Tuesday, 31 December 2013

When in Bath, visit the Roman Baths, I did and so did Mr Flower in 1902

Now in the summer when we were walking around  Roman Bath had I known that this painting by Charles Flower existed I might have tried to make an exact copy.

But I didn’t so you will just have to put up with these slightly different views.

In some respects little has changed although today you can walk the entire complex assisted by a small mobile like device which gives you a running commentary in the language of your choice.

More over you can have the serious academic report or the populist version which introduces you to the people who might have once worked or visited the temple, and the bath house.

Not that I am being sniffy, I switched between the two regularly and enjoyed both.

That said neither the young person who sent the picture card carrying Mr Flower's image in 1902 or Beatrice who sent the same card a decade and a bit later bothered to comment on the grandeur that they saw before them.

Beatrice merely wanted to remind her friend of the “choir practice tomorrow” while the note on the back  of our earlier card just commented that this was "one for the collection."

But at least they sent the image, mine has been sitting on the hard drive since August and may never have seen the light of day again had I not stumbled on Mr Flowers painting which Tuck & Son turned into a picture postcard.

It says something of the popularity of the baths at Bath that the card continued in use for over a decade.

Pictures; the Roman Baths by Charles E. Flower from the set, Bath, 1902 issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, http://tuckdb.org/ remaining pictures from the collection of Andrew Simpson

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 39 December 31

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

Now I have no idea how Joe and Mary Ann celebrated New Year.  

Their preparations for welcoming in the new and seeing out the old year will have accounted for over half of our house’s history, which leaves me with just 37 years to account for.

And that 37 years has been a varied bag of things.  Most recently it has been a matter of staying up long enough to see it in.

When the children were younger we would go for a meal, rent a few videos and toast the hour with champagne, bought by Mike.

These were also the years of the pre New Year’s do when the idea was to break the week between December 25th and 31st and fill the house with people. 

The events always seemed to work and on one occasion left me at the end of the night holding a baby while the parents got their other children together and left.  But after fifteen minutes they returned to collect the one they had left.

And now all the lads are grown up and are drawn to seeing in the end of the old year in different places which is as it should be.

And things have changed in different ways.  Once and it was not that long ago the beginning of a new year would be welcomed by the noise from the docks as the ships sounded their hooters and old Jimmy would knock the door just after the stroke of midnight.

There are also those who remember the bell in the lych-gate on the green which was rung to signal the passing of another year.

So looking back can be fraught with ghosts of things past which can be a melancholy affair and not worth pursuing.

So we shall see.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson


Monday, 30 December 2013

A history of Manchester & Salford in 20 objects, number 1, calling the emergency services

A history of Manchester & Salford in 20 objects.

It serves to remind us that not too long ago the idea of a hand held communicator was judged pure science fiction and for that matter making a telephone call still meant going out of the house and depending where you were waiting to use the phone.

So it made sense for the emergency services to provide this service.



Picture; Emergency telephone, Upper Chorlton Road, August 1960, A.H.Downes, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Sunday, 29 December 2013

HOE'S SAUCES .......... THE VERY BEST, reading the adverts in 1900

Now in time I am sure I can track down Hoe & Co Ltd, Manchester, but in the meantime I shall just leave you with the image.

Picture; Hoe’s Sauces   from the series Celebrated Postcards, marketed by Tuck & Sons, date unknown, courtesy of Tuck DB, http://tuckdb.org/ 

Friday, 27 December 2013

What has taken the place of my Eltham, number 2 a new development

As we move effortlessly to the end of the year I got thinking of the Eltham I knew and how the passage of time has pretty much changed much of my landscape.

So here over the next few days are some of the places that are not as I knew them.

Pictures; the Kings Arms, courtesy of Jean Gammons

Monday, 23 December 2013

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 38 December and beyond

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.*

Joe and Mary Ann did not have children and it would be a full sixty years before there was a Christmas in the house which centred on young people.

The first was our eldest who was born just a month and bit before the Christmas of 1984 and in the succeeding years the event has been dominated by the children.

Now all four are grown up but we still pretty much celebrate the way we have done for nearly 30 years.

The tree has to be the biggest we can find and somewhere along the way we added a second more modest one.

Everyone has their own spot in the front room where each year their stocking is placed and Christmas dinner is worked around the boys playing football on the Rec.

Usually during the late morning we have people round and in the evening the house empties as one by one the lads go off and meet up with their friends.

And some years we have the family from Italy over which always transforms the traditional Christmas into something a bit different.  And of course now we also share the event with Polly and Anna.

I have no idea what Joe and Mary Anne did.  They may also have entertained or gone visiting themselves to relatives.

Looking back those old Christmases would have been cold.  This is not a warm house and in the absence of central heating I guess must have been uncomfortable outside the rooms Mary Ann decided to have heated.

But of course anyone born before the 1970s will have lived with that simple fact that once you left the front room and before you reached the kitchen the house was very much a cold zone.

You went to sleep in a cold bedroom warmed perhaps only with a hot water bottle and as often as not woke to ice on the inside of the windows.

If you were lucky like me you lived in a house which had one of those solid fuel stoves which heated the water and was kept going day and night through the winter.

It made the kitchen a cosy and reassuring place and pretty much ensured that was where you stayed.  Ours had been knocked through and so a full forty years before such things became popular we lived in the one big room just as they had done two centuries before.

This was where you ate your meals, listened to the radio, watched as the food was prepared and played on the big kitchen table.

Joe and Mary Ann’s kitchen was smaller but it did have the range and I guess was a warm enough place during the cold months from late November through to March and April.

And like many families before them there is some evidence that they lived in the rear of the house leaving the front room as for best and special occasions.

Now I can’t be sure of this but their television aerial was at the back of the house and the cable led down into the back room.

All of which meant that the front was surrendered to a peace and quiet which has never been the case since 1984.

Of course now that they are all grown up we seem to be experiencing more and more of that quietness which Joe and Mary Ann must have known.

So perhaps the house has almost come full circle, although not quite yet.  All four will be here for Christmas and a lot of the old magic will return.

And if we are lucky it might just snow.
Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of a house, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20story%20of%20a%20house



Saturday, 21 December 2013

Christmas greetings from an RAF station in 1941

Now I have been posting historic Christmas cards for the last week or so and decided this one also needed to be included.

It come from the collection of my friend Jean, who writes, "this Christmas Card was sent to my mother by her brother in law, Sq Leader Walter Young, Christmas 1941:-

He was at RAF Pocklington, Yorkshire. Throughout WW2  Pocklington was a key station in Bomber Command's Heavy Bomber operations, which attacked vitally important targets such as Cologne, Berlin and (in 1943) Peenemunde, which halted the production of Germany's deadly V1's and V2's.


At the time when Walter sent this Christmas card, Pocklington was also the home of the Royal Canadian Air Force's famous No. 405 (Vancouver) Squadron - Walter's main task, it is said by the family, was to keep the young Canadian airmen from causing mischief and mayhem in the nearby village of Pocklington”

My mother and uncle were also in the RAF and mother was stationed in bomber county attached to one of the squadrons’ that mounted one of 1000 bomber raids on Cologne which just happened to be where both mum and uncle Roger were born.

Picture; courtesy of Jean Gammons

Friday, 20 December 2013

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 37 Christmas

The house in 1974
The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

I don’t know how Joe and Mary Ann celebrated Christmas, but they were here from 1920 till Mary Anne died in 1974 so I guess they pretty much had it sorted.

Over the year’s traditions build up and these are as much part of the event as the tree, the dinner and the presents.

When John Mike and Lois lived here from 1974 till ’79 the pattern was determined by the fact that they went home for Christmas, Lois to Weston and Mike and John to Leeds.

So the big meal was held the day before, the gifts exchanged and a sort of second event happened a few days after they came back.

Christmas 1977
Lois cooked, Mike laid the table and John provided the music.  The meal was eaten in the dining room but back then there was no central heating.

John had ripped out the fire places and bricked up the space, which left us shivering in a big room until the antiquated electric fire and the flow of alcohol began to work.

Never underestimate the ability of 20 something’s to become as silly as children.  Paper hats and crackers were required, the conversation usually bordered on the inane and we had a brilliant time.

That said once my lads began to come along Christmas entered a new phase.  Your first Christmas with a new born is different and from 1984 as the family grew so did new traditions, ones which continue even now despite all four of the lads being grown up.

It begins with the issuing of wish lists, rumbles on with the decision on what to cook on the day and becomes intense when we debate when to get the tree.

Christmas 2011
Too early and it runs the risk of losing its needles and too late and all that is left are those sad two foot specimens which have a bit missing in the middle.

They have to be so big that you end up chopping a bit off the bottom, come from a forest somewhere and have a mismatch collection of decorations which are as much about past Christmases as they are about elegant design and appearance.

Only recently did I give up on the multi coloured tree lights and went with the wishes of our Josh that they should be all one colour.

And every year we still put the Christmas angel designed by Saul somewhere near the top.

For the last few years we have bought two, the giant one for the front room and a second smaller one for the dining room.

Now this I know is sheer indulgence but we are always well looked after by Adams in the precinct who has provided us with trees since 1984.

And the choosing of the tree is as much a part of the tradition as the rest of what we do.  I have and still am accompanied by as many of the family who are round on the day, we stand earnestly looking at the selection debating the merits of each and finally strike the deal with Tony.

Christmas 2011
The rest of it unfolds as you would expect.  Ben at 29 still gets a Beano annual and Luca some Kinder egss in his stocking.

And the stockings of all four must always been in the same spot each year.

And because I grew up in the 50s and that pretty much has frozen in time the Christmas I like, we bring out the Monopoly board, insist that everyone tries a selection of the festive nuts, and gather to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

That said there will be the addition of those nice things to eat that Tina grew up with at home in Italy, at least three phone calls to Varese during the day and a visit from Ron and Carol.

All that and the Christmas football match which the boys and their friends play for half an hour on the Rec sometime after the presents and before the big meal.

It is a tradition which they have played for as long as I can remember, and over the years the event has pulled in friends, and anyone who is around the house on the day.

Dan Dare from Eagle Annual nu Six, Christmas 1956
I doubt that it is the Christmas that Joe and Mary Ann would recognise but it is now one that in some form or other has settled on the house for nearly 40 years, which allows me to think it is as much part of the history of the place as any other.

Pictures; from the collections of Andrew Simpson and Lois Sparshot

*The story of a house, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20story%20of%20a%20house

On Oldham Road in 1916 looking for secrets

I like the way that photographs can reveal their history and in the process the little stories which often just get lost or forgotten.

So today I am on the corner of Oldham Road and Thompson Street running along towards Bennett Street in the summer of 1916.

Now I say that with some confidence because the photographer recorded the date of July 1st 1916 on the picture and also because of the large advert for the John Bull magazine which is partly obscured by the cart.

John Bull was a fiercely patriotic and populist journal which during the Great War poured out its bile on the Kaiser, and ran a particularly nasty campaign calling for naturalised Germans to wear a distinctive badge.

And like all such publications it was quick to roll out conspiracies as explanations for events. So when Lord Kitchener the Secretary of State for War, drowned after his ship hit a German mine on route to Russia in June 1916 John Bull led with the Kitchener Plot Unmasked.

Now out of interest and in the absence of the particular edition I briefly trawled for stories of the plot and then as now found the usual rag bag of speculation, convoluted logic and the inevitable mix of anti-Semitism and claims of establishment cover up.

Nothing new then. After all there are those who still believe the Jewish plan for global domination, bought into the idea that all human advance was at the courtesy of aliens and that there must be more to two men landing on the moon, or a terrible car accident in a Paris road tunnel. *

All of which has taken us away from Oldham Road in 1916.

I am intrigued by the residents in these rather ramshackle set of properties. A few years earlier they had been the home and business premise of the butcher George Spurr who lived on the corner and to Mrs Mary Harrey confectioner and Frederick Proctor, veterinary surgeon.

The presence of a veterinary surgeon is a reminder of the large number of animals that would have shared the city and in particular horses which were in 1916 still an important part of the transport network.

Mrs Harrey and Mr Proctor can both be tracked across the city but at present George Spurr has left no trace but that usually means I need to look more closely.

 Back in 1901 there was a Thomas Spurr, master butcher at the address. And this presents a mystery. For the properties were occupied in April 1901, and continued to be so until the beginning of 1911, but none are recorded on the census of 1911 in the April.

All of which can I suspect only be solved by a closer look at the directories for the years after 1911 and the rate books which should show who lived there and in the case of the small cottages running down the side of Thompson street just how much rent was being asked for these one up one down jewels in the property portfolio of some landlord.

But the buildings are no more. Exactly when they went is still unclear. By 1961 the whole stretch from Thompson Street to Bennett Street was a garage and petrol station, which in turn has been replaced by in industrial unit selling locks.

And nor is that all. Bennett Street has been renamed Bendix Street and the close packed mix of houses, shops workshops and schools have all gone. 

In their place there are a few undistinguished buildings and of course lots of car parks.

Now car parks are sometimes the result of slum clearance and just occasionally a lingering reminder of the damage to our cities during the last war.

 Just a little to the north of our row of properties was the Oldham Street Goods Station and further south the commercial centre of the city while in between there were all sorts of chemical works, timber yards, cotton mills and the canal as well as a small power station and engineering works.

But the bomb maps** show that our little row survived, despite heavy damage to surrounding streets and the loss of half of the Oldham Street Goods Station.

So in the meantime having led you down a crooked path I have to admit that there are some secrets which photographs can’t reveal. Sadly this includes the identity of the two young girls standing on the corner on what judging by the puddles had been a wet July day.


 *The Protocols of the Elders of Zion published in 1903 described a Jewish plan for global domination and is widely regarded as a piece of misinformation possibly written by a member of the Russian secret service.

Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past written by Erich von Däniken argued that the technologies and religions of many ancient civilizations were given to them by ancient astronauts who were welcomed as gods.

 The moon landings and the death of Princess Diana remain fertile grounds for anyone with a powerful imagination and a willingness to construct elaborate theories purely on the basis that a simple explanation is too obvious.

**http://enriqueta.man.ac.uk/luna/servlet/detail/maps2~1~1~342609~123257:Manchester-bomb-damage?sort=Reference_Number%2CPage%2CCurrent_Repository

 Pictures; numbers 63-61 Oldham Road on the corner with Thompson Street, July 1916, J Jackson, m36556, and the same spot in 1961, T Brooks, m36675, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

The story of British Home Children in just 20 objects nu 8 .......... signing off a British Home Child

A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, have been selected purely at random and will reflect one of many different stories.

Anyone who wants to nominate their own is free to do so, just add a description in no more than 200 words and send it to me.


This is one of the signing off documents employed by the Middlemore charity which had been engaged by the Derby Union to transport my great uncle to Canada in 1914.

In his case he signed himself out of their trust by running away from his placement on the farm of S.V. Griffiths and enlisting in the C.E.F. and serving his adopted country in the Great War.

Picture; from the records of the Middlemore charity, in the  collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 19 December 2013

A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects nu 7 .......... a farmhouse and the home of a British Home Child

A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, have been selected purely at random and will reflect one of many different stories.

Anyone who wants to nominate their own is free to do so, just add a description in no more than 200 words and send it to me.

This is a photograph of Saye V. Griffith’s farmhouse in Sunbury County, N.B.  It is also where my great uncle spent a few unhappy months as a farm hand, before being sent back to the Middlemore Home at Fairview Station, Halifax, N.S.

Such unhappy experiences were common enough although it has to be said that he met great kindness and understanding from his second placement with Mrs Moffat at her farm in Cape Breton, N.S.  Not that this stay proved anymore successful.

Many of the farms were remote, and the work totally different from what a lot of the children had known in Britain.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson, courtesy of Angela Flaubert, 2010

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Looking down Market Street to St Mary's Gate sometime around 1906


I have to say it is not the best picture in the collection from the point of view of either its sharpness or overall quality but it is still a superb image of Market Street looking down towards St Mary’s Gate.

It compliments an earlier postcard of Market Street which appeared a few weeks ago and was sent sometime around 1906 but I think this image is much older.

We are at the point where Market Street is joined by High Street on our right.  Today the tram lines again swing round from High Street on to Market Street but all the buildings down on the right had side have long gone replaced by the Arndale.  Those on the left are a little more familiar but that is about it.

There are still plenty of horse drawn vehicles and enough wall mounted clocks to remind us that not everyone would have a watch.

But in one way it is just like today with the crowding surging back and forth along Market Street, only today they extend out onto what until recently was the preserve of traffic.

Picture; from the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop

Sending a wartime Chrsitmas card

Buying Christmas cards is a very personal thing.

I always get mine from Oxfam and then try to do that juggling act of picking ones I think people will like but which don’t cost an arm and a leg.

And because I like to get them I do have to send a lot out.

That said there will always be a few which don’t get to a post box and a couple which are too late to be dropped off by hand.   If I have done the sums that just leaves the odd four or five which are surplus but some how never survive to be used the following year.

This is usually because I forget where I have put them.

Now over the years the fashion in cards has changed a fair bit that said the classic winter scene seems always to be the one that is most popular with our friends.

All of which made me reflect on the style of cards sent during the two world wars.  These ranged from the traditional to the sentimental and the patriotic.

So here are a selection of cards sent between 1914 and 45.

The first and last come from the collection of Tuck and Sons, and the one in the middle was sent by one of my uncles to my dad in the December of 1918.






Pictures; Horray for the King, 1914 and I’m dreaming of a white Christmas 1942, from Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, http://tuckdb.org/ and With Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Victorious New Year, December 1918, from the collection of Andrew Simpson 


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Back on Market Street sometime before 1908


I am back on Market Street sometime on a summer’s day in 1908.

I was last here a few days ago and have been drawn back to the detail in this postcard.

Today this side of the road on the way up from High Street to Piccadilly is dominated by the big white slab which is Debenhams and was once Pauldens.

But back then contained fifteen different businesses, ranging from the London City and Midland Bank, the Angel Hotel, H Samuel watchmaker, a tobacconists, a tourist agency and my own favourite Finningans Ltd, portmanteau manufactures.

Finningans' operated from numbers 113 & 115 Market Street and it is their shop front which can be made out in the detail of the picture.

 But no blog post would be complete without a tram and so here is tram car number 486 bound for Belle Vue about to enter Piccadilly accompanied by a hand cart on one side and surrounded by horse drawn cabs.

All of which reminds us that the horse was as much a part of our streets as the car is today.

There would have been horse drawn cabs, as well as carts and wagons.  All the main railway companies maintained stables near their warehouses and there were still blacksmiths listed in the city street directories.



Pictures; from a postcard of Market Street in the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop

Our card was sent not from Manchester but from Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire and it was part of the Milton Series produced by Woolstone Brothers of London  and was a  hand coloured card which may have actually been produced in Saxony


Monday, 16 December 2013

On Cross Street just before the Great War


It never ceases to amaze me just how busy Manchester streets were in the opening years of the last century.

As someone who is often on this stretch of Cross Street I can’t ever remember it being so full of people.

Of course given the angle of the sun it might have been coming up to midday in which case I guess the street would have been full of people heading for lunch.

Now I well remember the Manchester Guardian building which is now Boots the Chemist and extends north into the Arndale.  The columns on the left of the picture were part of the Royal Ecxhange which were demolished I think  in 1923.

Picture; from the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop

Tales of Eltham ........ the competition

Now I was tempted to take part in the Tales of Eltham story competition, but as I live 230 miles away and left Eltham in 1973 I rather think it would be a bit naughty.

So instead I shall just feature the event quoting directly from Eltham Arts.*

Short Story Competition

After the success of the Eltham poetry competition, Eltham Arts is now organising "Tales of Eltham" - a short story competition.

Entries of up to 300 words are being invited from adults and children on the theme of an Eltham Experience. 

There are leaflets in the town centre and you can read about it here. This competition is FREE to enter - join in again and be part of the great celebratory event. This will be held at the Eltham Centre as part of World Book Night on 23rd April 2014

There will be winners and special awards, and many of the short stories will be displayed in an exhibition. 

The poetry competition was very popular and on display at five locations. It is hoped that we can again publish an Eltham book and there is discussion about some short stories being developed into plays... 

Entries have to be in by 21st February 2014, but get writing now.

And I if I didn’t live so far away I might just feel that the tale of me, an outsized smoked glass plate and a scratched record of I’ll Try Anything by Dusty Springfield which I lost in the King’s Arms sometime on Christmas Eve 1968 might just be worth the retelling, although I doubt that my girlfriend of the time or Maurice who had been at the bus stop an hour before would share either the funny side of the event or have been over bothered at the mystery that followed.

Such are the unwritten experiences of an Eltham lad far from home.

Picture, The Tudor Barn, 2013 from the collection of Scott McDonald

* Eltham Arts, http://www.elthamarts.org/

More Victorian Christmas Cards


From the collection of Tony Walker

Sunday, 15 December 2013

On Hardy Lane in the snow, a long time ago

We are on Hardy Lane sometime I think in the 1960s.

The caption just records, “Hardy lane in the snow.”

Picture; courtesy of Mr Crossley from the Lloyd collection

On Market Street on a summer day sometime before 1908


Judging by this postcard from 1908 nothing much has changed on Market Street.

Then as now it was a busy and bustling place which was compounded back then by the presence of traffic which pushed the crowds to the sides.

And it is the sheer detail that fascinates me.  Lewis’s still retains its individual shop fronts and each window is cluttered with advertisements and price notices.  It is the old “pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap approach but Lewis’s still had style and so hanging in front of the shop are a series of elegant light globes, which in the late afternoon of a winter’s day must have added to the magic of shopping there.

But this looks to be a warm summers’ morning heading towards lunch time with some of the crowd in shirt sleeves and at least one couple protected by a parasol.

As you would expect there are plenty of horse drawn vehicles and my attention is drawn to the horse drawn carriage at the bottom of the photograph loaded with a large trunk and basket.  Something has caught the driver’s interest but whatever it is has been blotted out by the superimposed coat of arms of the City.

Which is a shame really but whatever it was seems not to have bothered anyone else, they all continue on their way with just a few attracted by the shops.

So just another day on Market Street then.

Picture; from the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Of trams and horses and handcarts on a May day on Mosley Street in 1914


It is May 1914, and of course what we know is that within just four months many of the people in our picture will be drawn into the Great War.

We are on Mosley Street just by the junction with Princess Street and off to our left is the Town Hall while ahead on the right is the City Art Gallery.

Back in the early 19th century it was a fashionable residential area, and here could be found the homes of Hugh Birley, Nathan Meyer Rothschild and Samuel Brooks who in 1836 bought Jackson Moss and developed it into the equally fashionable and comfortable estate of Whaley Range.

Which is quite fitting really given that tram 852 is heading south to Alexandra Park.

Like many of the pictures in the collection there is much to see. To the right of the tram is a man with a hand cart which was still one of the most common sights in the city. And beside him is the tram conductor who stares back at the camera, which begs the question of whether the tram is stationary, given the nonchalant way the conductor is leaning against the lamp post.

Not that many people are bothered to look.  By 1914 cameras and photographers were common enough for them to be taken for granted.  Only the workman with the hammer takes the time out to join the tram conductor.  Everyone else on that May morning is too preoccupied to even give a glance.

But  there is more.  To the right a little down Portland Street are horses which reminds us that on the eve of the Great War there were still plenty of them around.

And dominating the scene is the City Art Gallery looking very much as it does today.

Picture; from the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop

Friday, 13 December 2013

Oxford Street 1910


This is one of those pictures which continues to draw me in and offers so many little surprises which on the way says much about the period it was taken.

We are on Oxford Street sometime in the first decade of the last century.  The postcard was sent in the summer of 1911 but the photograph will be older.

And it is instantly recognizable as the point where Oxford Street crosses Whitworth Street and Whitworth Street West.  To our right is the Palace Theatre and beyond the Refuge building.

But you will have to be a certain age to remember the buildings on the right.  They were still there in 1969 when I first came to Manchester and were much the worse for wear and did not survive into the new century.

I wish I could remember the name of the cafe close to the junction with Whitworth Street West.  I think it was the Continental whose 60s’ decor was beginning to look a little tired but the other premises have faded from my memory.

Back in 1911 and starting from the canal bridge and working down to Whitworth Street West was the Oxford Road Hotel and South Junction Inn, a tobacconists, a confectioner and the cocoa rooms of Lockhart Brothers Ltd, Dingley’s Ltd fruiterers and the side entrance of St Mary’s Hospital for Women and Children.

This was a time when many things as well as people still got round by horse, so on either side of the trams were two heavy waggons which look like they are full of coal, while heading up the road is light cart and down underneath the railway bridge are more horse drawn vehicles.

All of which begs the question of what the two unaccompanied horses outside the theatre are doing.  They are connected by leather straps but appear to be walking on their own.

But they are framed by that wonderful glass and iron canopy which add another level of elegance to the Palace.

And the more I study the theatres and later the cinemas of the period the more I wish these canopies have survived.

Once many of our theatres and picture houses had them and I have often wondered if they were painted black or brightly coloured.

In the same way I would love to know more about the tiled surrounds to the shops which included the Oxford Road Hotel and South Junction Inn.

I guess they have been similar to the frontage on the Sawyers Arms on Deansgate.

What I guess we will never know is what has caught the attention of the group of men who are staring to the left and just above the camera.

It is just one of those things which the picture will never reveal.

Pictures; from the postcard of Oxford Street in the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop. 

A story of that iconic bit of Chorlton from 1993

It is just twenty years since our lychgate was last restored and I missed the anniversary back in April so here courtesy of Andrew Robertson and his collection of newspaper clippings is the story.

It always surprises people that the gate only dates back to the old Queen’s Jubilee but that said it has acted as a local land marks since 1887, and according to popular memory contained a bell which was rung to mark the end of the old year and the coming of the new.

That said you can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.  The parish church closed in 1940 due to frost damage not 1930 and was demolished in 1949, while the gate was erected in 1887 not ten years later.

Still it is a nice piece of history and underlines the need to carefully collect those old newspaper accounts.

And in the next few weeks I shall be returning to this iconic image of Chorlton with some more stories, a new painting and tales of parish jealousies and disputes.

Picture; courtesy of Andrew Robertson, South Manchester Reporter, April 1993

Who do I ask? .............. Lost family stories

I will never know who this man is, or when he posed for this picture on a building site in Derby or for that matter any of the other men in the remaining two pictures.

They were found in a collection of old photographs that we inherited long after my grandparents and parents had all died.

None of them were very promising, for all three were negatives and have rested in an old torn envelope for eighty years.  The original prints have long since been lost and at first glance these did not offer up much.

For a start they were not the usual small size negatives so would not fit into one of those commercial machines you can buy to reproduce a print and they seemed pretty faded.

But ever the optimist I put them through the home scanner and this is what we got.  Despite their age they have a quality and detail which is remarkable.

That said I did manage to reverse one image, so that on close inspection the lettering on the shop front is back to back.  Given time I shall correct the mistake but for now this is what you have got.

Now I think we must be dealing with my grandfather who pretty much lived his entire life in Derby.

He had been born in Birmingham in 1899, lived in Kent around the turn of the last century and was in Derby from 1902, when his mother gave birth to his sister in the Derby Workhouse.

The next thirteen years of his life were spent in various care homes including a year in a naval boot camp before like so many young men he was swept up by the Great War.

He enlisted in 1916 and stayed in the army until 1922.  By which time he had met and married my grandmother who was German and they had two young children.

So much of his early life and their married lives in Derby remains a mystery.  Indeed I doubt that he had much of an idea about the first five or so years of his life.  For whatever reason my great grandparents parted company in 1902 and I doubt he had much more than a vague memory of his father.

This may account for why on his marriage certificate he gave his place of birth as the Transvaal in South Africa which was where my great grandfather had served in the early 1890s or just possibly was motivated by a desire to seem a little more romantic to his young German bride and the assembled family and civic authorities.

And that air of mystery continued through the next twenty years in Derby.  I can only guess at how difficult grandmother found the journey alone with two small children from Germany to Derby for her husband had been transported separately to the UK and demobbed in Belfast.

The early years of their marriage were difficult, she encountered some anti German hostility and he found it difficult to find regular work.

Which brings me back to the pictures.

I think I can indentify one of the men as grandfather standing at the back of the group in the last picture, but of the man on the building site, and sitting alone on the upturned barrel I am less sure.

Of course there will be those who question does it matter?

Well to me it does, but even if that is put aside there is that more general point that so many family pictures are lost to us because no one bothered to provide a name of a date.

Those long lost relatives and friends of family stare back at us with no means of knowing who they were or their significance in the story of who we are.

That said these are a little snapshot of how we worked eighty or so years ago and are also a reminder of just how much chance plays in the survival of family memorabilia.   The original prints have long since vanished but the negatives not much cared for at the time were just put to one side and lasted the course.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 12 December 2013

All you ever wanted to know about Chorlton & Christmas but never knew who to ask, .............. again

Christmas on the meadows 
Just a reminder that the talk we are doing tonight may be fully booked but we are back at the Post Box Cafe, tomorrow night on Friday December 13th to do it all over again.

We will start with Christmas but in an effort to make sure the big day is not compromised before it happens; we are looking forward to some of the other festivals and holidays that you could have enjoyed as the year played out sometime in the 19th century.

Nor is that all because I have asked my old friend Mike Billington to come along and sing some traditional songs associated with the different seasons.

So there you have it, some Christmas stories and songs along with a little bit more featuring everything from Easter, Pace Egging, bull and badger baiting, and Harvest time, it’s just got the lot.

Tickets include the usual excellent pre talk dinner at 6 pm followed by the talk at 7.30.

Picture; of Chorlton meadows from the collection of Rita Bishop and poster courtesy of the Post Box Cafe, www.thepostboxchorlton.co.uk

* All you ever wanted to know about Chorlton & Christmas but never knew who to ask and a little bit more, Post Box Cafe, 7.30,  881 4853, www.thepostboxchorlton.co.uk