Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Stockport by-election 1920 by Graham Gill

One of the nice things about the blog is when someone offers to write a story and today I have the pleasure in posting one on the Stockport by-election of 1920 by Graham Gill

Graham has a wonderful collection of memorabilia some of which he has kindly allowed me to use, and so I jumped at his offer to tell the story of this 1920 Parliamentary election along with some of material which was published at the time.

On Friday 27 February 1920 the Stockport Advertiser reported the death of the Liberal Stockport Coalition MP ''Its with deep regret we announce the death of Spencer Leigh Huges MP age 40 ''

To understand the 1920 Stockport By-election we need to know that there was a coalition government and that the Labour Party withdrew from the coalition in 1918.

The key question for the Unionist, Liberals, Labour and Co-operative Parties was how do you split one seat between two candidates?

The Labour Party unveiled Sir Leo Cheozza Money and was given full support by the Labour and Co-operatives.

We should recall the Unionist stood down in 1918 General Election in favour of Huges (Liberal) and Wardle (Labour) who were coalition candidates. Wardle decision to remain in government evoked a great deal of hostility.

The Liberal Party, it was their MP who died so they expected to have the candidate for the coalition.

Stockport Liberals recommended T.B. Leigh as a coalition candidate.

The Unionist had a problem do they support T.B. Leigh or nominate their candidate but they were determined to fight for the seat and put forward Mr A.A.G. Kindle. The two parties were on a collision course.

The newspapers headlines proclaimed ''Deadlock in Stockport'' followed by ''Deadlock, coalition divided against itself''

Then a significant development happened on 8 March Sir George Younger Chairman of the Conservatives and Unionist Whip a central figure in Government visited Stockport.

Event moved quickly, first T.B. Leigh resigned his nomination then the sitting MP Wardle resigned his seat claiming ill health. Was Wardle persuaded to go by Lloyd George government?

The Co-operatives were in no doubt two hours after Sir George Younger returns Wardle resigns.

After the events of Wednesday Mr William Greenwood was adopted as a Unionist/coalition candidate, Mr Henry Flides as a Liberal candidate.

The Co-operative Party turned to S.P. Perry secretary of the National Co-operative with the full support of Sir Leo Chiazza Money.

Stockport voters had two votes and the result was declared on 11 April with William Greenwood and Mr Henry Flides voted to Parliament,

By 1922 the coalition had collapsed and in the General Election H. Flidles and William Greenwood were re-elected as Liberal and Unionist MPs. W Greenwood died in 1925 and in a subsequent by-election A.E. Townend won the seat for Labour winning 36.5% of the vote.

Labour had now arrived in Stockport.

© Graham Gill

Pictures; the candidates in the 1920 election  from the collection of Graham Gill, graph by Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A new book on the history of Eltham

I am waiting on the arrival of Eltham Through Time which was published in November by Amberley Publishing.*

It is by Kristina Bedford who lives in Charlton.

The book sets out to show how Eltham has changed with a mix of old photographs and contemporary ones.

It is not the first such book on Eltham.

R.R.C. Gregory published The Story of Royal Eltham in 1909 and since then there has been a succession of books.**

But what makes Ms Bedford’s book different is that half of the images are in colour.

Now at this stage I do have to declare an interest.

Along with local artist Peter Topping I have just published in the same series by Amberley and have been commissioned to write a collection of books on Manchester pubs and the breweries of Greater Manchester.

So I am well aware of both the challenges and possible pitfalls of writing a local history book.

First there is the task of collecting enough images and checking them for copyright.

Then there is the task of finding contemporary photographs which is not always easy.

Sometimes the buildings have been demolished or so dramatically changed as to be unrecognizable and sometimes the modern equivalent is just downright boring.

So much rides on the stories that accompany the pictures.  And I do say stories because a caption stating the date and place is just not enough.

If you are lucky after trawling old newspapers and visiting the archive or heritage centre you might uncover people who remember the old building and have something memorable to say about it.

Failing that there are always the chance comments of someone writing to a friend which can offer up a wealth of human detail.

And one such person was Bertha Geary aged thirteen of School Lane who in 1911 heard history.

"We saw the flying man on Tuesday night fly over head.  Beaumont is his name.  I wish you could have seen him.  

It made such a noise.”

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

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

So to him went the £10,000 prize which was awarded to a man whose real name was Lieutenant Jean Louis Conneau of the French Navy.

All of which today we take for granted but was pure magic and wonderment to young Bertha, for who the persistent buzzing of the aircraft’s engines above her head was something new and I guess louder than anything she had yet encountered.

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

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

So I am hoping for the same from Ms Bedford.

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

Pictures; covers of various books on Eltham, and Didsbury and detail from Bertha Gaery's postcard to a friend, 1911

* Eltham Through Time, Kristina Bedford, Amberley Publishing, 2013

** The Story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C.Gregory, 1909, The Story of Royal Eltham, Roy Brook, Harrop, 1960, Discover Eltham and its Environs, Darrell Spurgeon, Greenwich Guide Books, 1992, revised edition 2000, Eltham in Old Photographs, John Kennett, Alan Sutton, 1993, Eltham,  David Sleep, Tempus, 2004, and a range of books published by the Eltham Society,

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

That odd building at 82 Portland Street

Number 82 Portland Street is odd.  It stands between a row of late 18th century houses but is clearly not one of them.

The surrounding properties were typical of the sort that was being built across the city and many included workshops on the upper floor.

But by 1851 of the eleven houses running from Nicholas Street to Bond Street [Princess Street] five were beer shops.

Like many beer shops of the period some may have been a temporary measure to supplement the family income.

So Frank Rustrick who lived with his wife Martha and a lodger at number 80 Portland Street had in the December of 1850 described himself as a “maker up” but by the April of the following year was selling beer.

And given the large numbers of people crammed into these eleven houses including cellar dwellings demand must have been brisk.

Back in 1851 number 82 was home to William McCann and his mother Elizabeth.  William was a painter and perhaps was doing alright because they occupied the place on their own.

But their home was demolished in 1883 and our tall intruder took its place.  It was to become the offices of the Great Eastern Railway Company and was still dealing in orders and answering enquiries in 1911.

And that is where for now the story stops.  What was once a railway office is now the home of the Colin Jellicoe Gallery.

But when the Archive and Local History Libraries reopens in March in the newly refurbished Central Ref I shall be pouring over the records to discover what happened to our building over the 20th century.

Painting; Portland Street Row, © 2013 Peter Topping,
Facebook; Paintings from Pictures, Web:

* the Colin Jellicoe Gallery,

A postcript.
And since posting the story Hayley Flynn kindly shared her research on number 82,

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Scruffy old tin

Today my friend Andy has kindly posted one of his own stories.

That scruffy old tin
I first met Andy on one of the history walks and since then he has provided me with some fascinating pictures, newspaper clippings and now a story.

This is my sort of history, it starts with an old toffee tin and wanders through a family story.

My daughter got me this scruffy old tin for Christmas, and you know what, it is one of the best presents I've ever had.

Almost up there with the Raleigh Roadster bike I got when I was 13.  

Below is a picture of my great grandfather Frederick Robertson (1851-1930) on his wedding day in 1871.

He was one of William Robertson's (1802-1875) thirteen children. William was a confectioner and Fred was the only one of seven surviving children not to have food  based careers.  [picture of Fred]

Fred established his own building firm in 1870 and it was still going strong one hundred years later.

My father and grandfather both worked for the firm and I worked there for two weeks in 1970.

My Dad would often talk of the long wooden ladders they used that would bow in the middle.

If the ladder wasn't long enough they would carry a smaller ladder up and lash it to the longer one.

Most of the houses they would be working on would be three or four stories.

My Dad who wasn't bad up a ladder himself reckons his Dad was fearless. My Grandad could also paint all day and not get a drop on his hands or clothes.

This picture shows four generations. My great great grandmother Amelia Thurston Stanley (1845) is holding baby Patrick Maslin.

The chap with the beard is Fred with his daughter Grace(1891) mother of Patrick (1916). Patrick was a master carpenter for F.Robertson (Chelsea) Ltd.

Amelia was the mother of Fred's second wife Caroline (1871).

Apparently Caroline was a classmate of Fred's eldest daughter Kate Anna. After the premature death of Caroline in 1914 family rumour has it that Fred “shacked-up” with Amelia.

Fred's brother Walter (1847) took over the confectionery business from his father and seems to have taken it to another level.

By about 1910 the business relocated from Chelsea to Brentford. By this time his Walter's son William Arthur (1877) was a partner and managing the business. Amongst other things they made toffees which were sent to the troops for the war effort.

An article by local historian F.G.Ferebee, local historian, “..on the other side of Paradise Walk was the Walter Robertson factory for jams, jellies, sweets, cakes etc. He was the first one to make table jellies, candied peel, swiss rolls and other things”. 

Chelsea Table Jellies were well renowned in their day and in one article Walter Robertson is described as inventor and patentee. In 1891 his jellies were scientifically analysed, “...may I inform you that I have tried other makes of jellies, but there are none equal to yours in excellence of quality. I have mentioned this frequently to Mr. Seymour Mead and to my friends...”

Among the flavours on offer were lemon, orange, vanilla, calves' foot, noyeau, raspberry, punch and madeira.

In 1915 William Arthur Robertson married, at the age of 38, Dora Bland  and they had three children in quick succession.

I did wonder who that man was on that scruffy old toffee tin. It's not a King, not a Prime Minister.

Could it be William Arthur? Does he look 38?

The tin could well be 1915 and a commemorative of William and Dora's wedding.

There are bells on either side of the tin.

I am going to believe that until someone tells me otherwise.

© Andrew Robertson

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Roberston

Saturday, 25 January 2014

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 40, waking to the sound of raking the fire

Joe & Mary Ann's 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.*

If you belong to a certain generation you will remember being woken to the sound of the ash being raked in the fire place.

It didn’t go on long but it was that early morning call which was the prelude to getting up.

In our old house it was the kitchen stove which heated the water in our back boiler and gave us heat for the day and hot water.

It was dad’s first job after getting up and before going out for work.  The coal came from the coal cellar and before any of us were up the fire had burst back into life.

In my grandmother’s home in Hope Street it was first the kitchen range and then the front room fire.
And I suspect it would have been the same here in Joe and Mary Ann’s house as it was across the country.

Of course in the posher homes there would have been a servant to do it but here like as not it would have been Joe.

The coal cellar is still there and I do have plans to reinstate it but whenever I raise the idea it is met with stiff resistance.

The dining room in 2012
All of which is a shame because the sound of the coal being delivered once a week is a powerful memory.

There were two distinct sounds.  First there was the noise of the coal thundering down the shoot like a roar and then the after sound, as the pile began to settle.  This was accompanied by that powerful coal smell which permeated the downstairs for an hour or so.

As noises and smells go it was a pleasant one which was in direct contrast to bin day.  Back in Lausanne Road we had no back alley, and no one kept their bins in the front garden, so the round steel tub had to be carried through the house.

Later in Well Hall the block of four each had a side gate into next door’s garden enabling you to carry the bin through their garden and out to the road.

But Joe and Mary had a back alley which may be a figure of fun and an iconic image of the North for those in the south, but perfectly does the business.

Dirty and heavy stuff never has to cross the front step, and was the place you first learnt to play as a child and where later in the gloom of early evening you met up with that special friend you had wanted to date for ages.

Alleys of course became the haunt of Burglar Bill who had the run of back yards and gardens and unseen in the dark might slip over the low wall and raid the house.

But ours like many across the city has been alley gated and now entry is by a key and little stirs most of the day.

The variant also seen across the North and Midlands was the communal back yard, entered from the street by a passageway between the terraced houses.  Some of these entries had doors but others were just open and as you passed you could get a glimpse of life on the other side of the houses.

Here were the communal lavatories, and in the age before mains water the shared tap.

In the yard behind 12 Hope Street, 1932
By the time I began visiting my grandparents in Hope Street the landlord had done away with the shared lavatories and the tenants pretty much divided their space up with flower gardens and in the case of granddad and veg patch.

Even so this was still communal living.  You knew when Mrs Thornton was going to the lavatory, and what shift her husband was on by the sound of him wheeling his back down the entry and above all by that noise of the fire being raked in the morning.

It confirmed the neighbour’s opinion of the young couple two doors away who rarely got the fire going before 8.30 and was a constant reminder that old Mrs Ruston who had never quite got over the loss of her husband and even though she did not need to was always up by 5 as she had been for forty years to see him out for the Corporation tram which rattled down Traffic Street and took him to work.

Now Joe had his builder’s yard behind the house alongside the alley and I doubt he had to be up so early.

Joe and Mary Ann seem to have got rid of their kitchen range long before most.  For them the future was gas and electric and so it may well be that the sound of the grate rattling was not so often heard in their house.

That said as you will know we have open fires in the rooms downstairs and our neighbours will know that by six we are up and the fires laid by 8.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of a house,

Two more historic pubs

I have to thank my new friend Andy Robertson who over the last two years has provided me with some wonderful photographs and stories about Chorlton which have made their way onto the blog.

And today he has sent me this picture of two pubs on Portland Street.

I have in my time drunk in both the Circus Tavern and the Grey Horse Inn and was even locked in to one of these two many years ago.

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Manchester Pubs and Hotels,

Friday, 24 January 2014

Of postcards and holiday homes

The Children’s Garden Village “Belmont”, Cheadle, Cheshire
I am and always have been a big fan of the picture post card.

Not only are they a fascinating glimpse into what the past looked like but if you are lucky the messages that accompany the image tell you much about the hopes, disappointments and attitudes of people during the late 19th and a big chunk of the 20th centuries.

Most of the pictures were dictated by commercial considerations and so the same beauty spots, the same set of landmarks and famous buildings crop up again and again.

And the postcard companies also focused on variety performers, actors and politicians.

What I was not prepared for was the cards focusing on the children in the care of the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges’.

Boys at the Manchester Boys’ Refuge Camp, Southport
It is an organisation I have frequently gone back to* because from 1870 it worked to help destitute and abused children, providing them with a home, and training for a future career and also a holiday, which is where these images come from.

They feature in the recent blog of the Together Trust and rather than repeat what Liz the archivist has already said I shall just direct you to the site and leave it at that.**

*Manchester and Salford Boys' and Girls' Refuges,

**The Charity on a postcard
Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust,

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

William Mellor senior, a Chorlton Socialist

I am back with the mystery of William Mellor.*

Last week I pondered on the young William Mellor who lived in Chorlton from 1911, was a well respected book binder and calligrapher, exhibited with the Clarion Guild of Handicraft and was Secretary of the Northern Art Workers Guild.

He enlisted in 1915, was gassed and demobbed four years later and disappears from history.

All of which set me off on the search for this interesting man and on the way introduced me to his father.

He was also a bookbinder and back in 1911 lived next to his son on Clarence Road ** in Chorlton.

Now I have to admit that I passed William Mellor senior over in the hunt for the younger William and that was a mistake.

He was an equally intriguing man and also presented a puzzle.  In 1911 he described himself as a secretary which I took to be a reference to his work for the National Union of Bookbinders and Machine Rulers, which in turn led me to link him with W.R. Mellor who was a City Councillor and magistrate.

And here not for the first time the research got complicated because a William Mellor of Stanley Grove in Chorlton  died in 1925 and this seemed to rule out W.R. Mellor who died nine years later.

It was an easy enough mistake to make particularly as both had wives with the same name.

But now I think we are back with W.R. Mellor who in 1911 was secretary of the Manchester & Salford Trades & Labour Council and gave his address as 3 Clarence Road.

And here I have to thank my friend Lawrence who fired by the mystery dug deep and discovered that, “William Mellor snr, is I think the William Mellor (W.R.Mellor) who was the secretary of the Manchester Trades Council. He retired from that post in September 1929, and was also a Councillor. 

He was very active in the strikes of 1911 and the General Strike and is mentioned many times in the book 
To Make That Future Now, by the Frow's.

He lived in Clock Alley, a street absorbed by the CWS buildings on Corporation Street, left school at 10, becoming a bookbinder, and was active in the National Union of Bookbinders and Machine Rulers before WW1.

The Manchester Guardian has his death notice, on March 2, 1934 when he was living at 115 Birch Hall Lane, wife of Mary. Manchester Crematorium, funeral arrangements M&S Co-Op Funerals.”

So there you have it, in the course of exploring the life of young William Mellor we now know more about his father.

And I rather think I want to know more.  He was according to a colleague, "a man of kind disposition, humane feeling with a strong sense of justice.  Always he gave offenders the benefit of any doubt there might be in their cases, and whenever possible extended to them a helping hand.""****

He "represented the Moston Ward in the Manchester City Council, was a member of the Labour Group in the council and sat on the Baths, Housing and Public Health Committees and was the founder member of the Tenants' Defence League. He was originally in the bookbinding trade but later became connected with trade union work, and was at one time secreatry of the Manchester and Salford Trades Council."*****

Picture; Manchester & Salford Trades & Labour Council, agenda 1911, courtesy of Lawrence Beedle.

Research thanks to Lawrence Beedle

* What happened to William Mellor?

**William Mellor and his wife Eliza lived at 1 Clarence Road in 1911 and his father and mother at 3 Clarence Road, now renamed Claridge Road, both have now been demolished.

***Frow, Eddie & Ruth, To Make That Future Now, 1976

****Manchester Guardian, March 3, 1934
*****Manchester Guardian, March 2, 1934

On London Road at the Fire Station

London Road Fire Station, © 2013 Peter Topping
There are many of us who have a soft spot for the old Fire Station on London Road

It was opened in 1906, designed by Woodhouse, Willoughby and Langham in red brick and terracotta and cost £142,000 to build.

In addition to the police station there were a fire station, an ambulance station, a bank, a Coroner's Court, and a gas-meter testing station.

The fire station operated for 80 years, housing the firemen, their families, and the horse drawn appliances that were replaced by motorised vehicles a few years after its opening.

It remained the headquarters of the Manchester Fire Brigade until the brigade was replaced by the Greater Manchester Fire Service in 1974 and it closed in 1986.

Now I spent three years on doing a degree in History and Government and never made the connection between this fine old building and the subjects I was studying.

The Fire Station circa 1900
And yet here was a history lesson just across the road from where I sat in the Aytoun building of the old College of Commerce.

For in the absence of much from central government it was local politicians who were making their towns and cities better places to live.

As Sidney Webb said the “municipalities have done most to socialize our industrial life.”

And a resident of Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow could benefit from municipal supplies of water, gas and electricity, travel on municipally owned trams and buses walk through a municipally maintained park while knowing his children were being educated in municipally run schools.

“Glasgow builds and maintains seven public ‘common lodging houses’; Liverpool provides science lectures; Manchester builds and stocks an art gallery; Birmingham runs schools of design; Leeds creates extensive cattle markets; and Bradford supplies water below cost price. There are nearly one hundred free libraries and reading rooms. The minor services now performed by public bodies are innumerable.”*

During the previous half century Manchester and all the great northern towns and cities had grown by leaps and bounds but the vital infrastructure which was necessary for a healthy and civilised life had lagged behind.

So there had been few planning or building regulations to prevent the worst excesses of slum housing, little in the way of clean drinking water and a total absence in some quarters of the city of adequate sanitation.

This picture must be from the first two decades of the 20th century, and like so many in the collection there is so much to focus on.  For me it is the large presence of the horse drawn vehicle.

In the centre of the picture by the Policeman on traffic duty there is a heavy wagon, while just to our right a heavily laden one is emerging from the railway station, and a little further up London Road is the horse drawn taxi.

But there are those motor cars, only two of I grant you but in time this petrol engine vehicle will see off the horses and the tram.

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

Painting, London Road Fire Station, © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

* Webb, Sidney, from Historic, Fabian Essays in Socialism 1889

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Sawyers Arms on the corner of Bridge Street serving since 1771

The Sawyer’s Arms © 2014 Peter Topping
I first went in the Sawyers Arms on the corner of Bridge Street and Deansgate in the early 1970s.

I suppose I was attracted by its distinctive red, yellow and cream glazed tiled frontage.

Now over forty years later I have no memory of what it looked like inside, but I guess back then it was still divided up into small rooms allowing people to create their own private little retreat with a few intimate friends.

Not that there is anything of that left today which is a shame for a pub which can claim to have been serving its customers since 1771.

My own real interest in the place stems from its connection with Chorlton and the Cope Family.
Frederick Cope described himself as a spirit and wine merchant and was in partnership with his brother.

They had a number of premises’ across the city including the Sawyers Arms.

Oak Bank in Chorlton in 1841
The family lived at Oak Bank which consisted of
"three entertaining rooms, six bedrooms, excellent kitchen, scullery, cellars, &c.  The outbuildings consist of two coach houses, stabling for four horses, gardener's room, wash house, laundry, &c.  There are good gardens well stocked with fruit trees and about three acre. "

It stood in a parcel of land bounded by Wilbraham Road, Barlow Road, Sandy Lane and Corkland Road

As well as the house and gardens there was a stretch of land running along Barlow Moor lane to Lane End which was a mix of woodland and meadowland which was rented. Later still Frederick bought the farm tenanted by Thomas Cookson at Dark Lane, Martledge.

Their connection with the Sawyer’s Arms seems a short one although they did continue their wine business well into the 19th century.

So I am now in search of the pub’s history before and after Mr Cope.

There will be plenty of people like me who have fond memories of the place, but none who will remember its makeover in the early 20th century when it was given its current glazed brick and tile appearance, by the Manchester Brewery Company.

And that in turn has led me to want to explore all of those city centre pubs which have their own impressive tiled frontage.

Some like the Castle and the Turks Head are special to me but there will be plenty I have forgotten and some I missed.

Map; Oak Bank, home of the Cope family in Chorlton, from the OS map of Lancashire 1841, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Painting; The Sawyer’s Arms © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,

At the Manchester Jewish Museum, this month


To mark this year's Holocaust Memorial Day, MJM will be staging an afternoon of performances and readings about the Kindertransport.

Manchester School of Theatre will perform scenes from Diane Samuels play, 'Kindertransport' - telling the story of Eva, a child refugee who fled Germany and settled in Manchester.

Following this, MJM Curator, Alexandra Grime, will be discussing 'The Harris House Diary' - a diary written in 1940 by 15 girls whilst staying in a Southport hostel after arriving in Britain on the Kindertransport (Harris House girls shown above at 1980s re-union).

Diary extracts will also be read out by young members of Manchester's Jewish community.
Sun 26 Jan, 1pm

Free Ticketed event: Advance bookings only - call 0161 834 9879

EXHIBITION: Encounter with the Holocaust

Drawings, photographs and writing by contemporary artist Gary Spicer in response to his visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Plaszow concentration camps in 2012.
26 Jan - 9 Mar 2014
Free with museum admission

TOURS: Travel back in time
Discover what life was like 100 years ago in Jewish Manchester on one of our new museum tours.

Using props and museum displays our team of volunteer guides will bring to life the stories of 5 Jewish characters that lived in Manchester in 1912.

Tours offered daily - check times here
Free with museum admission

Manchester Jewish Museum
190 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, M8 8LW

0161 834 9879  admin@manchesterjewishmuseum

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Back with the Gore Brook which becomes our own Chorlton Brook

Now I remain fascinated by water courses, rivers streams and ponds and write about them whenever the opportunity arises.

So I was very pleased when Barry of the History Team of Victoria Baths Trust wrote to me about one of my stories on the Gore Brook.

This is one of those special watercourses as it eventually becomes our own Chorlton Brook, so I shall do no more than quote his email and his pictures.

Map of the area circa 1920s
"Hi Andrew

 I’m attaching a scan of a map of the area through which Gore Brook runs in the pictures on your recent post (which I commented on). 

I estimate the map to be from the early 1920s, before Manchester Grammar School was built.

The drain for the ditch must have been culverted under the Grammar School or its playing fields. The Nico Ditch itself runs in a straight line along the length of Old Hall Lane (which now joins up with Old Hall Road near Slade Lane) and into Platt Fields. It can clearly be seen alongside Platt Chapel on Wilmslow Road and in Platt Fields Park.

© Barry Johnson
The attached picture 1612 was taken at the same location but pointing to the left and shows the Nico Ditch (discoloured water) draining into Gore Brook."

History Team

Victoria Baths Trust

Victoria Baths - Britain's Best Loved Restoration Project, open as a Heritage Visitor Attraction and also an arts, education and community venue, from April to November

Victoria Baths Trust, Victoria Baths, Hathersage Road, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester M13 0FE, 0161 224 2020

*Chorlton rivers,

News from North Kent, from Kent Archaeological Society part two

Yesterday I was in North Kent with the Kent Archaeologocal Society reporting on their latest venture which reported that  another 1,653 memorial inscriptions (‘MIs’) recorded at seven parish churches and cemeteries in north Kent have been added to the Kent Archaeological Society’s website, bringing the total number of parishes and villages covered across the county since the project began 10 years ago to nearly 300.

Cooling Castle, photographed c. 1903 
The latest postings include MIs from what is arguably the most famous churchyard in fiction, immortalized by Charles Dickens in Great Expectations.

St James, Cooling, on the Thames marshes, is reputedly where orphan Pip recalled,

‘As I never saw my father or my mother, my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones’.

Escaped convict Abel Magwitch pounced from behind one of them, terrifying Pip by demanding food and a file to remove his leg irons.

Cooling village also has a special place in history. Its castle was originally owned by the Cobham and Oldcastle families and is now the home of bandleader Jools Holland.

Cooling Castle, photographed c. 1903 by Catharine Weed Barnes Ward
for her husband Henry Snowden Ward’s book The Real Dickens Land

The MIs, recorded between 2007 and 2013, cover All Hallows (All Saints), Chatham (St Mary ‘s Church   where Charles Dickens once worshipped), Cooling (St James), Frindsbury (All Saints), Hoo (St Werburgh), Rochester (St Nicholas Cemetery) and Shorne (St Peter and St Paul).

They can be found at and 

Among the most notable graves and MIs are …

Chatham (St Mary)
Three members of the Mills family and 12 others, including a boatman, drowned while attempting to pass through Rochester Bridge when their boat struck a piece of timber which had been placed, without warning, across an arch under repair.

Sally Dadd, ‘died suddenly on her father’s birthday   "Reader, take [warning]/ gone in a moment” ’.

William Gilbert Child, Colonel, 19th Dragoons, who ‘having spent 19 years in India fell victim to the late fire at Chatham and died after a long and painful illness’.

Cooling (St James)
John William Murton of Cooling Castle, ‘who on his passage to Calcutta in the ship Monarch fell overboard and was drowned when off Rio De Janeiro’ (extract from captain’s log reads: ‘and so perished one of the finest and best hearted seamen who ever trod a ship's deck. I have lost a trustworthy officer and a valued friend   peace be to his remains’).

Frindsbury (All Saints)
Michael Stanley Epps ‘who died 21st October 1931 aged one day and also his brother John Francis died 14th September 1935 aged one day’.

John George Mount, ‘45 years in the RN … and with Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar 21st Oct 1805’.

Catharine and Susanna Anderson, wives of George Anderson, ‘who hath been gunner in ten of His Majestie's ships’.

Benjamin Baker, potter, ‘who suddenly met his death September 2nd 1900 …A sudden change/I in a moment fell/I had no time to bid my friends farewell/Think this not strange, death happens to all/This day was mine/tomorrow you may fall’.

William Halls, ‘late captain of the barge Trader who was drowned by being run down by the S.S. Tay in November 1886 and found July 12th 1887’.

Hoo (St Werburgh)
Thomas Aveling, pioneer builder of steam traction engines, some of which were used to plough and drain the Thames marshes.

William White, ‘most inhumanely murdered in the bosom of his family by a gun discharged through a window’. His son George was suspected of the murder but not charged.

David Webb and Alfred Groves, who drowned in their sleep when their barge foundered in the Thames.

The three children of William Lionel Wyllie RA (prolific marine painter and etcher), none of whom lived for more than six days.

Rochester: St Nicholas Cemetery
Captain Herbert Claude Morton, ‘killed in the explosion of HMS Bulwark’. The ship exploded on November 26 1914 while anchored off Sheerness, with the loss of 736 men.

John Barnaby, ‘late measurer in HM Dockyard, Chatham’.

Charles Bird, ‘who for 51 years was the servant of the Rochester, Chatham and Strood Gaslight Company’.

The Comport burial plot, photographed c. 1903 
Shorne: St Peter and St Paul’s Church

Sarah Bevan, who left instructions to be buried in her ‘usual night clothes, wrapped in a long white dress, in an inner coffin, then in a lead coffin covered with black cloth, black plates and nails’ and ‘kept 10 days before burial and taken to the churchyard with two black coaches to attend’.

Elizabeth and John Blackman, ten of whose children died in infancy.

John Tomlin, ‘cut off in his full strength by the smallpox’.

George Bennett, bricklayer, ‘in his day a famous cricketer’ who played for Kent and, in 1862, for England in Australia.

Ebeneezer Hollands, farmer, who celebrated two silver weddings. His first wife died in 1919 and he married again in 1921.

Pictures and text courtesy of Kent Archaeological Society

Saturday, 18 January 2014

What happened to William Mellor?

It is a simple enough question but one for which I have no answer.

And it is all the more frustrating given that his early life up to the point when he moved to Chorlton  is well documented.

Now I have to confess William Mellor was unknown to me until a few days ago when my friend Barry Clark told me about him.

He was born in 1886 and moved to Clarence Road in Chorlton around 1911.*  At the age of 30 in 1915 he had volunteered for the army, served in France and was twice gassed before being demobbed in 1919.

And that is pretty much it.  Despite a heap of digging neither of us has been able to track him after the Great War, which is a puzzle given that he was a well respected book binder and calligrapher having won prizes for both.

He exhibited with the Clarion Guild of Handicraft  was Secretary of the Northern Art Workers Guild before it folded in 1911 and his work appeared  in various national art journals of the time.

Now there are plenty of clues still to follow up.

His father, William Mellor was also a book binder and was editor of the Book Binders Trades Journal and may have held a position in his union given that he gives his occupation as “secretary” on the 1911 census.

It is just possible that something of the young William will be revealed in a further search through his father’s life and from his links with the Northern Art Workers Guild.

Added to which there might just be some records from his time as a student at the Manchester School of Art.

All of which leads me at present to pursue the Clarion Guild of Handicraft which is a fascinating area of study and may still throw some light on William Mellor.

Picture; poster advertising an exhibition of the Clarion Guild of Handicraft, at the Athenaeum in 1904, from the collection of Barry Clark.

Additional research by Barry Clark

*William Mellor and his wife Eliza lived at 1 Clarence Road in 1911 and his father and mother at 3 Clarence Road, now renamed Claridge Road, both have now been demolished.

Stories of the people of North Kent, news from Kent Archaeological Society part 1

The Comport burial plot, photographed c. 1903 
Bringing history to life in north Kent graveyards

Here is another news story from Kent Archaeological Society

Another 1,653 memorial inscriptions (‘MIs’) recorded at seven parish churches and cemeteries in north Kent have been added to the Kent Archaeological Society’s website, bringing the total number of parishes and villages covered across the county since the project began 10 years ago to nearly 300.

Several of the records have been transcribed from antiquarians’ notes dating back to the 1760s. The older the notes the more valuable are they, because with the passing of time many MIs become completely illegible due to weathering and ivy growth, or are permanently lost for a variety of other reasons.

As most MIs commemorate at least two individuals, tens of thousands of people are recorded on the Kent site.

The latest postings include MIs from what is arguably the most famous churchyard in fiction, immortalized by Charles Dickens in Great Expectations.

St James, Cooling, on the Thames marshes, is reputedly where orphan Pip recalled, ‘As I never saw my father or my mother, my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones’. Escaped convict Abel Magwitch pounced from behind one of them, terrifying Pip by demanding food and a file to remove his leg irons. 

Cooling church is a major tourist attraction for Dickens enthusiasts and is six miles from his country house, Gadshill Place, Higham, where he died in 1870. 

Cooling Castle, photographed c. 1903

In real life the tombs are those of the Comport family. Nearby there are 13 body stones, including ‘five little stone lozenges’ marking the graves of what Dickens imagined to be those of Pip’s siblings.

Pictures and text courtesy of  Kent Archaeological Society

Friday, 17 January 2014

On the 53 from Cheetham Hill to Old Trafford

Now here is something that will bring back fond memories and if we are lucky a whole host of fascinating stories.

There will be many of us who remember the old 53 that crossed the city from Cheetham Hill to Old Trafford.

I remember catching it once on the Old Road and discovering parts of the city I didn’t know existed.

Of course for lots of people it was the bus you had to catch to get to work in Trafford Park.

It dates from the early 1940s and I don’t suppose the fares had changed that much when I innocently caught it for destinations I had yet to discover.

And before the bus the route was done by tram.

So there you have it, a little bit of our history contained in a set of bus fares.

Picture; from the collection of Graham Gill

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Mr Thomas's ... a little bit of Victorian life on Cross Street in 2014

© 2013 Peter Topping
Mr Thomas’s is one of those places that seem to wreak history.

It was opened in 1867 and you do get a sense that it has been on this bit of Cross Street forever.

I have only been going there since the early 1970s, but it is easy as you sit in the restaurant to conjure up images of sleek Edwardian businessmen eating oysters and drinking fine wines while discussing the day’s work at the Exchange close by, or the odd carter calling in to celebrate the jubilee of the old Queen.

And part of that is because of its appearance.

It starts with those brown terracotta tiles on the outside of the building and continues inside with that mix of cream and green wall tiles.

Added to which is the distinctive chequered floor tiles and the arched recess which acts as a gigantic wine rack.

But most of this I think dates from its makeover in 1901 when the place was extended.  Since then the interior has been restored and is now a Grade II listed building.

The tiles and the all important wine rack
I am told that the names of all the landlords are listed on a board in the back starting with the first who of course was a Thomas Studd but I have shamefacedly never looked for it which has a lot to do with the counter attractions of the superb food and wonderful wine.

Now at this point there is a very real danger that I am slipping into some unpaid promotion of Mr Thomas’s which sadly is not the case.

So I shall return to its history, commenting that one source asserts that the terracotta tiles were hand cast and delivered to the site hollow and then filled with concrete for extra strength and fabricated over the cast iron frame on site.

And that is enough.

Painting; Mr Thomas’s,  © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Web: Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Three years in the life of one of the last 2CVs .... part three

I can’t remember exactly when we bought it but it was one of the last to roll off the production line in Portugal and as the last were made in 1990 I guess it must have been around then.

You either loved them with their simple technology and charm or derided them as nothing more than a motor cycle with a body.

Me I liked them and derived great pleasure from telling people that when the weather got hot we could either roll the canvas roof back or pull a lever to open the vent at the front to let in the fresh air.

And ours also came with a wooden wedge and starter handle both of which were kept in the boot.

They also had a particular bounce and roll which was fine unless you were sitting in the back But it was a fun car and one that I had a sneaking affection for because it was really the technology of the 1930s.

Not a lot could go wrong and nothing did.  Unlike the smart car owned by Les and Di opposite us which when a light went out on the dashboard stopped the car dead and cost real money to replace.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

On Charles Street exploring the history of the Lass O' Gowrie

The Lass O' Gowrie, Charles Street, © 2013 Peter Topping
Now there is a lot of tosh written about the Lass O’ Gowrie which is on Charles Street hard by the Medlock.

One of the most common mistakes is that it was in Little Ireland that notorious slum much written about by Dr Kay, Frederick Engels and others.

I suppose it adds something to the pub’s profile but sadly it is just not so.  Little Ireland was on the other side of Oxford Street in the bend of the river Medlock and some of it was swept away when the Manchester South and Altrincham Railway was built.

What was left pretty much vanished under new textile factories, although two of the streets still existed as entrances to mills on Great Marlborough Street and are still there today.

That said I guess some of the residents of Little Ireland could have walked the short distance and drank in the Lass O' Gowrie, which was certainly there by 1849 and may have been serving beer on the spot in 1841.

Charles Street and the Lass O' Gowrie in 1849
The pub is marked on the 1849 OS map as the Lass O’ Gowrie, and eight years earlier it was known as the George IV which might push back the date when the site was licensed to sometime between 1820 when he came to the throne and 1830 when he died.

Neither names appear on lists for the early 1820s through to the 1840s and the answer will have to wait till I can look at the licensing records and Rate Books for the area.

I doubt that they will shed any light on the origin of the name Lass O’ Gowrie and so it may well be that as many have already written it is in some way connected to the poem the Lass O' Gowrie by the Scottish poet Lady Carolina Nairne.

All of which I think is enough said on the history leaving me only to comment on the painting by local artist Peter Topping.

Regular readers will know that I have collaborated with Peter over the years on various projects with him painting the pictures and me telling the stories.*

And I rather think we may have fallen into another joint venture.**

It started with his painting of the Peveril of the Peak, continued with Mr Thomas’s on Cross Street and we seem set to explore more Manchester pubs.

I rather think it should include the Castle on Oldham Street, the Turk’s Head at Shude Hill, and the Sawyers Arms on Deansgate.

This last pub has strong links with the History of Chorlton and in turn has a connection with both the Peveril and the Turk’s Head.

Now having stated a few of my preferences I shall sit back and invite suggestions for other old, quirky or picturesque pubs that we could include.

In the meantime the collaboration can be viewed at various locations around Chorlton where our history trail is previewed along with the new book Didsbury Through Time which was published in December 2013, and available at Chorlton Bookshop and in Didsbury from Morten’s Bookshop on Warburton Street, Didsbury, as well of course as other bookshops.

Map; detail of Charles Street from the OS map of Manchester & Salford, 1844-49, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Painting; The Lass O’ Gowrie, © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,

Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures who painted the picture.

* Chorlton artist Peter Topping in collaboration with Andrew Simpson,

**Manchester Pubs and Hotels,

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Rec in 1910

The last of the short series of pictures of the Rec. 

The postcard was sent in the September of 1914 but the picture could be earlier.

Whatever the year the season is the summer and there are plenty of children about as well as a dog.

What has struck me in all three pictures is the amount of litter left on the grass which gives the lie to the assertion that it is only us today who discard rubbish without a second thought.

Picture from the Lloyd collection

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Thnking of the River Thames

I was born in Lambeth by the Thames and have never lost my love of the river.

During the nineteen years I grew up in London I was never far away from it and now after forty four years of living in the North it still exerts a power over me.

So much so that recently as we headed back to Manchester from Kent we chose to travel through Eltham to make the river crossing at Woolwich.

Now Woolwich Ferry is perhaps not as grand as Westminster Bridge but as we stood there surveying the broad sweep of the Thames I was reminded of Wordsworth poem written in 1802 and so for no other reason than I like it I have decided to quote it in full.

"Earth hath not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!"

*William Wordsworth, "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1803", from Poems, Volume I, published 1807

Pictures; from The Thames Flows Down, Laurie Osmond

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Looking out from Piccadilly Station

© Andrew Simpson 2003
An occasional series featuring places I continue to think are special.

This is one of those scenes from Piccadilly Station which you just can’t see any more.  It was briefly a cafe just after the station’s make over and is now part of a supermarket.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Three years in the life of one of the last 2CVs ....... part two

I can’t remember exactly when we bought it but it was one of the last to roll off the production line in Portugal and as the last were made in 1990 I guess it must have been around then.

You either loved them with  their simple technology and charm or derided them as nothing more than a motor cycle with a body.

Me I liked them and derived great pleasure from telling people that when the weather got hot we could either pull the canvas roof back or pull a lever to open the vent at the front to let in the fresh air.  And ours also came with a wooden wedge and starter handle both of which were kept in the boot.

They also had a particular bounce and roll which was fine unless you were sitting in the back But it was a fun car and one that I had a sneaking affection for because it was really the technology of the 1930s.

Not a lot could go wrong and nothing did.  Unlike the smart car owned by Les and Di opposite us which when a light went out on the dashboard stopped the car dead and cost real money to replace.

Now with the canvas top pulled back nothing could beat it on a warm summers day and it remained popular with our kids and their friends.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson