Monday, 30 April 2012

Sugar Lane, an industry and a campaign


You won’t find Sugar Lane today.  It was off Withy Grove in town and has long since disappeared underneath the Arndale.  

But it was there by 1793 and was one of those typical little streets which provided a home for all sorts of small time businesses.  In the 1850s there was William Longmore the merchant, as well as a quill dresser, tailor, drysalter and twine manufacture and two pubs and a beer shop.  Fifty years later it was still a mix of small light industry specialising in brush and umbrella makers and a few warehouses which was still pretty much what was going on there just before its demolition in the early 1970s.

Looking at pictures of the lane I came across the Sugar Loaf Inn, which was a Wilson’s outlet but I guess must have once been something else given its double fronted shop appearance.  It is the sort of place I would have liked to visit, but never did and I am indebted to the excellent blog site Pubs of Manchester http://pubs-of-manchester.blogspot.co.uk/ which is a fund of information on our city’s public houses.

All of which is a prelude to a post on the story of sugar in Manchester.   Now sugar is something we take for granted and yet it is one of those industries with a dark and political history.  It was of course linked to the slave trade, and with cotton and tobacco made great wealth for many at the expense of those taken from their homes and families and delivered to the Americas as slaves.

It would be easy to single out the plantation owners, along with those who directed the slave trade from the cities of Bristol, Liverpool and London as well as other European cities.  But indirectly there were many more who gained from what one 1749 pamphlet described as “this inexhaustible fund of wealth.” They included the ship builders, who built the ships that carried the “African trade” the cotton merchants who traded cotton and the factory owners in whose mills it was spun and woven as well those who ran the sugar refineries.

All the more surprising then that here in Manchester there was a major campaign to abolish the trade upon which so many people profited. The radical Thomas Walker who lived at Barlow Hall had persuaded well known abolitionist Thomas Clarkson in 1787 to preach at the city’s Collegiate Church.  It was a great success, as Clarkson remarked “when I went into the church it was so full that I could scarcely get to my place; for notice had been publically given.  I was surprised, also, to find a great crowd of black people standing in the pulpit.”


The success of that Sunday sermon was followed up by a petition to Parliament which the Manchester Ant Slavery Committee had already planned.  In all over 11,000 people called for an end to the African trade.  This amounted to one fifth of the city’s population reflecting working class opposition to the slave trade and the practical campaigning skills of Walker and the others.*

Which is a good point to mention the talk by Bill Williams at the Chorlton History Group meeting tomorrow.**

Now I had not given much thought to sugar  in Manchester but some people have and so I was more than pleased to come across the site Sugar Refiners and Sugarbakers at http://www.mawer.clara.net/intro.html and a whole section given over to the location of the industry here in the city from at least 1772 http://www.mawer.clara.net/loc-manch.html 

There were according to the site plenty of business's connected with sugar dotted across the city from Chester Street and New Wakefield Street south of the Rochdale Canal and up along Lower Mosley Street and Portland Street and fanning out north to Water Street, Garstone Street and on to Corporation Street, Cannon Street and Hanging Ditch which it has to be said is pretty close to Sugar Lane.

The earliest were operating in the 18th century but most are recorded from the late 1840s and seem to be grocers who sold sugar as  just one of their products.

One was John Fielding at 27 Withy Grove who in 1793 issued a trade token which on one side carried a crest and the words  God Grant Grace and around the rim, Manchester Promissory Half Penny and on the other side Grocer & Tea Dealer Payable at J.N Fielding's.  Such token were common at the time and reflected the absence of low domination coinage.  Another from Liverpool turned up in our own parish churchyard in 1980 and was also dated 1793.

Other high class grocers who dealt in sugar were Isaac Burgon in the late 1850s and early 60s, and John William forty years later.

Picture; Sugar Lane and the Sugar Loaf Inn  m 05929 1965 W. Highham, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

*For a more detailed account of the life and political activity see my book Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Society Transformed which will be published in September.
**Manchester's Black People 1750-1926, Tuesday May 1st at Chorlton Good Neighbours, Wilbraham Road St Ninian's Church, Egerton Road South.  There will be a small charge of £2 to cover the cost of the room and refreshments.

Letter from Viareggio,..... Conversations overheard, piazzas and parks

It is Friday and the last full day here and it’s a perfect morning. The sky is all most a continuous blue and over to east the dark smudge of the mountains are framed against a pale yellow glow.


Via XX Settembre is still empty all though a few early risers have already begun to call at the bakery. From the balcony I hear their conversations. At this time in the morning the owner has time to talk to the customers. They talk of the funeral of the politician, Francesco Cossiga, the recent bad weather and the fact that she has had no delivery of bombaloni’s this morning. She speaks with the local accent which goes up and down like bird song.

Of all her customers it is the old man in his straw hat that is instantly recognizable. He usually arrives a little later and stands at the entrance. He has a loud playful voice and when he says bonjourno, it carries with a playful happiness. Like all her customers after collecting his ticket he will stand just outside the shop waiting his turn and as he waits he keeps up a constant flow of conversation.

There are two of them in the bakery and they complement each other. The younger of the two is a cheerful red faced woman who I guess is in her thirties and she jokes with the customers, sometimes following them out to finish some humorous conversation. Today this is accompanied with that classic Italian arm gesture which I suppose is the equivalent of the two fingers, but it is done with a wide beam and enormous chuckle. As you would expect from someone selling food she is always immaculately dressed in yellow headscarf and blouse, green skirt and white apron. Her companion is more sober, always polite but her face and manner is more pinched more reserved.

The bakery is ever present. The smell of the bread wafts up from the shop and when the windows are open permeates the apartment.

Behind me the fountain in the little piazza is particularly noisy, but I guess that is because it is just after 7 and there are few people and very little traffic to crowd out the sound of the water as it spouts into the air before falling back.

I am always impressed with the idea of the piazza. In the towns they are a welcome surprise and are often encountered at the end of one of those many narrow streets where the houses rise four stories and remain dark all day. You walk along these streets and then suddenly they open onto a wide space, full of light, fresh air and in most cases a fountain.


Here we have plenty of them but the real jewel in Viareggio is its park, or I should say parks for there are two both as stunning as each other. You approach them via a complex of busy streets and immediately you are hit with cool fresh air. They are quite stunning, consisting of a broad tree lined avenue that runs through the heart of the park. Along this main thoroughfare there is a countless procession of people. Most are on bikes, some on their own but many riding as family units. Often the children perch precariously on the back and some even sit in the basket at the front. If it is possible to amble on a bike that is what they do, and the purpose of the journey is notI think to have a purpose. They glide past, nodding to friends and shouting out to those who choose instead to sit on one of the many benches.

There are a number of places along the way where you can hire the bikes. They offer all sorts from the four wheeled canvas topped family affair to tandems, and more conventional bikes. There is even a range of custom made ones which sport small wheels, a long body and a low slung seat which allow the young to imagine they are Mr Zippy as they career past the more sedate riders.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Holland Road and a Chorlton we have lost forever

Even I have to admit this is not one of the more compelling pictures in the collection, and so does not shows up in any of the books, partly I suppose because there is a slightly more interesting one taken perhaps a decade earlier showing a group of lads outside the house on the right.

  “People”, as one of my old teacher’s was wont to say, “it is people that make pictures.”

 Not much hope for this one of Holland Road then. I think it must be the 20s or 30s judging from the hats of the girls to the extreme left, but I might be wrong. Otherwise what we have is one of those long rows of homes for the “middling sort” which were springing up across the township from the 1880s. These were there from 1903 and possibly are a little earlier, although I have to say not that much earlier as this was still open land in 1893. And since they were built not much has changed except we now know it as Zetland Road.

 So why bother with the picture?  Well it allows me to talk about Caleb Jordrell and his wife Ann who lived roughly just behind the lamp post in the early 19th century and rented an acre of meadow land stretching back from the picture called Caleb’s Croft.

 I am not so sure I would have liked old Caleb who was 80 years old in 1841 as he was one of the leaders who took part in Riding the Stang which was the practice of publically humiliating wrong doers. This usually involved turning up as aging late into the evening and banging anything that made a noise to draw attention to the individual. Now before you rage at such a barbaric practice, remember we were a community only lightly policed and the tradition of self policing stretched back to the Middle Ages and in different forms could still be found in Revolutionary Russia and China. Having said that it was not so popular here in the township and waned in the years before the 1840s.

 The Jordrell’s lived in a wattle and daub cottage of which there were still upwards of 50 at the turn of the mid century and baptized their children in the parish church on the green in the 1820s. Anne survived him to die in 1855. Like many of her class she seems to have been left nothing and was described as being on parish relief in 1851.

 She was by now 84 and lived with her youngest granddaughter. It was a common enough strategy for large rural families to place at least one child with relatives to ease the chronic overcrowding, and Anne’s daughter lived with her husband John Kenyon and their other four children in a cottage on High Lane.

 John Kenyon paid just 1/6d [7½p] a week which would suggest his was a modest home which more than likely consisted of just two rooms. By comparison Ann and Caleb paid nearly 4 shillings for theirs. All a long way from the grand row of houses which occupied their land just fifty or so years after Anne died.

Now as many of you know I have a tendency to slip back into the 1840s, conveniently forgetting the lack of mains sewage, antibiotics and the internet and more than a little of me wishes I could see what they had seen as they stood by their cottage at the junction of what is now Sandy Lane and Zetland.

 Put simply it would have been fields, some pasture some meadow but none the less open land allowing views north towards Martledge and the Rough Leech Gutter* and east down towards Hough End Hall.

 Only if I had looked south would the view have been obscured by an orchard hiding part of Barlow Moor Road and Lime Bank which today is itself hidden behind Carrington’s and MacDonald’s. Put like that perhaps I could have lived without the internet.

 Pictures; from the Lloyd collection and the Tithe map of 1845 by kind permission of Philip Lloyd 

*Martledge was the area around the four banks and on over what are now the long roads of Oswald, Longford, Nicholas and Newport, while the Rough Leech Gutter followed the line of Corkland Road.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Why did they do it?


Now I think I am beginning to understand something of the people who set out to rescue the homeless children off our streets in the late 19th century.

Which is not to say that I think their action was ultimately the correct solution or that in the bigger picture it proved decisive in tackling child poverty and homelessness.

But it is always refreshing to go back to basics and read about  those who found the children on the streets and alleys, set up the rescue homes and of course organised so many to cross the Atlantic to Canada thought and said.

The Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuge was one such organisation and their entire archive is here in the city, split between the Local History Library on Deansgate and Archives at Marshall Street, which is a temporary measure until Central Ref is refurbished and the two can be reunited again.
So, wanting to know more about how the British Home Child scheme worked I have resolved to dig deep into the records of the Manchester and Salford  Boys’ and Girls’ Refuge who from 1872 were themselves engaged in sending children to Canada.

But as we all know first you need an overview and for me that has come in the form of a book on the work of the Refuge written in 1921 by William Edmondson, Late Secretary of the Institution.*

It is not an easy read and I have to confess I have only reached the second chapter, although I did skip ahead to look at Chapter IV Child Emigration.  The text is shot through with religious references and argues that “work for homeless children ..... Is almost without exception begun under the impulse of a religious motive.”

But it also gives a harrowing picture of the children themselves which none of those photographs that were published can convey. 
“Barefoot, capless wet and cold, the wet feet making a mark on the floor, hair rough and matted he comes forward........ As he comes nearer we find his trousers supported by a bit of string, and opening the wet jacket we find neither waistcoat nor shirt but a shivering little body, vermin –bitten and smelling of accumulated filth.”
It is a vision that must have been repeated in all our cities, towns and even villages and goes a long way to understanding why these charities were set up.  It also takes us to that age old debate about individual action or political campaigning.

Who could not want to help that child, “saving one soul is enough” but in doing so it perpetuates the system.  You may rescue one but what of the others who were left behind?  So it becomes an argument about replacing an economic system or at the very least putting in place a set of policies which will help all the dispossessed.  Meanwhile a generation of children is left to rot.

So no easy answers there then.  And there is the vexed debate on the rights and wrongs of sending the children to Canada.  Are we dealing with a sincere belief that the open land of a young country would be the making of these children?  Go West and seek your destiny?  Or a cynical cost cutting exercise which emptied our cities of problem children and on the way helped seed a colony for Empire?  Or as I suspect a mix of all these, coupled with a failure on the part of the organisers to vet and check on how these children were treated on the farms and in the homes of their adopted country.

Of course the apologists will have us believe that at best the distances were too great to properly supervise each placement and that the infrastructure was not there and at worst the organisers were just too naive.

Now I already have a sense of what I think, but this is too important to allow my own prejudices to take over.  And so I am going to spend what I suspect will be months looking at the minutes of the meetings, following up on the individuals who took the decisions, seeking permission to read the files of the children and putting all that in the context of the period and set against those who at the time opposed BHC.  And finally with the help of my Canadian friends and colleagues balance all of that with the stories of the children themselves, happy and sad, good and bad.

It might very well prove to be an exercise which echoes old Lear’s lines about being bound upon a wheel of fire that mine own tears do scald like molten lead.  Easy enough to crawl over the evidence perhaps more difficult to decide what it all means and how I can square it with the story of my own great uncle who went across in 1914  with Middlemore, paid for by the Derby Guardians in an attempt to straighten out a wayward lad from a broken home.

And because history is messy who knows what conclusions can be drawn from what I uncover?

Pictures; Courtesy of the Together Trust

*Making Rough Places Plain, Fifty Years of the Work of The Manchester and Salford Boys’ & Girls’ Refuges and Homes 1870-1920, Sherratt & Hughes, Manchester 1921

Friday, 27 April 2012

Our power cut

We had a power cut yesterday. It didn’t last long, just the time it took for me to go out looking for candles in parts of Chorlton where the lights still blazed and cash tills worked.

The family thought that I was being over dramatic, and reminded me how in the weeks before the millennium bug was supposed to have hit I bought in candles, bottles of water and tinned stuff as well as doubling the coal order.

And despite the regular jokes in the family about my stockpiling of a decade and a bit ago I reasoned then and still do that I had a duty of care to the lads who were still quite young and if the gas stopped flowing and the water was interrupted then at least we would have the essentials for the few days it took to sort it out.

Now candles are one of those things we do usually have but we carried on using them in the weeks after Christmas and as a result I chose to walk the streets in search of some. All of which you can guess got me thinking.

I am perhaps the last generation who actually thinks that candles are an important household requirement not just because they can be romantic but because my father always maintained a stock. He had been born in1908 and never shook off that more practical approach to technology. So he bought in the candles, just in case, and lit those small hurricane lamps which he left in the loft and cellar in extreme cold weather to keep the temperature above freezing and so prevent frozen water pipes.

 It was just what you did. Now this is not going to turn into a survivalist rant or a cosy story of grandma under the stairs during the blitz, nor for that matter a description of a midnight walk along the Row* in the early 19th century guided only by the stars. Although I have to say that when the photograph of the village was taken electricity for many in the township was still not a reality.

Instead I just thought I would reflect on how odd it was when the power went. It was as some said on facebook suddenly very quiet, No TV, or radio and not one downloaded streamed past programme on a lap top anywhere in the house. Moreover with the landline phone charging or not in this case the only form of communication was the mobile and knocking on next door to see if they still had electricity. There was for a few minutes that odd sense of being totally cut off.

Now not so long ago we would have had a radio with batteries but who bothers with them now? “Find an electricity bill and phone the gas board” was the helpful suggestion of my partner, which would have been fine had we not gone on to a paperless bill, which to access meant using the internet. In the end I used the old fashioned and expensive way of going through directory enquiries and phoning our provider, only to be told it was matter for Norweb.

I am old enough to remember the three day week when power was rationed and each part of the city took it in turn to sit in the dark for a few hours. But then I was a student and it was all a bit of a lark and you planned your pub visit by where there would be electricity.

I can’t say that appealed last night. So there we were faced with the prospect of all sitting in a darkened room huddled around the open fire and forced to spend an evening together, which is not an event that usually happens in our house or I suspect in most. Monopoly, Cluedo or perhaps a selection of ghost stories? It was an odd prospect.

Of course this is not to trivialise those real crisis moments we see on the telly where families due to a natural disaster or war are holed up in their home for days with little in the way of supplies. And our powerless moment lasted but a short time.

 Soon after I returned from the shops and as I was talking to our provider the power returned and with it, heat to the oven, sound on the wireless, and pictures to the telly as well as international links via the laptops. Armageddon and the prospect of an evening with the family were averted.

Still, I must go and replace the candle stock.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection and you can read about the photograph in the post at http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/chorlton-in-snow-postcard-from.html

*The Row or Chorlton Row to give its full name was what Beech Road was called.

What could you have bought on the Row in 1850?


Now I have mixed feelings about supermarkets. Historically they were an important development in the way we shop and the food that is available to us. But of course the impact of huge out of town outlets on local communities, and the demise of the independents raise big questions.

All of which made me reflect on the retail experiences that were available here in the township during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1850 there were just a handful of shops, most in or near the village. But fifty years later almost all the buildings from Wilton down to the green were in place. In 1911 of these 23 shops, 13 were engaged in selling food. And there were more around the green and lots more just the short walk up to and along Barlow Moor Road.

Now in an age before refrigerators this shouldn’t surprise us. People shopped daily because they had to, and if they didn’t make the journey themselves then a servant would or equally likely the shop delivered. Look at any old photograph of Chorlton and somewhere on the road there will be one or more delivery vans, pulled by horses.

Now it is an interesting thought and a challenging one that just possibly this was not such a good thing. Read any account of food outlets in the 19th century and it is to be confronted by stories of adulterated food, tainted meat and underweight produce. The weights and measures man may have been a dreaded figure but if shop keepers could get away with selling their food after it’s sell by date and underweight then some at least would. Nor I think should we mourn the passing of the loose biscuit or of the meat hung out in the open. Surveys done in the mid 19th century pointed to the fact that rural shops were more expensive than their urban counterparts.

It was for all these very reasons that the co-operative movement was started and took such a strong hold in working class areas, and even before the Rochdale Pioneers were setting out their stall the Chartists had set up a co-operative shop in Hulme and other experiments had been floated around the country, something I wrote about yesterday http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/chorlton-chartist-co-operative-ventures.html.


And it is easy to be seduced by the image of the rural shop. Many here in the township had a short life in the years before 1850. Some I guess were short term expedients to supplement the family income and were terminated when other more gainful means of making money became available. You read of someone who one year described himself as a farmer and another as beer seller before reverting to the land. Others like the Brundrett’s up by Lane End where High Lane and what is now Sandy Lane meet were well established as was the Whittaker family who were selling groceries from the bottom of Beech Road from the mid 19th century and were still there a hundred years later. But even the Brundrett’s grocery store appears to have had a break in trading at one point.

Nor is it necessarily the case that all our food shops sourced locally. Much of the food grown here was produced by market gardeners whose markets were in Manchester and they made the 4½ mile journey almost daily, either delivering the food to Stretford where it was taken by water along the Duke’s Canal or increasingly by wagon.

And it was intensive farming. The diversity of the produce was important where cash crops followed the seasons and were geared to the needs of nearby Manchester. It was reckoned that farmers who sowed the white Lisbon onions in autumn to send to the Manchester markets in spring would have the land cleared in sufficient time to plant potatoes and other vegetables. Many would also have a second crop of onions which would be ready in the summer and might earn £150 per acre.

Moreover farmers like the Higginbotham’s on the green were more likely to sell their surplus milk and dairy products direct rather than to a shop.

So there are still questions to ask about our shops before 1900 and even about the service they delivered in the century that followed. I can remember our own little grocery store which offered one basic cheese, ham that had long ago left the land for some abattoir in the more dingy outskirts of the city and a range of red sugary stuff which the jar described as jam.

As ever history is messy.

Pictures; from the collection of Rita Bishop

This story first appeared in the April edition of the Community Index www.communityindex.co.uk

Jazz in the Square


Saint Anne's Square
Summer 2003
Picture from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The History Trail ....... Coming soon a new exhibition about Chorlton

Now we enjoyed putting on the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON exhibition during the Big Green Festival and have decided to repeat it at Chorlton Library from May 10th till the end of the month during Chorlton Arts Festival. 

It will be the same mix as before with something of the story of Chorlton from the early 19th century to today and a collection of paintings of Beech Road by local artist Peter Topping. Our collaboration has worked well. He paints the pictures and I write the stories.

So arising out of that venture, we have decided to stage a new event which tells the story of Chorlton from rural community to Manchester suburb in sharp little episodes in venues across the township during the Arts Festival.

Which means you can take in just one or two at selected venues or follow the history trail and as each venue is a pub, bar, restaurant or cafe the mix of history and art should go down just nicely.

 Each stage of the journey has been chosen because it is has something to say about our history, and so not only will there be a painting by Peter and some history from me, but a little story unique to the venue.

 And we will start with the Horse and Jockey, that pub on the green. The interested and the dedicated can then call in at other places in old Chorlton including Beech Road before heading off to new Chorlton and the Four Banks.

 Of course you don’t have to do them all but we think that will be the best way of taking in a bit more of the history of Chorlton during our own Arts Festival. Peter’s work is on display around Chorlton and can also be seen at https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures While my book  Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Society Transformed will be published in September http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20for%20Chorlton

And if all that was not enough we will be back in the Horse and Jockey on Sunday May 20th with more paintings and stories to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the building which is now the pub.

 Picture; ©Peter Topping 2011 www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

The Creamery on Wilbraham Road


It’s not the best picture I have to admit but it tells a story. Before the widespread use of refrigerators most people bought their diary produce fairly frequently. If you were lucky enough to live near a farm which had its own creamery then you bought your milk, butter and cheese from them. And there are still people who remember being sent to Riley’s at Ivy Green Farm on Beech Road to buy milk.

The old farmhouse on the green which had been in the hands of the Higginbotham family from the 1840s still has its creamery which faces north as it should do to ensure it is the coldest part of the cottage.

But away from the green and as the area north of the old village was developed in the last decades of the 19th century there were creameries on Barlow Moor Road and here on Wilbraham Road. Walter who used to live on Acres Road once told me that he had begun work as a boy of 14 at a creamery on Railway Terrace at the junction of Buckingham and Manchester Roads.

Now there is a lot more work to do to date the Creamery in the picture. It was established sometime after 1911 but as yet I can’t give a definite date. Out of curiosity I asked the present users of the shop if there was anything left of the old creamery but sadly there was nothing. Still I always travel in hope and I guess someone will be able to help with a story of the place. In the meantime it will have to be down to trawling the street and trade directories.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Skating on the meadows


I was saving this picture for another winter, but perhaps as April moves into May and we begin to get a few more warmer days it will remind us of the winter, which I do like.

The caption says “skating on the meadows circa 1920s, the old Sewage Farm can be seen in the background.”  The picture belonged to D. Rendell who provided a number of pictures for the Lloyd collection.
Now in some books it is referred to as Higginbotham’s field and the family had been rented land here on this spot from the mid 1840s.

What we now call the meadows was a vast stretch of land from the edge of the village on either side of the brook up to the Mersey, and some was farmed as real meadow land which involved regularly flooding it and managing the water flow to ensure that the grass grew up earlier than the surrounding pasture land.  And this may be the origin of the well known belief that old farmer Higginbotham deliberatly flooded the field for skating.  Now this is unlikely as the expert advice was that to prevent damage to the grass the water should be drained off before the frost.  Now this warning  comes from my old friend Henry Stephens whose book on farming was written in the 1840s and which helped me  unlock so much about how we farmed the township in the mid 19th century.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

A Chorlton Chartist, co-operative ventures and a wish which almost came true


Finding a Chorlton Chartist is not an obsession, although I do have to admit it does flirt into my mind quite regularly.

During the late 1830s into the 50s the Chartists campaigned for an extension of the vote to working men alongside a raft of other issues which were about improving the conditions of the working class.  Now friends smile and point out that a rural community like Chorlton was both isolated and unlikely to entertain radical politics.  To which I have to reply why not?

We were only 4 miles away from Manchester, many of our people would have visited the city and certainly many more would have come into the township in the course of the year.  The French Revolution and the periodic “hard times” had stirred the pot and I just cannot see how the radical ideas for a better society would not have been known and debated here.

After all there is no special reason why rural communities can not challenge the establishment.  The Tolpuddle Martyrs who were transported for being in a trade union were farm labourers, the Swing Riots in the south and west were about agricultural workers protesting at new methods of farming and alongside our farming families there had been  handloom weavers who themselves became more radicalized during the early years of the 19th century.

So it is possible even if we don’t as yet have the evidence.

And I was reminded of this when I read my friend Lawrence’s recent post on his blog, Hardy Lane Scrapbook Now there were plenty of people attempting to follow the Rochdale Pioneers and set up local co-operative societies which aimed to offer good quality food and goods at a decent price with the added benefit of a loyalty dividend from the profits to be shared out amongst the members.  , The Manchester and Salford Co-op was founded on Christmas Day 1858 and Lawrence in his post, Origin of M&S goes a little way to disentangle the myth from the reality.*

Nor were the Rochdale Pioneers the first to attempt “co-operation” but what I suppose marks them out is that they succeeded where the others for a variety of reasons failed.
And one of those groups which did not make it long past their brave start was the Hume and Chorlton Joint Stock Provision Company founded in the October of 1840 with one shop on Clarendon Street Chorlton on Medlock.

The Chartist paper the Northern Star covered their launch and early expansion in 1840 and for me it sums up exactly what these early co-operators wanted to do.

“Hulme And Chorlton. – At a meeting of the Committee of management of the Hulme and Chorlton Joint Stock Provision Company, October 22nd it was unanimously resolved, in consequence of the increase in business, and for accommodation of shareholders and other, that we open another shop in the township of Hulme.  The above resolution has been carried into effect, and we have opened a shop at 10 Melbourne-street, Bradshaw-street, Hulme.  We are determined to make the shopkeepers of the above township sell their bread at the same price we have made them in Chorlton, that is, the 4lb. Loaf for 7d.  On opening our shop in Hulme, several customers, on calling for a 4lb. Loaf, tendered 8d. For it; and when the shopman returned them one penny they seemed surprised.  This shews that the working classes are not alive to their own interest, or else they would have known the advantage of co-operation.  If they will only pay us a visit, we will assure them they will lose nothing by it; but on the contrary, gain.  We likewise call on all Corn Law repealers to visit our shops, and we will give them what they have been fighting for a long time-namely, cheap bread.  Working men, come forward and assist us in keeping down the profitmongers.  Shares, 5s each may be paid in instalments of 6d per week.  The Committee meet every Thursday evening, at eight o’clock, at their rooms, over the shop, No 26, Clarendon Street, Chorlton.” The Northern Star November 7 1840

Sadly it seems they fell by the wayside.  A trawl of the directories for 1841 and 1850 show no listings for the Hulme and Chorlton Joint Stock Provision Company, and they are not mentioned again in the Northern Star for 1840.

It may be that like many of these early societies they lacked sufficient resources.  Certainly the price of their shares at 5s [25p] was far less than the Rochdale Pioneers who just four years later set their shares at £1.  And the 1840s were a hard time.

Now I have every expectation that more will come out about this co-operative venture in Hulme and Chorlton on Medlock.  It maybe that later editions of the Northern Star for the years from 1841 onwards will have something on them and locked away in the Working Class Library in Salford there may be a manifesto, a set of accounts or even a contemporary description.

And in just the same way I travel in hope that there will be a reference to my Chorlton Chartist.  After all just as I was concluding the chapter on the murder of Francis Deacon I came across a link to the Chartists.  Francis had been murdered in a local beer house by George Leech, the husband of the woman who ran it.

The papers at the time carried the lurid details of the murder and the degree to which George had a drink problem and regularly deserted his wife, but one of them in an almost throw away comment described how he had been involved in industrial action as a railwayman in 1847 and stood trial for conspiracy.

This was a time of heightened social and industrial unrest.  The second great Chartist petition had been rejected by Parliament just five years before and had been followed by a general strike commonly called the Plug Riots and in the year after the murder of Francis Deakin  another petition would also be ignored.

Leech was tried with others some of whom were Chartists and the trial popularly referred to by the Northern Star as the “monster indictment“ has the flavour of a show trial. But he was acquitted “as nothing more was proved than “picquetting.”

Now I would have preferred someone a little more heroic as my link to Chartism but history is messy and you don’t always get what you hope for.  And there might even be more to George than the murder and the drunken stories, so we shall see.

Picture’s The Great Chartist Meeting on Kennington Common, April 10, 1848, photograph taken by William Kilburn, from the Wikipedia site  & the Parish Church as it would have looked during the 1840s from the collection of Tony Walker

*http://hardylane.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/origins-of-m.html

Coming soon more at the Chorlton History Group

The Chorlton History Group is now well established and here are the next few meetings.

Tues May 1st, 1.30-3pm

Bill Williams “Black History in Manchester”
To be held at Chorlton Good Neighbours, St Ninians Church, Egerton Road South

Thurs June 5th, 1.30-3pm
Note this is a Thursday as Tues 5th is a Bank Holiday


“Yuri Gagarin come to Chorlton”
Talk about the visit of the first Manchester in space to Manchester & the campaign to bring Gagarin’s statue to Manchester.
Gurbir Singh

Wed June 13th 7pm
Not a meeting, but a walk

Andy Simpson to lead a historical walk & talk on Beech Road
Jointly organised with South Manchester Cooperative Members Group


Tues July 3rd, 1.30pm-3pm (provisional)


Friends of Longford Park:
“History of Longford Park”

This year is the centenary of Longford Park & Hall

Tues Sep 4th, 1.30-3pm
“Still leaning on a lamppost” the life and times of Mr George Formby
Brian Hallworth

Picture; from the collection of Bernard Leach

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Summer Cottages, the hidden homes behind Beech Road


I was talking to my old friend Ida about Summer Cottages. They were probably the last one up one down cottages in Chorlton and were only demolished in the early 70s. They stood just off Beech Road behind what was J.Johnny’s.

And in the November of 1958 they were photographed by R.E. Stanley who added the caption, "Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 2 cottages behind No. 115 Beech Road, known as Summer Cottages 1 and 2, At the end of a narrow passage about 30 yards, small yard and garden in front of cottages, very confined, no room to take picture further back".

Which I suppose makes them what we call court dwellings. These could be found in the heart of cities like Manchester and consisted of a few houses around an open court. The courts were often dark dismal unsanitary places reached down mean ginnels which in some cases were no wider than an arm’s length. Locked away and hidden from the attention of casual passersby they were small island communities. The open space in front of the houses would contain the privies and perhaps a water pump.

Summer Cottages were to be fair a little different. The courtyard seems to have been bigger and according to one record included a grassed area and garden. Opposite the two cottages was a pump and water trough and there was a view across the court on to Beech Road.

But there is no disguising that these were cramped places. In 1911 the Richardson’s were living with their four young children at number one while a decade earlier the widow Isabella Gresty was living with her daughter and grandson at number two. And the occupations of the residents ranged from charwoman and cowman to labourer.

Now there are those who bemoan the demolition of such places, but I doubt that these could have been saved and modernised. Such properties had brick or tile floors which rested on the bare earth and were often just wearing out. The slightly larger houses off Sandy Lane had according to the report accompanying the Compulsory Purchase Order in 1972 damp walls with perished bricks and plaster, sagging roofs, broken window sills and chimneys which were leaning or bulging.

In a way it surprises me that Summer Cottages survived into the second half of the 20th century with people living in them. Ken Allan who ran the second hand furniture shop which is now Hurricane grew up in one and his mother was still there in 1961 and both cottages were still inhabited as late as 1969.

The City Council had identified 65,000 houses in what they called Clearance Areas in 1951, but the priorities were to be places like Hulme so ours waited another 20 years before they came down.
And today few I suspect even know that they ever existed.

Picture; Summer Cottages, R E Stanley November 1958 m17666, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Monday, 23 April 2012

Looking through a window, fragments of glass from the old church


The old church was demolished in 1949 and there are few who now remember this as a place of worship. True there are plenty of photographs of the outside and a few of the interior but I have just a handful of descriptions collected over the years of what it was like to be in the church.

It is therefore so exciting to look at some of the fragments of window glass collection during the archaeological dig of 1979.

Picture; from the report on the dig by Angus Batemen

On campaigning at election time in April




It went almost as quickly as it came but for a short twenty minutes last week’s hail storm was pretty dramatic and left the Rec and the surrounding gardens covered in ice.

And it got me thinking again about how unpredictable April can be and its impact on those who work outside.  I have already reflected on the joys of working on the land which would have been the lot of many of residents in the early to mid 19th century. http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/turning-out-to-tend-land-in-april-of.html

And as I sit here gazing out on  the fruit trees and vine on another cold and wet morning I am reminded of the years I walked the streets delivering leaflets and canvassing the voting intentions of people. I started early at the age of 16 in 1966 and carried on through the 1970s into the mid 90s.

It can be a daunting task at this time of year, when the cold, rain and sometimes sleet turn the leaflets into sodden sheets and your fingers find it hard to record anything on the canvas card.  My own worst moment came after a particularly vicious fall of driving sleet. It was just beginning to darken and then was no one on the quiet road and as I pushed the card through the door, it slowly came back at me, and for just one moment I had a feeling that there was someone else on the other side in what I had taken to be an empty house directing it back.  Of course it was nothing more than the letterbox which had some sort of draught excluder which trapped the card and sent it effortlessly and silently back.  But in the darkening evening with no one else around it provided me with one of those “moments.”

Now I worked at a time when the main parties had adopted the Mikardo or Reading Pad system pioneered by Ian Mikardo, which consisted of lists of electors stuck by hand onto canvassing cards which allowed you to record their voting intentions.  The “promises” were then written up by had on to self carbonised sheets with as many as four pages and on the day of the election as your people voted their names were crossed off and in the evening you visited just those who had yet to vote. The system relied on part workers sitting patiently outside the voting stations asking for either the poll card or voter number which was then ferried back to the headquarters where the names could be eliminated.

It was a wonderfully simple and yet efficient way of identifying your support and trying to get them out on the day.  Of course it relied on the accuracy of the canvass but it worked and it had the extra bonus of allowing supporters who couldn’t walk the streets to make a contribution by either cutting and sticking the list of electors on to the cards or writing up the reading pads. And I can remember the big progress sheets which listed each road and the number of promised voters.

Nothing quite matched the excitement of the committee rooms on the day as the returns from the polling stations arrived and the on gong tally of voters was analysed and decisions of when to go knocking up those who had yet to vote were debated.  I remember creating small teams of two or three workers with a driver and car who during the evenings took charge of a collection of roads, and got stuck in visiting the houses ferrying voters to the stations and enjoying a gentle bit of competition with other teams to see who was getting the most out.

Now I had also worked the older system where groups of workers descended on a street and in a flurry knocked on doors announcing their presence, expressing their wish that the resident would vote for the Party and moving on.  In small terraced streets it had quite an impact but lasted just as long as the canvassers were on the door step.

And I was there just as the computer and the telephone began to change things.  But it still falls on the faithful to pound the streets in the cold and rain of an April evening.  That bit hasn’t changed.

Pictures; from the campaign to elect George Morton, 1978, the Lloyd collection

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The first church by the green


There are many copies of this picture of the old chapel built in 1512 and demolished to make way for the new church in 1800.

 During the archaeological dig carried out by Angus Bateman in the late 1970s and early 80s a few fragments of this building were uncovered.

Another picture to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the church on the green.

Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker, original from Booker John, A History of the Chapels of Didsbury & Chorlton, 1857

Friday, 20 April 2012

Childhood memories

Being one of the baby boomers has its ups and downs. On the down side is the fact that we take a lot of stick for having reached retirement and still seem to have years left to enjoy it but of course the truth is there are fewer years ahead of us than behind. But we missed two world wars, worked during a period of relative full employment and unlike my children had access to full and free education after the age of 18. But for me it was also about growing up in the 1950s.


True, there were few of the electronic toys available to us. Television when it finally came was black and white, interactive multi tasking games extended only to Monopoly and pretending we were Dan Dare in the local park with liked minded friends, but there was a freedom allowed to us to explore and the Tower of London, free on a Saturday to children remained a magical place which always called me back.

And when I was with my grandparents  I was regularly taken to the cattle market and even have a picture of myself astride a stuffed cow. Then there was the old footbridge which according to my grandfather was blocked off and in danger of collapse. To this day I have always wanted to walk on it just once but like so much of the Derby I knew it has gone. As has Hope Street which is now a car park a fate which seems to have befallen many of the small streets around about which I knew as a child and were home to my extended family back as far as the 1860s.

But a child’s memories are all over the place and things remembered come in small doses like the early morning bus we took once from Chellaston back into the heart of Derby. Grandfather smoked and so we sat upstairs where the air was blue and the men sat on those long bench seats which seemed odd given that across the aisle there was just a row of single seats. This was the 1950s, when it seemed all men and many women smoked and it was still possible to meet your football hero on the top deck of the local bus heading to the same match as you with a cigarette in his hand.

It was the trolley bus from town to Shelton Lock in the early 60s that I remember most. Now I didn’t travel well on a trolley bus. I don’t know what it was. The sleek green and cream machine glided along almost silently but it was always touch and go whether I would make it. Perhaps it was that distinctive smell, a mixture of leather and disinfectant which with the warmth of the inside made me feel ill. So nothing seemed better than when we reached the terminus. I almost didn’t mind the long walk up Derby Road to number 170 where my grandparents had relocated in the late 50s. Grandmother with her string bag and me with something I had managed to persuade her to buy me.

Shelton Lock is still there as is what I take to be the terminus and the long ribbon sprawl of houses up the slight incline towards the village.

They say you should never go back and there is something in that. When we drove down from Manchester, we missed 170 at first and almost passed Shelton Lock. When we did finally find the house it was on the point of demolition, its long garden much overgrown and much smaller than I remembered but still with the old stables at the back. The fields beyond which they had bought with the house were now an estate. But on that warm July day I could still smell the lingering scent of the long grass of the fields and be back again aged ten with wide open countryside ahead of me and nothing else to worry about for three hours.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Turning out to tend the land in the April of 1845


We woke to rain this morning.  Now the house stirs early and some of the kids are up and running by 6 to be out to catch their buses for work just after 7.  I too am up by 6 making the first espresso of the day.

And it is one of those typical April mornings.  The leaves on the trees are almost all out, our cherry trees have blossom and there is something serious going on with the vine and hop plants.  All of which is fine and should promise a bright sunny morning but it is raining and as I carry out the ash from last night’s fires I notice just how cold it can still be at this time of the year.

Which got me thinking of the joys of working the land here in Chorlton just over 170 years ago when we were still a rural community.  Back then 96 of the 119 families derived their livelihood from farming while another 16 who were traders and craftsmen were also directly dependant on how the crops fared.

Henry Stephens in his book The History of the Farm first published in the 1844 wrote that “spring is a busy season on the farm.  The cattle-man, besides continuing his attendance on fattening cattle, has now the delicate task of waiting on the cows at calving, and providing comfortable lairs for new dropped cows.  The diary-maid commences her labours in rearing calves, [and] the farrow pigs now claim a share in her solitude.  The condition of the fields demands attention as well as the reproduction of the stock. The day now affords as many hours for labour as are usually bestowed at any season in the field.  The ploughman, therefore, know no rest for at least twelve hours every day, from the time the harrowers are yoked for the oat-seed until the potato and turnip crops are sown..... The field workers devote their busy hours to carrying seed to the sower, turning dunghills in preparing manure for the potato and turnip crops, and continuing the barn work to supply litter for the stock yet confided in the steading, and to prepare the seed corn for the fields.  The hedger now resumes his work of water-tabling and scouring ditches, cutting down and breasting old hedges, and taking care to release the hedge bank which he planted at the commencement and during fresh weather in winter.”*

Now we live opposite the Rec and in 1841 it was still farmed in strips by different farmers.  Close to what is now Cross Road the Higginbothams’ rented a strip and next to him the land was rented by the Bailey family who lived just down from us in what at one time was known as Ivy Farm.

This plot of land was known as Row Acre reflecting its location on the Row which was the traditional name for Beech Road.  It was mainly arable land and like many of our farmers the Bailey’s were market gardeners who grew crops for the Manchester markets.  They rented 7 acres of which most was on Row Acre although they did also have part of Summer Acre which was meadow land running from what is now Sandy Lane to Corkland Road.  This was intensive farming and they would expect to get several crops from the ground during the year.

Well the day has not got better.  There was a moment round about 10 when a small patch of blue opened up in the otherwise seamless grey of the sky and the sun shone, but it did not last.  Despite the vivid green leaves on the trees, the Rec looks pretty forbidding and I have more than a little sympathy for William Bailey and James Higginbotham as they tended their plots of land beside the Row in the April of 1845.

Pictures, from the Lloyd collection and the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Stephens, Henry, The Book of the Farm, 1844, page 343
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Books%20and%20reviews

 An occasional series reflecting on the farming year here in the township in the middle years of the 19th century, and linked to my book Chorlton-cum-Hardy, A Society Transfomed, to be published in September. http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20for%20Chorlton

When was this?

We are at the southern end of the township and I want you to suggest a date. Nothing fancy just the decade with your explanation for the date you have gone for. Of course there is no prize, just the satisfaction of showing off your local and historical knowledge.


Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Manchester & British Home Children a research project


I doubt that many people would give the picture much of a second glance. Here is a collection of boys in uniform staring back at the camera with a handful of adults wearing those silly tall shiny hats.

And I suppose most of us would think we had stumbled on a band of apprentice musicians sometime in the 1870s. But the clue is the banner. For these are no ordinary group of children, nor is the building just a backyard.

Here just three years after it had been established was the Central Refuge and Workshops of the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges and Homes providing shelter for boys and girls living on the streets. The first home had been at 16 Quay Street, Deansgate, and contained twelve hammocks giving homeless boys a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning before having to fend for themselves during the day. It had opened on January 4th 1870 and closed a year later when the central headquarters was established in Strangeways in the autumn of 1871 on Francis Street where boys received shelter and education and were assigned a form of work most suitable to their abilities.*


And in the following year the first group were sent to the Marchmont Home, Belleville in Ontario, Canada which acted as a receiving home for children pending arrangements with the local farmers to take them into their families and provide work.
It is one of those odd quirks of research that in wanting to find out more about my great uncle who was sent to Canada in 1914 as a British Home Child from Derby I should stumble across a major link with my adopted city.

So now I am locked into a new area of research, for many of the documents from the period relating to the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges and Homes are still here in the care of the Archives and Local History Library in the city and with the help and permission of Liz Sykes, Records, Archives & Information Officer of the Together Trust I hope to trawl the history of the organisation and in the process learn more about a scheme which took 100,000 children to Canada.

Pictures; Boys Refuge, Old Refuge Yard, Francis Street 1873, Courtesy of the Together Trust and Maple Leaf emblem by kind permission of Lori Oschefski

*taken from the briefing notes of the Together Trust http://www.togethertrust.org.uk/uploads/assets/files/How%20we%20help/Manchester-Salford-Boys-Girls-Homes-1870-1920.pdf

Monday, 16 April 2012

Chicken bryani in the Plaza on Upper Brook Street on Saturdays in the 70s

For those who were born around the mid 20th century who queued to see the film Spartacus, remembered with profound sadness the death of Ottis Reading and raged at the Vietnam War it is more than likely that if you were in Manchester during the late 60s into the 80s you will have eaten at the Plaza on Upper Brook Street.

I had almost forgotten my beery nights out which always seemed to end at the Plaza until a post about breakfast on my friend’s Lois’s blog brought it all back.*

I have yet to meet anyone who ate there who does not have fond memories of the place, and has their own story. Mine are many.

 I remember the night of the Milk Snatcher’s Ball at UMIST** when we fell into the cafe with our baby doll nightdresses which we had borrowed from two flatmates securely hidden under our jeans and tee shirt or the night of the vivid conversation between a man with a broken hand and his girl friend about the relative merits of an A &E unit in down town Berlin.

I am sure there were many things on the menu but I can only ever remember eating the chicken or meat bryani, half of which cost 3’6d in 1970 and was more than enough for two.

The chicken arrived on a pile of yellow rice and raw onion with a small pot of the curry sauce and after vast quantities of cheap student union beer it went down well.

Now our friend Mike had never taken to curry and so at 3 in the morning on Upper Brook Street he would ask for a roast dinner which he got, with everything including the roast potatoes, chicken, gravy and just possibly Yorkshire puddings too. It was as my friend Lois said that "everything was possible at the Plaza."

Sometime around 1972 I stopped going. I suppose it was a mix of things really. My girlfriend of the time wasn’t over keen and by the end of that year we were living off Grey Mare Lane and soon after that out in Ashton, which meant that Upper Brook Street was a serious trek.

I suspect we were also playing at being grown up and grownups eat sensibly at places like the Bella Napoli off Albert Square and on Sundays in China Town. Looking back it was my loss.

And then it had gone. When exactly I don’t know, although I have friends who still went there in the early 80s for Sunday dinner.

Now I know that with age comes a rosy nostalgia about the past, and no doubt my sons can talk of their own food dives and late night experiences but for my generation the Plaza was special, even if it was hard to remember much of the night the following day.

Picture by kh1234567890 posted on flicker photostream

*http://loiselsden.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/breakfast/

**My friend Marc always referred to it as the Tech but he went there while I and my friends Jack, Greevz, Mike, Lois and John slummed it across the road at the Poly which we always called the College of Commerce which had been its pre amalgamation name. There were other things we called it of which the College of Knowledge was one, but mercifully never Colcom which really put you out with the nerds in the dustbins.

The lost village chip shop


Another one of those photographs of a Chorlton which has only just disappeared. There will be many who bought their fish and chips from here and a lot more who ate them in the little room to the right of the entrance.

There has been a fish and chip shop on Beech Road where the present Beech Road Chippy stands since the first decade of the last century and there were others along the road down to the green.

Picture; circa 1980 from the collection of Tony Walker

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Blogs, scholarship and learning something new everyday


It was my old friend Joe Callaghan who on one of our senior citizen away day adventures told me that he likes to learn something new each day.
It is an idea I like, although sadly it has never stretched to working out the correct cycles on the washing machine. But on this I travel in hope.

And I was reminded of this when I revisited the blog site, Friends of Chorlton Meadows, http://friendsofchorltonmeadows.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/History Over the last few weeks David Bishop has been writing about our own 19th century botanists. Now I had been drawn to them when he introduced me to Richard Buxton who has appeared in the blog, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Richard%20Buxton Buxton was one of those remarkable working class people who despite living in poverty and being self taught went on to compile a comprehensive book on the botany of the countryside around Manchester. Nor was he alone and David’s posts are a good introduction to these men who tramped the fields and lanes of south Manchester 180 years ago.

In turn this led me to reflect on how local historians make a real contribution to our knowledge of the past. By and large we are not professionals and do not make a living from the trade. For most of us it is an interest, but as fellow local historian Ian Meadowcroft often remarks what we turn up can be the bedrock of scholarship.

All of which takes me back not only to my book which tells the story of mid 19th century rural Chorlton but to the work of people like David and the botanists. Both of us have been beavering away at discovering and passing on knowledge of the past much of which has been either forgotten or neglected.

And dear reader it leads me on to tell you about the minutes of the Poor Law and Ratepayers meetings which were held regularly in the old school house on the green during the 19th century. I came across the minute book which covers the years 1838 through to the late 50s a few years back.

Here were descriptions of discussions on the rate to set for the year, of nominations and elections for the various official posts in the township as well as some of the scandals that rocked our village in the mid century. Along the way there were the familiar names of farmers and others who made the system of local government work.


It is a wonderful insight into how a rural community ran its affairs and as such tells us so much about our people and their lives. But I have to also confess that setting that aside there was the sheer excitement of holding the book After all I suppose apart from Edward Smith who wrote the minutes I was one of perhaps just a handful of people to sit and touch and turn those pages. Pretty neat I reckon.

And that is what most of us try to do. We crawl over the forgotten bits bring them out for a breath of fresh air and post them for others to see and in the process learn something new, add to the scholarship and pass it on by blog or web site.

Pictures;from the Lloyd collection, and Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Another of those paintings by Peter and a story by me


It is the 500th anniversary of the building that is now the Horse and Jockey and I rather think Peter’s painting shows it off very well. What is more it allows you to see the complete layout including the two buildings on either side of the pub.

The building which is now the Horse and Jockey was already old when Henry V111 fell in love with Anne Boleyn but until relatively recently the pub was confined to just the rooms either side of the entrance. The other two houses served over the centuries as homes and shops. But during the last few months I have been drawn to the two buildings which flank the pub. Both were there beside the older property by 1841 and I guess may date back before then.

Sadly I doubt that any legal documents on either will take me back much before the beginning of the last century. The house to the left on the west side has however many stories and in its time was home to the Molloy family who ran a plumber’s business and brought up four children in its three rooms and later was a sweet shop. Some of those stories have already appeared in the blog and in the way these things unravel more will come to light.
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/putting-pieces-together-story-of-james.html
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/miss-wiltons-private-garden-story-of.html
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/stories-behind-picture-chorlton-green.html

The houses which make up the unit on the corner of the green are later than the rest and before they were built the land was the bowling green of the Horse & Jockey. Here in the early 1860s a group “gentleman” had reserved the green for their own exclusive use one afternoon a week in return for a small annual subscription. And when the game was over retired to the pub for tea followed by an evening of cards. Later still they formed the first bowling club in 1864.

There are plenty more of Peter’s paintings on display in venues across the township and at https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures

Picture; ©Peter Topping 2012 www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Where was it?

Well it was Oswald Road.

And yet again I have to say that people who responded know their Chorlton. More to come.
Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Almost a ghost sign


Well actually I don’t think it is but it will be one day. Already since our last visit to Varese some of the shops around the station have closed or changed hands. The little newsagents by the weekly market has gone and perhaps the people who painted the mural have also shut up and moved on. So maybe it has become one after all.
Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Friday, 13 April 2012

Where is it?


Another in those occasional series where I ask you to identify the road, and of course you have to explain your answer. I will give you that the postcard was sent on November 5th 1928, and that Jack wrote to his mother that he was glad “that you arrived all right at Southport last Saturday also had a nice cup of tea with Kay. Thank her for meeting you at the station. I took Nan to the White City (old Botanical Garden) to see the Motor Cycle Race”.

Not that this helps identify the place. Nor does the fact that if I have got this right the car was registered in Bradford. There are web sites which help you do this. I found this out when someone left a comment on the post http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/2012/02/day-photographer-took-picture-of.html

While you puzzle over the road you may just notice the amount of litter on what was an almost empty street, with only the delivery boy on his bike in the distance.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

At the markets ..... Letter from Varese


I like markets and for sheer vitality and the variety of choice I don’t think you could beat the old Grey Mare Lane or the one in Ashton, although I have friends who regularly head up to Bury on the tram. Then there are the farmers’ markets which in some places have gone weekly in an effort to lift the experience from a monthly treat to a daily and normal part of shopping.

So when ever we are in Varese I look forward to a trip to the market beside the railway station. It is in the way of things that while I find the whole thing a lot of fun Tina laments that it is a pale shadow of what it used to be. Once the stalls would include those that were selling the type of clothes that would later go into the fine shops and here in Varese they were trying out limited trial runs. But today it is merely the cheaper stuff which can be seen in any market across the world, Cheaply produced sometimes badly finished off with in the case of T shirts the iconic image of the Stars and Stripes or our own Union flag.

But amongst all these there are still those that catch the eye like the fabric shop selling everything from lengths of brightly coloured cloth to buttons and balls of wool. Or the electric and clock stall which specialises in all those little gadgets you had forgotten, including the ash tray on its long stand with a spring mechanism which opens and closes the lid with a bewildering speed and fearsome noise. And of course the cheap and I suspect lethal version of the lava lamp, manufactured in some backstreet work shop in Palermo with scant regard for the laws of electrical safety.


But today down by the Via Giacoma Leopaldi in the shadow of the town’s principal church are a row stalls selling bread, cheese, meat and those sticky preserved fruits and nuts which were once the main sweet treat. And like our own international markets which are a feature in Manchester at Christmas time these are expensive.

You cannot fault what is on offer. Huge loaves of bread, enticing cheeses and great mounds of fruit. I was drawn to a stall selling the biggest round loaves I had ever come across and likewise wonderful looking cheeses.
But like at home it is all a bit deceptive. They all enticing and convince you that they are the real thing. So we stand in front of the man from Sicily with his regional specialities on show, gawp at the fine presentation and then buy a container of giant green olives, but as we move away Tina wonders if we have been oversold an experience rather than a good deal on olives.


And I have to say that earlier in the day we had been in the local supermarket and could have bought everything that we saw on the food stalls. And before anyone slips into an attack on the uniformity of food in supermarkets, I have to say here in Italy the idea of a regular sized even looking vegetable is unknown.


Here they come in different sizes and shapes look as if they have come out of the ground and not a Polly tunnel and as if to emphasise the point will often still have the earth on them.
In the same way here can be found great lumps of cheese, like the block of parmesan that I bought for €13, which I know tastes so much better than the small evenly vacuum wrapped smaller ones on offer at home.

Still I know I will be back on Tuesday at the market beside the station and if the man from Sicily is still by the town hall I will gaze with fascination at what he has to sell.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Lancashire College Whalley Range


One of those pictures which don’t often get published in the collections. It is the Lancashire College Whalley Range and the postcard was sent in 1905.
Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A letter from Varese, Good Friday...at the fair


This Easter we were in Varese just north of Milan hard by the Swiss border staying with family.

Today we were promised rain. Instead the sky cleared from the east and for a while at least the sun shone. So we took ourselves off to Lake Varese and the Fair.

It is still early in the season but everyone is working hard and the tiredness of a full season selling fun by the Lake has yet to kick in and so the traders seem genuinely pleased to see us.


Fairgrounds I guess are much the same the world over and the magic lies in the flashing lights, the thrill of the rides and that serious chance you might win something on the many stalls.

Of course the odds are stacked against collecting a real prize and rides rarely last long enough. Added to this if you step behind the flashing lights the tacky broken down real side is all there to see. A mix of old plastic crates, piles of rubbish and discarded fairground ephemera like the once proud Roman soldier with half a sword and ugly rusting rods sticking through the once brightly painted body.

But I think this is to be too hard on our fair. It was less run down than some of the travelling ones at home. The paint on the stalls was new, the chrome shone in the bright April sunlight and there was that variety of rides which gave you a real sense that this had been no wasted journey.

There were the old favourites and a few I hadn’t seen from last year. And as ever it is the simpler ones that proved the most popular. Like the giant transparent plastic balls big enough to take a child which floated on a pool of water. Tina’s niece was there inside the ball in a flash and then a little like the pet mouse in the play ball proceeded to roll around on an aimless path.

There were also the regular standbys like the Go Kart, impossible sickening rides and the old hall of mirrors brought up to date with mechanical walks, jets of hot air and a mini obstacle course. Alongside these were the giant gaudy chrome vans selling everything from pizza to pancakes smothered in Nutella sauce and a whole range of other things to eat including those candied nuts which are everywhere.


Even on this early Easter weekend there were plenty of people around. They were the usual mix of families and teenagers with the odd elderly couple perhaps wistfully gazing on the fun and remembering past visits to the fair when things were different.
Which reminded me of a simpler fairground we came across once in Sardinia.

It consisted of just one carousel ride. You sat on bucket seats and the thing was powered by hand. The only other attraction was one of those hammers which if you hit it hard enough rang the bell. Nevertheless there was a steady stream of people wanting to have a go on the hammer and to ride the ride.

Now I am not a great fan of the fairground but in there different ways both were fun. Tomorrow we are off to Milan and the following day will be Easter Sunday and the big family meal, but more about that another time.

Pictures from the collection of Andrew Simpson