Friday, 11 December 2015

Skating on the meadows ........ the story that just won't go away

Skating on the meadows in 1914
Now the skating story on the meadows just won’t go away.

I was once rather dismissive of the popularly held belief that during the winter parts of the meadow were opened up as places for people to skate.

According to Henry Stephens who wrote a popular manual on farming in the 1840s a good farmer never let his water meadows freeze over as this could damage the young grass that was grown on these flooded fields.*

So the skill was to flood, drain and flood again at regular intervals always ensuring that you were not caught out by a fall in the temperature.

Now I was prepared to accept that occasionally a farmer might be caught out but going with Mr Stephens I doubted that this was something of a general rule.

The one picture I had I put down to bad timing followed by an opportunistic moment.

Where you could skate in the January of 1909
But no, by the turn of the last century it was a common thing for these fields to be turned over to skating.

Sally has turned up a series of newspaper clippings including pictures and reports that all show that our farmers were taking advantage of their frozen water logged fields and I am sure was quick to charge.

So along with farmer Higginbotham whose family had farmed by the green since the 1840s there were Mr Wood and Cookson who “had been associated for years in the joint enterprise of flooding the Chorlton meadows.”*

Back out on the icy meadows, January 1909
And according the Manchester Courier in the January of 1909, “among the places where skating was permitted yesterday and where of course providing the frost holds out there will be skating today at Bailey’s Meadows Chorlton, Chorlton Meadows, Broughton Park and Lindow Common Wilmslow.  

The ice on Trafford Park lake was not regarded as sufficiently thick to permit of skating yesterday, but provided the present weather conditions continue there should be some today. At Bell Vue also it may be possible to skate today.”***

So there you have it skating the natural way was going on across the city and especially here in Chorlton, and makes you wonder why they ever bothered to open that skating Ring on Oswald Road.

But that is for later in the month.

*The Book of Farming, Henry Stephens, 1844

**The Herald, April 1902

***Manchester Courier, January 1909

Picture; Skating on Chorlton Meadows from the Manchester Courier, 1914 and newspaper material, courtesy of Sally Dervan

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