Friday, 24 May 2019

“The work of a tram guard is not a woman’s work” ......... stories behind the book nu 18

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War*

Clippie, date unknown
Now this picture postcard of a “clippie got me thinking of the contribution made by women during the Great War, and in particular the opposition they faced from their male counterparts.

In the May of that year Salford Corporation took on 15 women to work as guards on their trams and a few months later Manchester followed suit while the Manchester postal authorities decided to utilise the services of women in the “delivery of letters.”

This had followed an appeal by the Board of Trade in the March for women to register for work at the their local Labour Exchange and in the course of the next three years women were to be found working in heavy industry, as well as on the land, and in offices and on the transport network.

Of course in many respects none of this was new.  For over a century they had worked in textile mills and coal mines, laboured alongside men and children in the fields and done a variety of dirty and unpleasant occupations often for little remuneration.

But the scope of their involvement and the fact that many of these occupations were new to women marked a sea change as did the fact that some of these occupations were far better paid than their previous jobs.

Not that this was without opposition.  Tram workers in Salford had argued that “the work of a guard is not a woman’s work and that it would be too much to expect that women should take charge of the early workmen’s cars or the late cars which would keep them up until midnight.”

And a full three years later Mr Frederick A Price the superintendant of the Manchester Gas Department reporting to the Gas Committee of Manchester Corporation on the work of the 31 women clerks and 85 women meter inspectors concluded that while they were “good and careful workers” and were “industrious and painstaking, they lacked initiative, were not capable of discharging the higher administrative duties [and lacked] the necessary imagination and concentration with the power of organisation” added to which they “liked to indulge in a little gossip.”**

Munition workers, 1918
It is easy to dismiss his assessments as period pieces but a full half century later similar prejudices were being expressed during the debates on the passing of the Equal Pay legislation.

But in comparison with others his were rather gentle prejudices.

In a series of correspondence to the War Emergency Committee which had been set up by the labour movement when war broke out the National Agricultural Labourers’ & Rural Worker’s Union consistently opposed the employment of women on the land.

During the February of 1915 they wrote a series of letters making clear their opposition to “the employment of women in the agricultural industry on moral and economic grounds” pointing to the growing practice of employing women and children on lower wage rates.****

A fear which appeared to be the case from evidence they uncovered during 1915.

Location; Manchester, 1914-18

Picture; “Clippie,” date unknown and Munition workers, 1918 from the collection of David Harrop

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War,

**Woman Tramguards, Manchester Guardian May 29, 1915

***Women at Mens’ Work, Manchester Guardian, January 5, 1918

****Walker, R B secretary, National Agricultural Labourers’ & Rural Worker’s Union R B Walker, to the War Emergency Committee, WNC, Box 1 file 4, Labour History Archives & Study Centre, the People’s History Museum, Manchester

In Budapest ......... reflecting on two who are the Righteous Among The Nations

Now the memorial to Carl and Gertrud Lutz in Budapest is simple and powerful.

Detail of the memorial, 2016
I knew nothing of the memorial or the couple until my friend Julie shared this picture.
 Carl Lutz was born in Switzerland, travelled the world and arrived in Budapest in 1942.

As a Swiss diplomat he and his wife Gertrud organised the issue of safe conduct passports to Jewish people during 1942 and 1945, saving 62,000 Hungarian Jews from imprisonment and death.

After the war Mr and Mrs Lutz returned to Switzerland and in 1964 were designated as Righteous Among The Nations by Yad Vashem.*

It is striking memorial which has a figure laying on the ground with an upstretched hand and is the work of the sculptor, Tamás Szabó.

The memorial, 2006
“Yad Vashem, the national Authority for the Remembrance of the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, was established in 1953 by act of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to commemorate the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the years 1933-1945. 

The Authority also commemorates the heroism and fortitude of the Jewish partisans and the fighters in the Ghetto revolts, as well as the actions of the 'Righteous Among the Nations' (non-Jews who saved the lives of Jews).

Located on Har Hazikaron (Heb., Hill of Remembrance), a ridge on the western outskirts of Jerusalem, the Yad Vashem Memorial and Institute includes several commemorative monuments, an historical museum, a central archive and a research center for the documentation of the Holocaust.”

Location; Budapest

Pictures; detail of the memorial to Carl and Gertude Lutz, Budapest, 2016 from the collection of Julie Thomas, and Memorial dedicated to Carl Lutz, Righteous among the nations, Szabó Tamás sculptor, taken by Perline, who as the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 

*Jewish Virtual Library,

At Burndon Park in the September of 1937 with the Wanderers 4 goals up.

I have been rediscovering the photographs of Humphrey Spender.

During 1937-38 he recorded the lives of working people in Bolton as part of the mass observation project.

It is something I wrote about recently when I featured BOLTON WORKTOWN, Photography and Archives from the Mass Observation*

I first came across Humphrey Spender in 1982 when someone bought me a book of his pictures.**

It is a book I never tired of looking at and it was one that I thought I had lost.  Well perhaps put away safely, so safe that I had no idea where.

This loss was not helped by colleagues at Bolton Library and Museum Service who said it was difficult now to obtain a copy.  An observation confirmed by a glance at Amazon where it was being offered  at anything between £30 and £60.  All of which made me even more gloomy given that mine was a first edition.

All however is now sunny because after an evening of hunting it turned up on a bookshelf.

And I have decided I shall feature another of the pictures from their online collection.

It is one I like.

According to the caption it was taken on September 25th 1937 when Bolton Wanderers reserves took on Wolverhampton reserves at Burndon Park in Bolton, and Bolton won 4-0.

I would like to know at what moment Mr Spender took the picture. Perhaps at the point that the home team were cruising to their final goal, and the smiles of the spectators say it all especially that of the man who has turned his back and shares the happiness of the moment.

Picture, courtesy of Bolton Library and Museum Service, who hold the copyright for this image, 1993.83.08.07

BOLTON WORKTOWN, Photography and Archives from the Mass Observation*,

***Worktown People, Photographs from Northern England, 1937-38, Humphrey Spender, Falling Wall Press

79 years ago ........... part 1 National Bread and the ‘British Restaurant'

It is easy to forget just how the last world war reached deep onto everyone’s lives.

It was something that my parents and grandparents chose not to talk about.

If asked they would offer up a little but not much and soon would either change the subject or let the topic hang in the air and slowly but surely be replaced by something else.

But of course its impact was everywhere from war time regulations to  rationing and the ever present threat of real danger.

I was reminded of all of this when I read the July 1941 copy of Lilliput which was a monthly magazine featuring short stories photographs and articles about the arts mixed with a selection of humorous cartoons.*

It ran from 1937 till 1949 and its contributors included well known writers and photographers.

I picked up my copy many years ago from Brian the Book and have occasionally skimmed through it.

But looking at it again is to be reminded of just how the war was ever present.

Many adverts had men and women in uniform, or like this ad from the Ministry of Food promoted food and eating habits which were a product of wartime shortages

The National Wheat meal Loaf had replaced white bread and was made from all the wheat grain including the husks.  It was dense, grey coloured and unpopular, but with a nod to the country’s health contained added calcium.

All of which made the claims in the ad that it was “nice and was easy to cut” a little hollow.
At the same time many local authorities established canteens which “had very good meals at a very low price.”

Today some might see the creeping hand of an all powerful State but given that many people were working long hours away from home with the ever present threat that the family house might be damaged in an air raid such restaurants made sense.

As did the helpful advice on how to preserve fruit with sugar rationed.

All of which leaves me with just one small mystery.  My edition of Lilliput was published in 1941 and yet all the sources I have come across give 1942 as the year the National Wheatmeal Loaf was introduced.

And while I ponder on thist here is a recipe for that loaf from at The Home Front Housewife by Emma Powick**

Picture; Lets Talk about Food, Ministry of Food, from Lilliput, July 1941 Vol 9 No 1 Issue No 49

*Lilliput magazine,

**The Home Front Housewife by Emma Powick

Animals for the pot back in the kitchens of Chorlton and Well Hall in 1848

Back in rural communities in 1848 pigs and chickens were common enough and many families aspired to keeping a family pig. 

These were kept in the back garden or yard and could be fed on almost anything and would provide a family with food for almost the entire year.

As well as fresh pork there was salted bacon, cured ham, lard, sausages and black pudding.

Beyond its food value the dead pig offered its pigskin for saddles, gloves, bags and footballs while the bristles could be used for brushes and an average pig gave a ton of manure a year.

All of this was fine but often the pig became a family pet which made its killing just that bit harder.  Not that this halted the inevitable, which tended to be done in winter.

It was reckoned that the cooler months should be preferred given that in the words of the farming expert Henry Stephens, “the flesh in the warm months is not sufficiently firm and is then liable to be fly born before it is cured.”    

So the traditional time was around Martinmas in early November which had the added advantage that cured hams would be ready for Christmas.

As for the slaughtering of the pig this was done by the local butcher who was often paid in kind, and could be a traumatic event for both pig and family.

Not that there was any set way to carry this out and stories abound of botched attempts all of which led Stephen’s to recommend that the pig be placed on a bed of straw and the knife inserted into the heart.

The event was very much a family affair with everyone pitching in to scrap the hair clean from the body by either immersing it in boiling water or pouring the scalding water over the carcase, and later salting down the meat.  Immediately after it had been killed it was hung and left for the night before being cut up.

It was a time consuming job to rub salt into the hams and not a pleasant one either.  First the salt had to be crushed from a salt block which was then rubbed into the meat.

A side could be anything up to four feet [1.2 metres] in length and special care had to be taken to rub the salt into the bone joints.  All of this left the hands red raw.

Nor was this the end of the process.  The meat then had to be soaked in water and dried before being wrapped in muslin and hung up.  Meanwhile some of the pork might be cooked up into pies and the blood made into black pudding.

The family pig was indeed an important part of the means by which many in the township supplemented their earnings.  But pigs were part of the local economy and both farmers and market gardeners would find keeping pigs a profitable undertaking.

As we have seen they could be fed on almost anything.  In winter this might be potatoes or turnips and in summer they could be left to graze in a grass field.  The going rate at market in 1844 for a pig was anything between 24s [£1.20p] and 30s [£1.50p].

Our old friend Henry Stephens calculated that two brood sows could produce 40 pigs between them and that retaining six for home use the remaining 34 could easily be sold at market.

So many of the smaller farmers and market gardeners in the township might well keep at least one sow and use it to supplement their income.

The same was true of poultry which existed happily enough in a back garden or farmers’ yard.  But I doubt that there was much to be made from selling the eggs.

A dozen eggs in the summer of 1851 might cost 4d [2p] a dozen and rise in price to 8d [4p] later in the year.

Enterprising farmers and market gardeners might store up summer eggs to sell in the winter.  This involved smearing them with butter or lard while still warm and packing them in barrels of salt, oats or melted suet then transport them into the city or sell them to egg merchants who visited on a weekly basis.

Pictures; from the Book of the Farm Henry Stephens, Vol 11 1844


The story of one house in Lausanne Road number 48 ............. the Evelina Mission Hall, a chair and a promise

The story of one house in Lausanne Road over a century and a half and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

The chair, 2015
Now I like the way that what seem to be totally random bits of the past come together to tell a story which in this case brings together a Mission Hall, an old chair and a promise.

What connects them is this chair which I am guessing must be at least a century old and in its time has travelled from Peckham to Eltham and on to Manchester and now resides in our dining room.

As far as I know it began life in the Evelina Mission Hall on Evelina Road close to where dad had worked for forty years.

I don’t remember the hall which was just past the railway arch on your left heading back towards Lausanne Road or when it was built but it will be sometime between 1896 and 1914 which I grant is a  dollop of history but it’s a start.

I know this because while it doesn’t show up on the OS map for 1896 it was there by 1914, listed in the Post Office Directory for that year.

There were plenty of similar halls in the area but by the mid 1960s if not earlier it was struggling for a congregation and closed.

And Dad always scenting a bargain came home with it one winter’s day in 1964.

By then we had moved from Lausanne Road to Eltham but it remains a little bit of the place where I grew up.

Now it may well be that there are people who remember the hall and if I am very lucky will have stories of attending the services there and perhaps even the odd picture.

But I doubt it such bits of our collective history vanish all too quickly although I did find a reference to the hall being bombed on September 7 1940.

According to the official records it took a direct hit from an explosive bomb just before 11 pm which “severely damaged the mission hall.”*

Given the time I doubt that there were any casualties and the hall must have been rebuilt which opens up a fascinating bit of research, all of which is for later.

That said there are so many unanswered questions of which how it survived the explosion, when it was made and by whom will I suspect never been answered.

And I have to say until recently I didn’t even know where the hall was, but guessing it was close to Dad’s garage on Brabourn Grove  it was fairly easy to track down.

The Mission Hall on Evelina Road, 1952
In turn I have to wonder if this was the location for his other great acquisition which were loads of those old wooden blocks which had formed the original road surface back in the 19th century.

Back then there had been a spirited debate about how roads should be surfaced with some favouring wooden blocks which it was argued would be quieter.

What I do know was that when they were finally lifted and arrived in our house in Lausanne Road they offered a superb fuel for the kitchen stove.

All of which may seem a long way from the chair so I shall close with that promise, which was that a long time ago one of my sons made a claim for the chair for the future.  He got in before his brother’s which means that at some point in the future our chair will be on the move again.

But I hope not for some time yet.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson 2015, and detail of the Mission Hall on Evelina Road, 1952,  courtesy of Southwark Council at

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

**London Blitz 1940: the first day’s bomb attacks listed in full, Simon Rogers, The Guardian Datalog, September 6 2010,

Posters from the Past ........... no 13 ......... Come Home to Salford

Now the project is simple, take a modern image of a building we all love and turn it into the style of poster which was popular in the middle decades of the last century.*

In this case it is those iconic cranes at the Quays which long outlasted the docks but eventually were taken down.

I won’t be alone in wishing they had been retained, so in their honour I asked Peter to give them pride of place in another of our Posters from the Past.

Location; Salford

Painting; Come Home to Salford, © 2017 Peter Topping,  Paintings from Pictures, from a photograph by Andrew Simpson, 2012


*Posters from the Past,