Monday, 9 December 2019

When you could get a haircut, visit the slaughterhouse and never move off Beech Road

Now, I am old enough to remember walking that short stretch of Beech Road from the corner of Chequers Road down as far as Macqueen, and buying a bottle of wine in the off license, a cake from Lambert's, playing with the idea of a hair cut from Mr Jackson and standing in the ironmongers in what is now Macqueen.

Elk, 2019
Had I done the same journey in 1911, I could have got that bottle of wine, the cake, and the haircut from the same shops which isn’t bad given that over sixty-four years separates the two journeys.

And that is a remarkable bit of continuity, for a road which is now dominated by cafés, bars, restaurants and gift shops and clothes shops.

For those who want the exact details, what is now Ludo’s’ was Mason and Burrows, “grocers” and “wine and spirit merchants”, next door at 48, had been a baker and later a grocery shop, which in 1911 was a confectioner. 

The hairdressers have always been a hairdresser during that 60 odd years, and what had been the iron mongers was once a Drape’s and butcher’s shops.

All of which is an introduction to the history of just one of those properties, which is now Elk, but began when Mrs Martha Thorpe moved into the premise sometime around 1879.

The property dates from the year before when the address was still Chorlton Row and was one of a row of houses owned by William Mounsey.

Beech Road, 1958
The very first tenant was a Mary Jane Kershaw and it is not clear what she sold in the shop but by the following year when Mrs Thorpe took over the tenancy it is listed as a “slaughter house” and she continued to do the business of selling meat from the property till the beginning of the 20th century.

For a while after that it was confectioner’s and then a bakery and later a grocer’s shop run by the Lambert family. 

I remember it as such and its conversion into a card and gift shop before it returned to its old connection with food.  For this was Primavera opened by Patrick Hannity in the early 1990s and then by degree becoming Beggars Bush and Mink before re opening as Elk.

Buonissmo, 2000
Primavera was a very different restaurant to what had gone before in Chorlton and quite rightly drew customers from other parts of the city and out into Cheshire.

Its mix of imaginative dishes heavily influenced by the cuisine of the Mediterranean has been widely copied across Chorlton but seldom bettered.

And there is an argument that Primavera, along with the Café on the Green, followed by Buonissimo, the Italian deli run by Bob and Del Amato, pretty much kick started the bar revolution on Beech Road and beyond.

Of course any one with access to the directories for Beech Road, along with some old photographs and a long memory could add more.

Location; Beech Road

Pictures; Elk, 2019, the shop window of Buonissimo, 2000, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and Beech Road in 1958, R.E. Stanley, m17670, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

One hundred years of one house in Well Hall part 8 ........... shared anniversaries

294 in 2014
This is the continuing story  of one house in Well Hall Road and of the people who lived there including our family.*

Now had we still lived at 294 I am sure we would have enjoyed  the centenary celebrations.

After all it isn’t every year that you get to mark the anniversary of one of the most loved estates in Eltham.

But what makes it a tad more significant is that last year will also mark the centenary of the house I have lived in for 39 years.

It too was built in 1915 and was home to Joe and Mary Ann Scott who occupied it for over half a century.

The two properties could not be more different.

Joe and Mary Ann's home in 1975
Joe and Mary Ann’s house was a solid end terrace, fitted out with electricity and was one of a series of building projects which the family undertook from the opening decades of the 20th century well into the 1940s.

By contrast 294 Well Hall Road was a smaller more modest property which still retained some of the original fittings including the bracket for gas lights and a communal path in the back garden which linked all four houses.

Moreover 294 Well Hall was a part of grand plan by the Government to build in less than a year an estate for the families of men and women who were employed at Woolwich Arsenal that great factory for the manufacture of weapons and shells.

And of course it being 1915 the demand for more labour at the Arsenal was paramount.

Even so the creation of what is still regarded as a fine example of a garden suburb in less than a year was remarkable.

Well Hall Road, 1950
But despite the differences theses two houses have much in common.  Not only were they built during a period when were at war but they were both built at a time when the surrounding area was still pretty much open farmland.

From their back window Joe and Mary Ann had views across fields out past the Brook while on either side of the terrace there were farmhouses which dated back into the 18th century.

Likewise the first residents of 294 could look up at the woods on Shooters Hill and wander off towards the farm land which now makes up the Kdbrook estate.

All of which brings me back to that anniversary.

Now the preparations to mark the centenary of the Well Hall estate have been laid for a long time and there will be many different activities during the course of the year.

But I am not sure about Joe and Mary Ann’s house.  By all accounts they were a quiet couple liked by many who lived a modest life, and as they were here for nearly 60 years I rather think we will respect that fact and let the event pass with little fuss.

After all I have only clocked up 39 years here.

Location;Well Hall, Eltham, London

Picture;  294 Well Hall Road, 2014 courtesy of Chrissie Rose and Joe and Mary Ann’s house, 1975, from the collection of Lois Sparshot and Well Hall Road in 1950, from Well Hall Estate, Eltham:  An Example of Good Housing Built in 1915, S.L.G. Beaufoy** 

*One hundred years of one house on Well Hall Road, 

**Well Hall Estate, Eltham:  An Example of Good Housing Built in 1915, S.L.G. Beaufoy, The Town Plan

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford nu 5 ............ what you find on Blackfriars Road

I am always fascinated by those narrow little passageways which hold the promise of all sorts of dark stories.

Passageway, 2016
Now this one has no name, and leads to Harding Street which today just gives access to a car park under the railway arches from Salford Approach.

So our little passageway seems hardly worth a second glance, but not so.

Go back to 1849 and it led to a closed court called Nightingale Square which in turn took you on to Harding’s Buildings which was the original Harding Street.

Here could be found 23 properties some of which were back to back and a whole warren of alleys on either side.

All were lost with the construction of the new railway viaduct and Exchange Station in 1884.

All of which just leaves me to go looking for the two buildings that stood on either side of our passage.

These were the Salford Library and Mechanic’s Institution to the left and The Royal Archer Public House to the right.

Now I am pretty sure there will be someone who can point me towards pictures of the Library and offer up rich stories of its contribution to Salford life.

In the same way I am also confident that The Royal Archer will reveal something of its past/

This I suspect will start with the names of some of the landords and if we are lucky a date for its opening.

It was there by 1849 and may well be much older than that.  In 1851 it was run by Margaret Horton and with a name we may be able to find out more.

Sadly Harding's Buildiings and Nightingale Square were not considered important enough for inclusion in the directories.

But Margaret Horton should be on the 1851 census and by following the streets from her pub it might be possible to come across both Harding's Buildings and Nightingale Square and in turn uncover the people who lived there.

We shall see.

Location; Salford

Pictures; passageway on Blackfriars Road, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and the area in 1849, from the OS for Manchester and Salford, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

The Vending machine .......... nu 2...... lost and forgotten in Deal

Now here is another one of those bits of street furniture we all took for granted.

There was a time when the cigarette machine could be found almost everywhere.

But now I doubt that there are many left.

So much so that recently I was asked whether I could remember the machine that stood opposite the Seymour, and while the answer was yes I couldn’t offer up a date for its disappearance.

And I suppose that is the point about street furniture.

They are so part of our everyday lives and so taken for granted that we no longer see them let own clock when they vanish.

I don’t know when this one in Deal High Street was abandoned or why but given that neither of the properties on either side is now a shop I am guessing it will be a long time ago.

Today of course you can still come across and use vending machines but they are big, brash and usually dispense products which cost an arm and a leg.

Look closely and you can pick out that the charge for a packet of cigarettes was 30p compared to £9 today.

All of which may help date our machine as well as offering up a lesson on the price of things.

So as a way of celebrating their passing the challenge is to find and display a vending machine near you.

There are no prizes save the gratification of knowing you will have shared your vending machine with the world.

Location; Deal Kent

Picture; cigarette vending machine, 2016, from the collection of Elizabeth and Colin Fitzpatrick

Remembering Byrom Street in Manchester in the 1950s

Byrom Street, 1944
It is easy to over romanticise life in the narrow streets of places like Castlefield, Hulme and Ancoats in the middle decades of the last century.

There was certainly a sense of community and a willingness to stand by each other, but that can’t really compensate for homes which long ago had passed the test of decent places to live, areas dominated by noisy factories and the smell of all sorts of industrial workshops and where there was very little in the way of open spaces, grass and flowers.

Many of us are aware of the awful conditions of parts of Manchester in the 19th century but pass over those middle decades of the following century.

Not only were many of the worst properties still standing but the war had put on hold the slum clearance plans as well as actually creating a housing shortage.

So today I want to concentrate on the memories of Lisa’s mum who was born in 1946 and grew up in Byrom Street just behind Deansgate.

Today it is a mix of new inner city living, and swish office blocks.

Some of the first new residential properties were built at the southern end of Byrom Street in the 1970s soon after the courts and alleys filled with houses from the late 18th and early 19th centuries had been cleared away.

The more elegant town houses of John Street and part of Byrom Street have now all become offices and exist beside new commercial properties which have gone up at the beginning of this century.

Byrom Street, 1965
But back in the 1940s and into the 60s this was still a residential area and even after the families moved out little really changed till the developments of a decade ago.

“My mother was one of 14 children. Mum was born at St Mary’s hospital on 15th November 1948, making her their 9th child.

The family lived in the middle of 3, 3 storey houses on Bryon Street overlooking where the playground once stood on St John’s gardens.

My grandparents lost their first born, a son named Joseph when he fell into the canal close to their home. The child was just 3 years old at the time.

He couldn't be saved as his leg became trapped in some discarded machinery which had earlier been thrown in. My grandma worked as a live out housekeeper for a doctor’s family on St John’s Street & my grandfather worked on the railway.

My mum attended Atherton Street School with some of her siblings whilst the others attended St Marys School.

Life was a struggle so Wood Street mission would invite the family to their Christmas parties where mum & her siblings got a gift from Santa.

My grandfather did like a drink & spent many hours in a pub called the Ox* which I think may still be there.

Byrom Street, 1947
The family had to move around 1957 when the houses were being pulled down.

Mum said they topped & tailed with 4-6 sleeping in each double bed with my grandparent’s coats as covers. 

The fire would only be in use once my grandfather was home and he was always given the best foods. 

However he did protect each of the children & wouldn't let anyone say a wrong word against them.”

*The Ox was the Oxnoble pub named after the Oxnoble potato which was landed at Potato Wharf close by

Pictures; Byrom Street in 1944, City Engineers Department, m78877, Byrom Street, left hand side, 1965 J Ryder, m00691, and Byrom Street, early Victorian shops, 1947 T Baddeley, m00659, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Lights, markets and a November night

Well, we did the markets.

And as you do, we were there for four in the afternoon, and in the course of a long trawl across the different market sites, the night crept up on us.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Manchester in late November, 2019, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

One hundred years of one house in Well Hall part 7 ........... celebrating New Year

294 Well Hall Road, 2014
This is the continuing story  of one house in Well Hall Road and of the people who lived there including our family.*

Now I have to say that I didn’t celebrate that many New Years at 294.

The first would have been in 1964 and a decade later I had left for Manchester but dad and was there for thirty years.

For most of the 60s we saw it in with my uncle George although as all of us grew up the attractions of the various pubs in the High Street and parties took us away from home.

But you always knew that dad would be there with a mix of food a few drinks and memories of how it was done in the 1920s and 30s.

A Happy New Year, 1921
All of which made me wonder about some of the people who lived there before us and how they saw in the New Year.

The first of those residents was Basil Nunn who had moved in during the Great War and I guess New Years Eve would have been a quiet affair tinged with the hope that the war could not last much longer.

Much the same must have been the experience of those that were there in the Second World War which may have been even quieter given the shortages and the threat of air raids.

These may have lessened as the war drew to a close but never entirely went away.

Nor I suspect were the celebrations in the years directly following the end of the war any more elaborate.

Well Hall in 1950
There was still rationing which lingered on in to the 1950s compounded by fuel shortages and the scars left by the bombing.

So anything resembling the familiar events of today with a rich variety of food, drink and of course the  special television programmes would have to wait until the late 1950s, when the country began to enjoy that post war prosperity.

In our case it would begin with an early evening meal followed by the big family game of Monoply before the table was cleared away and we sat down to watch the telly.

I can’t say I remember with fondness either Andy Stewart or the White Heather Club which gently carried us towards midnight with a mix of Highland dancing, music and comedy.

But perhaps that is me, because a full half century later I am no less engrossed by Jooles Holland and the many ways his guests tell me about their future hopes for the year ahead.

Opposite our house, Well Hall Road, 1950
And I suppose that makes me reflect on whther you are a Christmas person or a New Year person.

I have always been a Christmas person.  I love the tree the cards, and all the build up, while New Year just leaves me cold.

In fact with the passing of the years I have become my father.  The food is there with the drink but as the children are all out celebrating I slide gently and with little effort towards bouts of sleep woken briefly by the sound of premature fireworks.

In time I will go looking for the other occupants of 294 and try and see if I can reconstruct how they celebrated the night.

Pictures; 294 Well Hall, 2014, from the collection of Chrissie Rose, A Happy New Yeat, 1921, Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB Well Hall Road in 1950, from Well Hall Estate, Eltham:  An Example of Good Housing Built in 1915, S.L.G. Beaufoy** 

Location;Well Hall, Eltham, London

*One hundred years of one house on Well Hall Road, 

**Well Hall Estate, Eltham:  An Example of Good Housing Built in 1915, S.L.G. Beaufoy, The Town Plan