Monday, 20 August 2018

Remembering the meadows in the 1940s ..... the power of oral testimony

“I was interested to hear what you said about the way the Corporation tipped rubbish on the meadows.  
The Meadows as they were

You see I was at school in the 1940s and we did our cross country runs from the Mersey at Jackson’s Boat to Hardy Farm.

It was before they began putting rubbish on the meadows, and I remember the grass as brilliant green and very lush.  What’s more the level of the land was much lower than now.  And then they began putting all sorts including bits of brick where once we ran.”

Such is the power of oral testimony, because in just a few minutes I was taken back to a time when the meadows were truly meadows and farmed as such.

AcThe meadows circa 1900
I had been talking about the policy of the City Council to tip on the flood plain.  It was a practice well under way by the late 1930s and extravagant claims were made that this was new and proven to be the best method of refuse disposal which had the added advantage of building up the land to act as a defence against flooding from the Mersey.

Now the programme in the late 30s’ had been on the land further east and I was fairly sure that our bit of Chorlton did not get its infill till much later.

And here was the evidence, in a chance conversation at the end of an afternoon.

It was the sort of information the historian likes, for here was someone who had lived it and whose memory of events could be set against the paper trails and official records.

It also sat with the pictorial evidence which showed the meadows as an area of grassland and irrigation ditches which allowed water to be placed on the land for a set period of time to assist the growth of new grass.

Boat meadow a bridge across a ditch circa 1900
The main ditches were deep enough to warrant a plank or even a small bridge to be placed across and this is exactly what we have in our picture.

I doubt we will ever know who any of the people are and for once what has caught my attention is not the collection of Sunday trippers, but the land itself which is perfectly flat and just right for meadow farming.

Land suitable for meadowland, circa 1900
We are in Boat Meadow and the path in the distance would tale you towards Hardy Farm.  It is possibly some time at the beginning of the last century, just forty or so years before my school boy ran his run.

What is all the more remarkable is that some stretches of the meadows survived well into the 1960s and a decade before were still being farmed.

This is the Old Road, Hawthorn Lane as it heads out across Turn Moss and I guess it looks pretty much as it had done for over a century and more.

The Old Road and meadow land circa 1950
It has all gone now.  After the tipping came the years of neglect followed by the deliberate policy to plant trees and bushes on stretches of it or turn it over to football pitches.

Now I am not arguing for a return to what was that I fully accept has gone, but listening to my friend I can at least have some idea of what once was.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy Manchester

Pictures; from the Lloyd Collection, circa 1900

The secrets of Mr Pooley’s fine residences in Cornbrook

Now, the casual visitor to Princess Street which is off Chester Road might think there is nothing much here.

Pooley's Buildings, 2018 from St George's Park
But walk past the modern housing, and the site of the old workshops which are under redevelopment and there at the bottom facing St George’s Park  is Pooley’s Buildings, which later became known as Pooley’s
Houses and date back to the earlier 19th century.

They are a particular favourite of Andy Robertson who came across them recently and set a debate going over the two stone inscribed blocks in the wall of the property.

Andy thought the houses dated from 1800, and I think they were actually built in 1820.

Getting closer, 2018
They are on all the maps from the 1840s and early 1850s, but are missing from Greenwood’s map of 1819 and a trawl of the Rate Books shows that they first appear in 1820.

Back then there were six properties listed under Pooley’s Buildings, all of each paid four shillings a week in rent with an annual rateable value of £16 each.

The six tenants were a James Dobar, William Jennings, James Kenyon, George Norris, John Leech and Samuel Johnson.

Pooley's Buildings, 1844
I doubt we will find out much about any of the six, but thirty years later their successors included a Mr James Gregory, who described himself as a manufacturer, William Galloway, iron founder and Charles Hay, wine merchant.

And given the availability of census records and other official documents it should be possible to build a picture of these three.

Judging by the maps of the period they had chosen to rent in a very pleasant spot.  The properties faced north on to a wooded park, stood in extensive grounds, which was bordered by the Corn Brook which ran through Cornbrook Park.

And mindful of the unrest which spilled out only the year before in St Peter’s Field’s leading to the deaths of fifteen innocent people at the hands of Yeomanry, it must have been reassuring for our first residents to know that the Cavalry Barracks were close by.

Of course within twenty years the land to the east and north had been developed with rows of terraced houses while factories, mills and iron works had sprung up along the Duke’s Canal just minutes away from the secluded surroundings of our houses.

But even in 1894 when Cornbrook Park had been lost to more urban sprawl, Pooley’s Buildings still had a large garden with a fair number of trees.

There is still much to uncover about the properties and in time I may get to know more about Mr Pooley whose footprint on the official documents of the period remains non existent.

All I can say with confidence is that by the 1850s his portfolio of properties was extensive, and included buildings on that other Princess Street in town as well as Lloyd Street, Jackson’s Row, Cooper Street, and across Hulme.

Location; Cornbrook

Pictures; Pooley's Buildings, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson and Pooley's Buildings, 1844, from the Manchester & Salford OS, 1844, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

The history of Eltham in just 20 objects ........Nu 7 the artist and Pound Place

The challenge is to write a history of Eltham in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

These cottages have long gone but once they were the subject of this drawing by Mr Llwyd Roberts who lived in Eltham in the 1930s.

During his stay here he drew many pictures and some of these appeared in the Kentish Times in 1930 and were reprinted in Old Eltham sixty-six years later.

So here you get two for one.  A reminder of an artist whose pictures are still popular and the memory of the village pound or pinfold which was used to accommodate stray animals.

Location; Eltham, London

Picture; Pound Court, Llwyd Roberts, circa 1929-30, from Old Eltham, 1966, courtesy of Margaret Copeland Gain

*Llwyd Roberts,

**Pound Place,

It’s not every day you get a telegram from Buckingham Palace

Well not me any way but perhaps in the course of their civic responsibilities the Mayor of Salford might expect the odd visit from the telegram boy.

And so it was in 1963.  I trawled the Guardian on line but couldn’t find a reference to a royal visit so I guess it will be either Central Ref or Salford’s Local Studies Centre and a day of routing through their collections of newspapers.

Of course someone out there will know and in the interest filling in the historical details will get in touch, and perhaps even up a story and a picture.

Not that this is just a quick response to a the telegram sent over by David Harrop who has an extensive collection of postal material as well as memorabilia from both world wars.

Added to which he knows his stuff.

But the bigger point is that we don’t send telegrams anymore, and in fact don’t do letters of picture postcard much either.

And however quick the text, or the message with its picture sent via social media is, it robs us of a bit of our future history.

In a decade I doubt that a future historian will have as much paper sources to start off a trail of investigation.

Unless like me you print off all your messages and file them away.

Location; Salford

Picture; the telegram to the Mayor of Salford, 1963 from the collection of David Harrop.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

That lost picture of the Royal Oak in 1902 with young Thomas Kelsey

This is a picture of the old Royal Oak I have never seen before.

The caption gives a date of 1902 and refers to “the boy Thomas Kelsey, son of the landlord of the inn at the time.”

Now it is very unusual to be able to name a person in a Chorlton photograph from the early 20th century.

Usually we are just presented with a sea of faces whose identities are lost in time.

But this is different.

Thomas was born in 1893 in Salford and his parents ran the Duke of York pub at 186 Regent Road, before moving in 1895 to the Royal Oak here in Chorlton.

The pub trade ran deep in the family, Thomas’s father was working in the Glass House on Regent Road by 1881 when he was 18 years old and his parents had run a beer shop just off Regent Road.

But what makes this picture all the more interesting is the detail which it reveals about the pub.

The Royal Oak was originally a beer shop which dated back to the early 1830s and consisted of little more than four rooms.

But what intrigues me is the building behind which seems to have been added on by the 1890s.

The OS map for 1894 and 1907 show that pub had been enlarged and the 1911 census return records that there were eight rooms.

Nor is that all because George Kelsey appears to have been more than just a publican because the sign to our right announces that he was also in the business of “CABS, HANSOMS” and offered a LIVERY STATION.”

Sadly at present I lose them after 1911 but this is a start and in the fullness of time I shall discover more.

But as ever there is always someone who pushes the story on.  So I was pleased when Andy Robertson  trawled the rate books and fond that 1895 as the first year George Kelsey paid rates in the township.

More will be revealed.

That said there is that finger print just below the sign, now that would be a real detective story.

Picture, the Royal Oak, 1902, m50447, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Pictures from an Eltham bus ........ no.22 ....... one step closer to that cinema

The top deck of a London bus has to be a pretty neat way of seeing the world below.

Saturday, August 18, 2018
And when it is the same bus at about the same time every day then you have got yourself a project.

All you need is a camera and the patience each week to record the same spot and the rest as they say is Larissa Hamment’s “Pictures from an Eltham bus”.*

And we are now getting closer to that first performance of Gone with the Wind" in Eltham since its premiere.

So, when it is all finished perhaps a trip down from the North for the grand opening.

We shall see.

Location; Eltham

Pictures;  the site of the new cinema, 2018, from the collection of Larissa Hamment

*Pictures from an Eltham bus,

The mystery of the War Department Arrows on Pooley’s Houses

Now Andy has become fascinated by Pooley’s Houses.

It is on Princess Street where it meets Chester Road and he has sent me a few pictures he took recently, along with an extract from the OS map of 1849 which shows the building dominating the surrounding area.

In time I will go looking for its history but for now it is the two stone blocks inserted into the wall of the property which fascinates Andy.

He told me, “showed Cathy Pooley's Houses the other day on the way back to Chorlton and she noticed these two stones in the wall about ten yards apart.

Cathy researched them and discovered they are War Department Broad Arrows used from about 1855.

I am not sure if they are in their original positions.

It seems unlikely given the differing stages of erosion, assuming both stones are of the same age.

Only the northern half of Pooleys Houses from the 1849 map survives today”.

So there you have it a mystery begging for an answer.

There will be some one out there who takes up the challenge and recount the history of the two stones, perhaps also suggesting why No 13 and 14 should be so close together.

And that leads to that other question of why one should be so weather beaten and the other almost pristine in its appearance.

Like Any I profess total ignorance and am looking forward to the supporting posts.

These may also shed light on Pooley's Houses, which are equally intriguing..

Location; Princess Street

Tomorrow; Mr Jonathan Pooley, his houses and some who lived there

Pictures; Pooley’s Houses,  and those inscriptions, 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson