Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Gardens they built on Deansgate ……. legacies from the last war

Now Mr. Hitler’s bombs did much destruction, killed lots of people and scarred the city for decades.

Looking across from Deansgate, 1950
But they also gave opportunities for the cleared spaces left by the destroyed buildings which were used in a variety of different ways.

The most obvious were carparks, which became a necessity as the number of cars grew and more people traveled in to the city by car rather than by train or bus.

But a few of spaces became parks or at least open grassed areas, which for a while offered up a break in the grimy buildings which dominated the city in the immediate post war period.

The view through the empty spaces, 1950
And that brings me nicely to this picture postcard of the Cathedral and Victoria Gardens, which according to the catalogue is dated 1950.

It is a fascinating image, not only because I suspect few will now know have stood and admired its flower beds, but also because of the views unhindered by buildings across the city.

The open space had been a large building on a triangular plot, flanked by Deansgate, Victoria Street and St Mary’s Gate.

It was Victoria Buildings, and housed shops, offices and the Victoria Hotel.

I am intrigued as to when the Gardens vanished and have set out on a quest to discover how long they occupied the spot.

Victoria Buildings, circa 1900
Today the buildings on the opposite side are the Arndale, and the Gardens contain the new build, created after the IRA bomb, which face Deansgate on one side and New Cathedral Street.

This development replaced that ugly and much unloved complex which while it included the relocated Old Wellington Inn, was a non-descript spot which always seemed windswept and full of litter.

So that might give us a clue to the date when the Gardens were sacrificed to that bold new development.

A report in the Manchester Guardian in 1968 reported that work on the “start on city centre development, was about to begin, which would cost £4 million, cover nearly “7 acres between Market Street and the river Irwell”.

The report continued that “Demolition of old property may start before the end of this year, and the complete constriction of the new development will take about three years.  

There will be a hotel with between 150 and 200 bedrooms, offices, shops, departmental stores, space for a supermarket and an underground route for delivering goods.” *

The Old Wellington Inn, circa 1975
Now, I washed up in Manchester in 1969 and didn’t get down to this bit of the city for another year, so I have no idea if our Gardens have survived that long or had been sacrificed to another car park or temporary buildings.

But someone will know.

Looking back at that unloved square, I rather wish Victoria Gardens had been kept.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; The Cathedral and Victoria Gardens, 1950, from a series of picture postcards by Tuck and Son, courtesy of Tuck DB,, the Wellington Inn, circa 1970s, from the collection of Rita Bishop and the area between Deansgat and Victoria Street, circa 1900, from Goads Fire Insurance maps, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Early start on city centre development, Manchester Guardian, September 4, 1968

Annie Morris, Lady Kirby and a neat little history lesson

Annie Morris circa 1900
What connects a reward issued by the Lord Mayor of London at the height of the Whitechapel Murders with Avery Hill and Mrs Morris of Court Yard?

This was the question I posed last week and now it is time to reveal the story.

According to a leading newspaper
"The Lord mayor, acting upon the advice of the Commissioner of City Police, has, in the name of the Corporation of London, offered a reward of £500 for the detection of the Whitechapel murderer, the last crime having been committed within the jurisdiction of the city.”

But he was not the only person to come forward with a reward and the same newspaper reported that “Colonel Sir Alfred Kirby, J.P., the officer commanding the Tower Hamlets Battalion Royal Engineers has offered, on behalf of his officers, a reward of £100, to anyone who will give information that will lead to the discovery and conviction of the perpetrator of the recent murders committed in the district in which his regiment is situated.”

And it is Colonel Sir Alfred Kirby who is the link to Avery Hill or to be more precise his wife, Lady Kirby who regularly visited Avery Hill with her husband to dine with Colonel North who lived there.

Their food would have been prepared by Annie Morris who lived at Court Yard but worked as the family cook.

Avery Hill today
I doubt that Annie and Lady Kirby ever passed through the gateway at Avery Hill at the same time but even so they were bound together by that simple relationship of cook and guest.

The one was a resident of Eltham and the other a visitor.

But that is not all. Almost a century later the descendants of Annie Morris and Lady Kirby met by chance both shared an interest in painting and began attending art classes together.

They became friends and discovered the link with the past, a link which has a nice twist.  Annie Morris’s great granddaughter is my friend Jean who readily admits she “hates cooking” while Pam whose great grandmother was Lady Kirby loves entertaining and so Jean is regularly wined and dined by Pam and her husband.

Jean and Pam 2013
It is one of those quirky turn of events that the great granddaughter of the cook at Avery Hill should in turn be served by the great granddaughter of Lady Kirby.

Now I could go off and explore the neat reversal of roles and examine the social changes which in just a few generations transformed the relationship between the descendant of a cook and a Lady.

But I won’t, that is perhaps for another time.

Instead I shall just leave with that thought that history is messy and it always has a habit of surprising you.

Picture;s of Avery Hill, 2013, Annie Morris, circa 1900 and Pam and Jean today courtesy of Jean Gammons

Celebrating Salford ......... at Worsley ..... no. 3

A short series, light on history which just celebrates Salford.

For too many people, the prevailing images of Salford are of grimy terraced housing, high rise Corporation flats and more recently a forest of cranes building the new Salford.

And for some that new Salford looks little different from Manchester or any modern British city with glass and steel office blocks and des res properties inching up into the sky.

So here from the camera of Suzanne Tyldesley is another Salford.

Location; Worsley

Picture; Worsley 2018, from the collection of Suzanne Tyldesley

The Lost Chorlton pictures ......... no 6. ......... across the village green

I doubt that anyone will remember the corner shop across the green when Mr Unsworth sold his meat from the place, and at present I don’t know the history of the shop from 1911 till 1969.

In that year it was J McNicholls, the hairdresser and a little under a decade later I got my haircut by Bob who ran the shop.

Sometime in the 1980s or later Bob sold up and moved to Norfolk.

Location; Chorlton

Picture; the shop, 1983, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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

Down at Christ Church that church in the fields

Now I have to say that Christ Church in West Didsbury has rather been ignored by me.

Christ Church in 2014
As Andy Robertson says “the old main gate and old main entrance are now only about 2 metres from the kerb of one of the busiest roads in Manchester.”

Not that it was always such for back in 1881 it was still surrounded by open countryside standing on Christ Church Avenue which was a wide tree lined avenue leading from Barlow Moor Road down to the Rectory and church which had been built in 1881.

And given its location it was known as Christ Church in the fields.

I have come across a few pictures of the church but this one of the Barlow Moor Road and the arched gateway to Christ Church Avenue about 1925 fascinates me.

The lodge is to the right and a for sale sign to our left.

The gateway in 1925
In 1932 Princess Parkway was cut south of Barlow Moor Road as the main link to the newly developing estate of Wythenshawe, and it was built over Christ Church Avenue and eleven fine looking houses with gardens were built from the corner of Barlow Moor Road down to the church.

So Christ Church Avenue had a short life, just a matter of 51 years, which means that I will have to do some more digging.

Christ Church Avenue in 1894
I am hoping that there will be people with memories of the church in the years just before and after the new road was cut.

And it maybe that there will some more photographs of the building and surrounding land.

I hope so.

But in the meantime here is Christ Church Avenue in 1894 courtesy of the OS map for South Lancashire.

Picture; Christ Church in 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson, the arched gateway from the Lloyd Collection, and map detail from the OS for south Lancashire, 1888-93, courtesy of
Digital Archives Association,

Two books on British Home Children …………

Now like any serious area of historical study, British Home Children generates, interest, discussion and a growing degree of controversy.

But whichever side you come down on, it is incumbent to read as much as you can about the migration of young people to Canada, Australia and other bits of the old British Empire ranging from the economic and social background of late 19th century Britain, to the complex motivation of those involved, and the impact on the young people.

It is, I would argue never enough to fall back on generalizations, glib summaries, or outrage without carefully looking at both the big picture and the smaller one which involved the little stories.

To this end I welcome Lori Oschefski’s article on two books about the migration policy.

One of which I have yet to read and the other which is an old friend.

The two books are “Labouring Children” by Joy Parr and “Uprooted” by Roy Parker.

I first bought a copy of “Labouring Children” seven years ago, when I was beginning my own journey of discovery about British Home Children.

And this Christmas, our Saul bought me an original copy published in 1980, which makes for interesting reading when compared with the revised edition which came out twenty years late, which  highlights that simple observation that the study of BHC is evolving, with fresh evidence coming to light which challenge earlier interpretations and assumption.

Some of those new interpretations may prove uncomfortable to some, but then history is messy.

So with that in mind I shall just point you to the link to Loris article.*

Picture; cover, Labouring Children British Immigrant Apprentices to Canada, 1869-1924, Parr, Joy, Toronto Press, 2000 edition

*Indentured servants,