Wednesday, 31 October 2012

St Ann's Square, Manchester 1910

This is one of a series of photographs from the collection of Rita Bishop and is of St Ann’s Square in Manchester in 1910.

We are standing with our back to the church looking towards the Exchange in the distance on the right.

Picture; from the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Looking beyond the obvious, a photograph and the story of a strike and the North West Labour History Journal

I have decided to re run an older story.

It first appeared in February and I decided to use it again partly as a way of advertising the current edition of North West Labour History, which also includes on its cover one of my photographs.*

Not for the first time am I showing off.

This edition of the journal has the theme “That sense of solidarity” and includes articles on Anni Marland who was a “popular organiser for the Women’s Trade Union League" on the Postman’s Federation 1854-1927, and the Nelson Clarion House.

And for me it is the reviews which are particularly useful and in this edition they range from a book on the English Civil War in Lancashire, to Tales of Daring and Adventures in Victorian Bolton and  a Guide tor Local Historians.

And of course my own piece “Looking back at the obvious.” which this blog piece is a shortened version.

Photographs are not always what they seem. We can stare at an image and on the face of it draw all sorts of conclusions. Conclusions about when it was taken, who the people were and what purpose it served.

I had seen this photograph countless times and never really studied it. There was a suggestion that the date was 1880 and clearly the presence of the police hinted at trouble.

But study the picture and it tells its own story. A line of policeman are walking beside the horse and cart and alongside flanking them is a crowd, many of whom are keeping pace with the procession. Usually at least one person would be caught smiling at the camera perhaps even fooling around but not today. Look more closely and their faces suggest a collective sense of seriousness perhaps even anxiety. To our right a young woman is running and the purposeful expression on her face hints that all is not well.

There are questions that need to be asked of the image. Why are the police escorting a cart? Perhaps it was stolen but would this bring so many people out on to the streets? And why is the young woman running to get ahead of the police?

The caption in the police archives reveals that the cart is heading from Piccadilly Gardens along Newton Street. Now there was a police station on Newton Street, but it is also the direction you might take to get to the wholesale food market.

The clothes of the crowd are much later than the 1880s and put the photograph at the beginning of the twentieth century. This was a time of major industrial confrontation and the years around 1911 saw some of the bitterest clashes between employers and the Government on one side and organised labour on the other.

There were strikes in the south Wales coal fields, and trouble in Liverpool which began with a sailors strike and spread across the city involving other industries. And while the miners lost the workers in Liverpool were mostly successful and pointed the way forward for other workers in other industries around the country. There was a growing feeling that industrial action would deliver a better life for working people. And the agitation even spread to the schools. In over sixty cities and towns children came out as well. The number of working days lost because of strikes climbed as did the number of trade union members, and In Parliament Churchill, the Home Secretary was often preoccupied with questions on the industrial unrest.

All of this was against a backdrop of wage cuts, poor working conditions, and rapid inflation. Between 1889 and 1910 the cost of food rose by 10 per cent and the cost of coal by 18 per cent. The life expectancy for working men was just 50 years of age and 54 for women, five per cent of children aged between 10 and 14 were already at work and the richest one percent held 70 percent of the wealth.

Tensions mounted and the army was sent into the striking areas with fatal consequences. A miner was killed in south Wales and two workers in Liverpool.

Here in the city the same awful poverty, dreadful housing conditions and bleak prospects were evident to anyone who cared to walk just a few minutes from the tall impressive headquarters of commerce.
Just a little east of the scene in our photograph were the crowded streets and courts of Ancoats and Ardwick, while in the direction the procession was taking could be found New Cross , Redbank and Strangeways, all of which commentators agreed should be raised to the ground.

The photograph also provides a clue to the time of year. Our young woman is in shirt sleeves and the men in the crowd are dressed in suits. The summer of 1911 was particularly warm. June had been a mix of sun and showers but July was fine and hot and gave rise to fears of a prolonged drought and it is in early July that our picture was taken. It may have been Tuesday July 4th but certainly during that week.

I can be fairly certain because it was during this week that the carters went on strike here in the city. Twelve thousand men were on strike and in pursuance of their claim were picketing the docks to prevent the movement of food to the wholesale market.

* North West Labour History, No 37, 2012-13 £7.95

Picture; Greater Manchester Police Archive, July 1911 by kind permission of Greater Manchester Police Archive, July 1911

Sunday, 28 October 2012

When Albert Square looked just a little different

I don’t have a date for the photograph but I rather think we are sometime in the 1950s, although I am quite prepared to be proved wrong.

Either way it is a wonderful picture of Albert Square before the space in front of the Town Hall was made traffic free and the public lavatories just at the bottom of the picture closed and built over.

Now I am not one of those secret tunnel enthusiasts but I would love to know if the gents and ladies were stripped of all of their fittings and filled in or just caped, ready to be reused at some later stage.

It is one of those pictures which is almost the Albert Square we know today but not quite. The memorial and surrounding buildings have yet to have a century and a bit of soot and grime cleaned from their walls, and the road behind the statutes still has its island bus stops and shelter.  They will go in the 1970s along with the buildings to the left of the picture

But there is that is still familiar. Cross Street to the north of the square is pretty much unchanged as are the buildings directly facing us.

I do have to admit I am little curious about the white building in the right hand corner which today is monumental slab with a Starbucks outlet on the ground floor.

Having said all that it does look old fashioned, which I guess it partly because of the quality and colour of the photograph and the odd looking cars and buses.

And here I have to admit the unpalatable.  I am old enough to recognise the scene from the darkened buildings to the layout of the square and above all the red buses.  These belonged to the corporation of Manchester but equally there were green and blue buses operated by neighbouring local authorities who crossed in and out of the city.

Picture; Albert Square from the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop

Getting a context ...... useful websites

Now I am always on the lookout for more ways to understand the period during which the British Home Children policy operated and in particular the background to what was happening to the less fortunate young people.

So I was pleased when the December edition of WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? magazine, ran a feature on useful websites which provide information about both destitute children and those who slipped into crime.

So here are the sites. Hidden lives Revealed,  The Children’s Society helped about 22,500 children between its foundation in 1881 and the end of the First World War, and this is a virtual archive of the treatment of poor and disadvantaged children during the period.

Old Baily Online, this free and comprehensive source has transcribed material from 197,745 criminal cases.

Dictionary of Victorian London, which is an illustrated encyclopaedia of sources covering the social history of Victorian England.

And of course  Getting down and dusty which features regular stories from the archives of the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges, now the Together Trust.

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A new resource for finding British Home Children

The story of British Home Children is one that has begun to fascinate me as anyone who has looked at the blog over the last year will know.

British Home Children were those who were sent first to Canada and later Australia as well other parts of the British Empire on the assumption that they were being offered a better life.

The story is a mixed one and one that I have explored at length.

And I have to say that in comparison with Canada we are slow at telling the story and so I welcomed the news from my friend Lori that there is now a site for people to explore the links and resources which might help them discover more.

Picture; from the collection of Lori Oschefski,

Oysters from London on sale in Smithy Door

It is a long time since I featured an advert from the 1850s. 

So here is one for Oysters sold by William Whitaker who “guarantees the FISH he sells, so that the Public may have confidence in all purchases made at his Establishment.”  Well you can’t say fairer than that.

Picture; from Slater’s Manchester & Salford Directory, 1850


I first came across the Simon family soon after I started teaching in Wythenshawe.

It was 1973 when  I came found a speech Lady Simon had given at Oldwood Secondary school sometime in the 1958

Oldwood had opened its doors in the 1950s and became the lower school of Poundswick High School in 1967.

In that pre National Curriculum age I often wandered off the history syllabus to introduce my students to Ernest and Shena Simon, their gift of Wythenshawe Hall to the city and their unswerving work to improve the provision of social housing and education in Manchester.

More recently I discovered that Shena Simon had been a councillor here in Chorlton.

All of which means I will be a little disappointed to miss the talk by Diana Leitch on the story of Lord Simon of Wythenshawe at the Emanuel Church on Barlow Moor Road, tonight at 7 tonight.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Following the story of a valley

Now I have been sharing my love of a wonderful children’s book which was published in the 1950s, and told the story of an imaginary valley over thousands of years.

I say an imaginary valley but it draws on the history of many such valleys, from before the first Palaeolithic hunter gathers wandered into it and finished in the 1950s.

I continue to hope that the O.U.P., will get round to republishing it.

But in the meantime here are two more of the wonderful colour illustrations showing the valley around 1250 and again in 1475.

During the two years that separate the two scenes, the castle defences have been developed and the town has grown.  Soon it will spread outside town walls.

Pictures; from A Valley Grows Up Edward Osmond O.U.P.

* Other posts on the book at

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Trams magic and two tram museums

What is it about the old fashioned tram that continues to excite so much interest?

They  came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some pulled by horses and others powered by ugly cables which disfigured street scenes. By all accounts they were uncomfortable to travel in.

And yet they remain some of the most popular stories on the blog.

I suppose it is that they are so different from any form of public transport today.  Few will remember the trolley bus which was a cross between the old tram and a bus and always made me feel ill.  Nor do they have much in common with the modern Metro tram which for great chunks of the journey is like sitting in a train.

But looking at the tram opposite I think I can see some of the attraction.  They look old and are a link with a different time when they did things differently, and they have a style and a grace which mark them out.  This one is tall, narrow and to my mind quite elegant.  It is a tram I have shown before and I guess is what we think when the word tram is mentioned.

So instead here is a single deck “California” ready to depart for Belle Vue from West Point about 1905.

We are on Seymour Grove, and our trams is about to head down Upper Chorlton Road to Brooks Bar and on to  Hyde Road.

But I am at the limit of of my tram route knowledge, and there will be someone out there  who will correct me.

But back to the tram and the moment.  It looks to be a warm summer’s day with at least one person comfortable enough to be walking out with just a blouse on.  And like so many photographs of the period the presence of a photographer has drawn the curious and the passers by.  The tram driver and conductor pose for the picture, a man with a fashionable straw hat looks on and away in the distance a policeman and group of pedestrians stare back.  Only the young woman and the boy are oblivious to the event unfolding.  She is too busy with the child in her arms and the lad seems to be captivated by the tram.

Which is just about where we came in.

All there is left to say is that we do have our own transport museum on Boyle Street off Cheetham Hill Road.  And as a fitting close to the story we also have  The Manchester Transport Museum Society which has a collection of trams at Heaton Park It came into existence in the 1960s when a group of enthusiasts met to restore  a Manchester California tram car, number 765, which had been discovered on the moors above Huddersfield.

Pictures; from the Lloyd Collection

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Fallowfield from field to housing estate in 40 years.

It is hard to grasp just how rural all of south Manchester once was.

Leaving the city and clearing Hulme or Cornbrook a traveller in 1840 would soon have been in fields and by and large it would have changed little from the early years of the 19th century.

And yet within 40 years the land was being parcelled up and handed over to developers who quickly began building houses, and cutting new roads which had been made possible by the provision of improved sanitation, piped water and gas, and given a further push with the establishment of new railway and later tram routes into the heart of the city making it possible to work in Manchester but live in Chorlton, Withington, Didsbury or Fallowfield.

First came the grand villas, then the large semi detached houses with pretentious sounding names, and finally the tall rows of terraced houses catering for the professional and clerical  people.  Lastly the six shillling a week*  two up two downs built for skilled workers and semi skilled.

Just what this meant can be seen in a series of maps that were published in Sketches of Fallowfield by Mrs.W.C. Williamson in 1888.  The looks back on Fallowfield’s rural past which for many was by the 1880s a different place.

Pictures; from Sketches of Fallowfield
* Manchester Evening News September 20th 1901

Friday, 19 October 2012


Now anyone who knows me will know I am a modest enough chap, but even I have to grab my fifteen minutes of fame and announce officially that the book is in Chorlton at Chorlton Book shop.

Early I grant you but all the more fun for that.

And the launch is still on for Wednesday November 7th at 8pm in the Horse and Jockey by the green. There will be live folk music, some interesting people, me and the book which pretty much covers it.

Available from Chorlton Book Shop,  0161 881 6374

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

Picture; adapted from the original by Peter Topping

And you can read the story of the book at

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The History of Martledge, now showing at Chorlton Library

We are on Wilbraham Road around 1895 and I am drawn to the parade of shops and houses on the left of the picture.

In one of them lived the Shaw family, who were the same family who opened the first petrol pump outside their garage on Barlow Moor Road sometime after 1915.

But I want to start with the house on the end.  It was a fine double fronted eleven roomed building and went under the name of Sunwick.  In 1911 it was home to the Case family.  They were typical of that new group of people who had moved into Chorlton during the last two decades of the 19th century.  Neither was from here but their children were and they were well enough off to employ three servants.  Usually most of the families at this end of Chorlton had just one, but they could afford a cook, house maid and waitress.  But

Henry Case was a surgeon and had appearances to keep up.  And this was after all a big house which had stood in a large garden in splendid isolation for perhaps twenty years on the corner of Wilbraham Road with open land to the south.  I guess it dated from after 1860 when Lord Egerton cut Wilbraham Road through the township.

But its days as a residential property were numbered in 1911 and while I have yet to find the date when it became a bank that was what it had become by the 1920s.  The fine bay windows were taken out and all that remains is the name Sunwick on one of the stone gate posts

And by the time our picture had been taken a terrace of ten largish houses had been built from what is now the corner of Manchester Road, followed by the shops which appear on the left of the photograph.  Here in 1911 could be found a dress maker, photographer, a confectioners and a book shop.  They fitted well with the new people who were settling here, and in time as the area lost it rural character and its old name of Martledge become more urbanised it took on the name of New Chorlton.*

Peter and I have tried to capture that change in our new exhibition  at Chorlton Library which runs for the next month.  The History of Martledge, records that transformation in words, old photographs and Peter’s paintings.

As ever it is the mix of history with the paintings of contemporary Chorlton which make for something more than just a record of the past.

And so to end here is one of Peter’s latest paintings, which perfectly captures Sunwick and the adjoining building on Wilbraham Road, just over 117 years after the  Shaw and Case families looked out on that same road.

Pictures; from the Lloyd Collection and © Peter Topping 2012


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dennis and Elaine Part two

Now I never expected to hear from Elaine.

After all the events I wrote about happened back in 1970 and that is a long time ago .Back then you couldn’t pass a wall without seeing the names “Dennis and Elaine.”*

They were there at bus stops, beside advertising hoardings and of course street walls.

They began in 1970 and ceased as abruptly two years later.

So it was a real surprise when just a week or so ago Elaine took the trouble to make contact and in turn shared the memories of her friends who also remembered the “Dennis and Elaine” signature across Withington.

And not for the first time it made me reflect that history is more than just the story of the top people and great events.  These are important but so are all the tiny bits which help us make sense of the past.

My parents were not  famous, did not invent a life saving drug, or climb a tall mountain but they helped win a world war and set about making a good peace after the conflict.  They were two “of the little people caught up in a big century” and they left their mark.

They left it in the stories they passed down to us, the way they brought my sisters and I up and in the odd simple objects that were part of how they lived.

Here for example is the tiny wooden thing mother used to darn our socks.

I could instead have chosen the heavy metal last which father repaired our shoes with but this “wooden mushroom” has played another role over the years.

For my mother it was a simple but effective way of stretching the woollen sock so that she could sort out the hole.

It was inexpensive but did the job and so would have been one of the essential  household tools.

And for me it became  a perfect teaching aid in introducing history to young students.    Faced with having to decide what the object was we explored door handles, mortar and pestles to wooden stamps, and rarely arrived at its true function, but in the process they got to think about how you make sense of the past through the things that were left behind.

In its way that is exactly my fascination with “Dennis and Elaine.”  It is as much a part of popular history as the graffiti on the walls of Pompeii which ranged from the bitter “you love Iris but she does not love you” and the sweet “If anyone does not believe in Venus they should gaze at my girlfriend” to the touching “I don’t want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world,” and the sombre “Atimetus got me pregnant”**

Now I could get all pompous about how they all reflect one of the basic and universal human drives to record  your feelings, instead I shall just reflect that in the words of one of Elaine’s friends “How wonderful - 40 odd years later, a complete stranger remembers... absolutely amazing!”

Just goes to show history is an amazing subject.


**Graffiti from Pompeii,

Picture; Salford in the 1970s, from the collection of JBS and mushroom darner

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Beer at 13p a can, and British Sherry from 45p in 1974

This is no way a nostalgic trip down a lane where everything was better, cheaper and in the case of washing machines lasted longer.

On the other hand looking at comparing adverts from the recent past can be a real lesson in how things have changed, even given of course that wages reflected and matched the prices here being advertised in the Winerama.

I tried the telephone, it didn’t exist.

Picture; from the collection of Graham Gill

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

In a field on a pic-nic with fish paste sandwiches, now that's an inticing invite

I just couldn’t resist sharing another of my friend Lawrence’s blog posts.  

This one is on the Co-op and the Pic-Nic circa 1934, and while you are at it scroll down for a day on the meadows with water every where and not a sandwich in sight

Picture; from the collection of Lawrence Beedle.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Chorlton on Film

The Chorlton History Groups just keeps on going from strength to strength.

Recently Bernard presentedChorlton on Film” –using the NW Film Archive and other sources, a look at Chorlton and Manchester as seen from old films & newsreels.

Here were family films from the 1960s, documentaries covering the period before and just after the war, the Beegees revisiting Chorlton and reflecting on their first live performance at the Chorlton Gaumont in 1955, as well as scenes from Stretford pageant 1930 & 1931, and the Horse and Jockey in 1949 which featured in a short film Bella's Birthday.

Future talks will include Chorlton in the Middle Ages and the History of Punch and Judy.

The Chorlton History Group meets on the first Thursday of the month at 1.30-3pm Chorlton Good Neighbours, Wilbraham St Ninians Church, Egerton Road South.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Saturday, 6 October 2012

THE STORY OF CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY a new history now in the bookshops

It's arrived.

THE STORY OF CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY now in the bookshops.*

Available from Chorlton Book Shop who have been taking orders for months and will be organising the launch and book signing at the Horse & Jockey

“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.”

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

Picture; adapted from the original by Peter Topping

Manley House, Whalley Hall and Upper Chorlton Road

This I think should be the last of the stories on the mystery of Whalley House on Upper Chorlton Road.

I began it all with a picture of a gatehouse which the caption described as the entrance to Whalley House.

Now this was the home of the banker Samuel Brooks who in 1836 bought Jackson’s Moss and set about developing it into a desirable housing estate for the seriously well off just a few miles south of Manchester.

It was on Upper Chorlton Road and out of sheer curiosity I set about looking it up on the 1911 census which was the first to detail the exact number of rooms in each property.  Samuel had lived there with his three children and five servants.

Maps of the 1840s show it as a grand place set in large gardens, but those self same maps suggest it was further north than our picture and I couldn’t find it on the census.

What I did find was Manley Hall, and today’s picture confirms that our gate house is that of Manley House, for which I have a whole set of people living in the house and the grounds.

The caption reads “Upper Chorlton Road looking from Manley Hall towards Brook’s Bar about 1911”

And in the fullness of time I think I will bring them out into the sunlight.  In the meantime I think  having ventured out of the township as I shall continue along Upper Chorlton Road and out towards the city taking in more of Whalley Range.

Pictures; from the Lloyd collection and detail of the OS map of Lancashire 1841-53 courtesy of Digital Archives,

Friday, 5 October 2012

Home documents from a World War No 1 The National Milk Scheme

Sometimes it is just enough to let the documents speak for themselves.  

So here is the first from the collection of Graham Gill.

Graham has a vast treasure chest of personal and family material which spans the century we have just left.  

There are photographs from two world wars, adverts from the 1950s and many other wonderful things.

Today I want to feature a permit for the sale of milk issued under the National Milk Scheme, which had been introduced in 1940 as part of the wider policy of rationing.

The National Milk Scheme provided one pint of milk for every child under five. Expectant mothers and young children were entitled to free milk if the combined income of parents was less than 40 shillings a week.  

Parents had to complete a form every three month and obtain the signature of a doctor or “similar responsible person.”

Our document however comes from the other end of the process, and was the permit authorising the Co-op Dairies in Northenden to sell milk at the regulated price Two pence per pint.

Like much about war time regulations the permit ran for a short period and had to be renewed every three months and “at least 14 days before the permit expires.”

Mr Gill had to sell to only those registered with him and “identified by ration books bearing National Registration numbers detailed” with the documentation. 


So had the Northenden Diary been bombed then consumers were asked to visit Beech House on Yew Tree Road, while in Chorlton it was the Baptist School, Sibson Street, Wilbraham Road.*

What I like so much about the document is that it is an example of everyday life in the midst of a huge war and is an insight into how “the little people caught up in a great century” just got on with the routines.  In its way it is as important as any great paper of State or speech in Parliament.  And above all it is a personal item which fixes a name to an event.

*This was of course Sibson Road and the school was in the Baptist Sunday School Hall which stood behind the church and had incidentally been a Red Cross Hospital during the Great War.

Picture; from the collection of Graham Gill

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Back on Upper Chorlton Road and the mystery of Whalley House

Now sometimes you get locked into a quest which you know is trivial and so it is with today’s story, because I am still on Upper Chorlton Road pondering on the mystery of Whalley House.

Back in the middle decades of the 19th century this was the home of Samuel Brooks who was a banker, property developer and like many of his class a philanthropist.

In 1832 he had subscribed to a fund to alleviate the hardships caused by the Cholera epidemic, and eight years later contributed £1,500 towards the building of the Lancashire Independent College in Whalley Range.

His donation which was the second largest  contribution amounted to almost 15% of the cost of the building.  Now the cynics might point to the fact that Samuel sold the land upon which the college was built for £3,650 and thus made a gain, but I think that would be a little unfair.

It also takes us away from the quest.  Yesterday’s story featured the photograph which is identified as Whalley House, but the maps and census returns would place it further north along Upper Chorlton Road.

And just perhaps this second picture helps with that idea.  We are again on Upper Chorlton Road just past the TA Centre and there is the familiar gate house.  The parade of shops is still there today but the gatehouse has gone.

But looking at the two photographs this is clearly the same gate house.  The date of this second picture is unknown but I judge it to be sometime in the 1930s, which was after Whalley House had been demolished.

Now of course the gate house may have been knocked down later but I am as I expect are you a little confused.  So I would welcome help.

But before I close I want to look more closely at this second photograph. Something like 80 years separate it from today but little has really changed.  The garage is still there, and so are the shops, although many have followed the trend of Chorlton and have become bars and restaurants.  Take away the tram, tram lines and the old fashioned cars and all that really dates it are the uniform curtains and blinds at the upstairs windows, some of which have been drawn against the strong winter sunshine.

Pictures; from the Lloyd collection

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Out on Upper Chorlton Road in 1925

We are outside the township which might be seen as leaving my comfort zone, but only just outside.

The year is 1925 and this is Upper Chorlton Road.

Back in the 1840s this area was being developed by Samuel Brooks into "a desirable estate for gentlemen and their families."

It had been a swampy area known as Jackson’s Moss but with its purchase by Brooks in 1836 it was transformed into a pleasant estate of fine houses set in large private gardens.  And it was a patten he was to repeat elsewhere.

As a testament to his own confidence in the development he chose to live on the estate and it is the entrance to his house which we can see in the photograph.  This was Whalley House and it stood here for almost a century before being demolished in 1930.

Well that it was the caption says on the photograph in the collection but I am just a tad unsure.  The maps from the 1840s through to the ‘90s suggest that Whalley House was a little further to the north which seems to be confirmed by the 1901 census.

All of which may seem a little pedantic and something I want to return to tomorrow.  In the meantime I think I will explore a little bit more of the life of Samuel Brooks.

He was a banker and lived at his new home with his three adult children and five servants.  Like many of his contemporaries none of the servants he employed were local.  This was a common enough practice, for who would want their family secrets made the gossip of the community? So of his five, one was born in Withington, and second from Yorkshire, a third from Suffolk and the remaining two from Manchester.

Two years after he bought the land he cut a new road from West Point* to Brooks Bar.  This had originally been just a footpath along which ran a brook which he arched over and used as a sewer from his home to the Black Brook.

It was an amazingly cavalier approach to sanitation and is a reminder that there must be plenty more little brooks, streams and water courses which once flowed in the open and have now been buried and many forgotten.

And his brazen use of the brook as a sewer caused problems well into the century.  Thomas Ellwood writing in 1885 reported that

“the brook frequently flooded the footpath during heavy rain, and old William Hesketh, who lived at the Pop Cottage, was often awakened at night by the cries of travellers for help and guidance through the water. Amongst these was sometimes the Wesleyan minister, who had been to the village to preach.“ **

All of which is a long way from the picture of Upper Chorlton Road on a summer’s day in 1925. And in my search to find out more about the houses of Whalley Range I came across this site which is a wonderful place to get a sense of the history and current events in the place where Samuel Brooks developed his estate in  1836.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

*West Point was the name for what is now the junction of Manchester, Upper Chorlton Roads and Seymour Grove
** Elwood, Thomas, Roads and Footpaths, December 12th  1885, South Manchester Gazette

The story of Martledge, the exhibition at Chorlton Library from October 4th

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

It was that area stretching roughly from the four banks up towards the Library and was a mix of farms, labourers’ cottages, a few fine houses and the old Royal Oak.

As a way of bringing it out of the shadows Peter and I have mounted an exhibition at Chorlton Library beginning tomorrow.

The exhibition charts the changes to the area with pictures and stories and contemporary paintings.

And it is fittting that it should be the library because this was the site of Red Gates Farm which had been home to generations of farmers from the 18th century.

The last family to live at Red Gates left around 1910 and within four years the site had become the library.

Picture; Red Gates Farm from the collection of Carolyn Willitts and Chorlton Library from the Lloyd Collection

Monday, 1 October 2012

Rosen Hallas Home and a second life chance

“A girl comes years ago in the dawn of her maidenhood, not trailing ‘clouds of glory,’ but giving painful evidence of the staining power of the polluted moral atmosphere in which she lived.”*

Change some of the old fashioned words and it could be a description of countless young people who still face abuse at the hand of adults.

It was written in 1921 and refers to an incident that occurred perhaps twenty years earlier.  In this case it turned out well, for the girl who experienced that “polluted moral atmosphere” became a “wife and mother, mistress of a pretty Canadian farm, loved by her husband and valued as a worthy member of an enterprising community.  What lies between the past and present?  A sympathy, a faith, a hope and a vision, working a modern miracle.”

Now William Edmondson who told this story was a devout Christian and the language he uses reflects that faith but he had also been Secretary of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and Homes which had been engaged in rescuing children off the streets of Manchester from 1870.

At first the organisation had concentrated on destitute boys, offering them a bed for the night and a meal.  In time in branched out into a fully campaigning organisation bringing neglectful and abusive parents to court and running holiday homes as well as seeking to provide work and training for young people and emigrating some to Canada.

In 1878 it opened its first girls’ home on George Street which was off Cheetham Hill Road.  This was number 12 George Street and in the same row the Refuge had another five homes.**

A little later in 1886 and a little further along on Bury Old Road it opened the Rosen Hallas Home which was a pretty impressive building and stood in its own gardens with a small hospital in the grounds.

What marks this place out for me is that it was where some of the girls after their training in domestic skills were emigrated to Canada. It looked after between 30 and 40 older girls and they “came voluntarily, stayed willingly, and were free to leave after due notice.”

There were success stories and many of the “girls have responded to the influences brought to bear on them while at Rosen Hallas Home. 

Opposite; reunion of old girls

Some have been difficult cases, often owing to their misfortunes rather than to their fault because of their earlier associations, but the very difficulty has been a challenge to the love and patience of those weaving good character from the raw material of neglected childhood.”

Pictures; Rosen Hallas Home and reunion of old girls, courtesy of the Together Trust, map of the area around Rosen Hallas courtesy of Digital Archives,

*Edmondson, William, Making Rough Places Plain, Fifty Years’ Work of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and Homes 1870-1920, Manchester 1921 pp 78-79
** Numbers 2-12 listed in 1909 as Orphan Homes with Thomas R Ackroyd, secretary. Slater’s Manchester, Salford and Suburban Direct