Monday, 31 March 2014

Stories and pictures from Central Ref part 1

Back in 1938
Now here is the first of those Central Ref images I promised, one a month until July which was the month it opened back in 1934.

I have started with one of my favourites.

It is of the Social Sciences Room or Great Hall and was taken by Kurt Hübschmann in 1938.

Now I am a keen admirer of Mr Hübschmann’s work much of which featured in Picture Post.

He left Germany in 1934 and was one of founders of the magazine which started up in 1938 and ran to 1957.

So I am not surprised that Mr Hübschmann should have been on hand to snap the Central Ref in the October of 1938 just four years after it had been opened.

In the same place 76 years later
And as you do I decided to take a similar picture almost from the same spot featuring the same table 76 years later.

Now it was not where I used to sit.  I preferred the inner set of tables, closer to the admin hub which also gave a commanding view of what was going on.

But during the next few weeks I guess it will fill up, after all it remains a stunning place to study.

I however with be in the ground floor with the archives and local studies which has lots more to offer than the old library which will be for another story next month.

Down with the Archives and local history
That said I couldn't resist including just two images of the place on the first Saturday after it had opened.

There were still lots of people who had come to see how it has all changed, but mixed in with them were those engaged in serious study pouring over the archives and the local history material.

Now these are you are hardened veterans, who know their census return from their street directories, will spend hours matching parish records with snippets from old newspapers and can rattle off the difference between Greenwood's map and the OS for 1849.

Finding out what is on offer
But archives and local studies are also drawing in those who are just starting and for many of them the interactive touch screens are a brilliant introduction to all that is on offer.

So a new chapter in the Ref as begun and I reckon it is just what we all wanted.

Pictures; the Social Sciences Library, in 1934, Kurt Hübschmann, m51687, , courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the same in 2014, with a scene from the new Archives area from the collection of Andrew

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The old gas works site at Albion Street

At the junction of City Road East and Albion Street,  2014
I like this picture.

We are at the junction of City Road East and Albion Street and it captures perfectly  one of those moments of change.

The building site was once the Gaythorn Gas Works and has for a while been an open area of land awaiting redevelopment.

And judging by Andy Robertson’s picture the development has arrived.

It was taken on March 14th and pretty soon that landscape with its mix of buildings, will be obscured.

In the meantime it is one to treasure.

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson

Saturday, 29 March 2014

A picture a month celebrating 80 years of Central Ref

Now Central Ref was opened in July 1934 and to mark that event as well as its reopening I want to post a picture of the Library each month from now till the summer.

Along the way there will be some interesting stories a shed full of facts and perhaps the odd memory.

And to start the series here is the painting by Peter Topping.

The Ref was one of those wonderful places where as a student I could spend a Saturday in the warm chilling out with friends and in theory doing some work.

Although from memory there seemed to be more time spent in the basement cafe than in the main reading room.

And then depending on our mood we might be lucky and pick up a couple of tickets for the Library Theatre.

It didn’t really matter what was on as long as it finished at a decent time to get to the pub.

After I started work I went less often and it became a place I took friends and family to as part of the “see the tourist spots of Manchester” trail.

The walk up the stairs past Shakespeare always impressed them but nothing quite prepared them for the Social Sciences Library with its ranks of tables radiating out from the central hub, that wonderful dome and of course the echo.

And when I began using the place again to research the history of Chorlton I still got that same buzz on entering the building.

So with all that in mind, I look forward to any stories, any pictures any memories that people care to offer up in celebration of 80 years of the Central Reference Library.

Painting; Central Ref © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Another down at the Tudor Barn

I have decided to feature a series of pictures of Well Hall.

They were all taken by Chrissie Rose during March.

Picture; © Chrissie Rose

Friday, 28 March 2014

At the Tudor Barn

I have decided to feature a series of pictures of Well Hall.

They were all taken by Chrissie Rose during March.

Picture; © Chrissie Rose

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Names, names, names

Another in the series contributed to the blog by novelist Lois Elsden

Lois circa 1873, aged 20
I suppose it is with having an unusual name myself that I have always been interested in names. Certainly having an unusual surname has been an asset in searching for my family tree.

I recently fictionalised a search for family history in my genealogical mystery, my novel, ‘Radwinter.’

Thomas Radwinter is in search of his ancestry and has little difficulty at first because there was only one person in the earliest records he could find, the 1841 census, with his surname.

These days it is so much easier to undertake genealogical research because of the internet sites available, some of which are free, and also the on-line community who are so willing to help and support research, and share their own results.

I have had great help from others researching the same surnames as I have been looking for, and I have even found a distant cousin who now lives in the USA.

Even if your surname is not that unusual, as Thomas Radwinter’s was, there are many ways to trace your ancestors, if you have a date of birth, if you have a place of birth, or if you have an ancestor with an unusual first name.

It is sometimes helpful to remember that people in the past were not always as literate as they are now, and names might be spelled in a variety of ways; my own great-grandmother was Lois, Lowis, Lowes, and Loise on different documents.

Some census enumerators found regional accents challenging, and if the person they were recording did not know how to spell their own name, then you might find a name can be written in different ways; I found Susannah spelt Susanner, Sousan, Sussanna in a series of census returns!

Thomas Radwinter discovered that his own ancestor had been Taras Radwinski when he arrived in England in the 1830’s and anglicised it to Thomas Radwinter… My character Thomas was delighted to find out that his distant ancestor had the same name as himself.

Name changes can happen for more reasons than the one Thomas discovered, and not only as a woman marrying might take her husband’s name.

Sometimes a child would take a step-father’s name, sometimes a family for some unknown reason will change its name, or sometimes there is a very good reason for a name-change.

My family were Jewish and in the 1840’s they changed their name from Moses to Walford, much more English, and maybe, in those days, more acceptable.

Lois, 1969 aged 18
When tracing ancestors, the same first name can crop up again and again, and that can help pin down an elusive family member.

I was stumped in searching for a someone called John… However, I knew he had an aunt and a grandmother named Drusilla, so when I found a man named John with the right surname for my ancestor, and he had a daughter called Drusilla, it seemed to fit.

I did further research and was able to confirm that I had the right John!

One of the delights of genealogical research is the unusual names you come across, and the waves of name change are fascinating.

Names I think of as very old-fashioned, and associated with elderly relatives of my grandparents generation, are now fashionable again, Ethel, Maud, Sidney, Wilfred… you will find children with these names in many nursery-schools!

Names that Thomas Radwinter comes across in his researches include Wulfwin, Guthroth and Frodo!

I’m sure not many people have hobbits in their family, but paying attention to names can help solve many genealogical puzzles!

© Lois Elsden

Pictures, from the collection of Lois Elsden

* Lois,

"If you are interested in reading my story of Thomas Radwinter's search for his family and want to unravel the mystery of where his ancestors came from, you can find 'Radwinter' by Lois Elsden on Amazon, "

Monday, 24 March 2014

South Drive in 1913 and another of those postcards from Tuck & Sons

Now South Drive was still very new when Tuck and Sons featured it as one of their six postcards of Chorlton in the summer of 1913.

And like all six in the series it will be familiar to most of us, so instead I want to explore the reverse and in particular the reference to R. SOWERBUTTS, NEWSAGENTS STATIONARY & CIRCULATING LIBRARY CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY.

Robert Sowerbutts ran his business from 105 Manchester Road which is that parade of shops running back from Kensington Road to Ransfield Road.

The shop is there still there but will have gone through many hands and changes of business use.

But I am intrigued by Mr Sowerbutts, and I rather think he must have been an enterprising chap, given that as well as acting as a distributor for Tuck and Sons and running his newsagents and stationary business he had also advertised that he had a Telephone Call Office.

Nor was this all because like other newsagents and stationers he offered a private library, which of course has featured in the blog. **

There were plenty of them in the township from Mr Lloyd’s on Upper Chorlton Road, across to Manchester Road, Barlow Moor Road and Sandy lane and Beech Road.

And some of these also sold postcards for both the big companies or like Burt’s on Wilbraham Road marketed their own.

Pictures; South Drive, from the series Chorlton-cum-Hardy, issued by Tuck & Sons, November 1913 courtesy of TuckDB


**Chorlton’s private lending libraries,

Looking out on Exchange Square, on a March day in 2014

Now I bet most of us at sometime have taken a picture through a big glass window.

It was what you do when pretty much all the interesting subjects have walked away or been exhausted.

So here is Exchange Square on a Saturday morning in early March looking out from the Arndale.

In my defence it does capture a moment of change down in the square.

The big wheel has been banished to Piccadilly Gardens and work is underway for the new metro stop which will be part of the Second City Crossing taking trams from St Peter’s Square, down Princess Street and Cross Street and on past the Exchange Square and the Triangle to Victoria Station.

And of course Exchange Square is itself a relatively new place but in turn contains two old pubs and a shopping centre which was once an Exchange.

So there you are, a little bit of Manchester magic along with a photograph.

Picture; looking out at Exchange Square, March 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The grand reopening of Central Ref today

It has been a long time coming but today Central Ref will reopen.*

Now for some of us who spent hours in the Archives and Local History libraries its closure left a gaping hole.

The temporary libraries on Deansgate and down on Marshall Street continued to provide an excellent service but much of the archives were locked away in the salt mines.

But with the reopening comes a new state of the art centre in the basement.

“Archives+ aims to create an archive centre of excellence in the heart of Manchester. 

It will be a one-stop resource centre providing a regional, national and international focus for community activities and learning from archive, library and other sources. 

The project brings together statutory, university and voluntary organisations to provide a holistic range of archive and heritage services from one location. 

Archives+ will raise awareness of and provide easy access to our histories for the broadest possible audiences, including existing and new ones.”

So there it is, an exciting new place to dig deep into our past.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Central Ref Reborn,,28RVR,45WAQ3,84IU8,1

Friday, 21 March 2014

Down in Central Ref just a day before the reopening

Now I can’t be exactly sure but I think we are in that bit of the Ref which was once Local History.

Back then this bit was full of tables, computers and of course book shelves.

Both Archives and Local History will have moved to the basement and so I am intrigued at what the long curving corridor will be used for.

I did read that the plan had been to return the area to an open space designed for exhibitions.

We shall see.

In the meantime I have to say I do like the restored meeting room with its fine wooden paneling, polished floor and those very impressive light fittings.

I would very much like to sit in there and given that meetings can be tedious I rather think the surrounds would well make up for any boredome brought on by the third set of minutes.

Pictures; courtesy of the Press Office of Manchester Town Hall,  MWP PR 100314 IB 1397 and MWP PR 100314 IB 1423

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.”

The blog has been going since November 24th of 2011 and in that time lots of people have kindly donated pictures of Chorlton for me to post with a story.

Now I was thinking of the opening lines of Tale of Two Cities after coming across this picture taken by my old friend Lawrence Beedle as this historic house was being demolished.

It had stood on Chorlton Row long before the road was renamed Beech Road and dates from at least the early 19th century. It was at this time the home of the Blomely family who baptized their children in the parish church and owned the pond which stretched from Acres Road up to Chequers.

Now for those who gained from its destruction I guess it was a good day but for those of us, who liked it, knew that it was old; its destruction was a very sad event. More so because now that it has gone there are only two houses dating from this period left in the old township.

So here is the challenge. Who has pictures, documents or even stories that they would like to pass onto me so that I can share them with the many who read this blog on every continent of the world and in many countries in each of those continents? As you know I always acknowledge the contribution. Just add a comment at the end of the blog and we can make contact.

Picture; from the collection of Lawrence Beedle

Something new, another picture celebrating the reopening of the Ref on March 22

This is the second of the pictures celebrating the reopening of Central Ref.

Yesterday I previewed the entrance hall and the impressive stained glass windows which are pretty much as I remember them.

And today something very different and new.

So with this in mind and with the help of the Press Office in the Town Hall I am going to post a series of pictures on the inside of the Ref between now and its reopening.

The first takes in that wonderful set of stained glass at the front and is pretty much how I remembered it.

Picture; something new, courtesy of the Press Office of Manchester Town Hall, MWP PR 100314 IB 1410

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Talking with the descendant of a British Home Child

The application form by Mr Griffiths to employ my great uncle
I do not think it is pompous or unrealistic to say that all of us who are related to a British Home Child should seek to publicise what happened to them and strive to record their stories as well as the bigger picture.

Now for a British audience and I suspect for some Canadian and Australian readers the term British Home Child may still be unfamiliar.

These were the children and young people sent from Britain and resettled in parts of the Empire from 1870 until relatively recently.

Many were from orphanages, some even from the streets and a few from broken homes.  They were taken by charities and found work and homes in Canada and Australia as well as other bits of our overseas empire.

The motives for the resettlement were mixed, ranging from a genuine belief that this would be a clean start to darker calculations on the comparative cost of maintaining the children in care in Britain or sending them off to the farms of Canada, the sheep ranches of Australia or into service.

And for some pondering on that ever present sense of social upheaval, sending the very poor and destitute far away transferred the problem somewhere else.

Those who were sent were not always the “social problem” the charities worked to save, and the lives the youngsters lived out were less of a promised new start and more a time to endure.

Extract from  the report on my great uncle's time on a farm
Often  theirs was a harsh, dangerous and unpleasant existence.

Some were exploited others abused and many also suffered from the loss of family, family history and an identity.

Naturally they did not talk of what they had gone through nor was it possible for many of them to find out the truth of their backgrounds.

Likewise for many of their children the discovery of what happened to them has been a searing revelation of the extent of the suffering and the degree to which the charities and government agencies have drawn a thick carpet of fudge over what happened.

But during the last few decades the story has come out into the daylight and there are a growing number of organisations aimed at researching and publicising what happened

One of the most effective of these groups is British Home Children, started by Lori Oschefski**

It is an organisation I have referred to before but today instead I want to highlight the work of Perry Snow who I first came across about two years ago when I discovered my connection to one of 118,000 young people who crossed over to Canada.

We corresponded and as things go I moved off to other projects, but I never forgot the help he gave me.

All of which is a lead into the first of a series articles by Sean Arthur Joyce. on his blog.

Now I am never one to rehash badly what someone else has done so well so I shall just direct you to that blog and those interviews.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson 

* British Home Children,

** The Home Child Interviews, Part One: Perry Snow: INTRODUCTION

What we have lost

Beech Road, from the corner of Wilton down towards Chequers Road in 1958.

It is hard today to remember that there was a time, still well with in living memory when shopping even for televisions was a local experience.
R.E. Stanley took a series of photographs in the November of 1958 perfectly capturing a world that that has long gone.

 Any one walking down Beech Road today from Wilton Road will encounter first the Laundrette, a ceramic shop specialising in hand painted pots and plates, a boutique and two galleries. 

And the road now boasts wine bars restaurants, and takeaways along with more clothes shops and gift shops.

True there is still the pet shop, a newsagent and the fish and chip shop, but the butchers and green grocers have long gone. A development which prompted a friend to mutter that the “place was fine for buying antique Victorian silk but don’t bother if you want a bag of potatoes”.

Picture; 32-38 Beech Road by R E Stanley, 1958 m 17654 Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council.

Pretty much as I left it ...... inside Central Ref five days before the grand opening

Pretty much as I left it
It has been a long time since I have been in Central Ref, and like a lot of people I am looking forward to its reopening on March 22nd.

I spent many years there in the Social Sciences Library in the early 1970s and again more recently in  Archives and Local History.

It is a grand place and I never tired of that strange way on an early evening you could pick out conversations on the other side of the dome and the way a book dropped on a table rows away landed with a heavy thump.

So with this in mind and with the help of the Press Office in the Town Hall I am going to post a series of pictures on the inside of the Ref between now and its reopening.

The first takes in that wonderful set of stained glass at the front and is pretty much how I remembered it.

And the rest are a bit of a sneak preview of things to come.

Picture; almost as I left the Ref, courtesy of the Press Office Manchester Town Hall, MWP PR100314 IB 1391

Monday, 17 March 2014

Looking for Lily Maxwell, who voted in a municipal election in 1867

Now I blame Graham, who posted this picture of Lily Maxwell and the accompanying notes

“First woman to record a vote in a municipal election, November 1867

Lily Maxwell was the first woman to vote in Britain in 1867 after the Great Reform Act of 1832. 

The act had explicitly excluded all women from the voting in national elections by using the term ‘male’ rather than ‘person’ in its wording. 

Maxwell, a shop owner, met the property qualifications that otherwise would have made her eligible to vote had she been male. Her name had been added to the election register and on that basis she succeeded in voting (escorted by Lydia Becker) in a by-election – her vote however was later declared illegal.”

And followed it up with an extract from the Daily News dated November 28 1867 which reported on the "record and acceptance of a vote by a lady, at the Chorlton Town Hall [continuing] it appears that, when a name is on the register, the presiding officer has no alternative but to receive the vote of the person who bears the name when it is tendered...........the name ‘Lily Maxwell is registered (No. 12,326) as that of a person entitled to vote for the Parliamentary borough of Manchester.  Possibly the registrar may have supposed it to be a  masculine name.”

And so I was drawn in.

This may have been a mistake but those early campaigners for widening the franchise were quick to seize the opportunity and Lily Maxwell was accompanied by “Miss Becker, the secretary of the Women’s Suffrage Society of Manchester [and Miss Maxwell] voted for Jacob Bright."

Likewise the establishment moved equally quickly and her vote was later declared illegal by the Court of Common Pleas.

All of which made me want to explore the history of Women’s Suffrage Society of Manchester and also to find out more about Miss Maxwell.

Now there is only one Lily Maxwell listed in the official records for Manchester during the period.

She was born in Scotland in 1801 appears on the 1861 and ’71 census and died in the last quarter of 1876.

And that  is almost it.

We can track her to Ardwick in 1861 when she described herself as House Keeper.

Four years later she had moved to 25 Ludlow Street in Chorlton on Medlock and in 1867 was at  71 Cowcill Street.

And it was while she was occupying this property that she was included on the electoral register.

Here she stayed till her death nine years later.

Of her earlier years before 1861 I can as yet find nothing but I travel in hope.

So she remains an intriguing figure not only for what she did but for who she might have been.

Picture; Lily Maxwell, date unknown but possibly 1867, m08249, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

The way things go ...... looking for that last plot of land in Chorlton

Andy Robertson sent me these pictures of a lock up workshop on Longford Road with the comment “a bit boring, I know.”

Now he is a welcome contributor to the blog and his pictures are never boring catching as they do those moments when the place is about to change.

In the last few months he has been there with his camera just as work recommenced on the old Masonic Hall on Edge Lane, revealed for most of us the extent of the new build to Oswald Road School and recorded the demolition of New Broadcasting House, the remnant of a Salford textile mill and the iconic Raby Street alms houses.

So I was not surprised that he clocked the old workshop on Longford Road and the sign announcing “FOR SALE” Building plot with full planning permission for two three bedroom semi-detached properties.”

Most of us will be able to identify that odd bit of land that somehow never got a house during the building room of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Some remained just plots of land, while others became workshops, garages and lock ups.

Well into the 1980s the strip of land beside the brook behind Belwood Road lay empty as did a smaller plot at the southern end of Claude Road.

My old friend Jack who had a lived good chunk of his adult life here he claimed the land by the brook and been a timber yard or nail factory, but there is no evidence for either.

That said the plot at the end of Claude Road which now Rainbow Crescent did have buildings on it as late as the 1940s and well with the living memory of many of us there was a disused petrol pump at the corner.

In the same way before the Finney Drive was built in the mid 1960s there had been a a set of workshops in the old farmyard.

And that bit of land on Longford Road had belonged to the brick company at the beginning the last century.

But the onward march of property development in Chorlton will mean that fairly soon it will become the “two three bedroom semi-detached properties” of the sign above the workshop.

All of which fits with the history of the township since Egerton and Lloyd began selling off their farmland in small chunks to speculative builders.

Pictures; courtesy of Andy Robertson

Vanishing Act ....... searching shipping lists and manifestos, and records of passengers travelling from British ports

Another in the series where novelist Lois Elsden reflects on using history to write a novel about the past.*

It’s happened to me, and I guess it happens to most people who are looking into their family history, that the ancestor they are seeking seems to vanish.

I was following my family, census by census until suddenly in 1871, there they weren’t… I checked death records, I tried spelling their names in alternative ways, I tried ignoring the father and looking for the mother and then the children. None of them appear in the 1871 census. What a mystery… but there they were, back again in 1881.

There may be reasons why people are not on the census; maybe they were travelling, maybe some of the records are not complete for some reason.

I haven’t yet found where my family went, but in my novel about a family in search of their roots, ‘Radwinter’, they do find an answer to the mystery.

My fictional character Thomas Radwinter is searching for a relative who had been living in the seaport of Portsmouth in the 1840’s and then disappears. It occurs to Thomas that maybe his ancestor boarded a ship and went somewhere, and an obvious destination at that time was half-way round the world to Australia.

Most people know that thousands and thousands of people, men women and children were transported to Australia as convicts.

The prisons had become full and containment of criminals was becoming a major problem in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain.

Running out of space for all those sentenced to imprisonment, many were housed in chains, in hulks, old rotting ships moored along the banks of the Thames.

Previously, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries North America received those transported from the British Isles, sent to work on the plantations. The American War of Independence, 1775-1782, put a stop to that.

At the same time, Australia and the antipodes offered vast, seemingly limitless opportunities for farming, forestry, whaling and mining, and sending ne’er do wells far away not only got rid of them, but also ensured there was a labour force which needed minimal if any payment. It was a primitive and brutal life for all concerned. More than 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia

However, not all the travellers to these far off lands went because they were forced to; my family went to Tasmania in 1839 as merchants and traders, importing fine wines from Europe, porcelain and silk from China, and tea from India to their warehouses in Hobart.

They exported wool, whale products, timber and minerals in their ship, the Lady Denison, until it sunk… or maybe the convicts on board overwhelmed the captain and crew, threw them overboard and sailed for San Francisco!

My character Thomas discovers that his family also went on the long voyage, round the Cape of Good Hope across the Southern Ocean to a new life.

Thomas investigated his history as I did. He, and I, had a successful outcome to our research, thanks to the internet! The many very good genealogical web-sites make it possible to do in-depth research from home!

So, if your family seems to have disappeared, try looking up shipping lists and manifestos, and records of passengers travelling from British ports… There are a lot of lists with a lot of ports, a lot of ships and lots of passengers – in fact in 1852 alone nearly half a million people emigrated to Australia!

However, playing the genealogical detective and with a little determination you might very well find your missing ancestor!

© Lois Elsden

Pictures, from the collection of Lois Elsden


"If you are interested in reading my story of Thomas Radwinter's search for his family and want to unravel the mystery of where his ancestors came from, you can find 'Radwinter' by Lois Elsden on Amazon, "

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Back on Angel Street that place of "common lodging houses and unfilled dreams"

Angel Street, March 2014
This will be the last story on Angel Street for a while.

Today it is a pretty nondescript place of empty spaces waiting development, new residential build and a pub.

It runs from Rochdale Road down to Style Street and St Michael’s Fields more popularly known as Angel Meadow.

I have passed it countless times and not given it much of a second look which is a shame because back in the late 19th century it had become almost entirely a street full of common lodging houses.*

For most people interested in the history of the area I doubt that it features prominently.  After all by Style Street is Angel Meadow a notorious burial ground packed in its time with the dead of the surrounding streets many of whom were buried unnamed and unrecorded in common graves marked only by a small cross.

Angel Street, May 1897
Close by is the Ragged School which in turn gets a fair number of visitors but Angel Street is just an alternative route from Cheetham Hill across to Oldham Road and Great Ancoats Street.

Those that drive along it may just clock the new and very impressive Co-op building at the corner with Style Street but will probably be unaware of the archaeological dig two years ago which revealed the lives of the people who lived in the mean houses and grim cellar dwellings on the present site.**

Now I am deep into the research of Angel Street trying to tease out the lives of those that lived in the common lodging houses but it is a slow job made difficult because the people who washed up here were already at the bottom of the pile and history has been unkind to them.

Angel Street March 2014
Still something of their lives is beginning to emerge.

And in the meantime Angel Street and the surrounding area is set to change.

Already much of the land has been cleared of the last of its industrial buildings and like so much of the city is fast becoming residential again.

All of which means that these pictures of Angel Street will soon be as much a piece of history as that in Samuel Coulthurst’s photograph of 1900.

Pictures; Angel Street Today from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and in 1897 by Samuel Coulthurst, m85543, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Angel Street,

**A planned archaeological dig in Hulme and two retired teachers,

Goodbye to that College in Didsbury ............ part four a link with Chorlton.

For nearly 70 years the college at Didsbury has been turning out students.

I should know I was one of the class of ’72, newly graduated from Manchester Polytechnic and ready for a year’s teacher training.

The chapel in 1908
Now what I didn’t know at the time was that for a century before it had been a theological college, bought by the Methodists and only vacated by them in 1942.

Nor until recently did I make the connection with Chorlton, which is all the more surprising because there has been a Methodist presence here for a long time.

So the popular story goes Methodism came to Chorlton in 1770 when a soldier and a few companions arrived in the township and began preaching.  The message took hold and by 1800 a Methodist Society had been formed and Wesleyan ministers were visiting each Sunday.

At first they had worshipped on the green and in barns, and then in their chapel on what is now Beech Road.

This was rebuilt in 1826 and later still a new church built on Manchester Road which relegated the old chapel to occasional use.

Rev. James Butterworth
 “Then in 1918 a young student from Didsbury Ministerial Training College, just out of the army, happened to be cycling through Chorlton when he saw this dark and closed building next to a brightly lit and lively public house and thought to himself ‘this is wrong’, he saw in his mind’s eye, the Chapel as warm and inviting as the pub. 

So he went to his tutors and asked permission to start a boys club there, and he and some other students canvassed the roads in the immediate area and had a very good response.

Since then preaching re-commenced in 1921 and the boys’ and girls’ club provided a youthful choir. Fellowship classes were started, the women’s meeting had a membership of 50-60 and there were concerts every Saturday night.

The name of the young trainee minister was Rev. James Butterworth, and having cut his teeth here in Chorlton went on to found ‘Clubland’ in the East End of London, which did mighty work among the poor and dispossessed of that area.”*

Philip first told me the story a few years back and since then has kindly provided me with an extract from an article he wrote on the chapel on Beech Road.

*Philip E. Lloyd, January 2008

Pictures; Wesleyan Bazaar Souvenir Hand book, 1908, and Rev. James Butterworth, Walworth Methodist Church

See also James Butterwoth, Christian youth work work and Clubland,

Finding the history of the Post Office on Facebook and an exhibition at Southern Cemetery

It is a constant pleasure to come across new web sites increase my knowledge of our past.

And by sheer chance I happened on this one on Manchester’s postal history.

Manchester Postal Museum Postal Memorabilia Displays is a facebook site and has a fascinating collection of material ranging from picture postcards from the Great War, to smutty seaside ones and a delightful Italian Christmas card.

David tells me that he has “probably the largest private collection of postal memorabilia/history around! I am setting up my permanent display at the moment in Stockport.”

 In the meantime he already has a display in Southern Cemetery which I am minded to visit.

But for now I will leave you with two of the postcards from the many on the site.  It was a hard choice, but in the end I decided to go with one from the Great War,dated 1915 and sent to Private Joseph Platt from his wife in Oldham and that all too necessary seaside card which evey collection should contain.

We have all sent them, and looking back into the history of the naughty post card it is remarkable how far back they go.

Pictures; from the collection of David Harrop

*Manchester Postal Museum Postal Memorabilia Displays

Friday, 14 March 2014

Maps and new online opportunities to wander the past

Off Deansgate on Jackson's Row in 1849
Maps are the things of history.

They locate people, explain the context of where and how they lived and they are just fun to use.

My favourite is the OS map, some so detailed that you can almost find the litter left on the street.

Armed with one of these detailed maps, a set of street directories, a census return and  the odd photograph add in google street maps and you have a powerful set of tools to explore the past and the people who lived there.

For years  I have bought into a wonderful set of maps produced by Digital Archives Association ranging from OS maps of towns and cities to our historic canals, and Mr Spurr has always been on hand to give advice, make suggestions and point me to other maps.*

The village in Chorlton, 1854
On one occasion he even went out of his way to locate a detail of a map from the National Library of Scotland and process it into a digital format.

And it is of the National Library of Scotland that I want to focus on for they have announced a major new online resource which covers a collection of English and Welsh maps covering more than 100 years.**

“This website allows all of the flat-sheet holdings of OS six-inch to the mile County Series maps of England and Wales held by NLS to be viewed.

We have attempted to include all our unbound holdings of these maps, which are probably comprehensive from ca. 1890 onwards."

Nor is that all because the National Archives has teamed up with the Genealogist to put its collection of tithe maps and apportionments on line.***

Who owned and worked Chorlton in 1845
Tithe maps are a powerful way into the world of the early and mid 19th century.

The maps along with the all important schedule list who owned the land in a particular area, who rented it what it was used for and how much it was worth.

So here is a snapshot of the great landowners, their farmers and the way the land was used allowing the researcher to track down a tenant farmer and even the house they lived in.

The map and its schedule for Chorlton-cum-Hardy was invaluable when I wrote my book allowing me to wander across the township following the lives of our farmers, market gardeners and agricultural labourers along with the tradesmen and the better off.****

Then and now it remains a starting point when I want to recreate that lost Chorlton of the 1840s.
So I shall eagerly be awaiting the progress of the project which will be uploaded in stages of the next 18 months.

That said some County Archives like Cheshire have already digitalised theirs and these were so helpful in throwing light on some of the people who moved into Chorlton and gave an insight into the landholdings of our local church across the Mersey.*****

All of which just leaves me to say go off and explore.

Pictures; Jackson’s Row and the surrounding area from the OS map of Manchester & Salford, 1844-49, and detail from the OS map of Lancashire, 1841-53, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, Tithe map of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, courtesy of Philip Lloyd

*Digital Archives Association,

**Ordnance Survey Maps - Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952, NLS,

***UNEARTH TITHE MAPS TREASURE, Alan Crosby, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? BBC Publications, Issue 85 April 2014

****The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy,

*****Cheshire Archives and Local Studies,

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A murder mystery between courses at the History Dinner on March 28

Now as unaccustomed as I am to after dinner speeches I have nevertheless accepted Chris’s invitation to speak at the Chorlton Cafe on the night of the History Dinner on March 28th.

I say after dinner but in fact it will be before, during and after the meal.  So no pressure there then.

This is a bit of a departure from the normal History Talk where I do the bit after the plates have been cleared away.

So in keeping with being a bit different I have decided to settle on the the brutal murder of Mary Moore “who was robbed and cruely murdered at Withington” in June 1838.

Mary was 49 years old, married to Joseph Moore and lived on the Green.  

She was employed by the Chorlton family of Dog House Farm to sell vegetables and fruit at Smithfield Market.

On any one day Mary might make a considerable amount of money from the sale of the farm produce.  Not surprisingly therefore she was described as a “remarkably steady woman not at all addicted to liquor”.

And that is all you will get for now.

On the night we will have a bit of the background to the darker side of life in Chorlton, followed by the story and to give you all something to talk about during the meal a set of clues which will help in trying to track down the murderer.

Ah I hear some people mutter, “not a suitable topic for a Friday night dinner at the Cafe” but I am not so sure.

Along the way as we pick our way through Mary’s journey back to Dog House, the awful murder and the events that followed there will be much about our Chorlton in the 1830s, including a description of the Horse & Jockey where the inquest was held.

Now who can turn all that down?

Of course there will be those who will read up on the story in my book The Story of Chorlton cum-Hardy, but in the interests of fair play I know they will not reveal the ending.**

Picture; of Mary’s gravestone in the parish graveyard from the collection of Andrew Simpson.

* The Post  Box Cafe,

** The Story of Chorlton cum-Hardy,

Goodbye to that College in Didsbury part three .......a wall plaque and the Rev Archibald Walter Harrison

The plaque
I don’t think I ever noticed the wooden plaque in the library showing the crests of the old Methodist College and Didsbury Training College, along with the name of the Rev Archibald Walter Harrison.

And when the MMU vacates the site later this year I hope it will be displayed somewhere in the new building at Birley in Hulme.

Now the Methodist College which provided theological training from 1842 till 1942 deserves a post all of its own as does Didsbury Training College which can trace its history back 1946 when the Board of Education rented the building as an Emergency Training College and on to its purchase in 1950 by the Manchester Education Committee.

Likewise the Rev Archibald Walter Harrison should not just be dismissed as an obscure name on a wooden board.

The Library in 1911
He was at his death the President of the Methodist Conference and had a long record in the service of the Wesleyan faith.

Born in 1882, he trained for the ministry at Didsbury where he studied for three years “completing his B.Sc degree and passing the Intermediate examination in Divinity before becoming Assistant Tutor.”*

From there he moved across the country as a minister, wrote extensively on church history, was awarded the Military Cross in the Great War, and was variously Vice Principal and then Principal of the Westminster Training College from 1921-1940.

“Methodism was in his bones and in his blood; he understood its peculiar genius, loved its hymnology, served it with splendid loyalty and gave his life to serve it to the uttermost.”**

So I am just left wondering when the wooden plaque was placed in the library and if the Manchester Education Committee made a contribution.

In the meantime it is a nice reminder of the long history of college and thanks again to Pierre for sending it to me.

* W F Howard, Wesleyan Historical Studies, 1946

**ibid, W F Howard

Picture; of the plaque, courtesy of Pierre Grace and the college Library in 1911

One to read ............ HISTORYME

Looking out from the Byrom Street Warehouse to Tonman Street, 2004
Now I first came across this site in connection with some research I was doing on the old swimming baths on Ashton Old Road.*

I was allowed to reproduce  some of the images, and recently I went back to the web site HISTORYME**

What I also like is that it includes other articles from other blogs which does broaden your knowledge, and of course saves you from having to look for them yourself, and I am always up for that.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

* Inside the Whitworth Baths on Ashton Old Road .......... what we might lose

** HISTORYME, which has a mix of stories about Manchester and all things historical.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

What’s in a name? ........ Part two, fifty years in the story of Oswald Lane and Fielden Avenue

Oswald lane in 1961
Now as much as Oswald Lane and Fielden Avenue fascinated me I have to admit I had not walked down either of them for a long time.

So when I decided to write about them recently it was to revisit how they had changed from the country lane that was Oswald Lane and the fields where Fielden Avenue now sits.

Back them the land was a mix of “ponds and waste”, the gardens and cottages which stood beside Oswald Field and the "wood and pond" worked by Mary White.

Oswald Lane today
And in the course of doing the research I went down to Manchester Road and followed the meandering Oswald Lane past the end of Fielden Avenue and on to where the lane joins Oswald Road.

The houses that backed on to the northern side of the lane have gone and the lane itself has been repositioned to turn at right angles and join Claridge Road leaving the old line of the lane as a narrow footpath which I suspect was pretty much as it was back in the 1840s.

Now as I never tire or telling people I do have a habit of travelling the old lanes and roads of Chorlton as they might have been in the mid 19th century so to walk that footpath just west of Fielden Avenue was a tad like it might have been in 1840.

Oswald lane in 1973
Well just a tad and before any one accuses me of romantic speculation based on a vivid imagination I will close.

And leave you with another image of Oswald Lane, this time in 1973, just three years before I would wash up here in Chorlton.

Pictures; Oswald Lane, 1961, A H Downes, M18075, and in 1973, H Milligan, m18155, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and part of the footpath once Oswald Lane today from the collection of Andrew Simpson