Thursday, 2 April 2020

The Gin Craze ....... another from the wireless ..... streaming now

Now for nearly 40 years I enjoyed using William Hogarths' prints to support teaching the 18th century, and amongst that wonderful collection I trawled his Gin Lane print with a vengeance, often accompanied by his counter print called Beer Street.

Usually both prints went down well as part of a lesson on the 18th century craze of Gin Drinking, and I have to say the response of Year 9 students was matched by that from those who at local history groups.

All of which is a lead into the In Our Time broadcast on The Gin Craze, first broadcast in 2016 and repeated today on the wireless.

"Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the craze for gin in Britain in the mid-18th century and the attempts to control it. 

With the arrival of William of Orange, it became an act of loyalty to drink Protestant, Dutch gin rather than Catholic brandy, and changes in tariffs made everyday beer less affordable. 

Within a short time, production increased and large sections of the population that had rarely or never drunk spirits before were consuming two pints of gin a week. 

As Hogarth indicated in his print 'Beer Street and Gin Lane' (1751) in support of the Gin Act, the damage was severe, and addiction to gin was blamed for much of the crime in cities such as London.

With Angela McShane, Research Fellow in History at the Victoria and Albert Museum and University of Sheffield,  Judith Hawley, Professor of 18th century literature at Royal Holloway, University of London, Emma Major, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson".*

Location; the 18th century

Picture; Gin Lane, and Beer Street, William Hogarth, 1751

*The Gin Craze, In Our Time, Radio 4,

Following the smelly Gorton Brook into Chorlton ………… and solving a puzzle

The year is 1926 and I thought we were standing just a little north east of Hough End Playing Fields, somewhere close to what is now Hough End Centre during construction work which will take the Red Lion Brook underground.

The Gore Brook looking north, 1926
In the distance is Hough End Hall, and this is about where the Red Lion Brook vanishes from sight before joining our own Chorlton Brook.

But the title of the picture confused me, because according to the Local History Image Collection this is the Gore Brook, which flows from Gorton through Fallowfield changing its name to the Platt Brook.

And as you do I questioned the title and suggested to Peter Topping that somewhere, somebody had got the name of the water course wrong, which was one of those little bouts of arrogance that I should watch.

Because on checking the notes on the Local History Image Collection there are two connected images which carry the full title of Rivers, Gore Brook, near Wilbraham Road, Station looking north, Culverting, Manchester and Gore Brook, near Wilbraham Road, Station looking south west, Culverting, Manchester.

The Gore Brook , looking south west, 1926
Added to which the stretch of the Red Lion Brook crossing close to what is now Hough End Centre had already been culverted by 1894, leaving me to fall back on the line of the Gore Brook/Platt Brook.

So, following later OS maps along with google maps , and looking at the size of the culverts we are at that pint where the Gore Book/Platt Brook and Red Lion Brook meet, which is pretty much where I thought we were.

Leaving me to apologies for getting to the point of the story in around a bit way, but does just allow me to conclude that during the 19th century the Gorton Brook did Chorlton no favours.

As earlier as the 1880s residents had been complaining at the state of Chorlton Brook, moving Thomas Turner in 1885 to write that “It is a great misfortune for the inhabitants of Chorlton-cum-Hardy that this foul brook continues such a nuisance to the neighbourhood.  Last week during the evenings it was more than ordinarily offensive.  

The Gore Brook/ Platt Brook, & Red Lion Brook become Chorlton Brook, 1894
All along Beech Road and Barlow Moor Road to the station, the atmosphere was charged with a nauseous odour [which] is really an outrage upon suburban life that a remedy must be insisted upon”.  Adding “we have taken up our abode at a distance from our great city to have our homes spoiled and our health impaired by these ‘Noxious vapours’”, concluding “turn the brook into a common sewer by covering it.”*

All of which was quite understandable given that five years earlier, the Withington Local Government Board had reported that one third of the sewage of the district flowed into “The Chorlton Brook near Chorlton village”.**

Added to which our brook also carried the muck from the Gorton Brook which throughout the last quarter of the 19th century and into the next was notorious for being little more than an open sewer.

And that is that.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Gore Brook, near Wilbraham Road, Station looking north, 1926, m60575, Gore Brook, near Wilbraham Road, Station looking south west, 1926, m60574, A C Tomlinson, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the point where the Red Lion Brook and the Platt Brook join Chorlton Brook, 1894, from the OS map of South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Thomas Turner The Chorlton Brook, letter to the Manchester Guardian, July 2nd, 1885

**The Drainage of Withington, The Manchester Guardian, July 13th, 1880

More from the Royal Herbert and that unknown nurse

"Myself" date unknown
Now while I am pretty sure where this picture outside the Royal Herbert  was taken I am no nearer to finding the identity of the nurse.*

The caption just says “myself” and while there are plenty of others in which she appears none have her name.

They all come from collection of photographs she compiled into an album of the staff and patients of the Royal Herbert during the Great War.

These picture books were an important part of the life of the hospitals and cover both military hospitals and those run by the Red Cross and St John Ambulance.

Some like this one are just photographs, but others contain comments, poems and drawings from men recovering from wounds and illnesses.

"Sister Heard and myself"
They represent an important part of the men’s recovery and while many of the names of the staff and patients are lost some are recorded and can be tracked.

In the case of John Henry Harrington De Graves of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who appears in an autograph book for a Red Cross Hospital in Cheltenham my friend Susan researched the Canadian side of his life both before and after the Great War.**

In time I am sure we will be able to do the same for some of the men and nurses of the Royal Herbert.

What makes this book just that bit more interesting is that the pictures include some from Gallipoli showing our unnamed nurse at Salonika.

So there you have it, a history book all on its own, which just leaves me to say I will be doing more research and to thank David Harrop from whose collection the album comes.
The Royal Herbert, date unknown

Location; Woolwich, London

Pictures; from the Royal Hebert collection, 1915-16 courtesy of David Harrop

*The Royal Herbert, 

**The Man Behind the Autograph,

In the Piazza Monte Grappa

The Piazza Monte Grappa would not be my first choice of a place to sit and watch the world go by.

It is a rather drab place surrounded by unremarkable tall buildings and dominated by a fountain with concrete seats.

Even the bars are less than enticing.  The two of them face each other across the square but the tables are arranged under a series of arches which while they give you protection from the rain do little to give a sense of cafe life.   So on those days when the sun shines down and you want to feel it on your back you sit instead in a cavernous arch way and endure the gloom.

Occasionally there will be a concession to the sun and the tables and chairs on the eastern side will be pulled out from building but still you are in the shadow of those arches.
And so it was when we wandered through on our way to somewhere more interesting and I stopped to take a photograph.

And maybe on a bright early summer's morning with that freshness in the air, the fountain playing out, and the the huge tree to the south of the piazza it's not such a bad place.  So with this in mind perhaps I will inflict you with more from Varese.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson


When geography became history .............. Looking at Other Children published in 1957

Now here is one of those children’s books from the 1950s which has become a history book.

I doubt that Jean and David Gadsby who wrote Looking at other Children ever thought that the passage of nearly 60 years would turn their geography book into a wonderful piece of history.

And yet that it what it has become.  It was part of a series on Looking at Geography published in 1957 by A & C Black Ltd and along with this one included Looking at Everyday Things, Looking at Britain, Looking at the World Today and Looking at Scotland.

Sadly I only have Looking at Children which ran to thirteen chapters and compared the lives of young people in Britain with those of the Amazon Rain Forest, Greenland, Saudi Arabia along with China, Norway, India and Holland.

It is a delightful book packed with fine line drawings and some colour plates.

Of course the book misses out on much of what we might today expect of a trawl through eight countries of the world.  There is nothing on the government or politics of each country or the issues of poverty and underdevelopment but that is to be a tad harsh on what was a book aimed at a young audience.

On the positive side there is much to ponder on starting with how each of these countries has changed over 58 years.

And what leaps out of the page is how different Britain looked.

It starts with those descriptions of everyday life including a time when annual holidays were still taken at British seaside resorts and high streets looked much as they had done three decades earlier.

So as spring arrived, “mother notices how dusty everywhere looks in the sunlight [and] she sets to work ‘spring cleaning’ – scrubbing, dusting and polishing every room” while “father digs the garden, plants the onion, lettuce, and carrot seed and sows early peas and flower seeds.”

But before any one challenges this as an idealistic picture of British life shot through with middle class assumptions it is one I remember from my own childhood and could have been replicated in homes from well heeled Surrey to working class Woolwich and suburban Chorlton.

In the same way I remember in the heat of the summer “the shop keepers pulled down their blinds, so that the sun did not fade the brightly coloured hats and dresses in their windows [and] everywhere was dry and dusty, and the water cart went round the streets.”

All of which may seem nostalgic tosh but was how we lived and it is delightful to be reminded of it from a book which in its way is part of that history.

Pictures; from Looking at Other Children, Jean and David Gadsby

*Looking at Other Children, Jean and David Gadsby, from the series Looking at Geography, 1957

A Salford story from John Casey

Now John’s pictures have been a regular feature of the blog so when he sent over a story to accompany some of the Salford Bridge it was too good an opportunity to miss.

As part of the Trinity Way road scheme a new bridge had to be provided to
cross the river Irwell.

Tuesday 9th September 1986 was the day the first section of a new
road-bridge, over the river Irwell,  was placed in position.

The bridge would be made up of twelve girders placed across the river; two
girders a day being placed in position, finishing on the following Sunday.

The bridge girders were brought to site in sections, three sections making
up one whole girder.

Ten of the girders were put together using nuts and bolts to hold the
joining plates.

Each joint required 340 nuts and bolts and six plates to
complete the joint.

When the three sections were assembled they made up a girder 50 ft / 15.25M long, weighing 65 tons with a built-in upward curvature calculated so when the weight of the road surface was added the girder would straighten to within an accuracy of 0.01 ft / 2 mm.

These ten girders were placed between two girders with welded, instead of plated, joints to give a better cosmetic appearance to the sides of the

All 12 girders were allowed to rust to a level where the rust would act as a protective coating.

The outer two girders with the welded joints were  initially sandblasted clean so they would both rust to a nice even colour.

The crane used in placing the bridge girders was, at the time, one of the
largest mobile cranes in Europe.

The main lifting arm was delivered to site in sections on trailers, and the whole thing was assembled in a day.

It was built with the help of a smaller crane which could lift 110 tons. Assembly of the arm was done by using steel pins to fix the sections together. The cable, wound on drums, was lifted into position on the main crane and then pulled off and laced with the help of the smaller crane.

When completed the larger crane was capable of lifting 850 tons but was mainly required for the
long reach it had; this long reach enabled it to stretch out over the river
when placing the 65 ton bridge girders.

As the arm is lowered toward the horizontal its weight, plus the added
weight of the load, tries to tilt the whole structure; to offset this, floor
mounted counter-balance weights automatically come into play to counter this shift in weight.

As these weights are floor mounted, and attached by cables
to the rear of the crane, they have to be disconnected to allow the crane to
rotate and pick up the bridge sections.

These sections were previously placed and positioned by the smaller crane, ensuring the main arm was almost vertical at this point. The weights are only reconnected once the arm is
about to be lowered to place the girder.

In 1986 the cost of hiring this crane was £3,000 per day plus £20,000 for
delivery to site.

© John Casey 2017

Location; Salford

Pictures; the bridge over the Irwell, 1987 from the collection of John Casey

On the occasion of the golden wedding anniversary of Mr and Mrs Wareing of Buxton Avenue ......... a greetings telegram from 1942

Now I am back with the telegram.

For 189 years they were the quickest way of sending a message and the arrival of the Telegram Boy might herald all sorts of news.

Nana received one in 1942 informing her that my uncle was missing, another a little later with the news that he was a Prisoner of War, and the most dreaded of all telegrams which broke the news of his death on the other side of the world.

So for me the telegram is always associated with grim news, but of course there were plenty of happy ones and my friend Ann sent me two.

Both were sent in the August of 1942 congratulating Mr and Mrs Wareing of Buxton Avenue on their Golden Wedding anniversary.

Of the two this is my favourite from Barbara and Margaret Preen with the delightful image to accompany the message.

They were married in 1892 and had lived in Buxton Avenue since 1911.  Mr Wareing described himself as a road surveyor and at present that is all I know, but I guess Ann will have them and in the fullness of time more will be revealed.

For now it is a nice reminder that telegrams were for all occasions and all seasons.

Picture; greeting telegram, 1942, from the collection of Ann Love