Monday, 27 May 2013

A mystery and a lonely place ........ the pond that was Sally's Hole

Few places in the township have attracted a mix of fascination and fear as Sally’s Hole.

 Throughout the early 19th century parents frightened their children with the story of Sally who had drowned in the pond.

 It was situated along the old road and the place even now has something sinister about it.*

I last walked past it in the winter of 2009. In the distance rooks swooped back and forth, around their nest. Nothing quite prepares you for one of these. High up in the bare branches they seem as natural as part of the tree as the branches themselves. But it was Sally’s Hole that we had come to see.

Today it is easy to miss, having been filled in at the end of the 1960s. It is just a hollow depression surrounded by trees just at the start of the lane. And yet arrive at a certain point in the day, perhaps in the later afternoon in February with the light fading fast and it becomes quite eerie.

The popular myth is that Sally drowned there and there is no escaping the sense that all is not quite right. Logically this has more to do with the trees which crowd in obscuring even more the limited light and the fact that there is no one else about. The stillness is overpowering and perhaps for a minute you are prepared to believe anything and everything about this dark overgrown and forgotten place.

But history and the knowledge of the area is a strong weapon in banishing anxiety. Until quite recently the pond was in open land with no trees to overwhelm the place and it was just one of a number of ponds across Turn Moss fed by small streams running from the old Rough Leech Gutter and the Longford Brook.

And here is the perfect explanation for the longevity of the story. For just like today with parental warnings of stranger danger ponds were places that had to be avoided.

And as if to underline this hazard I came across a series of newspaper stories of children who drowned in the much deeper stretches of water created near the old brick works in what was the Isles and now is the area around Longford and Oswald Roads.*

*Manchester Guardian 1920s

Picture; Sally’s Field copied from a 1945 photograph by J Montgomery in 1958, m80104 Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council.


*Just after the start off Hawthorne Lane, beyond Ivy Green on your right. A slight depression surrounded by tress. 

Yesterday's walk in New Chorlton sometime at the end of the 19th century


Looking across Manchester Road towards the station, 1880 Aaron Booth
Now I have been writing about walks I would have liked to have taken in the Chorlton of the past, and so today I want to restage just such a walk.

At the start of Chorlton Arts Festival we walked down Beech Road in an effort to recreate a little of the township in 1847

And as the Festival drew to a close we staged a second walk exploring how  Chorlton had changed in just fifty or so years.

It was  a gentle stroll down past the Library and on via Longford and Oswald Road to the Lloyds. the sun shone and lots of people turned up.
Looking across the Isles, 1880, Aaron Booth

In the course of which we will take in Kemp’s Corner, Sedge Lynn, the Temperance Hall and Redgate Farm as well as the Carnegie Library an ice rink, brick works and our own Public Hall.

This was once Martledge but the housing boom of the last two decades of the 19th century all but obliterated its rural character and as if to mark it off from what it had once been it became commonly called New Chorlton. It was a name which was still used as late as the 1970s.

Redgates Farm, 1900, now the site of the Library
This is part of the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON, contribution to Chorlton Arts Festival.

Chorlton-cum-Hardy past, present and touch of tassology is collaboration between me and local artist Peter Topping with photographs and stories of the past and paintings of the present and a hint of the future.

Now given that most attempts at predicting the future are usually wrong and that the best we can ever hope to do is guess the outcomes using the present as a template, Peter decided we might as well fall back on tassology which is the art of divination using tea leaves.

It is an old practice which some sources have traced back to medieval European fortune tellers who developed their readings from splatters of wax, lead, and other molten substances and evolved into tea-leaf reading in the seventeenth century.

And coincided with the introduction of tea by Dutch merchants in to Europe.  Not to be outdone my source also suggests that in the Middle East the practice is carried out using left-over coffee grounds.

This may work for Peter, but as a crusty old historian I rely on the past and present to suggest the things to come but tassology does have the added benefit that you get to drink a cup of tea.

The Lloyds Hotel, 2013, © Peter Topping
And as we finish at the Lloyds you can always go into the pub which is participating in our  tassology bit of fun, as are also The Post Office Cafe and the Horse and Jockey and look through the tea leaves.

Moreover at all three along with another nine venues you can read excerpts from our History Trail.*

Pictures; from the photographs of Aaron Booth are in the Lloyd Collection, Redgate Farm by courtesy of Carolyn Willitts and Glad to be in Chorlton poster and pianting of the Lloyds  ©Peter Topping

* The History Trail can be viewed at The Horse & Jockey, Franny & Filer, St Clements’s Church, The Lloyd's, The Library (occasions), Fosters Cycles, Unicorn, The Bar, Chorlton Eatery, Morrisons, Chorlton High School, The Post Box Cafe

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Walking Southern Cemetery today and uncovering an Armenian grave, the last resting place of a famous footballer and much more



Tony in full flow
Anyone who went on Tony O'Mahony’s walk around Southern Cemetery last year will remember the rain, the site of the pauper’s graves,  some interesting  stories and a fascinating insight into the plant and wildlife of the place.

So I was looking forward to his talk today and it fulfilled all my expectations.

The sun shone and along with some interesting nature there was plenty of old fashioned history. including four graves which Tony had selected for special attention.

The grave of Satinik Kouyoumjian


These included the  majestic tombstone of  Satinik Kouyoumjian of Manchester's  Armenian community, that of Lt Cyril Bayley who was featured in a Chorlton History Group talk last year and the footballer Alex Bell.

There were of course plenty that we came across along the way from politicians, and businessmen to the great and the good as well as those who were loving parents adored children or remembered relatives.

All of which were a prelude to Tony's mystery personality which turned out to be  Wilfred Pickles, ............ pause for many to ask who?

To which I could say you should have been with us to find out or just wait till I get round to writing about him.

And write about him I will partly because I grew up listening to him on the wireless with that catch phrase of "put it on the table Mabel" and partly because there is a mystery here which none of us on this sunny day could answer.

Looking towards the West Chapel
Wilfred Pickles was born in Harrogate and never lost his Yorkshire accent and  he lived in the south, but was buried here.  It may be that this was a family grave because his wife, parents in law and son were all buried in the same plot.  Or there may be a connection with High Lane.

All of which is a story to tell for another time and just leaves me to thank Tony




Listening intently

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Friday, 24 May 2013

A house in Chorlton and a subject of the Ottoman Empire


Three women from Damascus in traditional dress, 1873
Now as stories go it is a short one and as yet has no ending but it says something of what Chorlton was like at the beginning of the 20th century. 

It began with a request to find out what I could about a house and very quickly became a fascinating piece of research which linked the township with Damascus.

The house was one of those big semi detached properties which was built sometime between 1893 and 1901.  It was surrounded by gardens on three sides and had ten rooms spread over three floors with cellars.

On the ground floor there were four large rooms and the kitchen, while on the first floor there were four large bedrooms, a dressing room and bathroom and three more double bedrooms on the second floor.

This was a tall solid property of the sort much sought after by the wealthy business and professional classes.

Chorlton was still on the edge of much open countryside and yet the train from the station could whisk commuters into the heart of the city in just over ten minutes and within a few years of our house being built the Corporation extended the tram service along Barlow Moor Road and by 1913 this had been joined by another route that ran down Wilbraham Road and onto Withington.

Chorlton-c-h 34, from the 1901 telephone directory
Like most of these houses it had its own name carved onto the stone gate post.  Such names are a common enough feature in the township but Damascus House was a little out of the ordinary and was interestingly different to warrant a bit of search which led me to Abdallah Kabbaz who was there with his wife and two siblings from 1901 to sometime around 1911.

Mr Kabbaz had been born in Damascus in Syria and on the census return added that he was “a subject of the Ottoman Empire.”

Woman from Damascus 1873
At one time the Ottoman Empire had been a major power controlling much of southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.  It was a multinational, multilingual empire but one which by the 19th century was in decline.

During the 18th century it was challenged by Russia and through the following century by the emerging nationalism in various parts of its territories.

Mr Abbaz had been born in 1866, just over a decade after Britain and France had fought the Crimean War in an effort to halt Russian expansion into the Ottoman Empire.

Even before that war the Greeks had won their independence from the empire and during the 1860s and 70s parts of the Balkans moved towards semi independence.

So by the time he had arrived here the empire was struggling but it still controlled 28 million people, of whom 15.5 million were in modern-day Turkey, 4.5 million in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan, and 2.5 million in Iraq. Another 5.5 million people were under nominal Ottoman rule in the Arabian peninsula.*

Now I don’t know yet when he arrived but by the April of 1901 he was settled in Damascus House and had installed a telephone.  Now this was not as unusual as you might think and a quick glance down the telephone directory and on either side of Mr Kabbaz were several others listed with phones.

It may have been connected with his business which he described as “Agent, Shipping Goods employer” and he and his brother had offices at 21 Cooper Street in Manchester.
Cooper Street once stretched from Peter Street up to Booth Street, but the southern end disappeared under Central Ref and the Town Hall extension and number 21 which was on the northern stretch has long vanished.

A Kabbaz, shipping merchants, 1911
Nor were the Kabbaz family the only residents from the Empire just a little further away on High Lane was Mr Mouradian who had been born in Constantinople and was also in engaged in shipping, while just a few doors down from Damascus House lived Krikor Topalian also in shipping and also from Turkey.

Woman  1873
Now there is nothing particularly unusual about all of this but I wonder how much of this would have been revealed if the name of the house had not survived on the gate post.

But there is much more that has yet to be revealed.  The Kabbaz family had moved by 1911 and so far there is no trace.  The house was occupied by a Mark E. Houldsworth in 1911, but he has proved a little elusive and in the census of that year this fine ten roomed house has but two servants listed in the property.

So Damascus House has much yet to tell us.

Pictures; Kabbaz Brothers, 21 Cooper Street, from Manchester, Salford and Suburban Directory, 1911, Part two, page 487, The National Telephone Company, 1901, three women from Damascus, by Pascal Sebah, 1873





*Ottoman Empire, Wikipedia Common https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_Empire#Dissolution_.281908.E2.80.931922.29

**Taken from a collection of photographs by the famous photographer Pascal Sebah on the occasion of the universal exposition in Vienna in 1873. The album represents the costumes of the different regions, and ethnic and religious groups of the Ottoman Empire.

On the right: a peasant from the Damascus region.

Center: a Druze of Damascus wearing the Tantur, a cone shaped silver base that is usually covered with a veil.

The Tantur was helpful in exaggerating a woman's height.

On the Left: a woman  from Damascus wearing the qabqab, a wooden sandal with mother of pearl engraving used around the house and in the Turkish bath.” Ottoman Empire, Wikipedia,

On the 10.30 from Chorlton to Didsbury with tram stops at Withington and all points south


Waiting at East Didsbury
As historic journeys go I don’t suppose it ranks with the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 which inaugurated the first passenger railway in the world but the short tram trip from Chorlton to East Didsbury was quite something.

It was the first time in forty six years that the route had been travelled by passengers in receipt of a ticket and brought me closer to a little bit of our transport history.

The railway line was opened in 1880 and ran for 87 years until it was closed to passenger traffic in 1967.
And yesterday it was possible to travel again from Chorlton to Didsbury and beyond.

Of course the new service is a tram not a train and none of the Metro stops match exactly the sites of the old railway stations.

But there is something about doing the route again after forty six years and judging by the people on the tram I wasn’t alone in wanting to experience the journey.

More than half had come with cameras and busied themselves recording the trip while others spoke in hushed but excited tones of steam trains and the merits of one route over another.  And this was mid morning long after the press and important people had travelled the route and officially declared it open.

South from Central Station in 1947 from Mile By Mile
Now for me it was about recreating a little bit of that transport history but for most people it will just be a quick and straightforward way of getting into town and that is just as it should be.  After all back in 1880 people took the train for exactly the same reason.

The  trip from Chorlton into the heart of the city took just over ten minutes and like the tram it was a frequent service.

This I know because I have read my copy of Mile By Mile, "a detailed account of every mile of the journey” written in 1947 and recently reissued.*

But was something I forger to tell Phil and Janet who I have known for years and who like me were "off on a jolly" from Burton Road to Didsbury.

Both were full of what the route promised for nights in Chorlton along with visits to Jazz sessions in Didsbury.  Such is the tram.

Pictures; tram at East Didsbury from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and the train route from Central Station south towards London from MILE BY MILE ON BRITAIN’S RAILWAYS, S.N.PIKE, published by Aurum Press Ltd, and original Mile by Mile on the L.M.S. 1947

*Mile By Mile, travelling our railways in 1947 http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/mile-by-mile-traveling-our-railways-in.html

Thursday, 23 May 2013

At Chorlton Metro waiting to recreate a journey last done 44 years ago

Painting of tram leaving Chorlton for St Werburghs and south on to Didsbury,
          © Peter Topping 2013 

I shall be on one of the first trams from Chorlton to Didsbury today which I know marks me out as a little eccentric because it will be part of my continuing obsession with riding the lost railway lines of south Manchester.

Now the route from Chorlton to Didsbury was opened in 1880 and was part of the line that took you from Central Station, south to Buxton and on to Derby, Sheffield and London.  By 1900 over 200,000 tickets were sold from the station and a decade later Didsbury was served by 38 trains running south and 40 running north with a frequency of every ten minutes in  peak time.

Locomotive-45602 and train at Didsbury, 1954
So to travel along the line again will be like recreating a bit of our lost past.

But history rarely repeats itself in exactly the same way so while I can journey along the line I will not be able to alight at the old Didsbury Station which was opened on January 1st 1880 and closed on January 2nd 1967.

Instead the new metro station is a little to the east of the old station.

And if I wish I can travel on to East Didsbury or return stop by stop to Chorlton.  This will take me past the West Didsbury metro point which is close to the old Withington and West Didsbury station which was on the north east side of Lapwing Lane.

Didsbury Station, 1951
Originally it was called "Withington", then from 1884 "Withington and Albert Park", receiving its final name in 1915. All that remains is a boundary wall, by a block of flats Brankgate Court which were built on the site.

From there the tram will run through the new metro stops at Burton Road, and Withington before St Werburghs and Chorlton.

And at this point I sense that very soon the story will become a travelogue for the lost age of steam or an advert for Metro so time to close.  But for those who want to read more about the closed stations of south Manchester I recommend http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/

Pictures; painting of tram leaving Chorlton for St Werburghs and south  to Didsbury,© Peter Topping 2013 www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk and Didsbury Railway Station in 1951, m63442 and Locomotive-45602 and train heading north to Manchester in 1954, m63444, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

David Vaughan


Roman soldiers on Beaufort Street by David Vaughan
I have always been fascinated by the artist David Vaughan, not least because he painted a mural on the side of the butcher’s shop on Whiteacre Road in Ashton.*

It was of the Queen and was done for the Jubilee in 1977 and as I lived in the next street I passed it most days.

Later still I came across another of his paintings on Beaufort Street in Castlefield.

It was behind the reconstructed Roman fort and once showed a unit of the Roman army marching across the wall of the railway viaduct.

Sadly both have now gone, although the Roman soldiers did last into this century but by then  the bright colours had begun to fade and the paint peel. So I was not over surprised when last week I discovered that it had been painted over.

That said much of his work can still be seen at http://www.davidvaughanart.com/

And this morning Radio 4 presented David Vaughan:The Artist Who Fell From Grace which “looked back at his life and times with the aid of newly discovered interviews" and the memories of the people who knew him.**

Picture;   Beaufort Street in Castlefield from David Vaughan

* http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-murals-of-david-vaughan.html

** http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01sjjxx

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Walking in the north of the township through Martledge in the summer of 1847 part 2

Martledge in 1847
Continuing our walk along Barlow Moor Lane, north through Martledge, a  journey which will take in some great houses, a shop, farms and a pub as well as cottages of wattle and daub and brick

Yesterday we passed Clough Farm and Oak Bank and have crossed the Rough Leech Gutter.

At this point the modern traveller will cross the junction of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Roads.

Officially this point is known as Chorlton Cross, a name bestowed by the city planners and not one which is widely used.  Place names tend to grow out of people’s experiences and survive long after the reason for the name has been forgotten.  So it is with this junction.  For perhaps three generations it was known as Kemp’s Corner, taking its name from Kemps the Chemist.

Harry Kemp was a local politician and his chemist stood on the west corner of Barlow Moor Road where it joins Wilbraham Road from the beginning of the twentieth century.  The clock above the chemist made it a local landmark and as such was a recognised meeting point.  Today the same spot is often referred to as the four banks, which given the fact that there is one on each corner makes sense.

Renshaws Buildings
Had we rested at this point in 1847, with the Rough Leech Gutter at our back we would have uninterrupted views of open fields to both east and west.

Ahead of us there was a sprawl of properties including farm houses cottages and a pub and ending at Red GatesFarm where the library now stands.

Dominating this stretch was the tall block of Renshaw’s Buildings.

These were built by John Renshaw some time before 1832 and like Grantham’s and Brownhill’s Buildings they were an exercise in speculative building.

But unlike the other two it was designed with an impressive gable end which fronted Barlow Moor Lane and was taller than the surrounding properties.

It ran at right angles to the road and access for most of the individual properties was by way of a path.  The building was demolished in the 1920s to make way for the new Royal Oak which still stands on the site. But the path is still there on the eastern side of pub, and it retains the stone pavement and road sets.

Maps show that there were twelve single units which suggest they may have been built as one up one down properties and this seems to be confirmed by the large numbers of families who lived there in the mid century.

The Royal Oak
Beyond Renshaw’s on what is now a double fronted set of shops stood the old Royal Oak.

It was a detached, two storied building and it had a commanding position.  Not only was it on the route to and from the city but it was the only pub here about.

To the north was Red Gates Farm and surrounding the pub were a cluster of cottages including

Renshaws or New Buildings.  In all it served a little community of about 100 people.  It’s only competition coming from Mrs Leech’s beer house.

In those spring days in the late 1840s and early ‘50s it would have been a busy place.  The first real Sunday visitors of the year would have taken advantage of the improved weather, and joined the locals who along with the gossip of the day may have swapped tips on gardening with William Wise the gardener while his wife Hannah who ran the pub dispensed the beer to her customers.

During the rest of the week there would have been a steady trade from farm workers passing on their way between the fields.  And those who lived in the township returning from the city may have added to the gathering.

One such was Thomas Leigh.  His mistake was to stop off on his way home from the markets in Manchester and spend the night drinking with a John Battersby who then stole two sovereigns [£2] from Leigh while he slept.

Like so much of the township the natural geography of the land has been lost.  Water courses like the Rough Leech Gutter have been culverted, ponds drained and slight rises hidden by buildings.  This is particularly true as we move further north.  And the first clue to all this is the road itself.  Old roads twist and turn following ancient field boundaries and natural obstacles.

Manchester Road snakes its way from the village to enter Martledge where the shopping precinct stands and for a short distance ceases to exist.  The break was occasioned by the creation of the precinct car park, not that this has stopped people using the route to come out on Nicolas Road which itself runs in to the continuation of Manchester Road at the junction with Selbourne Road.

Part of the Isles, 1847
But sections of it appear to have had different names.  From Edge Lane to Wilbraham Road was known as Chapel Lane terminating at Ash Tree, so called because of an ash tree which grew in the road.

And the rest where it crosses the modern Wilbraham Road before disappearing into the car park and reappearing at Nicolas Road was known as Chorlton Lane.

This was the site of the finger posts and for a while the area was also known as Martledge Green.

But these seem to be local names for a section of the road which was also called Stretford Road.

Had we not turned west at Ash Tree, we could have continued north towards Oswald Fields.  This today is the start of Oswald Road and in 1847 it would have taken us past Martha Helsby’s garden on our right and through the 4 acres she rented from the Lloyd Estate before the track came out beside the Longford Brook.

The Isles, 1882
Just beyond the car park are the school and the houses bordering the long roads of Longford, Nicolas Newport and Oswald.

Here is the site of Isles, where little streams fed ponds which had once been marl pits.  Marl was used to enrich the soil and has been dug here from the 16th century if not before.

Later still the clay was used for bricks and a little further west of Oswald Road were the Brick Kiln Pits which had already been excavated and filled with water by 1847.  Even later this was where the brick company made the bricks for the villas and terraces of the township.

Today St John’s School stands on part of the old brick fields while the occasional brick still turns up on and near the football pitch.

Adapted from THE STORY OF CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20for%20Chorlton

Pictures; map of Barlow Moor Lane, courtesy of Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/ drawing of Renshasws Buildings © Barri Sparshot, and the Royal Oak and the Isles from the Lloyd Collection

Monday, 20 May 2013

The last pictures of Longford Hall ........... September 1994


Now I can’t be sure that these are the last pictures to be taken of the hall but they will be amongst the last.

They were taken by Andy Roberston who recorded them shortly before the place was finally demolished in 1995.

The story of the hall has been well covered elsewhere and my own interest is really in the house that it replaced.  This had been the home of our Thomas Walker, who moved there from Barlow Hall and was buried in our parish churchyard.

Thomas Walker, one time pillar of Manchester society but was also a radical politician who campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade, supported the French Revolution and was indicted for treason in 1794.

The family lived at Barlow Hall from the late 18th century spending the summer there before moving back for the winter to their town house on South Parade which faces what is now Parsonage Gardens.  And it was there that a mob attacked Walker who was forced to drive them off by discharging a pistol in the December of 1792.

His family continued to live at the house after his death in 1819 untill they sold it to the Rylands in 1855 who demolished it for the hall.

Back in 1994 I have to admit I was only vaguely aware of Longford Hall.

It was that place you saw when you ventured out with the kids into Longford Park and its demolition passed me by.

So I am indebted to Andy who lent me these pictures and gave me permission to use them.

I also have to say that he has a fine collection of photographs which record bits of lost Chorlton, but also east Manchester just before the Commonwealth stadium was built and some even more powerful images of the city centre just after the 1996 bombing.

And as you would expect he has stories to go with them.

But for now I shall just leave it at these reminders of what Longford Hall was like as the demolition team got going.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Robertson




*Thomas Walker, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Thomas%20Walker

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Walking down Beech Road in the summer of 1847, today at 2 pm


The parish church, circa 1860
“this great tract of meadows, gardens and pasture land.”*

In 1857 the writer Edwin Muir had taken the train from Manchester to Stretford,  and after clearing the  “cotton mills, and dye works, and chemical manufactories of Cornbrook,” he arrived in Stretford where he saw “this great tract of meadows, gardens and pasture land.”  

To the south was the village of Stretford and to the north and east across open land and lost behind trees was our own township.

The Row 1847
Now I don’t think he came here and so would not have walked down the Row from Barlow Moor Lane to Chorlton Green which is a pity, because had he done so he would have been rewarded with views of some fine houses, much productive farm land, plenty of orchards and the relatively new Wesleyan chapel hard by the smithy and a beer shop.

All of which is a trailer for a walk down Beech Road in 1847, recreating something of what you would have seen, who you might have met and most importantly who you had to be polite to.

Sutton's Cottage on the corner of Beech Road and Wilton Road, circa 1890
Meet at the corner of Beech Road and Barlow Moor Road by the bus station, at 2pm today for a gentle stroll to Chorlton Green and the Horse and Jockey and lots of history

This is part of the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON, contribution to Chorlton Arts Festival.  Chorlton-cum-Hardy past, present and touch of tassology is collaboration between me and local artist Peter Topping with photographs and stories of the past and paintings of the present and a hint of the future.

Now given that most attempts at predicting the future are usually wrong and that the best we can ever hope to do is guess the outcomes using the present as a template, Peter decided we might as well fall back on tassology which is the art of divination using tea leaves.

It is an old practice which some sources have traced back to medieval European fortune tellers who developed their readings from splatters of wax, lead, and other molten substances and evolved into tea-leaf reading in the seventeenth century.

And coincided with the introduction of tea by Dutch merchants in to Europe.  Not to be outdone my source also suggests that in the Middle East the practice is carried out using left-over coffee grounds.

This may work for Peter, but as a crusty old historian I rely on the past and present to suggest the things to come but tassology does have the added benefit that you get to drink a cup of tea.

Gratrix Farm at the junction of Beech and Beaumont Road
And as we finish at the Horse and Jockey you can always go into the pub which is participating in our  tassology bit of fun, as are also The Post Office Cafe and the Lloyds Hotel and look through the tea leaves.

Moreover at all three along with another nine venues you can read excerpts from our History Trail.**

So all that leaves me to do is remind you of the walk and highlight walk number two starting at the National Westminster bank at the junction of Barlow Moor Road and Wilbraham Road on May 26th at 2 pm where we will pick up the story of the township and explore New Chorlton which developed from the 1880s.

Pictures; the parish church circa 1860s and Gratrix’s farm circa 1900, from the collection of Tony Walker,  Sutton's Cottage © Barri Sparshot, detail of Beech Road in 1847, from the OS map of Lancashire, 1841-53, courtesy of Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/ and Glad to be in Chorlton poster © Peter Topping

* Muir, Edwin, Lancashire Sketches 1869

** The History Trail can be viewed at The Horse & Jockey, Franny & Filer, St Clement's Church, The Lloyd's, The Library (occasions), Fosters Cycles, Unicorn, The Bar, Chorlton Eatery, Morrisons,Chorlton High School,The Post Box Cafe


A bold new station for Manchester and the film Hell is A City


This has to be one of my favourite Manchester stations. It is Oxford Road Railway Station.

The original station dates from 1849 and in 1960  was replaced by this one which was listed in 1995 and described by English Heritage as a "building of outstanding architectural quality and technological interest; one of the most dramatic stations in England.”*

I do have to agree with them.  Its glass and laminated wood entrance soars into the sky and on a sunny evening the reflection of the Refuge Building is captured in those high windows.

Now its predecessor was a much more modest affair.  It too was made of wood but was workman like and lacked style and presence.

There are a few pictures of this older station but not many and until recently I had not really given it much thought.

Until I came across a still from the film Hell is a City which was set in Manchester starred Stanley Baker and focuses on the search for a violent criminal.

It was made in 1960 just nine years before I arrived in the city and much of the location shots are ones that I remember well.

And there as Stanley Baker confronts the criminal on the roof tops of the Refuge Building is Oxford Road Station, both the Armadillo roof of the new station, the sweeping concrete wall of the car park and the old station.

It stands at right angles to the new station entrance which was something of a surprise but is logical.

Of course you would have to be over 50 and more likely 60 to have any vivid memories of this building and I doubt that there are that many pictures of the two standing together.

And like all such things the new station has undergone change.

That sweeping concrete wall and the car park it protected has gone.  In its place has come a tall steel structure with stone steps, which on a sunny day are occuppied by those waiting for a train or those catching a bit of sun along with their sandwiches.

And it remains a very busy place both inside and outside the rush hour.

Pictures;Oxford Road Station in 2008 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, still from Hell is a City, 1960, from Graham Gill,




Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A little of Chorlton's railway history, something about Morrisons and the new tram line to Didsbury


Chorlton Railway Station, circa 1900
It is one of those sad facts that if you can remember travelling from Chorlton railway station into the heart of the city or out in to the Hope Valley you will be on the wrong side of 45.

Not of course that 45 is old but it is just about the length of time that we have been missing a fast rail connection to Manchester.

And before the purists object the last train ran in 1967 and the first tram in 2011 which if you have done the sums is 44 years and to my reckoning  is still  a big chunk of anyone’s time.

But because shunting engines and goods waggons are even less interesting I doubt that few now are bothered with the fact that running alongside Albany Road was Chorlton’s own depot for coal and anything else that could be delivered by rail.

Weighing machine and hut, circa 1910
Now that I think is sad, especially as during the 50s my old friend Oliver Bailey remembers walking the newly arrived pigs from the goods yard through the roads of Chorlton to the family farm on Sandy Lane.

And likewise Ida can tell me which coal merchant she was sent to when the coal bill needed paying.

At any one time from the end of the 19th century well into the 20th century there were four or five coal merchants operating from Albany Road site along with builders and nurserymen. In 1911 there were five of them working from the yard by the railway line along with J. Duckett & Sons, building merchants, and J. A. Bruce Alexander, nurseryman.

It closed in November 1964 although a private siding stayed open for a while.

But with the closure of the railway link it all came to an end.  The coal merchants went, the rail tracks were pulled up to be replaced by a small business park and  a supermarket.

All of which brings us pretty much up to today.  The business park is still there and so is the supermarket which is now owned by Morrisons.

Morrisons, 2013, © Peter Topping
And I rather like the idea that Morrison’s are on the site of our old railway station.

After all the company was founded by William Morrison in 1899 just under twenty years after the railway arrived.

It began as an egg and butter stall in Rawson Market, Bradford and grew from there.

For most of its trading history it was based in the north but its purchase of Safeway in 2004 not only allowed it to expand across the country but brought it here to Chorlton.

At Morrisons with a story
In turn it has asked to be part of the Chorlton History trail and you can see part one of the story of the site along with paintings by Peter Topping in the store.

This as many will know is part of the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON initiative which now has 12  venues where you can read more about the history of where we live and something special about each place.

And as if on queue this comes along side the exciting news that from May 23rd you will be able to head out from the metro station next to Morrisons south to Didsbury, calling at Withington, Burton Road, West Didsbury, Didsbury Village and East Didsbury.

Metro stop, Chorlton, 2013 © Peter Topping
This 4.4km (2.7 miles) extension to the existing South Manchester line has been finished several months ahead of schedule.

So there you have it. A little of our railway history, something about Morrisons and the new tram line to Didsbury.

Pictures; Chorlton Railway Station circa 1900, from the Lloyd Collection, Morrisons supermarket and tram,© Peter Topping 2013 www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Memories of when the milk arrived by horse, of dye cast toys and much more


When you are around the past there is always that temptation to slide into nostalgia or worse still to adopt a cynical, hard and sneering approach.

The first sends you tip toeing down picturesque cobbled streets to the strains of a barrel organ and the knowledge that no one locks their doors at night.  

The other points up that the cobbles were actually called sets, were often dangerous to both horse and pedestrian while  the barrel organ had a limited repertoire and if people did leave their homes unlocked that was because there was little worth stealing.

And as ever the truth is somewhere in between.  All of which was prompted by a recent flurry of memories on a facebook site.*

It is one of those places where people post pictures of Manchester along with some of their thoughts and reminiscences.  

A picture of a horse trough in Withington sparked a series of conversations which went off in different directions and included naturally enough horse drawn vehicles, some of the carrying companies and milk bottles and the cream at the top of the milk.

These are not the memories that summon up the fall of empires or the onset of wars but are as much the stuff of history.

And so I got thinking of the milk vans that delivered our milk in London in the 1950s.  Our round still relied on a horse drawn wagon which however as a consession to the mid 20th century came with big rubber wheels.

It belonged to United Dairies which had been formed in 1917 from a number of smaller companies and by the 1950s had become the UK’s largest dairy products company.

Here as you would expect are a legion of little stories.

Back in the 1920s the United Dairies pioneered the sale of pasteurized milk which had been an issue stretching back to the beginning of the last century. 

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

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

But given the often poor level of scrutiny on the farm and during transportation there was no guarantee of its purity for “milk is a mysterious fluid which tells no tales of its manipulation.”  Moreover it was also at the mercy of “crowds of filthy shops in which milk is exposed side by side with firewood and candles.”

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

And so not for the first time there had been a call for the involvement of the municipal authorities in the production, supply and provision of milk.  This was after all a period when in the interests of public health local government was getting more and more involved in everything from transport and education to housing, sanitation along with clean drinking water, gas and electric suppilies.

But is was also the age of the train when more and more things were carried by rail of which milk was one.

United Dairies, was a large user of milk trains, and in agreement with the railway companies supplied its own distinctive coloured milk containers to top the railway companies chassis. 

While rival Express Dairies preferred the Great Western Railway, United Dairies preferred the Southern Railway.

Those odd looking milk containers were a common enough site on our railways as were the toy versions which appeared on the model railway sets of my youth.

Along with them were those miniature dye cast models of horse carts, motorised floats and the milk lorries.  

All were familiar toys when I was young but have pretty much disappeared and are now collectors items, which I suppose has also become the fate of the milkman.

One did pass our house today but they are as much a rarity as the dye cast model.  

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

Now they are as much a memory as the local dairy on Brookburn Road or the horse drawn milk float which is just about where I started.

Pictures; United Dairies 6 wheel milk tank originally a British Railway Milk Tank Waggon now part of the rolling stock of the Bluebell Railway,  August 2007, by Bluebellnutter, other images from the internet source unknown

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