Friday, 28 February 2014

More on the work of caring for the homeless children of the twin cities in 1870

I always look forward to a new blog from the Together Trust which was once known as the Manchester and Salford Boys' and Girls' Refuges.*

It was formed in 1870 to help destitute young people in Manchester & Salford and grew into a campaigning organisation on behalf of children in the twin cities.

The posts are always informative and shed light on the extensive records held by the Trust.

This week focuses on food which is always an important element in the life of people in institutions and Liz the archivist has selected pages from the diary of March 1870.**

And in the course of reading about the potatoes, and lard as well as the onions and the sugar I was drawn to the entries on some of the inmates.

John who was “admitted on probation today” and Michael “aged 14,.  

Both parents dead. Sister Mary Grady.  

The Yard Angel Meadow.  

Worked at a glass house, Oldham Road.  

Without home for two months.”

Now this had a particular resonance for me as all week I have been in  Angel Meadow in 1901 tracking the inhabitants of the common lodging houses back into the 19th century.***

As you would expect the trail has been difficult to follow for the people who ended up in those cheap lodging houses left little of themselves behind and this extended to official records.

So I shall go searching for Mary Grady and the Yard in the 1871 census.

If I am lucky I will find her and something of the lives of those that might have known her and her brother Michael.

Either way it will go some way to shed light on the world they lived in and the very real need that the Refuges met back in 1870.

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust,

*Manchester Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges,

**Tossing the pancake,

***Angel Street,

The Salisbury in New Wakefield Street and a new name for an old pub

© 2013 Peter Topping
Now the Salisbury on Wakefield Street is another one of those old Manchester pubs which seems to offer the past up with your pint.

It dates from at least 1841 and can be found on the OS map of Manchester and Salford for 1849 surrounded by mean houses which were packed together in between Oxford Street and the railway line.

In total there were three of these narrow streets consisting of James Leigh Street, Cayley Street and Mary Street, which took in 28 small back to back properties.

And on the corner was our pub which was then called the Tulloghgorum Tavern, a name it retained till 1895 when it became the Salisbury.

Now the origin of its name is obscure but there is a Scottish poem and Highland reel with the same name, and I am reliably informed that in Gaelic the word is variously spelled - Tullochgorm, Tulloch Gorm, Tulloch Gorum, Tulach Gorm. Tulach or tulloch and means a hill, hillock, knoll while Gorm is Gaelic for blue, green, or blue-green, so the meaning of the two words could be translated "blue-green hills."

The area in 1849 showing the pub
All of which is way beyond me, although it is worth noting that the name of the Lass O’ Gowrie just across Oxford Street also has a Scottish connection.

And given that we are on edge of the infamous slum area known as Little Ireland perhaps the Gaelic could have Irish connections.

That said the change of name is certainly linked to the Conservative leader Lord Salisbury who formed a government in 1895.

By then most of the mean little streets had gone, cleared away by the railway company, and industry.

But it is still possible to get a sense of what it might have been like a century and a half ago.

You drop down from Oxford Street into a hollow and then as now the place is dominated by the tall railway viaduct and two of those narrow streets.

And while the back to backs have long gone, and Little Ireland is just a page in a history book at least the names of the people who built the houses are still there.

James Leigh, and perhaps his wife or daughter Mary left their mark as did Mr William and Mr Frank just round the corner in the streets they built.

Map; New Wakefield Street and the surrounding area from the OS map of Manchester & Salford, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Painting; The Salisbury, © 2013 Peter Topping, 
Facebook; Paintings from Pictures,

Goodbye to that College in Didsbury part 1 ........ thanks for all the teachers

The admin building in 2012
The M.M.U. is leaving Didsbury and so will end nearly 200 years of students on the site opposite the village green

It began with a school in what had once been the home of William Broome, became a theological school in 1841 and from 1946 a centre for training teachers.

So the departure of the Faculty of Education in July marks a very big moment in the story of the site and I suppose Didsbury itself.

There will be fewer students and as a result  I think the area will lose a little something, but no doubt there will be some residents who welcome the change.

Offiically the Faculty will close on July 18th and the buildings and the campus will go quiet awaiting its future development.

Meanwhile the staff and students will relocate to Hulme in what was recently known as Birely Fields but I am told will now just be called Birley.

Inside the admin building once a private residence
Now anyone who has been involved in such a move will know just how traumatic it can be and the very real danger that bits of the priceless history of the site will get lost, overlooked or just thrown away.

So I am pleased that my friend Pierre who works there has begun sending me photographs of some of its history ranging from wall plaques to posters and a lot more.

And by way of a start I have decided to represent some of the pictures he took  of the admin block which dates from about 1744.*

Sometimes referred to as the Pump House this was William Broome’s home till his death in 1810 when it was sold later became a boarding school run by a Miss Meek.**

In 1841 the Methodists who purchased the property for a college, clad the exterior in stone extended the building and built a chapel nearby.

Inside the Pump House
And since then thousands of young people have passed through the building starting with those theological students and on to all those who were to become teachers.

I was there for a year in 1973 dong a post grad course and since then I have met and worked with many who also went through its doors.

So goodbye to the college and thanks for all the teachers.

Pictures; of the admin block of the Faculty of Education, Didsbury, courtesy of Pierre Grace.

*Inside an 18th century house in Didsbury,

**A New History of Didsbury, E.France & T.F. Woodall, 1976

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Now I know what Father was doing in the Great War ...... trenches in Heaton Park in 1916

Discovering a good way of making money from other’s misfortunes is not new.

So I was less than surprised when my friend Lawrence came up with this photograph and told me that
“as it is 100 years since start of the Great War I thought you might be doing some stories on it.

Anyway went up to Heaton Park, and to Prestwich Library where there is a small exhibition of WW1 stuff about that park in the war.*

What was surprising was replica trenches were built in 1916. You paid to go and see them. Special Sunday trams laid on, kids essay competition, all funds raised went to war charities. 

So popular were the Heaton Park trenches with visitors that more were dug in Platt Fields, on the old Infirmary site in Piccadilly, and at Ashfield in Rusholme.”

Of course the historians of the Great War will mutter that such things were common place, but it is the first I knew about it, and so I must thank Lawrence for not only coming up with the picture but sending it across to me.

I suppose in an age of total war such things made sense.  If you are going to keep the population behind the conflict especially when the causality rates were rising all this made perfect sense.

Time I think for a trip up to Prestwich Library, and a bigger story on those pretend trenches of 1916.

Picture; from the collection of Lawrence Beedle

*The exhibition has been produced by Prestwich & Whitefield Heritage Society, and is on display at Prestwich Library till November 2015

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Outside a Wilson's pub somewhere in Manchester, date unknown

Now there will be someone who recognises this pub exterior.

It is another of those pictures from Andy Robertson’s collection and neither of us can place the pub or even suggest a date.

Many of our pubs went in for that tiled exterior during the middle decades of the 20th century.

I think we are in the 1960s or very early 70s but it is just a guess.

And I am also unsure as to where we are.

I can think of a couple off Liverpool Road and one on the corner of Grey Mare Lane and the Old Road but they also are just guesses.

Still it is another of those images which capture perfectly s style of drinking which is vanishing.

The old pub where you could go pretty much however you dressed and drink beer from straight glasses is almost a thing of the past.

Today many have dress codes with a bouncer on the door to enforce the rules, the beer is expensive and exotic and those tiny rooms beloved of young couples out on a date have been knocked through leaving nowhere to have quiet little meetings unobserved and free from the noise of the pub.

Of course in the 1960s and early 70s such “new pubs” were what I yearned for, away from the bare wooden floor boards, the slightly warm beer and the feeling that you were in granddad’s place.

Now I am not so sure, the growth of the wine bar is fine, the presence of good food on the menu is to be welcomed but we have lost something.

But perhaps that is just because I am growing old and with age comes that ridiculous temptation to wallow in nostalgia.

So I shall just finish with Andy’s picture, somewhere on a sunny day in Manchester, date unknown.

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson

A new book on Woolwich and its past

Woolwich in the 1940s
I grew up in Eltham but have always had a sneaking fascination for Woolwich which is just that bit more edgy, a bit more run down and lots more fun.

Here were the Dockyard, the Arsenal and the open air market.*

Not that I knew anything about the Dockyard which started in 1512 and closed in 1869, or the Arsenal which I passed most days but whose insides were a mystery known only to those who worked there.

So of the three on my list there was only the open air market which was free for me to roam over in the years I was growing up in Well Hall in the 1960s and 70s.

I remember it as a vibrant, busy place with the stalls crammed into every corner and selling pretty much anything.

But it too seems a pale shadow of what I remember it to be like.

Even the river does not offer up the same excitement or the same sights.

All of which means that any book which contains images of that lost Woolwich is one to grab with both hands.

And there is a new one out.  It is Woolwich Through Time by Kristina Bedford* whose companion book on Eltham was published at the end of last year.

I have ordered up a copy and await it falling through the door.

Like her earlier book it contains 180 images spread over 96 pages and is a mix of that old Woolwich with modern pictures which are designed to show how the place has changed.

And in its way it has changed more dramatically than Eltham so much so that looking at bits of it today I find it hard to remember the Woolwich I knew.**

But that is a price you pay for leaving the place and rarely coming home, which makes Ms Bedford’s book one for the shelf.

*Down amongst the stalls in Beresford Square, Woolwich sometime in the late 1940s,

**Woolwich Through Time, Amberley Publishing, 2014, £14.99,

Ms Bedford also has an interesting web site, Ancestral Deeds,

Picture; courtesy of Mark Flynn,

Monday, 24 February 2014

Marjorie Holmes, 1921-2014, a dear friend and historian of Chorlton

I was saddened to hear of the death of Marjorie Holmes.

Marjorie with her mother, circa 1929 on the lockups by Chorlton Green
Over the years Marjorie had become a close friend, and because she lived just around the corner we saw each other regularly.

She delighted in hearing the news of my four lads and in return I would listen attentively to her stories of growing up in Chorlton.

For Marjorie really was a Chorlton girl, born here in 1921 and an apart from war service this is where she lived.

A letter from Marjorie
And so she was a fund of stories, pictures and memorabilia which I have plundered over the years.

But there was never anything precious about Marjorie and so as I dug deeper in the history of our township she was always wanting to know more, adding my research to her memories and always there to encourage me “to push on, find out more and don’t forget to tell me.”

More memories
From her I have that vivid memory of a young girl entranced at watching the blacksmith on Beech Road performing his “magic of heating and hammering,” which more than once made her late for school.

Or her memories of the old parish church with its blue ceiling and white star, illuminated in the early morning sunshine.

Jasmine Cottage, painted by Marjorie
Hers were I think some of the last living memories of a building closed in 1940 and demolished in 1949 and which had served our community since it was opened in 1800.

And of course I could go on, but it would be wrong just to present my friend as a living piece of history for she was much more, including an accomplished artist a brilliant conversationalist and someone who was not averse to a risque joke.

In later years she would often refer to me as her toy boy and I will value that as much as I valued her friendship and what I learnt from her about the place we both loved.

So on an upbeat note and with the permission of Bernard here is part of a conversation* she recorded for Chorlton Good Neighbours.**

Pictures; from the collection of Marjorie Holmes

*In conversation with Marjorie Holmes,

**Chorlton Good Neighbours,

Now I know what is stirring down at the Orangery on Orangery Lane behind Eltham High Street

The Orangery in 1977
I am back with the Orangery that wonderful relic of the 18th century which nearly did not survive to see its 300th birthday sometime around 2020.*

It is “a very elegant red brick structure circa 1720; and was the end piece of the garden of Eltham House, which fronted the High Street until it was demolished in 1937.”**

And situated facing a car park behind the High Street it suffered from neglect and a lack of clear thinking as to what it might be used for.

Possible plans for the Orangery in 1974
As far back as the early 1970s the Council had suggested it could be restored and the area in front landscaped or conversely might form part of a multi-storey car park.***

But as ever the devil was not only in the detail but also that unless a creditable use could be found for it neither public money or private developers would foot the bill of restoring this historic building.

The Orangery in June 2013
So I was fascinated when my friend Jean began sending me photographs of the Orangery during its restoration.

At the time I was unaware of the role of the Greenwich Enterprise Board who had recognised that “the historic Orangery in Orangery Lane, Eltham is one of London’s Baroque gems. GEB has restored the Orangery itself and built seven business office/studio units on the adjacent site. 

Thomas Ford and Partners are the specialist architects who lead the design and these units are now available from November 2013. The new offices offer very high quality, contemporary workspace and will be a hugely prestigious home to their new tenants.”****

And the almost finished new project was photographed by Chrissie Rose earlier this month.

The Orangery in February 2014
Now there will always a debate over the use of old buildings.

The total unrealistic side of me wants to retain every one of them on the basis that they are a record of our past be they either a palace or a late 19th century Corporation urinal

But I know that is not possible.  Some buildings do just come to the end of their useful life and if no purpose can be found for them then they linger slowly deteriorating and open to all sorts of vandalism until they fall down or have to be demolished.

So the conversion of old textile mills and schools into apartments or offices is a compromise which retains the building and a bit of its history.

Of course the degree to which it has been converted will always pose questions about such projects and I would love to be invited around the new site on Orangery Lane.

Until then at least I now know what was stirring down at the Orangery at the end of last year.

Pictures; the Orangery in 1977 and 2013 from the collection of Jean Gammons and  the Orangery in February 2014 by Chrissie Rose.

*Something is stirring at the Orangery on Orangery Lane behind the High Street in Eltham

**Spurgeon, Darrell, Discover Eltham, 2000

***A Future for Eltham Town Centre, Greenwich Borough Council, 1974

****Greenwich Enterprise Board

On Raby Street looking at the alms houses

This is Raby Street and the building is one of those hidden gems which it is easy to miss.

I have to admit that these seven almshouses built in 1877 were totally unknown to me, as they were to Andy Robertson who “tumbled across this rather nice building amidst the gloom of decay and wasteland [and] the first thing I noticed was the chimneys.

Both of us were at first puzzled as to what the buildings were and almost at the same time did the research and came up with the fact that they were alms houses.

And as you would expect there is an intriguing history.

“The charity of Edward Mayes was founded in 1635 when trustees were appointed to administer the sum of £120 bequeathed in the will of Edward Mayes.

The money was bequeathed to assist and support the poor and vulnerable people of Manchester.

Very little is known about Edward Mayes, however it is known he carried out various duties as an officer of the Court in Manchester, he died unmarried in 1621.

In 1635 the trustees of the charity purchased 4 acres of land in Millers Lane and profits from the rents were used to assist the poor.

In 1680 a row of almshouse cottages were built near to Millgate and Millers Lane for occupation by poor families.

The original almshouses were demolished in 1808 and replaced by warehousing; the street at the rear of the almshouses was named Mayes Street to commemorate the work of the Edward Mayes charity. 

Over time the charity of Edward Mayes was amalgamated with 4 other charities these being the Hartley Charity founded in 1678, Sutton Charity founded 1687, and Buckley Charity founded 1848 and the Westwood Charity founded in 1877.

The almshouses of the Westwood Charity built in 1877 in Moss Side are still occupied today and are currently owned by Manchester City Council.”*

So armed with this I went off in search of the people who lived in these cottages.

In 1911 there were 13 of them, living in  two and four roomed properties.

All but one was retired and their ages ranged from 64 to 89.

Of those that gave their occupation, there was a joiner, a hammer man, a weaver along with two domestic servants and a driller.

Over half had been born in Manchester or in neighbouring Newton Heath and Chorlton-on-Medlock and two from as far away as Norfolk and Staffordshire.

Now there is a lot more to find out about these thirteen people and the earlier alms houses in Millgate but that is for another time.

I shall just close with Sarah Ann Grindley who shared number 6 Westwood Homes, Raby Street with her granddaughter.  Sarah had been born in 1822 in Lynn in Norfolk and was widowed.  Thomas her husband had been a painter and died sometime between 1891 and 1901.

Now in the April of 1891 they were living in Hulme and by the March of 1901 she is a visitor at number 6 Westwood Homes and there is also a record for the death of someone who might be her husband in the July of that year.

Now without more research I am unsure if Sarah Ann and Thomas were related but it is likely they were married and that  that he may well have been ill by the date of the 1901 census and had been hospitalized leaving Sarah homeless and forced to move in with a friend.

And she took with her the young 23 year old granddaughter who had been living with them in Hulme and who was still with Sarah in 1911.

Sarah was illiterate and the census return was made out by someone else which begs the question of why her granddaughter did not complete the form, but I suppose it is just possible that she too could not read and write.

Perhaps more research will solve the mystery.

Pictures; courtesy of Andy Robertson,February 2014

* The Edward Mays Trust,

Creating a novel from real lives lived out a century and more ago

Now here is a story from the novelist Lois Elsden * whose new novel focused on the search for family.

Like many people I am fascinated by my family history, and like many people I live a long way from where my ancestors lived.

Even if I did live near my ancestral roots, people in the past moved around far more than we sometimes think; the history we are taught often seems to suggest that most people lived in small communities and only went further afield on market days, or on family occasions such as weddings. People have always travelled, to find work, to marry, to see what lies over the hill.

Luckily for us we live in an age when we can access records through the internet, and conduct our researches on line. We no longer have to travel to the family church and look at the parish register then trail around the graveyard trying to find where our family has been laid to rest. With the way people moved around in the past, such visits might be to many parish registers and different county archives.

There are many genealogical sites on the internet, and there are even free sites, although they do not have the access to as many records and archives as those you pay for.

It is possible however, from your own home, to roam the world in search of your family… I have ‘travelled’ to Tasmania in search of mine!

I am a writer, and my latest novel is a genealogical mystery, of a family in search of their roots who are able to go back through looking at census returns and other documents on-line to find their history.

My story is about an imaginary family called the Radwinters. I chose the name because I passed by a sign to the village of Radwinter in Essex and the name caught my eye.

Many people would begin their quest by travelling back from the known, from their parents, and grandparents; they can use the information given on birth records, for example the mother’s maiden name.

Marriages records give the actual names of the couple, this is important! I have friends who are always known as Jane and Jim, their actual names are Sheila and Gerard – it’s vital if you want to find when someone was born to have their correct given name! Death certificates will give a date of birth as well as the date of death.

Thomas Radwinter, the character in my novel has a different approach; he goes back to the census of 1841 in order to work his way forward to the present.

To his surprise he finds there is only one person in all the census information called Radwinter… and in 1841 he lives in the village of that name!  1841 was the first census in England, Scotland and Wales; some of the enumerators in those days made mistakes; sometimes the people giving the information were illiterate or spoke with an accent and names were written down incorrectly and dates of birth were guess-work!

If you are looking for someone, you might need to try a variety of spellings for names in order to find the one you seek.

My character Thomas tries to find a birth date for his ancestor, but it was only on July 1st 1837 that the General Civil Registration of Births, Marriage and Deaths was introduced in England and Wales.

However, there are now many parish baptismal records available on-line; my character Thomas, however, has no luck finding his ancestor in either births or baptisms. In my novel, I trace how Thomas eventually succeeds in finding his ancestry, using resources as if I were searching for one of my own real family members

I have created a fiction, using my own experiences tracing my genealogical history; anyone else can do the same and find their own family too, and find their own exciting trues stories of the generations who came before them!

Text © Lois Elsden

Pictures; from the collection of Lois Elsden


Sunday, 23 February 2014

More pictures of the old Masonic Hall on Edge Lane

By the time these pictures appear on the blog much will have happened to the old Masonic Hall on Edge Lane.

Like most of us here in Chorlton I have watched as the place sat empty, neglected and increasingly under attack from vandals.*

It was subject to a planning application in 2012 but after a brief flurry of activity the site was again left alone.

Then in February Andy Roberston took an interest in the building and captured the place just as work began.

And he caught the magnificent detail of what had been two residential properties along with the clumsy addition on either side and at the rear.

When I first posted some of the pictures they attracted a lot of interest and comment including Michelle whose family lived and work there for twenty years and others who remembered receptions in the main rooms and of course those who watched its slow decline after it closed.

Andy has promised that a return series of photographs is on his to do list and it will be fascinating to chart the changes.

I shall go back and look at the plans and check just what details are to be retained and what will go.  Those old tired steel windows and doors at the rear extension will not be missed, nor the two additions on either side of the old houses.

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson

*What we are losing, ........ the old Masonic Hall on Edge Lane and a lesson in how history is not always what it appears

**Manchester City Council, Planning and Highways Committee, March 15, 2012, Application Number 096371/CC/2011/S1

Outside Norman's pub sometime in the 1960s searching for its name

I like this picture which is from Andy Robertson’s family album.

It is one of those that could have been taken at any time from the early decades of the 20th century and perfectly captures that pub world which is fast disappearing.

Here we have a group of locals standing outside the main entrance sometime in the late 1950s or early 60s.

Often the photograph was a prelude to a pub day out.

We called them Beanos or Jolly’s but whatever the name, the day would be the same consisting of a trip out to the seaside or some notable place with stops at pubs on the way, a prolonged stop for a meal and of course crates of beer on the coach.

Many were all male with “the ladies” having their own exclusive days out which might be a little more sedate but not much.

For many on the trip it would be with the same group of people you worked all week with, spent evenings in the pub together and more than likely lived close to.

These days out would always throw up a host of stories ranging from leaving Harry behind in Southport to the day the coach broke down outside the White Lion just four miles from home with no alternative but to pass the evening in a strange pub.

And it is these tales of days out with a crate of pale ale along with the strange events of the vault after closing time that Peter and I are looking for to fill our new book on the pubs of Manchester.

So anyone who would like to share a picture or some tales stories of their favourite Manchester pub please contact us on either 07808987110 or 07521 557888.

And along the way there may even be someone who can tell Andy the name of the pub in his picture.

There is a clue perhaps in the sign for the Ribble bus company but that is about it.

Although we do know is that just second to the left of the Bass sign almost blocking out the man next to the sign is Norman Sharples who was born in 1893.

Not much to go on but a start.

So until someone comes up with the name of Norman's pub I shall just fall back on that outrageous promotion for the book on Manchester pubs.

So far we haven't ruled out any of the traditional city public houses, which include those iconic tiled ones to the equally fondly remembered watering holes beside our stations and theatres.

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson

The brick works, the Ice Ring and a few silly stories on the History Walk today at 2.30

Out on a History Walk
Starting at 2.30 today from the Post Box Cafe we will be setting off to explore the history of Martledge in the late 19th century on another of those popular History Walks.*

Martledge was the area roughly from the Four Banks down to the Library and was so transformed from the 1880s that even its name was forgotten and locals referred to it as “New Chorlton” or the “new village.”

The walk will take us past some farms, the old Royal Oak pub, a very interesting block of houses dating from 1832 and by degree out across the Isles to gaze at the sight of the old Chorlton Ice Rink and finish off with the story of the Great Burial Scandal and the almost forgotten stories of Chorlton and the Blitz.

Along the way there will be tales of dark deeds, quite a bit about the people we might have encountered and more than one silly story.

Like the day the lady  from Beech Road lost her skates while visiting our skating ring on Oswald Road and went on to make a fascinating discovery.

Today the site takes in the two semidetached houses on Longford and another six running down Oswald but for a short while at the beginning of the 20th century it was an alternative to the frozen water meadows down by the Mersey.

It was painted by the artist J Montgomery in 1964 from a now lost photograph.**

Chorlton Skating Ring later the Picturedrome, circa 1914
It is not easy to get the scale of the building from Montgomery’s picture but we do seem to be dealing with a big site.

And something of the size  is possible to judge by walking along Oswald Road today.

It was bounded on the south by Hartley Road extended along Longford to its junction with Oswald Road and down Oswald to a point opposite where Oswald Lane starts.

If Montgomery’s painting is anything to go by it was quite impressive with a large painted gable end, stretching back some distance and would have been ideal as a theatre or cinema.  And here is a  mystery, because the title refers to “Chorlton Skating Ring later The Picturedrome.”

This would suggest it became a picture house but the earliest recorded cinema is the Pavilion on the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads which was opened as a variety hall around 1904 and was showing films by 1910 if not a little before.

Of course there was nothing stopping the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Ice Skating Company showing films, after all many of our early picture houses remained theatres.  The Pavilion or as it became known,  the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens were booking variety acts in the summer of 1910 while also showing movies.

Posing before another History Walk
I can at present only hazard a guess for its short life.  The Great War may have pushed it over the brink, but there may have been other reasons.

Many especially those in the village might have preferred to venture for free onto the meadows when they iced over and there may equally have been stiff competition as a cinema not only from the Pavilion but after 1914 from the purpose built Palais de Luxe on Barlow Moor Road close to the tram terminus.

So there you have it lots to hear and see and no doubt lots of questions. to ask.

The event begins at 2.30 pm on February 23rd outside the Post Box Cafe on Wilbraham Road.***

For your £10 you will get a hot drink to fortify you as we head out to explore more of our history, finishing at 3.30 back at the Post Box for soup or cake.

Pictures; Out on a history walk from the collection of Andrew Simpson and “Chorlton Skating Ring later The Picturedrome.”, J Montgomery, 1964,m80132 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council  

*Chorlton Walks,

** J Montgomery an earlier post

***The Post  Box Cafe,

Saturday, 22 February 2014

At 33 Higher Cambridge Street looking for Bowes famous 5/11 trousers

I like this picture because the more you look at it the more you are drawn into the early decades of the last century.

We are on Higher Cambridge Street at one the shops of James Bowes Ltd.

Number 35 Higher Cambridge Street was the second of the shops opened by James Bowes who had begun his business in 1880 on Oldham Road in Newton Heath. 

Within three years of starting his business he had expanded into the neighbouring shop and later still opened this one in Chorlton on Medlock.

And as that century rolled on the firm opened other shops one of which was on Alexandra Road,* finally moving to Stockport at the end of the 20th century.

James Bowes was born in Hulme in 1839. His father described himself variously as an engineer and a maker up.  

The family were still in Hulme in 1851 but James had moved to Newton Heath by 1881 living with his wife and children above the shop at 286 Oldham Road.

But today I want to concentrate on our shop on Higher Cambridge Street.

Like the family business in Newton James Bowes Ltd in Chorlton on Medlock occupied two shops.

They were as the sign announces “General Salesmen” dealing in anything and everything from clothes to alarm clocks, from blankets to boy’s knickers.

And if you were unsure about what was on sale, there hanging from the side of the shop was a line of carpets and rugs while the windows were filled with merchandise and hand written signs.

This after all was that period when every shop keepers motto was “pile’em high and sell ‘em cheap."

Look closely and there is a window full of “WATCHES AND ALBERTS.”

My favourite has to be “BOWES FAMOUS 5/11 TROUSERS 5/11 TROUSERS POPULAR ALL OVER THIS CITY", with the added hard sell of poster inviting you to " THINK THIS OVER."

But despite all of these goods the other serious side of the business was the  pawnbroker’s which in the years before the Great War flourished where ever incomes were uncertain and where there was a need to resort to ready cash in exchange for pawning a personal article.

In 1911 the shop was run by Wilfred Bowes, who was 26 years old and one of James’s sons. 

Now talking to Paul who is the present owner of the shop in Stockport the company continued to expand and so I guess in the fullness of time I should be able to find out if Wilfred’s brothers Edgat and James also went into the family business.

For now I shall just return to that shop on Higher Cambridge Street with its shirts at 4/11 and its Bowes Alarm Clocks “Now reduced to 2/11.”

I went looking for the place recently and of course it has long gone.

Picture; 33-35 Higher Cambridge Street courtesy of Paul Bowes

Pondering on the future of 9 Barlow Moor Road in Didsbury

9 Barlow Moor Road, 2013
Well here is one of those ongoing tales.  

This is number 9 Barlow Moor Road and for as long as I can remember it has been empty.

That said there will be some keen resident of this end of Didsbury who will know exactly when it was last in use.

Andy who took the photograph remembers that it was once a fish and chip shop and asks “what is to become of the chippy? 

This building has been derelict ten or twenty years. I used to get my chips there in the mid seventies when I couldn't be bothered to cross Wilmslow Road to go to Fongs on School Lane. 

It used to be run by three ladies.”

Now I know what it might become, because there has been a planning application to turn it into a cafe with a shop on the first floor.*

That was back in November 2013 but when I last passed recently it was still boarded up.

And back in 1973
But these things have a habit of taking a long time.

So I began instead to look for old images of the property but these are to find.

There are a few which give a glimpse of the place but that is about it.

And added to these there are references to it in the street directories but again they do not help me much.

So I shall for now leave number 9 awaiting its development and hope someone will come up with either a picture or some information.

Pictures; number 9 from the collection of Andy Robertson, February 2013, and in 1973 taken by 
J.F.Hughes, m21469, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

*Manchester City Council online planning

Friday, 21 February 2014

The price of preserving the past is eternal vigilance ....... recording a vanishing Chorlton

The price of preserving the past is eternal vigilance which I am the first to admit is to misquote what the American Abolitionist and liberal activist Wendell Phillips said in 1852.*

But it serves the purpose for today which is to revisit that simple observation that often great chunks of history disappear without us noticing until it is too late.

So with that in mind I always carry a camera and snap away whenever I come across a building in danger.

And I also plunder the photograph albums of friends, colleagues and anyone who has taken a picture of places I like in the last three decades.

Nor is it just photographs for since local artist Peter Topping began his "A moment in Time" series of paintings of Chorlton, bits of it have vanished or changed beyond recognition.

As he says “lossing  so many familiar places spurred  me on paint Chorlton as it is now."

Shops close and become bars, houses add a dormer window or garage and old faithful buildings are demolished for another anonymous development.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on Beech Road where business change and in the process the buildings are totally revamped.

So here were are on the corner of Beech and Wilton looking at the Soap Opera which has washed people’s clothes for three decades and now is another bar.**

The building  began life as a grocery and provision shop owned by John Williams & Sons on the site that had originally been occupied by Sutton’s Cottage, which was a wattle and daub dwelling and may well have been built in the early 1800s and was demolished in 1891.

Sometime in the late 1950s or early 60s the grocery shop became the Maypole launderette and continued so until quite recently.

But the launderette or washateria as my friend John from Leeds always called it was no more able to buck the consumer revolution than the laundry before it.

So apart from service washes, and duvet day the Soap Opera became an ever lonelier place.

And putting it into a context since the mid 1980s the number has fallen by two thirds while the onward march of the bar/cafe and small restaurant seems unstoppable.

And with that in mind earlier this year Peter went back to that corner of Beech and Wilton and did the business all over again.

Paintings; Painting; The Soap Opera, © 2011 and the Launderette, © 2013,  Peter Topping, 
Facebook; Paintings from Pictures, Web:

Two history events this weekend

For any one who has not yet made their mind up what to do this weekend here are two events not to be missed.

Both offer exciting opportunities to learn more about the history of south Manchester.

Just along Barlow Moor Road at Didsbury Library there will be the oficial launch of  Didsbury Through Time.

This new book on the history of Didsbury combines the skills of an artist and story teller and offers 90 old images with 90 contemporary photographs and paintings.

All the paintings are original works by Peter Topping and are also available to purchase.

In writing the text I tried to avoid just commenting on the physical changes to the landscape and buildings but instead to focus on the people who lived there many of who have been forgotten, like young Bertha Geary who on a summer's day heard the "flying man" and Mrs Martha Meredith of 1 School Lane, a widow and proprietor of a fish and chip shop.

The day will also feature an exhibition of some of the paintings which went into the book, and one of those power point presentations describing how we produced it.

And if you like a more active way of getting some history there is another of those unforgettable History Walks around Chorlton.

It will start at 2.30 from the Post Box Cafe* on Sunday and will take you past some farms, the old Royal Oak pub, a very interesting block of houses dating from 1832 and by degree out across the Isles to gaze at the sight of the old Chorlton Ice Rink and finish off with the story of the Great Burial Scandal and the almost forgotten stories of Chorlton and the Blitz.

Along the way there will be tales of dark deeds, quite a bit about the people we might have encountered and more than one silly story.

*The Post  Box Cafe,