Thursday, 31 July 2014

Down at Oswald Road School on a July day, capturing another changing moment

Now the skill of recording events which will mark a moment in history can be just good luck.

For many photographers it will be that they were there with a camera just as the event unfurled.

A few minutes earlier or later and that event would have been lost.

Now in the case of Andy Robertson who took these pictures of Oswald Road School the images come from a keen knowledge of what is going on in Chorlton and a determination to record the changes as they happen.

And in doing that he is following a small group of local photographers who diligently took pictures across the township in the 1950s and 1960s.

These are now in the city’s image collection, and are a powerful record of what Chorlton was like.*

And I hope Andy will in the fullness of time pass his onto the local studies library.

In the case of the school he has recorded the building of the new extension and now the demolition of the old one.

Like all good pictures that capture a point in time, it is sometimes the one most people miss that says it all.

So here amongst the bulldozer, and broken bits of building is that pile of classroom furniture and other things which for me sums up just what as going on.

Now that for me is what a camera should be for.

Pictures; Oswald Road School, July 2014

*Manchester Local Image Collection,

On Ducie Street turning up another ghost sign

Now you grab ghost sign opportunities because you never know how long they will remain.

So there we were a few days ago sitting by the canal at the Dale Street Basin and looking out towards Ducie Street and there ahead of us was the sign for H. A. Howard and Sons.

The block is now apartments but the developer left the sign and that I think is all to their credit.

Later I shall do some digging on the story behind the company but for now I shall just reflect that here is one ghost sign which might  just last for a bit longer.

And no sooner had I posted the story but Angie came up with more.  How good is that?

"What fabulous condition this one is in almost as though it was protected with something. 

Gileric Gowns were a 'brand' (like Lipsy and Goldigga today) back in the mid 20th Century. 

They made stunning cocktail dresses in the 50's although this picture is of a day dress from the late 40's".

I just love the way stories can be added to and extended with other people's knowledge and interest.

Long may it continue

Picture; of H.A. Howard and Sons Ltd from the collection of Andrew Simpson, July 2014 and the Gileric Gown courtesy of Angie Thomas

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Watching the geese at Hough End Hall sometime in the 1940s

Now sometimes the picture is pretty much all you need and so it is with this one.

We are on the low wall which ran along Nell Lane looking across at the geese with Hough End Hall away to our left and the farm buildings containing the pig sty belonging to Mr Bailey which also housed Jimmy Ryan’s rabbits on our right.

I don’t have a date but the young girl in the middle with the striped jumper is Miss Veronica Jones which I guess places the picture sometime in the early 1940s.

She told Peter that they were there on the wall “feeding Geese and then ‘snuck’ up to look in at the window as a dare.”

All of which makes the photograph a remarkable piece of history, for not only do we have a rare glimpse of the Hall in its last years as a farm but have a name and a set of memories.

And by comparing it with the plan of the hall and farm buildings drawn by Oliver Bailey we can place our three young people including Miss Veronica Jones exactly on the spot where they sat.

So there you have it and I rather hope this will spark more memories and pictures.

Picture; of the hall, courtesy of Miss Veronica Jones, date unknown

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Uncovering the stories of the young men who went from Manchester & Canada to fight in the Great War

Now as we enter the first wave of media coverage of the Great War it is easy to forget those who volunteered from what are now the Commonwealth countries and in particular those who had been sent there by a whole range of children’s charities only to enlist at the first opportunity and return to Europe and fight.

Refugee Volunteers, 1917
Some were orphans while others like my great uncle were the product of broken homes who were offered Canada as a last chance.

In the case of my great uncle who went out in 1914, his unhappy time on three farms ended with his running away from the last, inventing a new identity and enlisting the following year.

The irony is that the base camp here in England was but a few miles from where his father had married and was bringing up a new family.

In Canada as I write this members of the British Home Child movement have been working hard not only to uncover the stories of those who were sent from these shores to start that new life, but also to raise awareness of the contribution these young men made to Canada’s war effort.

And with this in mind the archivist at the Together Trust has posted a story of the 400 men from the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges who volunteered.

“The charity has managed to identify around 250 men from this list who were called to arms. Many fought in the Canadian forces, their adopted home, to which they had been emigrated to by the charity. 

The pull of the ‘Old Country’ persuaded many of them to sign up. 

We will be telling the stories of some of these boys both through our regular blog and the Together Trust website over the next few months as a small way of commemorating all those men from the Refuges who fought for King and country.”**

Now never one to steal the work of others I will leave you to follow the link and read the blog story.

Picture, courtesy of the Together Trust, 


**Our ‘boys’ remembered,

Trams across Chorlton on a Sunday in July part two

Now by the time you read this Hardy Productions may have posted their latest short film on the new tram extension from the city centre to the airport.*

The line is finished ahead of schedule and night testing started in June followed this Sunday by further tests during the day on the line from St Werburgh’s to Sale.

Michael who took the pictures and shot the film commented that “yesterday saw the start of daytime tram testing trials between St Werburgh's Road and Sale Water Park (Airport extension line). 

This is a still from the film we made - being edited for viewing in next 24 hours. They were operating to a 12 minute schedule for much of Sunday.”

So because I just love the new tram network as well as those old ones from the early 20th century here are two more of Michael’s pictures.

I have to say I was a tad sceptical of the project but it will offer up a swift service linking Wythenshawe to the city centre as well of course as providing an alternative to the bus or train to the airport.

Pictures; courtesy of Michael Thompson

*Hardy Productions,

On Upper Brook Street looking at a lost pub

Now this is one of those pubs that passed me by and yet I should have visited it.

It was the Blackstock on Upper Brook Street, beside Blackstock Street and it was still serving pints in the 1990s.

What always makes it special for me is that it was close to the Plaza that eating place which will be fondly remembered by many.*

But then again thinking about it by the time we had hit the Plaza the the pubs would all be closed and anyway a visit there was really just an after thought to a night in the city centre.

I am sure there were many things on the menu but I can only ever remember eating the chicken or meat bryani, half of which cost 3/6d in 1970 and was more than enough for two.

The chicken arrived on a pile of yellow rice and raw onion with a small pot of the curry sauce and after vast quantities of cheap student union beer it went down well.

So back to the Blackstock of which I know virtually nothing.

In 1911 it was run by a Mr Frank Morris and beyond it were the quaintly named, Spring, Summer and Autumn Streets.

I have only been in the place since it became a computer shop but standing there I have pondered on its earlier existence.

It was one of those many roomed pubs which allowed you to squirrel yourself away with a few friends and more than likely be missed by that person who never bought a round and never wanted to leave till last orders.

And Andy who took the pictures and put me to shame for never recording the place commented that “I took a few photos this morning, at least it wasn't raining. Nothing very interesting but...this was the Blackstock on Upper Brook Street, near junction with Hathersage Road.

Since the mid 1990s it has been the home of Micro Direct and Ian has been a regular customer for most of that time. He warned me they were about to close down, hence my journey!”

Pictures; courtesy of Andy Robertson, July 2014

Monday, 28 July 2014

Watching the trams pass through Chorlton and on to Sale on a sunny July day

Now regular readers of the blog will know of my fascination for trams, both those tall stately ones of the early 20th century and the elegant, sleek ones which are opening up the city to the suburbs and the neighbouring townships.

Passing Chorlton Park
And so to celebrate the new route from Manchester out to the airport via Chorlton, I am going to post a picture a day of the tests being carried out to test the line.

They were taken by Michael Thompson during the Sunday of July 27 and follow on from earlier test runs which were carried out in the dead of night back in June.*

Michael was there to capture those night tests and to celebrate the new service Hardy Productions UK have made and posted a short video on youtube. **

Crossing the meadows
Travelling at a snail’s pace and flanked by engineers and workmen the test tram slowly worked its way from St Werburgh's to Sale with only Michael of Hardy Productions to witness the event.

Now in the glare of a hot sunny day there were plenty more people to watch this important new link south from the city to Wythenshawe.

And to mark the event here are two of Michael’s pictures which were of the test run from St Werburgh's to Sale.

Michael has added, "on the night filming, the trams were running at a snail pace to start with but as the testing continued, the speeds got quite fast and I suspect may have reached 30 or 40 mph or more.

In addition to the video taken at night, I am assembling one showing today's filming (in glorious full 4K (17:9 format as opposed to 16:9). I think I have some nice shots!"

So there you have it with more to follow.

Pictures; courtesy of Michael J Thompson, July 2014

*A little bit of history, on Hardy Lane on June 23rd,

**"Tram under Test" on Hardy Lane, in the early hours of this morning. The video can be found at•

Farm machines at Hough End Hall and a vision of how it could have looked in 1937

At Redgate farm, date unknown
Now the deeper I dig the more of the story of Hough End Hall slowly slides from the shadows.

My old friend Oliver whose family took over the tenancy of the hall in 1940 and ran it alongside their farm at Park Brow, remembered a farm machine very like this one which comes from Redgates farm where the library now stands.

“I was looking at the photographs and it looks very like a mowing machine. 
Basically a reciprocating bar on which are mounted 20 or 30 triangular blades sliding to and frow over a cutter bar. 

The forward motion of the wheel works a crank.

There are pictures on youtube - try entering 'horse drawn mower' in google and there is even a video clip of one in Galway. 

I remember one at Hough End in the late 40s early 50s - probably Bonnie pulled it but I have no memory of that. 

They were the successors to the scythe.”

Detail of the mowing machine
And so just within the living memory of one person we are back to a time when the Hall was still a working farm.

True it had shrunk dramatically from its heyday when Mr Jackson and later the Lomax family farmed 200 acres during most of the 19th century.

Back then the Hall had become a farmhouse surrounded by the work a day buildings to be found on any farm.

By the middle of the 20th century much of the land had been taken for housing and even for a while the aerodrome.

The Lomax family had run the farm from 1847 and on the death of Mrs Lomax in 1940 the tenancy passed to Mr Bailey.

But even then the future of the Hall had been in doubt with the Corporation considering knocking it down when plans were laid for Mauldeth Road West.

"suggested lay-out  for the ground facing the southern front of Hough End Hall"
The more farsighted and historically minded pushed for an alternative whereby it might be taken into community use with some arguing that this along with landscaping the area around the Hall would be a fitting memorial to mark the coronation of the new King in 1937.

Alas this came to nothing and the history of the Hall took a different turn when just under 30 years later it was bought by a property developer and much of its elegance hidden by those two giant office blocks and its interior ripped away.

Still it may again have a new lease of life if it can be bought by an action group who want to turn it over to community use.*

Now that would be a fitting end, and one that is attracting growing interest.

Only last week the Advertiser featured the story which did the business if at the same time it got the date of the hall wrong by a full century.

I am too much of a historian to let that one go but that said given its long history and its promising future I suppose the Advertiser can be forgiven.

Pictures; working the land, date unknown from the collection of Carolyn Willitts,  the Hall in 1937 from the Manchester Guardian, January 6, 1937, found by Sally Dervan,

*Working the fields of Chorlton,

**Hough End Hall: Let's make it ours!

A little bit of the Great War in Southport from July 28

It is easy to forget that amongst the great suffering on all the battle fronts of the Great War there were few families back at home who were not also touched by the awful events of those four years.

Now there are the big exhibitions on the war around the country but I want to focus on three very local ones.

They are all from the collection of David Harrop* who has been assisting me collecting material for the book on Manchester and the Great War.

The first is the permanent display in the Remembrance Hall in Southern Cemetery, and the second opens at the Atkinson, Lord Street, and Southport on July 28th with a third in Oldham in August. **

Much of the material will be about Southport and the surrounding area and there may well be people who come across a grandparent or great grandparent in the postcards, pictures and medals on display.

And just yesterday David shared some pictures of the finished exhibition which shows just how promising the event will be.

This as he said is "a major exhibition from a private collection and is a fitting reminder of the people who went through the Great War."

It is also a  tribute to the unstinting work David has done, first in collecting the material and secondly in seeking out venues to display it across the North West.

All of which just leaves me to hope as many people as possible can visit the Southport exhibition and failing that the smaller but equally impressive show at Oldham next month.

*David Harrop,

**The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport from July 28 and Oldham Archives, Union Street, Oldham, from August 4

Picture; from the collection of David Harrop

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Putting the pieces together, the story of James and Sarah Molloy

I do have to admit that one of the most exciting sides to researching and writing about history is when almost out of the blue stories come together.

It was while I was exploring that picture of Miss Wilton’s private garden on the green which was about to be made a public space in 1897, that I came across the Molloy family who lived just a few doors down from Miss Wilton.
There they were in the 1891 census in that house which stands beside the modern Horse and Jockey looking out on to the green. It is not as old as the block which houses the pub but it was there by the 1840s.

In the spring of 1891 they were living with their four children in that house. This much I had picked up from the census return for that year and I suppose that would have been that. I finished the post by wondering how their four children would have taken to the opening up Miss Frederica’s garden given that it would have been a playground and garden by their front door.

But then I remembered coming across a photograph of James Molloy’s business premises at 35 Barlow Moor Road along with his trade card. He was a plumber but given that Barlow Moor Road is very long and that there was no date on either the picture of the card just assumed that it was at the Didsbury end of that long road and was no concern of a Chorlton historian.

And there I was so wrong. In the 1891 census James described himself as a plumber and the sign above the door of the house by the green is advertising “James Molloy Plumber”. The following census a decade later has the family at 35 Barlow Moor Road which is on that stretch from the junction of Wilbraham Road heading south towards Needham Avenue. By this census one of the four children who posed in the picture a decade earlier had died. This would have been a tragedy for any family but for the Molloy’s it was only one of six such awful events. Sarah Molloy gave birth to eight children but only two were alive by 1911.

35 Barlow Moor Road was a seven bed roomed property and the photograph shows it had a yard at the back. Using the street directories for 1911 and counting back from Needham Avenue it was the 13th property next to Suffield the watch maker’s shop. All of which should make it easy to locate but hasn’t been so. Photographs of the period do not match exactly what is there today and so I gave up.

Instead I concentrated on the picture and the trade card. Standing and appearing to supervise must be James Malloy while amongst the pipes and felt are two of his employees. Seldom do we find people on pictures which we can identify but this is one. And his trade card is equally illuminating.

James Molloy was no jobbing plumber, he was not only a “registered sanitary plumber” but was also an “authorised gas and water fitter” and hired out gas cookers.

Gas cookers had become increasingly popular from the 1880s and Manchester Corporation through its Gas Committees had pioneered rental schemes from 1884. In 1935 they had showrooms at 140 Deansgate and 116 Wilmslow Road. The design of the more basic models is little different from today, with an oven which could take 4 shelf settings, a top with the gas rings and a toaster above that.
In 1929 the Gas Committee had sold five and half thousand cookers and rented out another 1,798. *

And somewhere within this trade fitted our James Molloy

Pictures, from the collection of Tony Walker

* How Manchester is managed, Manchester Corporation, 1935,

Revealing more of W.H.Potts and his ghost sign on Castle Street in Stockport

Well I do like the way stories provoke a positive response and the recent one on Mr Pott’s ghost sign on Castle Street did just that.*

No sooner had the post gone out and Angie dug deep into the image bank at Stockport archives and posted
“I've found him Andrew ! There is a picture on the Stockport archives of Castle street taken June 1969 by H. Lees, from comments on another site he appears to have been an Ironmonger. 

The sign reads. W.H.Potts, Prop F.Potts, We sell the Tools your neighbours like to borrow, 
We also sell a good selection of household goods.”

Now that was a find and I am hoping that Stockport give me permission to reproduce the photograph.
In the meantime I shall content myself with the promise from Dave Bradshaw who wrote to that
“my Granddad Arthur Bradshaw, did the Potts sign writing, he's not with us anymore but my dad said the sign was painted in 1947.  As an 11 yr old, his job was ' footing' the ladder. 

I also discovered that my granddad did the ' Fyffes Bananas' sign on the roof of what is now the hat museum. My dad will know more. I'll have a chat with him and pass on your name. I'm sure he'll enjoy doing it.”

All of which goes to show that with very little effort and some help from friends you can uncover some fascinating little pieces of the past.

And in the fullness of time I think the story of Mr Potts and the work of Mr Bradshaw will grace the blog.

Well I didn't have to wait long for within minutes of me posting the story Stephen who took the picture sent me this comment,

"W.H. Potts traded until very recently as an ironmongers Andrew, verity much a fixture on Castle St during my time in Stockport. 

Like so many shopping streets it has seen so many changes yet still maintains a bustling vigour, vitality and variety."

So there you are and there are pictures of Castle Street on Stephen's site.**

Picture; courtesy of Stephen Marland

*Mr Pott's and his ghost sign on Castle Street in Stockport,

**Stephen Marland,

Thursday, 24 July 2014

More jazz in the Square

Now I shall make no apologies about featuring the Manchester Jazz Festival.

I have been taking in the music every year for as long as I can remember.

And so with that in mind during the Festival week I shall be showing some of the historic pictures taken over the last decade.

Pictures: from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Music in Manchester........... Jazz in the Square part 3

Now I shall make no apologies about featuring the Manchester Jazz Festival.

I have been taking in the music every year for as long as I can remember.

And so with that in mind during the Festival week I shall be showing some of the historic pictures taken over the last decade.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Jazz in the Square ............ part two

Now I shall make no apologies about featuring the Manchester Jazz Festival.

I have been taking in the music every year for as long as I can remember.

And so with that in mind during the Festival week I shall be showing some of the historic pictures taken over the last decade.

Pictures from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Monday, 21 July 2014

Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest important new book on British Home Children

I have all but finished Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest* which is an important contribution to the history of the British Home Children.

More so because here in Britain there are still not enough books on this important subject.

We all come to the study of British Home Children in slightly different ways but for most of us it is that simple discovery that a close relative was one of those young people scooped up and sent half way across the world in the belief that they were to be offered a better life.

For most of us it is a chance discovery provoked by a passing remark or the absence of any family history beyond a certain point and a reluctance or inability from that family member to supply a story.

In my case it was a lost great uncle who like his siblings was in care for most of his early life but unlike them was sent by the Derby Board of Guardians to Canada in 1914.

And it was all the more powerful because he was the great uncle I knew nothing of and who no one in the family ever referred to.

Bit by bit and against the odds I was able to piece together some at least of the story.  The search was made difficult by the absence of almost all the records from the Derby Board of Guardians, fragmentary evidence from Middlemore  which organised the move and placement in Canada and nothing after 1925.

So Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest is a real find for here are a series of case studies of young people who were migrated and their experiences in Canada.

Now I have no way of knowing how far they mirror my great uncle’s year on farms in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia but they help.

But Mr Joyce’s book is more than just a set of case histories.

Here for those who know little of the story is a clear explanation of how the migration of children came about but without any hint of demonizing those who organised and participated in the selection, transfer and placement of thousands of young people.

And he is keen to point to the success stories but that said running through the book is that inescapable fact that many who left Britain were scarred for ever by their experiences which marched with them through the rest of their lives and tumbled down into their relationships with family and friends.

But the book is bigger than just a collection of stories for the last section raises very real questions about an economic, political and social system which created such inequalities and poverty and in turn allowed the migration of children to seem a real solution.

A solution that didn’t stop with our children for back in the 1840s the Poor Law Commissioners had set in motion schemes to migrate families to the North and then by extension to Canada.

That will sound familiar to those who remember the call for the unemployed “to get on their bike” and look for work.

And that return to a hard faced approach to the needy and less fortunate is back again.

Mr Joyce places those periods of distress and short term solutions in the context of similar policies where again poverty is somehow the fault of the poor whose lives must be made harder if the current crisis is to be overcome.

All of which I suspect would be both understood and applauded by the men who framed the New Poor Law in 1834.

If I am picky I would disagree a little with some of the observations he makes about the New Poor Law and the impact of the Industrial Revolution but they are minor and do not detract from this major contribution to BHC studies.

What I particularly like is the way each case study weaves from the person to the bigger picture always placing each individual in its historical context referencing back to the issues and arguments of the period.

So there is much scholarship here with excellent notes and references but presented with a light touch.

I know that many of us will connect with young Gladys Martin and Joe Harwood and wonder to what extent our own family members shared their ups and downs.

Of course when you are separated by a century and bit there is a remoteness to these lives.

And for me this is compounded by the twinkling lights across the Bay of Naples which is where we have washed up.

The noise of an early evening under an Italian moon makes me reflect on how far all of us travel.

It says a lot that Mr Joyce’s skill and scholarship  have drawn me closer to my great uncle who left Britain in the May of 1914.

Pictures; cover from Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest and detail showing Gladys Martin

*Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest, Sean Arthur Joyce, 2014

Places with a history and which may soon be gone, ..... on Talbot Road

It was the building where I once used to buy our fire grates from and stands opposite Seymour Grove, close to the old railway station.

It is one of those places most of us don’t even notice and perhaps it will soon be gone.

And like so many places that Andy photographs I know I should go off and look for its history, and that I am minded to do.

But in the meantime I think it is well worth a look before as I said it vanishes, either demolished or so changed as to be unrecognisable.

And this is the start of another occasional series, on places we may soon loose.

Picture; Talbot Road, 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Uncovering the secrets of Hough End Hall

This is a rant, one of those almost illogical rants from the heart for a lost building.

Now I say lost but that is not strictly so for Hough End Hall is still there over 419 years after it was built.

But if the building stands nothing of the interior remains, which pretty much means everything which you could touch to connect with its past has been wiped away.

Added to this the open fields which allowed the hall to be seen at its best have also gone along with all the later farm structures which make it difficult to get an understanding of how the Hall  worked when it was a farmhouse.

And today the Hall is sandwiched between two ugly office blocks which both dwarf and hide it from all sides.

Back in 1973 one journalist reflecting on what had been done to the place wondered if it were better to just knock it down.

And since then the slow elimination of anything which could really tell the story of the Hall and those who lived there has also gone.

I mourn that destruction more so because in the 1960s there was an understanding that the Hall would be restored and nothing taken out or put in.

Alas that has not been the case.

So at its worst we have a grade II listed building which has lost its interior, had its exterior much knocked about and sits surrounded by modern buildings which do nothing to either enhance or help explain its history.

All that said I don’t share that journalists pessimism.

The current campaign to buy it and put it to community use will be a wonderful opportunity to explore and rediscover the Hall’s long history.

In 1938 the Egerton Estate commissioned a survey of the Hall which showed the internal arrangements and these fit well with anecdotal evidence from the 1950s and 60s.

I am optimistic that other sources will surface in time especially as the campaign gathers pace and more people become aware of the Hall’s potential future.

There must be written accounts of visits to the place when it was a farmhouse and someone must have taken at least one photograph of the interior.  All that needs now to happen is for these to come to light and we will be able recreate more of the hall when it was a farmhouse.

And of course there will also be some Elizabethan homes of the same design which has not been gutted and these will help with reconstructing what Hough End Hall looked like in its early years.

What is particularly exciting is the plan by the campaign organisers to involve the community in the history of the hall and these could include an archaeological dig of the surrounding area, a call for more recollections of the building as it was in the middle decades of the last century and clearer understanding from new surveys of the building.

These should show the extent to which the outside has changed over the last 400 years and in particular since 1960.

And so the rant has turned into a bit of a call for action and in turn from a rant it has evolved into one of those positive reflections on what could be.

Now that I think is well worth the effort.

Pictures; the Hall in July 2014 from te collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Jazz in the Square

Now I shall make no apologies about featuring the Manchester Jazz Festival.

I have been taking in the music every year for as long as I can remember.

And so with that in mind during the Festival weeks I shall be showing some of the historic pictures taken over the last decade.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Looking for Mrs Lomax's kitchen table at Hough End Hall in 1940

The thing about researching the past is that you can have good days and days when despite hours of burrowing deep into the past there is nothing to show for it.

Sometime in the 1890s
And yes today was one of those.

I was set fair to uncover something more of the story of Hough End Hall.

The broad outline of the Hall’s past is clear but as ever the devil is in the detail and this is especially so of that period when the Hall moved out of agricultural use into the hands of a succession of a property companies and a very uncertain future.

From 1597 till sometime around 1751 it had belonged to the Mosley family and had been one of their family homes.

That said during the 18th century it might already have been rented out and certainly during the second half of that century and all through the next it was a farmhouse.

Most of the occupants are now lost to history but during the 1830s and 40 it was home to Henry Jackson who farmed 200 acres of land and on his death in 1847 passed  to the Lomax family who were still there in 1940.

Today nothing is left of the interior which would have been familiar to both Henry Jackson and the Lomax family.

The grand Elizabethan staircase was taken out by the Egerton’s sometime before 1911 and the small family rooms which had been created out of the large communal areas have now gone and all that is left are two barn like spaces on the ground and first floor.

What is  is worse is that virtually all the internal features disappeared during a short thirty year span from the mid 1960s through to 1990s.

Looking east towards the Hall circa 1900
There are plenty of eyewitness accounts to what was still there when the Hall was empty but had yet to fall into the hands of the developers.

Now who is responsible is difficult to ascertain, certainly in the view of those who wanted the building sympathetically restored what was done in the name of restoration was a bodge.

All of which led me to the Ref and the minutes of the Planning Committee for 1964 when I was fairly certain that I would find details of the plans submitted by the developers.

It appears I was out by two years and I will have to go back and search the 1962 minutes along with other documents which David the archivist has suggested.  All a tad frustrating but with the promise of discovering more on what the old farmhouse looked like and perhaps something on who began to pull it all out.

In 1911 he Victoria History of Lancaster recorded that “the interior of the building, which is now used as a farm-house, has few points of interest, having been a good deal modernized and stripped of its old oak, including a handsome staircase at the east end, which was removed by Lord Egerton to Tatton Lodge.”

But that rather misses the point because it was a farmhouse for perhaps half of its history and given that I know the last two families who occupied it for nearly a century the building they knew fascinates me.

The advert from 1915
But for now I have to be content with being able to date when the Hall passed from the Lomax family.

They had been tenants of Hough End since 1847 when they took over from Mr Jackson.

Samuel Lomax died in 1930 and his wife in September 1940 which will be when the Bailey’s of Park Bridge took over the tenancy.

Slowly bit by bit more of the Lomax time in the hall is coming to light, like the advert of a milk boy in the Manchester Evening News dated 1915.

It may not be the stuff that great history is made of but it is a connection with Mr and Mrs Lomax and by extension with the Bailey’s who took the milk round over.

And the knowledge that like farmers before them they were still employing staff who lived in.

The 1938 Egerton survey of the Hall shows the bedrooms of the labouers'.alas they too have gone.

But I travel in hope that more will come out.

Pictures; of the Hall, from the Lloyd Collection and Wesleyan Handbook, 1896 and advert courtesy of Sally Dervan

In the Northern Quarter exploring the present

Pop Boutique, Oldham Stree
Now I had forgotten just how much I like wandering the Northern Quarter.

It is a little off our usual beat and as we walked around it on Saturday I realized just how much I miss by not going there more regularly.

All of which is an introduction to some pictures of the place.

Today’s images are just off Oldham Street, but there are plenty of interesting and quirky shops, bars and cafes in the side streets and over the next few months I think I shall explore these combining some photographs of now and then with  stories of the people and places from the last century.

Oldham Street continues to evolve with some businesses appearing and others vanishing but always there is a lot to see and enjoy.

The Fig & Sparrow, 20 Oldham Street
And along the small stretch from Dale Street there is Fig and Sparrow, Independent Lifestyle store & Coffee Bar, the clothes shop Thunder Egg, the bar Night and Day and he ever popular Pop Boutique.

There will be those who mutter this is just an outrageous ploy at advertising some of the businesses on Oldham Street, but not so.

Every city should have its quirky corner and the Northern Quarter is just that.

It is also an area rich with history dating back to the 18th century when the area was on the edge of the city but fast developing through the 19th century with the markets on western side and bounded by a collection of textile mills and cheap housing just beyond Great Ancoats Street.

Inside the Fig & Sparrow

But I shall conclude with Fig and Sparrow which has nicely positioned itself as somewhere to eat and relax and talk about the interesting objects on sale.

We found it by accident as we walked down the street and was drawn in by the interesting merchandise and the offer of food.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Myths and half remembered stories of Hough End Hall

We all like those edgy little mysteries and even when there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for an event from the past some people prefer a mystery.

Usually it revolves around a tunnel which someone who knew someone had fallen across and explored for miles before coming out in the most unexpected of places.

Now I know such tunnels exist and some like those under Manchester have been well documented.

Most have a logical explanation for their construction and even those that still baffle the experts will once have been the product of a sensible plan with a clear purpose.

Here in Chorlton there is the story of the tunnel that runs from the Horse and Jockey to the old parish church another from Barlow Moor Hall to Hough End Hall and others from Hough End out in all directions.

I would be foolish to dismiss them entirely but as far as I know none have been opened up in the last few decades and no Corporation work team has broken into them in the course of digging sewers, water pipes or all the other services from telephone cables to gas mains.

After all why would anyone in a rural area bother to dig one unless it was perhaps for a job creation scheme?

And I remain sceptical of the story often propounded by old locals in the Horse and Jockey that their tunnel was an escape route from the parish church during the persecution of Catholics during the Elizabethan period.

Certainly no evidence for it was found during the archaeological digs undertaken by Angus Bateman in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Nor can I think that the residents of Barlow Hall who were Catholics would dig a tunnel across to Hough End Hall whose owners were not.

Not that this has stopped people talking of Hough End tunnels.  Just recently I was told that there were those who remember discovering such tunnels in their youth.

It is more likely that these were the cellars of the outbuildings which grew up around Hough End Hall over its four hundred year history.

Some might even be the remnants of an ice house which before the invention of the modern refrigerator was the means of keeping a supply of ice.

That said I doubt I will convince everyone.

In the same way that there are a few who maintain they saw the Hall burn down sometime in the 1930s even though there is no evidence for this in the memory of those most closely associated with the Hall or in the newspapers.

But such stories continue to have a powerful place in the imagination of some and it maybe that I will yet be proved wrong about the tunnels of Hough End Hall.

We shall see.

Pictures; the garden of the Hall circa 1900 from the Lloyd Collection, the Hall looking west courtesy of Nora Templar 1910 and in 1895 from the Wesleyan Handbook

Far from Love Farm, somewhere in Egypt in the February of 1916 with a correction to Low farm

I wonder what Ethel made of this postcard from Egypt.

It was sent to her at Love Farm in Barmston, near Driffield in Yorkshire in February 1916.

I don’t know if the chap who sent it was her brother or sweetheart but either way his main concern was what was going on at the farm and sadly there is no comment on what he thought of Egypt.

The message was written in pencil and has faded with the passing over nearly a century so it is difficult to work out what he is worried about and all but impossible to make out his name.

But he writes of “thinking I shall have to be back again,” and asks if the parcel arrived.

And I doubt that we will ever find out more.

Ethel’s surname is obscured by the army and censor stamps and I can‘t even be sure from the handwriting that Love was the name of the farm.

Today Barmston is a small village specialising in tourism and faced by encroachments from the North Sea.
There is one farm listed just outside the village and in the fullness of time I will try to track our Ethel down.

But for the meantime I shall return to that picture which I guess must have caused a bit of a stir as it passed from the local post office and out to the farm in the hands of the postman.

And of course I bet there is a story behind the picture.  It was taken in a studio and the message on the back is in French.

But there is no company name just the code L.C.-198.  So it too will be impossible to track down.

All of which might suggest that this all a bit of a non story, but it does serve to remind us that the Western Front was not the only theatre of war and that some of our young men passed their time far from Yorkshire fighting not the Germans but the Turks.

It comes from a remarkable collection which David Harrop has collected some of which will be on view at two exhibitions during the summer.**

And some times it does well to share the story first with a friend.  Had I shown it to my friend Jean I might have got the spelling of the farm correct because she suggested it might be Low farm and on that basis searched out a name.
"Do you think the girl might have been:

Ethel Mary Wilson, born 1901 in Barmston.
In 1901 living with her family at a Farm in Barmston - entry 19, entry 16 is Low Stonehills Farm

In 1911 aged 10, living with her brother Harry, aged 16 - Assisting on Farm. Postal address: Barmston, Driffield"

Now that makes sense.

Picture; from the collection of David Harrop

*David Harrop,

**The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport from July 28 and Oldham Archives, Union Street, Oldham, from August 4

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

So what would Hough End Hall have looked like in 1890 if Peter had painted it?

Sadly not a lot of images of Hough End Hall have come down to us.

There are a few in the digital archive,* a variety of postcards and a handful of paintings but none of the interior.

So it is always interesting to see a new picture.

This one is by Peter Topping who painted the hall as it would have looked around the late 19th century.

Now the practice of using an old image to create a new one has a long tradition here in Chorlton.

The artist J Montgomery produced many of his paintings using old postcards and photographs and while the quality of some of his work is questionable they are a unique record given that much of his original source material has been lost.

The art of recreating a lost view of a building can be fraught with pitfalls leading to all sorts of misinterpretations but as luck would have we do have a couple of coloured postcards which helped Peter with his painting.

And I rather think there will be no stopping him now, although the real challenge will be to produce a painting of the inside, but that will have to wait until someone uncovers a photograph.

But I travel in hope that one will surface but until then I trust Peter will paint more.

Painting; Hough End Hall circa 1890,  ©2014 Peter Topping Paintings from Pictures

*Local Image Collection, Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,|AdmWebMetadata&QueryTerms=Hough%20End%20Hall&QueryOption=Anywhere

35-53 Princess Road, a demolition ball and a tale of L S Lowry

Now the friends of Princess Road have been reminiscing recently which has been brought on by the demolition of numbers 35-53 Princess Road.

They were on their last legs back in February when Andy Robertson took a series of pictures of the properties.

He like me was fascinated by the ghost sign for James Bowes which had been hidden for decades.

That in turn led to a short set of stories about the sign, the Bowes family and their trading empire.

Now the buildings have gone but memories are powerful things and in the course of an hour quite a few people posted comments about one or other of the different shops including James Bowles, Pawnbrokers and Jewellers since 1880.  Anthony Petrie wrote that “I bought a ring which was a present from my mum for my 18th birthday from this shop. It was 18ct gold and second hand cost £12 in 1974.”

But even more fascinating was Ken’s story from “my brother in law Alan  who told me a tale about the sweet shop that was next door to Barries' on Princess Road.

He worked there as a Saturday lad in the early sixties when he was about 12, and he reckons L S Lowry displayed some of his work in the shop, if the owner sold one he was on a commission for the sale of it, he said to Alan ‘I don’t think We will ever sell one they look like a kids done them!“

Alan is adamant he is not telling porkies and I do remember paintings being displayed on the higher shelves!”

All of which just goes to show there are stories everywhere.

Picture; 35-53 Princess Road, February 2014, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*A ghost sign, a pawnbrokers and a row of abandoned properties,
from the series, James Bowes,

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Sneaking into Hough End Hall looking for ghosts and staircases in 1959

 Today I am going to do something different and start an open story on Hough End Hall where people contribute their memories.

Recently I ran a series of stories based on the recollections of Oliver Bailey whose family were the last tenant farmers of the Hall.*

And as I was writing them another old friend chipped in with tales of playing on the hay ricks and along the Brook behind the main buildings.

These stories have started others off and I will start with Tina who
remembered that the Hall “was called Bailey`s farm when I was a child---pigs and peacocks !!-----the hall became derelict and was known locally as the haunted house ----forbidden to play there which meant we did !!!------very handy being a pupil at Chorlton Park school!

That Elizabethan staircase was something else-(the reclamation of interiors was unheard of way back in 1959 !!(flushed doors were to die for------none of that nasty panelling that held the dust !”

Now these little snippets are fascinating not least because they are a rare look into the Hall and begin to help understand what the interior was like before it vanished completely sometime in the 1960s and 70s.

I knew the original staircase had been taken by the Egerton’s and is commonly believed to have gone to Tatton Hall but was not sure when.

And I doubt that there will be an evidence trail.  The estate papers appear to have been divided up and deposited with the relevant archive and local history libraries around the county and I have yet to track this little bit of the story.

Which just at present leaves us with this  from 1911, "the interior of the building, which is now used as a farm-house, has few points of interest, having been a good deal modernized and stripped of its old oak, including a handsome staircase at the east end, which was removed by Lord Egerton to Tatton Lodge."**

It may be that nothing now does exist on paper of that move which leaves us with just what people remember and so I hope more will emerge.

All of which is a thank you to Tina and a call to the rest of you.

Pictures; Hough End Hall in 1933, by F. Blyth, from A Short history of Chorlton-cum-Hardy by J.D. Blyth, 1933

*Hough End Hall,

**A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, William Farrer & J. Brownbill (editors), 1911

Standing on Mauldeth Road looking for the Talbot Pub

“I always knew the Talbot Hotel on Mauldeth Road was about to go but never made it!  So the next best thing is the nearly empty space.”

Now as an introduction to an adventure and a series of pictures of one of our lost pubs Andy’s opening comment pretty much nails it on the head.

Although I do a have to break the news gently that it closed in 2010 which may be a salutatory warning to Andy to visit all the pubs on his in danger list.

But that is unfair. In the last year he has charted some of the most interesting and forgotten bits of the city and continues to get pictures of places just before they vanish forever.

Well with the exception of the Talbot which may be a pub I have been in but I can’t remember.

So I have also drawn on the knowledge of that excellent blog Pubs of Manchester to fill in the gap in what I know.*

"This grand-looking boozer in Ladybarn was once ran by Frank Swift, the legendary Manchester City goalkeeper who died in the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 along with eight United players, plus 14 others.  

In the 1950s when Swift had it before he became a journalist, the pub was known as the Talbot and there are archive photos from 1959 and 1970 as a Threlfalls house, plus one from Alan Winfield in 1993 as a Whitbread pub.

In recent years the Talbot had a spell as 'Peninsular' which was a student pub with a seaside theme.  Its final hurrah was as The Ladybarn when it reinvented itself as a food-led pub, receiving some favourable reviews as recently as 2006.  However, the pub didn't last long, being knocked down in early 2010."

Now there is more, but for that you will have to go off and read the pub blog.

Pictures; that hole in the ground, 2014, from the collection of Andy Robertson, and the Talbot in in 1959, by H W Beaumont, M50629, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Pubs of Manchester, Past and Present,