Wednesday, 30 October 2013

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

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

More thoughts on those Gangs of Manchester from the Together Trust

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

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

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

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

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust

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

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

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

On a sunny day during the Whit Walks of 1969

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures; courtesy of Adele

Monday, 28 October 2013

Aerial views of old London

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

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

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

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

Picture; header from the site

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Down in Furness Vale with a colliery and a pantomime

Time to mention Furness Vale Local History Society again.*

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

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

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

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

*Furness Vale Local History Society


Friday, 25 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

In St Peter's Square in the summer of 1905

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

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

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

And that is about the extent of my knowledge.

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

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

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

*Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire, 1902

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

Monday, 21 October 2013

On birthdays, presents and comics

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

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

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

But birthdays are a tad different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures; Eagle comics from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Now no one told me about the Greyhound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Hardman Street, in Didsbury on March 12th 1924 reading the adverts

Hardman Street, March 12th 1924
We are on Hardman Street in the March of 1924 and for the discerning reader of adverts it has got the lot, including the announcement of the films Reef of Stars and Within the Law, both made in that year and showing at the cinema in Elm Grove round the corner.

Reef of Stars was set in South Africa and included panoramic views of the countryside, while Within the Law followed the trail of a young woman wrongfully sent to prison seeking revenge on her release.

But for those who didn’t fancy steamy melodrama and vivid scenes from the other side of the world, there was always the Halle Orchestra, performing Bach, Beethoven and Brahms and advertised as the Last Halle Concert.  Or for those in need of advice there was Mrs R. Ray at the Houldsworth Hall giving a talk and “Free Demonstration” on "How to Dress Well.”

Posters and adverts
That said my own favourite amongst the rest has to be the announcement of a “Public Meeting and Concert” organised by the Fellowship of Freedom and Reform held at the Public Hall to be held on March 14th.

The local speaker was Dr T Watts and the subject was Against Prohibition.  Now this is interesting because the Fellowship of Freedom and Reform was itself a temperance organisation.

But one that campaigned for more responsible trading arguing for family orientated pubs which offered food, skittle-alleys, billiard-tables, gardens, and concerts.

They published their own magazine called Sobriety along with pamphlets like “The Improved Public House, [which can be] obtained at the price of one shilling from the Fellowship, at St. Stephen's House, Westminster; and it contains some excellent photographs and much encouraging information of the progress being made in the provision of places where food and other amenities are obtainable as well as drink.”*

Badge of the Fellowship, circa 1924
Now there is more to find out about the Fellowship not least its links to the drink trade and their general political position of the rights and freedoms of the individual.

And maybe with more research s it might just be possible to discover who attended that Friday evening meeting and just what the mood of the audience was.

Looking towards Wilmslow Road
In the meantime I shall return to the picture of Hardman Street on what looks to be a bright sunny morning.

Our photographer has captured just three people on street that day along with the parked bike.

In the distance is Wilmlsow Road and the junction with Barlow Moor Road.

It is of course a scene that has long since gone.

The cottages were I am told demolished for a road widening scheme which never happened although it did also lead to the end of Hardman Street which became the extension of School Lane.

*The Spectator, October 26th 1929

This and other old as well as contemporary photographs and paintings can be found in Didsbury through Time, by Peter Topping & Andrew Simpson.

Didsbury Through Time aims to chronicle the changes over the last century mixing old images of the place with new photographs and paintings and focuses on some of the people who lived behind the doors of the buildings featured in the book.

Picture; courtesy of Didsbury Civic Society, and the badge of the Fellowship of Freedom and Reform  courtesy of Andrew Whitehad from his blog,

Friday, 18 October 2013

In the Market Place in Stockport in 1905

We are in Stockport at the Market Place with the parish church in the distance.

Now the date is a little unclear but the postcard was registered by Tuck & Sons Ltd on July 31st 1905 and I guess the photograph will date from about then.

And there are clues that confirm this.

Andrew  Beckett & Sons whose ice cream van stands in the corner of the picture was trading in 1902 at both 11 Wellington Street South and 26 Middle Hillgate in 1902.

And as you would expect there is a story here.

Andrew Becket was born in 1830 in Italy and I doubt that Beckett was his given name.

He was in England in Runcorn by 1865 and was living at numbers 1 & 3 John Street in Stockport by 1881

A decade later the family had moved to 26 Hillgate.

But in 1901  the firm is in the hands of his son Angelo who while he was born in Runcorn had an Italian wife, gave both his children Italian forenames and employed four men all born in Italy.

All of which just leaves me to ponder on the identity of the young man staring back at us in the van.

It might be Alberto Cavilli or Guiseppina Pasquale both of whom were working for Angelo in 1901 but both they will have been in their early 20s in 1905 so perhaps not.

Nor is that the only clue to the date, for in the same street directory for 1902 there is one Joseph Emerson, tailor at 28 Market Place, and that is his shop on the left.

His painted sign on the side wall proudly announced that he promised that “MORNING ORDERS IN 8 HOURS PROMPTLY EXECUTED” and offered everything from suits, overcoats to trousers and much more.

The firm has long gone but the sign is still there, faded and a little difficult to read but very much the same as in our 1905 photograph.

In time the picture will reveal much more but there is much to look at, from the men in deep conversation to the detail of the delivery van in the distance and those closer to us.

Picture; Parish Church and Market, from the series Town & City, by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, and the ghost sign of J. Emerson from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A ghost sign from Stockport

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

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

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

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

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

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

Now I like featuring other people’s blogs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture; courtesy of Municipal Dreams

* Municipal Dreams,


Monday, 14 October 2013

H.D. Mooorhouse and a chain of cinemas

I don’t suppose many people in Chorlton today know of H.D. Moorhouse, and yet in the early decades of the 20th century he was responsible for setting up a chain of cinemas across the city and beyond.

And of course the point of the story is that his first cinema was here. It was the Pavilion opened in 1904 and acquired by Moorhouse in 1909 and featured in the post

Like many early cinemas it hedged its bets and continued to offer variety acts and in the June of 1910 it offered a bill of variety including the Whips. By then it had become the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens and stayed open through the inter war years.

By then Moorhouse had established a cinema circuit and had acquired the Palais de Luxe on Barlow Moor Road. It had opened in 1915 and was part of the circuit from 1939 until 1956, although it may have struggled on for another two years before closing and becoming a supermarket.*

Hubert Douglas Moorhouse was born in Kendal in 1879 but grew up along the Ashton Road in Openshaw. By 1911 he was living with his parents at 61 Wilbraham Road which was an eight bed roomed house along the stretch from York Road towards Brundretts Road.

Picture; the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens, from the Lloyd collection

*Hornsey, Brian, The Cinemas of H.D. Moorhouse and the H.D.M. circuit, Fuchsprint, 2001,

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Walking with the Manchester Whit Walks in 1969

There will be many in Manchester with fond memories of past Whit Walks when the congregations of the local churches chapels and Sunday Schools walked in procession through the streets of the city as a witness to their faith.

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

Here in Chorlton a few pictures have survived of processions in the 1930s passing the green and prominent in that procession was our own Brass Band which dated back to the 1820s.

Now there are many photographs of these events and just today Adele posted some wonderful pictures from the 1969 procession.*

They were taken by her father and vividly capture the day.

But what makes them all the more fascinating is that they show scenes of that old Manchester which was about to vanish. The grand clearance plans and commercial projects were during the 1960s and early 70s cutting swathes through central Manchester and areas of Hulme, Moss Side, Ancoats and Bradford and Beswick.

All of which makes these pictures so important for they are not the posed carefully composed images of professional commercial photographers, but photographs by people who lived where the procession was passing and had links to both the Walks and the people in them.

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

Here then on that Whit week in 1969 are a few of Adele’s pictures.

Pictures; courtesy of Adele

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Red Cross hospitals of Chorlton during the Great War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The building was large enough to accommodate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I shall be ther tonight.

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

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

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

On School Lane buying the fish and chips in 1911

We are on School Lane and the year is sometime around 1911 and I am drawn to the people in the picture. 

I doubt that we will ever be certain who the woman staring back at us is but I rather think it will be either Mrs Martha Meredith who ran “the Supper Bar (Fish and Chips)” at number 1 School Lane or Ellen Tennant who was the wife of George Tennant the butcher from number 3.

And if pushed I think it will be Martha who at 36 described herself as a widow with a 14 year old daughter and shared her home with her brother in law, Mary Ann who she employed as a servant and John Wilson the boarder.

Alas the children’s identities are lost to us but they will be local and must have been drawn from their homes by the presence of the photographer.

The properties have are still recognizably the same and by one of those odd coincidences just one hundred and two years after our picture was taken number 1 is a fish and chip shop.

Despite the passage of just over a century it is still possible to recognise the scene today.

Not long after this picture was taken young Bertha Bertha Geary aged just 13 of School Lane has heard history. “We saw the flying man on Tuesday night fly over head.  Beaumont is his name.  

I wish you could have seen him.  It made such a noise.”

He was André Beaumont and he was one of 30 competitors in the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain Air race in 1911.

Flying in a Blériot XI he was the first to complete the course which was no mean achievement as many of the aircraft either failed to take off or crashed along the way.

But that is for another story.

The image comes from a collection  Didsbury through Time, by Peter Topping and Andrew Simpson, to be published later this year.

Pictures; from the collection of Paul O’Sullivan,and  front cover of Didsbury through Time.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures; by Francis Frith, from Wikipedia Commons

*Francis Frith,

Monday, 7 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Woolwich Grand Theare, The Theatres Trust

**Grand Plan

Sunday, 6 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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