Sunday, 31 March 2013

Looking towards our village sometime in the summer of 1890

Standing in Holt Croft looking towrds the village circa 1890

We are on Chorlton Croft with the brook to our back and the date is around 1890.  

Directly in front is the old parish church and to the right is the Bowling Green Hotel which was demolished in 1908 for the present building.

According to the caption, “the circular opening, bottom right is the out fall of Wilbraham Egerton’s sewer since extended and covered by a bank and not the arch of the bridge which was later rebuilt.”

Now I remember the work done on this sewer sometime in the mid 1980s which involved a huge hole on Beech Road and an equally big one on the Rec in the north east corner.
I think it may have been built at the same time as Wilbraham Road in 1869 given that for some of its distance it ran alongside the road.  Now I would love to date it exactly but for that I will have to trawl the Egerton papers.

The Edgerton sewer outfall
The sewer “runs along the road to within a short distance of the railway bridge at Chorlton station, and then passes through the fields to Barlow Moor Lane, adjoining Lane Edge, crossing High Lane, Cross Road, and Beech Road, thence through various gardens, finally emptying itself into the Chorlton Brook at a point about 200 yards below the bridge which crosses the stream leading to Jackson's boat.”*

The scene is one that even given the outfall could date from any time in the 19th century.

The parish church had been rebuilt at the beginning of that century and the Bowling Green just twenty or so years earlier although I rather think there had been bits added during the following decades.

Beyond the hedge to our right had been one of the village ponds, which the landlord of the hotel rented out to “gentleman to fish” and sometime perhaps in the 1860s and certainly by 1888 was drained.

Look closely and it is possible to see the not very good repair job to one of the big stones on top of the brickwork of the bridge.

And there is much more detail that the picture yields up, like the outside flue of the Arnot stoves  which  heated the church and as the advertisement proudly claimed were cheap and efficient because by their

The church and Bowling Green Hotel
“circular and oblong bronzed corrugated  body, the heating surface becomes multiplied nearly three times and by means of the self regulating valve the admission of air to the fire is so regulated that it only needs replenishing with fuel once every 12 to 18 hours.” 

Just to the left of the church and away in the distance is one of the barns owned by the Higginbotham family and which had at the start of the 19th century served as a place of worship for the small Wesleyan congregation.

And off to the extreme left almost hidden from view was one of the old labourer’s cottages.

*Ellwood, T.L., Chapter 6, South Manchester Gazette,

Picture; donated by Mrs May Boardman to from the Lloyd collection

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The pub beyond the river, a ferry and a bridge

Hardy Lane circa 1912
On a warm summer’s evening a walk across the meadows to the Mersey and the pub beyond the river is one of those pleasant things to do.

Although walking back in the dark can be an adventure and one which more than once has left at least one of us down the ditch at the side of the lane.

And I guess it was ever such because the pub has been serving beer from the beginning of the 19th century and most probably before that.

The small community which lived in Hardy and those from the village who fancied a walk out with a drink at the end of it will no doubt have known it well.

But any one drinking there before 1816 would have had to rely on the ferry across the river until Samuel Wilton built his bridge.  Now Sam Wilton was canny and maintained the toll once charged by the ferry man and to ensure he got his money he added a stout door on the southern end hard by the pub.

The old bridge in 1865,  built in 1816
Nor was this charge dropped when the new bridge was erected in 1881 so while the door became an iron gate the toll remained and did so until well in to the late 1940s.

But I suspect the sale of beer was always secondary, and the prime money spinner for the tenant landlord was the land along with the crossing charge.

So Samuel Nixon who was there in the 1840s and 50 described himself as a farmer and according to the tithe schedule of 1845 tended nine acres of orchard and meadow land.

Now nine acres put him amongst the 60% of market gardeners in the township who farmed between one and nine acres of land growing the crops the city wanted to eat.

The old bridge and toll door, 1865
Of course like a handful of others he had diversified into other occupations as well as farming.  In his case this was  the crossing toll and the sale of beer.

I don’t know when Samuel Nixon took over the pub but it may have been when the place was sold in 1832.

He may even have seen the advert which led to Edmund Howarth buying the land, the buildings and of course the right to charge that toll.

It is a fascinating piece of history and well worth reproducing.

“By Mr. Nathaniel Pass, by order of the trustees named by the will of James Marsland, deceased at the house of Mr. George Brownhill, known by the name of Jackson’s Boat in Chorlton-with-Hardy, in the county of Lancaster, on Monday the 5th day of March, 1832, at five o’clock in the evening subject to conditions to be then produced.

The land around Jackson's Bridge 1841-53

The Inheritance in Fee-Simple or and in all that long established  and well accustomed Public-House, known by the name of Jackson’s Boat, aforesaid, with the outbuildings, garden, orchard, and several closes of Land thereto belongings, called the Bank, the Nearer Ford Mouth, Further Ford Mouth, and the Further Field, situto in Chorlton-with-Hardy aforesaid, but lying on the southerly or Cheshire side of the River Mersey, and containing together with the site of the said buildings, by recent admeasurement, 5a.2q. 16p of land, of the Lancashire measurement, or thereabouts.  

Together with the Ferry thereto belonging, and the right and priviledge of carrying passengers over the river Mersey, in the occupation of the said George Brownhill, as tenant.

And also all that Field or Parcel of LAND, called the Boat Field, situate in Sale in the county of Cheshire, containing 3a 0q. 14p. Of land, of the measure aforesaid, or thereabouts, in the occupation of John Marsland, and adjoining the land before mentioned.

The house and land in Chorlton-with-Hardy will be sold subject to an annuity of £26. 13s. 8d., payable during the life of a widow lady, aged 46 in April next.  The buildings are in excellent repair, and the land is of the first rate quality.
The pub circa 1881

The tenant of the public house will shew the premisises; and for further particulars apply to Mr. Marsland, or Mr. Samuel Alderley, of Sale; or to Meesrs. PASS and Shelmerdine, Althrincham.”**

Manchester Guardian February 18, 1832

At the time the pub was called Jackson’s Boat but it had during the early 19th century other names, including the Old Greyhound and the Boat House, before reverting back to the old Greyhound.  Sometime around 1832 it became Jackson’s Boat and then the Greyhound from 1834.

Just another of those wonderful ways history has of surprising you.

*The not so safe bridge over the Mersey circa 1865,

**Manchester Guardian February 18, 1832

Pictures; from the Lloyd Collection and map of the land around Jackson's Bridge, courtesy of Digital Archives,

That mystery house on Edge Lane

The original

I have been tracking a house on Edge Lane which was demolished in 1986.  

I never knew any more about it until Laura came up with a photograph of a house on Edge Lane which could be its twin, which may have got us closer to the original.

And now Adge with skills I don’t possess has taken that old image and brought it out of the shadows.

So thank you Laura and Adge, and on to a new piece of research using the rate books and census returns.

And as enhanced by Adge
A nice bit of co-operative history research.

Pictures; from the Lloyd collection, the enhanced image by Adge, and Laura’s.

And its twin by Laura

Friday, 29 March 2013

Tracking down that mystery house with the help of Laura

"Thanks Andrew, liked the post this morning, you've got me wondering where that house on Edge Lane is....!" Laura Taylor

Now that is music to my ears, not just because it means people are reading the daily stories but that they are interested enough to want to take what they have read a bit further.

In some cases it is to tell me of a personal connection, in others to share their own research and always what comes of this is that a little bit more of our history is uncovered.

The mystery house on Edge Lane demolished in 1987
So back to Laura and her detective work to track the house I wrote about in On Edge Lane sometime before 1987.*

I was writing about an image I had come across in the collection of a house on Edge Lane and admitted "that sometimes you just have to accept defeat.  Not that it happens often, but on occasion all attempts to probe the secrets of a picture come to nothing.

And so it is with this house.  The caption just says demolished in 1987, and that is all you get.

Now it is in a section of the collection devoted to Edge Lane so we are sort of a little way forward but that is as far as it goes.

And as you do I have scanned Edge Lane for any clues to where it may have been.  There are a few spots where there is new build which might date from the late 1980s or 90s but I can’t be sure.  Nor are the OS maps much help. Both the 1907 and 1935 maps deliver up a number of candidates but that is all they are.”

Which is where Laura came in.  She did the research on the ground, located a similar house in a spot which is just right and then also supplied a photograph.

Its surviving possible  neighbour © Laura Taylor, 2013
“Architecturally", she writes, "it’s very similar to a house just as you turn on to High Lane from Edge Lane. Second in on the right hand side past the footpath to Meadow Court, could be that it was close to the flats in that part of town? I'm saying this as maybe a builder built a few in the same style on that row....?”

Looking at the two of them they do seem a match to the point where I wonder if the caption is correct about it being demolished in 1987.

But then as Laura says it is more than likely that the same builder was involved and commissioned the same architect.

After all the development of the township was done piecemeal and land sold off through chief rents to small time speculators, businessmen and even shop keepers and market gardeners.

So the stories roll on, and a big thank you to Laura.

Pictures; original from the Lloyd collection and the other from the collection of Laura Taylor, March 2013


Thursday, 28 March 2013

THE EASTER EGG HISTORY HUNT .... a first for Chorlton

Now here is a way of learning a bit more about the history of Chorlton with a family day out. 

The Easter Egg History Hunt starts and finishes at The Post Box Cafe Chorlton and takes in the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON History Trail with stories of the past by historian Andrew Simpson and paintings of the present by local artist Peter Topping.

So the challenge is to visit each of the eight sites listed below, answer a question about each venue and get back with the answers to the Post Box Cafe Chorlton.

You can do it in one day or over the whole of Easter. And you don’t have to do it in any order.

But as a historian I rather think you should start on the green with the Horse & Jockey in the 16th century and make your way via Beech Road in the 1830s, and finish in the Chorlton of the 20th century.

Now that of course is how I would do it, Peter I rather think fancies the scenic route and Chris at the cafe will just be there at the Post Box to judge the results.

EASTER EGG HISTORY HUNT, March 29th to April 1st,, A GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON EVENT Sponsored by The Post Box Cafe

Some venues may not be open all of Easter

Stories by Andrew, graphics by Peter and food by Chris

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Walking the streets of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD

The Forum looking towards the Temple of  Jupiter © Kim Traynor
I have never lost my fascination of all things Roman.  

Now I know there are some pretty iffy bits to the Romans ranging from slavery to military conquest and a fairly ruthless system of government under the Empire.

But much the same can be said of many societies in the past including our own.

So with that out of the way It’s time to indulge my love of almost all things Roman and give a plug to the new exhibition opening on Life and death Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum March 28-September 29th

“AD 79. In just 24 hours, two cities in the Bay of Naples in southern Italy were buried by a catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

A street in Pompeii, © Paul Vlaar
Preserved under ash, the cities lay buried for just over 1,600 years, their rediscovery providing an unparalleled glimpse into the daily life of the Roman Empire.

From the bustling street to the intimate spaces of a Roman home, this major exhibition will take you to the heart of people’s lives in Pompeii and Herculaneum.”

And if like me you don’t fancy the trip to London, then the film of the opening will be shown in cinemas across the country on June 13th introduced live by British Museum Director Neil MacGregor and featuring Mary Beard, Rachel de Thame, Giorgio Locatelli and Exhibition Curator Paul Roberts who bring extraordinary objects to life in this unique event.

“The exhibition will give visitors a taste of the daily life of the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum, from the bustling street to the family home. The domestic space is the essential context for people’s lives, and allows us to get closer to the Romans themselves. 

This exhibition will explore the lives of individuals in Roman society, not the classic figures of films and television, such as emperors, gladiators and legionaries, but businessmen, powerful women, freed slaves and children. 

The baker Terentius Neo with his wife 
One stunning example of this material is a beautiful wall painting from Pompeii showing the baker Terentius Neo and his wife, holding writing materials showing they are literate and cultured. Importantly their pose and presentation suggests they are equal partners, in business and in life.

The emphasis on a domestic context also helps transform museum artefacts into everyday possessions. Six pieces of wooden furniture will be lent from Herculaneum in an unprecedented loan by the Archaeological Superintendency of Napels and Pompeii. 

These items were carbonized by the high temperatures of the ash that engulfed the city and are extremely rare finds that would not have survived at Pompeii – showing the importance of combining evidence from the two cities. The furniture includes a linen chest, an inlaid stool and even a garden bench. Perhaps the most astonishing and moving piece is a baby’s crib that still rocks on its curved runners.

Detail from a wall in the Hall of the Mysteries © Lord Pheasant
The exhibition will include casts from in and around Pompeii of some of the victims of the eruption. A family of two adults and their two children are huddled together, just as in their last moments under the stairs of their villa. The most famous of the casts on display is of a dog, fixed forever at the moment of its death as the volcano submerged the cities.

Sponsored by Goldman Sachs”**


Pictures; the Forum looking towards the Temple of Jupiter, by Kim Traynor, July 2012, A street in Pompeii, by Paul Vlaar, June 2003, the baker Terentius Neo with his wife. Italian National Archaeological Museum of Naples (cat. no. 9058 ) & detail from a wall in the Hall of the Mysteries by Lord Pheasant November2006

Monday, 25 March 2013

Thomas Mellodew, and an Oldham cotton business part two

The Mellodews were textile magnates who ran a successful business from mills in Moorside near Oldham for more than a century.

And I don’t suppose I would ever have heard of them if I hadn’t been asked to write a review of the book about them.*

This is a new venture for me and one that I am still getting to grips with.  First there is the task of reading it, and then the more difficult exercise of writing about it in the space of just 300 words.

Now the received knowledge is that you read it all the way through first and then start writing the comments, in just the same way that I was told in making notes from a book, you read it all, form an overall judgement and then make the notes, which usually means you write less because you have a sense of what is coming.

But this is the blog and part two of Thomas Mellodew, an Oldham cotton business which I first posted on March 21st.**

And the task I set myself is to write a series of regular updates on writing a review and in the process share a little of what the book is about, but dear reader not enough to be a substitute for parting with £14 and reading the story yourself.

Moorside in 1853
Thomas Mellodew set up his 30 looms on Sholver Moorside above Oldham in 1850 specialising in cotton velvet and prospered.

In time as the two maps show the business grew from just the one mill to two large cotton factories with interests in collieries, a brick works three pubs, workers cottages, and farmland.

The first half of the book is a fascinating insight into how a family from humble beginnings made good and along the way offers a good description of how cotton was worked.

And for me what marks the book out as different is that it is a departure from the story of those who worked the looms and fed the boilers to those who managed the capital and did the deals.  So there is little about factory conditions, or the quality of the life of the men, women and children who laboured in the mills.

Moorside in 1894
But then this is an account “primarily about a cotton firm and its owning family” and that does make it an area I know little about.

So here are descriptions of how a textile business got started, the means by which it was financed and the way the owners developed the enterprise and planned for the future.

So it’s strength is that we are dealing not in generalities but of one firm in an identifiable part of Lancashire.

This breaks new ground for me and does a little to redress my usual bottom up approach to history.

What is more I have now reached the point in the book dealing with the 20th century which is when textile manufacture seems to be running all downhill.

The optimism and sheer dynamism of the early firm has slowed down and faces the new competition from the USA and Japan and the slow demise of the whole industry to the point in the 1980s when the company put the two mills up for sale, and had to  withdraw them because they failed to get a buyer.

But that is for part three.

Pictures, front cover of An Oldham Velvet Dynasty, and Moorside from the OS map of Lancashire, 1841-53, and the oS for South Lancashire, 188-1893, courtesy of Digital Archives,

*An Oldham Velvet Dynasty, The Mellowodews of Moorside, by William M. Hartley, Palatine Books, 2009, £14


Help in finding lost Manchester relatives

From the Trust's records
Looking for lost members of your family from the last century can be difficult and a little daunting.

Even for the professional it can be challenging and lead to many dead ends.

How much more so when this is something done in your spare time with little experience of archives, of where to look and who to ask.

Added to this it can become almost impossible when they were in care.

Now I know from experience because my grandfather and his siblings spent much of their early life in institutions.

All too often after you make that first painful discovery that they spent much of their early life in an orphanage, or care home, the trail just falls away.  In some cases the records have been destroyed or are incomplete or worst still you run in to that grey zone of confidentiality which locks up the details of their lives and which can only be revealed later in the century or at the cost of a lot of money.

Records of children admitted to one of the Refuges
Very little remains of the details of my grandfather’s early life and what is known come down to a few letters from my great aunt, and two less than helpful official reports. Ironically we know more about his brother who was sent to Canada just after his 16th birthday in 1914.

But tracking these down was an immense learning curve and required the help of friends in Derby and Birmingham.

So I was pleased when the archivist at the Together Trust chose this month to highlight the way their records can be accessed in a post on the blog.*

“Many family historians who discover their ancestors were in one of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and homes tend to stumble across the charity. Our archive, like many other charity archives, is rich in information for genealogists. Once discovered it can fill in many gaps in individual’s family history in terms of parents, addresses and birth dates as well as more specific information such as education and circumstances leading up admittance. Further information can include letters from relatives, agreement forms, and investigation/visitor’s reports.”

Application form 1900
And what follow are the answers to the very simple questions of how do I find out if my ancestor was ever in one of the Together Trust homes? Does every case file hold the same information?  How can I request a search of the archive for my relative?

Now these may seem pretty basic questions but they are the very ones any of us starting out want to ask and the answers are spot on.

It is all too easy to assume that people know where to look and even what questions to ask.  Or for that matter what the documents will look like.

So for anyone who thinks their ancestor was in the care of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges, this is a good starting point.

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust,

*Family history,!)

Friday, 22 March 2013

A little bit of Tudor England revealed today

Most of us are familiar with the Domesday Book that great survey of England and parts of Wales which was completed in 1086.

And I guess lots of us have been curious enough to go looking for where we live and trying to get a sense of what the place was like just over 900 years ago.
But until recently I was totally unaware of the Wooton survey of 1560.

“The Wotton family of Boughton Malherbe owned substantial lands in Kent in the sixteenth century. At the time of the Survey their estates totalled about six thousand acres, scattered over every part of the county. 

The Survey was carried out between 1557 and 1560 on the initiative of Thomas Wotton. Its purpose was to establish precisely what lands he held, where they were, how they were used, what feudal obligations they carried and, especially, whether they were ‘of the custom, nature and tenure of gavelkind.’ This was the particular inheritance custom of Kent whereby lands were partitioned equally between all heirs instead of descending in their entirety to the eldest son.”*

And what the survey offers up is a wonderful picture of this part of Kent in the sixteenth century.
The document remained in the hands of the family until it disappeared in 1929 only to turn up again in a London sale when it was bought by the British Museum.

The story appears in this months edition of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, in an article written by Alan Crosby who describes how the survey

“has now been transcribed by a team of volunteers from the Kent Archaeological Society and has been put online with free access together with exceptionally informative essays on the manuscript itself, explaining the methods the transcribers employed, the Wooton family and the evidence which the survey gives for the landscape, economy, architecture and social structure at the beginning of Elizabeth 1’st reign.”**

Now I have never seen the point of retelling a story when it has already been done by the people who put in the work.

So I will say no more about Wooton other than suggest you visit the Kent Archaeological Society at and follow the links to the survey.

Kent Archaeological Society, the oldest and largest society devoted to the history and archaeology of the ancient county of Kent.

And also highlight Alan Crosby’s article “Our volunteers have made a rare Tudor survey available to all.” Who Do You Think You Are?  April 2013 which first drew my attention to the Tudor survey.

* Jacqueline Bower,

**Alan Crosby “Our volunteers have made a rare Tudor survey available to all.” Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, April 2013

Pictures; from

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Thomas Mellodew, an Oldham cotton business and a first for the blog

Now today I am going to be a little self indulgent, and copy one of those features of some blogs which post progress reports.

In my case it’s a review of a book which is a first for me and I hope an insight into the discipline of writing about someone else’s work and I hope in the process revealing something about the subject matter.

Of course I am bound to say that I am limited to what I can say after all it is one thing to review the book another to tell its story.

And I know there will be those who mutter how difficult is it to do a review?  After all, it is just a matter of reading it and then writing 300 words on what it was like and what you thought of it.

The book in question is An Oldham Velvet Dynasty, by William M. Hartley.* the publishers say that "the history of Thomas Mellodew and Company Ltd is a part of the history of Oldham. 

For over 100 years, the family owned firm was an important local business and employer, spinning cotton and producing high quality velvet – a material much sought after in Victorian England.”

It began in the 1830s and lasted till 1956 so nicely fits into one of the periods I often write about.
Our township was still very much a rural community when Thomas Mellodew set up his 30 looms on a “windswept Moorside above Oldham, employing 260 hands.”  And the growing success of his company was at a time when Manchester was at the centre of those new textile and commercial enterprises.

And the demise of the firm and the demolition of its mills were mirrored by the loss of the Bradford colliery and closure of the countless engineering and foundry works in the east of the city and beyond which are topics I regularly return to.

So, this is day one of the project.  I have successfully negotiated the introduction which gives an account of cotton spinning and weaving and in particular employment practices and moved on to chapter one describing Mellodew’s early life set against the backdrop of the first three decades of the 19th century.

There is much I have learned but remain intrigued by that phrase “260 hands.”  It is a term which neatly places the human workforce in the industrial process.  Here are not workers, with families, interests, and stories to tell but mere adjuncts to the textile machines.  They are no more worthy of a second glance than the oil can and the spinning machines which also help turn the raw material into the finished cotton velvet.

Such was the outlook of so many of those 19th century employers, but I do have to be careful for already my own prejudice towards them and the system they were developing has cast a shadow on what I think of Mr Mellodew.

Now this may be unfair given “his attention to the welfare of his workforce” so we shall see.

In the meantime I am on to chapter two in 1851 on Shover Moorside which according to the biographer was an inhospitable spot, three miles from Oldham where  the comminity were largely “engaged in cotton spinning and weaving, coal mining and agriculture”  and eagerly anticipating why  "just eight years after the Plug-drawing Riots of 1842 [he] was forced ....... to take his 30 looms to windswept Moorside."

But that will as they say be for part two.

Picture; front cover of An Oldham Velvet Dynasty

*An Oldham Velvet Dynasty, The Mellowodews of Moorside, by William M. Hartley, Palatine Books, 2009, £14

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Lost World of Longford Park

Never one to miss an opportunity to learn more, I plan to go to "Lost World of Longford Park" tomorrow at  7.15 in Trafford's Local Studies library in Sale.

“Presented by researcher Richard Bond the talk will illustrate how the speaker has recovered the lost history of the park. It will include fascinating photos and maps, including a highly detailed 1881 map, which will show a rare example of the ornamental lake. 

Ahead of the talk, a fascinating photographic exhibition, dating back to the official park opening in May 1912, in the foyer at Sale Waterside, continuing until Thursday, 28 March. 

Anyone wanting more details about the talk or Longford Park can contact Trafford Local Studies by e-mail, via Twitter @TraffordArchive or by ringing 0161 912 3013"

It follows on from the excellent exhibition Richard staged at Chorlton Library earlier in the year.

Picture; Longford Hall and bandstand, TL4411 courtesy of Trafford Local Studies Centre
Sale Library 0161 912 3013

Friday, 15 March 2013

Supporting slavery in Salford in 1863, our own Reverend William Birley late of Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Unemployed cotton workers seeking relief, Illustrated London News 1862

It’s one of those uncomfortable little bits of history that not everyone was on the side of Lincoln and the North in the American Civil War.  

Now I am well aware that the conflict between the North and the Confederacy did not just turn on the issue of slavery, there were profound economic and political differences but for many the war did become a question of the inequity of one man to profit from the labour of another which in Lincoln’s words was part of that flawed idea that ‘You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’*

The Cotton Famine occasioned by the Union’s blockade of the South led to great hardship in the cotton districts of the north west but did not prevent many textile workers supporting the cause of abolition and echoed the earlier petition in 1785 here in Manchester where over 11,000 people called for an end to the slave trade.  This amounted to one fifth of the city’s population reflecting working class opposition to the African trade.

From The Liverpool Mercury September 10 1863
But not everyone supported the cause of the North and  many were of these drawn from the better off sections of our society.

One such was our own Reverend William Birley who had been the incumbent of St Clements from 1842 till he left for St Stephens in Salford in 1859.

William was a keen defender of the rights of the church.  While still in the township he had taken on those who objected to paying the church rate and despite ignoring opposition and at times acting in a very authoritarian way he lost.  Later he attacked those who wanted to secularise educational provision in the city, and in 1863 came out in support of the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

From The Liverpool Mercury September 10 1863
The war had interrupted supplies of cotton and resulted in real hardship in the northwest.  Large numbers of unemployed cotton workers and their families struggled and those still in work saw their wages fall.  

Opinion was divided over the war with some cotton workers supporting the South in the hope that this would bring an end to the war and a resumption of cotton, others argued that the war was essentially a conflict between free trade and protectionism, but the majority while opposing European intervention supported the North and the cause of emancipating the slaves.

The establishment was also divided.  For some like John Bright the war was about Southern privilege and the abolition of outdated social relationships where the “labourer was made a chattel.”  For those connected with the coal and iron industries who were dependant on the North as a market for munitions and railway construction, Northern success was vital to their interests, as indeed it was for the small manufacturers of Birmingham many of whom were engaged in arms manufacture and whose MP was John Bright.

From The Liverpool Mercury September 10 1863
But some Liverpool merchants who were relied on the imports of slave grown cotton argued for military intervention on the side of the Confederacy which might also have the advantage of destroying rival American merchant shipping which was almost entirely in northern ports.   A view endorsed by one visiting American who felt that some at least in the ruling class would have preferred a divided America because they feared its growing commercial power.

This shouldn’t blind us to those Southern sympathisers, many drawn from the conservative section of society who saw the Southern States as a nation struggling to be free and exercising their right to secede as the American colonies had done a little under a century before.

Amongst this group there was a growing feeling that after two years of war there could be no reconciliation between “two such belligerents in bonds of amity and mutual benefit”, and that by recognising the Confederacy the conflict would be brought to a conclusion.

William Birley shared this outlook and was one of those who had joined the Central Association for the Recognition of the Confederate States.**    In the September of 1863 along with a large number of “noblemen and gentlemen” many from the northwest he put his name to the call for recognition.

Hardship caused by the Cotton Famine, Illustrated London News 1862
Now, Salford along with Manchester had suffered during the famine, and despite the popular view that the majority stoically accepted the privations there were trenchant demands for real help.

As early as June 1862 just a year into the war, a mass meeting at Stevenson Square passed a resolution “that the relief at present given by the Manchester Board of Guardians is totally inadequate to meet the wants of the people in the present crisis.” ***  

While just over a year later workers in Stalybridge rioted after an attempt to reduce the relief paid out and the substitution of tickets usable at local shops instead of money.****     Similar protests spread to the neighbouring areas of Ashton, Dukinfield and Hyde, while in Stockport and Oldham large numbers of special constables were sworn in.

It might indeed be the act of a cynic to suggest that the urge to support the South which might bring an end to the war may in part have been linked to the fear of further disturbances, as much as to the “interests of our own guiltless suffering people.”  

Now I want to fins more of what William Birley thought about the issue, but so far nothing has turned up.

But it is possible to read more about his time in Chorlton, in The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy,

Statue of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Square, © Keith Edkins
* It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. 

They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. 

The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. 

It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. 

It is the same spirit that says, ‘You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’ 

No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.” 
Lincoln speaking in a debate with Stephen Douglas at Alton, Illinois, on October 15, 1858 on what constituted tyranny.

** Recognition of the South, Liverpool Mercury Thursday September 10th 1863
***Watts, John, The Facts of the Cotton Famine page 131 google edition page 152

****The protest began on March 19th 1863, and lasted through till Monday March 23rd, two companies of Hussars had been sent from Manchester and the Riot Act was read, followed by armed patrol of foot soldiers with fixed bayonets. 80 were arrested, Ibid Watts, John, The Facts of the Cotton Famine page 265-276 google edition page 286-296

Pictures; Cotton Famine, in 1863, 10056, 10038, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, newspaper cutting from The Liverpool Mercuey, 1863, and Photograph of Abaraham Lincoln, © Keith Adkins
Brick works, corner of Longford Road and Manchester Road, A H 

Thursday, 14 March 2013


A new book for Chorlton. 

Here for the first time is a detailed account of an agricultural community that was just 4 miles from Manchester. Much of the narrative is rooted in the people who lived here, using their words and records. It tells of daily lives, setting them in a national context, and balances the routine with the sensational - including murder, infanticide and a rebellion.

Partly a narrative of rural life, and a description of a community's relationship with a city, the book also includes guided walks around Chorlton to bring this history to life. A database of references and sources is also provided.

This is the story of a group of people that history has forgotten and scholarship has ignored.
ISBN: 9781860776717; RRP: £18.99

This beautifully produced 304pp 246x185mm hardback includes 60 illustrations

The History Press Ltd
The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 30, buying the sardines from Westwell’s on Beech Road

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

Now I have to admit I have no idea whether Mary Ann bought sardines, or if she did she bought them from H. Westwell’s at 119 Beech Road.  But for the sake of the story it would be convenient if she did, because this is another of those posts where I want to try and see Chorlton as they would have seen it.

All of which may seem a little contrived but none the less is about recreating a Chorlton that most of us will have never known.  So back to H. Westwell in the early spring of 1958.  It was a grocer’s shop, one of a number that Mary Ann could have shopped at on Beech Road.

In an age before the home fridge, or the giant supermarkets people still shopped for their food on a daily basis having to rely on people like Mr Westwell to keep the produce fresh in his own commercial refrigerators.

Number 119 had been selling food for a long time.

Back in 1911 it was a green grocer run by George Lunt and in 1929 you could have still got your potatoes, carrots and apples from Arthur Clayton and judging by the bananas in the window there was still fruit for sale in 1958.

I like the picture with its modernised shop front made of that shiny white or cream plastic which hid the old 19th century frontage and which today seems even more old fashioned than the original wood and cast iron.

Then there is the sign for the “JUST ARRIVED” tinned fish which very much sums up that period when tinned food still had the edge over the frozen variety.  But having said that Mr Birdseye is there in the window with even then its promise of “as fresh as the day it was picked.”

Still I am drawn back to the hand painted sign which is not something you see anymore and reminds me of those ghost signs which still linger on the sides of some buildings.

Now If I am not careful this is where I slide into that speculative tosh where I wonder how many people glancing at Mr Westwell’s fish sign with its blues and greens and brilliant white clouds paused to think about where that far away scene might have been.

But more likely it just was one of those things you took for granted, along with Joel House which was set back in its own grounds and can just be glimpsed at the edge of Mr Westwell’s shop.

So there you have it a little bit of Beech Road which would have been very familiar to Joe and Mary Anne and now just a photograph.

Pictures; H. Westwell, 119 Beech Road by R. E. Stanley, 1958, m17667, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council and number 119 today from the collection of Andrew Simpson


Last chance to walk the History Wall down on Albany Road

It was as Lord Bradley said a “unique partnership which had brought the history wall to Chorlton.” 

I don’t think there is anywhere in the city where a developer a local artist and a historian had come together to tell the story of a place.*

And that was what McCarthy and Stone, Peter Topping and I set out to do.**

McCarthy and Stone build “later life” properties and Peter paints the pictures and I tell the stories.

The project was simple enough and was about bringing the story of Chorlton from its rural past to the present day touching as we went on the major developments in between.

And because we were on a building site it seemed sensible to design it as a walk.  So along the 80 meter stretch from Albany Road round on to Brantingham you could walk our history.

It started on the green in the 16th century, moved on to Wilbraham and Barlow Moor Roads taking in many of the late 19th century buildings and finished with the next phase in the history of Chorlton.

Peter called it a “history wall” and that aptly summed it up.

Here were stories of the old parish church, the Horse and Jockey and life in the village and on Beech Road.

There were also tales of how New Chorlton developed in the 19th century and references to our first cinema, Cosgrove Hall and the coming of the tram.

All of this was superimposed on Peter’s paintings of contemporary Chorlton.

The wall was officially opened in September by Lord Bradley and the ceremony was attended by school parties, our City Councillors, the MP, and a host of other people including the Civic Society and Chorlton History Group.

Not to be out done the film company Hardy Productions UK offered their services and filmed the day and since then it has remained a bit of a talking point and even became a tourist attraction.

But there would come a time when the display came down, and sadly by Easter that will be the case.

Not that this is the end.  It will resurface in Chorlton High School and perhaps even for a while feature inside the new housing development.

In the meantime there are still plenty of opportunities to walk the walk, starting at  Albany Road in the 16th century with the Horse and Jockey on the village green round to Brantingham Road with the coming of the railway, our first cinema and now the new tram line.

Pictures; courtesy of Peter Topping, McCarty & Stone and Tom McGrath


**See the film of the exhibition at

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Going and gone, buildings I have known in the city

It is hard to see how the old Fire and Police Station complex on London Road will survive.  

True it is a listed building but I fear without lots of tender care and attention it will soon be too late to save it.  Brought down by neglect and just possibly the attraction of a prime location in the heart of the city. 

Now I have written about the place in the past* and watched it slowly empty of purpose and people.  Even the bank on the corner of London Road finally shut up shop and moved on.

And despite calls for something to be done it sits there waiting “to see better days and do better things.”  But I have a sense that time and the fabric of the building will seal its fate.  Then again I am an optimist and always travel in the sure knowledge that the bottle is always half full, there is something pleasant around the corner and old places can be saved.

Not so the building just a few minute’s walk away on Whitworth Street.  I passed it countless times and think it once held the offices of the Manchester Conservative Party.  I certainly remember it always struck me as a forlorn and forbidding place which wouldn’t have lifted my heart had I worked inside.  But then Whitworth Street always reminds me of one of those canyons in a western film, all narrow valley and tall steep sides.  I know well the books which describe how impressive these buildings are but they just overpower me and even on a sunny day it’s a dismal place.

And so having been empty for what seemed decades this one came down, served as a car park and at present is a stalled building project.  But it is an exception, even in this period of retrenchment and stagnation chunks of 19th and 20th century Manchester are being torn down and replaced which is a nice lead into St Peter’s Square, Central Ref, a tram station and a 1950s office block which is no more.  But that is for another time.

Pictures from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Monday, 11 March 2013

Something to do on March 15th and 16th

Something to do on March 15th and 16th

If you are tired of the city or just fancy a trip out there is always local history in Derbyshire.  

Saturday, 9 March 2013

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 29, a thank you to the City

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

I hope Joe and Mary Ann read the slim book issued by the Corporation in 1938 which celebrated 100 years of municipal endeavour.  I have the book in front of me now and I never tire of leafing through.

Your City, Manchester 1838-1938 was written by "the Manchester Municipal Officer’s Guild in co-operation with its Group for Research in Administration and Sociology in celebration of the Centenary of the City’s Charter of Incorporation, with special dedication to the Children of Manchester.” 

Of course when it was published it was the story of what the council had achieved in the century we had had locally elected government.

So there were chapters on the improvements in sanitation, public health, education and housing, as well as leisure, and culture, town planning and the government of the city.

And it looked forward to the future, with clean and cheap electricity and gas, heating and lighting the homes across the city as well as fuelling the domestic appliances for cooking and washing.

Pride of place went to pictures of the power stations which turned the coal into “gas which feeds the fires and cookers, .... Distributed in 1,200 miles of mains, long enough, if placed end to end, to light the Rock of Gibraltar from the city’s gasworks.”  

Or the power which you command by depressing a switch.  Have you ever thought how much children benefit from electricity – both physically and mentally?  We can think of a hundred ways, not least of which are the wonderful uses of electricity in children’s’ homes.”

Now Joe made good use of electricity advertising that all his homes as well as the garages he was building were fully supplied.

And both he and Mary Ann would have relied on all those other services which Your City described in great detail including water from the “grounds of Thirlmere and Haweswater [soon to be joined by another] aqueduct from Haweswater which will be built in the next few years.”

Now I could go on and rather think that there are more stories from this 1938 publication highlighting how our house was served with all that made life comfortable and civilized but as I so often say that's for another time.

But the magic of the book for me is not only that it can be read a proud civic record of what had been achieved in a century but also that it is itself a wonderful historic document capturing the city at a moment in the past.

Pictures; from Your City, Manchester Municipal Officers’ Guild, 1938