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, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

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, 

*https://www.facebook.com/groups/Britishhomechildren/666932293396747/?notif_t=group_activity

**Our ‘boys’ remembered, http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/our-boys-remembered.html#more

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, www.hardyproductionsuk.com

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, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/a-little-bit-of-history-on-hardy-lane.html

**"Tram under Test" on Hardy Lane, in the early hours of this morning. The video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0QfoBBtHos•



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, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/working-fields-of-chorlton.html

**Hough End Hall: Let's make it ours! http://houghendhall.org/

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, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/David%20Harrop

**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, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/2012/02/miss-wiltons-private-garden-story-of.html 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, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/mr-potts-and-his-ghost-sign-on-castle.html

**Stephen Marland, https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevemarland/sets/72157645951456812/

Saturday, 26 July 2014

I remember Well Hall............ memories of Eltham

The High Street and Well Hall Road, 1960s
“We moved back to Eltham in 1951.  We had been re-housed in Deptford, but mum missed Eltham so much we moved in with Nan in Lovelace Green, then moved to Well Hall Road in 1957.”*

Now one of the nice things about the blog is the way people want to share their memories of Eltham and along the way I get to make new friends and learn a lot more about the place where I grew up.

All of which is an introduction to a new series which reproduces those memories.
It began yesterday when Jean commented on the story on the old ABC cinema in the High Street.

“So many memories, of me and my then boyfriend [now hubby] at the cinema. We had one of our first dates in the ABC Eltham in 1963.

I also remember the Gaumont on Eltham Hill, but of course the Odeon at Well Hall Road was a fav. 
From the age of 11 yrs old I lived at 232 Well Hall Road, just down from the roundabout.

Many memories, moved to Well Hall Road in 1957, with my parents, Stan and Vi wade, and little sister Susan.

Still have so many family in the Eltham area.” 

And in turn some of Jean’s family chimed in with their own reminiscences.

George admitted “I used to go Scrumping in Well Hall Pleasuance and reflected on “getting a size Nine copper's boot up the backside” when he was caught.

Junior Show Time at the Pleasaunce on August 20th 1967
And the Pleasuance still has the power to bring out more recent memories like that from Amanda who “goes there lots. They have a little play area at the back and it’s lovely down there. 

We usually get fish n chips over the road to take with us,” which is pretty much what we did in the 60s and which I repeated nearly 30 years later with my own children.

In the same way just as our Jill went to the summer shows at the theatre by the moat so did Jean and I bet many will have similar memories of Junior Showtime during those long hot school holidays.

Not to be out done there will be others who share Jeans recollections of the workmen “digging up the tram lines on Eltham hill.  The road surface was wooden tar blocks, and my Nan sent one of the family up to collect the wood blocks for the fire at home.”

Now for that memory I am very grateful because I too can remember Dad bringing home similar wooden blocks for our fire in Lausanne Road.  But with the passage of time I had begun to discount it as just my imagination.

All of which goes to show just how important memories are.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson
*Jean

Mining opals in Australia in the 1890s



I am back in Australia, this time in the 1890s reflecting on the opal mining fields.

And again it is my old friend June who has shared her knowledge of the history of the opal workings along with some wonderful pictures.


"Well Australia is the source of most of the world's opals. Fire opal, the least common, is mined in Western Australia. 

It is almost transparent and has beautiful flashes of red and orange, hence its name. 

Black opal, the most valuable, is not really black but has a dark background with flashes of every colour of the rainbow. I believe that as a gemstone they are an acquired taste. 


Then comes white opal which has a white background with flashes of all colours. 

Because it is not as valuable as black opal it is sold as solid opal but the valuable black opal is sold as doublets or triplets. 

The opal is cut into very thin pieces and glued to what is called potch, a black stone without colour. 

As opal is very brittle, it is sometimes covered with a thin layer of clear white opal or a type of plastic to protect the black opal.

In Australia opal was considered unlucky so it is not particularly popular here. However the Americans love it and whenever they come to Australia they will not go home without buying opal. 

They were our best customers for opal and, even after we closed our business, Frank's cousin, an engineer with General Motors Holden in Australia, who spent four years in Detroit working for the American GM, often had visitors from the US and whenever they came he would ring us and he would come and select some opals already set for his guests to purchase. 


Sometimes they would buy unset opals but it was quickly discovered that our jewellers were more experienced in setting the opals without breaking them.


Almost anyone, when we went to the opal fields, could prospect for opal simply by obtaining a miner's licence. 

Women also mine for opal and there are lots of different nationalities. 

You pick yourself a likely spot, maybe an abandoned mine or completely new ground and start digging! This was in the 60's but things may have changed since then.

The mines are not all that deep; I suppose 

I was lowered about 20' down into a pit and from that pit was a tunnel with lots of lovely colours. 

The walls were, if I remember correctly, of white-ish stone and you could see the veins of colour running through them. 

At the top of the pit, similar to the early gold mines, there was a windlass and a bucket and very necessary tool for removing the dirt as soon as you start burrowing underground. 

Of course you also need a pick and a shovel and I suppose these days they have pneumatic drills. None of the mines I have seen were very deep. 


There are more trees and Lightning Ridge had more facilities than Andamooka which was quite primitive when we visited it. 

Although some of the houses in Lightning Ridge are partially underground, most of the other facilities are normal. Coober Pedy does have a good camping area.

It is very hot on the opal fields and there is also a shortage of water. 

For this reason the houses and other buildings are dug into the ground, in a hillside if there is one. 

In Coober Pedy there are quite large buildings, shops and restaurants, the hospital and the church, all dug into the hill. 


In the photograph I sent you of the church only the doorway and the steeple are above the ground. 

With the hospital the roof and skylights and the upper part of the walls are visible with windows on the upper part of the walls to let in light.

Two ladies dug out the house which is open for tourists in Coober Pedy. 

They say if you run out of cupboard space it is really quite easy to dig yourself another cupboard, so I think the stone must be fairly soft. 


It also appears to be stable unlike the soil in the gold mines which needed to be shored up with wood. I never tried any digging but Frank and his friend, Gerry, an opal dealer, did."

Pictures; from the collection of June Pound

Friday, 25 July 2014

Travelling by road in 1949 .......... the Daily Express Road Book and Gazetteer of Great Britain

I am looking at a Road Book and Gazetteer of Great Britain which belonged to my dad.

I don’t have a date but I think it will be from after the last war.

This was the period when travelling by car began to take off as more and more people managed to buy, rent or hire a car.

But dad would have used it for work for he was a coach driver engaged in the luxury end of motoring  holidays.

Not for him the day excursion trips he was employed taking customers on seven and even fifteen days tours of Britain taking in the scenic views stopping for a midday meal and every night finishing at a good hotel.*

Later in the 1950s when Glenton’s began tours on the Continent dad was one of the two drivers who did the business of taking the “middling people” off for sight seeing holidays across northern Europe as far as the Italian and Swiss Lakes.

So this Road Book and Gazetteer of Great Britain, published by the Daily Express was one of his working manuals, along with his own notes and postcards of places as close as Stretford Upon Avon and as distant as Geneva.

It has lain in a suitcase for nearly twenty years along with countless sticky luggage labels.  These were standard issue in the 1950s and before and stuck to the side of your suitcase marked you out as a serious traveller.

Dad collected them but never used them which I guess was the sign of the professional traveller.

As for the book it has been well thumbed and I can see why.

Here as with all good gazetteer’s stretching back into the 18th century are snapshots of cities, towns, and interesting villages along with a road atlas minus all motorways and containing the plan of a rail network which train enthusiasts could only wish for.

Manchester is afforded 17 lines and makes reference to “’Cottonopolis,’ centre of densely populated Lancs industrial area, linked with sea by 35½ m. Ship Canal taking 15,000 ton ships” goes on to sum up our history and recording some of the key buildings.

His city centre map shows London Road, Central and Exchange Stations along with a tram network far more extensive the one we have today.

That said the old trams were on their way out and those great steel and glass towers of commerce were still a developers dream.

All of which is very different today.

We are no longer ’Cottonopolis,’ no 15,000 ton ships lay up at Salford Docks and the Free Trade Hall is now a hotel.

And in the course of the last 70 years “much war damage including the Cathedral and Free Trade Hall” have been  sorted and I doubt my Dad would recognise whole swathes of the city from Spinningfields to the Northern Quarter.

All of which makes his Road Book and Gazetteer of Great Britain such a priceless piece of history.

Pictures; from the Daily Express a Road Book and Gazetteer of Great Britain

*Glenton Tours, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Glenton%20Tours

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Help Mr Shaw and give his photograph a suitable caption


This is a picture I have featured before http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/always-check-your-photo-collections.html and can also be found in the collections of Chorlton pictures.

It is of Shaw’s garage on Barlow Moor Road which was there from about 1912.  Now it is a simple enough task because I want you to supply a caption for the picture which was taken to record the opening of the first kerb side petrol pump.


And so what might Mr Shaw have wanted as a suitable comment?

Now you can think your way back into the time with all the novelty that the motor car then had or try and reflect the pride of this enterprising businessman who only years before had been repairing bicycles.

I trust you can do better than the advert which appeared in 1928.

All suggestions, if any will be published on July 10th.

Pictures; from the Lloyd Collection and the St Clements Parish Magazine courtesy of Ida Bradshaw

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 ....an 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

Joseph Johnson, radical, farmer and almost a Chorlton Chartist

The Peterloo Massacre still has the power to shock and ranks alongside the Sharpville Massacre in South Africa in 1960 and the Kent State killings in Ohio in 1970 as a moment when peaceful demonstrations were met with the full ferocity of State power.*

And it is of Peterloo I want to think about today and in particular the part played by Joseph Johnson, one time radical who lived in Northenden and whose political past gave rise to a potato being called the “radical.”

Now as many of you know I am searching for our radical past here in Chorlton, not out of a nostalgic wish make the place politically correct but because it seems to me that there would have been people here with views that ran directly opposite to those of the establishment and the wealthy.

There is evidence that there were people from both Stretford and Urmston present at Peterloo, and this shouldn’t surprise us either.  Both were places where there were significant numbers of weavers and these were a group who had become radicalised as their industry went into decline.  So according to one source 151 of those wounded at Peterloo were weavers, which represents 50% of all casualties whose occupations are known.**  And we had some weavers.

So it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that we made a contribution to that 80,000 strong crowd, but that is where at present we have to leave it, with just a maybe.

His home in 1905
That does still leave me with Joseph Johnson, who was on the platform in St Peter’s Field, during the Peterloo Massacre and was arrested for “assembling with unlawful banners at an unlawful meeting for the purpose of inciting discontent,”  found guilty, and on his release in 1821 settled in Northenden.

He was born in Manchester which some sources narrow down to Didsbury in 1791 and became a successful brush maker.

A strong supporter of universal suffrage and annual parliaments, Johnson joined the Manchester Hampden Club formed by John Knight. In 1818 Johnson helped John Knight, James Wroe and John Saxton to start the radical newspaper, the Manchester Observer. Within twelve months the Manchester Observer was selling 4,000 copies a week. Although it started as a local paper, by 1819 it was sold in most of the large towns and cities in Britain. Henry Hunt called the Manchester Observer "the only newspaper in England that I know, fairly and honestly devoted to such reform as would give the people their whole rights."

In March 1819 Joseph Johnson, John Knight and James Wroe formed the Patriotic Union Society. Johnson was appointed secretary of the organisation and Wroe became treasurer. The main objective of the Patriotic Union Society was to obtain parliamentary reform and during the summer of 1819 it was to hold a meeting here in Manchester at St Peter’s Field.  The rest as we know was a tragic outcome, and one which in its way was no less awful for Johnson.  For after being imprisoned his wife fell ill and died and he was refused permission to attend the funeral. ***

On his release he settled in the Northenden and we can track him in the village from 1841 through till his death in 1872.  During that time he gave his occupation variously as brush maker and later land proprietor and it will be as such that he planted potatoes which became known as “radicals” 

A fact that might have been lost to us had not another radical who described his visit to Chorlton in the June of 1847.  This was Alexander Somerville who having crossed over the Mersey recorded that

‘My companion said-“It was in this way; it was a sort of potato introduced here by Mr Johnson of Northern; and as he was a radical, they called the ‘tatoes radicals too.  Don’t you remember the song that used to be sung?  ‘God Bless Hunt and Johnson, and all who take their part;’ that was the Mr. Johnson, now of Northern, a very good gentleman he is who brought this very good kind of potato here which they call radical.”’

Which should really be the end of the story but I shall close with his will.  On his death he left £2000 and was described as “gentleman.”  I wonder if he would have approved of the description.

Pictures: Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council Peterloo, 1819, m77801, Ravenswood home of Joseph Johnson, 1905, m36100, Veterans of Peterloo 1884, m07594

*On an August day in 1819, anything between 60,000 and 80,000 men, women and children had assembled in St Peter’s Field to listen to the case for reforming the representation of Parliament.  Just before 2 in the afternoon a unit of Cavalry charged into the crowd with their sabres.  The deaths resulting from that charge have never been exactly established but sources claimed between 11 and 15 people were killed and up to 700 injured.  At Sharpeville in March 1960, after a day of demonstrations, the South African police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 69 people. At Kent State University in Ohio, four students were shot and nine wounded by the National Guard during a peaceful protest at US involvement in the Vietnam War.

**Bush, Michael, The Casualties of Peterloo, 2005

*** http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRjohnson.htm