Friday, 26 July 2013

In the police lock up on Eltham High Street

The Cage, circa 1909
Following on from our map of Shooters Hill I thought I would present you with another image short on text.

This is the ‘Cage’ or lock up which stood on the northern side of the High Street close to the Presbytery of Christ Church.

The Presbytery was once Eagle House but more about that later. In the meantime  I shall turn to the historian, R.R.C.Gregory whose descriptions of the places and people of Eltham can not be bettered.

So while he may not have had the advantage of online resources to track the individuals who lived here he could call on the memories of people who had been born in the opening decades of the 19th century and who in turn could fall back on stories from earlier generations.  Writing in 1909 when the lock up was still on the High Street Mr Gregory commented

‘Prisoners could be not accommodated in the old [police] station, so had to be taken to the “Cage” or Lock-up,” which is still in existence, at the entrance, on the right, to the wood-yard, near the old Workhouse.  “The Cage” in fact, is in the corner of the garden of Eagle House.  The entrance is from the High-street, where the door may be seen, secured by a padlock.’

Pictures; “the Cage” from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, 

*R.R.C. Gregory, The Story of Royal Eltham, 1909

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Who owns our history?

It is an interesting question made more so by the explosion of interest in family history and the disturbing if confusing news that Barnardos may be considering destroying its entire collection of old photographs of children who were in their care.

John Kelly September 1885 before being admitted into the care of  the Trust
In the space of less than a decade the number of resources available online for the historian to crawl over has been immense.

It ranges from census material to parish records and on through wills, tax details and books long out of print most of which were beyond the hands of any but a few scholars.

Of course much has been lost, including many of the records of the Workhouses, hospital documents and sadly some parish records.

So for all that I can access there is much that I can’t.

And not for the first time I have pondered on how this could have happened.

In some cases it is of course just rotten bad luck, which allowed vital records to be stored in a building prone to water damage or to later enemy action in two world wars.

Then there is just that simple fact that today’s officials are not always aware of what the historian of the future will regard as important.

Who in the mid 19th century could predict that the salaries of cotton workers or the transit records of a railway company could be of any interest?

Then I suppose it is the sheer volume of information which before the digital age prompted frightening storage issues.

And all of this before we consider the question of confidentiality.  As much I would want to read my great grandmother’s health records I do wonder if I would want my intimate information on show for all to see.

So I have welcomed the latest post from the archivist at the Together Trust which grapples with some of the practical issues surrounding the records of children who went through their care.*

John Kelly, Arpil 1886
For anyone wanting help from the Trust to track family members there is a rich source of information along with expert assistance from the archivist,.

These include reports and pictures of the children admitted into the care of the Trust like young John Kelly who found his ay in their care in 1885.

But out there it can still be bewildering charting your way through the official records hoping that material has not been lost or destroyed, that it is available to be searched and above all that it does not cost too much.

There are self help groups and the cost of accessing online records is getting cheaper and more is available.  I have always been very pleased with and marvel at how much they have made available and will do so.

But  some things remain locked away, others are restricted and some have just gone forever.

So in some ways I am less concerened with who owns the records, after all most are in the public domain even if they cost, but it is more the issue of who has the say in what survives which really is about the control of our past.

*Picture of You

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust,

Chorlton Cricket and the search for its history

Chorlton Cricket Club has a long history but even I was not prepared for just how long.

I first came across the club when I was researching Hardy Cottages which stood on Hardy Lane and were popularly known as the block because of their shape.

The cottages were close to the cricket ground and may have been built sometime in the 1870s.  At that time Hardy Lane was much a narrow country lane which ran from Barlow Moor Road and just petered out a little past Hardy Farm.

My old friend Oliver Bailey had lent me a picture of his uncle with some of the cricket team and I always had a mind to take it further.

And  Philip one of my new face book chums put me in touch with one of the stalwarts of the club.  This was Derek who first played for the club as a junior in 1942 aged 11.

I had tracked the club back to the early 1890s where they regularly appeared in the sporting pages of the Manchester Guardian.  It never occurred to me to push the search back any earlier.

If I had I would have discovered that the club was formed in 1885 and their first home was that wonderfully named Cow Lane.

Cow Lane ran from Edge Lane up on to the Isles, but was lost in the late 19th century after Wilbraham Road was cut in the 1860s.  The line of the lane is there and today is under Hampton Road.

It is a little difficult to locate exactly where on Cow Lane the club was. The OS map for 1888-93 shows what might be a club house just before Hampton Road bends to the west.

At that time the area was dominated by Hampton House which was set back from both Edge Lane and Cow Lane in its own grounds.

The club moved in 1901 to Hardy Lane and here it stayed.  All of which opens up a whole series of intriguing questions, from where exactly the club was on Cow Lane to why it moved.

Sadly Derek died before I could meet him but our conversations on the phone revealed a rich history of the club and the area.

Pictures; Norman Bailey circa 1919-1920, courtesy of Oliver Bailey, Hardy Lane and Hardy Cottages courtesy of Carolyn Willits, and Cow Lane from the Lloyd collection

Monday, 22 July 2013

Old houses and forgotten stories, four houses on Wilbraham Road in 1911

Gable Nook today
Now I have passed this place loads of times and never given it a seconds thought.

I know that today it is a nursery but would be hard pressed to remember when the business started up.

It  is still a pretty impressive building and its business potential was not lost on Mr Alfred Mumford M.D., M.R.C.S.A., L.S.A, Surgeon who was here from the beginning of the 20th century and turned part of this 12 roomed property in to  a doctor’s surgery.

After all the house which was known as Gable Nook, commanded a prominent position on the corner of what was a busy road, facing as the railway station.

These were developments mirrored opposite where an equally fine row of late Victorian houses running from Albany down to Keppel Road lost their elegant front gardens and became shops.

Gable Nook extreme left circa 1900
And round about the time that Mr Mumford was converting Gable nook into a surgery, Dovedale or number 5 had become a hosiery shop and number 7 the post office, leaving only number 3 with its equally fine name of Mayfield as a private residence.  But not even Mayfield could buck the trend, and a year later two shops had been added to its front which in turn was replicated at number 5.

Many of the original occupants were professionals; a few owned their own businesses and a lot more worked in the offices and big shops of Manchester.  They were attracted here by a train service which could whisk them into the heart of the city in under 15 minutes and the fields, farms and open country which for many was even closer.

from the Slater's Manchester, Salford and Suburban Directory 1911
So along with a surgeon and his family at number 1 the remaining three were the home at various times to a retired cotton merchant, a widow “living on her own means”, Edward Ireland who had  a number of photographic studios in Manchester, and a doctor, dentist and a oil trader.

And the size of the houses reflected the inhabitants.  Number 1 had twelve rooms, 3 and 5 eight rooms and number 7 9 rooms.

Each had cellars, a decent front garden and a longer one at the back stretching down across what is now the sorting office and yard.

But like other stretches of property in this new part of Chorlton they were soon developed with the addition of shop fronts and perhaps with an eye to even greater profits the owners sub divided the shops.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the Lloyd collection

Saturday, 20 July 2013

In Cheadle in 1957 with Derrick A Lea

Now I have to confess I am well out of my comfort zone, having only ever visited Cheadle twice in the entire time I have been in Manchester, which amounts to 44 years.

This I hasten to add is nothing to do with the place but just the way these things sometimes turn out.  

All of which is by way of introducing another of Derrick A Lea’s pictures.

I have written about Mr Lea on a number of occasions and despite appeals for information about him I know little more than when he was born who he married and the fact that he lived in Chorlton.

But he drew some wonderful pictures of the township and the surrounding area during the 1950s.

And just sometime he wandered further afield.  I have no doubt that he may have produced many such images but to date just a few have survived, like this one of the White Hart at Cheadle in 1957.

For me it is the period detail that drasw you in, so while I have no idea whether farm horses were still walked along Wilmslow Road in 1957 I recognise the road furniture, the sleeek car and the fashions worn by the passers by.
The scene today is not so different, although the pub has lost one of its tall chimneysand the large sign advertising Oatmeal Stout has also vanished.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wishing you were here, Eltham in the past Nu 3 Eltham Green

We have walked west from the parish church and have just about reached Eltham Green.

In the distance are those fine detached and semi detached houses built in the late 1840s.

And some at least of the land on the northern side was Glebe Rectoral land which went with the other benefices of the local clergy.

Over to our right hard by the road was the pound which was the area designated to take stray animals until their owner could be found and fined.

Picture; The Eltham Green from the Eltham End, 1909,   from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Summer days in south Manchester No 8 on the meadows circa 1900

It’s a picture that often crops up in the collections and the reason is obvious.

For while large parts of Chorlton were fast being built over, the meadows and the area between the brook and the Mersey remained open land.

Now this was mainly because we are on the flood plain of the river and back then people were well aware that you don’t build on a flood plain.

And when you do the houses are apt to be washed away as were the two cottages in Hardy which were flooded out in the mid 19th century and abandoned.

So this area was developed as meadowland and in the summer months was a perfect place to come and walk.

The bridge was one of those used to cross the irrigation channels which crossed the land and were used to flood the fields.

Picture; summer on the Meadows, circa 1900 from the Lloyd collection

Monday, 15 July 2013

Back on Alex Road South with a college, the park and two missing houses

The entrance to the college
Yesterday I wandered out and found that house next to St Edmunds on Alex Road South and pondered its future.

It is not quite clear what is happening to it but its two neighbours went a long time ago and in so doing provided accommodation for a lot more people than the occupants at numbers 18 and 20 in the spring of 1911.

These were the two houses which stood on the plot of land which runs up to Mayfield Road.

In 1911, number 18 was occupied by Martha Murphy aged 70, her sister Mary Watts, 74, Elizabeth Watts, 72 along with Lucy Kathleen Warrior who was 46 and Sophia Fildes also in her 70s who was visiting.

St Edmund's Church and the homes of Mrs Chapman, Mrs Murphy and Mrs Lord 
Now as you do I was drawn in to the household.  Elizabeth Watts was described as a servant, while Miss Warrior described herself as a Nursing sister, which made sense given the advanced ages of the other three.

And I have to say I rather think they must have rattled around in what was an eleven roomed property.

Next door at number 20 Mrs Lord and her three daughters shared the ten rooms with a servant and Mr Joshia Freldendred who was a Builders Merchant.

The park directly opposite the college
All of which is an introduction to the magnificent St Bede’s which is best seen on a bright sunny day rather than wet grey ones which give the place a rather gloomy appearance. It dates from the early 1880s and I have to confess was a place a rarely spent much time looking at.

But not so the park directly opposite.  We have spent pleasant times there with the children attended various musical and political events and marvel still at how pleasant the place is.

It was opened in 1868 and covers a 60 acre site.

So there you have it, not bad for a morning out on Alex Road South as the sun shone.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and detail of the park and road from the OS for South Lancashire, 1888-93, courtesy of Digital Archives,

Sunday, 14 July 2013

On Alexandra Road South pondering the future of house in 2013 ......... and the correction seven years on

Staverton House, 2013
I wonder the fate of this house on Alexandra Road South.

Long ago its two neighbours disappeared to be replaced by a block of flats which themselves look to be in the first stages of a makeover.

Now I have passed it countless times over the last thirty-seven years and never given it a second glance.

Well I say that but because it is almost directly behind the bus stop I guess I have looked at it but it never registered, stuck as it is along the road that takes in the impressive St Bede’s, that block of flats and St Edmund’s.

I haven’t a date for it yet but it was there by 1891 and I guess a search through the directories will fix it sometime in the decade before.

In 1911 it was home to Mrs Elizabeth Chapman her four grown up children and Annie Bickerstaff who was the 26 year old the servant from Frodsham in Cheshire.

Staverton House as it was known was an impressive place with eleven rooms and a fairly large garden with the added attraction of the park directly opposite.

The family were there by 1891 having moved sometime in the decade before from Bishop Street which was off Great Western Street.

Josiah her husband described himself variously as a chemist, and photographic chemist with his own shop at & Albert Square.

Now I do not think we are dealing with some small time operator, for he styled himself “Chapman Joshia Thomas, photographic chemist and manufacturer of and dealer in photographic apparatus and chemicals.” *

Albert Sq and No 7, Chapman Joshia Thomas, circa 1903
His business was situated on the ground floor of the large commercial building running from Tasle Alley down to Brazenose Street opposite the statue of Prince Albert and the Town Hall which made it a prominent place to sell photographic equipment.

He had been born in Staverton in Wiltshire which pretty much explains the name of the house.

But as ever there are gaps in their story. I have no record of their marriage or their deaths, which is one of those things that happen.

The references will be out there but are proving elusive.  But their eldest son was born in 1873, and two years earlier Joshia was single and living as a lodger in Moss Side.

All of which is a long way from our house and its future which I shall watch with interest.

And seven years after the story was posted, I have a correction, from Lawrence Richards, who is the
Great grandson of Josiah Chapman. "Hi Andrew, In fact I don’t think this is Staverton but the house next door to where Staverton was. I believe this house is 18 Alexandra Road South and Staverton was 16. 

From an old picture we have of Staverton it is a different design and also the gate was on the right of the house whereas this one is on the left. I believe the plot where Staverton was is now occupied by a modern building attached to St Edmund’s Church, so as far as I can see, sadly the house no longer exists. 

You can see this on streetview on Google Maps".

Now that's a picture I would like to see.

Pictures; the house from the collection of Andrew Simpson, detail of the commercial building on Albert Square from Goads Fire Insurance maps, 1880-1900, courtesy of Digital Archives,

*Slaters Manchester, Salford and Surburban Directory, 1903

Monday, 8 July 2013

Summer days in south Manchester No 4 the Beech Road Festival

Now it is that time of year and yesterday was the Beech Road Festival, or to give it its new name the Family Fun Day.

And a lot hangs on the change of name for what had started as a small event to raise money for the Rec and draw local people together grew to monster proportions,

The amusement rides grew bigger as did the crowds and for some it became an event to endure.

We always looked forward to it, invited friends down and passed the day in the Rec and later in the back garden listening to the music.

And like our neighbours it was a matter of getting in the food, checking out the assorted deck chairs cool box and car rugs and making sure that there was plenty of change to hand out to the lads who never tired of the rides and the stalls on Beech Road.

But the Festival of 2011 exceeded the rest in the numbers who converged on Beech Road and by common local consent it was time for a break.

And now it is back, as a family fun day, with the accent on small manage able events on the Rec and on the green, no bands but a chance to sit and play with the kids.

What lingers in my mind long after the music, swirly amusements rides  and the debris of discarded litter  was the Brookburn Steel Band performing on a wet drizzly day outside the old box factory along with  Murial's face painting stall, which combined face art with fresh strawberries.

Of course over the years plenty of street traders were drawn to the event.  Some were selling interesting art as well as food while a few I suspect were there just for the main chance.

All that we need is the weather.  And there was a time when it seemed the weather alternated between cold grey days with rain and very hot ones.

Which meant depending on which ever one we had had the year before you bought the sun cream or made sure the wellies jumpers and rain hats were ready.

One in particular still lingers in my memory when after a torrential downpour something like 2011 of our Joshua's friends made for the house and every towel we possessed was pressed into service.

Or the year when the rain just fell like stair rods all day and only a brave hardy few stuck it out under the protection of the trees listening to the bands.

Pictures; of past festivals from the collection of Andrew Simpson 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

My old Nokia

It was so long ago that I can’t even remember which Nokia model this was, but it was my first mobile phone. I don’t count the brick I briefly rented around 1994, it was very heavy not easy to use and really at the time there were few people I wanted to contact using it.

Now I got thinking about phones, and smart phones after listening to a sketch on The Now Show on BBC Radio 4.  It was a simple enough idea, the chap phones his mobile company and asks for a down grade, “to a phone which just allows you to call people, send texts and play snake with a battery which doesn’t run out by lunch time.”

All of which I suppose ranks me with the dinosaur or those people who welcomed the rule that a man with a red flag had to walk in front of motor cars.

I did try a smart phone. In fact I tried two. First I went with Nokia who I have always been with, but the screen was too small so following my partner’s advice I tried a different model only to realize that I wasn’t smart enough to use either of them.

Now one of my friends just thinks they are the bee’s knees, allowing him to send emails track where he is, where he was, and where he might want to go, along with accessing his emails, facebook and twitter. So this is the future, and my old Nokia which didn't even have a camera is as antiquated as the wireless and the telegram.

In the same way my friend Lawrence reflected on the demise of the postcard on his excellent blog, Hardy Lane Scrapbook*,
“The long and short of it is they are no longer around. Eventually I did obtain an amusing one from a shop called Number 68 on Beech Road. They brought an old box of them from out of the back. Who needs postcards now - too slow to communicate, it takes days, too expensive to mail, 60p for the old card, plus 35p postage.”

Nevertheless I did downgrade back to an older Nokia which I now see has become obsolete. It is only the second I have got since that first Nokia and I still remember it with affection. It was not unlike the old Morris Minor car, simple and reliable. And unlike its smart successor could be dropped on the pavement and still work happily. The old one went on to to be used by two of my sons when their more sophisticated models gave up the ghost or were lost and is I think somewhere in the house much scratched and battered and held together with tape.

Picture; A cherished first Nokia

Monday, 1 July 2013

Travelling with the Manchester Ship Canal in 1927

Now like most people I have always taken the Manchester Ship Canal for granted. 

I remember the noise from the ships’ sirens welcoming in the New Year,  failed to notice the canal’s decline and have watched as the Salford end reinvented itself with an art gallery, theatre, war museum and Media City.*

It was begun in 1887, took six years to build and cost £15 million and was one of those bold commercial ventures which ranks with the building of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway fifty years earlier.**

And as a way of celebrating its construction and its role in the prosperity of the twin cities, here is one of the posters advertising its work from the 1920s and 30s by courtesy of Adge Lane.

*In 1958 38 million tons of freight came through the Canal which had fallen to 7.8 million tons by 2001.
**Opened in 1830, and was instantly a success.

Picture; from the collection of Adge Lane, from the Manchester Archive Flickr account