Sunday, 30 December 2012

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 25 calling in the sweep


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

It’s that time a year again and last month John the Sweep came to do the business.  Now I say this time of year but strictly speaking we should have had it done in the summer and not just because everyone else is wanting a chimney swept around now but because it makes more sense to sweep it clear and leave the flue empty of soot for five months than clean it and just start putting the stuff back again.

Ah well 27 years employing a sweep and it is only now that I make that discovery.

And John is busy, even given that there are fewer now than a hundred years ago.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised across Chorlton and Whalley Range more people are returning to open fires and you can see why.

For a start they are a very comforting thing and with a regular coal man relatively cheap to run. But four decades ago it must have been tougher going.  The demise of the open fire in many homes and the switch to gas, electric fires and central heating might have made sweeps a thing of the past.

In 1911 there were sixty-three sweeps in the city and we had three.  Henry Thomas at number 3 Vicars Rd, Charles Morris, 12 Sandy Lane and Henry Thomas from 4 Brownhill Buildings, Sandy Lane.

Originally the job was done with brushes and I can still remember the sweep at home pushing the broom up and around the chimney, sweeping the soot clear until finally the brush appeared at top poking out of the chimney.

Now what I wasn’t quite prepared for was that John still uses a brush but of course today the actual business is done with a giant vacuum cleaner.  Quick, clean and pain free.

Like most people Joe and Mary Ann would have had their chimneys swept regularly, if for nothing else than to prevent the danger of a chimney fire which when I was growing up was still a feature of the winter.

But when they died and the house was sold John who bought it blocked up the fires having first ripped out the fireplaces, and we had to put them back.  The last went in only two years ago, which meant it had not been swept for thirty-five years, a point I chose not to share with John the Sweep, which was all to the good as the contents filled three bags in amongst which was one dead bird and accumulated other odd things.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20story%20of%20a%20house

A Valley Grows Up ............ the early centuries



I have been re posting* some old stories of a book from my childhood in the hope that the O.U.P. might republish it.

It is Edward Osmond's story of the changes to a valley over time  and has long been one of my favourite books.

Two views of the valley.
The valley about 5000 BC
The valley about 250 AD
Picures from A Valley Grows Up E Osmond, O.U.P. 1953
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20Valley%20Grows%20Up

Saturday, 29 December 2012

You can wait half an hour for a tram and then dozens turn up, Oxford Street in 1938



You can wait half an hour for a tram and then dozens turn up.

It is an amazing picture and not one that my friend Alan can help me with.

Had there been a traffic jam, or was this just one of those regular things which Manchester commuters put up with as commuters do?

I bet there will be someone who knows, but failing that perhaps it's time to trawl the newspaper cuttings looking for stories of traffic jams in 1938.

There is just a hint from the expressions of the conductor and driver that something is not quite right.


Picture; from the collection of Alan Brown

Friday, 28 December 2012

Exactly 100 years ago on Claude Road


It is another one of those pictures that needs few words.

It is exactly one hundred years ago that the commercial photographer stood in the middle of Claude Road up and took this picture.

In one sense it is remarkable how similar the same shot would look today, but I will leave you to ponder over the differences a century have made.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

A Valley Grows Up more from a wonderful book


 I have decided to revisit an old favourite which I first posted last year * and which deserves to be seen again.  I only hope that the O.U.P. will republish soon.

Two views of the valley from the book A Valley Grows UP
The valley about 1170 AD
The valley about 1900 AD
Picture; from A Valley Grows Up E. Osmond, O.U.P. 1953


*http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/a-valley-grows-up-revisiting-old-friend.html

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The answer to to yesterdays question


In answer to the where are we question of yesterday.

It is Edge Lane.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Where are we?


It’s a picture that has surfaced before and so should be easy to identify.

So for no prizes, just the fun of showing off your local knowledge, where are we?

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Monday, 24 December 2012

Wallking the meadows between Christmas and New Year

For me the most interesting period of Chorlton’s history is when we were still a small rural community.

This period which only began to come to an end in the late 19th century and   features in my book, THE STORY OF CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY.*

But enough of such outrageous self promotion.

When I want to get a flavour of this lost time I dip into David Bishop’s blog site, Friends of Chorlton Meadows, http://friendsofchorltonmeadows.blogspot.com/ which is a wonderful collection of comments, observation and news about this stretch of the old flood plain by the Mersey.

I first walked the area nearly 30 years ago and since then it is a place I have returned to with my children, our old dog and countless friends.

And it being that time of year I thought I would reflect on this stretch of land.

It was until recently pasture and meadowland, and the sight of farmers working the land is only just passing out of living memory.

 Despite a period as part of the sewage works and later as a Corporation tip it has reverted to a place rich in plant and animal life. David also conducts regular walks across the “meadows” and often tells me where it is still possible to spot plants which were first identified by botanists over 170 years ago.

Pictures; from the collection of David Bishop.

*http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-story-of-chorlton-cum-hardy-new.html

Sunday, 23 December 2012

On the northern edge of the township around 1895


We are at the northern part of our township and the picture may have been taken around 1895.  The place is College Road close to its junction with Upper Chorlton Road.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Christmas amongst our homeless children in 1882


A timely reminder that then as now much of the work of looking after those who need help still comes from the voluntary sector.

The blog of the Together Trust* reflecting in words and pictures just how much has always been done by Christmas collections, subscriptions and the generosity of the people of the city over the last 142 years.

*http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/merry-christmas-from-together-trust.html#more

Picture; from the collection of the Together Trust

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A picture a day ..... Chorlton Railway Station

A picture a day
During this week of December 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

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Those Chorlton bomb maps and the secrets they reveal


I have spent the morning wandering across the bomb maps for Chorlton.  These are the three maps which are part of the collection which record where the bombs and land mines fell and the extent of the damage done during 1940 and 1941. http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/new-chorlton-bomb-maps-of-1940.html

They were compiled by staff at Manchester Corporation and have just been published on line.*

Here, marked out in different colours are the locations of fire bombs, high explosive bombs and land mines, along with how badly some of our buildings were damaged.

Now as we approach the seventy-second anniversary of the worst two nights of bombing on the nights of December 22nd and 23rd it is quite salutary to see just how many fire bombs fell.

They far outnumbered high explosive bombs and land mines, and must have been terrifying given that the fire service would have been at full stretch.

What is remarkable is how so few of either type of bomb fell on properties, most ending up in the middle of roads or what was still open ground out towards the Mersey.

Not that this is to minimise either the destruction which was done or the loss of life.

I don’t suppose there is anyone today who could tell me about David Herbert, or Alfred Bowlers.

Both were living in Cavendish Road  on the night of May 1st 1941 and both of them died in the early hours of the following morning. According to the records May 1st 1941 was a quiet night.  There were only nine casualties on that night from German bombing.

It just so happened that David and Alfred were two of them.  Of the remaining seven all were from Chorlton and only one survived to be admitted to Withington Hospital.

There are those who have firsthand accounts of some of those awful nights and Geoffrey Williams has promised to write about what he remembers when Egerton Road was hit.

Then there is the physical record which is visible around Chorlton where buildings had to be replaced and lastly there are some photographs.

But the maps provide the overview and remain a very powerful insight into the extent of the bombing during 1940 and 41.

That said they also have for me a second and equally fascinating use because they were drawn up in 1927 and updated in 1933 which allows us to track the development of Chorlton since the beginning of the twentieth century.

There was still much open land, all of the larger grand houses were still intact and the Corporation had yet to change some of our road names.  Moreover it is now possible to explore the brickworks whose kiln was on the site of St John’s School.

Picture; Reynard and Claude Roads and post war damage houses from the collection of Andrew Simpson detail from bomb damage at Nell Lane, 1940, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m09736

*http://enriqueta.man.ac.uk/luna/servlet/view/all/who/Manchester%20City%20Council%20City%20Architect's%20Department%20(Building%20Surveyor's%20Division)?sort=Reference_Number,Page,Current_Repository

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

On finding Miss Leete of Didsbury


Now I was recently in Didsbury in search of Miss Leete who lived at  Poplar Grove, which was
an impressive house set in extensive grounds east of the parish Church along what is now Wilmslow Road.

She was a member of the Ladies Committee of the Anti Corn Law League Bazaar which in the May of 1845 had organised an event at Covent Garden which raised £25,000 for an out lay of £5,713 and did much to publicise the Anti Corn Law League which in turn had been formed to campaign for the repeal of the Corn Laws which banned the import of cheap foreign cereal till the price of home grown corn rose to 80 shillings a quarter.

And as sometimes happens with historical research I couldn’t find her and it was not till I discussed Miss Leete with Diana Leitch that I discovered why.

Diana is a fellow historian and has written extensively on the history of Didsbury and south Manchester, and my failure to find Miss Lette turns on nothing less complicated than a miss spelt name.

Miss Lette was in fact Miss Leech whose family were prominent in Manchester politics with links to Poplar Grove and so it all fell into place.

Now armed with this knowledge I can  fully understand how a young woman in an area still partially rural would be campaigning for something which many might have seen as harming the farming interests.

But us historians are mindful of each other’s areas of research and as I have often said I can see no reason to reproduce stories for which someone else has done the research and written the piece.

And I am hoping that Diana will write about the Leech family given that she has kindly agreed to contribute to the blog.

Along with her regular articles for the South Manchester Reporter Diana has written books on Didsbury, which are available with a collection of tithe maps from Diana at diana.leitch@gmail.com.  All proceeds go to local charities.

Pictures; by courtesy of Diana Leitch

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Campaigning with the Anti Corn Law League in Manchester in 1845


I am back with Alexander Somerville, radical, journalist and by his own admission at one time a police spy.

All of which makes him a fascinating chap to write about and one who fully embodies my idea that history is messy.

Now I have written about his visit to Chorlton in 1847 and explored his stand against using the military to suprpress the populat agitation for the Reform Bill in 1832.*  And later I guess I will cruise along the Spanish coast relating his time fighting for the British Auxiliary Legion during the Spanish Civil War of 1835-38**

But today I want to go back to his time with the Anti Corn Law League which had been set up in 1836
to campaign for the repeal of the Corn Laws which had been introduced in 1815 as a means of protecting British agriculture, but which was judged by many as responsible for keeping bread prices high and preventing the unfettered reign of Free Trade.

So Alexander took on the job of taking the message into the countryside and arguing the case amongst the farming interests.  And it was while he was engaged in this task that he gave us a wonderful description of the headquarters of the Anti Corn Law League here in Manchester.  Match this with two pictures from digital collection of Manchester Libraries and we can almost be in the offices sometime at the height of the campaign.

We are on the corner of Market Street and Cross Street in Newell’s Buildings.  My picture dates from 1867 but judging from the directories was much the same building that Somerville knew.

In 1851 it was occupied by a couple of painters, two engravers, a Music school, share broker, the Manchester Library and the Financial and Parliamentary Reform Offices as well as the National Reform Association.

But just a few years earlier it was completely taken over by what Somerville descibed as “at that extraordinary body the Anti-Corn-Law League.”

And so “having a day in Manchester I determined to get a peep.  Accordingly at ten o'clock I was in Market Street, a principal thoroughfare in Manchester. A wide open stairway, with shops on each side of its entrance, rises from the level of the pavement, and lands on the first floor of a very extensive house called 'Newall's Buildings'. The house consists of four floors, all of which are occupied by the League, save the basement. We must, therefore, ascend the stair, which is wide enough to admit four or five persons walking abreast.

On reaching a spacious landing, or lobby, we turn to the left, and, entering by a door, see a counter somewhere between forty and fifty feet in length, behind which several men and boys are busily employed, some registering letters in books, some keeping accounts, some folding and addressing newspapers, others going out with messages and parcels. This is the general office, and the number of persons here employed is, at the present time, ten. Beyond this is the Council Room, which, for the present, we shall leave behind and go up stairs to the second floor.


Here we have a large room, probably forty feet by thirty, with a table in the centre running lengthwise, with seats around for a number of persons, who meet in the evenings, and who are called the 'Manchester Committee'.

During the day this room is occupied by those who keep the account of cards issued and returned to and from all parts of the kingdom. A professional accountant is retained for this department, and a committee of members of council give him directions and inspect his books. These books are said to be very ingeniously arranged, so as to shew at a glance the value of the cards sent out, their value being represented by certain alphabetical letters and numbers, the names and residences of the parties to whom sent, the amounts of deficiencies of those returned and so on.

Passing from this room we come to another, from which all the correspondence is issued. From this office letters to the amount of several thousands a-day go forth to all parts of the kingdom. While here, I saw letters addressed to all the foreign ambassadors, and all the mayors and provosts of corporate towns of the United Kingdom, inviting them to the great banquet which is to be given in the last week of this month ... In this office copies of all the parliamentary registries of the kingdom are kept, so that any elector's name and residence is at once found, and, if necessary, such elector is communicated with by letter or parcel of tracts, irrespective of the committees in his own district.

Passing from this apartment, we see two or three small rooms, in which various committees of members of the council meet. Some of these committees are permanent, some temporary. Of those which are permanent I may name that for receiving all applications for lecturers and deputations to public meetings. ...
In another large room on this floor is the packing department. Here several men are at work making up bales of tracts, each weighing upwards of a hundred weight, and despatching them to all parts of the kingdom for distribution among the electors. From sixty to seventy of these bales are sent off in a week, that is, from three to three and a-half tons of arguments against the Corn Laws!

Leaving this and going to the floor above, we find a great number of printers, presses, folders, stitchers, and others connected with printing, at work. But in addition to the printing and issuing of tracts here, the League has several other printers at work in this and other towns of the Kingdom. Altogether they have twelve master-printers employed, one of whom, in Manchester, pays upwards of £100 a week in wages for League work alone.”***

So there you have it a vivid description of a campaign and its headquarters in the centre of our city.

Pictures; Peterloo,m01563Newall’s Buildings, by James Mudd, 1867, m74665 and the interior, 1860, m56387 Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

* http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Alexander%20Somerville
** Somerville, Alexander, History of the British Legion, and War in Spain,1839
*** Somerville, Alexander, The Whistler at the Plough, 1852, pp. 79-82

Saturday, 15 December 2012

New ....... the Chorlton bomb maps of 1940


It’s what I like about history. Out of nowhere forgotten and tucked away for decades comes a wonderful find that sheds light on the past.  

So along with many I was totally captured by the news that during the renovation of Central Ref a comprehensive set of maps has been found of the bombing of Manchester in 1940.  What is more it is now on line.*

And even more interesting is that not only does it cover the city centre but the surrounding areas including Chorlton.

Using the OS for 1933 the Corporation plotted the bomb hits, with red circles for fire bombs, blue for high explosives, pink shading for damaged buildings, and red for demolished buildings as well as green marks for land mines.

Now I had known that Chorlton had taken some hits.  There is anecdotal evidence as well as at least one site map for the area around the station, a few pictures and what can be gleaned from the odd bit of infill building suggesting new properties which replaced destroyed ones.

But the extent of the blue and red circles in Chorlton is surprising even given the fact that we were on the route to and from Trafford Park, the docks and city centre.

Like lots of people armed with the maps I will be exploring the impact of that bombing.  And it comes at a timely moment since I was recently contacted by someone who has memories of the bombing around Whalley Range.

Picture; bomb damage at Nell Lane, 1940, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m09736

*http://enriqueta.man.ac.uk/luna/servlet/view/all/who/Manchester%20City%20Council%20City%20Architect's%20Department%20(Building%20Surveyor's%20Division)?sort=Reference_Number,Page,Current_Repository

All Saints in the snow, 1958


It is another of those pictures which really speaks for itself, but that won't stop me adding some words

We are on the corner of Oxford Street looking down Cavendish Street.  To our right is the park and behind the bus the Art College.

Now I have a fond spot for All Saints partly because it was an area I spent a lot of time as student and because it is full of history.  The park was the site of All Saints Church, while just out of sight beyond the car on the left is Chorlton on Medlock Town Hall built in 1830-31 and the venue in 1945 for the Fifth Pan African Congress.

“It was attended by 90 delegates, 26 from Africa. They included many scholars, intellectuals and political activists who would later go on to become influential leaders in various African independence movements and the American civil rights movement, including the Kenyan independence leader Jomo Kenyatta, American activist and academic W. E. B. Du Bois, Malawi's Hastings Banda, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, prominent Jamaican barrister Dudley Thompson and Obafemi Awolowo and Jaja Wachuku from Nigeria. It also led partially to the creation of the Pan-African Federation, founded in 1946 by Nkrumah and Kenyatta.
The British Press scarcely mentioned the conference. A number of resolutions were passed such as the criminalization of racial discrimination and the main resolution which decried imperialism and capitalism.”*

By the time I attended a meeting in old Town Hall sometime in early 1970 the place was showing its age and would soon be gutted and become part of the Art College.  In the same way the building behind the park which had been the home of the Chorlton Union which ran the Poor Law for south Manchester would become the administrative centre of Manchester Polytechnic.  It was a place I once occupied with a girl friend during a protest at cuts in library provision but that as they say is another story.

Picture; Traffic in the snow, Oxford Road and Grosvenor Square, All Saints, Chorlton-on-Medlock, W.M.Johnstone, 1958, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m00166

Friday, 14 December 2012

Animals for the pot back in the kitchens of Chorlton in 1848


Pigs and chickens were common enough and many families aspired to keeping a family pig.

These were kept in the back garden or yard and could be fed on almost anything and would provide a family with food for almost the entire year.

As well as fresh pork there was salted bacon, cured ham, lard, sausages and black pudding.  
Beyond its food value the dead pig offered its pigskin for saddles, gloves, bags and footballs while the bristles could be used for brushes and an average pig gave a ton of manure a year.

All of this was fine but often the pig became a family pet which made its killing just that bit harder.  Not that this halted the inevitable, which tended to be done in winter.  It was reckoned that the cooler months should be preferred given that in the words of the farming expert Henry Stephens, “the flesh in the warm months is not sufficiently firm and is then liable to be fly born before it is cured.”    So the traditional time was around Martinmas in early November which had the added advantage that cured hams would be ready for Christmas.

As for the slaughtering of the pig this was done by the local butcher who was often paid in kind, and could be a traumatic event for both pig and family.

Not that there was any set way to carry this out and stories abound of botched attempts all of which led Stephen’s to recommend that the pig be placed on a bed of straw and the knife inserted into the heart.

The event was very much a family affair with everyone pitching in to scrap the hair clean from the body by either immersing it in boiling water or pouring the scalding water over the carcase, and later salting down the meat.  Immediately after it had been killed it was hung and left for the night before being cut up.

It was a time consuming job to rub salt into the hams and not a pleasant one either.  First the salt had to be crushed from a salt block which was then rubbed into the meat.   A side could be anything up to four feet [1.2 metres] in length and special care had to be taken to rub the salt into the bone joints.  All of this left the hands red raw.  Nor was this the end of the process.  The meat then had to be soaked in water and dried before being wrapped in muslin and hung up.  Meanwhile some of the pork might be cooked up into pies and the blood made into black pudding.

The family pig was indeed an important part of the means by which many in the township supplemented their earnings.  But pigs were part of the local economy and both farmers and market gardeners would find keeping pigs a profitable undertaking.

As we have seen they could be fed on almost anything.  In winter this might be potatoes or turnips and in summer they could be left to graze in a grass field.  The going rate at market in 1844 for a pig was anything between 24s [£1.20p] and 30s [£1.50p].  

Our old friend Henry Stephens calculated that two brood sows could produce 40 pigs between them and that retaining six for home use the remaining 34 could easily be sold at market.  So many of the smaller farmers and market gardeners in the township might well keep at least one sow and use it to supplement their income.

The same was true of poultry which existed happily enough in a back garden or farmers’ yard.  But I doubt that there was much to be made from selling the eggs.

A dozen eggs in the summer of 1851 might cost 4d [2p] a dozen and rise in price to 8d [4p] later in the year.  

Enterprising farmers and market gardeners might store up summer eggs to sell in the winter.  This involved smearing them with butter or lard while still warm and packing them in barrels of salt, oats or melted suet then transport them into the city or sell them to egg merchants who visited on a weekly basis.

For most in the township the chicken provided cheap fresh eggs.

Pictures; from the Bookk of the Farm Henry Stephens, Vol 11 1844

From THE STORY OF CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY, Andrew Simpson, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-story-of-chorlton-cum-hardy-new.html

On the Eighth Day on Oxford Street in the April of 1973


I have very fond memories of the “Eighth Day” on Oxford Street.  

I somehow missed the first shop on Brown Street but when it reopened in 1972 opposite All Saints it was the place we regularly visited.

It was at that time still a craft exchange place where all sorts of exotic and fascinating things were on offer.  Here were those wonderful loon pants we all seemed to wear, the packets of incense, odd looking jewellery and the bottles of scent including strawberry much favoured by my girlfriend.

The place was cluttered seeming to lack any organisation and I never really trusted the stairs to the upper floor.  But it was just perfect and for the two of us from very conventional working class backgrounds exploring all that student life had to offer this was part of that alternative life style.

Now there will be some who deride what it stood for and others who re-acted with violent scorn at the time to its presence which was and remains a shame.  But I guess that has much to do with the way it challenged their beliefs and made them uncomfortable.

I remember a laid back happy place where people just got on with what they wanted to do.

I do occasionally call in at the restaurant which it developed into.  It remains a co-operative dealing in wholesale and vegetarian food and as its statement says “exists to encourage the optimum health of its customers and staff by providing quality vegetarian food and advice, whilst maintaining a caring, sustainable, democratic and ethical business environment for its workers.”

Which is fine.  I became a vegetarian in the mid ‘80s continue to share the ideals expressed in the statement and while I miss that old rambling shop see much that my younger self would have believed in at the new place.

And perhaps it is well that they don’t sell loons anymore.  The thought that with my ever expanding waist line this 63 year old should be tempted to buy a pair is I guess best left in the past.

Picture; On the Eighth Day, 111 Oxford Street, in April 1973, picture by H. Milligan, H.,  courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m00173




Thursday, 13 December 2012

There are many hidden histories .... UK Disability History Month


There are many hidden histories which for all sorts of reasons do not get the attention of either the professional historians or the general public.

All of us can cite examples and this week’s post from the Together Trust * has returned to highlight that December is UK Disability History Month and provides a link to the  English Heritage site, Disability in Time and Place, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/people-and-places/disability-history/1914-1945/ which “reveals how disabled peoples' lives are integral to the heritage all around us.
The web resource includes new research as well as photographs from the English Heritage Archive and other collections, including the Together Trust.”

Now there is a lot of media coverage of the extent to which the recent Olympic Games heightened awareness of disability but I have no doubt that there is a long way to go.

But at least the language we use has changed.  When we were growing up my disabled sister was officially described as spastic, a word which became shortened in the playground to spaz and fast became a term of abuse.

And so the words we use do matter and so does the history of how people have overcome their disabilities often in the face of an uncaring and even hostile society.

Likewise I welcome the opportunity to know more about how the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges played a part in that story.

* http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/what-would-you-do-if.html#more

Picture; Bethesda group,1910,  courtesy of the Together Trust

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Snow in the city ........ Hulme Street 1912


It has been snowing across Canada for the last month.

It began up in British Colombia in October and by late November was falling on Ontario according to friends, and soon no doubt our family who live in the north of Italy will report the first real falls of the coming winter.

Already Simone will have fitted his snow tyres as he does every year.  They live hard up against the Swiss border and often have to cross that border to visit relatives who live and work on the “other side.”

Of course here it is less likely, but the child in me lives in hope, especially as we head to Christmas.  So here over the next few days are a series of pictures and stories of when the snow fell in Manchester.

This is Hulme Street at the junction with Oxford Street in February 1912.  Today the narrow street is dwarfed by tall modern buildings mainly given over retail and accommodation.  Back in 1912 it was occupied by a collection of cabinet makers, engineers, mechanics and fancy box manufacturers and the Salvation Army sorting offices.

There is at first glance that almost Christmassy card appeal, with the snow and steam blotting out the harsher industrial scene. But I don’t suppose Hume Street on that February morning was that pleasant.  Leading the heavily laden horse drawn carts along a snow covered road would not be my choice of how to spend the working day or for that matter carrying a set of ladders either.

And it is a further reminder of just how much was still done by horse or by hand just a hundred years ago.  Seven months earlier the carters had come out on a strike in a bitter and at times violent industrial conflict and levels of unrest rumbled on into the new year.*

None of which should surprise us given this was a period 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.

So a snowing wintry scene but not one that should hide the harsh realities for many of those making their way along Hulme Street in the February of 1912.

But I shall finish on a lighter note and refer again as I often do to my debt to the local image collection held by Manchester City Council Public Libraries.  Here can be found over 80,000 pictures and prints of our city’s history. http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

Picture; Hulme Street from Oxford Street, February 2nd 1912, taken by J.Shaw, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m19353


*http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/story-of-strike-and-of-strikes-yet-to_1835.html

Another slightly familar picture, Chorlton High School for Boys circa 1930


It is a scene that will be familiar to many of us.

It’s the old Chorlton High School on Sandy Lane but with a slight difference.

The picture was taken around 1930 when it was Chorlton High School for Boys.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Hard Times a painting and a story


This is one of those paintings I come back to time and time again, and each time it prompts me to reflect on how little I know about those men and women who migrated across the country looking for work.  

These four may stand for many.  They have few possessions, only what they carry in the blankets along with his tools.

The journey has been long and you sense that the children and their mother cannot go much further.  But he stands resolute gazing across the fields to where there might be work and shelter.

Hard Times was painted by Hubert von Herkomer in 1885 and hangs in the Manchester City Art Gallery.

It crops up fairly regularly in books and on the covers of novels of 19th century rural life, and has generated its fair share of criticism.

At the time there were those who were repelled by its realism while later others have argued that it over idealises the labourer, seeking to contrast the tired and forlorn figures at his feet with his own steadfast confidence that in the distance there will be work and the promise of better times.

I cannot pretend that I have that depth of knowledge or even that ability to really get under the painting but as that caricature of low brow culture often says, “I know what I likes” and I do like this painting.

For me who has spent some time describing the landscape of rural Chorlton in the 1840s as well as the lives of the people who lived here Hard Times works for me.

I can almost feel the chill in the winter air and hear the sound of the rooks with their piercing and ugly cries breaking the silence of  the empty sky.

At the same time I recognise that landscape.

Look at the OS map for the township in the 1840s and there in the fields behind the hedgerows are the same ponds and water courses as well as the twisting lanes which seem to follow no logical route other than they were determined by ancient field boundaries and natural obstacles.

Just how many such wandering families passed through Chorlton is unrecorded but enough of our farmers had shippons where their labourers were accommodated above the cattle.

And there were plenty of people living in Chorlton during the middle years of the century to suggest that our population was no stay at home bunch who never went more than the next village.

Now Hard Times was painted in 1885 just one year before Thomas Hardy published The Mayor of Casterbridge with that memorable opening sentence,

“One evening of late summer, before the nineteenth century had reached one third of its span a young man and woman, the latter carrying a child, were approaching the large village of Weydon- Priors, in Upper Wessex on foot.”

And it may be that there is more than a hint that here we are dealing with people who while they are on the margins of poverty experiencing hard times, do have a dignity and determination about them.  A little over forty years earlier many would have been self educated, and pursued a variety of interests from literature to the natural sciences.

Men like the shoe maker Richard Buxton and his fellow botanists who were hand loom weavers who in their spare time roamed the countryside around Manchester recording the plant life and discussing their finds in working class societies.

While here in the township there were those of energy and determination who worked hard, left the fields to play in our brass band, raised money for church and lay buildings and participated in the local democracy of the community.

Now I do have a romantic side, but history has taught me that you cannot draw too cosy a picture of rural life in the 19th century.

Work was long and often interspersed with periods of unemployment, living conditions could be basic and pretty uncomfortable and the ever present threat of ill health, lack of work or just bad luck could pitch almost every labouring family into poverty and destitution with a spell in the workhouse.

Which brings me back to the painting.  Now true it depicts a real moment of hard times but it suggests that there is a dignity and nobility in these unknown people on the tramp and that will do for me.

Oh and I have learnt that Hubert von Herkomer, who was born in 1849 and died in 1914, was not only a painter but also a pioneering film director and composer.

Picture; Hard Times, by Hubert von Herkomer, 1885 Manchester City Art Gallery, taken from Wikipedia common and in the public domain because the copyright has expired.  

Friday, 7 December 2012

A new exhibition on Longford Park and Hall at Chorlton Library throughout December


I’m looking at a picture I have never seen before of part of Longford Park in 1933.  

It is fascinating for a number of reasons, not least because there in the top right hand corner, beyond the line of trees is the chimney of our own Chorlton brick works.

But for me it is also the detail of the verandahs, which fronted the length of the bowling greens and extended further east, as shown here.

Few now will remember them.  They were cleared away in 1936 to make way for the art deco shelters and cafe.

And so it is timely that there is an exhibition on the history of Longford Park at Chorlton Library which will run for the whole of December.

It is the work of Richard Bond who until recently was head of Manchester Archives and Local Studies and takes the story of the Hall and Park beyond its purchase in 1912 by Stretford Council and nicely brings stories of the estate and our own township together.

As Richard writes, "there are a lot of Chorlton connections with the park. Indeed, much of the area in the 1933 picture was actually part of Chorlton at the time. 

The boundary between Stretford and Chorlton bisected the park running roughly between the two long paths, and then headed to the right of the verandahs. Only in 1993 was the whole of the Park, and the Athletics Stadium incorporated in to Trafford.

The exhibition reveals the Chorlton connections go back a long way. The first prominent resident at Longford was Thomas Walker, who moved there from Barlow Hall in 1787 - shortly before he became Manchester's boroughreeve. 

He died in 1817 and I have located a tombstone in memory of him in old St Clement's churchyard, one of the last stones on the path before exiting at the Bowling Green end. 

The stone also records his son Charles James Stanley Walker, who converted what had been a farm into a hall before selling to John Rylands in 1855 (who then built his own hall). 
  
Moving forward to around 1912, Stretford Council persuaded its ratepayers to agree to purchase the Park on the basis there would be no extra charge, as they would recover costs by selling some of the land for houses. They then tried to sell the 11 acres on the Chorlton side of the boundary for housing but such was Manchester's opposition that this idea was then dropped, and indeed the land is still undeveloped to this day. 
  
Stretford Council quickly adapted the estate as a park but weren't sure what to do with the hall. Following an offer from Mr John Hilditch of Chorlton, an exhibition featuring some of his extensive collection of Chinese and Japanese art was opened in 1914. 

This was seen by 59,113 visitors by the end of October, when it closed as the hall was to be used as a home for Belgian refugees. 
  
The hall later became a Red Cross hospital but when this closed in 1921, the use of the hall was a problem again. In 1926, a Museum and Art Gallery was opened, which again featured Mr Hilditch's collection (who by this time had moved to Crumpsall). He died in 1930, and the Council then discovered he had not left the items to them in his will - as he was said to have promised - as in fact he left no will. “

All of which makes the exhibition an important contribution to our history as well as helping celebrate the centenary of the park this year. The Longford Park history display, at Chorlton Library throughout December

Pictures; the park in 1933, courtesy of Trafford Lifetimes, TL0996, Longford Hall, 1920, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m67353, and the Walker family gravestone in the parish churchyard from the collection of Richard Bond.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The St Clement’s Cricket Club


Now I am out on a quest.

Yesterday I was pushing back the history of the Chorlton-cum-Hardy cricket club, which started with a picture from my old friend Oliver which showed his uncle outside the club house.*

Oliver also lent me a second photograph of his uncle, which intriguingly is entitled St Clement’s CC.

Now I naively thought this too would be relatively easy to track down.

But so far I have drawn a blank.

Perhaps there may be a clue in the background which seems to suggest the wide open spaces of the meadows.  So were they playing on Chorlton's ground?

There are plenty of references to a St Clement’s CC in the Manchester Guardian for the interwar years but none which seem to for a team in Chorlton.

So there is the quest.  Where were they based, when did they play and does anyone remember them?

Picture; courtesy of Oliver Bailey

http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/chorlton-cricket-and-search-for-its.html

After the Infirmary and before the Gardens Piccadilly circa 1914


Well there are postcards and there are postcards and on a scale of one to ten this ranks pretty low on the quality level.

All of which is a shame because it dates from sometime after 1914, when the Royal Infirmary was demolished.

In the distance is the temporary building which houses Manchester Central Library from 1912, which was the old Infirmary Accident and Out-patients department and still had carved in the stone above the doorway the word "Dispensary". They are there at the far end on the right, looking like some half timbered building.

But there is plenty to see.  The old hospital site is still just a site, and it would be some years before it became our largest open space in the city centre.

And most of the traffic consists of trams horse drawn vehicles and even a hand cart with a set of ladders.

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