Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Leaving the city ............ adventures and the promise of something new.

Now railway stations pretty much have it over airports.  

True you can’t travel as far and the duty free doesn’t exist but still they have been magical places since the first train from Liverpool pulled into Manchester in 1830.

Now one Sunday we patiently waited for the train for Sheffield, which I grant you isn’t as swanky as London or Edinburgh but it has a nice railway station with an interesting water feature and on the way there is some stunning countryside.

Of course even at Piccadilly there can be hiccups.  So having waited patiently on platform six for 20 minutes we had to move quickly to nu 10 because of “a platform alteration.” 

Nor was that all because despite having bought a ticket there were no seats and I stood all the way.

The guard apologised for the “usual overcrowding” and did so again on the return journey.

So in the case of that rail operator ..... less adventure and little promise of something new.

But that was a year ago, and perhaps all will be different next time.

Location; Piccadilly Railway Station

Picture Piccadilly Railway Station, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, now that's a zippy title

Now I don’t have a date for this post card of T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, nor can I find out anything about the Mollyneux Brothers who marketed it.

Of course in time I will, and the answers often come from people who post into the bog so I travel in hope.

I guess it might be during the Great War, which would be an obvious time for postcard manufacturers to sell pictures of munitions workers.

There are others in the collection which can be dated to the war and while they are by a different company I think I will stick with the Great War.

Now it is just a flight of fancy which is something I don’t ordinarily indulge in but I would like to think that at least one of the girls staring back at us lived in the newly built Well Hall Estate, which a little over 50 years later was where I would call home.

But yes perhaps a bit too much like romantic tosh, especially as there will be some out there who is about to tell me that the particular type of tube being made predated the Great War. Well we shall see.

Picture; T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, from the collection of Mark Flynn, post card dealer,

Back on Hardy Lane a long time before now

We are on Hardy Lane again. 

The caption just says “view from Hardy Lane, near Hardy Lane Farm looking across to Jackson’s Boat in the distance.”

I don’t have a date but I guess it will be before the University took over the land and set to developing it as playing fields.

Picture; courtesy of Mr Crossley from the Lloyd collection

Two old houses, a shop called Audrey’s and new friends ................. how the past makes its own connections

Now the connection between two old houses on Upper Chorlton Road, the much missed “fashion” shop which was Audrey’s and a growing group of new friends might seem an odd one.

198 & 200 Upper Chorlton Road, 1960
But the connections are all there, starting with the obvious one that all are Chorlton or almost  and secondly and I am in all of them which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I write about Chorlton’s history and on occasion people get in touch to share their memories.

So having written about Audrey’s yesterday which sold fine gowns, blouses and ladies accessories I was contacted by Catherine and Jo.

Catherine I already knew through social networking because we shared an interest in a now vanished local farm, but it turns out that she ran Cafe Tabac which was situated in one of the two shops owned by Audrey on Barlow Moor Road.

And Jo is Audrey’s daughter and more than that when I sold my house on Reeves Road she and her partner bought it.

Catherine has promised to tell me about Cafe Tabac, while next month I shall be meeting up with Jo, her husband and a friend all of whom have many memories of Chorlton.

Audrey's on Barlow Moor Road, 1959
And also next month I have been invited to see the progress on numbers 198 and 200 Upper Chorlton Road.

They were once fine family homes dating to sometime just after 1871, but the passage of time and changing lifestyles meant that they had fallen on hard times.

But the two are currently being renovated and converted in to apartments by Armistead Properties and in the process bringing them back into something of their former glory.  Peter who owns the company asked me to find out what I could about the properties and out of that came some fascinating stories, and I hope more.*

The Chemists which became Audrey;s circa 1900
All of which reinforces that simple observation that history is messy and can take you off in all sorts of directions making links that you never expected.

Nor does it stop there, because one of my present projects is a book on Chorlton Pubs and Bars with local artist Peter Topping, which will include the bar Duffys and what is now Duffys was once Cafe Tabac having also been Uhuru and an Italian restaurant and before that Audrey’s.

And as we enter the local elections, a Mayoral contest and the General Election I shall just say that the two houses on Upper Chorlton Road were once owned by a Chorlton councillor who was leader of the Conservative group on the City Council.

So I am not surprised at the connections that bubble to the surface, and after the next round of meetings with new friends I reckon there will be more.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures;  no 200, m40865, Downes A H, Audrey’s 1959, m17591, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  the Chemists which became Audrey;s circa 1900 from the Lloyd Collection

*Armistead Properties,

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ........ nu 40 Chapel Street

Now I know Chapel Street is nether lost nor forgotten but over the next few days here are a few photographs that were taken on a June day last year.

And like all good pictures and stories I leave the rest to you.

Other than to say the lighting was iffy.

Location; Salford

Picture; Chapel Street, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Little Tony, Rock and Roll and Italy in the 1960s

Little Tony in 1967
I came across one of those old faded newspapers yesterday from the 1950s with a story of a local Watch Committee* deploring the “effect of that American style of music commonly known as Rock and Roll on young people.”

And it made me think of the influence of the music, films and life style that we imported from America during the two decades after the last war.

Now of course it had been going on for a long time before Bill Hayley and Elvis Presley strutted across the stage but the 1950s was when I was growing up and so it’s their music and all that went with it that I remember.

Rosa in Naples in 1961
And for Rosa growing up in Naples in the early 1950s the arrival of American culture was even more profound.  It was parodied in the Neapolitan song Tu vuò fà l'americano which gently pointed fun at a young Italian who wanted to look American by drinking whisky and soda, dancing to Rock ‘n Roll and smoking Camel cigarettes.

But the sting was that  this depended on his Italian parents to give him the money,

You want to dance rock and roll; 
You play baseball
But the money for the camels, 
Who give it to you??
Mamma’s handbag!

All of which I was reminded of with the announcement of the death of Little Tony who some had called Italy’s Elvis Presley.

“Born in 1941, Little Tony had a few hits in the UK in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the lead singer of Little Tony & His Brothers. He then returned to Italy where he pursued a successful career as a singer and actor.”**

Little Tony singing Il ragazzo col ciuffo in 1962

His first solo hit was Il ragazzo col ciuffo – The Guy with a Quiff  in 1962 and he went on to record a number of songs which sold over a million each.

And like many singers he made a successful  move into films starring in 20 films and began his own record company.

Watching clips from films and TV appearances there is no getting away from the American influence as in Il ragazzo col ciuffo

But for me it is the song Peggio Per Me - Worse For Me and the accompanying video which best shows not only the impact of American music but also the way it was taken over for an Italian audience of the 1960s

I saw him on TV and enjoyed his performances. He died of lung cancer on May 27, 2013, at the age of 72.

Now for those who want more I shall pass you over to that excellent site Italian Chronicles**, and in particular Italy’s Elvis Bops off to Heaven***which was where I drew much of the material for this story.

Little Tony's site can be visited at

*Watch Committees were responsible for police forces from 1835 till 1964 and so to "appoint constables to preserve the peace."



Pictures; Rosa in Naples from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and Little Tony from Wikipedia Commons and You Tube

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Queen & Pasley

Sometimes it is amazing how quickly our recent past can vanish.

The Pasley Laundry was opened in 1893 on what is now Crossland Road and did not reach its 100th birthday.

Laundries are a measure not only of the size of a community but of their prosperity.

 Given the arduous nature of wash day it is not surprising that those who could afford to pay for the weekly washing to be cleaned did so. The population had doubled in the ten years before 1901 and the next decade saw an equal increase. The occupations of the residents of new Chorlton ranged from manufacturers, bank managers and solicitors to clerical and skilled workers.

The very mix which is reflected in the large detached and semi detached houses stretching along Edge Lane and High Lane and the tall terraced properties radiating out from the station.

Here were the customers of our five laundries which in themselves were a mix. Yapp’s Laundry was big enough to have branches on Ashton Old Road, Chorlton on Medlock and in Whitefield and Stretford. 

Others like Wing Sam operated from one shop while Martha Keal’s premises on Beech Road was also the home of a her builder husband John. The biggest was the Pasley, later renamed the Queen and Pasley on Crescent Road. It opened in 1893, and at one point employed 50 staff.

All the washing machines were belt driven by a huge steam engine and were the first to install the “float-iron system” which consisted of the multiple roller pressing machines. This was 15 feet wide and 15 feet long and
“was a mass production ironing machine, with delicately poised rollers. You could put a shirt with pearl buttons on it and it wouldn’t leave a mark.”

Vans from the laundry would collect the washing and deliver it to the sorting office where each item would be marked, and classified into bins, before the loads were emptied into the ten washing machines. After being washed the clothes went through stages of being dried before being set out still slightly damp for the ironing and pressing and finally being re-sorted in the packing room and returned in the vans to the customers.

But the Queen & Pasley like all the rest were slowly being squeezed as the growing prosperity of the 1950’s led to people buying their own washing machines and by the self service launderette which are themselves now in decline.

And just after this was posted, Bob and Jean commented that "both my Gran and Granddad worked there in 1911 he was a van driver and I used to pass it a lot as a kid," and  "my mum worked their in about 1946 and then moved to the Grange .I used to go in the summer holidays with other children and one of the staff would take us to the park and look after us."

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; the inside of the Queen & Pasley circa 1960 from the collection of Tony Walker