Friday, 29 June 2012

The biggest yet a new exhibition on the story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Peter and I were offered a building site wall to tell the story of Chorlton.  

Now as you know I tell the stories and Peter paints the pictures and between us we have staged exhibitions at the Big Green Festival, the library and across six venues in Chorlton.

And this is the biggest to date.  We are working with the firm McCarthey and Stone to tell the story of Chorlton which will be displayed on the panels surrounding their building site on Albany and Buckingham Roads.

Above; panel 1 of the 16 across the 80 by 30 metre site

It is the old Cosgrove Hall site and the panels stretch for 50 metres along Albany and around Buckingham for another 30.  So no small project.

And with the artwork finished and the final site visit completed this new Glad to be in Chorlton  Exhibition should be up within the next few weeks.

Picture; Peter Topping

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Richard Buxton "a little life lived out in a great century" part five

I am back with my old friend Richard Buxton, the working class self taught botanist who compiled one of the most important books on the botany and fauna of south Manchester.

He is some someone I have written about already and I promised to come back to him.

He lived and worked for most of his life in the mean little streets off Great Ancoats Street in the heart of this fast growing part of Manchester.  And today I want to explore his life set against the events of the time.

His was one of those “little lives lived out in a big century" and it encompassed the French Revolution and the long wars with France, unrest at home including trade union activity, demands for the vote and the great Chartists Petitions along with machine breaking, and food riots.

Very little in his autobiography gives a clue to whether he held political views or made comment on the great events of the day.     As a young man he might have known those who rejoiced at the news of the Revolution in France, and listened to calls for better pay, union solidarity and a halt to the factory machines.  He would have rejoiced himself at the news of the victory at Waterloo, and shared the despair as the trade cycles plunged many into unemployment and poverty.

Food riots were not infrequent and he may well have observed the riot that broke out in April 1812 in Oldham Road, New Cross when a food cart carrying food for sale at the markets in Shudehill was stopped and its load carried off.  Nearby shops were also attacked and looted.  The mob was eventually dispersed by soldiers but only as far as Middleton.  There they met with an assembly of handloom weavers, miners and out of work factory operatives gathered to protest against the introduction of power loom machinery at Barton and Sons weaving mill.

The mob which had grown to 2000, was dispersed by “ A party of soldiers , horse and foot, from Manchester arriving, pursued those misguided people, some of whom made a feeble stand; but here again death was the consequence, five of them being shot and many severely wounded.”  
Revolution it was thought was in the air, and the Government responded with the Gag Acts, the suspension of Habeas Corpus   and the rounding up and imprisonment of political suspects.  Here in Manchester radicals were arrested and some like John Night were thrown into the New Bailey prison before being sent on to London, others like William Ogden were just “roughed up”.

Picture; detail from Green's map of Manchester 1794, courtesy of Digital Archives,

Those from Chorlton who fought in the Great War

I have been thinking about the Great War and in particular the role of my own family in that conflict.

We sent six off to fight for King and Country.  There were two uncles, my grandfather, great grandfather and two great uncles, and because my grandmother was German we had relatives who joined the armies of the Kaiser.

But today I want to return to the impact the war had on our township here in Chorlton.  Now it is something I have written about in the past* when purely by accident I came across the work of the voluntary Red Cross Hospitals on Edge Lane and Manchester Road.

The stories cover only the first two years of the war but reveal the commitment of the community to the care of the wounded, and also reveal that darker side where patriotism tumbles over into hostility and deliberate misunderstanding.

I can remember thinking when I first began uncovering the stories that there is no central war memorial in the village, which is odd given that most places around the country however small erected a war cross or plinth with the names of the fallen as well as those who went and returned.  My own little board school in south east London still displayed in the 1950s the book listing all the students who had gone off to fight, red for those who went and survived and black for those who died.

But in our case the memorials are there, just spread across the township and apart from the one in Southern Cemetery they are associated with our churches.  So in the grounds of the Methodist Church on Manchester Road is a memorial to the fallen of both world wars while similar records exist in St Clements and St Ninian’s churches.  Sadly others have vanished.  My old friend Marjorie remembers a plaque in the MacFadyn’s building at the corner of Barlow Moor Road and Sandy Lane, but sometime during renovation it disappeared.

Many served with the Manchester Regiment but not all, and while most saw action on the Western Front others were at Gallipoli and in the campaigns in Egypt and Palestine.
For some there are a full set of military records which follow the recruit from the moment he joined up to his eventual discharge.  But for many others the record is fragmentary, consisting of his Attestation document, a medical file or letter to grieving parent and in some cases just a reference to the date and place of his death or the list of his medals.

Nevertheless there is enough to be able to write about many of our young men who went to fight and in some cases to die in battle or in a field hospital.  But here there is a dilemma and it is one I have never really been able to reconcile.  How far does writing about the lives and deaths of these young men become a grotesque intrusion?   Or by bringing their sacrifice out into the open are we not honouring them?  I am not sure I have the answer.

I suppose the easy way out is to write about them but not refer to their names.  This way the true sadness is there but there can be no danger of hurting a living relative. So I have in front of me the record of young man from Chorlton who joined aged 19 in the May of 1915, saw service in Egypt and then for the last two years of the war on the Western Front, where he was reported missing on March 23 1918 and died in hospital four months later of a skin infection while in a German POW camp.

But at the same time there is something a little dishonest in having the records, noting the fate of these young men but not naming them.  It plucks them out of a century of obscurity only to consign them again to oblivion.

And what is more in some cases I know the families, or at least I have researched them through the 19th century, and followed their lives on farms across the township while others are part of the new wave of people into Chorlton as it changed from rural community into a suburb of Manchester.

Harry Hotchen was one of these newcomers.  The family lived on Upper Chorlton Road and his father was a butcher. Ten years earlier they had lived on Brunswick Street in Chorlton on Medlock and before that in Salford where Harry had been born.

He had joined in the May of 1915 just three months short of his 19th birthday, saw service in the Middle East with the Cheshire and Essex regiments and was discharged in the February of 1919 after a spell in the Nell Lane Military Hospital after which I lose him, although there is a reference to a Harry Hotchen marrying in 1928 and dying in the June of 1954 in Chorley.

William Eric Lunt was by contrast from a family who had farmed the land since certainly the early 19th century.  There are Lunt’s buried in the parish church yard on the green and his parents and grandparents had lived in one of the farmhouses on Sandy Lane and were active in the Methodist community.  But his is an all the more darker and sadder story and I shall leave it for another time.

Pictures; Allied Victory Medal, awarded to servicemen and women who had served between August 1914 and November 1918, detail of a letter published in the St Clement's Parish Church Magazine  1917, courtesy of Ida Bradshaw, The Manchester Regiment marching past the Town Hall, March 21st 1915, Thomas E Scholey, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, 1914-1915 Star, awarded for service between August 5th 1914 and December 31st 1915

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Coming soon, through June, July and August

More trams, a few trains, stories of the floods across Chorlton, along with the Methodists, the Rough Leech Gutter, the artist Tom Mostyn and what lurks below the modern meadows.

 And of course lots of trailers for the book Chorlton-cum-Hardy, a Community Transformed, due out in September.

And through most of July, a picture a day and going to school.

Pictures; from the Loyd collection and the collections of Tony Walker and Andrew Simpson

Friday, 22 June 2012

Letters from the Front ..... my family in the Great War

We have little in the way of documents from the men of my family who fought in the Great War.  Now given the class they came from and the distance of time that is not surprising.

And so we have just a few photographs, a handful of letters home and some military records which is not much to sum up the contribution of my immediate family.

We sent six off to fight for King and Country.  Along with two uncles, two great uncles, and my grandfather there was also my great grandfather.

Now I have written about the experiences of my great uncle Roger before who ran off and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the August of 1915 and even quoted from his letters and these I have brought out again.

The letters reflected the routines of army life.
“I was shooting on the ranges a day ago. We are in huts and it is fearful muddy all around, we have bayonet fighting, physical drill etc.”

There was the usual preoccupation of waiting for pay day followed by the comment that “the Canadian Government put half our pay in the bank so that of our $33 a month $16 go in the bank”

In some ways army life was suiting him, “I have” he wrote “put a bit of flesh on since you saw me last.”  But his inability to get on with authority led him to the first of his court-martials for refusing to follow orders. And in all of this there was that ever present knowledge that at some point soon he would be shipped to France.

There are no letters from his time on active service but there are his military records which track him across the three years he served and the regimental war diaries. Both are an invaluable insight into the life of a young soldier. His records cover everything from his state of health, further infringements of army discipline and his eventual discharge and journey from France to Britain and back to Canada.

But it is the war diary which best I think opens up the life of my great uncle. Now these regimental diaries had been introduced after the South African war and were meant to help assess how successful army units were under fire and so draw valuable lessons about how to improve performance. They do not record individual soldiers but describe the daily routines, including the periods of rest and recuperation, time in the front line, unit strength and even the weather. Here in great detail are descriptions of attacks and the losses incurred. So armed with these it is possible to know something of his life during those years.

So on October 15th 1917, “weather fine. Battalion carried on with musketry and squad drill during the morning. Afternoon Recreation. Attack in the north continued, all objectives gained”

So here is the usual mundane and routine of army life, but mixed in are the reports of planned actions, real fighting and the casualties. On the morning of October 30th 1917 the diary recorded that
“Barrage opened at 5.50 am sharp. Enemy artillery opened up immediately. Our troops left trench at 5.54 am. At 6.00 am covering fire became intense. At 6.20 am supporting platoons of “A” and “C” Coys left the trench. On account of smoke it is very difficult to see any movement beyond Woodland Copse. At 6.25 am, “B” Coy, went over the top. A considerable amount of our shrapnel in bursting short at this time, some bursts occurring right over our trench.”

These were made in the heat of battle and only later typed up. This particular entry was timed at 6.30 and signed by Captain W.J. Atherton. Shortly after wards the diary continued with
“one of the runners bringing the report was wounded enroute and the other runner Pte, LeMarquand, stopped and bandaged his comrade’s wounds before delivering the report."
A little over an hour later “C” Coy had reached its objective and the men were “digging in”

Later after the fighting was over the diary attempted an assessment of the attack which reported that the artillery barrage was “generally faulty and unsatisfactory. Many causalities being inflicted by our own artillery barrage on our men before they left their trenches for attack”
“The going was extremely heavy on account of the marshy nature of the ground over which the attacking troops had to pass. In many cases men could only advance by helping one and another long.” **
And concluded with the list of causalities which amounted to 400 men killed, missing or wounded out of a total of 590.

I guess this pretty much sums up what the rest of my family went through somewhere on the Western Front.  But nothing much else has survived.  Although we do have a short letter from my uncle to my dad in the December of 1918 and it came with a Christmas postcard which well reflects the prevailing propaganda.

The Great War had ended just a month before and uncle Fergus and his battalion of the Black Watch were in Cologne.  He wrote that “Cologne was a lovelly city with some fine cinemas” but they were prohibited from fraternizing with the civilians which for a young man of 21 was a bit of a bore given the attractive young women he came across.

But duty was never far away and preparations were being made because “we are crossing the Rhine tomorrow” and there was a determination “to show the rest of the division the way as we proved to be the finest marchers during the trek to Germany.”  In its way it is as telling as that written my my great uncle in the midst of the war. There is no sense if triumphalism just pride at the job done and the one yet to do and a respect for the German city they were occupying.

So there you have it letters home from two young men , one just eighteen and the other twenty-one.

Pictures; letter from James Rogers[Roger James Hall] February 1916, and With Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and Victorious New Year, December 1918 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 21 June 2012

They spoke for the children sent to Canada

Yesterday I reflected on the great debate about the correctness of sending our children to Canada.  

There are those that maintain that they did go to a better life, and that the motives of those engaged in the policy was driven by the best possible motives.  All of which  I have explored, describing  the conditions in Britain during the last quarter of the 19th century and the absence on the part of the State to intervene in meaningful way.

But the evidence is stacking up that many didn’t enjoy the warm sunlit uplands that they should have been entitled to, instead for some there was hardship loneliness and long hours of work compounded in a few cases with cruelty and abuse.

Of course much hangs on the degree to which there was knowledge at the time that things were not going right.  Many of the supporters of the policy derided and rubbished the reports of neglect and abuse, explaining them away as exceptions to the rule and mistakes which had been made in the early period of settlement.

This will not wash any more.  In the first decade of the last century a small band of socialist Guardians on the Chorlton Union argued the case against sending children from our work house to Canada citing evidence and making a principled stand.

They pointed to the long hours and lack of schooling that was the lot of many of the children which as they argued contravened our own child protection laws and above all was an abrogation of our duty to solve the problem here in Britain.

Now the research is in its early stages but I can do no worse than quote from their letters and their speeches which were all reported in the Manchester Guardian.

Speaking at a meeting of the Guardians in 1910, Catherine Garrett had said

“they were not fighting particular cases but the general principle of sending out children to another country to live and to be employed there under conditions which were illegal in their own land.  In some cases children of seven were being sent out by boards of Guardians.”

And laying aside the principle it was the simple exploitation of the young people in their care that drove William Skivington to hammer away at the issues from 1907 onwards.

“First British children from Poor Law Unions and philanthropic institutions emigrated to Canada were sent to work for their livelihood at an age which would not be tolerated in this country.  Next, these children, not being adopted, were being hired for work; they were received in Canada only because child labour was allowed there, and hence they had seven applications for every child; that for children from seven years of age the conditions denoted forced labour, not voluntary or free ; that being employed or hired work they were robbed of their childhood and of the opportunity of a sound education and that emigration of young children for working purposes savoured of traffic in child labour carried on between agencies in this country and agencies in Canada.  Children would not be allowed to go from the care of the Guardians to anything like such conditions in this country.”

Sadly they were still in a minority and every attempt to reverse the policy was defeated.  But what I think is important is that even at the time there were those who were uncomfortable at the policy of sending children to Canada and had the evidence to cast doubt on the optimistic view that we were sending these young people to a better life.

Picture;from the collection of Lori Oschefski

Sources; from the Manchester Guardian 1907-1910

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Who spoke for the children sent to Canada?

There are many debates to have about the policy of sending British children to Canada and it still today provokes emotion and sometimes judgements that owe more to prejudice than historical evidence.

All too often the apologists hide behind that old line that we cannot judge the actions of past people from the standpoint of the 21st century.  Now there is something in that line but only up to a point* and it turns on what actually was said and done at the time.  That is the key and on it hangs the whole issue of the correctness of the scheme.

From the outset there were those in the 1870s who raised doubts about the safety of the children in Canada on remote farms and homes which despite promises and assurance never went away.

But far more promising is the role of the three socialists who had been elected as Guardians to the Chorlton Union in the early years of the 20th century.  They mounted a very public campaign against sending children from the Union, and argued that the children in their care should be given vocational training to set themselves off on a productive life in Britain.  They also expressed their concerns for the safety of the children and asked questions about the degree to which these boys and girls were destined to be cheap labour.

Catherine Garrett and her husband who was a GP remain at present shadowy figures.  They lived in Hulme which was a dense mix of working class houses and industry but neither was from Manchester.  He was born in Exeter and she was from Ireland.  None of their election material has so far come to light but I have high hopes that they might appear in one of the socialist publications of the period.

The third socialist was William E Skivington who had born in Manchester in 1867, and was variously an iron turner and later a shop keeper.  His father was book binder and his mother a book folder.  William’s early married life like so many of his class was spent in a two roomed house in Hulme and equally like so many of that class he died at the early age of just 42.

During first decade of the twentieth century he was not only active as a Guardian defending those who had been forced in to the workhouse by ill health, bad luck or old age but campaigned in the labour movement.  He was at the centre of the campaigns to highlight the issues of unemployment and was active in the Social Democratic Federation deputised for Keir Hardie and met the Tory Prime Minister.

So here are three who must have stood for many more.  Now there is much to do.  All three will have left a trail of evidence, some in the publications of the labour movement, others in their correspondence with the press and much more in the minutes of the Chorlton Union.

And what is certain is that in their words and actions we have a real contemporary rebuttal of the policy of sending countless thousands of young people to an uncertain future in a far away country.


Picture; from the collection of Lori Oschefski

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

1848, Beech Road and you tube

Well I always knew the blog had to enter the 21st century, and so with the help of Bernard I have entered that new world of you tube links and moving images.

Last week we walked down Beech Road on a history talk trying to recreate the something of the Beech Road and Chorlton of 1848.  And here it is, with a full thank you to Bernard Leech.

Moving pictures and sound; courtesy of Bernard Leech and and me outside Sarah Sutton's cottage by Peter Topping

Saturday, 16 June 2012

On carrying an identity card

I was no great fan of the idea of identity cards and said so.  Some friends smiled and pointed out that any in store loyalty card probably carried more information on me, my habits and bank details than any official document while the Italian side of the family just couldn’t understand how anyone would object to a piece of paper which proved who you were.

And I suppose that is the point.  It is not my job to prove who I am, it is their job to prove I am not who I say I am.  Old fashioned I know and possibly unrealistic but it is what I firmly hold to.

Of course in time of war such niceties go out of the window, and I was reminded of this when I came across two family documents.  The first was my father’s Travel Identity Card issued in the May of 1940 which “together with the holder’s national registration identity card and ration book must be presented by the traveller to the Immigration Officer at the port.”

"Initially, the card had to be produced to a policeman on demand or alternatively within 2 days at a police station. Further regulations were also issued requiring notification of change of address, also for births so a card could be issued for the newborn, also surrendering of the card if the person dies.
In December provision was also made to make it possible to exchange an ordinary buff identity card for a green card with room for a photograph and description of the holder; the reason for this was to assist anyone who needed to provide better evidence of their identity where they did not possess any other acceptable document, for example if they required access to enter a protected area under the defence regulations.

Later in late May 1940, presumably as the danger of an invasion increased, instructions were issued that everyone over 16 must now sign and date the card and write their address on the right hand page of the card and also that the card must be carried at all times. In the case of under 16s, the parent or guardian had the responsibility of signing the card and entering the address; under 16s were instructed not to carry the card with them but instead follow advice given earlier of carrying a luggage label or card with them with their name, address and national registration identity number.
Initially, adult identity cards were buff, the same colour as children's cards, but in 1943 when registration and rationing were combined, a blue card was introduced and issued to all adults, replacing their previous cards. A new buff card for children was introduced at the same time but existing children's cards were not replaced apart from when a new card was necessary.

The Identity Card was finally abolished in February 1952, but the identity numbers were used within the National Health Service to give everyone an individual number. People who had a national identity number during the Second World War or just after still have the same number as their NHS identity today.*

Which brings me neatly to the second family document which was my own identity card, issued In October 1949; it was to run till October 1965.  And perfectly conveys that immediate post war world where much of what people had become used to during the national emergency persisted well in to peacetime.

Like all family documents it tells its own family story.  Here was my first address, followed by the homes my father bought at Kender Street and later Lausanne Road and in between a brief stay with my grandparents in Derby.  Each time we took up a new residence the card had to be produced at the local Registration Office and stamped.  And so I know that between the May and September of 1951 I was with my grandparents in Derby, and I know also it was just mother and I.

My father was away working at the job he loved all his adult life which was driving coaches for the tourist trade.  Before and after the war he worked for a firm called Glenton Tours who specialized in sight seeing holidays around Britain and later the Continent. And this meant that from the spring through the summer he was away arriving back for just one night between bringing one coach party home and setting off in the morning with another for trips which lasted between a week and fourteen days. It would in the 1950s take him across Europe, to places I only discovered in the last decade.  

So the pattern of our summers was set.  We decamped to Derby and I guess only when I began school did the long periods with my grandparents become just the six weeks of the summer holidays.  Now it has taken this long forgotten identity card to remind me of what we did.  So perhaps there is something in identity cards after all.  But on balance, for me, I am happy they vanished in 1952.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Giving a context

I don’t have a date or place for this picture.

It comes from the collection of the Together Trust who were the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuge.  They were founded in 1870 to provide temporary shelter for homeless children and quickly developed in to other areas of child protection and welfare.

I came across the picture on their most recent blog post!)

Sometimes no matter how many details of overcrowding from the census returns, and official descriptions of housing conditions it is the simplest of images which fully convey the way many people lived in our big cities.

My own great grandmother grew up in a similar court in Derby and I have written about the courts off Artillery and Camp Street in the Deansgate area 

But this one is worth a closer look.  I guess it is the end of the 19th century or just possibly the opening years of the last.  Like all courts the public area is small and narrow and in an effort to lighten what would otherwise have been a gloomy spot the walls have been whitewashed.  I well remember my own father using white wash on our yard wall.

You bought it in powdered form and just added water and it covers even the most uneven of surfaces although it does takes a few days for the paint to fully harden.  It was very cheap and had the added bonus of having antimicrobial properties which kill or inhibits the growth of  bacteria and fungi which was an important consideration in properties which were old unsanitary and where there could be much overcrowding.

It’s hard to tell whether these were back to back properties in which case they wouldhave been one up one downs.  The city had since the middle of the 19th century been working at eliminating such houses but there were still plenty around.

I count fourteen people in the picture and no doubt there were more living in the court but there is one lavatory and what I take might be a wash house to service the needs of all of the inhabitants.
There are no cellars and it is more than likely threat the ground floors were resting on bare earth with just flags, tiles or bricks as a surface.  And these over time would have become cracked, uneven and worn giving rise to damp.

Nor should be underestimate the constant threat from infestation of in insects.  As late as the 1960s friends living off Ashton New Road would still as a precaution turn on a bedroom light before going into the room to give the more unpleasant insects time to disappear.

I could write more but perhaps this is enough for present.

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust 

"Went the day well?"

Well if the sun didn’t actually shine at least the rain held off for most of our walk down Beech Road.

The idea was to describe something of what it might have been like to be on Beech Road in the summer of 1848 and more importantly who you might have to be polite to.

Now I am not so good at estimating numbers, but Bernard reckons that there were about thirty of us which given that it was mid week and threatened to pour down was pretty good.

I am too modest to make a comment on how the talk went down but I enjoyed myself and we ended in the Horse and Jockey which gave me the opportunity to ramble on about the pub and beer houses.
So a good night and a nice mix of people drawn from the History Group, the Co-op and lots of new friends including Philip and Martine’s son and friend and David who once lived here, has supplied me with some wonderful tales and came all the way from Rochdale.

Now I didn't take my camera but I know someone who did and here is one of Peter Topping's pictures which perfectly captures the evening and is in stark contrast to that Saturday three years ago when we did the walk and talk in bright sunshine.  I'm now waiting for all the rest who snapped away to share the night with us.  Alternatively you can see more at

Pictures; one I did earlier from the collection of Bernard Leech and last night in the set from Peter Topping

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

“History is wasted on the young.”

“History is wasted on the young.”  It was one of those glib throwaway comments meant to impress undergraduates.  I forget which lecturer on which history course at the College of Commerce* said it and I don’t think it struck much of a chord with any of us.

At ten past nine on a Tuesday morning those of us not nursing a hangover, were wondering whether we should just not have bothered turning in and chosen Bert’s cafe instead.  It was on that short stretch of Whitworth Street just before what became Placemate and opposite the old Police station.  It did as I recall make the most wonderful sausage sandwiches.

And years later as I watched the 1960 film Hell is a City there was Stanley Baker coming out of the same police station on to Whitworth Street.  It was just a decade earlier and sort of brings me back to the point about history being wasted on the young.

I had no idea back then of the film or that wonderful building which sits forlorn and empty.  It was opened in 1906, designed by Woodhouse, Willoughby and Langham in red brick and terracotta it cost £142, 000 to build.

In addition to the police station there was a fire station, an ambulance station, a bank, a Coroner's Court, and a gas-meter testing station. The fire station operated for 80 years, housing the firemen, their families, and the horse drawn appliances that were replaced by motorised vehicles a few years after its opening.   It remained the headquarters of the Manchester Fire Brigade until the brigade was replaced by the Greater Manchester Fire Service in 1974 and it closed in 1986.  None of which I knew as I sat eating my sandwich or listening to a lecture on the role of government late 19th century Britain.

And there it was.  In the absence of much from central government it was local politicians who were making their towns and cities better places to live.  As Sidney Webb said the “municipalities have done most to socialize our industrial life.”  And a resident of Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow could benefit from  municipal supplies of water, gas and electricity, travel on municipally owned trams and buses, walk  through a municipally maintained park while knowing his children were being educated in municipally run schools.

“Glasgow builds and maintains seven public ‘common lodging houses’; Liverpool provides science lectures; Manchester builds and stocks an art gallery; Birmingham runs schools of design; Leeds creates extensive cattle markets; and Bradford supplies water below cost price. There are nearly one hundred free libraries and reading rooms. The minor services now performed by public bodies are innumerable.”**

During the previous half century Manchester and all the great northern towns and cities had grown by leaps and bounds but the vital infrastructure which was necessary for a healthy and civilised life had lagged behind.  So there had been few planning or building regulations to prevent the worst excesses of slum housing, little in the way of clean drinking water and a total absence in some quarters of the city of adequate sanitation.

All of which became more apparent when we were offered one of the only six flats then on offer from Manchester Polytechnic.  Forget those gleaming halls of residence, in leafy Fallowfield and Didsbury.  We settled in what had once been the fireman’s flats in the complex that also housed the fire station, ambulance station and police station on Mill Street, off Grey Mare Lane hard by the old colliery.

We walked out on to Butterworth Street and the open air market which like the complex was run by the council and passed close by the newly erected deck access properties built by the Corporation. So without even thinking about it I had touched a rich bed of history of which I was almost totally ignorant.

Now it’s funny how stories turn out as you write them, because I had thought this would be about the Ormond Building on the corner of Cavendish and Ormond Street facing Grosvenor Square at All Saints.  It was opened in 1881 as Offices of the Chorlton Union and contained the Registry Office which might have led me nicely into a story on the Chorlton Union which was the Poor Law authority covering all of south Manchester from 1834 and the tale of how we students occupied it sometime in 1971-72 over cuts to the Poly’s libraries.  Instead I have wandered over some of the buildings whose history I knew little and whose purpose and impact even less.

Sadly our Mill Street complex has gone and all that is left is a small expanse of grass and trees bordering Alan Turning Way, while the grand London Road Fire and Police Station lingers on under the threat of redevelopment which never quite seems to happen.

But sometimes something of that municipal history survives, even if it isn’t much.  Years ago I fell across another police station this time on Bridgewater Street off Deansgate. The building dates from the 1890s and the badge of the Corporation can still be made out above the upstairs window.  Along with the police office it included a horse ambulance station and mortuary, all of which were visible well into the beginning of this century despite its closure as a police station.  I had fears that it would vanish but like so many of our old buildings became residential property.

And that just leaves me to ponder on whether it’s time to start recording all the old police stations and fire stations across the city which given that I am now fully retired and old is perhaps a fitting riposte to that opening remark about history being wasted on the young.

* It became part of Manchester Polytechnic in 1970 and is now the MMU

** Webb, Sidney, from Historic, Fabian Essays in Socialism 1889
Pictures; of London Road Fire station and Bridgewater Police Station, 2001-2010 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, the Fireman’s flats in the Mill Street complex, 1986 m15551, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Of Revolution and rates .... a walk along The Row in 1848*

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!” **   

In 1848 revolutions were shaking the ground of the ruling class in a way that had not happened since 1789.  The fall of the monarchy in France and the proclamation of a second republic were matched across Europe by uprisings and demands for change.  Here in England the Government and the establishment braced themselves for the delivery of the third and largest petition demanding the vote for working men.  And all across the north the army was deployed to face unrest at best and revolution at worst.

Here in Chorlton the ratepayers voted to refuse to collect outstanding rates.

So as the final post before the walk tonight I thought it would be appropriate to give you a sense of what was going on in that year.

But enough of politics, yesterday I shared the homes of the Holt and Sutton family with you and today it will be the house of Daniel Sharpe, the man of independent means whose property is still standing at the bottom of Beech Road, if a bit knocked about and neglected.

And on our way down we’ll pass the fields of what is now the Rec.  Back then they echoed the old strip farming of the Middle Ages, with different tenant farmers working the strips.

William Bailey was one, he lived where Ivy Court is today, and James Higginbotham who lived on the green was another.

Pictures; Maerzrevolution 19. Marz  1848 Berlin, 113 Beech Road from the collection of Andrew Simpson, detail of the Tithe map courtesy of Philip Lloyd

*a walk down Beech Road tonight at 7.30 meeting at the junction of Beech and Barlow Moor Roads

**William Wordsworth, The French Revolution 1805

Of pubs and people

I am never very good at endings.  Just when I think a story has run it natural course I come across something new.

Yesterday it was the bewildering decisions of the licensing authorities and how some people got permission to open new pubs and sell alcohol and others were just knocked back.  I followed the events and reported them and must say thought that was that.

In the February of 1907 neither the Royal Oak nor the Bowling Green Hotel were to be rebuilt despite what seemed very good reasons.  And in the same way just 14 years earlier an enterprising Charles Prince Hill was refused permission to sell bottled beer from his confectioners shop on Wilbraham Road.

The Bowling Green Hotel dated from the late 18th century and was a rambling building with ten rooms and in 1907 it had perhaps had its day, although I wish I could have wandered around it.  It had had been where some of our Sick and Burial Clubs had held their meetings, ran one of the two bowling green’s in the village and must have benefited from being so close to the parish church.

Now despite being unsuccessful at the annual licensing meeting the tenant of the pub must have taken heart at the promise of the committee to “visit the place and form our own conclusions on the spot.”  And this was what they must have done, because the following year a brand new pub just a little west of the old one was built.

The much smaller Royal Oak had to wait until the 1920s before it too was replaced by that large pile which stands a little to the east of the old one.

No such final luck for Charles Prince Hill.  Now in time I thought I might pursue Mr Hill who was still there in his confectioners in 1903 but had moved on by 1909 and might have prospered elsewhere.  Either way his successor continued to run confectioners and as little footnote to history and a concession to the present, the building at number 28 is still there.  It is the fifth property along from Keppel Road heading towards the junction with Barlow Moor Road, and what was once a confectioner is now a fast food chicken takeaway.

It wasn’t difficult to track him and his family.  By the April of 1911 he was living at number 8 Silverdale Road which was an eight roomed tall semi detached house.  Silverdale runs parallel with Wilbraham Road, connecting Buckingham and Egerton Road North, and would have been handy for the railway station but was secluded enough on a road tucked away from the noise and bustle of this part of new Chorlton.

The family had not been there long, perhaps just a few months and I would love to know more.  Charles described himself as retired which at 49 seems young, but perhaps it was on the grounds of ill health.  He died aged just 53 in 1915.  I could of course search deeper but perhaps this is an ending.

Pictures; The Bowling Green Hotel, 1970, A Dawson, m49269, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, the Royal Oak from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Walking back to 1848

Well if the sun shines tomorrow evening I will be pleased.  The last time I did the walk in the company of the Civic Society the sun shone and the 40 or so of us who wandered down Beech Road trying to recreate a similar evening in 1848 had a pleasant enough time.

Now I know that trying to talk you back a hundred and sixty years is an odd thing to do but I hope it will be fun.

So in that true style of someone who loves publicity here is a flavour of what the Row would have been like.

At the corner of Beech Road and Barlow Moor Road to the right was Beech Cottage home to the Holts who owned a fair bit of the area around St John’s Street behind  Deansgate plus the estate here in the township.  An estate which stretched from the corner of Beech Road along Barlow Moor Road and down to Hardy Lane almost as far as Cross Road. And that was not all.  Turn and face Barlow Moor Road and all that you can see from the shops to Sandy Lane and a chunk of Chorlton Park was theirs too.

By total contrast was the home of Sarah Sutton at the corner of what is now Beech Road and Wilton Road.   It was a wattle and daub cottage, had been built in the early 19th century and was not demolished until the 1890s.
And of course there is much more. Meet us at the corner of Beech Road and Barlow Moor Road at 7.30 Wednesday June 13th.

Pictures; detail from a Beech Road 1908, m17645, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, Sutton’s Cottage from the Wesleyan Souvenir Handbook, 1907, courtesy of Philip Lloyd

Monday, 11 June 2012

Who would you have to be polite to in 1848? .... A walk down Beech Road in the mid 19th century

Now I can be a bit of a bore when it comes to talking about Chorlton in the 1840s.

It has got to that point where I often wander down a local road lost in recreating what it was like in the 19th century and friends just avoid me, preferring the long route to the pub rather than listen to another history story.

But just now and again I actually get asked to share those stories.  So this Wednesday which will be June 13th I will be walking down Beech Road fully prepared to tell you what you could have seen in the summer of 1848 and more importantly who you’d have to be polite to.  And there were a fair few of those, starting with the Holt family who lived on their estate at the top of Beech Road where it runs into Barlow Moor Road, and assorted other rich people along the way.

But there were also some farmers, the blacksmith William Davies and Samuel Nixon who ran the Travellers Rest which was the small beer shop at the end of the Row* not to be confused with the Horse and Jockey the slightly larger beer house on the green.

So, we start at 7.30, at the point where the Row joins Barlow Moor Lane, by the gates of Beech House, and for those who don’t live in 1848, it’s the junction of Beech Road and Barlow Moor Road, hard by the tram terminus.

*It’s still there although it hasn't sold beer for over a century, now number 70 Beech Road,  the premise is Franny and Flier.   The Row was the name for Beech Road

Picture; the village and the Row in 1845, courtesy of Digital Archives,

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Getting help with the past

This is not an advert more an appreciation of one of those magazines which have been helping many of us make sense of family history.

Now there are plenty of them about along with web sites and plenty of radio and TV programmes, all catering for that most basic desire to find out where we came from.

In my case it was to carry on the work of my two sisters who did it the hard way in the 1970s, visiting parish church yards and writing off to the family, friends and the General Registry Office.

Now I have never really been interested in just hoovering up past family members and have never had a desire to trace them back to the Doomsday Book.  I stopped at around 1800 and set out to fix my family in the context of where they lived and what was going on at the time, and of course what came to light was a remarkable group of people who “lived out small lives in a big century”.

So the BBC magazine Who Do You Think You Are?* just suits me fine.  There are plenty of reviews and general historical stories to fix a family as well as help pages and an opportunity for readers to share their research.  But above all for me it is the monthly upgrades of what sources have been put online which recently included a “major online Dorset collection,” the digitalisation of more convict records and the Manchester collection.

There are of course those who view all this as just popular entertainment which in one sense it is.  But then shouldn’t we all get some pleasure from finding out about great granddad and on the way learning about the place and time that shaped him?  Doing history always seems a more positive process than just being told something.

And many family and amateur historians do contribute to the bigger picture whether it is turning up unseen documents or providing an insight into the lives of working people a hundred or more years ago.  In our case it was amongst other things a twenty-five hand written letter detailing the experiences of my uncle from the Manchester blitz, via a convoy to South Africa, the fall of Greece and a particularly grim time in Basra.  All of which was complimented by a set photographs which perfectly accompany the letter.

So I think we should take the whole family history industry seriously, after all the history books are full of the lives of the rich, the important and the famous, but the lives of the people who cleaned their houses, grew their food and fought their wars are still under represented.

All of which takes me back to this edition of WDYTYA, with articles on our Servant ancestors, the Catholic registers, Court Records and Gardeners of the Past.  And I know that for some these will be light weight and only skim the surface, but they are a starting point for many just beginning to uncover their past families and I guess the first time they have engaged in history since their school days.

So there you have it.  The July edition of what I reckon is a pretty neat do it yourself family history.

Pictures; from cover of the June edition, and air gram from 1940 in the collection of Andrew Simpson


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Walking in Chorlton in 1841

Chorlton-cum-Hardy is an odd name for where we live given that we were actually three distinct areas with small clusters of houses in between.

In the centre was Chorlton grouped around the green and along the Row,* while to the south between the Brook and the Mersey was the lonely outpost of Hardy, and to the north of Chorlton was Martledge, which is the area roughly from the Four Banks up to the library and the area around the long roads of Longford Nicholas Newport and Oswald Roads.
In between there were little grouping of houses which I often refer to as hamlets but I suppose may have been too small even for that title.

I like Greenwood’s map which dates from the beginning of the 19th century because although it doesn’t have the detail of later maps, but is bright colourful and still does the business.

The data for the bar chart comes from the 1841 census.

Pictures; Greenwood’s map of Lancashire by kind permission of Digital Archives

* The Row or more accurately Chorlton Row was renamed Beech Road

Thursday, 7 June 2012

When is a building old?

Historical research is fun, or why else do it?  And that pretty much sums up what I did yesterday.  It started with a picture posted by one of my new chums on his facebook site.

Adge Lane takes and shares some remarkable pictures of the city and a few days ago he shared this one with us.  It is the building on the corner of Gartside Street and Quay Street and it provoked some interest and a debate about its age.

Now this is an area of the city I love and often wander back to.  Just a few minute’s walk away is the station and warehouse complex of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in 1830, the site of St John’s church and basin of the Bridgewater Canal.

So a place full of history which brings me back to the buildings in Adge’s photo.  They look old but I had a vague memory of them being built in the 1980s and so the quest began.  The essential requirements are some maps, street directories, census returns, and if possible pictures which between us Adge and I could summon up.

I have to confess that for once I didn’t go looking in the census records but stuck to the maps and the directories.  A street or trade directory is a little like the telephone directory, it listed the streets and their residents along with the trades and businesses across the city.  In many cases the added bonus is that the occupations of people living in a house are also included and unlike the census they were published every year.

The drawback is that you only get the name of the householder, and the poor and those living in unfashionable streets are often missed off until late in the 19th century.  But they are a start and can be used alongside the maps of the city.

Now these go back well into the 18th century but the most useful are those made by Laurent in 1793 and Green in the following year and both show something at the corner of Gartside and Quay Street, as does the OS of Manchester and Salford for 1844-9.  This mid 19th century map was part of a series of “5 ft. town plans produced by the Ordnance Survey for the towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire with a population greater than 4000. They were produced between 1844 and 1849 during the time that these counties were being surveyed for the 6 inch maps. The 5 ft. Plans were important because of the need to improve urban sanitation to combat cholera and other diseases.

Only a few other towns outside this area were surveyed at 5 ft. usually when the town paid for the survey or as a training exercise as in the case of Southampton. After the publication of the Lancashire and Yorkshire maps, the county surveys were carried out at 25 inches to a mile and the town plans were produced at a 10 ft. scale. Although a smaller scale than the 10 ft. plans the 5 ft. plans contained, in many respects, more detail than did the 10 ft. plans. They show all street drains, street lamps and water pumps even the garden layout of large houses. Public buildings show internal layout and churches show the seating layout. The walls of public buildings are not drawn as a single line as on most maps but as a double line showing the thickness of the walls.”*

So this was a must to use, but the buildings listed here in 1849 don’t have the same footprint as those in Adge’s picture.  This detail from the OS shows the lower end of the row of buildings where Quay Street is joined by Young Street.

And this is where the two of us came together.  I had the OS for 1888-93 and Adge had the 1915 version and that same old footprint just kept repeating itself which was pretty much confirmed by the  satellite photo of the present buildings which are different in layout to those on the maps. But the photographic evidence was inconclusive and it was left to Adge to dig out the answer.

“I've found 70 Quay Street (the extreme left on my colour photograph) listed on's described as "Mock Georgian building of traditional brick construction"...but nothing of any historical description, you may be right ...1980's sympathetic build.”

So there you have it, a nice piece of detective work by the two of us.

Pictures; of the buildings and 1915 map from the collection of Adge Lane, detail from the 1844-49 OS courtesy of Digital Archives,

*Digital Archives

Neglected stories ........ handloom weaving in Chorlton

Now if you have been on one of those history walks around town chances are that at some point the guide will enthusiastically point to a building with long windows on the upper floor which were “to give the maximum amount of natural light for a handloom weaver.”

And then there might follow an impassioned lecture on the noble life of the handloom weavers who were to be squeezed by the coming of the factory system.  All of which is true up to a point.  Some weaving families could command a very good standard of living into the 19th century and there is something quite attractive about a life where all the family were collectively engaged in all the processes of carding, spinning and weaving, working at their own pace and free to pursue other interests.  As Marx said “to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner.”

But there is also a lot of romantic tosh written about handloom weaving.  It was by the 19th century an increasingly unprofitable way of earning where the majority of weavers were competing against the industrialization of the different processes, were at the mercy of the middlemen and had to foot the cost of maintaining a workshop.

All of which is in my book Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, A Community Transformed due out in September and which reveals much about weaving in the south of the city.

I doubt that many have seriously researched the extent to which the townships around the south of the city had their own weavers.  But there is evidence for them in Stretford, Urmston, Withington and Burnage and here in our own village.

In some places the records are fairly slim but in others the stories are rich and detailed.  Now I want you to read the book so I shall be outrageously selfish and limit myself to stating that the evidence is there in the census records in newspapers and in the oral testimony recorded just thirty years after the last remaining weavers were plying their trade in some of our townships.

In the June of 1832 20 cottages with their loom houses  at Barlow Moor, came up for auction, while just 25 years earlier here in Chorlton, George Jones who had described his occupation as weaver baptised his two children at the Methodist chapel on the Row*.  Nor was he alone, because during the same period he was joined by another two weavers who had walked over from Stretford and another from Withington to baptise their children in the same chapel.

*The Row is today Beech Road

Pictures; Liverpool Road, circa late 18th century from the collection of Andrew Simpson, advert from the Manchester Guardian June 9th 1832

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Leaving for Canada in 1849 part two

Today I have decided to try and recreate a journey, well to be more accurate a series of them spanning many weeks.  Together they were to take the Hampson family from their home in Pendleton to Canada.[1]

Now even today this is no easy thing to do but in 1849 in the age of sail it must have been a daunting undertaking.  I say that but in fact the evidence is that countless people were crossing the oceans of the world for new lives in distant countries and in many cases doing it more than once.

I have no way of knowing why the Hampson’s chose to go.  The 1840s were a hard time for all but the rich and there were schemes to resettle working families across the Empire. This was a policy that was actively pursued by the Poor Law Commissioners with parochial aid or assistance from local landlords.   The Commissioners reported that over 2, 000 had gone to Canada in 1841 which was an increase on the year before, and that assistance was also being given to move to Australia and New Zealand. [2] 

Leaving Salford the Hampson's had a choice of how to get to Liverpool.  And at this stage I have no idea if any scheme to assist them to Canada would have included their fare to the sea port and so what follows might might well have to be amended in the light of more research.  Equally they may have had to make the journey on their own.

The road network had slowly been improving during the last hundred years.  No longer was such a trip to be endured on roads which were a sea of mud in winter and pitted with wheel ruts in summer both of which made the journey uncomfortable and slow. But by the 1840s regular coach services from Manchester to Liverpool had ceased because of the competition from the railway.

It is just possible that they walked the 30 or so miles, tramping the roads in search of work was to go on through the 19th century.

By water would have taken seven hours and cost above 2/- each for a back room and 3/- each for a front room.

So it might have been that they chose the new railway link.  The Liverpool and Manchester Railway had been opened in 1831, and from the very beginning had been built with passengers in mind.  It was fast, exciting and in its first five years the number of passengers had risen dramatically. [3] 

James and his family would have travelled in the cheapest carriages.  Indeed at first the railway company had no intention of carrying poor people.  A director said they might run trains for the poor but it would be in the cheapest wagons and at night.[4]  So, if they had travelled by train it would have been in open trucks with the smoke and cinders from the locomotive causing havoc with hair and clothes. 

Not that this could have diluted the excitement and wonder of a form of transport that whisked its passengers along at the unbelievable speed of 35 mph and took just one hour and forty minutes from Manchester to Liverpool.

“..swifter than a bird flies … you cannot conceive what the sensation of cutting the air was; the motion is as smooth as possible …when I closed my eyes, this sensation of flying was quite delightful and strange beyond description…” [5]

Even so this could be expensive.  In 1841 the cost of a ticket in an open box carriage was 4/6d which might be about one third of James’s weekly wage. After 1844 railway companies were obliged to put on at least one train per day running at a minimum of 12 mph and with a fare of not more than 1d per mile. [6] 

This would have meant that the cost of the one way ticket for each family member would have been 2/6d.

By the time they arrived in Liverpool they would have taken in many different sights and experiences.  Pendleton was small, and still open to the fields.  Manchester was a large fast growing city which attracted visitors from all over Europe.  They came to gawp and marvel of this new type of city based on manufacture and steam power.
“The cloud vapour maybe observed from afar.  The houses are blackened by it.  The river which flows through Manchester, is so filled with dye-stuffs that it resembles a dyer’s vat.  The whole picture is a melancholic one.  Nevertheless, everywhere one sees busy, happy and well nourished people, and this raises the observer’s spirits.” [8]

And Liverpool would have been just as dramatic. 

[2] The Eighth Annual Report of the Poor Law Commissioners, HMSO 1842, Page 37 Google edition page 58

[3] In 1830 71,951 passengers were carried, by 1835 it risen to 473,847 passengers
[4] “I think we will allow the poor to travel on our trains but it will be at night and in open boxes.” A Director of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway 1829
[5] Letter from Fanny Kemble 1831 quoted by Wolmar. C in Fire & Steam 2007
[6] Railway Regulation Act 1844, known as Parliamentary trains by 1845 more than 50% passengers were paying the third class fares of a penny a mile.
[7] Letter from Fanny Kemble 1831 quoted by Wolmar C in Fire & Steam 2007
[8] Fabriken-Kommissarius On Manchester May 1814 quoted Hobsbawn Industry & Empire chap 4 The Human Results: Industrial Revolution 1750-1850 page 95
PIctures; Cost of travelling by canal from Pigott & Slater’s Directory of Manchester & Salford 1841 and The Liverpool and Manchester Railway circa 1831,

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Stories of the Great War

The Great War has now passed out of living memory.

 For most of us today the abiding image of that conflict are the rows of military gravestones, many bearing that simple inscription “A soldier of the Great War.”
And if we were pushed we might recall those grainy black and white pictures of soldiers staring back at us, and the poems of Wilfred Own and the other war poets expressing “the pity of war.”

But for everyone who died many more came back.  Most like the men of my family rarely spoke of the experiences nor would I expect them to.  By the time I was old enough to speak to them as an adult that war had been over for the best part of sixty years and they were older than I am now.

Which is a salutary thought for my memories from being 17 and 18 which was the age when most of them went are at best hazy and certainly fragmentary, add to that the awful things they must have seen and it is not surprising that they said so little.

We sent six off to fight for King and Country.  Along with two uncles, two great uncles, and my grandfather there was also my great grandfather.  They either volunteered or were called back to “the colours”.  And because my grandmother was German we had family members in the forces of Imperial Germany.  All of which has led me to reflect that for us the Great War was nothing less than a family civil war.

Their motives for going were as mixed as their experiences.  My great grandfather had served as a young man in the late 1880s in the army of the old Queen and was still on the reserve list, although he had been turned down for active service in the second South African War he rejoined in 1914.

In the case of one my great uncles it was an opportunity to escape from a life he was unhappy with.  As a British Home Child* he had gone to Canada in the May of 1914 aged just 16, spent a difficult year on farms across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick finally running away, changing his name and lying about his age to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the August 1915.

And his brother who was my grandfather also lied about his age and joined up in the May of 1916.
Other members of the family seem to have volunteered ahead of the call up.  But like so much of my family history the documentary evidence is thin on the ground.  But what there is does run against the popular view of the struggle.  My great uncle Roger was forever coming up against military authority, my grandfather prolonged his stay in the army until 1922 and my two uncles rose from the ranks to NCO and officer.

Nothing particularly odd in all of this except that it is my family and my story and over the next few weeks I want to explore more of their experiences.

Pictures; Montague Hall 1914, George Simpson circa 1918, from the collection of Andrew Simpson
* British Home Children were children sent to Canada and later Australia and settled on farms and as domestic servants

Monday, 4 June 2012

All you ever wanted to know but never knew where to look .... an index of books on British Home Children

Even today when you tell people that 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada between 1870 and 1930, the usual response is surprise, followed by bewilderment and those simple questions of why and how?  

Of course here in Britain we have had a record of sending people out to other lands, whether it was as criminals from the 17th century, and settlers from the 19th or in the case of children to Canada and later Australia well into the 20th century.

Now there is some fine research being done, mainly in Canada, and a lot of serious work to help those who were sent as children to Australia as late as the 1970s to piece together their former lives but here in Britain there is still a deep chasm of ignorance.

Those who do pursue the topic are either a small band of historians or relatives who discover by accident that a parent or grandparent was settled in Canada.  In my case just over a year ago I made the connection between a great uncle and the British Home Child scheme which was responsible for the settlement of orphan and street children to former parts of the Empire.  My great uncle Roger was neither orphan nor homeless street child but one of those with a parent who the authorities deemed as “unfit to have control.”

When I first began researching his life and the BHC scheme I had little to go on, but with the help of people also on that search I found much that helped me.  And today many of these people I count as friends.  So perhaps this is the moment to refer to Lori who has collected together the biggest collection on the internet of books on British Home Children

Her site is a wealth of information, links and opinions which allow the researcher to lock into the growing interest and work on BHC.  Now at this point I should also mention other colleagues and friends as well as sites, but that would only distract for the moment from the task which is to highlight this index.

Picture’s from the collection of Lori Oschefski