Monday, 30 September 2013

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 35 what was lost is now back, the fire place

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.*

As you would expect the place has been much knocked about, not least by John who lived here for just a few short years in the 1970s.

In that time he ripped out the two downstairs fire places, many of the features including the picture rails and covered every room wood chip.

Not that back in 1974 I would have done any differently in fact I own up to talking out a perfectly good wooden airing cupboard from the bathroom.

Such are the acts of vandalism on a proud old house.

One of the fire places was replaced in 1984 which is a lesson in history.

It had come from east Manchester where fire places, original baths and toilet fittings were being taken out of houses which then found their way to south Manchester to replace ones that had been pulled out a decade before from houses in Chorlton, Withington and Didsbury.

In our case this included one of those very old and very heavy cast iron baths, and the lead water cistern encased in a wooden frame with its slightly rusting iron fittings, which perched high up on the wall.

I had entertained ideas that we would use a length of copper pipe from the cistern to the lavatory but the builders insisted we used lead, so we got their pipe from their old lavatory and in exchange they got our 1970s low level plastic cistern

It took longer to reinstate the other fire place, but a few years ago this is what we did and what follows is just the story of that change.

Now there will be those who mutter self indulgent nonsense, but I think there is a point here which put simply is that houses should be respected as should the original intentions of the person who built it and first lived in it.

Compromises have to be made in the light of changing living styles but not at the expense of the house.

Otherwise you may like us spend a lot of time undoing what has been thoughtlessly done.

Neither of the fireplaces resemble the originals but these were not very attractive and dominated the rooms, so I suppose sometimes a little innovation is acceptable.

Of course the devil was in the detail and it took many visits to Insitu to resolve our differences over which to go for, but in the end we struck a deal where by I got the fire place surround and Tina the tiles which worked.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Story of a house,

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A brick wall, a set of plans and a photograph reveal the work of a children’s charity

Now I am going to leave the story of what this unpromising piece of brickwork is all about to my friend  the archivist at the Together Trust.

She  has matched a hidden brick wall with some old plans, a photograph and come up with another story on the work of  the Victorian charity, The Manchester and Salford Boys' and Girls' Refuges.

It began in 1870 here in Manchester and  strived to improve the lives of children left destitute, maltreated and exploited.
It is still engaged in this task today

Just follow the link, Digging for Victory,

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust,

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Hough End Hall, that place not quite in Chorlton

This is the last of the three photographs from A Short History of Chorlton, written in 1933 by J.D.Blyth.

The picture was taken by F Blyth in the same year who also printed the book while on his second year course at the Technical College.

“Hough End Hall which was just outside the township in Withington had been home to the Mosley’s while Barlow Hall on the southern edge of Chorlton had been owned by the Barlow family.  Both in their different ways fit into the conventional image of old landed families.  

The Mosley’s had moved into commerce in the late sixteenth century, sided with the Royalist cause in the Civil War and suffered  from spendthrift  gambling members in the eighteenth, finally selling the Hall on to the Egerton’s around 1751. 

Hough End Hall been built at the end of the sixteenth century.   By 1847 it was a farmhouse and was the home of Henry Jackson who farmed 220 acres beyond the eastern boundary of the township. 

This made it one of the largest farms in the area, and Jackson employed 13 labourers, nine of whom lived in the hall.  It was still an impressive sight, leading one observer to write that its
‘ivy-covered walls, its clustered chimneys and its gabled roof, present a picturesque and pleasing appearance.*

Nor did the ivy or its more functional purpose as a farm obscure its classic Elizabethan design.  It was built of brick with three stories. The centre piece was flanked by a bay or arm at each end and a little advance bay in the centre which gave it the characteristic E shape.      

The large communal areas were sometimes later partitioned off into smaller rooms and the census of 1911 describes Hough End Hall with eleven rooms.”

From; The Story of Chorlton-Cum-Hardy,

* Brooker, Rev John, A History of the Chapels of Didsbury and Chorlton, Chetham Society, Manchester, 1857,

Picture; of Hough End Hall 1933, by F. Blyth, from A Short history of Chorlton-cum-Hardy by J.D. Blyth, 1933

Friday, 27 September 2013

The Flying man over Didsbury in 1911

Bertha's postcard
I am looking at a postcard of Didsbury sent in the summer of 1911.

But the scene is not as important as the message on the back, for Bertha Geary aged just 13 of School Lane has heard history.

“We saw the flying man on Tuesday night fly over head.  Beaumont is his name.  I wish you could have seen him.  It made such a noise.”

He was André Beaumont and he was one of 30 competitors in the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain Air Race in 1911. Flying in a Blériot XI he was the first to complete the course which was no mean achievement as many of the aircraft either failed to take off or crashed along the way.

So to him went the £10,000 prize awarded to a man whose real name was Lieutenant Jean Louis Conneau of the French Navy.

All of which today we take for granted but was pure magic and wonderment to young Bertha, after all the persistent buzzing of the aircraft’s engine above her head was something new and I guess louder than anything she had yet encountered.

Bertha's message
The streets were still dominated by the horse drawn vehicle, few had telephones, and radio as a form of mass entertainment was still in its infancy.

So hers was a generation which would embrace profound changes, and this drew me towards Bertha Geary.

She was born in Prestwich in 1898, and her father described himself variously as a school keeper and general labourer.  One of her elder sisters worked as “children’s milliner” and the other made “children’s costumes.”

There the trail goes quiet for Bertha, because if she married I can find no record, nor of when she died but she did leave one clue and that was her address on the postcard.

It is a simple but vital clue which allowed me to track her family on the street directory for 1911, establish a surname and search the census for that year.

It is one of those little rewarding pieces of research which has made writing the new book so much fun.

Didsbury Through Time aims to chronicle the changes in Didsbury over the last century and a bit mixing old images of the place with new photographs and paintings by local artist Peter Topping and concentrates also on the people who lived there.

Mikael Carlson owns and flies two of these Blériot XI
So along with Bertha there are stories of the great and good and the humble and industrious ranging from Fletcher Moss the historian and politician to William Wrightham cab driver and Mary Garside the cook at the Priory.

Many of the original pictures have been donated by local people and we would hope that there may be others who would like to become part of what we are doing by lending their photographs or even sharing their memories of what Didsbury was like.

For more information about how you can become part of this project contact Peter at      

Picture; Bertha's postcard from the collection of Paul O'Sullivan and photograph of a Blériot XI, J.Klank, September 2007

The benign and fairly gentle River Mersey

The Mersey up by the meadows and down past Jackson’s Boat can seem a benign and fairly gentle stretch of water.

And this picture taken some time in the early 20th century captures just such a moment.

It was taken on the edge of the township by Red Bank Farm which was lonely outposts hard by the river, well away from the rest of community.

It is a peaceful scene on a warm sunny day and you can see why our commercial photographer went to the trouble to take the scene.  As it turns out he took more than one and there are a whole series shot on the same day along this part of the water.

He must have had it easier then to get the water’s edge.  Most of the river at this point is today viewed from towering banks built and added to over the centuries as the main defence against a powerful threat to the lives and livelihoods of all those who lived beside it.

Generations of farmers have laboured to construct this natural wall to repel the flood waters of the Mersey and three are plenty of moments when our benign and fairly gentle stretch of water burst even these defences, in what were sometimes flash floods and often such an immense tide of water that it created a huge lake several miles wide across the meadows.

Here below in the February of 1991 the Mersey was just lapping the top of the uppermost bank.

A scene so different from another warm summers day in 2009.

Pictures; from the Lloyd collection and the collections of David Bishop and Andrew Simpson

Monday, 23 September 2013

On Manchester Road with Uncle John at Redgates Farm at harvest time

We have been making our way down Manchester Road from the junction of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Roads around the year 1910 and I thought that was pretty much the end of the journey for a while.

But you can’t be on Manchester Road just by the Library where the road swings to the north without mentioning Redgates Farm.

It dates back certainly to the late 18th century and maybe older and 1910 it was just about to disappear.

So I grateful to Carolyn Willits who supplied me with this picture when it was still a working farm, which is why I like this one of Red Gates Farm.

It is all more exciting because one of the men staring back at us is her Uncle John who worked on the farm for the Wood family.

I guess we are looking at the farm on a Sunday in late summer.

It is a quiet enough moment on a working farm. John and the other chap are out of their everyday working clothes into something smarter as befitting a day off.

To the right of the picture are the farm’s chickens pecking away and even further to the right some farm equipment has been left propped up against the tree.

The picture is actually a postcard and reminds us that travelling photographers would record scenes like this to sell back to the residents as well to commercial postcard companies. In this case Uncle John used the card to send a message to the Wood Family.

And we can date the picture to sometime before 1906 when the postcard was sent to James and Florence Wood at 78 Manchester Road.

James was the son of Thomas Wood who had been farming Red Gates since 1881.

Now it might seem bizarre that Uncle John would send a postcard from Red Gates which was just a few minutes’ walk from number 78 but that was how they did it then. With frequent collections and deliveries in a day people did really send a card in the morning to arrange to meet in the afternoon.

Ours was sent at 8.30 in the evening to arrive at breakfast time and the message was simple enough “Another view for your collection taken while harvesting.” And it was to be one of the last.

Thomas Wood the farmer had died in 1902 and sometime in 1913 or ’14 the farm house was demolished to make way for the new library. It says much for the way that Chorlton had changed since Thomas Wood had taken over Red Gates.

It had been one of the larger operations at this end of the township and had still employed three farm workers in 1901. But Thomas Wood was the last to farm Red Gates.

Already two of his sons had chosen not to follow him. James had become a commercial clerk and John a music teacher.

Their farm house with its seven rooms went the way of many of our farm houses, so it is good that Carolyn’s picture has survived.

Picture; Red Gates Farm circa first decade of the 20th century from the collection of Carolyn Willits.

A postcard with a difference, the Cathedral from 1902

I like this postcard of the Cathedral.

It combines a picture of the building along with the coat of arms of the city and an equally attractive image of a ship on the Ship Canal.

And there is a history to it for this will have been one of the last picture post cards to have the message on the front.

Until 1899 picture postcards could only have a small picture and short message on one side with just the address and stamp on the other.  But the regulations were relaxed in 1899 so that companies could produce a larger card with an image on one side and space for the message and address on the reverse.

This was in some part due to the postcard company of Raphael Tuck and Son who spent four years  negotiating with the Post Master General for the change.

The business began with the sale of pictures and frames in 1866 and went to become as a distributor of graphic art printing.

Their first regular series of postcards was issued in 1899, and this may date from soon afterwards.

Now I say that because within a few months of the change in the regulations Tuck had begun to issue the new style of cards.

But ours has the post mark of 1902 which I guess suggests that there were still plenty of the old stock around.

Nor is that all, for the message itself says much about how these early postcards were used.

Betty who sent the card is not interested in any great events, or in communicating holiday news but simply a request to borrow a cwt of coal if “Mr Mr P has not put in the coals.”

And is a reminder that in age before the telephone the post card was the quickest way of getiing in touch.

Picture, Manchester Cathedral, from the series Manchester, a set of three, produced by Tuck & Sons Ltd, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Walking through the history of Manchester’s Jewish Community with Bill Williams, the pictures

Now I knew the walk and talk through Manchester’s old Jewish Community, would be good, and according to Bernard it was.

Sadly I missed it but Bernard posted the pictures on face book and left a commentary of the day.
 And here it is.

"Bill starts the walk outside Chethams and on the spot at 144 Long Millgate where stood the Nathan Brother's house, one of the first places where the itinerant Jewish pedlars first settled in Manchester

Bill talks to the group at the bottom of CheethaM Hill Road, opposite what was the Red Bank district whose poverty was described by Engels in The Condition of the Working Class in England, and in which many of the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled 

Bill is appalled that no recognition is given to this historically important community and the district has now been renamed the "Green Quarter" to help sell the new blocks of flats — with 

Bill talks to the group opposite what was the Redbank district where many of the first Jewish immigrants from Easter Europe settled

The new synagogue, built almost next door to the Great Synagogue now demolished

Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the walk and talk -many thanks, Bill"

Pictures and words courtesy of Bernard Leech

Friday, 20 September 2013

A little bit of the Romans in Bristol

Now I am not sure how many people read the blog in Bristol or for that matter the south west, but that won’t stop me announcing a new exhibition on ROMAN EMPIRE ‘POWER & PEOPLE from September 21st till January at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery*

I am hoping that we will get down to see it, after all it's just about three hours from Chorlton and there are also our close friends Lois and Barri just down the road in Weston, so we shall see.

"Roman Empire: Power and People brings together over 160 stunning pieces from the British Museum to explore the story of one of the most powerful empires the world has ever seen.  

Highlights include sculpture from the villas of the Emperors Tiberius and Hadrian, coins from the famous Hoxne treasure, beautiful jewellery and even near-perfectly preserved children’s clothing from Roman Egypt. 

The exhibition explores the wealth, power and organisation of the Empire, but also how the Romans viewed their provinces and other peoples. Religious, military and personal objects give an insight into the lives of people across the Empire, from northern Britain to Egypt and the Middle East. These fascinating objects show how the influences of the many people and places that the Romans came into contact with were absorbed and adapted into the Empire.

The exhibition debuts at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and is the only stop in the south-west before touring the UK.

With thanks to Exhibition Sponsors Brewin Dolphin and Bond Dickinson and Education Sponsor Bristol Water. 

Roman Empire: Power & People is supported through the generosity of the Dorset Foundation. The exhibition has been developed in partnership with Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives and The British Museum."

So not one to miss then.

*Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Queens Road Bristol, BS8 1R

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Leaf Street Swimming Baths, the first of a set of stories

I pretty much took the old Victorian and Edwardian Swimming Baths for granted. 

After all when you are ten the ornate splendour of the wrought iron, the bright glazed tiles and the stained glass is just background to  the business of playing in the water.

I wish I had taken more interest in my surroundings and so now fifty years on I am having to rediscover that magnificence of the Municipal Public Bath.

Sadly all too many have gone, victims of changing recreational habits, cost cutting exercises and the fact that some at least had come to the end of their useful life.

All of which is the lead into a new series on Manchester and Salford’s Swimming Baths and Washhouses.

Now I have always had a fascination for them and the part they have played in the provision of public services by local governemnets.

And this was further advanced by the talk recently at Chorlton History Group on the Swimming Baths of Greater Manchester.*

So this is the start of the series with a second look at Leaf Street Baths in Hulme.

In 1860 the Manchester & Salford Baths and Laundries Company opened their third public baths in Hulme.

The company had been formed in 1855, and built baths in Salford, Mayfield at Ardwick and Victoria Park.  Its assets were bought by Manchester Corporation in 1877.  The company had added a Turkish bath in 1860 which was the first in a public baths in Manchester.  The Leaf Street Baths were demolished in the clearances of the 1970s and today the site is open ground.

When I first posted the story I pondered on who remembered them and the response has been impressive.

There are those who wrote to me describing their first swimming lessons and those who still have their certificate proudly proclaiming their achievement at swimming a length, and memories from Tom who supervised children from nearby Royce School when they attended in the early 1970s.

Nor were the baths just a place for recreation, most also had a washhouse and facilities for families and individuals to take a bath, and in the case of Leaf Street it's own Turkish Baths.

Next, Whitworth Baths on Ashton Old Road and later the role of the Municipal Public Baths in keeping the people of the twin cities clean


Pictures; Leaf Street Public Baths, 1920, m57327 and entrance m57328, Bath cubicle for private washing washing, 1920, m57333 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Of flower beds, and park benches, ......Piccadilly Gardens in the 1950s and 60s

Now many of us have fond memories of Piccadilly Gardens.

And this postcard marketed in the 1950s by Tuck & Sons Ltd goes a long way to show why it remains close to many Mancunians.

In the spring and summer the sunken gardens were a blaze of colour and a perfect place for a lunch break or a pause from shopping.

Moreover if you had missed the bus there was no better place to sit.

All of which might begin to stray into silly nostalgic tosh, but I think not.

The gardens back then had a human scale to them and were far better suited to an urban landscape than the windswept place of today with its patches of threadbare grass and brutal concrete slab of a wall.

I am well aware that the planners may have thought that a concrete barrier was a sensible way of blocking the tram and bus traffic but it does not work and has led to that silly idea of painting it green or covering it with creepers.

Neither of which will really solve the blunder.

But enough of this rant.

The gardens had become a run down and shabby place but as the plethora of old pictures goes to show it was somewhere worth saving.

Picture; Piccadilly Gardens, from the series Manchester, Lillywhite, issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of TuckDB

Shooters Hill Local History Group – Prisoners of War and the Local Community tonight at 8... see below

Shooters Hill Golf Course – site of a WWII PoW Camp
Now I just love local history groups and as I have said before I happily hoover them up, read their blogs and try to get to some of their meetings.

So imagine my disappointment about not getting a plug in for Shooters Hill Local History Group's talk this evening, at Shrewsbury House starting at 8.00pm.

"There is a small charge to cover the cost of the room. It features a talk by local archaeologist Andy Brockman entitled ‘Enemies no Longer: POW Working Company 1020 and the community of Shooters Hill and Welling’.

Andy Brockman is a Conflict Archaeologist, whose previous Shooters Hill work includes the Digging Dad’s Army project and the Time Team Blitzkreig on Shooters Hill episode. He was also Lead Archaeologist on the recent Burma Spitfires Project and is project manager at the archaeology and environmental campaigning group Mortimer.

The Prisoner of War camp, according to David Lloyd Bathe’s “Steeped In History”, housed 400 German and Italian prisoners. It included barracks for the prisoners, a recreation room, kitchen, officers’ mess, infirmary and cobblers and tailors shop. 

The cookhouse was situated near the golf course’s 17th green. The prisoners’ activities included working in the warehouses at the North Woolwich docks and helping with the potato harvest at Woodlands Farm. Surprisingly they were allowed to move freely within a 5-mile radius of the camp during daylight hours.”

I was alerted by that excellent site e – Shooters Hill* which I have featured already.

Of course Chorlton-cum-Hardy is a long way from Shooters Hill so I shall content myself with waiting for the feed back


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Snaps of Manchester number 7 ....... the Town Hall and the Cathedral in the 1920s

Now if you live in Manchester or like me claim it as your adopted city the chances are that you will have taken a picture of the Town Hall.

It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse and finished in 1877, and it remains a splendid building.

 I spent many years from the 1970s in the various state rooms and when meetings ground to tedious repetition and sloganising there was always the paintings, the wallpaper and the ceilings to marvel at.

The outside is no less impressive, but I have never found a good angle at which the to take a picture, and the result is that you  end up somewhere on Cross Street or South Mill Street trying to get all of the building in the frame.

Now I know it is possible to stand directly opposite on Brazenose Street but all too ofteh you have to wait for a clear moment when a bus a taxi or a lorry aren’t passing.

So I am always pleased when someone pulls it off.  In this case the picture comes from the collection of Sandra Hapgood and dates from the early decades of the last century.

It is another of those Snaps of Manchester which are often just as valuable as the carefully composed images taken by a professional.  And although they are often undated and their significance is lost they can be just as interesting.

More so because they are often of places which are unrecorded by the professional or commercial photographer.

Having said that I would like a £ for every image I have seen of the Cathedral.  This one comes from the same collection and will date from the same time.

It was taken from Exchange Station, now long gone, although bits of its railway past are still littered around what is now a car park.

Today the stretch of Victoria Street is closed to traffic which seemed a good idea but I rather think the temporary building in front of the Cathedral however worthy its use detracts from the Cathedral.

Pictures; from the collection of Sandra Hapgood

Be careful what you wish for, ................. the darker side of family history

Now I know that one person’s family history can be another’s yawn but I like reading about family stories because they often give a context to the bigger picture.

But they can also reveal deep tragedies which you sometimes wish you hadn’t uncovered and make you question whether it is proper to crawl over other people’s lives.

And I don’t think the distance of time and place alters that simple uneasy feeling that maybe, just maybe there is more than a littler voyeurism in unravelling their past.

Born in the Derby Workhouse, Laura Hall 1902
So in the course of my own family journey I have discovered the brother of my great grandmother who committed suicide with a cut throat razor, the shocking medical history of my great grandfather during his time with the Colours in the 1880s, and the birth of my great aunt in the Derby Workhouse.  Along the way there are also stories of grinding poverty, premature deaths, illiteracy and my own British Home Child.*

Always the discoveries bring you close up to the darker side of family history.
And so it is with one of my uncles, a man I never met and until just a decade and half ago I didn’t know existed.

He appeared on a family tree drawn up my uncle Fergus in the late 1990s but neither my father nor his brothers would give much away.  The best I got was that after an unhappy marriage in Gateshead he moved south and died not long after I was born.

For whatever reason he cut all ties with the family and on the death of his mother, my grandmother Uncle George tried tracking him down only to discover he had already died.

Possibly an early photograph of my uncle
“His hostess told me that he had a heart condition and had been told a week in hospital would put it right and that no other treatment was necessary.”**

A search of the records got me nowhere and as you do I moved on.  More recently I found him, with first a reference to his death in 1953 and then his marriage.
But even here it proved more difficult to bring him out of the shadows.  His death certificate was easy enough to obtain but that marriage record fell because I had incorrectly supplied the wrong information to the General Registry Office, and not for the first time I pondered on some sort of conspiracy.

Now that of course is pure tosh, so I will check the details and resubmit the application.

In the meantime I have the death certificate which simply states the cause of death as Chronic Bronchitis and Myocardial degeneration, the two are connected and the first appears to be caused by heavy smoking.

He lived in a series of rented rooms around Burmingham and looking at the streets today they seem comfortable pleasant places. I am curious to know who his last landlady was but the electoral roll for Birmingham 15 in 1952-53 is unavailable well at least for me here in Manchester so I shall have to wait.

Either way it was a sad and lonely death.  The other occupants in the house could not have been very close for no one could give an exact age and his “occupation [was] unknown.”

His brother and my uncle, George Bradford Simpson
The same letter from my uncle talked of him being an engineer which was a job he didn’t like because of the noise.

Not much I know but enough for me to feel saddened at his death and a little pleased that he has come out of the family shadows.

And I think I will try again for the marriage certificate.

*British Home Children were those migrated by charities and the Poor Law Guardians to Canada and later Australia from 1870 right up to the 1970s in the case of Australia.

**George Simpson, 1992

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 34 calling in the sweep again before another winter

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 the downside of open fires is that they have to be swept every year which when you have five can be a costly business, but it is just one of the things you have to do.

John** our sweep always suggests it should be done in the summer which after all spreads his work load, means that you are not living through the summer with sooty chimneys and prevents having to join a long queue.

And every year I resolve to do just this and every year I don’t.

This time it is a little different, for while we were away in the sun on a Greek island a bird got trapped in one of the flues and we are now plagued with flies.  That said once we had worked out the problem and sealed the fire place the flies no longer trouble us.

It is just one of those things that come with chimneys that are open to the heavens and it will be just something that Joe and Mary Ann took in their stride, as did everyone else during the last few centuries when wood and coal burning in an open grate was how to kept warm and cooked your food.

So the sweep was an important part of the landscape.

In 1911 there were sixty-three of them 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.

Not that I think they used the open fires in the bedrooms, for the ceramic tiles do not look like they are fire proof, but then what do I know?

And that in a sense is the problem with the house.  I grew up with coal fires but by the time I was grown up they had pretty much gone out of fashion.  The coming of the smokeless zones in urban areas and cheap oil and gas central heating meant that the open fire just went out of fashion.

So when we reinstated the first in the 1980s it was a bit of a steep learning curve, and while it is all very straight forward those bed room fire places remain a mystery.

But I think the answer may be that by the time Joe and Mary Ann were here the electric fire had made an appearance.

The first was marketed in the USA in 1908 a full twelve years before the house was built.

Now I will need to do some research on this but I rather think if they were available they would have had them.

As early as the mid 1920s Joe was advertising that the houses he built came with electricity throughout including to the garage.

So given that no one spends that long in the bedroom without getting into bed maybe electricity was the answer.

All of which means they may never have been used.

That said I think we shall have all the upstairs ones swept as well as the two downstairs which will be a bit of history, because in the 37 years I have lived here they have never been done.

I await John’s comments.

Pictures; from the collection of Lois Elsden and Andrew Simpson

* The story of a house,

**Acorn Chimney Sweeping Services

St Ann's Square, Snaps of Manchester nu 6

I have to say that there often seems to be building work on the corner where Old Bank Street runs into St Ann’s Square.

And so it as when this snap was taken sometime I think in the 1930s.

Back then the Royal Exchange was an exchange trading in cotton and after the completion of its extension between 1914 and ’31 was the largest trading hall in the country.

Now I might be slightly out with the date, the cars suggest the 1920s and it all hangs on whether what we see is the finished exchange.

Happily someone will have an opinion and provide an answer.

Either way it is another of those wonderful snaps from the collection of Sandra Hapgood, and as I have said before they are a valuable record of what the city looked like.

For unlike the carefully posed professional images these were instant pictures, taken by someone who just liked what they saw.

And so often are ones that no one else has taken.

Picture; St Ann’s Square, date unknown courtesy of Sandra Hapgood

Monday, 16 September 2013

On Manchester Road in the summer of 1900 waiting to catch the horse drawn bus

Over the last few days we have been making our way through Martledge in the summer of 1910 and this is the final picture of the journey.

We are almost at the point where the road swings round to head north.

The parade of shops which was known as Hastings Buildings can be seen to the left behind the bus, and just out of sight on the left was Red Gate Farm now the site of the Library.

But we are a full ten years earlier than the other pictures and the clue is the horse drawn bus which was only withdrawn when the tram service was extended into Chorlton in 1907.

It is a wonderful period piece.

The houses all have fine hedges and high trees but those on the corner have long gone.

And on that sunny day possibly in 1900 the woman with the pram perfectly captures that mix of surprise and curiosity as the photographer sets about capturing the moment.

Only matched by the glances of the passengers on the bus who I suppose were no more expecting to be caught on camera.

There will be no one now who remembers these horse drawn buses which until 1901 were run by the Manchester Carriage Company.

In that year their operations were taken over by Manchester Corporation who moved fairly quickly to replace the horse with the tram.

On April 13 1903 a tram service from Bell Vue via Brook's Bar and Upper Chorlton Road was extended to West Point and four years later to Lane End.*

But the horse was to remain an important part of how people and goods were moved around the city for another few decades.

And just like there will be any one left who can realte their own experiences on the top deck of one of those horse drawn buses arriving by Red Gate Farm, I doubt that there will be many who also remember the houses on the corner.

All of which makes this a unique image of lost Chorlton.

*West Point is where Upper Chorlton Road, joins Seymour Grove and Manchester Road, Lane End was the junction between Sandy lane, Barlow Moor Road and High Lane.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Snaps of Manchester number 5 ... in Albert Square with trams and horses

Of all of the snaps of Manchester I have featured this is one of my favourites.

We are in Albert Square sometime between the late 1920s and early 30s and we are at that cross over moment when horse drawn vehicles were about to become just that little less common.

In another decade they would be confined to milk floats and the rag and bone man.

But here they are still in use pulling a cart and a covered wagon.

In other respects it is a scene which I recognise from when I first arrived in the September of 1969.  In fact apart from the trams and their overhead cables and rails it is pretty much as I remember it.

Picture; courtesy of Sandra Hapgood

Saturday, 14 September 2013

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 34, no more milkmen

Mr Riley and milk cart at Ivy Farm on Beech Road, circa 1920s
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.*

Milkmen have pretty much vanished from our streets.

Having said that I did see one yesterday morning.

It was about 4.30 and his quiet float was making its way up Beech Road in the dead of night.

It is something you rarely see today and yet well into the late 1990s it was how many of us still got our milk, along with the eggs, the butter and those glass bottles of orange squash.

It also led to that practice of “following the milkman home” after a particularly late night and to “catching the milk train” which were those fist trains of the day carrying the milk from outlying areas into the cities and towns.

In yard of Ivy Farm, circa 1920s
Now when Joe and Mary Ann set up home on Beech Road in 1920 I guess they got their milk from one of the local farms of which there were still quite a few, including old Higginbotham’s on the green, Ivy Farm on Beech Road and the Bailey farm at the bottom of Sandy Lane.

The memory of being sent to collect milk or butter from these farms is only now fading from living memory.

Mary Ann will have had hers delivered, first from a horse and cart, later by milk float still drawn by a horse but with those giant rubber wheels and only later by the familiar electric powered float.

Mr Riley with number 59 Beech Road behind him circa 1920s
And over the years the production of milk will have passed from the local farmer and Creamery to the big dairies with their yards around the city.

Our own one on Brookburn Road only closed a decade or so ago and that of Herald’s in Didsbury a little later.

Living in rural Chorlton was to get your milk fresh and relatively clean.

For those living in the city during the 19th century this was less certain.

There were plenty of small dairies and creameries in the heart of all our big towns and cities supplied by cows which lived beside the business.

In 1911 there were 462 dairymen listed in the city.  Some were very small concerns while others like Burgess of Gartside Street between New Quay Street and Bridge Street spread over four properties with another branch in Hampson Street Salford

Milk float at Acre Top Farm, 1930
The development of railways made it possible to bring milk in from the surrounding countryside and so while the dairies remained the city cows vanished from the scene.

But there were many at the beginning of the 20th century who felt unease at the milk we drank.

In 1907 one correspondent to the Manchester Guardian had asked that simple question “Can the present system of milk supply be improved?”** 

It was an issue of public safety for what was wanted “is milk which is clean and free from pathogenic germs and which is rich in fat.”

Delivering the milk with a Burgon Company cart, 1926
But given the often poor level of scrutiny on the farm and during transportation there was no guarantee of its purity for “milk is a mysterious fluid which tells no tales of its manipulation.”  

Moreover it was also at the mercy of “crowds of filthy shops in which milk is exposed side by side with firewood and candles.”

At every stage there was the danger of contamination.

“The difficulty on the farm is to secure cleanliness in the milker, the atmosphere, the cooling plant and the churn.  The difficulty in the town dairy is largely in the dust laden atmosphere, which alone shows the need of bottling.  The difficulties in the home are dirty jugs and other vessels in which the milk is exposed until it is required.”

Milk churns, 1920
And so not for the first time there had been a call for the involvement of the municipal authorities in the production, supply and provision of milk.

This was after all a period when in the interests of public health local government was getting more and more involved in everything from transport and education to housing, sanitation along with clean drinking water, gas and electric supplies.

But by the time I was born supplies were safe and that familiar delivery every morning was  a mark of a civilized way of  life along with the newspaper on the door mat and the return of the postman with the second delivery later in the day.

Milk float 1985
And all three are almost no more.

First the home fridge and then the supermarket reduced the need for a daily pint to be delivered to the door.

Here on Beech Road the deliveries lingered on till the turn of the century, but you got that sense that like the rag and bone man and the knife grinder their day was numbered.

Pictures; Three pictures of Ivy Farm on Beech Road run by Mr Riley, circa 1920s courtesy of Bernard Leech, Milk float at Acre Top Farm, off Heaton Park Road Blackley, 1930, donated to the collection by Mr Roy Jackson, m80514, Milk cart from Burgess Creamery, Gartside Street Manchester, 1926, m60091Milk cart from Burgess Creamery, Gartside Street Manchester, 1920, m60098, milk float, 1985, m 48820, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

*The story of a house,

**James Long, Municipal Milk, Manchester Guardian, November 20th, 1907