Saturday, 29 September 2012

Pictures of a journey to Canada

I first became interested in the work of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girl’s Refuge when I discovered that they were part of the programme to resettle young people in Canada.

Between 1870 and 1930 something like 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada.  It was a policy which did and still does churn up some powerful emotions.

Opposite; Emma shortly after she had been rescued from the streets

Supporters argued that it was a wonderful chance to give destitute, neglected and abused children a second chance.  Many of those that went were rescued off the streets, plucked from awful home conditions or taken away from institutions.

Critics at the time argued we were just attempting to solve child poverty by banishing the children to a far away corner of Empire where they were used as cheap labour abused and exploited all over again and in many cases denied their own past.

The story is shot through with villains, a few heroes, some wonderful success stories and much suffering, some of which is only just beginning to come to light through the diligent research of family members.

Opposite; an emigration party 1908

Now I have pretty much made up my mind that at best it was a misguided policy which arose from a genuine desire to do the right thing by these children but which also fitted a century’s old and consistent policy of removing our so called problems to other places and muddled up the idea that a fresh start must be in a rural setting.

Nor was it a universally accepted policy at the time.  Socialist Poor Law Guardians argued against because it was not addressing the real problem of poverty and inequality, raised concerns about the monitoring of the young peoples’ welfare and raised complaints from the children themselves.

Many of whom suffered in the harsh winters working in an environment which was a million miles away from the urban experience they had grown up in.

Opposite; the Post Office Beaver Rapids

But it happened and the Refuge made their own pictorial record which has been brought to light in their wonderful blog here can be found pictures of the children rescued from the street, their time in a secure place and for some the onward journey to Canada, where as the archives show there were success stories.

Like the other organisations involved in the programme the Refuge was convinced that for some young people this was the right choice.

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust

Friday, 28 September 2012

Labouring in the laundry

My picture seems mundane enough.

Here are a group of girls at work washing clothes, and we could be almost anywhere in the late 19th century.

But there is a story here.

They are wearing uniforms and so we must be in an institution, perhaps a hospital or prison or maybe even the workhouse.

And if you wanted further confirmation there are those bare whitewashed walls.

The tasks are being completed manually all of which suggests that there are plenty of hands to do the tasks and so no need to bring in machines with also a hint that the discipline of work is part of what this is all about.

And work there is plenty of. There are the piles of dirty clothes which have already been separated, and to our left one girl appears to be washing in the sink while others are using the large mangle to squeeze out the surplus water.  All of which means there is enough of the stuff on the tiled floor to need regular mopping up.

And most of this is hard heavy work.  A day or even half a day with your hands in a sink of water won’t do much for the skin, and even the huge handle on the clothes press at the back of the room will not ease the effort needed to make it work.

Nor would I fancy the ironing with those heavy irons which needed frequently to be reheated.  The only real concession to modernity is the gas lighting suspended from the ceiling which while it gave light also gave off a smell and added to the heat in the place.  So perhaps it was all to the good that there was plenty of natural light from the windows and the glass sky light.

All of which is fine but neither dates nor places our picture.  For that you will have to read the story which accompanies the picture at!)

It is another fascinating insight into the work of the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuge.

Tomorrow; from laundry to Canada

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust


Few people will have heard of Martledge, and yet it was as much a part of our township as Chorlton and Hardy.

It is somewhere I have written about already* and now Peter and I have decided to tell its story in a brand new exhibition at Chorlton Library from Thursday October 4th.

It will be that same mix of contemporary paintings of Chorlton by Peter and stories by me.

Now I could have chosen a picture from the past but instead here is the first showing of  Peter's painting of the Unicorn which will be on show at the exhibition  with other iconic buildings of the area and something of Martledge's history.

Picture; © Peter Topping 2012

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Chorlton, Australia and an unpopular food tax

It was one of those serendipity moments which brought together my old friend Alexander Somerville, his contribution to the campaign against an unpopular food tax and our township and along the way brought a new pal from Australia.

Now I say my old friend Alexander Somerville but that is stretching a point as he died in 1885 but I have followed his life, read his books and got to feel he was someone I would like to have spent time with.*

And he was a remarkable man who campaigned on a wide range of social issues, was flogged by the British Army for refusing to attack peaceful protesters in 1832 and wrote extensively on Ireland and agricultural matters.

All of which would make him interesting enough but it was the fact that he came here in 1847, wrote about the place and recorded the conversations with some of our farmers that first drew him to me.

Then I discovered he was active in the campaign to repeal the Corn Laws and regularly took the case into rural communities. Now this must have seemed a tall order, given that the Corn Laws had been introduced to protect British farming by barring the import of foreign cereal into  the country until the price of corn reached 80 shillings a quarter thereby ensuring a market for home grown cereals.

But that is what he did and so it is entirely possible that he passed through here before the repeal in 1846.  All of which led me to ponder on the reception he would have got.  This may not have been so frosty, because although we did grow a fair amount of cereal many of our people were market gardeners and were more focused on the production of fruit and vegetables for the Manchester markets.

I have to admit that my knowledge of the degree of support for the Anti Corn Law Leagues in the countryside is limited and I have always promised myself it is something I must brush up on.  So I was intrigued when my new pal from Australia presented me with a list of the women on the Ladies Committee of the National Anti Corn Law Bazaar held in London in the May of 1845.

Given that the Anti Corn Law League had been founded in Manchester and was popular with the manufacturing interests it is no surprise to clock the number of Manchester addresses as well as the surrounding townships and out into Derbyshire and Yorkshire.

But there are also a few from rural areas, like Burnage and Didsbury which may mean something or may mean nothing at all.  There were plenty of business people who chose to settle away from the smoke and noise of their factories and both places were very pleasant and very much in the countryside.

So I suppose here is the new research project.  Single out, identify and track down these “ladies” and in the process see if there is evidence for their background and social standing in these rural communities.  All of which might lead on to how if they were linked to farming.

So far neither Miss Leete of Poplar Grove, Didsbury or Mrs Thomas Bright from Burnage have stepped out of the shadows but we shall see.

All of which just leaves my new pal.  This is June Pound who lives in Australia and who is related to the woman Alexander Somerville married and amongst her family treasures was the list which really goes to show how serendipity works.

Picture; Anti Corn Law Committee  from the collection of June Pound and cover page of Somerville's autobiography


Old trams past Hardy Lane

Now I decided to keep with the theme of transport and repost a nice tram story from my old friend Lawrence’s blog on Hardy Lane.

We all like trams and Lawrence is no exception, and so here is his fine tale of trams and Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of Lawrence Beedle

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Floods and disasters

I have been drawn back to the Derby flood of 1932, and in particular the suffering any such disaster brings.*

On that Sunday morning most were taken unawares and as ever those who lost the most were those who could not afford to.  Many families in the low lying areas lost everything and without insurance cover this was a real catastrophe.

Opposite; families in the Chester Green Road, watch the rising flood water, while the Lord Mayor made a flood appeal.

Pictures; from Souvenir of the Derby Floods In Aid of the Lord Mayor Flood Fund, May 1932

Scenes from a railway station part 3

Manchester Piccadilly and Florence railway station in the rush hour

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Monday, 24 September 2012

Back again in Bottoms of Stretford Park

We are back in Bottoms of Stretford Park.

It is a field name which could have come straight off one of those saucy seaside postcards, but it’s real enough.  And as I said yesterday made perfect sense given that it bordered Stretford Park.

Now some of you will spot that the photograph cropped up just a few weeks ago when I was writing about the Rough Leech Gutter* and those with powerful memories that I used it much earlier in the year but I think it is worth another look.

Away past the bridge to the left of the houses is what is now Chorlton Park, while just over the brook and is Hough End Hall which like our field was actually in Withington.

It is impossible to know for certain but I suspect that the horses we can see come from Hough End Hall, although it is equally possible that they belonged to Park Brow Farm which was a little further to our right where Sandy Lane joins Nell Lane.

I rather think we are sometime in the early 20th century.  By the late 1920s, the Park had been laid out, Nell Lane widened and the old low bridge replaced by a new one.

What I like about the picture and why I am drawn back to it is because it captures for me that rural past which was Chorlton and would soon be no more.

It is getting to late afternoon and the horses have been brought out after a day in the fields.  There are still plenty of small ponds which were a feature of the township and can be seen in all the old maps.

But soon the last of these will be drained, and the lazy little streams buried in brick culverts leaving just a few old water filled brick pits up by Oswald Road. And it is doubtful that the group of boys who have gathered to watch are from farming families.  Most if not all will be from that row of houses we can see or from the smaller ones directly behind and their parents will clerks, shop keepers, warehouseman and perhaps a few professionals.

All of which points to the way the township was going.  So dear reader gaze on this photograph of Bottoms of Stretford Park and reflect soon enough it would become something different.


Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Sunday, 23 September 2012

British Home Children, home thoughts on a changing history

Now I think that if you can’t bring something new to a story then there is little point in turning on the computer and I have been  reminded of this along with something my mother used to say about history which put simply was “that’s the past and once it has happened and been recorded it’s time to move on.”

But then history has a habit of changing as new information turns up and perspectives alter.

As Hobbs said about the future, “No man can have in his mind a conception of the future for the future is not yet. But of the conceptions of the past we make a future.”

Which pretty much sums up how we interpret the past which is often guided by the contemporary landscape.

Just look at the way Hollywood has portrayed the Native American on film much of which reflects the political outlook of the time as it does some solid historical truth.

So to the point.  The study of the story of British Home Children who were those young people sent from Britain first to Canada and then later Australia to start new lives has undergone a number of different interpretations.

The policy began in the late 19th century as a response to the awful conditions of thousands of destitute and homeless children left to fend for themselves and later as a way of offering new life chances to young people in the orphanages, workhouses and from uncaring families.

At the time it was pretty much seen as a “good thing,” which is still a view held by some people.  But the growing research by relatives and interested parties has begun to reveal a different history and one that draws on the voices of the forgotten ones who were the children who crossed the oceans.

In the process those who stood up against the policy at the time are also being rediscovered.

It makes for messy history where the orthodox line can no longer hold and conflicting views bounce off each other.  And as it goes on lots of people get very cross and shout but out of it comes a better understanding of what it was all about.

But if there is one constant it is that the voices of those that were sent is resurfacing which is a nice and uncontrived way of publicising my friend Lori's new image of the faces of the children who are at the centre of the whole thing.

And points to one last observation which is that so much of the serious research and writing of history springs from the amateur and unprofessional historian and long may it be so.

Picture; from the collection of Lori Oschefski,

Standing in Bottoms of Stretford Park

Yesterday I was on Egerton Road sometime around the beginning of the 20th century, and today I have moved east to the edge of the township.

We are standing in Withington and looking back on to Nell Lane.  Just behind us to our left is Hough End Hall and I think we are again sometime at the beginning of the last century.

The area directly in front had only been developed as housing in the last twenty years.  Before that date this was First Moorfields which along with Second and Third Moorfields was arable land running west alongside the Brook up towards Lime Bank.

Back in the 1840s and 50s these fields were farmed by Charles Renshaw whose other land was dotted about across the township which was pretty much the pattern in Chorlton.  He lived with his brother, Alice Hancok a domestic servants and James Hulse a farm servant In Martledge just opposite where the modern Nicolas Road joins Manchester Road.

Now for those who like me delight in even more obscure knowledge, we are standing in Bottoms of Stretford Park which even I don’t think I could better as a place name.  But the name makes perfect sense because the land to the north which runs beside the modern St Werburghs Road up towards the tram line was Stretford Park farmed by Henry Jackson who lived in Hough End Hall.

And indulging myself even more, the edge of the pond you can see in our photograph and which features on others taken at much the same time was one of a three which fed into my old friend the Rough Leech Gutter.

But Rough Leech Gutter is a topic I have already done and Lime Bank is for another time.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Scenes from a railway station part 1

Now I enjoyed the railway posts and so with no pretence that they are great photographs I have decided features scenes of crowded railway stations.

This was  Oxford Road during the early evening rush hour.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Friday, 21 September 2012

A powerful image from the Together Trust

This is a powerful image and becomes all the more so when you know that it was produced by the Manchester & Salford Boys and Girls Refuge to highlight their work with the destitute young people of Manchester.

It comes from the excellent blog of the Together Trust which consistently publishes pictures and stories from the Trust’s archive and which they kindly let me reproduce.

Now I have written about the work of the Refuge* and recently have become interested in the way they used the media of the day to focus attention on those children who had either been abandoned by their parents or made to work long hours to help maintain the family home.

But as Liz Sykes the archivist of the Trust points out “the children are in ragged clothing and are seen to be sleeping out on the street. However the apparent cleanliness of the boys and posed-like look to the image suggests that this picture was set up by the photographer. It was probably then used to appeal to the Manchester community’s conscience.”

So there’s the dilemma then, a staged picture in the interests of  bringing the message home or a cynical manipulation.  I doubt many of us can honestly say given the awful conditions the children suffered we would not go along with a similar campaign using similar methods.

And as I write this similar pictures and discussions are being posted by colleagues in Canada about the very same approach used by Barnados.

But that is all I am going to say.  If you want to see it as well as the other images and read the accompanying story you will have to go to!)

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust


Thursday, 20 September 2012


Well it is pretty much here.  The Story of Chorlton-Cum-Hardy will be on November 7th 2012.*

“This richly illustrated history exposes every aspect of life in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.  

Drawing on contemporary accounts, Government documents, newspapers, reports, antiquarian books and recent academic work, it debunks many myths about the town – and unearths some surprising truths along the way.  

Local historian Andrew Simpson takes the reader to the rural cottages and houses of the past, many of which disappeared only recently and some which are still local landmarks today. 

Revealing the close links between rural communities and the city and chapters on farming, local industries, shops and pubs, health, wealth and poverty, children, housework and housing, churches, entertainments and sports, crime, politics and all manner of other topics, it will delight residents and visitors alike.”

I am not sure what else to say.  Rather think the publishers have said it all.

Now I have promised stories about how the book came about and these along with details of the launch will be appear later in the month.  But the book signing will be in the Horse and Jockey and Chorlton Book Shop have kindly agreed to organise the evening.

So more later.

*ISBN: 9781860776717; RRP: £18.99, The History Press Ltd, The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL6 2QG

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Manchester Evening News visits the History Wall

Today the Manchester Evening News visited the History Wall.

Yesterday the Wall attracted its first tourists all the way from North Carolina  and today our regional paper paid it a visit.

And read the story behind the History Wall at

Picture; MEN September 19th 2012

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton, part 24 going shopping

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Now I don’t know where Mary Ann did her food shopping or whether she had her favourite tradesmen deliver.  Many people did have weekly and even daily deliveries.  Look at any picture from the late 19th century well into the 20th and there will be the man or boy with horse and cart.  Looking at the signs some tradesmen travelled in from Manchester while others were local.

If she did walk down Beech Road there were plenty to choose from.  It‘s a topic I have visited before ** and I think it is enough to say that our shops would have been a world away from what we experience.  For most without anything other than a cool pantry food shopping was what you did each day to ensure what you ate was fresh.  Much of what you bought was sold loose and carried away in paper bags.  Meat was still hung outside the shops for people to inspect and buying butter was a matter of telling the shop keeper how much you wanted and watching as he carefully cut is from a large piece and patted it back into shape.  And if you were young enough not to be working but old enough to be trusted yours was the job of collecting the milk from one of the nearby farms and bringing it back in a jug.  There are plenty of people who can remember carrying out this task.

But today I am thinking of the supermarket which has helped make a big change to both how we shop and what we eat. Now there were many powerful economic forces at work to make the big all selling supermarket our choice over the tiny corner shop. Producers were increasingly tied to the big chains air travel made it possible to source food from anywhere in the world and so break the natural link with the seasons and the car made it possible to do all the family shop in one go under one roof.

The downsides are all to obivious.  The challenge to localism and the demise of the small individual operator, the monopoly of a few big players who can to a certain extent influence what we eat and the sense that as you push your trolley from aisle to aisle you are part of a huge anonymous process.

On the other hand there is more genuine choice unlike the corner shop where I grew up which offered one type of cheese, plenty of tinned stuff and jars of red sweet stuff which went under the name jam.

And despite the size of our local supermarket I am recognised by some of the staff who remind me of the offers I have overlooked and chat about our respective days.

Added to this I like the idea of making the choice myself, even if the fruit and veg tend to be a uniform colour and size and make me think that they have come out of a factory and not the ground.

In Italy they do still sell wobbly and bent carrots, odd looking peppers many of which still have traces of the soil they were lifted from.

So I wonder when Mary Ann first made the change to a supermarket.  It may have been Tesco’s who took over the old Palais de Luxe by the bus station around 1958.  In those days they were still in the “pile’m high and sell ‘em cheap phase.  Or she may have ventured down to Whitelegg’s on the corner of Manchester Road and Oswald Lane which people tell me went self service at much the same time.

It is easy to forget both the novelty and freedom self service offered the shopper.  Here it was now possible to “shop at one’s own speed; the older lady can select and move round easily at her own pace” while the “young mother from the corner house [whose] baby is teething and a wee bit cross, gathers her basket selects what she wants and is straight out to comfort young Peter.”**  And according to the Co-op there were “6,328 satisfied customers in the first week” of trading at its new self service shops at Hollyhedge and Brownley Green in Wythenshawe which resulted in “trade increases, and flattering comments on layout and ease of shopping.”

She may of course continued to use the ones on Beech Road of which there were still plenty.

Pictures; from the collection of Rita Bishop and Graham Gill

** and

*** Wythenshaw Civic Week 1952

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Chorlton's first tourist attraction?

Now I am about to make the sort of claim which is  slightly flippant but has an element of truth.

The History Wall which opened on September 7th tells the story of Chorlton-Cum-Hardy.  It's a collaboration between local artist Peter Topping, myself, and the developers McCarthy & Stone who are building retirement homes on the old Cosgrove Hall site on Albany Road.

The project spans the 80 meters of the site and has attracted a lot of interest, and now has become a tourist attraction.  Well how else could it be when Cathy Santos Gonzalez and family from North Carolina chose to have their picture taken by the wall?  So is this the birth of Chorlton’s first tourist attraction?

Read the full story at

Picture; from the collection of Tom McGrath

Monday, 17 September 2012

Back along the Old Road

This is another story of the old road.  It is one of those places I keep coming back to, partly because to walk it is still to get a feel of what Chorlton would have been like.

It ran from Hardy Lane, down past the Brook, skirted the church and green before running off across Turn Moss to Stretford.

In its time it would have been a busy place and made more so with the coming of the Duke’s Canal which offered a quick service  from Stretford for passengers using the fast boats and farmers taking their produce to the Manchester markets.

I am a romantic but even I am realistic enough to know that what you see now is not what our traveller in  1841 would have seen.  For a start there is really only the stretch from Hawthorn Lane to the canal left to walk along, and that is very different.

Today it is a pleasant walk bordered for a great part by trees and hedges with limited views of the meadows and playing fields.  It is secluded, quiet and a bit magical.

In 1841 it was more open and while there were trees along its course and an orchard, the land on either side was more open and afforded views across to Turn Moss Farm and back towards the parish church in the village.

And my enthusiasm for the road has rather blinded me to Edge Lane which after the railway station was built was the obvious route to use and of course this is where the fine houses began to be built.  All of which I guess pushed the old road into a quiet track way used by those who farmed either side of it and the odd traveller intent on an alternative way to Stretford.

But all that misses the point that once it was my old road which would have taken you directly into the heart of Stretford which as Lawrence pointed out to me was further south clustered around St Matthew’s.

Edge Lane runs further north and any one leaving the village would first have had to walk away from the direction of Stretford to join the lane and then turn back towards it.

Not so the old road, which led directly out of the village straight towards Stretford.  And I have to say I suspect it was not that much of a popular destination before the opening of the Duke’s Canal.  Look at any map before the late 18th century and the place is not even mentioned.

All of which was to change when it became  a major centre for the processing of pigs for the Manchester market as well the manufacture of black puddings and  gained the nicknames of Swineopolis and Porkhampton.    During the 1830s, between 800 and 1,000 pigs were slaughtered each week and sent into the city.  By which time the old road may well have been just a back water earning it's name as Back Lane.

Picture; from the collections of Andrew Simpson and Lawrence Beedle

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Do It Yourself Guide to Emigrating to Canada in 1871

I doubt that many people have heard of the Cow Cross Mission.

It was a temperance mission hall in White Horse Alley which ran off  Cow Cross Street.

The alley has long gone but it is possible to walk along Cow Cross Street which is just outside the old City of London.  It is a narrow twisty thoroughfare and back in 1871 was flanked by Farringdon Railway Station, the Metropolitan Meat and Poultry Market and a warren of small streets and lanes.  Just the sort of place you would find a mission hall and a temperance one at that.

Maureen Vollum  found the reference to the mission and posted it in Families of British Home Children/British Child Migrants.  Now I love a detective search and having downloaded the book published by the Mission I set to reading it and what a find it is.

The mission organised the emigration of people to Canada, and the 1871 report contains a wealth of detail.  Here are a list of the occupations of the men who went, the ships they travelled out on and vast amount of useful information about “routes, distances, and rates of passage from Quebec” onward across Canada and the US, “with names and addresses of working men in 320 cities and towns,” as well as “Hints on Economic House Building.”  It was a must then and I rather think it will be a wonderful source to trawl through, which I will set myself to do over the coming days.

Picture; cover of the 1871 report

Exchange Station the one that’s a car park

Now I can’t think of a greater indignity for a railway station than it should become a car park.

Not that I have anything against the car but there is something sad in seeing one of those fine examples of public transport reduced to a storage space.

And before any one accuses me of being either sentimental or nostalgic I accept that it is better to use an old building for a new use rather than just see it go for ever.  This at least was what saved Central Station when it closed in 1969 till its re-emergence as GMex a decade or so later.

But unlike Central, the old Exchange Station did not fare so well.  At its closure the tracks along platforms 1 and 2 were lifted, and while trains still passed through, its train shed was demolished in the early 1980s and the remaining lines were taken up in 1993.

It hadn’t always been such.  It was opened in 1884 giving the London & North Western Railway its own Manchester terminus.  For the first time since the closure of Liverpool Road Station the LNWR no longer had to share a station with another railway company.

Now I am the first to acknowledge that there are people who will do a much better job on telling the story of Exchange from its beginnings in 1884 till its eventual closure.  By far and away the best site is which either makes me a very lazy chap or just someone who likes the labours and interests of others to get out into the sunshine.

So instead I shall concentrate on the pictures.  For me the opening photograph perfectly places the station in a context, and anyone driving up the slope today to park has nothing so grand to observe.

It is also that wonderful way the late Victorians and Edwardians matched an empty space to an advertising hoarding.  Now it is difficult with a monochrome image which is not the sharpest to get a sense of the colour and vitality that must have greeted passengers back in 1910 when this one was taken.

On the other hand black and white pictures perfectly capture the magic of a railway station. No more so than on an August day in 1957 on an empty platform as the sunlight cuts through the gloom made all the more striking by the glare of daylight beyond the carriage shed.  We are looking east along platform 2 towards the buffer stops and it is just before one in the afternoon.

This is how I remember railway stations.  And because I grew up just as the age of steam was coming to an end, I am pulled in to the picture of the train about to leave Exchange.  The steam hangs in the air and mixes with the engine oil to give one of those unforgettable smells which no diesel train can ever hope to match.

But then I hear my mother mutter “so much romantic tosh,” because that same powerful and majestic locomotive will send a cloud of sparks and soot across the washing lines of countless houses that stand in tiny gardens up against the railway track.

Well not anymore and certainly not from Exchange.  So having indulged myself in the romance of steam and the glory of the old railway termini I am left with a picture taken just a few months ago.  The tracks have gone, as has the carriage shed and away in the distance on the left is the car park more less where the sun shone down on platform 2 on that August day 55 years ago.

Pictures; Exchange Station, 1910, m62866, Platform 2, August 1957 taken by H.Milligan, m62835, and Steam Locomotve-46110, by  J Clark taken in 1963, m62830, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council and 
looking west at the site of Manchester Exchange station on 2 June 2012. The footbridge which connected the through line platforms can be seen to the left. The cars seen parked beyond the footbridge occupied the site of the station concourse and the west-facing terminus platforms 1 and 2.  Courtesy of

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A picture and a story yet to be told

It’s a picture I have used before and one that I think I will keep coming back to, and tomorrow I will tell their story.
Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Mayfield Station, the forgotten one

It’s the forgotten Manchester Station and one that I had not thought about for over 30 years until Michael Thompson of Hardy Films reminded me of its existence.

You see it every time you are on platform 14 at Piccadilly Station, or on the rare occasion you are on Fairfield Street which runs close by it.

And for a big chunk of the 1970s Fairfield Street was where we caught the bus out to Grey Mare Lane and later to Ashton and you couldn’t avoid the site.

Even now this brick slab of a building dominates the view from the road but few who pass it have much idea of what it was or perhaps what it might become again.

It was opened in 1910 and had been designed to relieve the pressure on what today is Piccadilly Station and remained open until 1960 when it was closed to passengers. Now I am not one to lift the research of other people especially when they have told the story in detail so I will point you to which has an excellent account of the station and where I not only learned of its reuse as a parcels depot, and film location but just possibly its return again to use as an overspill station for Piccadilly.

And I have fond memories of the place.

It was also where my old school colleague Norman Parry brought me sometime around 1974.

We had been talking about growing up in Manchester and Norman had been born close to Fairfield Street, had learned to swim when his father threw in him in the canal nearby and could show me the spot where a horse and cart went down Jutland Street to crash into a round pillar on the wall at the bottom on Store Street.*

Jutland Street or to use its old popular name of “stony brew” connects Ducie Street and Store Street and even today is an impressive sight.  It crosses the canal and then falls down towards the road below in what must be one of the steepest inclines of any street in Manchester.

Even now vehicles take the gradient carefully and back in the 1930s it proved too much for a tired horse hauling a heavy load.  In 1974 the round stone block was still there and with a little gruesome pride Norman pointed to the evidence of that crash on the stonework.

We had gone there also to look at the stables, ramps and storage areas which all the big stations maintained.  It is easy to forget just how much was shifted by horse and cart.

Each railway company had their own stables and in all there were 157 carriers listed in the 1911 street directory.  Look at any picture of the city from the 19th century well into the 20th and the sheer number of horses is everywhere.

I have gone back to look for them but they have long since gone, as has the wall, the stone stump and almost all of the buildings Norman knew and we visited in the summer of 1974.

*Jutland Street was originally called Junction Street and the area was teeming with timber yards, saw mills foundries and cotton factories and I rather think it was the entrance to a timber yard which was where the horse and cart crashed.

Pictures; Mayfield Station, April 1975, by T.A. Fletcher, m63159, and August 1957, by A Brownhill, m63159, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, remaining pictures courtesy of

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 22 cooking a meal

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

I don’t tend to do nostalgia.  It is as my mum used to say a false trail where the days were always sunny, you were always happy and girlfriends never dumped you.

But sometimes objects and memories have a habit of bouncing back and setting you off in all sorts of directions and so it is today.

I am looking at Meta Givern’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.  It was first published in two volumes in the USA in 1947 and ours is the first reprint done the following year which means they are older than me by just one year.

I think they were given to mother soon after she settled down with my father and they have been part of my life.  Not that she used them over much.  They have American measures and many of the foods listed would not have been available in those post war years when there was still rationing.

But I have them in front of me now and they have stood the test of time.  I suppose each generation produces a new essential guide to housework and cooking.  Long before Mrs Beaton and stretching back into the 18th century there was a ready market of the expert guide to running a home.

And as you do I have begun to wonder what cook books Mary Ann would have used. Like so many people of their generation Joe and Mary Ann lived through a real sea change in eating habits.  It would have ranged from jam roly poly pudding heavy with suet to Vesta packet curries, and behind which there is the story of the march from handmade food to the convenience stuff.

Along the way it would have taken in our Imperial past, the privations of rationing during two world wars and that explosion of new foods brought on by the boom of the 1950s and the new look 1960s.
It is easy today with the food of the world at our finger tips and a choice that once was only available for a few short months to forget that the diet of our grandparents was not as bland or boring as we might think.

The Empire, better forms of food preservation and fast travelling ships meant that the tastes of Asia could be there to buy from the corner grocer’s shop.  In the same way during the 19th century the advance of the railway across Britain meant that fish from the North Sea and fruit from Kent could be on a table to eat at the other end of the country on the same day as they were landed or harvested.

After the last war the fridge and freezer along with a handful of other helpful electrical kitchen gadgets as well as decades of cheap food played their part in providing Joe and Mary Ann with new and greater quantities of things to eat.

And then of course there were the TV chefs who perfectly manipulated the television and brought cookery lessons into the home.  It was after all the golden age of DIY with magazines and later TV programmes given over to home improvements of which cooking was just another way of making life that little bit more comfortable.

So I guess in the fullness of time the Scott’s sat down to Coronation Chicken that 1953 dish first served at the Queen’s Coronation meal which was a mixture of cold chicken with mayonnaise and curry.  It sounds quite tame today but against the backdrop of years of rationing I reckon it would have been pretty exotic.**

Of course I will never be able to know what they liked let along what they ate but I am fairly confident that they would have marched with the times and much of what they might have eaten is there in Meta Givern.  Here are appetizers like Apple Tempters and Shrimp Cocktail, traditional main courses of liver and onions, broiled, fried or roast chicken and a host of puddings.  Perhaps if they were feeling truly adventurous they might have eaten Italian Style Liver Macroni and Tomatoes followed by Baked Pears with Marshmallows.

But I am getting carried away with myself, in my youth in the 1950s olive oil was what you used for medicinal purposes, and pasta was not yet a staple.  In fact I shudder to say that in our home we ate spaghetti cooked in milk and sugar, still ate apple sandwiches along with bread spread with beef dripping and ate our tinned fruit salad with the top of the milk.

In time the supermarket was to help change all our eating habits but that as they say is for another time.

Pictures; from Meta Givern’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, 1948, Chicago

**Although there will be the food pedant who points to a similar dish called Jubilee Chicken and served in 1935 for the silver jubilee of King George V

By the press will our deeds be known, a new blog post on the work of the Manchester Refuge

I am always pleased when another story from the Together Trust Archive gets posted, and this one is particularly interesting.*

The media has always been a powerful vehicle for alerting the general public to the social issues of the day and in turn the voluntary agencies have never been backward about using the press to highlight their work.

All of which  is the subject of this month’s blog post.

Now as ever I am not going to rewrite a piece of research and will just direct you to it at the link below.

But  I have always been interested in how organisations get their message across and would love to have met the people responsible for working with the media when the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuge began their work.

There is a particular skill in getting the right stories in the right way out through the newspapers and magazines while at the same time not alienating the reader of the journalist.  Today people are paid lots of money to do just that but I suspect back in the late 19th century it was more a question of who would take on the responsibility on top of all their other tasks.

Looking at the image of Emma before and after admission is to see not only the work of the Refuge but the thinking behind picture.  It isn’t of course an original idea but is no less powerful for that.  And I doubt that the viewer would pause to think it had all been seen before in other papers and in other charitable material dealing with abandoned and destitute children.  Just like today “care fatigue” does not stop us from committing money, time and emotion into campaigns to help the less fortunate.

And there is a real case to be made for saying that all this did was allow the State to walk away from its responsibilities of care and social justice which was being made at the time.

But and I accept the but, while campaigns were waged to elect political parties who would make the right changes, children would still be sleeping in doorways, suffer beatings and remain exploited.

Changing a social system takes time and many of destitute young people didn’t have the luxury of time.  So credit has to be given to the work of the Refuge who did make a difference to peoples’ lives.

And here in these newspaper accounts are just some of those stories, described not just in pictures like that of Emma but in the minutes of countless meetings, decisions at the end of long complex debates and extra tasks that many of the volunteers undertook.

So it is well worth the read.

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust


Monday, 10 September 2012


The sun shone on Friday and the opening of our history wall which tells the story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy in words and pictures was a great success.  

It is unique and I don’t think that there is anywhere else in the city where a developer has come together with a local artist and historian to sponsor the story which records the lives and events of a place.

So now along 80 meters of the site being developed by McCarthy and Stone at Albany Road can be seen the story of Chorlton from small rural community to the busy and exciting township of today.

And Hardy Productions UK filmed the day, which is the lead in to the link which takes you to their film 

Hardy Productions UK is a small video filming enterprise based in the Manchester area of the United Kingdom.The principals of Hardy Productions UK are Michael Thompson and Nigel Anderson.

You can follow their blog  at  see their own YouTube Channel at

For further information, contact and on Twitter and Facebook

Pictures; local students and residents get their first view of the the new history wall of  CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY THE STORY  courtesy of McCarthy and Stone

Chorlton pretentious? A late night conversation by a passerby

“Chorlton is s a pretty pretentious place.”

It was almost the last thing I heard last night from a passerby outside and given that I was fast falling asleep and it was nearly midnight I let it go.

But this morning I began thinking about the comment, no doubt thrown out as an ill thought out comment fuelled by six pints of lager, and a desperate attempt to impress whoever he was with.

Now historically it is pure tosh.  We were a small rural community where the majority of families were agricultural labourers, and even with the expansion of the township in the late 19th century there were plenty of low income families reliant on manual trades as witnessed by the large numbers of small two up and two down properties around Beech Road.

Nor had this changed by the mid 1970s when I washed up here on Beech Road.  My neighbours were bus drivers, mechanics and labourers.   Most of the shops along Beech Road were still the traditional ones which would not have been out of place forty years earlier.  Butchers, bakers, fishmongers and grocers as well as a green grocer and old fashioned hard ware shop.

Politically despite a very active Labour Party, Conservative Councillors were re-elected for Chorlton until 1986.

I suppose my late night passerby could have been referring to the Arts Festival, Book Festival or Beer Festival which all have been a feature of the place for many years.  But then we had the artist Tom Mostyn with his studio on High Lane during the early part of the 20th century and in 1910 were supporting a range of cultural and sporting societies.

And we had our own brass band started in the early 1820s and drawn almost exclusively from agricultural labourer’s market gardeners and farmers.  It ranks as one of the earliest predating Stretford and only just beaten by Stalybridge which had marched to Peterloo in 1819.

It played at many of the agricultural and garden shows which were a feature of the place into the 1920s, marched at the head of the Rose Queen Festival and paraded at the Whit Walks.

Of course we have our fair share of picture galleries, cafes, wine bars and restaurants, but then through most of the 19th century we had beer shops which sat beside the hotel and public houses and during the rest of the following century there were tea rooms and  business’s dealing in fine art and photography.

Nor should we forget that we were there at the start of cinema with our own picture house opened in 1904, and for most of the last century had three cinemas.

All of which bring a lot of pleasure and fun to the place, and of course I could mention the history wall on the Albany Road and Brantingham Road site of the developer McCarthy and Stone which Peter and I have put together to tell the story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy but modesty forbids me to say more.

It is true that house prices have gone through the ceiling to the point where my sons can’t afford to buy here and I have to say I doubt I could either.  But that is how it is across much of south Manchester. Nor is that particularly new.

The expansion of the township along the Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Road corridors in the late 19th century brought both the middling and professional and business people, many of whom regarded Chorlton as a pleasant almost twee area, close to the city centre but on the edge of the countryside.

The train took you into Manchester in under ten minutes and well into the first decades of the last century there were farms, blacksmith and open land just a short walk away from the station.

So to conclude, yes there is something special about the place I have lived in for 36 years, there is a lot going on, and its fun, but I rather think it is not pretentious.

Pictures; from the collection of Carolyn Willitts and the Lloyd collection

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Getting your picture taken

There is something about that formal posed photograph which my parent’s generation and those behind them went in for.

We all have them whether in old fashioned picture frames, or shabby and much used albums and in some cases just loose in a drawer with letters by relatives we know nothing about.

They stare back at you mostly looking very serious, no doubt calculating how much the session was costing or with that faint smile which they know they shouldn’t because this is a special occasion.

And I have become fascinated by what they tell us of the period they were taken.  The most obvious thing of course is their clothes and hairstyles but this is only the start.  In many you don’t see people smiling because to do so would reveal the lack of teeth which was the product of poor diet and an income which precluded the dentist.

Then there is the correct way they stand or sit, often in an arranged way, with the woman sitting down the man standing behind or to one side, and the children in front at the feet of their parents.  It is a style of posing that goes back into the paintings of an early age.

Then there is the cigarette.  It is always there in the movies of the 1930s and 40s and transferred to the formal photograph.  So on a series of pictures taken I guess in the late 1940s there is my mother with a cigarette in hand.

But at least neither she nor my grandparents went in for the studio props which in an earlier age would have been a required addition.  The elaborate table, with its arrangement of flowers the stuffed animals or the mock country scene are missing from my family pictures.

None of which I can say I miss.  But then none of ours come with those beautiful engraved back covers offering the names of the studio in gilt lettering.  Sadly the best we can do is a postcard of grandmother in Derby in the June of 1930 which was placed on a postcard by Spotlight Photos Ltd Derby.

But these engraved back covers are themselves a wonderful source of information.  It enabled me to track the success of a local family of photographers by the list of premises they advertised.  Not I grant you earth shattering stuff but nevertheless another little part of the bigger story.

Charles Ireland took one of the best pictures of a Chorlton cinema.* He had died in 1930 aged 63, left £5,330 to his widow and was buried in Southern Cemetery.   He had been born in Newton in Manchester in 1867 and by 1891 the family were living here on St Clements Road.

This seems to have been a step up.  The family home on Oldham Road in Newton was at the heart of an industrial area.  Just to the north was the large carriage and wagon works of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and to the south and east there were brick works cotton mills, bleach works as well a glass works.

Charles’s father Edward was in partnership as a pawnbroker although he also described himself as a photographer, and by 1891 this appears to have been his sole occupation.  There were as yet few photographers listed in the directories for Manchester in the 1880s and they are still described as artists.  By 1895 he had opened the shop on Lower Mosley Street which Charles still ran until the late 1920s.

Sometime during the early 20th century he opened studios in Edinburgh and Hanley. All of which allowed him to purchase the large house on the corner of Kingshill Road and Edge Lane and for his son to buy the large property on High Lane which had once been the art school of Tom Mostyn.

It is a remarkable story for a man who began as the partner of a pawnbroker and says a lot about the money that could be made from formal photography, which is pretty much where we came in.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson


Manchester ....... June 2012

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson