Friday, 29 November 2013

Memories of a Stretford Rose Queen in 1928 by Karen J Mossman

Now one of the really nice things about writing the blog is when I can get guest contributors to write about their lives and memories.

So here  is an article by Karen who has kindly written about Molly and the Stretford Rose Queen.

In December 2013, Molly will be 99 years old and in 1928 she was Stretford’s Rose Queen.

I wanted to find out what she remembered about that time.

“We were told at school the Rose Queen was going to be chosen from Old Trafford that year. 

Previously they had been chosen from Stretford and Gorse Hill.

 I was 13 and Dad was very strict and wouldn’t let me go, so I asked Mum. 

She said I could, if I was a good girl. So I washed the pots everyday and she told me to be back before 9.00 and then Dad would never know.”

Molly’s dad was a traveller selling office stationery. He travelled to the far sides of Manchester so didn’t keep regular hours.

The judging took place at Stretford Technical College on the corner of Stretford Road and East Union Street.

The girl’s paraded the ballroom and the winners were chosen by the committee.

The Rose Queen was selected first, followed by the Ladies in Waiting, Maids of Honour and three girls to represent Faith, Hope and Charity.

A friend of Molly’s mum’s had taught her deportment and it had paid off.

It wasn’t possible to rush off afterwards and when she did she called in at her grandparent’s house on St Hilda’s Road. She didn’t have time to stop and Molly laughs as she recalled it.

I charged up to the front door shouting through the letter box: ‘I’m Queen! I’m Queen!’ But when I got home to Ayres Road, Dad was waiting for me and he was very angry.”

I asked about her dress and she said was satin-silk, “It was good quality and made especially for me. 
Unfortunately the day after, I realised I didn’t have anywhere to keep it, so I cut up the skirt and made knickers. I do regret it now. It was very silly. I wish my mother had stopped me.

The day itself was sunny and I was collected in a horse drawn landau with a coachman. 

Dad had a wooden arch at the gate of our house and sent off to Colchester for roses to decorate it with. I was told the landau had been used for a visit to Manchester by royalty.

We travelled up Chester Road to the cenotaph and the streets were lined with people who clapped as I approached. I felt regal, just like a real queen. 

We then went into Longford Park and the lawns were laid out with chairs and there was an orchestra who played music for my entrance. 

Uncle Herbert was music master at Central School in Gorse Hill and he wrote the music for me.”

Local bands also playing during the afternoon and there were various competitions including the judging of council horses as well as a fair.

“I was crowned by Councillor Sutcliffe’s wife and she gave me a necklace with a platinum setting which was bought in King Street, Manchester. 

I still have it in my jewellery box.

We then went for a meal inside Longford Hall and there was dancing in the evening followed by a firework display.”

Molly was the granddaughter of Councillor John Pedder, chairman of the Stretford Parks Committee.

My family didn’t make a fuss of me because I was Rose Queen, and Dad didn’t even come. 

But on the day everyone treated me nicely. 

It was just a matter of luck I was chosen because I was just an ordinary girl.”

I’d have to disagree with that, Molly was picked because the committee saw how beautiful she was and how elegantly she walked.

© Karen J Mossman, November 2013

Pictures; from the collection of Karen J Mossman

Monday, 25 November 2013

Chorlton, Manchester and the Great War, reflections on the forthcoming centenary and an appeal for help

William Eric Lunt, aged 10 on Sandy Lane circa 1905
This is William Eric Lunt aged about 10 on Sandy Lane sometime around 1905.

He was born here in Chorlton in 1895 and died of his wounds on the Western Front in the October of 1916.

His family had farmed in the township throughout the 19th century and in all probability into the century before.

I can only begin to sense the loss his parents felt at the death of their son.

But of course this was an ordeal that was endured by so many here and across the world.

And next year we shall be remembering those years and the human sacrifice along with that vast loss of treasure which could have been used to improve the lives of people.

For most of us it will be an intensely moving moment allowing us to look back into our own families and explore their experiences.

In my case I can count six members who participated.

George Bradford Simpson, circa 1918
They included a great grandfather, my maternal grandfather, two great uncles, and two uncles.

Added to this because one of my grandmother’s was German there will be family members who were in the armed forces of Imperial Germany.

All of which is a trailer to the sheer amount of material on the Great War which will come our way next year.

For 2014 will be the centenary of the outbreak of that conflict and we will be deluged by books, documentaries, fictional accounts as well as films, plays and plenty of new specialist web sites.

And if all goes well I may be making my own contribution with a book of memories, photographs and stories from across Manchester covering the years of the First World War.

So this is an appeal for anyone who would like to share their own family history of the war to get in touch, using the comment box, or via my facebook and twitter accounts.

But, and here I can perhaps be accused of hypocrisy I do have a slight nagging doubt about the degree to which the forthcoming event will be driven by financial considerations, and also begs the question of the correctness in digging around in the lives of people who were involved and who should be afforded a degree of privacy.

Unknown British soldier, circa 1918
Added to this is the very real danger that the amount of coverage may just make the public a little tired of the event long before we reach August 2014 which will be a great disservice to the men and women who were swept up by that war.

All of which leads to the simple observation that perhaps less is better than more.

After all that war has passed out of living memory and in its way is now almost as remote to us as are the wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France or indeed the Hundred Years War.

That said I think it is important that we should mark the event with an exploration of the people who “did their bit.”  

And I think it should focus more on local communities rather than the big picture which has been visited and revisited by historians since the Armistice in 1918.

Unknown British soldier, circa 1918
So I shall return to young William Eric Lunt and the other men who went to war from Chorlton, along with the families who waved them off, and those who worked the factories ran the essential services and looked after the wounded in the Red Cross voluntary hospitals all over the city.

Picture; the young William Eric Gaunt, from the Lloyd collection, and the photograph of George Bradford Simpson, and the unknown soldiers  from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The lost diary ........... life in the British Army in 1946

“31 Dec 45.  Went to New Years’ dance at Ashbridge Hospital.”

It is the sort of opening to a diary that most of us will be familiar with, and what follows is a mix of social events, the mundane trivia of army life and an intense record of the young man’s feelings for a woman.

The diary was a present from his mother for New Year, is the size of one of those old driving licenses and went with our young man all the way to Egypt.

Now I know his name and think I have tracked down a little of his life, but that I shall not reveal.

It was was passed to me by a friend who knew him well and thought something of the detail in its pages would shed some light on life in the 1940s.

And over the next few weeks that is what I intend to do.

The opening pages vividly record army life, from the cleaning of equipment, to inspections, and plenty of marching exercises, interspersed with going to the cinema, listening to the radio and trying to get into dances.

It is I guess the everyday preoccupations of a young man in the services.

But running through the first part of the diary is that sad reference to the woman he had fallen for.  In early January he writes that “I still love her” and this remains a a constant through the early part of the diary, getting shortened to “I.S.LH” and although she went off and married someone else she remained special to him.

Now there will be those who argue this is an intrusion or that these are too trivial to warrant a story.

But I disagree, no where will names appear, the identities of everyone will be kept secret and the focus will always be on how a young man away from home got on with life in the army in the years directly after the last world war.

Picture, from the diary January 1946

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Views of Urmston in the July of 1957

I am never too keen on these picture postcards which pack four of five images together.

Now it is true that you do get more for your money but the downsize its that they are smaller, the quality is not so good and you lose some of the detail.

Having said that Joyce decided to use this one to send a message to Miss Ella Hooper in the July of 1957 from Urmston.

She was “having a lovely time and lovely weather at Urmston, making the most of bed and the weather before I start teaching next Monday.”

Picture; Flixton Road and Moss Road, Church Road and Memorial Gardens and Stretford Road by Lilywhite Photographs, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Longford Park and Lake in 1914

Now this is an open invitation to anyone who knows Longford Park to make a comment on this picture postcard from 1914.

Picture; Longford Park and Lake 1914 from the series Longford Park, issued by Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Friday, 22 November 2013

The story of the Artic Convoys, today at Chorlton Library

Back in February, there was one of those remarkable days when a lot of us came together to honour four people who gave up six years of their lives in the service of their country during the last world war.*

One was a fighter pilot, two served on the Atlantic convoys and one drove a petrol lorry across the city during the blitz.

And today Bernard Leach will be giving a talk on the Arctic Convoys at Chorlton Library between 2-4pm as part of Chorlton Book week and their Grand Day Out event for the over 50's

"Chorlton Good Neighbours launched a campaign to get a medal awarded to the Arctic Convoy veterans, which was successful when the government announced the awarding of the Arctic Star medal.

Bob Cowan, 93, a Chorlton Good Neighbours regular, and an Arctic Convoy veteran, was at the centre of the MEN & Chorlton Good Neighbours campaign which led to the Arctic Star medal eventually being awarded. He finally received his medal over the summer, but it was just sent in the post and as he is nearly blind, he mislaid it. I recently helped him to find it.

I saw Bob this morning whizzing along in Chorlton on his walking frame and he has agreed to come to the event at the library. Cllr Sheila Newman has agreed to present Bill with the Arctic Star medal at this event on behalf of Chorlton Good Neighbours and all the local people who would like to acknowledge the important role that Bob and other local ex-servicemen and women played in WW2. 

All are welcome at this event

There is a video of Bob talking about the Arctic Convoys at:

Bob Cowan - the Arctic Convoys and other memories of World War 2

Bob Cowan is soon to be 93 years old. He was born in Moss Side, Manchester. Here he talks about his memories and experience of war at sea during"  Bernard Leach

*“ordinary lives in extraordinary times” remembering and honouring four from Chorlton

Picture, Bob Cowan during the war

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A new book for Didsbury

There will be some and I know this to be true who will think that a story about a book with my name on it is just outrageous self promotion.

The cover of the new book
Nevertheless today across Manchester on the shelves of bookshops both large and small will be a new book on the history of Didsbury.

This is Didsbury Through Time, which is a joint venture between me and local artist Peter Topping, and I am quite pleased with the result.

It is a collection of old images of Didsbury juxtaposed with an equal number of new ones and a bit of text.

Peter sourced the old photographs and added the contemporary ones and I wrote a series of comments about them.

It is a well tried and trod formula and one that does appeal.  But we decided on something a tad different.

First because Peter is an artist we have included some of his painting instead of photographs and presented them in a slightly different way.

Some authors put the old black and white pictures  first followed by the same spot shot in colour, and all the images are grouped by a theme, so all the pubs are together, followed by the churches, then a collection of carts, trams and horse drawn wagons, and lastly the odd street scene.

The Italian dancers at the Coronation Festival in 1911 on Wilmslow Road.
In our book as you turn the pages the order of old and new is mixed up and because we both like walking we have taken the reader along a route from the east to the west of Didsbury, which allows people to come across buildings, street scenes and quite a few hidden gems just in the way you would if you walked through the township.

And we have tried also to do something different with the text.

All too often in such books the author just tells the reader what they can see for themselves, whether it be the lack of parked vehicles in 1900, the profusion of horse drawn wagons or the simple observation that a lot more men wore hats in the past.

Instead we decided to write about named individuals who lived behind the front doors, sold merchandise from the shop on the corner or left their mark in some other way.

Bertha on the "Flying Man"
And one such person was Bertha Geary aged thirteen of School Lane who in 1911 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 which was 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, for who the persistent buzzing of the aircraft’s engines above her head was something new and I guess louder than anything she had yet encountered.

Peter's painting of the Olde Cock
And what Bertha did on the postcard she sent her friend was to write her own address, and with this I was able to track her on a street directory, find out her surname and look her up on the census record.

All of which brought  Miss Geary and her family out of the shadows and led us to know a little bit more about the people who lived in Didsbury.

Pictures; from Didsbury Through Time. 

Didsbury Through Time is published this week and available in Didsbury from Morten’s Bookshop on Warburton Road, Didsbury, and of course from all other bookshops.  

Painting © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures, Web: Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Discovering more about those children migrated to Canada and Australia in the 19th century

Extract on the report of Roger Hall, 1915

I doubt that I will ever know the exact course of events that sent my great uncle at the age of 16 to Canada in 1914.

He was one of the 100,000 or so young people who were migrated to Canada during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

It was a policy which even after Canada stopped, carried on into the 1970s with boat loads of children going to Australia and other parts of the old British Empire.

These were the British Home Children and until recently it was a story shrouded in official amnesia, and compounded by a reticence on the part of those migrated to talk about what happened to them.

The policy was born out of a mix of good intentions cynical self interest and an unwillingness on the part of the authorities to accept its shortcomings.

Extract from the passenger list of the SS Carthaginian, 1914
It is a story I have written about many times* and so today I want instead to reflect on the history of the growing awareness of that migration and the efforts on the parts of academics and family historians to uncover the full extent of what went on.

For many of us it was the chance discovery that a relative had been migrated to Canada which led us into the history of British Home Children.

Many of those who first started to explore the story had little to go on, and in an age before the internet and the digitalization of records were forced to spend long month’s fruitlessly writing to charities and public archives to elicit a few facts.

More recently particularly in Canada self help organistions have sprung up aided by the internet which have made the task easier.

And like all good self help organisations people are keen to share information, links and ideas, all of which is how I like my history.

Boys in the care of the Manchester & Salford charity about to leave for Canada
Only this weekend I took part in a global discussions on the future of one of these organisations run from Canada and called British Home Children Advocacy &  Research Association**

In just the last few years the interest in British Home Children has grown.

In part this reflects the search by relatives for information about their migrated family members, but also has become a serious area of study with an increasing number of books devoted to the subject.

Most of these have been published in Canada, but there are a few on this side of the Atlantic and with them has come specialist sites including that of the Together Trust which was the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girl’s Refuges and sent children to Canada from 1870 till 1914.***

What both British Home Children Advocacy &  Research Association and the Together Trust offer are help and links which will assist anyone on a personal search or those interested in learning more about the story.

Manchester Boys in Canada
In the case of the British Home Children Advocacy &  Research Association this includes an extensive and growing data base, articles and links as well as a growing programme of talks across Canada to raise awareness.

The Together Trust has its own archivist who is keen to assist those who may have family members who were cared for  by the charity and wish to know more about their relatives.

Nor should we forget the experiences of those young people sent to Australia.
These young people continued to be sent from Britain well into  the 1970s.

Some of their stories featured in Empty Cradles, which was published in 1994.

Its sales of 75,000 copies helped to fund the work of the Child Migrants Trust which was established in 1987 by Margaret Humphreys CBE, OAM.****

The Trust deals with the issues surrounding the deportation of children to Australia in the post-war period.  Empty Cradles has been dramatised as the 2011 feature film Oranges and Sunshine.

So British Home Children have come out of the shadows in more ways than one and have quite rightly become a serious area of study.

Pictures; of Roger Hall's report and the shipping list of the carthaginian, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and pictures of Manchester boys of the Manchester & Salford Boys' and Girls' Refuge courtesy of the Together Trust.

*British Home Children,

** British Home Children Advocacy &  Research Association

***The Together Trust Archive,

**** The Child Migrants Trust,

Monday, 18 November 2013

Longford Hall in the summer of 1914

Now this is another of those usual views of Longford Hall which was built in 1857 and demolished in 1995.

The Hall was built by John and Enriqueta Rylands as a fitting home to a textile manufacturer who in 1888 employed 15,000 people in 17 mills and factories.**

It replaced an earlier property which was known as Longford House and had been the home of the Walker family, of which perhaps the most interesting was Thomas Walker, one time pillar of Manchester society but also a radical politician who campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade, supported the French Revolution and was indicted for treason in 1794.

But I have written about both the Hall and Thomas Walker before, so instead I want to concentrate on the message written on the reverse of this picture postcard which was sent in the July of1914.

It written by John and posted to a Miss Katie Bolebrook of 21 Floatergate, Grimsby.
John was staying in Stretford and the language he uses could come straight out of any parody of the period.

“Dear Katie, I am having an awfully ripping time here and the girls (naughty boy), they are lovely.  Well goodbye, Your friend John.”

I went looking for the delightfully sounding Floatergate.  It was one of those centuries old streets in the very heart of Grimsby and like so many other places in towns and cities across the country it was swept away to be replaced by a 1960s development.  This was the Riverhead Centre and along with Floatergate went the historic Bull Ring.

At least Longford Hall survived it by another thirty years by which time I suspect John and Katie had also passed away.

Picture; Longford Hall, 1914 from the series Longford Park, issued by Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

*Longford Hall and our own Chorlton radical,

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Memories of when St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester moved out to Prestbury

Earlier today  I featured the story of how St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester moved out to Prestbury.

It was written by David Eastman who had become puzzled as to why he had been born there and not at home In Manchester.

In the course of researching this mystery he came across one of those tiny little footnotes to history which now has been largely forgotten.

 “Faced with the possibility of air raids, the St Mary’s Hospital Board chose to close their City Centre maternity wards and relocate to Collar House in Prestbury.”

 The house  was owned by the Moseley family who were then living in Wales and in 1939 was rented by the hospital as an annexe. 

This was a large house with extensive grounds. It had its own water and electricity supply as well as a laundry. It was converted to hold 45 beds and had maternity wards and nurseries as well as a theatre, dispensary and accommodation for 30 staff. Nearby Prestbury Hall and Adlington Hall were also to become hospitals. St Mary’s remained at Collar House until 1952 when the maternity wards returned to the City. 

During those 13 years, more than 14000 children were born at the three Prestbury hospitals. Originally a farm, Collar House dates from before 1780 and has been occupied by a number of different families" 

And in response to that story people have been adding their own memories, some telling me they were born there and others like David realizing that a family mystery now had an explanation.

All of which is pretty pleasing and is how I like my history, shared out and on going.

Keep them coming.

*When St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester moved out to Prestbury

Picture of Collar House, courtesy of David Eastman

A village, a shared family history event and a lesson to all local historians

The parish hall
I think I could live in Stagsden.

It is according to its parish council “a small village west of Bedford on the way to Milton Keynes [which] is long and and straddles a low ridge between two small streams that drain into the Bedfordshire Ouse.”

And as you would expect from an old settlement it has “a 13th century church, a recently modernised pub and a beautifully restored village hall.”*

Discovering shared stories
All of which is completed with some picturesque thatched cottages, and a nearby by pass that takes the serious traffic away from the village.

It has all the characteristics of what we think makes up a typically English rural village and this includes the story of all the families who once lived there but whose descendants now live in far flung corners of England or beyond.

So it was a place calling out for a local historian to pull together the diverse histories of those people who can trace their link with the village from the 19th century  right back to the  Middle Ages and that is what my friend Jean has done.

After completing her husband's research into his family's history after his death in 2002, she then set set out not only to trace his family’s links with Stagsden but the histories of all the other families who had lived in the village at the same time as his ancestors.

Not content with that she organised an event where the descendants of all these other old Stagsden families could come together for a day to share their histories, research and treasured family photographs.

The first Reunion was in 2007 and proved such a success that another was held in the following year.

I have to say I was impressed.

It is easy to stay in the comfort zone surrounded by old documents, online resources and a laptop beavering away at unrolling the past, much more enterprising to go out and make people aware of their shared history, and bring them all together for a day.

It all took place in the parish hall which was once the village school and I can think of no  place better suited to bringing together the memories and stories of a former community.

It is easy to say in the comfort zone surrounded by old documents, online resources and a laptop beavring away at unrolling the past, much more enterprising to go out and make people aware of their shared history.

It all took place in the parish hall which was once the local school and I can think of no better venue.  As a school and how the village hall here was a place so suited to bringing together the memories and stories of a community.

Pictures; the parish hall, cottages,  and the family history event of 2007 in Stagden from the collection of Jean Gammons

*Welcome to Stagsden,

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Growing up in another time

I grew up in the 1950s. 

 That decade which is often described as grey and tired, exhausted after six years of war where the scars of that conflict were everywhere to be seen. There was rationing, as well as ugly bomb sites and that air of make and mend.

Maybe, but that is not what I remember. The bomb sites were my playground, I accepted that darned socks were part of the natural order of things and my family laughed as much as anyone’s.

Of course by the time I was five the worst of the austerity years were over, and that growing consumer prosperity was beginning to spread downwards.

And so Christmases in the 1950s were special in the way that just perhaps they aren’t any more. There were more things around but not the glut that bombards us all today. My father still made some of our toys out of wood on the kitchen table during the winter months in the run up to December.

This is not to sink into some rosy glow view of the past. We still had coal fires, there was ice on the inside of the windows in the coldest periods, and the one television channel closed ridiculously early.

But there was a mounting sense that things were on the move which would really burst forth a decade later. New spindly designed furniture, bright new colours and the beginnings of rock and roll. The television had begun to replace the radio as a focus for the family and yet we still put lit candles on the Christmas tree with a bizarre contraption consisting of a small metal cup and clamp.

Then when my own children came along in the 1980s I found myself trying to recreate the Christmas of the ‘50s. We played Monopoly, made jigsaw puzzles and even designed rocket ships out of cardboard.

You cannot go back in time but at least you can sometimes save a little bit of what was good.

Picture; from one of the early Eagle Annuals, which were bought for me each year. Sadly mine were all lost but I now have a collection of all of them again

Monday, 11 November 2013

On the Rec at Beech Road during autumn and winter

Now I know these two pictures have not been taken from exactly the same spot but absolute detail has never been something I am perfect at.

Nor are they the best pictures, but on a sunny autumn day on impulse I took a few of the Rec and was reminded of a much colder day in January 2009 when I did much the same thing.*

And in my defence it is a sort of history story.

The Rec was last farmed around 1896 when it was Row Acre, both the Higginboth and Bailey families had land on this site and since it was gifted to the people of Chorlton it has been an invaluable place to play, sit and just relax.

At one time it has held public meetings, was home to a barrage balloon and has been the venue for many festivals including the Beech Road Festivals and the Peace Festival.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson, 2007 and 2013

Manchester Parish Records a new and exciting online resource

Now as much as I enjoy sitting in Central Library looking at the microfilms of our parish records, I have to say that the Archives and Local Studies service have just made it that bit easier because they have teamed up with Ancestry to make all of these records available on line.

They include
Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1541-1812
Births and Baptisms, 1813-1915
Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930
Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985
Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1573-1812 (Cathedral)
Births and Baptisms, 1813-1901 (Cathedral)
Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930 (Cathedral)
Deaths and Burials, 1813-1866 (Cathedral)

A couple of years back they had worked with findmypast to digitalise the Manchester Collection which is a series of school board, workhouse, industrial school and prison records held by Manchester Archives.

The collection is completely free to use from any Manchester Libraries computer  but access to details and images from home is by credit or subscription.

These records comprise:
Apprentice indentures - 690 names, ranging from 1700-1849
Cemetery records - around 175,000 names: 1750-1968
Industrial school admission and discharge registers: almost 6,000 records c1866-1912
Parish register transcripts - almost 200,000 names dating back to the sixteenth century for Oldham St. Mary and churches in Gorton, Newton and Flixton
Prison registers - 247,765 records covering 1847-1881
School admission registers - around 158,000 records c1870-1916
Workhouse registers - 357,000 admission registers, 280,000 creed registers, 16,000 discharge registers.

This earlier online resource was itself pretty exciting but if like me you had signed up to Ancestry it was always a bit of a fad to either buy the credits or contemplate a second subscription.

Now I am a little further forward with the linkup with Ancestry.

And one of the other things I really like about the Ancestry platform is the way that all the records of are available, so you can trawl across a whole year’s entries which give a context to individual record that you are searching for.

There will be the purists who object, citing quite rightly that nothing is better than holding the original document, which is fine if you can get to the document easily and obtain permission to handle it, but if not online searches are the most practical and empowering tool.

And the ancestry platform does provide a pretty good reproduction of the original source and judging by what I have seen to date is far clearer than many of the microfilm versions I have had to squint at.

So all credit to the Archives and Local Studies service along with Ancestry.

Pictures; St Clements Church circa 1860 from the collection of Tony Walker and gravestone from our parish church from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Royal Arthur, 1940

As we head towards Remembrance Day I have decided to feature a set of photographs of the men and women who lived through the two great world wars.

This is another from the collection of Graham Gill who so often provides me with both pictures and encouragement.

Yesterday I featured his uncle Tommy on his wedding day in 1945 and here is Tommy again in 1940.

Graham writes, “1940 Royal Arthur. The first Royal Arthur was previously a Butlins holiday camp and was commissioned as a training establishment on 22 September 1939. 

It served during the Second World War, becoming the central reception depot for new naval entries after HMS Raleigh was transferred to the Army in February 1944. Royal Arthur continued in service until being paid off in 1946.”

Picture; courtesy of Graham Gill

Friday, 8 November 2013

Forty Years of Planning the Future of Manchester: The Key Plans from 1926-1967

City of Manchester Plan, 1945
Now here is a little piece of our history that you can’t afford to miss.

Most of us at some time have moaned at the loss of so much of Victorian Manchester, swept away by a combination of municipal plans and commercial considerations.

And if you have been minded to dig deeper into the reasons why then this site offers up some interesting answers.

Here can be found the famous 1945 plan for Manchester, along with an earlier one for 1926,  a summary of what was planned in 1967 and a highway plan from five years earlier.

"A series of key public planning documents and maps relating to the city of Manchester and its regional context have been digitised and made freely available for the first time. 

These eight historic Plans span the central decades of the twentieth century with the first published in 1926 and the last in 1967.

This set of documents represents the genesis and evolution of British town planning in relation to the city of Manchester over forty years. 

Whilst the documents themselves were researched, analysed and authored locally, they were consistently enacted in response to national statute in the regulation of building and urban development that began with the Housing Act of 1909. 

SELNEC: A Highway Plan 1962
The Plans evolve from early survey type reports into detailed formal proposals and guidelines for development. 

They contain many zoning schemes to logically reorganise land-use, proposals for new and improved housing, and insistent calls for investment in bigger roads and better transport services across the Manchester area. 

The overarching goal was to bring order to the city of Manchester and its satellite towns in Cheshire and Lancashire and to overcome the perceived problems caused by unplanned and ‘chaotic’ urban growth during the phase of rapid industrialisation in the first half of the nineteenth century.  

The various Plan documents and maps have been digitised by Joe Blakey and Martin Dodge from the Department of Geography, University of Manchester, with the advice and material support of Richard Brook, Manchester School of Architecture.

The digitisation work was supported by the Manchester Statistical Society’s Campion Fund. We also acknowledge the help and encouragement of David Govier (archivist for Manchester City Council) and Donna Sherman (map librarian, Rylands University of Manchester Library).

Permission to digitise and release these Plans under Creative Commons license was kindly granted by Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council."

*Forty Years of Planning the Future of Manchester: The Key Plans from 1926-1967,

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Wartime wedding 1945

As we head towards Remembrance Day I have decided to feature a set of photographs of the men and women who lived through the two great world wars.

This is of Graham’s uncle Tommy and aunt on their wedding day in 1945.  He served on a minesweeper in the north Atlantic.

What strikes you about these pictures is of course the number of men and women in uniform, which is I suppose is stating the obvious but nevertheless marks such images off from today.

To the left are Graham's grandparents.   Missing on this picture is Graham's mum who lived through both wars and celebrated her 100th birthday recently.

Picture; courtesy of Graham Gill

Reforming our prisons in the 19th century, the story of Sarah Martin

Black Horse Row, 1841
Now I am always looking out for new blogs which extend my knowledge, and I am fully aware of my own limitations as a writer and researcher, so here is a very informative site on the 19th century and in particular the moves for prison reform.

So I would recommend Convictions, by Helen Rogers* and the rest I shall leave up to Helen.
“In 1818 a dressmaker stepped through the gates of Great Yarmouth Borough Gaol hoping to read the Bible with a young mother, confined to prison for cruelty to her infant daughter, and save her from damnation. 

For quarter of a century Sarah Martin continued visiting the gaol, preaching each Sunday in the prison chapel, teaching thousands of inmates to read and write, helping them learn new skills so they could support their families after release.

This blog is about the conviction, or faith, that drove Sarah Martin to devise one of the first schemes for prisoner rehabilitation.  After she died in 1843, the Victorians memorialised her as a courageous pioneer of prisoner reform but now Sarah Martin has long been forgotten. 

While her pious judgements about inmates will be off-putting to many of us today, her practical approach to working with prisoners and their families, sometimes for years after their sentence, has much to teach us, as does her kindness.

On this blog I will be sharing snippets from the book I am slowly writing, Conviction: Stories from a Nineteenth-century Prison. I have written some academic articles on reading, writing and singing at Yarmouth Gaol and am working on more. 

But in this blog I am experimenting with a different style of history writing that starts with people, their lived experience, voices and stories. If you have information on any of the individuals mentioned in this blog or would like to know more about them, please drop me an email

So one to read.

Picture; Black Horse Row (Row 3) where the Riches family lived in 1841

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Chorlton History Group, tomorrow, the history of the disabled people's movement in Manchester

It’s that time again for another talk at the popular Chorlton History Group which will be on the  history of the disabled people's movement in Manchester at 1.30pm at Chorlton Good Neighbours.St Ninina's Church, Chorlton, tommorow, November 7th.

Enough said.  If you want to know more in advance of Bernard’s talk then visit, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People

Picture; the disabled drivers association and a demonstration outside Manchester Town Hall demanding full access for disabled people in 1986.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

In Vernon Park, Stockport in 1905

It is a testimony to how far picture postcards were marketed that this picture of Vernon Park in Stockport was sent from Chatham in Kent to East Peckham in Paddock Wood near Maidstone.

I doubt we will ever know whether J.D.S who sent the card came from Stockport or just liked the scene and bought it from a local shop.

Vernon Park was the first of Stockport’s park and was opened in 1858 on land donated by George John Warren, whose title of Lord Vernon became the name for the park.

It is situated a little to the north east of Stockport and one side is bounded by the river Goyt.

Now I have never been which my loss is because it is a magnificent example of an early municipal park.

It was a very popular park in the 19th century and something of its grandeur can be got from our picture.

Those steps are still there as I believe is the mill in the distance.

Picture; Vernon Park, from the series Stockport, by Tuck & Sons, 1905 courtesy of Tuck DB, 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

A picture which finally gives up its story

In Gateshead in the late 1920s
Now a few weeks ago I was pondering on my failure to unlock the story of an old photograph.*

We all have them in the family collection of pictures.

They are those with no name, or date or any clue as to where they were taken or even what connection they have to the family.

Now this is almost one of those, and I say that because I am pretty sure it will be where my father worked in the 1920s but that is about it.

So I was very pleased when my friend David from Furness Vale came up with these two pictures and the accompanying text.

A Leyland Lion, 1927
"This is a Leyland Lion of 1927, and another from 1929. 

Both of these buses are at the Museum of Transport.**

I'm not an expert on buses but vintage transport does have an appeal. 

The bus in your picture does look like a Leyland but without a clearer view of the radiator I can't be sure. 

It is likely to be mid 1920's at the earliest. 

Leyland supplied a lot of buses with their own bodies but as has always been the case, many other coachbuilders also built bus bodies. 

I can't see any buses on the internet with that stylish curved panel so it may have been built by a small coach works. 

These buses were beautifully built and finished and often lasted a long time so dating the photo is difficult. I have had a good look on the internet and drawn a blank. I will hazard a guess though. 

Leyland Lion 1929
Motor garages quite often ran a local bus service. As this bus is posed outside a garage it could be that this is one such operator.

Ribble operated mostly red double deckers out of Lower Mosley Street Bus Station which they shared with North Western. Most routes ran to north into the Lancashire towns.”

Now despite David’s modesty I think he has pretty much solved my question.

Pictures; courtesy of David, Furness Local History Society.

*The picture which stubbornly refuses to give up its story, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the 1920s

**Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester,