Monday, 30 July 2012

To keep or throw away things ..... that tell a story


It’s one of those fault lines running through our house.  I have a tendency to collect which if truth be known is just hoarding and there are others who relentlessly declutter.  It is that age old dilemma of which pieces of paper to keep to throw away?  Now I know it is easier now with paperless bills and emails but it remains a problem for me.

Not only do I have the entire collection of Beano’s from 1985 to 97, assorted runs of Look and Learn but during the 90s I went back and began buying whole volumes of the Eagle comic, which I first read in 1957.
More importantly there are the family documents, nothing I grant you as grand as a signed letter from minor royalty or the plans drawn up by Capability Brown for a new garden estate.  Ours are more down to earth.

They include wartime letters faded photographs and quite a few negatives which I reckon haven’t seen daylight for over 80 years and lots more.  Earlier I wrote about the family identity cards and today I want to share a medical certificate which I guess my father had to possess so that he could carry on working.

It is the International Certificate of Vaccination or Revaccination against small pox issued by the Ministry of Health.  Now I haven’t found out yet which European countries required it but as dad worked across Western Europe it could have been any one of many.  Or it may just have been that because of the outbreak of smallpox here in Britain in 1962 our neighbours naturally enough wanted to be sure he was free of the disease.

And smallpox was still a killer.  Today through the efforts of the World Health Organisation it has been eliminated, but in the early 20th century stretching back into time it was both feared and dreaded.  At best it could leave an infected person terribly disfigured and of course often proved fatal.

Now I remember the 1962 outbreak only because were vaccinated as were thousands of children across the country. Now like all these things there is a blog devoted to the outbreak http://smallpox1962.wordpress.com so I’ll let you go there to get the full story.

But had Dad not kept the certificate and had I in turn not stored it away there would be no record of the impact on the disease on my family.

Not perhaps great page turning history, but history.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A picture a day ... The Police station Beech Road circa 1920

A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

 Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Richard Buxton, "all pleased with our day’s excursion” part eight


This will be the last post on Richard Buxton, who I have been writing about since January, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Richard%20Buxton

His was  a great achievement.  From a humble background dogged by poverty and self taught he spent a life time identifying and collecting the “flowering plants, ferns, mosses and algae around Manchester” and publishing them in a book with contemporary poems.  It was as he said intended “for working men, the cultivators of the soil, and young people of both sexes.”  And in this he seems to have succeeded.  Botanists still read his book and use it to identify plants which he first saw.    In a spot where Chorlton (Gore) Brook runs into the Mersey David Bishop has seen the same plants first observed by Buxton one hundred and sixty years ago.

Nor should we underestimate what was involved in walking the fields around Manchester.  It may always have been a joy but it must have tested a man who had spent a week of unremitting toil in that Port Street workshop.  One such walk was to Chorlton which was still a small village four miles from Manchester.

He was to set off with other botanists at seven in the morning from Hunts Bank.  It had been he remembered “one of the hottest and driest summers that I can remember, and there had been no rain in the neighbourhood for two or three months; but on the day appointed for our meeting, very heavy rain came on about five in the morning.”  With great honesty he continued, “I should not have thought of stirring out of doors; but, having made the appointment, I thought it just possible that my friends might come, and I would not on any account disappoint them.  We all went in the rain, through Manchester to Chorlton-cum-Hardy. After staying at the last named place some time the weather changed and a fine day ensued ” encouraging them to push over the Mersey at Jackson’s Boat  and on to Baguley Moor and Hale Moss “and after having botanized there ..... returned to Manchester at dusk, all pleased with our day’s excursion”   

To the north of the city lies Kersal Moor.  Buxton often visited the moor, a place which was rich in mosses, heathers, grasses and ferns as well oak rown and cherry trees.  Here in June 1826 he “happened to see a person engaged in the same pursuits as myself ........... This was no other person than John Horsefield, hand-loom weaver of Whitefield the President of the Prestwich Society; and now president of the General Botanical Meeetings”.   Three years later an amateur insect collector named Robert Cribb, collected a series of about fifty small yellow and brown moths which turned out to be a previously unknown species of moth.

It was also the scene of the largest Chartist demonstration in the north.  On September 24th 1838 anything between 30,000 and 300,000 met to listen to speakers from all over the country.    Buxton does not record whether he was on the moor, nor what he felt about the Government stationing troops there ten years later in the face of further Chartist demonstrations.  As ever his autobiography records only his interest in the plants of the Moor and the work of Horsefield.

And it was from the Moor that he must have gazed back at the city and contrasted the peace and tranquilly of the place with noise, dirt and bustle of Manchester.  Just thirty-one  years later, the artist William Wyld captured the scene in his painting A View of Manchester from Kersal Moor.

In a literate world where reading and writing are taken for granted, it is easy to gloss over the fact that at the age of sixteen he was illiterate, and had to set himself the task of learning to read.  What is all the more remarkable is that having mastered the spelling book and the narrative of the New Testament he realized he needed to know not only how to pronounce the words but their exact meaning.  And so “By this means I was enabled not only to read, but also to understand the meaning of what I read, and to speak it correctly.”

All the more remarkable given that his working day lasted from six in the morning till eight or nine at night.
He does represent that strand of the urban working class who battled against poverty and an unfair system to improve himself not by money but by learning.  His goal was to better understand the world he lived in and share that understanding with others.  In that sense he was very remarkable.  In a few more generations compulsory state education would make his achievements of self learning a thing of the past.

And likewise the very method by which he made a living would soon also be consigned to the past. Having been apprenticed to a craft trade in a city increasingly dominated by machines and new ways of doing things his trade would soon be eclipsed.  Shoes with leather tops would be replaced by cloth and later machines would replace the skilled worker altogether.

I suppose the other great achievement was Buxton’s acceptance by other naturalists and his invitation to join the Manchester Mechanics' Institution natural history class, where, he largely compiled the Flora Mancuniensis (1840).

In 1861 Richard and his sister Mary had moved just about a mile away to Martin Street which was off St Andrews Street behind Piccadilly Railway Station.     Mary was by then aged 81 and a widow and he was 76.

He died in January 1865 in Limekiln Lane, which seems a grim place.  The 1884 OS map shows the lane bounded by the river and reservoir and surrounded by an iron forge, lime kiln, printworks, a dye works and a rubber works.  Only a few houses existed in 1884 and today the area is empty.  A dismal place for what by then must have been a lonely end.

But there is something powerfully uplifting about his life.  He may have lived his life in what Engels described as a place which was “coal black and stinking” and have toiled for very little but he could write about “the cool shade of the woods, the bust insect world all alive and found an abundance of wild flowers.”

Pictures; our parish church circa 1860 from the collection of Tony Walker, Kersal Moor, By William Wyld 1859, Lime Kiln Lane, detail from 1880 OS for South Lancashire, courtsey of Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

A picture a day ... North Meade early 20th century


A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Friday, 27 July 2012

A picture a day .... the village late 19th century


A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Thursday, 26 July 2012

More on the plans for Manchester in 1945

Not long ago I wrote about the ambitious plan to transform the city. The 1945 pan for Manchester a bold vision of where we live could be. It is fascinating document going into detail on every aspect of how the city worked. But above all it is the fine paintings of what the planners wanted to do.

So here are some more. The grounds around the cathedral were to be opened up, and something of this has happened.

















Trinity Station was to be a brand new railway station.


But the plan included much that was what the city looked like in 1945, like the panorama of the city showing the bomb damage.


Pictures; from the 1945 Plan for Manchester, Manchester Corporation, 1945, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

A picture a day ... Procession of Witness 1936


A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

From life on the streets to gainful employment with the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuge


I have been drawn more and more into the history of the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuge which is now the Together Trust and with the help of the archivist Liz Sykes have been able to view some of the photographs taken during the late 19th and early 20th centuries of their work with destitute children.  

You can read more about them on the blog at http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Manchester%20and%20Salford%20Boys%20and%20Girls%20Refuges or visit their site at http://www.togethertrust.org.uk/uploads/assets/files/How%20we%20help/Manchester-Salford-Boys-Girls-Homes-1870-1920.pdf

In the early days they helped young boys earn a living from shoe shinning, and opened their own technical school at their Strangeways headquarters on Francis Street.  Picture above of Refuge children employed as   messenger boys and below delivering parcels.



Picture; by courtesy of the Together Trust

A picture a day, skating on the meadows circa 1900

A picture a day 

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

 Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Of Garibaldi, a museum and a gold painted man


Every place should have a museum.

Now I say that partly because of the many happy times I have spent in them since I was a child and just because I think they add something to where you live.

I was lucky enough to grow up in London which had the lot, from the grand British Museum, to the Tower of London and the small out of the way specialist museums like the Horniman or Geoffrey museums.

And at home in Manchester we have a fine collection which you can add to from the surrounding city of Salford and the smaller boroughs.

So I was more than delighted that we fell across a museum here in Alghero.  It is one of those little places
which owes much to the enthusiasm of its members and is defined by what they have been able to collect.

So if there is a theme or underlying logic to the collection it is just that.  Religious postcards sit beside memorabilia from the time of Italian unification, the Fascist era and the Second World War.  There mannequins dressed in uniforms a few helmets, some guns and German army magazines from 1943.

Tucked away on one wall is a display dedicated to the Italian resistance against Fascist rule and the German occupation, which fits with those on Garibaldi and his Red Shirts.

And during the last few evenings the museum has mounted its own live entertainment.  It started on Tuesday with the presence of four of the group dressed in military uniforms from the period and yesterday they took this a step further with a demonstration of the firepower of their muskets.  All of which was a bit of a difference from the usual street entertainment which consists of the inevitable stationary figure posing for an audience painted in gold or silver.

They seem to be everywhere this year, but for sheer inventiveness you have to give it to the chap who performs nightly in the main piazza.  During the last few nights he has presented himself as a golden businessman complete with case and computer bag and last night as one of those more unpleasant figures from Lord of The Rings.

What he is particularly good at is drawing in the crowd with the silent stationary pose before lunging at some over curious passer-by.  And the crowd love it.  Not so the silver painted man imitating our Lord with cross, long hair and beard.  He draws attention but lacks the presence or fun of his main competitor.
Perhaps he should switch to fire.  I say this because on a pitch just yards away and accompanied by loud music and some wooden dancing is the fire breathing man.  I have to say his warm up draws them in and the longer he takes the more fill the spaces waiting to see the almost impossible act of breathing out fire from his mouth.

But then judging by the numbers in the museum Alghero’s history also pulls them in and for me the museum has it all.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson and a popular print from the 1860s

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Noises in the night and other experiences


I didn’t sleep well and in the way of things I ended up listening to the noise of the night.  Here in Chorlton it amounted to a tipsy but happy couple professing their love for each other and what I took to be a fox.  Later there was the dawn chorus and later still the alarms of the family going off.

Pretty ordinary really, but it got me thinking of the street noises  I grew up with and in particular those in the tiny two up to down home of my grandparents in Hope Street Derby and this was where I went every summer holiday.

On  still and quiet nights it was not only possible to hear the clunk of shunting engines from the nearby railway line but know when the people next door were rowing or the even more intimate moments of the couple at number 10.

Now the knocker up had long since vanished into history but you knew when people were stirring because there was the sound of iron pokers pushing around the embers from last night’s fire, and  the sound of a kettle with its whistle.

I rather think these houses were well beyond their sell by date, having been put in the 18th century and like so much working class housing of the period they suffered from poor materials and landlord neglect.  And with internal walls which were in most cases just one brick thick there was little in the way of privacy in Hope Street or the surrounding ones.

And also for that other pretty basic activity of going to the lavatory, which of course was in the yard.  It is a bit of a music hall joke, the visit in the dead of night or on a morning. Which of course is why the chamber pot still existed in most working class homes into the 20th century.

I still remember the one I used at Nana’s when I was a small child.  It was made of porcelain and on a bitter winter evening was cold to the touch, but still I guess preferable to the journey down the stairs into the yard in the dead of night.This one was made of metal, I can't date it but it was one of the treasures that came out of the Miller Street dig, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/planned-archaeological-dig-in-hulme-and.html

It would of course be easy to slip into some rosy nostalgic revelry of this past world.  The sort of romantic tosh which falls back on those “they were poor but they were honest”, street doors could always be left open and “everyone helped each other,” all of which were true but doesn’t detract from the fact that everyone knew your business and some at least of those secrets we all wish were kept private.  Of course this had been the lot of most human beings from the Stone Age onwards, but I have to say if it’s a choice between the drunken lovers and a fox on one side and the countless cacophony of the Derby streets I know which I would go for.

Picture from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A picture a day .... walking the old Road 2009


A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of the Andrew Simpson

Monday, 23 July 2012

A picture a day Chorlton Green circa 1883-97

A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

 Picture; from the collection of Alan Brown

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A picture a day, .... the meadows 1965

A picture a day 

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

 Picture; from the collection of David Bishop

Refuge for the street children of Manchester, more pictures of the work of the Manchester & Salford Boys and Girls Refuge


The Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuge was set up in 1870 to provide a night’s accommodation for homeless boys on the streets of Manchester.

Within a decade it had developed its role as a rescue organisation, extended this to girls, began work on giving youngsters a future and started campaigning against the exploitation of children as well as highlighting child cruelty.  Very early on the Refuge’s became involved with the British Home Children scheme.

The first home had been at 16 Quay Street, Deansgate and contained twelve hammocks giving homeless boys a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning before having to fend for themselves during the day.  It opened on January 4th 1870 and closed a year later when the central headquarters was established in Strangeways in the autumn of 1871 on Francis Street where boys received shelter and education and were assigned a form of work suitable to their abilities.*


And in the next few decades they expanded the Strangeways buildings, widened their care to include girls, set up holiday camps, dabbled the settlement of children in Canada and were active through the courts pursuing neglectful and abusive parents.

These pictures were taken of some of the children in the care of the Refuge

Pictures; by courtesy of the Together Trust

*The Together Trust, http://www.togethertrust.org.uk/uploads/assets/files/How%20we%20help/Manchester-Salford-Boys-Girls-Homes-1870-1920.pdf

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Richard Buxton part seven .......Peterloo


Earlier in the month I wrote about Richard Buxton the working class botanist and his “quiet” life set against the backdrop of Revolution, war and trace depressions. http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Richard%20Buxton

In the early decades of the 19th century 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.

Mindful of any potential protest the authorities acted equally promptly.   When thousands of Manchester men set out on March 10th 1817 to petition the King, the army stooped them near Stockport.  One hundred and sixty-seven were arrested, several received sabre wounds and one was shot dead.

The unrest stretched on into the 1830s and 40s, and Buxton would have been well aware of the Chartist demands of manhood suffrage.   In 1839 the local papers   were full of a group of Chartists arrested for allegedly drilling with weapons, thousands had demonstrated at Kersal Moor for the vote and across the north the military sat and waited for what the propertied classes feared would be social unrest at best and revolution at worst.

But the one event that stands out and which defined the politics of his early middle years was the massacre at Peterloo.  In August 1819 a peaceful demonstration at St Peters’ Field calling for the vote was broken up by the military.  Units of cavalry charged the crowd and soldiers of the 89th Infantry fired into them.  Thousands were wounded and eleven were killed.

Eye witness accounts still have the power to shock


”As the cavalry approached the mass of people used their utmost efforts to escape, so closely were they pressed in opposite directions by the soldiers, the special constables, the position of the hustings, and their own numbers that immediate escape was impossible..... The people were in a state of utter riot and confusion, leaving the ground strewn with hats and shoes.... During the whole of the confusion, heightened by the rattle of some artillery crossing the square, shrieks were heard in all directions..... Some were seen bleeding on the ground and unable to rise; others less severely injured but faint with loss of blood were retiring slowly.”

“The hustings remained with a few broken and hewed flag staves erect, and a torn or gashed banner or two drooping whilst over the field  were strewed caps, bonnets, hats, shawls and shoes, and other male and female dress trampled torn, and bloody ...”

Buxton would have been aware of the demonstration and may even have seen the Oldham contingent of 6000 strong heading into Ancoats from the north and the 2000 from Ashton streaming in from the east of the city.

More importantly he would have known neighbours from the close warren of streets bounding Gun Street who went to hear Orator Hunt.  Many of those who made their way to St Peters Field went as family units, community groups or just f friends and work mates.  And many who returned as casualties came from those same streets.  Eighty alone who gave their address lived in Ancoats, and the streets they inhabited were minutes walk from Buxton’s home.    Five came from Buxton’s street.  James Weir or Ware from number 11 had been bruised and trampled another had gone with his wife and child and was badly hurt.

Nor was this the end of the horror.  For the remainder of the day the military and the local police patrolled the streets like some occupying force, and in the early evening with tensions still high a large crowd gathered at New Cross.  This was a popular meeting place for people from both Ancoats and Collyhurst and was just minutes from Gun Street.  Some of the crowd began throwing stones at the police and soldiers opened fire.

Before the crowd had dispersed, Joseph Ashworthy had been killed and several others lay injured.  Not surprisingly many of those injured in this event also came from that close network of streets close to Buxton’s home.  He may even have shared the anticipation that “In that paralysis of terror anything might happen”     

Nothing did but the memory of what happened on that August day survived well into the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  In the 1870s one  weaver looking at a newspaper picture of Henry Hunt  on the workshop wall could still express anger at an event which happened sixty years before. And others were prepared to pose of a photograph sixty-five years after the event.

None of these or the other great events which he lived through are referred to in his autobiography and the nearest he came to a social comment was his regret that ordinary people were unable to  fully walk the fields, “To the poor, as a class, it is to be feared that the possession of land in this country is not generally attainable ....[but] I hope the lords of the soil will yet allow the pent up dwellers in the crowded city to walk and view the beauties of creation”     But this was a request and not a demand and is limited to the use of old footpaths.

But Buxton was operating in a world where he was dependant on charitable donations and his work as a botanical collector.    The 1840s were increasingly difficult financially and made worse by the failure of the second edition of his book to make much money.

Picture; Peterloo, 1819 by Richard Carlile, m01563, Peterloo, 1819, m07589, and Veterans of Peterloo from a photograph taken in 1884, m07594, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council




A picture a day .... Beech Road circa 1910


A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of the Rita Bishop Collection

Friday, 20 July 2012

A picture a day... Chorlton Green Supper Bar 1978

A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

 Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker

Of imitation designer bags and watches to bright towels and dresses to lethal looking toys

There are not as many beach traders this year.

Usually you can count on being regularly approached to buy everything from imitation designer bags and watches to bright towels and dresses to lethal looking toys. There is also a brisk trade in massages and temporary stick on tattoos.

 But not this year. There are fewer of them and they are less persistent. Now yesterday I touched on these beach traders and said that the economics behind the business interested me. 

Occasionally we have got into conversation with one of the traders, but always there comes a point where you know your questions will meet with a polite but studied stone wall. I suppose the recession has something to do with it. There is less money about so fewer tourists on the beach and as a result fewer traders or it might reflect that we are not yet in the high season.

 Either way they will have to work as hard as they always do. And as ever I wonder at how the thing works. Do these traders work for some middle men who buy in bulk, and distribute to the traders? Or more likely do these men and women work for themselves? I wonder also at the profit margins; because once you begin to negotiate the price can fall dramatically. But then there is the sticking point beyond which they will not go, and that you realize id the point below which they cannot scrape a living.

And that is what it’s about. They work long hours, crisscrossing the beach, visiting and revisiting the same spots... In the heat of the midday sun you see them resting in the local park or sleeping under whatever shade they can find. Later they will be out again walking up and down trying to make just one more sale. The Italians are polite and treat this intrusion on their holiday with a mixture of vague interest or firm but pleasant rejection.

The geography of the trade also interests me. Here are tall and often stately Africans from the interior, men and women from the Sub Continent and south East Asia. And there is something of a demarcation in what is traded. The women from south east Asia and they are women concentrate on offering massages and temporary tattoos, the Africans mostly sell towels, beach clothes and occasionally watches CDs and bangles, while those from the Sub Continent have huge trays or boards full of watches and jewellery. This year there also young boys mostly Italian who also ply the beaches.

Nor is their day over when night falls, for then they spread out on the broad pavements beside the beach and wait for the long processions of promenaders to pass. Their merchandise is spread out on while sheets and colourful blankets, and they are on the whole less pushy. Perhaps they sense that their buyers will come to them and so less effort needs to be expended, or just more likely they are tired. After all, I am and all I have done is sit on the sand, and walk the streets of Alghero in the evenings.

Some stoically sit and allow their wares to do the business others are more proactive, and one with a slight smile but overwhelming confidence that exuded trust offered his potential customer a five year guarantee. Now for a street trader selling imitation designer bags that had to be a first. It is a hard life and the season is not that long and so you wonder what they will do when it comes to an end, but that like so many of the questions I want to ask remains unanswered.

 Pictures from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A picture a day, the Beech and Oven Door Bakery 1978


A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker

Of big ships, sun beds and beach traders


Yesterday the big ship arrived.  

It must have come in the night and because it was too big to get into the harbour had moored out at sea, far enough away to avoid the stares of the inquisitive but closer enough to invite intense speculation on the beech as to who might be on it.

Now the harbour here at Alghero is a busy one, and it’s full of pleasure craft, some fishing boats and commercial cruisers designed to take you round the island and seen the coloured caves.  We flirted with the idea but at €45 each it was always going to be a trip too far.

So instead we settled on the beach and gazed out at the tall ship and joined in the speculation, but in the way of these things the discussion didn’t last long.   Such is a beach holiday that there are too many other things that take over, and any way after a while it becomes too much effort.  Instead it is easier just to settle back let the sun beat down and enjoy the distractions.

Of these there are many.  They begin with watching our neighbours set up for the day.  We have opted to sit on the free beach, which is a first.  Usually we pay our euros and take our place on two of the sunbeds with umbrellas that march from the water’s edge back to the road.  Here there not many of these parts of the sand where you pay to sit and tan.

I was always dismissive of them having spent many years on beaches in Greece, where the beds are rusty and the umbrellas patched and in constant danger of falling on your head and where the owners plonk them where the fancy takes them.  All of which fits that casual way of beach life that I like.

In Italy the beds stretch out in uniform ranks, red for one owner, yellow, green and blue for the neighbouring ones.  You might be forgiven for thinking this was sun and sand by numbers and in a sense it is.  But there are advantages, for you are not just paying for a spot in the sand with an umbrella and beds.  There is much more.  Always a bar, and lavatory, a play area for the small children with board games as well as beach ones and on the large beaches keep fit teams who come with loudspeakers music and a team of fit gymnasts to put you through your paces.

But in the free beach it is all more relaxed and laid back.  You plant your umbrella where you can, and there is an art in placing it in the sand, which involves placing the arm firmly in the sand and then rocking it from side to side while pushing down.  The more organised even have a tool for doing this, but then there are special bits of kit to cover all eventualities on the beach and I suppose that is the difference between us from the north who spend perhaps a week on a not very warm and sometimes wet British beach and here in the south where every day from late spring onto late September is an opportunity to sit beside the sea.  Of course like everywhere the high season is August and so we have slipped in just a little earlier this year.

And I have to say that there are fewer people around than I am used to.  I guess like all of us across Europe people are reacting to the economic climate.  Even the beach sellers do not seem as many.  Usually on any day on the beach they are everywhere, selling everything from a massage, to towels, clothes and odd collections ranging from cheap watches, imitation designer bags and toys. 

The economics of it has always interested me.  And still I am not sure whether these people buy the produce themselves or just work for a Mr Big.  On the rare occasions one of the sellers is prepared to open up it is always understandably difficult to get details from them.  But they work on a wide band of prices, and if you are prepared to haggle you get the price down, but only to a point.  

I remember one such negotiation which lasted for a full twenty minutes, with the conversation floating between Italian, and English, much posturing a few appeals to respective deities and then the deal was struck.  Both sides had come to the that point where the price had fallen dramatically, so that we got a good deal and he the trader was still within his profit margin.  All were happy.  The price had been cut from €30 down to €10 we had what we wanted and some where a little further along the beach someone else was paying €30 for the same article.

Meanwhile the coconut man had arrived with his tray of coconut slices, announcing his presence with a hand bell and that distinctive cry of “Coco Bella” and as ever a joke and lewd comment at the young couple who spoke no Italian. 

And in all of this, the big ship had been forgotten.
Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A picture a day Beech Road .... sometime in the 1880s

A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

On the streets of Manchester with child street sellers in 1878


I do not choose to be on a Manchester street on a cold morning at 2 am any more.

There was a time when I did, and we have all done it.  Pick any one of a number of scenarios from that late night city club, to the evening that began sedately enough with a meal and a theatre visit but just ran on into the early hours.

And then it’s that hard choice, pick up a cab in Albert Square and spend the last of your money or walk through the streets and settle on an all night bus, full of happy drunks with just the chance of trouble?

And either way it’s those shadowy figures you see huddled in doorways, lying across entrances to expensive shop fronts trying to get a few hours of sleep as the night becomes just that colder and there is the ever present threat of danger from some unthinking violent gang. We all know about them, and sometimes the remnants of the soiled and dirty sleeping bags, bin bags and other personal possessions are still there when the city becomes a place of work again reclaimed by office workers and shop assistants.

All of which is an introduction to a story which I posted earlier but deserves a second airing.
I could have done a similar walk back in the 1870s and amongst the happy crowds making their way home I would have encountered plenty of young children out on the streets of the city attempting to make a little money.

It was as one historian wrote “a scandal and disgrace to our city”* and continued until 1901 when the Corporation obtained the power to regulate street trading by children under the age of 16.
Nor was it  confined to Manchester and Salford but some places like Liverpool had been quicker to act.

And in an effort to highlight the “scandal” ten members of the Manchester and Salford Refuge went out on the streets on a Monday night in 1878 to “systematically investigate the condition of all children found hawking within a certain radius between the hours of 9pm and midnight.  The plan pursued was to enter into conversation with the children; if their little remaining stock of paper or matches was an obstacle to their returning home, to purchase it and then accompany them to where they lived, thus obtaining correct information not only of the children themselves but of their surroundings; and how far the circumstances of their families afforded any excuse for their being there upon the streets at such an unseemly hour.”**

Now it was only one night, the number interviewed ran to just 50 and the number of streets covered is not clear but the findings do not make for easy reading.  Over two thirds of the children were under 13, just under a third was from single parent families and only nine of the fifty “out owed to the poverty of the deserving parents.  The balance of 41 were either out to help support drunken parents or owing to the neglect of careless parents.”

Of course there may be a degree of subjectivity here and I want to go back to the original detailed reports which should be available.  But they are confirmed by contemporary newspaper reports.  The Manchester Guardian wrote that “the great majority of children in the streets late at night were there to find money for drunken, vicious or careless parents.”  While letters to the press highlighted similar examples.  In 1885 the secretary of the Refuge wrote that on one Saturday night with “a bitter wind driving the sleet like fire along the streets; many of the poor little wretches who crowded Market Street and Blackfriars had scarves tied round their hats to keep them on their heads; even as we , well clad as we were, got wet.”

The children were selling the early editions of the Sunday papers and might be expected to continue till one in the morning.

“Two little chaps under ten years of age told us they had to stop out all night selling; another had the key to of the house in his pocket and quietly let himself in at 2 a.m. dreading to disturb those who should have been themselves the brad winners.”

Now we can play the numbers game and reflect that this might be just a small sample and yes more research needs to be done, but even so it is something of an insight into the plight of children on our streets and helps understand the motives of those engaged in the rescue work.

Of course this does not ignore the fact that such activities should not have had to go on in one of the greatest cities in the country, where the wealth of the few was paraded for all to see in the fine Exchanges, and well to do homes.  Nor should we forget the resistance from many MPs to moves to regulate child street trading.

But here we have the start of a detailed analysis of the problem which I hope allows up to step away from statistics to appreciate the awful picture of child neglect in one city during the 19th century.
In the July of 1888 the Secretary of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children asserted that 200,000 young people made a living on the streets of our towns and cities.

“The majority of street children maintain their parents in whole or part, and to his parents such a child is a valuable slave. Before he is fully grown even while still suffering from child ailments, when the stones under his feet are frozen he is sent out to wander, to plead, to pester, to get thrust out of the way and cursed by some, to get his match box the penny for which all the joy and health of his childhood are being sold”***
All of which is pretty emotive stuff and the cautious objective side of me wonders at the degree of exaggeration, but similar reports can be read in the Manchester Guardian, the Manchester Evening News and the archives of the Manchester & Salford Refuges.

And the evidence is there in the number of cases reported to the courts and the level of prosecutions.  In the ten years from 1885 the society dealt with 9,922 cases of mistreatment.  In 1892 alone “375 cases involving the welfare of 1,324 children were reported, investigated and dealt with.  Of these 375 cases 40 were carried to court and convictions obtained in 37.”  Two years later “out of 705 cases 100 were taken to court, resulting in 94 convictions.”

These stories appeared earlier in http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Manchester%20and%20Salford%20Boys%20and%20Girls%20Refuges

Pictures; Courtesy the Together Trust

A picture a day Chorlton Green circa 1907


A picture a day

During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker

Monday, 16 July 2012

Heaton Park, some trams, and lots of children on a summer's day in 1922


It’s a postscript really but if I am honest it isn’t over even yet.  

Now earlier in the month I explored the story behind this photograph of a group of girls arriving by tram at a park sometime in the early 20th century, and with the help of Mr Turnbull at the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester and a bit of deduction we were able to pin the place to Heaton Park and to August 2nd 1922.*

It helped that the Museum had a copy with the date and the place.  Now they have gone one better, and found a copy of the picture in an extract from the Manchester Evening News captioned, “The children are grateful to you, here are some of the guests of the Evening News readers disembarking at Heaton Park from the cars provided for free by the Manchester Tramways Department for their Joy-day trips.” 

All of which leads me off to trawl back copies of the Manchester Evening News because there are now more unanswered questions.  What were Joy-day trips?  Had the children entered a competition or were they needy cases and how had Manchester Tramways Department been persuaded to run free trips?  All I am sure will be revealed either by me and back copies of the newspaper or by someone who remembers their parents talking of the event.  We shall see.

Not as I said before earth shattering detective work but nevertheless a little bit of the past brought out again into the fresh air.


You can follow the older stories at http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Stories%20behind%20a%20picture


Picture; from the Lloyd Collection


Sunday, 15 July 2012

A day in Varese, a thunderstorm and social housing


Yesterday evening we had the storm.

 It had been on promise all day.  The weather had been heavy and close and walking the city it was like being under a blanket with the odd refreshing breeze

And sure enough after a few light showers we got a down pour around five.  It came from nowhere was very violent for about ten minutes and then had gone as fast as it had come, leaving the pavements running with water and the shoppers warily coming out of buildings to continue their Saturday afternoon.

All of which was just a prelude to what was coming.  Away in the mountains the lightning forked across the sky and there was a low rumble which meant that the storm was faraway to the north.  And then it arrived with a ferocity you don’t see at home.  For a full fifteen minutes it bounced off the roofs and pavements and swept across the road, and then it had gone.

In the morning as I look out from our balcony it is as if the storm had never happened.  The flats opposite sock up the early morning sun and there is the promise of much more.  These flats and ours are social housing, built in the 1970s.  They have three bedrooms, two bathrooms and three balconies.  All for a modest rent.

They are built of brick with pitched roofs and are a direct contrast to those deck and crescents properties we put up at the same time.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Richard Buxton part 6 when revolution was in the very air


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 http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Richard%20Buxton 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; Peterloo, 1819, m07589 Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

What a difference half a century makes


Just 51 years and about a mile separate our first two pictures but in almost every other respect they are world apart.


In the July of 1958, A.P. Morris was out on a Saturday afternoon on Market Street and captured the pull of the ice cream man.  What is more remarkable is that it was not raining.  Now I say that not to feed the popular myth about Manchester and rain but because 1958 had been a wet year with “heavy and persistent rain with many severe thunderstorms through the summer months, with April, May, June, August and September with rainfall three times the normal.”*

But July was dry, and the crowds were out. And so were the Italian ice cream men.  Most of our ice cream was made by twenty or so Italian families who had begun to settle in Ancoats during the 1860s.  The core of the settlement was around Jersey Street and the area not unsurprisingly became known as Little Italy.  And those of you who want to pursue the story can either read Antony Rea’s book or visit his web site.**

And on that Saturday afternoon there were plenty of takers.

Not that there weren’t plenty of other attractions, this was after all Market Street and it was as full of crowds then as it is today but with that added dimension that traffic still flowed along it.

Look at it closely and it is the clothes that draw you in.  Our two girls on the right are wearing light fashionable skirts and blouses while an older generation have turned out complete with overcoats.

And here I think is one of those fault lines which separate us from them.  The 1950s were a period of growing prosperity.  It might all still have been relative, with the gulf between the rich and poor still a chasm, but there was more of it about.  And of course it was the young in full time employment with few serious responsibilities who could spend their money on clothes specifically designed for them.  But there are still those in the picture wearing suits not unlike their father’s.  And of course it would be totally unthinkable that that father and son would go out in jeans and casual shirts which were almost undistinguishable.  That would have to wait for the baby boomers born in the late 40s and early 50s to reach middle age and who could see nothing wrong in Denham and hoodies.

Nor can we ignore the Kardomah.  Eating here or in that range of smaller cafes was nothing like our own cafe society.

And that brings me to my second photograph, taken on Deansgate in the summer of 2009.  The contrast could not be greater.  It is early in the afternoon and while there are plenty about on the street there are plenty sitting on the street doing what might be done on the pavements of Paris, Rome, or Milan, which is just sipping coffee, casually talking to friends or just watching the crowds pass by.

Of course people in 1958 did drink coffee, and might have sat on a rickety chair pulled out of some storage cupboard and placed on the pavement as a nod to a sunny day, but I don’t think this matches our Deansgate experience.  Coffee might not have been the instant variety but it still came with lots of milk, and if you were very unlucky was that odd concoction known as Camp Coffee.  Nor sitting on your rickety chair could you expect to have been served wine, for that it was the pub and like as not a smoke filled room which would not have looked out of place in some movie from the Second World War.

Unfair?  Well perhaps a tad, but I remember the milky brown stuff, the maghony coloured walls of some city pubs and above all the UCP snack bar on Market Street.  Looking at pictures of it in the city archive I am not sure this was the one I ventured into in 1969, but a UCP restaurant on Market Street I did once eat in.

Not that I ate the tripe which in the case of beef tripe is made from the first three chambers of a cow’s stomach.  I could go into more detail but am not going to.  Suffice to say then that UCP stood for United Cattle Products and was a chain of shops and restaurants in the north of England which specialized in tripe dishes.  As the UCP supporters site records,

 “In Lancashire and other parts of the North of England in the 1950s there were 146 UCP shops and restaurants, specializing in tripe dishes and with long queues for seats. ..... UCP also provided ox tail, cow heal and other bovine extremities.”***

Now before someone writes in, tripe is also eaten across mainland Europe and no doubt where ever there are bits of a cow to dispose of.

All of which is a long way from where we started.  But then perhaps not, I doubt that tripe is on the menu at the Starbucks on Deansgate or for that matter any of the cafes, bars and new beer houses which stretch out from Beech Road, along Barlow Moor Road and out on either arm of Wilbraham Road.  Of course I might be wrong, but on this one I would prefer to remain in ignorance.

Picture; Market Street on a Saturday afternoon in July 1958, A.P. Morris Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council m62093, and from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Sutton, J. M., Agricultural Records 1969
**Rea, Anthony, Manchester’s Little Italy, 1988, and Manchester’s Ancoats Little Italy, http://www.ancoatslittleitaly.com/index.html
***UCP Tripe, http://www.unitedcattleproducts.co.uk/index.php

A picture a day .... The Trevor Arms circa 1910


A picture a day
During this week of July I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton
Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker
>


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

I dream things that never were and say why not? ..... the first novels of Home Children and a challenge to the conventional idea


You see things; and you say “Why”?  But I dream things that never were: and I say “Why not?”

It is one of those great questions first posed by George Bernard Shaw and it cuts into the very heart of the debate about the placing of poor, abused and destitute British children on the farms and homes of Canada.

All too often the underlying apologist’s argument rested on that simple one that there was no choice and by extension there was no one at the time offering an alternative.

Well that never sat comfortably with me and bit by bit the research has shown that there was opposition both in the early period and well into the 20th century.  The Doyle Report as early as 1875 highlighted the core issue of sending our problem away as well as the lack of adequate supervision.

Thirty or so years later the socialist Poor Law Guardians on the Chorlton Union from 1904 mounted both an ideological opposition to the policy raising concerns of exploitation, inadequate information on the settlement of children and put forward alternative solutions for dealing with the problems in Britain.

And at the time of the Doyle Report the Methodist lay preacher and Salford councillor Thomas Davies had set about working with local government to improve conditions for street children through sanitation and education and wrote about them in Memorials of Irwell Street Wesleyan Chapel in 1876.

Even earlier Henry Mayhew had drawn attention to street children in London in the early1850s while James Kay-Shuttleworth in Manchester in 1846 wrote of the “increasing number of children” who with no education or trade, and estranged from parents “sleep under the open arches of the markets, or of the areas of the houses of ancient construction, in deserted buildings, out houses and cellars, and rise in the morning not knowing where or how to obtain a meal.”  

He advocated a programme of education and training to the government.

Now I have to confess I had no knowledge of the work of Thomas Davies and not looked at Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor or Kay Shuttleworth for some time.  So the work and opinions of these three is the product of a review I have just read in “Growing Up in the North West 1850s-1950s.*
Street Arabs and the urban waifs in the northern novels of Silas K. Hocking by Steve Collins, looks at how street children were portrayed in novels.  Now I am well aware of the fictional accounts which are being currently published in Canada, but did not know the extent of these earlier accounts.

They, as you would expect reflect the religion and politics of the authors and are very much of the time, and so here are themes of redemption, temporary falls from grace, and the ultimate triumph of the individual through hard work.  On the way there are the polemics by some on the role of demon drink and above all an attack on the feckless parents who at best neglected their children and at worse were abusive.  All of which fits the historical record but often misses an important point that the books are written in “the language of condemnation.  There is no sympathy of the parents, no real examination of the circumstances of the father who assuming he was unskilled, would be at the mercy of the causal job market, with few opportunities for steady employment, condemning his own family to shortage  of food, inadequate housing and a miserable existence.”

This is not to  defend the appalling behaviour of these parents merely that we do not really get to understand the issues without looking at the broader picture.

Now the novels by Silas K Hocking according to Mr Collins do exhibit that understanding and were rattling good reads which resulted in Her Benny published in 1879 becoming the first novel to sell a million copies.  It was based in Liverpool where he worked as a Methodist minister while his later book Dick’s Fairy was set in Manchester where he preached in the 1880s.

I am looking forward to reading Her Benny which is available on Kindle, and only wish Dick’s Fairy was in print.  There are some pretty detailed descriptions of the city at the time and Hocking is a good word master.  But also of course it allows you to get into the minds of these men and women who walked the streets of Liverpool and Manchester attempting to offer a different and more positive life of the street children.

For Hocking in Her Benny that alternative was the escape to the countryside and a rural haven. This back to the land solution for the homeless and abused children was part of that bigger vision which sought to contrast the simple attraction of country life with the increasing unpleasantness of and existence in new industrial towns and cities.

It is a theme Joy Parr develops in her excellent book Labouring Children** and one which she shows had an influence on all of those engaged in sending children to Canada.

But Hocking moved away from the land solution and in Dick’s Fairy published in 1883 the way to eventual success out of the streets is through a combination of help and hard work, which is not so different from what our socialist Guardians were advocating just two decades later.

So in their way the novels of Hocking are part of that alternative view of how children could be given a better life with wider horizons which didn’t rely on a Canadian plough or servants’ apron.

But I cannot close without mentioning the musical.  I have read that Home child the musical will be staged in Orangeville next year and have to say that our old friend Hocking got there first. Well to be truthful it was Ann Dalton who staged a musical version of Her Benny at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre in 1993, which was reprised in 2008 as part of the European Capital of Culture celebrations.

There was even a film made in 1920 featuring child actors Sidney Webb and Babs Reynolds. But as Mr Collins sadly reflects, “unfortunately no prints have survived, or at least none have been located.”  Now that would be a must to see, especially given that in the year it was made and only just forty years since the book was published we were still sending children to Canada and would do so for nearly another decade.

Pictures; from the collection of Lori Oschefski

*Manchester Region History Review Vol 22 2011. Many of the earlier volumes can be accessed on line at http://www.mcrh.mmu.ac.uk/pubs/mrhrind.htm
**Parr, Joy, Labouring Children, 2000

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Labouring Children a book on British Home Children


I am reading Labouring Children by Joy Parr.*

Now in British Home Children studies I know I am a later comer and so apologise for all of you who have come across this book already.  It did after all arise out of a paper presented by Joy Parr in 1980, was published as a book in 1994 and was reissued with a new introduction in 2000.

So as I say I am a bit behind the door on this one.  I also have to say that I am only on chapter three, but then it only arrived from Canada yesterday and I only got to settle down with it late last night.

It is an excellent “class analysis” by which I mean it sets the British Home Child policy in the wider context of the economic as well as the cultural background of the period.

Here are no jibes at nasty dubious philanthropic individuals.  Instead we get a range of explanations rooted in the history of the mid and late 19th century all of which at their heart have that simple question, what should we do with the poor?

This of course had exercised the Establishment from as early as the 17th century with the Elizabethan Poor Law and rumbled on across the next few centuries, and made more urgent with the French Revolution, and the economic hardships caused by frequent poor harvests, cyclical trade depressions, and the growing mechanization of many trades including that of the farm labourer.

So you can take your pick from the Luddites and Swing Riots to the General Strike of 1842, and the vicious Stare repression.  This ranged from the frequent use of the Riot Act, the dispatch of troops to the north as an occupying force and those high points of class conflict as witnessed at Peterloo, and the transportation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and on the way took in the Gag Acts, the dismissal of the great Chartist petitions and many more local incidents now lost to history.

And against this back drop Joy Parr examines earlier attempts at shifting the poor and more particularly children out of Britain, and for me a special bonus is a reference to our own three socialist Guardians on the Board of the Chorlton Union who opposed the BHC policy on both ideological grounds and on concerns for the children’s safety.

So today in between time in town taking in an art gallery, there are chapters to read on The Promised Land, Family Strategy and Philanthropic Adoption, and Apprenticed or adopted, which I suspect will go to the very centre of the discussions we have all been having as we try to arrive at a balanced understanding of why so many children were sent from these shores just because they were poor, or might  have had parents  judged incapable of looking after them but really because one of the richest countries on the globe who boasted of the size, wealth and abundance of its empire did not look after its own.

*Parr, Joy, Labouring Children British Immigrant Apprentices to Canada, 1869-1924, Toronto Press, 2000
Picture; cover of the 2000 edition