Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Deansgate remembered ................ stories from the Fox Inn on Byrom Street nu 1 .... a beginning

For many Deansgate is just a road which takes you from Knott Mill down to St Mary’s Gate.

The Fox Inn, Byrom Street, circa 1914
If you are lucky and the traffic flow is kind you can do the route in minutes.

If like me you prefer to walk it offers up a shed load of interesting buildings from the old public library between Liverpool Road and Tonman Street past the John Rylands and down to the Burlington Arcade.

And if you turn off and stroll down Liverpool Road towards the Duke’s Canal and Castlefield you will be rewarded with a rich lump of history.

Here was our Roman fort and and small town, the Manchester end of the Bridgewater Navigation, as well as the site of the first passenger railway station in the world and heaps more including one of the first recorded Cholera cases back in the 1830s.

Johhny Lee, young Charlie and Joe Gibbons
And it was a place teeming with people making it in the words of the historian Frank Heaton a “Manchester Village.”  It runs down from Deansgate towards the river, bounded on one side by a set of railway viaducts and on the other by Quay Street.

I first became fascinated by it almost four decades ago and keep getting drawn back.

And in those forty years I have researched and written about the area, walked its streets in the company of friends and conducted guided tours of its history.**

So with all of that behind me I was very pleased when Debs got in touch and supplied this picture of the pub her grandmother was born in on August 26 1908.

William Henry Forth, Doris and Florence Forth and Betty Marr
Doris Brack nee Forth grew up in the Fox Inn on Byrom Street and she recorded her memories of the pub and the area in a series of interviews with Mr Heaton who included some of them in his book.

They are a vivid picture of a vibrant working class area in the years after the Great War.

So over the next few weeks with the help of her granddaughter Debs I will be exploring those tapes and piecing together the story of a community.***

It starts with the Fox Inn and this wonderful picture. I know that standing i the doorway beside her father William Henry Forth are Doris and her sister Florence and their friend Betty Marr and Johhny Lee, her cousin Charlie and Joe Gibbons.

Now that’s a good start.

Location Byrom Street, Deansgate, Manchester

Picture; The Fox Inn, circa 1914, courtesy of Debs Brack

*The Manchester Village Deansgate Remembered, Frank Heaton, 1995, Neil Richardson



The Friends of Dagnal Avenue

I am back with another picture from the collection of Frank Tomlin.

Frank lived on Dagnal Avenue which is that long road that runs down from Hardy Lane to Cundiff Road and he recently shared some of his photographs from the 1950’s when he was growing up on the avenue.

For me they take me back to my own childhood during that same decade, and this one brings back some very sharp memories.

I think I had a cardigan like that, certainly shared the same floppy hair style and had friends who remained in shorts long after the rest of us got our first pair of long trousers.

And there will be many from that era who also remember that first pair of long trousers which marked the transition from child into grown up.

It was a time when the sun always shone in the summer holidays and adventures consisted of wandering off after breakfast and pretty much not coming home until teatime.

What we did for lunch I can’t remember although on more than one occasion mother prepared a sandwich and one of those small bottles of orange squash you could get the milkman.  These were carefully packed in an old ammunition canvas bag which were all the rage one year and were bought from the army surplus shop down the road.

But enough ...... this is beginning to slide into nostalgic tosh and that would never do.

Frank tells me that sometime of the time he and his friends camped out in a tent in their back garden which if you are ten strikes me as an adventure.

Location; Chorlton in the 1950’s

Picture; Frank and friends sometime in the 1950s from the collection of Frank Tomlin

Chorlton A hotbed of Amateur Football .... a story by David Brundrit

In the 1800's rugby was the game played and one of the oldest clubs was Manchester FC founded in 1866 and whose ground was on Withington Road (now St. Bedes PF).

Chorlton Albion, 1924-25
The club also had a soccer team and in 1877 played Darwen in the first FA Cup Tie to be played in Manchester losing 3-1 and in 1886 were beaten by Newton Heath LYR (The Heathens) in the final of the Manchester & District Challenge Cup Final.

In the 1880's West Manchester were a top team who also played on the Withington Road ground and were founder members of the Lancashire League. On the 23/4/1887 West Manchester beat Newton Heath LYR who later changed their name to Manchester United 2-1 in the Manchester & District Challenge Cup Final.

Chorlton Albion, 19124-25
In the 1890's Chorlton-cum-Hardy & Whalley Range were playing friendly games on Withington Road and were two founder members of the Lancashire Amateur League Manchester Division in 1903 alongside Old Hulmeians (Wm.Hulme Grammar School old boys) who played on St.Werburghs Road and changed in St.Werburghs school. 1904  C_C_H and WR join together to form "The Chorlton"club for a tour of Germany.

In 1909 the LAL dropped the "Manchester Division" from their title and Manchester South East, again playing on Withington Road,joined the league so that 4 of the 9 clubs came from Chorlton.

1920 saw Old Chorltonians (Chorlton Grammar School old boys) joined the LAL and in 1921 Manchester YMCA were another club accepted into the LAL and they played at the bottom of Brantingham Road bordering onto Princess Road. Old Margaretians were an addition to the LAL in 1927 and played on their own ground on Brantingham Road.

Choelron Albion, 1924-25
The ground actually belong to St.Margaret's Sunday School and today is used by Maine Road FC who play in the North West Counties Premier League. Following St.Bedes College purchasing the ground on Withington Road Whalley Range eventually purchased their ground on Kings Road for £1,000 from Lord Egerton.

Churches, Sunday Schools and Boy's Brigade's formed teams and one such was Christ Church (on Princess Road) who later changed their name to West Didsbury and played across the road from the church on the corner with Barlow Moor Road,this was Christies Playing Field. West Didsbury played in the newly formed Lancashire & Cheshire League alongside two other clubs South Manchester and Rusholme on "Christies".

Further along Princess Road towards Manchester is Hough End Playing Fields the home of two top amateur clubs North Withington and East Chorlton amongst the many teams playing there. Both clubs eventually purchased their own gronds, North Withington on Altrincham Road Wythenshawe and East Chorlton at the bottom Of Brookburn Road Chorlton.

When East Chorlton became defunct West Didsbury obtained the ground and changed their name to West Didsbury & Chorlton. The ground was originally Chorlton-cum-Hardy Tennis and Bowling Club. WD&C also purchased the Hardy Lane UMIST site and the complex is a quality venue providing football for boys, girls and women.

Membership card Chorlton Albion, 1924-25
Chorlton Park has a number of football pitches and after the 2nd WW was the place to watch Sunday football which was not recognised by the Football Association and "pub" teams included professional and semi-professional players who supplemented their wages.

These games attracted big crowds as the teams made Millwall and Leeds Utd like Sunday School teams and the regular punch ups were an added bonus to the football.

The Harry Dalton PF on Wilbraham Road is now used by St.Bedes College but previously Wythenshawe Amateurs were amongst the many teams who used the ground. Harry Dalton was the founder of Wythenshawe Amateurs and the ground was originally known as the "Fed" ground as it is owned by the Manchester Federation of Boys Clubs and the home ground of Manchester United Youth team up to the 1960's. Chorlton Town beaten finalist on 4 occasions in the Manchester FA Challenge Trophy played on the ground when Wythenshawe Amateurs moved to Wythenshawe Cricket Club.

On  Mauldeth Road West where the Police Club is situated there was a fenced off pitch for the Deaf and Dumb club. Another small ground was at the top of Sandy Lane with the entrance  via Caddington Road owned by a motor company and used by various teams.

Footnote: Northern Nomads in the 1980's played on the ground now used by Maine Road FC and were the only club to have won both the FA Amateur Cup and the Welsh FA Amateur Cup and hold the record for attaining the highest score when beating Stockton 7-1 in the FA Amateur Cup Final in 1925.

It should be noted that they only managed to beat Whalley Range 1-0 in the last minute in the 1st Round of the FA Amateur Cup in 1925.

© David Brundrit, 2017

Pictures; courtesy of Anne Love

All you ever wanted to know about Eltham's history but never knew who to ask

Eltham has a rich and varied history ranging from a medieval palace and Tudor Barn, some fine old houses, the historic Progress Estate and the impressive Sevendroog Castle high on Castle Woods.

All of these are within easy walk of the High Street and allow you to explore the past while enjoying some stunning historic parkland.

On the southern edge of Eltham is the Palace which was home to a succession of English Kings from Edward II to Henry V111.

Most of the buildings have disappeared but there is still the Great Hall, the moat and the moat bridge along with the Courtauld House built between1934-36.  This 1930s addition to the Palace has an art deco interior reminiscent of an ocean liner and was designed by some of the leading interior designers of the period and incorporated many of the latest technological innovations.

Close by in the Court Yard are the Lord Chancellor’s Lodgings which date from the Tudor period and were originally part of the Palace but were converted into three houses.  Despite extensive renovations in both the 18th century and the 1950s it has retained much of its early 16th century appearance including the timber framed exterior with its continuous wooden overhang.

But Eltham was never just the preserve of royalty and just a little further south in what is the home of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club can be found Eltham Lodge.

It was built in the 17th century and remained a private residence into the 20th century.

There were many other large and elegant houses along the High Street most of which have now gone but a few survive to remind us that the area was an attractive place to live.

It was after all just over eight miles from London with all the delights of a rural landscape including the ancient parish church of St John.

The current church dates from 1879 but people have been worshiping here since 1160 and a walk through the graveyard will reveal many grave stones spanning the centuries.

Travel a little further north along Well Hall Road and there is the Tudor Barn which was once part of a bigger complex including a manor house, walled garden and moat.  In the 18th century the manor house was demolished and replaced by Well Hall House which at one time or another was home to the rich, the gifted and the famous one of whom was Edith Nesbit author of the Railway Children.

Nor is this the only claim to fame for Well Hall because it also includes the Well Hall or Progress Estate which was built in 1915 for workers from the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.

The estate was modelled on the garden suburb and the history of its development and construction is pretty impressive. In little over five months from the decision to build 1,200 houses “to the highest town planning standards” the first 400 were ready and by the December the remaining 600 were completed.

It remains both a very pleasant place to live and a reminder that good design and an understanding of how people want to live can be successfully achieved.

Moreover it sits at the edge of acres of woodland which stretch up and include Shooters Hill.

These too have more than a little history, for it was here amongst the trees that the military constructed a defensive position during the early years of the last world war.

And amongst those pill boxes and trenches still stands Sevendroog Castle built by the widow of Sir William James, a commander in the East India Company to celebrate his naval exploits including the capture in 1755 of the island fortress of Severndroog off the Malabar Coast of India.

It is a fine  monument and a reminder of just how much history there is in the space of such a small place.

Pictures; from the collection of Scot MacDonald

The Man Behind the Autograph

Now I like the way that stories grow and take on a new direction, so here is a post from Susan who took a brief piece on an autograph book and revealed the man behind the comment written  in that Red Cross hospital autograph book in 1917. 

Introduction:  For me, the story of Sergeant John Henry DeGraves begins in 1917 in a hospital in Cheltenham, England, during the Great War.  The story includes a nurse, who had the foresight to think beyond those moments, and an autograph book in which were written the names, or thoughts, or little poems by convalescing soldiers. It was a book that was cherished and preserved, until it reached the hands of others in those beyond moments, who would also preserve and cherish it.

Without Nurse Rachel Wattis, of St. John's Hospital, it is likely that J.H. DeGraves and other wounded soldiers might have been forgotten entirely, as time passed.

Could John possibly have imagined that a short poem he placed in this little booklet was going to be seen and enjoyed by others over one hundred years later; or, that it would prompt a curious seeker, such as me, to want to learn something of his life?

 Here is what I found out about this Canadian soldier who was wounded in the field of battle and received care, far from home. Coincidentally, this all took place in the very hospital in which my great great grand uncle, fifty years earlier, had advocated for better medical treatment, especially for soldiers.

Early Life:  John Henry Harrington DeGraves was born January 28, 1886 in Albury, New South Wales, Australia, the son of Joseph Michael and Eliza Jane Brooks [Eisenholdt] DeGraves.

At the age of 17 in 1903, he arrived in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada. According to the 1911 Canadian Census, John, who was working as a Brakeman on the railway, his younger brother, Norman, and their mother, Eliza, were all living together at 1150 12th Avenue, in Vancouver. It is not clear if John's father also came to Canada.

John is recorded as being single at this time; however, a B.C. marriage certificate indicates he married Elizabeth White on November 3, 1908.

The next two records found for John were in Ship's Passenger Lists when he and Elizabeth sailed from Vancouver on the Niagara, arriving on September 27, 1913 in Sydney, Australia.

After a visit of five months, they returned to Vancouver on February 3, 1914 on the ship Wangara.  John's occupation, in both instances, was recorded as Captain of the Vancouver Fire Department. This was not to last long, as his life was interrupted by the onset of the Great War in August of 1914.

Great War Years:  John enlisted in Vernon, B.C. on July 8th, 1915.  At the time, he and Elizabeth had been living at 909 Richard St. in Vancouver. On his Attestation Papers, John stated he had prior military service of one year with Victoria Mounted Rifles in Australia.  After coming to Canada, he had been with 6th Regiment, Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles (4 1/2 years) and, also with the 11th Regiment, Irish Fusiliers of Canada. He is described as standing 6 feet, 1 1/4 inches and having a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair.

John's unit, the 47th British Columbia Battalion (BCRD), sailed on the Missawabie from Montreal, November 13, 1915, arriving in Plymouth, England, November 23rd.  Shortly after, he was promoted to Sergeant and maintained this rank throughout his time of service.

On August 10, 1916, John went to France and was engaged in the field at the beginning of some of the most horrific battles faced by Canadian troops.

It was in "No Man's land" that John was awarded the Military Medal of Bravery for actions he took capturing a German dugout and obtaining vital information that helped the Canadian cause.  Only a few short weeks later, on December 30th at Vimy Ridge, a "whizz-bang" hit the trench in which John was located.

He received gunshot wounds to his head, left leg and right arm that resulted in his treatment in the field hospital in France for three weeks. John was then transferred to St. John's Hospital in Cheltenham at the end of January.

The wounds to his leg and head caused no serious concerns and healed quickly, leaving permanent scars; however, John's right arm had several wounds from the shoulder to below the elbow that never fully healed.

Eventually, he experienced ongoing weakness and pain, losing over 40% of the use of his arm, yet, it is fortunate for this writer, that it did not prevent him from penning a few lines in Nurse Wattis' autograph book.
On July 11, 1917, Sergeant John Henry DeGraves was discharged as being medically unfit to return to active service.  In April, 1918, John sailed on the Aquitania, leaving from Liverpool and arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia  on April 29th. His destination was  Victoria, B.C. where he was officially discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Forces on June 5, 1918.

After the War: John and  Elizabeth (who was called Lil) are known to have had at least one child, Bessie Brooks DeGraves, born in Vancouver after John enlisted.

Following the war, few records have been located for John; however, he is in the Voter's Lists from 1940 until the year of his death:
1940 Assistant Fire Chief -Living in Vancouver
1945 Now working as an exporter - Living in Vancouver
1949, 1953 and 1957 Retired and living in the Fraser Valley district of B.C.

Occasional Canadian newspaper articles mention John's name when he was assisting in the investigation of serious fires that occurred in his city. Unfortunately, no obituary has been located that might have filled in more of his life.

Death:  John and Elizabeth were living in Mission City, B.C. at the time of his death.  He died July 14, 1957 in Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver.  Elizabeth passed away in 1968 and their daughter, Bessie (Hargreaves) died in 1988.  John and Elizabeth are buried side by side in the Haztic Cemetery in the Fraser Valley.

And so, this concludes my brief story of a young soldier who left behind a few unspoken words in a country far removed from both his birth land and adopted homeland; yet, here we are in the year 2015 reading those words and thinking good thoughts of him.  It has been nice getting to know you, John Henry DeGraves.

© Researched and written by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau, BA, MA-IS,
August 2015, Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada

Picture, page from the St John's Red Cross Hospital autograph book, courtesy of David  Harrop and medal supplied by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau

1.  Family research record
                           :  Australian 1891 Census
                           :  Australian Birth Marriage and Death records
                           :  1911 Census of Canada
                           :  Canadian Voter's Lists
                           :  Canadian Ships Passenger Lists 1913, 1914
                           :  Find-A-Grave
2.  British Columbia Vital Statistics (Birth, Death and Marriage records)
3.  Canada Great War Project
3.  Library and Archives Canada (Service Records)
4.  Andrew Simpson's Online Blog: Blighty… [July 9, 2015]

Salford People through the camera of Phil Portus ......Sandra Opoku & Michelle Darby

In the 1970s Phil Portus set out to record  Salford people.

He writes, Sandra,  as a child,  lived in a large terraced house on South Anne Street opposite the Langworthy Estate.  They both attended St Joseph's Infant School in Ordsall and then went on to Sacred heart School (Cathedral High)

Sandra  recalls "Happy times for me, however they did have a lot of racism at that point and coming from a mixed parentage, that had an impact on my life as well as growing up in the Salford environment.
But we are in multicultural society now which is a bit more accepting, but back then it was quite tough. I had lovely friends like Michelle who kept me going and kept me smiling"

Sandra and Michelle lost touch after secondary  school, eventually Sandra  got married and moved away.

She has 2 grown up children and currently works in the accounts department for Unilever and has a telecommunication business in Africa.

As a child, Michelle had lived in one of the  council flats above the arch on the Langworthy Estate.

Michelle recalls that it was safer for children to play out when she was a child. Children  generally belonged to  large extended families living in close proximity and they all looked after each other.

Michelle now works on reception at the Trafford Cricket Ground.  She has 2 grown up sons and lives in Peel Green, Eccles.

© Phil Portus 2016

Pictures; courtesy of Phil Portus, 1977-2016

*Phil Portus,

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A lost Eltham Palace nu 2 .............. The Banqueting Hall in 1782

Now I have decided to run a few pictures of what Eltham Palace looked like in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It had long been abandoned as a home for royalty and its grand days were thing of the past.

The occasional tourist up from London called in along with an interested artist keen to capture its former splendour but that was about it.

All very different from now, and a prelude to more stories of the building and its history.*

But in the meantime here then over the next few days are the Palace as you might have seen it during the early 19th century, all taken from that wonderful book on the history of Eltham published in 1909.**

Picture; the Banqueting Hall West end, from an engraving in Archeologica 1772, , from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,

*The Story of Eltham Palace,
** The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,