telling the story of where we live by using the tram network has a lot going for it.

You can now catch a tram from the south, the east, the north and west into the centre of Manchester, and along the way each of the 99 stops will have a story to tell, and being the tram you can just jump off explore this little pocket of history and move on. Or skip to the end destinations and discover interesting historical things about Ashton-Under-Lyne, Rochdale, Oldham, Salford and bits of Trafford, Altrincham and Bury.

And this is the new project  Peter and I have chosen for a series of new books.

Each book will wander along the network, taking in nine stops or so at a time, with original paintings by Peter, old photographs and stories by me. 

The first book is due back from the printer's on Monday and follows the line that takes you south to East Didsbury, taking in Trafford Bar, Firswood, Chorlton, St Werburghs, Withington, Burton Road, West Didsbury, Didsbury Village and ending at East Didsbury.

We floated the idea back in 2017 and the plan was to produce one big bumper book, but we chose to wait till the Trafford spur had been built and then Covid got in the way.

And now we have gone for a series of smaller books which take just a bit of the network, and cost less than the price of a day travel card.  They will be pocket size and will be colour coded to match each of the lines.

It is the novel and fun way to learn about the past.

And while you wait for the arrival of the tram book to hit the bookshelves we are happy to announce that our book on the Horse and Jockey this much loved inn on the green has proved very popular.  

The pub started its long association with beer and cheer in the 1790s, in a building which was built just  a decade or so after Henry VIII walked down the aisle with Ann Boleyn, leaving us to promise tales of the dramatic, the sad and the funny with some myths and mysteries which tumble from the pages.

Both books along with the other twelve we have written together are available from Chorlton Bookshop, and from us at

*A new book on the History Greater Manchester by Tram,

When “buckets of water were the only supply of any but rain and spring water.”

Revisiting an old story.

Now I do not think there is anything romantic about having to collect a bucket of water from the local well.  

I know it is still what millions of people have to do across the world and it just makes the daily round of maintaining a household just that bit more difficult.

And that is what went on here well into the middle of the 19th century.

The first piped water arrived from Manchester in 1864 along Edge Lane and went to just 17 households.

The year before when Stockton Range opposite the new parish church was built it included two wells inside the house.

So wells, pumps and ponds were pretty much how we got our water.  And there was plenty of the stuff, along with the Brook to the south of the village  and Longford Brook running through Martledge* there was Rough Leech Gutter which followed the route of Corkland Road before meandering down what is now Wilbraham Road and then out to Turn Moss.

There was the village pond by the Bowling Green Hotel and an impressive stretch of water known as Blomely’s Fish Pond which stretched along Beech Road from Acres up to Chequers Road and dotted all over the township were smaller ponds many of which were old clay and marl pits which had been left to fill with water around what was once called the Isles and is now the Oswald Road, Langford Road area.

Our farm houses and the bigger houses had their own wells as did some of the cottages while other families had to share.  The Higginbotham family who lived on the green only filled there’s in sometime during the 1960s, while the pump at Bailey’s old farm on the Row** was still standing in the 1970s. 

But however close the source it still had to be collected and a family might need several buckets of water a day which had to be drawn and carried home.

Even in those grand homes it was someone’s job to pull or pump it up from the deep and take it to where it was needed.  And in humbler homes the walk to the nearest supply could in itself be a real chore. 

Mrs Williamson writing in 1883 described how the villagers of Lady Barn regularly had to visit a pond in a nearby hay field to collect  “buckets of water where with to clean their houses, this being the only supply of any but rain and spring water.” ***

Henry Stephen’s who write the manual on farming in the mid 19th century estimated
 “the cost of digging a well in clay, eight feet in diameter and sixteen deep and building a ring three feet in diameter with dry rubble masonry is only L5 [£5] exclusive of carriage and the cost of pumps.”

The earliest pumps in the township would have been made of wood, with the central part coming from a hollowed tree trunk and different woods used for the different parts of the pump.  Later lead and cast iron pumps were made replacing the old wooden ones.

Both pumps and wells which were shared were focal points where people met and exchanged gossip. And on long hot summer days  the pump provided our children with a source of entertainment.

Still, as idyllic as this may seem by the 1880s the supply was no longer enough and was already becoming polluted, but that is for another day.

Picture; from the collection of Lois Elsden taken from one of the posts on her blog,

 *Martledge is the area from the four banks down to the Library and across to Longford Nichola and Newport Roads

**The Row was the old name for Beech Road

*** Williamson, W. C., Sketches of Fallowfield and Surrounding Manors Past and Present, John Heywood Manchester, 1888, page 38

Friday 19 April 2024

Endings ………

Just because the Precinct has closed and awaits its demolition doesn’t mean it can’t still make statement.

Today to be fair it cuts a sad picture ......... a tad more ghost than retail buzz, but there are plenty who remember it in its heyday.

And already pictures are circulating across social media which were taken in the decade after it opened.

Most are “snaps” but they capture the place and each photograph will have a wealth of stories sitting behind them.

Leaving me to hope that over the next month people will come forward with their own tales of the place, which will include working there, or shopping there.

My memories include the wall paper and paint shop, Safeways, Iceland and Tony Adam's whose fruit and veg shop supplied us with fine Christmas trees for nearly forty years.

These will blend with those stories which arose from the project earlier this year which asked people what they remembered about the Precinct.

It is after all a bit of our history that occupied the space for half a century.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; the Precinct, 2024, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

It’s how we did it ……… 1962 …… and a heap of adverts

Anyone who can remember the Colgate advert in the block of ice will know that adverts can date, and is a reminder of how they did things very differently in the past.

In some cases, it is the presentation of the advert, and in others it’s the underlying assumptions which in the 1960s just assumed that housework, cooking and be worried about your children was the preserve of women, and that anyone who was not English was open to be portrayed as a stereotype.

And so, with that in mind here are a collection of adverts from 1962.

Some are those big ones which required a man, a ladder, and a pot of paste, and came in parts, which had to be aligned perfectly.

Today those same hoardings are delivered electronically and change every few minutes.

And then there were the smaller ones, often advertising a newspaper or magazine which were changed daily.

All of which leads me to this collection.  

I have no idea where the pictures were taken but the presence of open spaces would suggest a part of the city undergoing a clearance programme or may be  just some of the bits Mr. Hitler’s bombs did for.

Either way the adverts are fascinating, not least because of the prices advertised, and also the stories being run in the newspapers, which included  a suspense serial in Reveille, entitled “No Chance In Hell” and “A girl called Johnnie, 20 Days in an Open Boat” from the Sunday Express.”

Reveille for those who don’t know was a popular weekly tabloid, which was launched in 1940 as the official newspaper of the Ex-Services’ Allied  Association, and after it was bought by the Mirror Group in 1947 settled into presenting light news story with an emphasis on entertainment.

And I suppose the fun will be to spot those brands and newspapers which are no longer with us, while for the eagled eyed reader there will be the surprising discovery that nearly 60 years ago we were just as likely to discard our litter as we do today.

Added to which as the shop next to the newsagents will testify, this was still a time when something broke you asked someone to mend it, rather than go off and buy new.

Finally there is the question of just where we were back in 1962.  

Enlarging the street sign above the newsagents offers up a number of possibilities, but all seem to fall by the wayside, as this was a road not a street and the listings in the directories show nothing that fits.

But then someone will know and come up with the answer.

Well I hope so.

And John Casey responded with "Rochdale Rd. My old area, moved out in 1963 as part of the slum clearance. The hoardings were erecred about 1958".

Location; Manchester

Pictures,  advertising in 1962, Manchester, 1962 -3554.1 and 1962 -3554.1, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Defending Chorlton and Didsbury from the fury of the Mersey

Now there is a caption competition here but I leave that to the swift of mind who can call up a witty aside on the turn of a sixpence.

All I will say is that we are back in 1966 at that point on the Mersey where the new bridge crosses the river by the pub.

And not for the first time over the last few centuries work is underway on the river banks,

These have been raised and raised to protect us from the river which in the past could flood with little warning and cover the meadows in a lake which stretched for miles.

The last time this happened on our side of the Mersey was in 1912 and there are pictures of the flood water poring over the weir which had been built to protect the Duke’s Canal.

There are plenty of stories of those flash floods which during the 19th century were common enough to enter local folk lore and have been reproduced in the book on Chorlton-cum-Hardy.*

And that is about all I am going to say other than that the story of Jackson’s Boat and its many different names is covered in that book and in the latest on Chorlton’s pubs and bars.**

But I shall just finish with one last comment on the image which and has recently come to light through a new project.

Neil Simpson tells me that "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.

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

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

And that is all I have to say other than a thank you to Neil and the team.

Location; Chorlton

Picture; Down by the Mersey, 1966, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson, 2012, 

**A new book on the pubs and bars of Chorlton,

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