Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Dark deeds, silly stories and a walk through Martledge in 1900, part of Chorlton Book Festival, November 15-23

Contact information, Chorlton Library, Manchester Road, M21 9PN, 0161227 3700

More thoughts on those Gangs of Manchester from the Together Trust

Released from Strangeways
I am back with the Scuttlers, those gangs of Manchester which Andrew Davies has written about.*

He was recently talking about them at the Post Box Cafe and I picked up on his interesting conclusion that it was the development of the Lads’ Clubs which drew potential members away from the gangs.

These clubs were started up in some of the strongest centres of Scuttler activity and it occurred to me that there were other groups which  also have helped provided alternatives for these lads of which the Manchester & Salford Boys’ & Girls Refuges was an obvious candidate.

And as ever the archivist of the Together Trust which is the successor of the charity had thought of it first, so here are her thoughts, which can be read by following the link, Preventing Scuttling,

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust

*Davis, Andrew, Gangs of Manchester, 2008
Andrew will be speaking on the Gangs of Manchester at Post Box Cafe on November 7th at 7.30

When “poverty busied itself”....... a little bit of the grim side of Manchester & Salford in the 19th century, tonight at the Post Box Cafe, with historian Andrew Davies,

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

On a sunny day during the Whit Walks of 1969

I am back with the Whit Walks when the congregations of the local churches chapels and Sunday Schools walked in procession through the streets of the city as a witness to their faith.

These were really big events with hundreds turning out to walk the few miles and thousands more lining the streets.

These were really big events with hundreds turning out to walk the few miles and thousands more lining the streets.

So I have returned to some of the pictures taken by Adele’s father in 1969 and it’s all here from the children taking the event with varying degrees of seriousness to the mums walking in the procession or along side
At their front door others have come out to watch and every where people are enjoying an event which dates back to the 1820s.

So these are just as importnat as any of those the posed carefully composed images of professional commercial photographers.

And in a way they are more significant because  but these pictures were taken by some one  who lived where the procession was passing and had links to both the Walks and the people in them.

And something of the fun and pride of the participants comes through from Adele’s pictures.

Pictures; courtesy of Adele

Monday, 28 October 2013

Aerial views of old London

Now I may have been born there but London is no more my home.

After all when you have lived for in Manchester for 44 years, this is pretty much home.  

But I do get drawn back to the city of my birth, write regularly about south east London and in particular Eltham where I grew up.

That said I am pretty impressed with the blog from Spitalfields Life and a collection of early aerial pictures of London, which are well worth a visit.*

Picture; header from the site

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Down in Furness Vale with a colliery and a pantomime

Time to mention Furness Vale Local History Society again.*

I collect history societies and while I can’t always get to their meetings I relish reading what they are doing, what is currently being researched and just a little bit about their history.

Like all societies they have a programme of events and a blog which features stories from the area.

And I was caught by this one on "Furness Clough Colliery, the Brickworks and the canal wharf which were all linked by a narrow gauge tramway.  There is no record of the date of construction although it was certainly in existence in 1810."**

Now if you want to know more you’d better follow the link at the bottom and in the meantime if you live in the area why not go to their January Meeting on Victorian Pantomime in Manchester.

*Furness Vale Local History Society


Friday, 25 October 2013

At the Southern Hotel with memories of Bodingtons beer, good company and the Buzz

For over 80 years the Southern was just one of those places you went to.

It served Bodingtons, was big enough to accommodate family gatherings as well as impromptu events and had the Buzz.

So that pretty much covered everybody from the houses behind the pub to those who wandered over from the centre of Chorlton and to the adventurous who travelled here for the comedy and music.

It was one of those big old Manchester pubs which will hold fond memories for many.

And then it closed in the April of 2011.  Rumours have continued to circulate about a future use and now I hear it may become a restaurant which may just work given that there will be a metro stop close by.

In the meantime here is Peter’s painting which shows the place off at its best.

Picture; Painting of The Southern Hotel © Peter Topping, paintings from pictures

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

On Stockport's Lower Hillgate in 1908 looking for a German band.

We are looking up Lower Hillgate in Stockport sometime in the summer of 1905 and with a bit of imagination it is not hard to reconstruct the scene, not least because some of the buildings have survived almost intact.

That said what interests me more is the message on the back from Clara to her friend Miss Carless of Guildford which she sent just three years after our picture was taken.

Clara is full of the news that she has “just bought four new songs this morning.” Now the four included Oh, Oh Antonio, and In the Twi Twi Twilight and Has anyone seen a German Band?

And new they were with Has anyone seen a German Band? having been published the year before in 1907.

We are of course in that time when people still bought sheet music and performed the songs themselves.

Sadly we will never know what Miss Carless thought of the songs or for that matter how good a singer was Clara.

Picture; Lower Hillgate, from the series Stockport, by Tuck & Sons, 1905 courtesy of Tuck DB, 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

In St Peter's Square in the summer of 1905

This much I know.  This is St Peters Square in Stockport sometime around the summer of 1905.

In the distance lurking just to the left of the horse drawn tram is “the bronze statue of Richard Cobden who was the MP for Stockport from 1841-47. 

It stands on a pedestal of Aberdeen granite and was unveiled on Saturday November 27th 1883 by Miss Cobden, daughter of the statesmen.”*

And that is about the extent of my knowledge.

I know that in the square there was also the New Theatre and Opera House which was erected in 1888 and could seat 2,220 people and that the Grand Theatre of Varieties was opened in September 1901.

But which of the two is featured to the right of the picture I am hoping someone will tell me.

That said I doubt that there is anyone who will recognise the place as it was then, but gain I bet there some vivid memories of its transformation.

*Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire, 1902

Picture; St Peter’s Square, Stockport from the series Town & City, by Tuck & Sons, 1905 courtesy of Tuck DB, 

Monday, 21 October 2013

On birthdays, presents and comics

Now the thing about birthdays is the way they assume less importance with the passing years.

This of course maybe a very personal thing and I will be the first to admit that even given that there are fewer  years ahead of me than behind today does not have the same magic as it once did.

That said I am still a sucker for Christmas and in that great divide which pitches you either into the Christmas camp or the New Year one I am and remain a Christmas person.

But birthdays are a tad different.

My first 18 pretty much have been forgotten except for the one when I became six.  I remember the cake, and more importantly one of the presents which was a Regent petrol tanker made by Dinky.

And it remains with me because just a month later my twin sisters were born.

Of the rest they have faded, except for those that were marked by presents from my sons.

This one I think we will celebrate with the big meal given that our eldest has his birthday almost a week later and his partner celebrates hers in early November and as it falls in half term we may be able to gather everyone together.

But all of this is less about me than a reflection the toys that passed through the house over the last four decades and more.

My petrol tanker survived another half dozen years becoming more chipped, losing its tyres and eventually it ladders.

To buy the same today could cost me up to £300 a salutary lesson in keeping care of your toys.
In much the same way the Lego bought for the boys has long ago been consigned to bin liners in the cellar.

The pirate ship, the castle and loads of small cars, planes and helicopters is now a jumbled pile of coloured bricks, wheels and assorted figures.

In the same way the Hornby train set which father lavished hours of time creating during  my childhood was sold when we moved to Eltham.

A loss which I still regret, even given that I doubt there would have been anywhere for it at Well Hall Road or for that matter that at 14 I was over bothered.

Of course just two years later I was but by then there was no getting it back.

All of which makes me reflect on birthdays, both their promise for the year ahead and the presents from the year before.

At least with a bit of care and some financial out lay I have recovered some of the comics of my youth which as they say is another story.

Pictures; Eagle comics from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Now no one told me about the Greyhound

The Greyhound in 2000
It is one of those things.  You leave the place you grew up in and they start changing things.

In their defence I did leave Eltham in the summer of 1969 and apart from brief visits home I have lived in the North ever since.

Now there are lots that are still the same, but today I want to reflect on the Greyhound.  It is another of those places that I have fond memories of but never really appreciated its history.

I always sensed it was old but when you are 18 out on a date, the history of the pub you are in is not the most pressing thing on your mind.

And of course on those rare times you go back there is not always the opportunity to revisit old haunts.

But I always thought the Greyhound would continue to pull pints and offer evenings of relaxation.

It never even occurred to me that it would join those vanished pubs of Eltham whose passing I mourned recently.*

The Greyhound in 1909
And it was only when Amanda and Michael both commented on the passing of the Greyhound that I discovered it too had shut up shop and moved on to other things.  In this case the Yin and Yetti.

Now there will be those who deplore this but then sadly so many of our pubs are closing that any new lease of life that keeps an old building with character and a rich past from being demolished has to be a good thing.

Here the old village school on the green and the  old Wesleyan Chapel on the Row have been saved from years of slow decay and eventual vandalism and demolition.  Not so 113 Beech Road which dates from the early 19th century and is now boarded up with half its roof gone after a fire a few years ago.

The Greyhound in 1909
So I am on a quest to discover all I can of the Greyhound today.

I know it suffered a fire and I am intrigued to know what of the original features have survived the fire and the passage of time since Ernest Robert Elms ran it back in 1908 with his wife, two children and a barman.

And I have already signed up Amanda and Michael, so as they say, watch this space.

*Who laments the passing of the Castle, the Welcome Inn and many more Eltham pubs?

Pictures; The Greyhound in 2000 from Discover Eltham and its environs, by Darren Spurgeon, 2000 and the Greyhound and other buildings, from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on 
The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A ghost sign from Stockport

It is another of those ghost signs and for a while it defied my attempts to discover its history.

It is on the corner of Park Street where it meets Market Street in Stockport.

The firm was Emersons who promised that “MORNING ORDERS IN 8 HOURS PROMPTLY EXECUTED” and offered everything from suits, overcoats to trousers and much more.

But now I know something more about it from a 1911 photograph but that as they say is for later in the week.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Municipal Dreams, celebrating those men and women who dreamed of a better world.

Now I like featuring other people’s blogs.

And so today I want to draw your attention to Municipal Dreams which features well researched articles celebrating "the efforts and achievements of our early municipal reformers.

These men and women dreamed of a better world.  But this was a dream built in bricks and mortar; an idealism rooted in the practical power of the local state to transform lives and raise the condition of the people.

I believe that the legacy of our early municipal reformers is unjustly neglected and often unfairly maligned.  

This is a modest attempt to record their story and set that record straight.”*

I first came across the blog while researching the Nine Fields which was an open piece of land to the west and north of Well Hall in Eltham.

And as you do I wandered the net and found references to the estates which were built by Woolwich Borough Council on the land in the 1920s.

Today’s article,  The Metropolitan Water Board: taking on ‘the Water Lords’** is well worth a visit

Picture; courtesy of Municipal Dreams

* Municipal Dreams,


Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Red Cross hospitals of Chorlton during the Great War

G.B.Simpson and friends, circa 1918
The Great War has now passed from living memory. 

A conflict which claimed ten million dead, blighted the lives of millions more, and which is commemorated in towns and villages across the country has now really become a piece of history.

 Here in Chorlton there are a number of war memorials including one in the grounds of the Methodist Church on Manchester Road another in the parish church and a few more including that in Southern Cemetery. 

There are familiar local names and in some cases more than one member of the same family.

Few however now know of the contribution that was made by people in the township to those young men who were wounded and were cared for in Chorlton and Whalley Range.

 Soon after the war began the Sunday school halls at the McLaren Baptist Church on Edge Lane and the Methodist Church on Manchester Road were turned over to convalescent hospitals.

The story of the first year of the military hospital in the Sunday school of the MacLaren Memorial Baptist Church on the corner of Wilbraham and Sibson Road was written up by the East Lancashire Branch of the British Red Cross as part of “An Illustrated Account of the Work of the Branch During the First Year of the War.”*

The McLaren Memorial Church circa 1920
It represented a massive commitment on the part of the 16,000 Chorlton people.

The number of voluntary nurses and orderlies ran to 89 and another 70 worked at some point in the kitchen. 

There were also regular fund raising activities, loans of equipment and twice weekly ward concerts.

 More than anything it shows the level to which the war effort was supported and funded by voluntary actions.

 Like many churches of the period it had a large Sunday school and it was this which was converted into the hospital in November 1914.

 “a ward of 31 beds, kitchens, mess room, bath room, dispensary, pack stores, linen rooms, matrons’ room and office” all of which were on the ground floor.

The building was large enough to accommodate

The Sunday School to the left, converted into a hospital
The original plan had been for 25 beds but in May 1915 an extra six beds were added.

What is astounding is that the cost of equipping the hospital which came to £140 was met by public subscription after an appeal for funds from the local Red Cross, and that this was “in addition to the liberal amount of hospital appurtenances so freely furnished on loan by the public.”

Nor did the generosity stop there. For while the War Office allowance for each man per day was 2 shillings [10p], the average cost for the upkeep per bed was 25 shillings [£1.25p]which again was met by the public through “subscriptions, donations and the proceeds of entertainments.”

Uknown soldier
During that first year of the war 159 volunteers worked at the hospital and all but four came from the township.

There are many familiar names, some whose families had been in the township for generations.

Ann Higginbotham aged 22 was the daughter of Alfred and Emily whose family had farmed by the green since the 1840’s.

There were also newer names like H. F. Dawson and A. H. Dawson or the Kemps. Miss Kemp worked in the kitchen while Harry her father was on the committee. He had two chemists’ shops and would be remembered for over half a century by Kemp’s Corner.

*Chorlton-cum-Hardy Red Cross Hospital, East Lancashire Branch of the British Red Cross Society Sherratt & Hughes, 1916

Pictures; The McLaren Memorial Baptist Church, Edge Lane, from the Lloyd Collection, G.B.Simpson, and friends circa 1918 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

When “poverty busied itself”....... a little bit of the grim side of Manchester & Salford in the 19th century, tonight at the Post Box Cafe, with historian Andrew Davies

Angel Street, Manchester,1900
"In no city have I ever witnessed a scene of more open, brutal and general intemperance.  

The public houses and gin shops were roaring full.  Rows, and fights and scuffles were every moment taking place within the doors and in the streets."

So wrote Angus Reach in the Morning Chronicle  after a trip through Ancoats on a Saturday night in 1849.

I suspect his readers reacted with that mix of moral indignation and smug satisfaction which comes of living in another place.

Safe in their large well appointed villas in Whalley Range and Rusholme, looked after by cooks, and maids, and footman, Ancoats with all its noise, dirt and overcrowding was to be both pitied and feared.

Flat Iron market, Salford, 1894
Sunday sermons might reflect on the plight of the poor, but from those run down areas came a perceived danger.

This was after all just three decades since Peterloo,  just seven years since the General Strike and still we were in the midst of Chartist agitation.

And from those dark unsanitary streets and courts there was always the abiding danger of typhus, typhoid and above all Cholera, infectious diseases which knew no barrier of class or gated community.

In the 1830s and 40s no one was safe.  It mattered not if you were clean, ate the right food drank the purest water and lived in the gentle suburbs.

Deadly Cholera was always  just a servants visit away to family in Ancoats or an omnibus ride through town.

Nor did it matter that by the late 19th century public health had improved, some of the worst excesses of factory conditions had been curbed and some at least of the working class had the vote.

Life was still uncertain, the workhouse still a possibility through sickness, unemployment or just bad luck and the closed airless courts and mean streets a reality for many people.

Poor diet, little of it and still long hours of hard labour took their toll.

As late as the 1930s photographs rarely show women smiling for to do so would reveal the poor state of their teeth.

All of which is a trailer for the talk  by Andrew Davies on the Social Conditions of Victorian Manchester & Salford at the Post Box Cafe.*

Mr Davies is the author of The Gangs of Manchester which is a powerful description of the gang culture of the city in the late 19th century and along the way gives a vivid description of the poorer parts of the twin cities.**

The gangs were known as Scuttlers and most inhabited the warren of streets in places like Ancoats, Hulme, and Bradford and some atleast might just have been born soon after  Angus Reach's walk through Ancoats on a Saturday night

I have not only read the book but heard Mr Davies talk on the Scuttlers and the conditions which gave rise to the gangs and came away from both with a better understanding of the period.

So I shall be ther tonight.

Pictures; Angel Street, 1900, Samuel Coulhurst, m08978 and Flatiron market Salford, Samuel Coulhurst, 1894, m59569 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the cover from the original edition of The Gangs of Manchester, Andrew Davies

* The Post Box  0161 881 4853
** The Gangs of Manchester, Andrew Davies, Milo Books, 2008

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

With Francis Frith on the Nile in 1859 and his legacy of fine pictures

I grew up with stories of pyramids, pharaohs, the odd burial curse and much more.

Even now it is a civilisation which draws you in whether it be Tutankhamen, the Great Pyramid or the lives of the ordinary work a day people.

And I suppose this may have been one of the reasons why Francis Firth, a 19th century photographer and explorer spent time there.

He travelled across the Middle East as well as Britain and recorded on film what he saw.

Many found their way onto his postcards and the company he established in 1859 prospered until the family sold the business in 1968.

Today the collection still exists as Francis Frith and contains over 365,000 photographs depicting some 7,000 towns and villages throughout Britain – all taken between 1860 and 1970.*

I have chosen just three which came from a description of the man and the company on Wikipedia.

All were taken during the 19th century and remain a vivid record of the country at the time.

The Francis Frith collection is a wonderful resource, and one that grows as people contribute their memories of the places photographed over the last century.

This I think makes it more than just a place to search for past scenes of buy old postcards.

So even if you are not interested in pyramids, boats on the Nile or the sand and camels there will be much to see and enjoy.

Pictures; by Francis Frith, from Wikipedia Commons

*Francis Frith,

Monday, 7 October 2013

A century of entertainment which may soon vanish from Wellington Street in Woolwich

I am back on Wellington Street pondering the fate of the successor to the old Woolwich Hippodrome.

This grand theatre had a short life opening in 1900 and closing  just twenty-three years later when it became a cinema and was finally demolished in 1939.

But the war got in the way of a new picture house which didn’t come along till 1955.  This is the brick block beside the Town Hall.

It  too has had short life, becoming a first a night club, and then an uncertain future as a potential home to a church group who backed out of the deal and then in 2011 a community group with plans to reopen it as a cinema, theatre and music venue.

And now according to e-ShootersHill it will be demolished for a six storey block of flats and a cafe if the plans are approved.*

Pictures; The Woolwich Grand Theatre today from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick and the Hippodrome from a postcard courtesy of Mark Flynn

*Woolwich Grand Theare, The Theatres Trust

**Grand Plan

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Out on Upper Chorlton Road looking for Samuel Brooks at Whalley House

Upper Chorlton Road stretches from the northern end of Chorlton up towards the city.

Back in the 1840s it was brand new and the product of Samuel Brooks’s grand plan to build an estate for the wealthy and genteel who wanted to live in the countryside but still be close to Manchester.

It is one of those stories which mix Victorian drive and ingenuity with a splash of vision and a fair amount of arrogance.

He bought the area then known as Jackson’s Moss in 1836 which I know is technically a year before the old Queen ascended the throne and proceeded to develop the estate thereafter.

Part of the grand scheme involved the sale of land  which became the site of the Lancashire Independent College and cutting the long road from the edge of town out to his proposed estate.

And not to be out done he renamed the area Whalley Range in recognition of his birthplace.

That done and his fine house built, he then proceeded to connect the pipe from his lavatory to the Black Brook which ran alongside the road.

Now he was not alone in assuming that such a solution to his waste problem was a perfectly acceptable way of doing things but a little unfair on the people who lived hard by the brook as it flowed past their cottages at Oswald Lane, giving rise 50 years later tospeculation that this might be a risk to public health.*

But had I ventured out onto Upper Chorlton Road soon after it completion I doubt that I would have seen Mr Brooks given that his fine home was hidden from view behind high walls.  That and the fact that this new addition to the roads north of the township was a toll road.

I suspect I would have opted for what is now Seymour Grove and travelled out along what was just a narrow carter’s tracked flanked by tall trees up to the Stretford Road.  Leaving Mr Brooks and his Whalley Range to those that could afford it.

* The Sanitary Condition of Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, Manchester Guardian May 19th, 1886.

Picture; detail of Whalley Range from the OS map of Lancashire, 1841, courtesy of Digital Archives Association and part of Upper Chorlton Road showing the wall of Whalley House early 1900s, from the Lloyd Collection

Sevendroog Castle, an 18th century naval battle and a plan for its preservation

Sevendroog Castle in 1909
Now Sevendroog Castles was another one of those places I just took for granted when growing up.  

You walked up through the woods, walked around it, vaguely pondered on its history and then walked back down to Well Hall Road.

This was not helped by the fact that you never seemed to be able get inside which made me wonder why it had been built at all.

But of course such monuments have a purpose and had I bothered to read the inscription I would have known that 'Severndroog Castle was built by the widow of Sir William James, a commander in the East India Company, to celebrate his naval exploits, in particular the capture in 1755 of the island fortress of Severndroog off the Malabar Coast of India.”

Now over forty-five years on I can appreciate both why it was built and the building itself.  And I am indebted to Darrell Sprugeon’s excellent description of the place in his book on Eltham*

“A tall triangular battlemented tower with hexagonal turrets, surrounded by trees in Castle Wood; and extraordinary Gothic folly, it was built to a design of Richard Jupp in 1784. 

The original main entrance is on the south-west face; the other original entrance doors are blocked, with only the fanlights remaining; the small doors under the turrets were added later.  

At the time the castle was just north of the grounds of the James mansion of Park Farm Place, Eltham.

Sevendroog Castle 2006
From one of the turrets there are some of the finest views anywhere in London, unrestricted in all directions except to the north east.  The main room on the first floor has a fine ornamental plaster ceiling.”

I can’t say I have been back many times since I left home in 1969 but whenever I do I have wondered on its fate, and am pleased that there is a group of people who are serious about its preservation.

The Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust was formed in 2003 and has worked ever since for the  restoration of this “dramatic eighteenth-century gothic tower built by a heartbroken widow in a clearing, high on a hill, in an ancient bluebell wood within seven miles of Charing Cross, London. ...... designed in the gothic style by architect Richard Jupp. Severndroog is a nationally-listed Grade II* building presently on English Heritage's Buildings at Risk register."**

*Spurgeon, Darrell, Discover Eltham, 2000

** The Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust,

Pictures; the castle in 1909, from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, and the castle today by Veghead, 2006, Wikipedia Commons

Saturday, 5 October 2013

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 36 from radiogram to download

Bought on Grey Mare Lane Market in 1972
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.*

My record collection covers a short period, from the mid 1960s into the early 80s.

And because we didn’t buy a record player well into 1965 I never really got into singles.

For me it was the L.P., which cost just 29 shillings available from the music shop or from Eltham Library on the High Street.

Most of what I bought I still have and while friends insisted I transfer the collection to CDs and junk the vinyl I never did.

Their claims that the CD lasted longer and didn’t suffer from scratches was all very good, but the joys of listening to  old LPs are the scratches and the memories of who I was going out with at the time, and for that matter the party where that  long scratch across three tracks happened.

An Eddison record circa 1920s
For Joe and Mary Ann it would have been those old 78 rpms which came in plain brown sleeves and were brittle and had that tinny sound, like listening to music through a paper bag.

I often wonder whether Mary Ann followed the advice of those 1950s DIY programmes and applied heat to make them into decorative fruit plates.

If she did there were none here when we moved in.

Of course I don’t really know if they had a record player or what they liked to listen to, but given that they had a telephone installed by 1924 and a television just thirty years later I bet they did.

Nor would it have been one of those hand wound ones for Joe was into electricity.  He had seen its value and embraced it, proudly boasting that his houses were built with electricity through out.

The 1950s radiogram
And so I think they would have bought into CD, the video player and ultimately the computer

But Joe died in 1968 and Mary Ann in 1974.  John, Mike and Lois who took over the house stuck with the telly and an old record player.

So it was all down to me to introduce the state of the art hi fi system.  Each piece of which was bought from a different manufacturer because not one company could be trusted to make a good record deck, amplifier, speakers and tuner.

And the system looked cobbled together with spaghetti of wires trailing from the back.

I am not sure that really it was any better than the all in one sound system but by golly you thought it was.

And now the family sit in different rooms each with a device offering “catch up”, music, or games along with the ability to surf the net.

The evening of all sitting around the telly watching the same programme on two channels has pretty much gone.  The upside is that you are longer at the mercy of your parent’s favourites, but the downside is that you spend less time together in the evenings.

And I wonder what Joe and Mary Anne would have made of that.

Picture; cover of the Marvin Gaye Tammi Tyrell LP Easy, 1969, Edison Records "Diamond Disc, early 1920s, Wikipedia Commons and the Murphy A.138R Radiogram, courtesy of Graham Gill

The Arcade in the High Street in Eltham

A short series looking at the story behind the picture.

When you don’t have a market, an arcade is the next best thing.

Arcades like markets cater for those small independent traders and there is nothing better than wandering under the glass canopy at what’s on offer.

I suppose it is also that  it is just that bit different.

You have to come off the High Street and  make a conscious decision to go in.  There is no traffic to watch out for and I always feel a sense of adventure, even when you know each of the shops and even more when you don't particularly need any of them

Eltham Arcade was built in 1930 and was intended to be a bigger development.

Twenty years earlier the site had been home to Whittaker & Smith the coach builders, a baker, an iron mongers along with Thomas Grant boot maker and one of the seventy hardware stores of George Mence Smith who also sold oil.

Picture; from the collection of Jean Gammons

Friday, 4 October 2013

A little bit of Whalley Range around 1895

We are at the northern part of our township and the picture may have been taken around 1895.

An occasional series drawing on the photographs in the Lloyd collection, some of which come from postcards and others from snaps and posed photographs donated by the people of Chorlton.

The collection contains some of the oldest photographs along with others from just forty years ago.

The place is College Road close to its junction with Upper Chorlton Road.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Chorlton and the history of the National Health Service, a talk today with Chorlton History Group

Now the National Health Service has always been controversial.  

Even before its inception there were those who branded it as an opportunity for the workshy, and opportunist elements in society to take advantage of a service free at the point of need which would be funded through national taxation.

And in its first full year there was a huge demand seen in the number of free prescriptions issued for medicine and spectacles and in the rise in the cost of the NHS from £327.8 million in 1948-49 to £430.3 million by 1953-54.*

But that I suspect indicated just how much of a need there was from people who had not been able to afford even basic health care.

Moreover when the figures were adjusted for inflation the cost was less alarming and when judged as a % of GNP spending actually fell from 3.51% in 1948-49 to 3.24% in 1953-54

And set against this was the clear improvement in the nation’s health and a reduction in the levels of everyday pain as well as deaths from infectious diseases.

So deaths from TB were down from 25,649 in 1943 to 4,480 in 1958, diptheria from 1,371 to 8, whooping cough from 1,114 to 27 and measles from 773 to 49.

All of which is a backdrop for today’s talk at Chorlton History Group by Martin Rathfelder, Director of the Socialist Health Association, The National Health Service in Manchester: its past, present & future: GPs and Primary Care*

Martin has been “been interviewing and recording older members of Chorlton
Good Neighbours to get their memories of going to the doctor in their
childhood, particularly before the NHS was created. 

And will give some background on how the GP system has changed over the years bringing this up to date by outlining the future shape of primary care with clinical commissioning groups in central and south Manchester.”

The November meeting of the History Group (Thursday November 7th 1.30pm) will be on the  History of the disabled people’s movement in Manchester by
Mark Todd & Bernard Leach

* *Source Report of the Guillebaud Committee Parliament. Report of the committee of enquiry into the cost of the national health service. (Chairman: CW Guillebaud.) Cmd 9663. London: HMSO,  1956, quoted from National Health Service History, Geoffrey Rivett,

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

On this day on October 2nd 1918

It is one of those images that remain as powerful today as it did when it was taken on October 2nd 1918.

A group of British soldiers gather to hear an address from Brigadier General J C Campbell on the Riqueval Bridge over the St Quentin Canal near Bellicourt in France.

What makes the picture all the more significant is the week before the final allied advance against the Hindenburg Line had begun and in nine days had been breached and with the loss of this defensive position there was little stopping the allied advance.

So on that October day many of those listening from the 137th Brigade may well have been speculating just how soon the war would end.

Picture; Brigadier General J V Campbell addressing troops of the 137th Brigade (46th Division) from the Riqueval Bridge over the St Quentin Canal, taken by 2nd Lieutenant David McLellan, from the collection of the Imperial War Museum, and in the public domain

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

When all depended on a good harvest in 1847

Now I do have to say I am worried about our grapes.

It has been a rotten summer and what we need is sunshine and lots of it.

Our vine was planted nearly ten years ago and despite doing all the research to find the right one for south Manchester, it didn’t really do much till last year when it took off in all directions along the south and west of our garden wall.

And with this prodigious growth  came bunches of grapes which we could eat and were happy to offer friends and neighbours.  True they were pretty small things but we had grapes.

This year the bunches are there and plenty more on last summer, but I fear they won’t ripen as well. All of which is a disappointment but is not the sort of disaster it might be if we were growing them for money.

And I was reminded of this after a recent visit to a winery out towards Bradford in Holmfirth.  The owner remained quietly confident but that reliance on the weather is something that I most of us no longer appreciate.  Our food comes from supermarkets that can source the world and a poor harvest here will usually be matched by crops grown in the sun on the other side of the world.

All of which is a lead in to another of those reflections on farming here in Chorlton in the 19th century as we head towards harvest time.

“The summer of 1847 promised to be a good one which was an important consideration for a rural community and a good starting point for our story.  

After all 96 of our families were engaged in some form of farming and so a good harvest would put food on the table, guarantee work for the many and help the village through the dark cold winter a head.  

Equally important for the sixteen families who made their living as tradesmen and retailers the harvest was central to their fortunes.  Only the gentry might be more relaxed at the weather.  But even they would have been aware of the distress and possible social unrest which might follow a bad year in the fields. 

Three years before there had been a bad summer, which had meant a meagre hay crop and even more disastrous harvest.  The following year had proved little better and this further aggravated the poor condition of the livestock.  And while the cycle of bad summers was broken in 1846 leading to a plentiful harvest, the potato blight which had first appeared the year before now devastated the crop and led to the first famine year in Ireland.  We were luckier.  It had been a very dry and cold winter and less than an inch of rain fell through January, March, April and July and the summer months proved to be very hot.”*

*Chapter 2, from the Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, available next month,

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