Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Postcard as promised, bought in romantic Sorrento, posted in romantic Manchester

So who still ends picture postcards?  

Now I know I don’t, and I guess that is true of many.

After all texting, camera phones, and the internet all instant ways of telling someone you are having a
wonderful time on holiday.

Of course back in the late 19th and early 20th century it was still the cheapest and most reliable way of sending a message.

Cheap postage, and frequent collections and deliveries meant a card sent from Blackpool in the evening would arrive the following morning.

So you could not only warn the family you would be home for breakfast but also arrange to meet a friend later in the day.

Today all that has changed, so it was nice to receive this in the post today.

It is of a place that I still find fascinating,  a period of history which always draws me in. and is a postcard the first of the year.

No more needs to be said other than an apology to Joe and Bron for not sending them a similar card when we were in Sorrento in July

Potscard; from Joe and Bron.

Back in the Northern Territory in 1984

I am back in Australia just 30 years ago with more pictures of the Northern Territory.

They were taken by June Pound just as the area was being transformed by the Ord River scheme.

This area was home to cattlemen from Sidney who farmed the land here about.  It the summer it was hot arid and unpromising but according to June the winters were full of water.

So hence the scheme to regulate the water supply.











Pictures, from the collection of June Pound



Monday, 29 September 2014

Out in the Northern Territory in 1984, reflecting on two Irish brothers from Sydney who were looking for land

Welcome to the Northern Territory, 1984
Now the blog knows no boundaries and so here we are in the Northern Territory of Australia.

The pictures date from 1984 when my friend June and her husband visited the Northern territory just as the area was transformed by the Ord River scheme.

“The pictures are of part of a cattle station pioneered by two Irish brothers from Sydney who were looking for land on which to raise cattle in the 19th century. 

The land was arid and was very bad in the dry season but, in the wet, there was plenty of water - sometimes, of course far too much. 


Lake Argyle, 1984
In the 20th Century it was decided to dam the River Ord a project which was known as the Ord River scheme, which was intended to bring the desert country to life. 

We visited this area in 1984 on a trip around Australia in a coach. 

When the dam was completed and started to fill a rescue of wild life marooned by the rising waters was necessary.

We saw it when it was full and there was a lot of cultivation going on. 


"The land was arid and very bad in the dry season," 1984
I know that some people were concerned that the soil was very fragile and that it was being 'overcropped'. In the first photograph you will get some idea of how dry this area is in most parts.”

All of which is a trailer for some stories of Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Pictures; of the Northern Territory, 1984, June Pound

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Standing beside history ............. a new story from the Together Trust

Outside the Town Hall ready to leave
Now there is something very powerful in being able to stand on the exact same spot as a group of people whose history you know something about.

We are outside the Town Hall in Albert Square and like countless others I have stood on those steps and never tire of being impressed by the entrance and the large open space beyond with the broad stone staircases and the carved and painted images which celebrate our municipal achievement.

Of course I have no idea about what the party of young people standing there in the May of 1914 thought or felt and to try and speculate would be idle and unhistorical.

But it is a good starting point for the latest blog from the Together Trust which focuses on the last groups to be migrated by the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refugue to Canada and the work done to monitor their well being.

Since 1870 sending some of our young people across the Atlantic was seen as a way of giving them fresh start.

It was a policy which some challenged at the time and many since have come to criticise.

The Manchester and Salford Boys’and Girls’ Refugue began sending children in their care from 1870 but stopped just before the outbreak of the Great War and I think they were the first agency to do so.

This weeks’ blog begins to explore some of the documentation that went with that migration focusing on the “emigration books that remain in the archive [and which] show reports for children up to the age of eighteen and sometimes beyond.“

All of which is an important tool in understanding what went on and by extension might well help with any one tracing their own relative who crossed the Atlantic.

At which point I will not steal any of the archivist’s thunder and instead point you towards the blog and leave you to do the rest.

Suffice to say that the report on 17 year old Alfred draws you in and shows just what there is on offer.

Picture; Emigration Party outside the ManchesterTown Hall, courtesy of the Together Trust, 

* Emigration during WW1, http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/

At Stalybridge Railway Station with a pint, a pie and a view of the hills,

Platform 4, 2014
I have fond memories of Stalybridge Railway Station.

Back in the mid 1970s it is where we would catch the train to the North East on rolling stock which must have dated from the early 50s.

There was even a sign in one of the lavatories which announced that “in the event of inclement weather water can be obtained from the guard” which I always took to be if the pipes had frozen.

But someone will put me straight on that and no doubt also the exact date when the old buffet on platform 4 was enlarged and transformed into its present very pleasant restaurant which I think was 1998.

It is still a grand place to take a pint and pie and takes you back to all those old fashioned buffets on stations across the country.  All too often now a meal or a drink on a station  is in one of those  anonymous chain outlet which can be seen on any city centre of high street.

But not so the restaurant on Stalybridge Station, it has good food, some interesting customers and above all with only a bit of imagination you could be back with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in the film Brief Encounters.

Now that may just challenge most readers so I shall just say it was made in 1945 and perfectly captures a British Railways Buffet which had changed very little a decade later when I passed through them.

Looking across to the hills, 1983
The station  was opened in 1845   by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway and is just fifteen years younger than that first passenger railway station on Liverpool Road.

So like Huddersfield Station which I wrote about yesterday this is a fine place to see the history of how railway stations were going in the early years of the Railway Age.

What is better you can still get there by train from the city so no worries about excepting that second pint, just, “let the train take the strain.”

Inside 
And just before someone mutters what about the folk club, yes there was one but for reasons I don't remember I never went.

But I bet my friend Brian did and he has added just a bit more to the story.

"The station was opened by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway, which became the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire, and then the  Great Central.

It station became jointly run when the L&NW Railway opened the line from Stockport to Yorkshire on 1849."

All of which leaves me with offering Brian a pint in the station buffet.

In the meantime there is lots more to read about our stations at *Manchester Railway Station,  http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Manchester%20Railway%20Station

Pictures; Stalybridge Buffet Bar on platform 4, El Pollock - from geograph.org.uk This image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by El Pollock and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. The station in 1983,  Mr. M. Schofield, courtesy of Tameside Image Archive, http://www.tameside.gov.uk/history/archive.php3 and inside the Buffet, from Stalybridge Buffet Bar, https://www.facebook.com/StalybridgeBuffetBar/photos_stream

Remembering those from Heaton Mersey who served in the Great War, today and tomorrow at Heaton Methodist Church

Now until recently I had no idea of the number of buildings which were turned over to Red Cross Hospitals during the Great War.

But bit by bit their history is coming to light.  Most were in buildings donated for the duration of the conflict and ranged from Sunday School Halls, to private residences and were used for soldiers recovering from wounds and illnesses.

They were partly funded by voluntary contributions and many of the staff were volunteers, and once the war was over the contents of the hospitals from beds to bed pans, blankets, typewriters and crockery were auctioned off.

Most of the buildings returned to their pre-war use and within a generation the presence of these Red Cross hospitals was forgotten.

Today only a handful of people may know of the existence of one in their neighbourhood.

So to help focus on these over the weekend there will be an exhibition at Heaton Methodist Church and a tour of the homes of the men from Heaton Mersey who served during the war.

The exhibition at Heaton Methodist Church, Cavendish Road, will be open from  10 – 4, today and  2-5 Sunday with the  walk at  1pm on  Saturday  and 3pm Sunday

* Heaton Methodist Church, https://www.facebook.com/hmmchurch

Pictures; courtesy of David Harrop

Friday, 26 September 2014

Huddersfield Railway Station ......... what they did after building our own Liverpool Road Station

We were in Huddersfield recently enjoying the last of the summer sunshine and following Bradshaw’s railway guide.

Now I am a great fan of Mr Bradshaw and bought in to his three maps of The Inland Navigation of England and Wales which he produced in 1830 as well as his Illustrated Handbook to London which came out in 1862.

At which point I should say that the actual inspiration for the trip came from that television series based on the railway guide and given the magnificent shots of St George’s Square and the surrounding buildings we were hooked.

The station was built in 1846 received praise from both Sir John Betjeman and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner and is very impressive.

That said the interior is much smaller than you would expect from that grand frontage and the two buildings at either end are now pubs.

But it is still magnificent and has that statute of Harold Wilson who I have to admit I’d forgotten come from Huddersfield.

So for those who want to see where railway architecture went after Liverpool Railway Station was built in 1830, this is the next best place.

Our own first station was a bold statement for the new railway age but this one coming just 16 years later has all that confidence that said "the railway is here to stay" and that I like.

And  it is still a busy place with trains coming and going and a shed full of passengers travelling east to Leeds and beyond and  west to Manchester and Liverpool.

It may not have the size of Piccadilly or Victoria or that restaurant at Stalybridge but there is no doubting that we are doing serious rail travel here.

What is more you can can still get to it by train from Manchester, now that can’t be bad.

We went by car but had planned on using the train which is just how you should visit a railway station.

And that just leaves me to send you back to all those earlier stories of Manchester's railway stations.*

Pictures;  of Huddersfield Station and St George’s Square, August 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Next; that station at Stalybridge, for a pint, a pie and a view of the hills.

*Manchester Railway Station,  http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Manchester%20Railway%20Station

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Progress Estate, just one year off a century

Now the blog is read pretty much everywhere.

This is not a boast, that is something I am too modest to do but since November 2011 when it began it has been read by lots of people across the globe.

So with that in mind I wanted to show Well Hall off to the world.

So here are three pictures taken by Jean Low and her husband of the Progress Estate.

They feature the different styles that were built and capture what makes the estate a much sought after place to live and one which many look back on with fond memories.

And that includes me who moved to Well Hall Road in 1964 when the Progress Estate was almost fifty years old.

If you live in Eltham its history is well known and for those who don’t I shall just say it was built in 1915 by the Government as homes for the workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich and was originally called the Well Hall Estate before changing its name after it had been bought by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.

Now that just leaves me waiting for someone to take a picture of 294 Well Hall Road where we lived from 1964 till 1991.

I know I should have taken one when we lived there but I didn't.

Well you tend to take a place for granted and I have to admit I miss it.

But when ever I pass the place it looks as good as I remember it.

And if you want more follow the story at Living in a piece of history, the Progress Estate Well Hall, in the spring of 1964, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/living-in-piece-of-history-progress.html

Pictures; courtesy of Jean Low

Watching as the fields around Hough End Hall become housing estates

The Hall from the air in 1925
I just wonder what Mrs Lomas of Hough End Hall made of the creeping urbanization which bit by bit encroached on the land surrounding her home and farm.

The Lomas family had lived in the hall from the late 1840s.

Back then her uncle in law farmed over 200 acres stretching east into Withington and west up to the borders of Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

But at the beginning of the 20th century speculative builders had begun putting up houses along Sandy Lane and Nell Lane and a little later during the Great War the aerodrome occupied land to the rear of the hall.

That said there was still plenty of open land during the early decades of the last century.

In 1925 when the photograph above was taken the hall still appears to be in splendid isolation with just a hint of housing to the north.

Out to the south of the Hall in 1933
Now appearances can be a little deceptive because while the Brook continues to flow through open fields, the land directly opposite the Hall had become Chorlton Park and Nell Lane had been widened.

Seven years later the area to the south of the hall was filling up with Corporation housing and dominating the corner of Nell Lane and Mauldeth Road West was the Southern Hotel.

Mrs Lomas died in 1940 and by then the farm was down to just over 3 acres and a large belt of land out towards Whalley Range had also been built on.

I wish we had a diary or some letters from Mrs Lomas which might shed light on what she thought, but at present there is nothing all of which just leaves me with these two pictures.

The full story of the Hall, some of the people who lived worked and played there can be found in the first book exclusively devoted to its history which will be published later this year under the title, Hough End Hall, the story.

Pictures; Hough End from the air, 1925, Imperial Airways, m72046, and the Southern Hotel and land to the south of the hall in 1933, N S Roberts, m72051, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

*Hough End Hall the story, Andrew Simpson, Peter Topping to be published later this year

The shock of the new, being a railway passenger in 1830


Now I am not sure that some of the detail is completely accurate on this painting by A.B. Clayton of the “Inaugural journey of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway 1830” but what I like is the way that it captures the shock of the new.

There rattling along at an impressive speed is the future while looking on are two oldish chaps who were no doubt born in the previous century when the canal was the cutting edge of transport technology and the horse the fastest you could travel.

One of the men leans on the sign warning the curious of the dangers presented by the innocent line of railway track.  And it was at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway that William Huskinson the MP for Liverpool was killed when he was run over by Locomotive.

Now there are plenty of descriptions of the opening day and memories of people who travelled the trains from Liverpool to Manchester but my favorite is from J T Slugg’s wonderful book Reminiscences of Manchester published in 1881, and describing the city in the 1830s*.  Slugg lived here in Chorlton and knew Thomas Ellwood whose writings on the township are still required reading by anyone who wants to know what the village was like in the 19th century.

Likewise Slugg paints a detailed picture of “this system of travelling” which “it seemed impossible to jump from old practices and habits into a new order of things without passing a transition stage [so] as there had been two classes of passengers by coach – inside and outside- so there were at first only two classes of trains. The first class trains went at 7 and 10 a.m., and 2 and 5 p.m.; and the second class at 7-30 a.m., and 1 and 5-30 p.m."

And of course the accommodation varied with the cost of the fare.  For 7s you got to sit in a first class carriage holding four passengers and for a shilling less you shared with five others.  Second class cost 5s for “glass coaches and in open carriages, 3s.6d.”  Those who had not booked in advance were not permitted to travel.

But perhaps the most revealing insight into that age of transition was that “there were no wayside stations except at Newton, and [so] the train stayed anywhere on the line to suit the convience of passengers.”

Moreover the “directors announced that they were determined to prevent the practice of supplying liquor on the road, and requested that passengers not alight, [but] before this regulation as to liquor was issued I [Slugg] took a journey to Liverpool in the stand up boxes, and well recollect on the return stopping at Patricroft, opposite to an inn on the left-hand side and seeing a young woman, carrying a large tray of glasses containing liquors and cigars, which she supplied to many of the passengers.”

But that is enough for now.

Pictures; Inaugural journey of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway 1830, A.B.Clayton, in the public domain and the rest  from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Slugg, J.T.,Reminiscences of Manchester, 1881

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Chorlton’s Corner shops ................. number 11

On Monday we were on the corner of Sandy Lane and Whalley Avenue sometime in the 1980s.

And because I am lazy I have decided to stay on the same road and have used the second shot taken on that day by Mr Lloyd.

Lazy yes, but still a fascinating peice of our recent past.

I just await someone to go back down Sandy Lane and capture the same shot today which I hope will be followed up with some memories.

Using goggle street maps doesn't count, you have to get out there on this sunny day.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chorlton’s Corner shops ................. number 9

We are on the corner of Sandy Lane and Whalley Avenue sometime in the 1980s.

The picture pretty much speaks for itself, but I will point out the last hint of a ghost sign on the gable end, which to be more accurate I guess was a sign board which carried the advert.

And now I just await someone to go back down Sandy Lane and capture the same shot today which I hope will be followed up with some memories.


Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Hough End Hall ............. what we have lost and what we can save

Cover from Hough End Hall The Story
Hough End Hall was all that a rich and influential Elizabethan merchant and politician could want of a country home.

Sir Nicholas Mosley built it in 1596 to replace an older family mansion and it stayed in the possession of the Mosley’s well into the 18th century.

Form then right the way through till modern times it has been a farmhouse, restaurant and suite of offices and during those centuries has been much knocked about.

In 1888 Mrs Williamson in her book on Fallowfield  wrote that “the mansion itself has been little altered outwardly since its erection by Sir Nicolas Mosley, excepting that the large entrance porch, which was formerly at the end now occupied by the tool house, is removed and several antique windows have been replaced by modern ones.

Internally everything is changed; in fact, the only trace of former grandeur is the ornamentation of the tool house.  A handsome carved oak staircase, which until quite recently led from the tool house to an upper chamber, has been taken by Lord Egerton to Tatton, and there certainly shows to more advantage.”

It was now she concluded “a comfortable substantial farm house.”

On the ground floor the central part of the building along with the north wing had become small rooms including a dining room, sitting room, kitchen and bathroom to the left of the entrance and a drawing room to the right.

Most remarkable of all was the conversion of the south wing into a smithy which remained in use well into the 1950s.

During the later 20th century it underwent massive internal renovation and today there is little that Sir Nicholas would recognise.

The Hall today
So with all that in mind it is time for a new book on the history of the building.

I say new but in fact there has not been a book entirely devoted to its history and so anyone wanting to find out about Sir Nichola's home has to trawl through a series of books and newspaper articles most of which use as their source a book written in 1858.

Hough End Hall the story aims to address that by describing the building, along with the people who lived, worked and played there over its 400 years and covers everything from when it was built to the uncertain decades when it was nearly demolished.

The Hall, circa 1910
And it is richly illustrated with a collection of images including pictures and photographs from the last two centuries with paintings by Peter Topping.

There will be those who might well agree that here in this book  there is “all you ever wanted to know, but never knew where to look.”

It will be on sale later in the year and the money raised from each copy sold will go to the campaign to buy the hall and save it for community use.

I am not sure what Sir Nicholas would make of that but I am pretty sure Mrs Williamson would approve.

Pictures; cover of Hough End Hall the story by Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping, and the interior of the hall in 2014 from the collection of Nigel Anderson

* Williamson, Mrs C, Sketches of Fallowfield, John Heywood, 1888, page 48

**Hough End Hall the story by Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping will be published later in the year

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Liverpool Road Station, the first and always my favourite


Of all the stations this one is my favourite.  

It was opened in 1830 and closed to passenger traffic just 14 years later, a victim of its own success.   It is a place I return to regularly and one that I have already written about. *

So I don’t intend to go into its history right now.  But it is a place to visit, and standing in the carriage shed built in 1831 you get a sense of just how important the place is in the history of our railways.

Its roof would not have been out of place in a medieval barn with its wooden beams supported on cast iron pillars, and substitute the iron for wood posts and it could be any building across a thousand years.  But in the distance is the sweeping curve of the roof of Central Station all glass and iron gracefully rising 27 meters from the platform floor.

Here then are the beginnings of our railway architecture and its high point separated by just 50 years.  It was an uncertain beginning with the railway company unsure as to whether to have locomotives to haul the passengers and wagons or rely on static steam engines placed along the route which would use steam powered capstans and cables.

Even the station buildings are a compromise.  The station master’s house on the corner of Liverpool Road and Water Street had been the home of a local industrialist and the booking halls had been designed to imitate the fine homes of the wealthy.

Not so Central Station which originally was to have a grand set of railway offices and a hotel at the front of the place, or the even more ornate and impressive sweep of the redesigned Victoria Station.

Tomorrow; how do you design and build for storing goods at the first proper railway complex in the world?

http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/castlefield-story-part-five-coming-of.html 

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 20 September 2014

When the Horse and Jockey had a football team

Now I have to say that I was a little intrigued when a story on the blog of the Horse and Jockey in the early 1970s was sent on its way across the social media under the caption of “before the pub became trendy.”

It was an interesting take on how the place has changed.

I rather liked the makeover when it was bought from the brewery some years ago and given the addition of a restaurant and micro brewery.

Of course not everyone likes change and I do have some reservations about the way it has gone since it became part of another brewery chain.

But for those few years after it became “the inn on the green” I did enjoy going in there not least because it was possible to think it back to something like it had been during the middle years of the 19th century when it was a much smaller place and doubled up for inquests.

All that said here is another picture from the collection of Bob Jones.

It dates from the 1970s and shows the pub football team and I am equally intrigued by Bob's comment that "one of the barman we called chopper, his son is on this picture and I would be interested to see if any come up with other names."

After all after his story on "Chippy Madge" we had "Blind Bob the barber", and "Bob the cobbler."

So I await the stories, memories and follow up photographs, which point to the fact that history can be about any time,, any event and just plain fun.

And Bob who lent me the photograph has followed it up with the names of some of the team including another of those wonderful nicknames.
"Rod Hudson right of the cup Malc Dawes bottom row right, fag in hand.

Bob Jones E and F DAWES Insurance Agents & Companies. 35 Liverpool Road m/c The above was run by Farther and Malc and Paul sons for many years , at football.

Malc’s  nick name was the Mars Bar kid as he always had one in his mouth, they lived in Chorlton
Bob Jones Terry Tynan Ralf Darlinton Barry Brunton."

Keep the pictures coming Bob and thank you.

Picture; the Horse and Jockey football team sometime in the 1970s, from the collection of Bob Jones

Friday, 19 September 2014

On stumbling across the grave of Margaret Emily Shepphard in Southern Cemetery

You would think that it should be easy to find somebody, born in 1859, who died in 1898 and was buried in Southern Cemetery.

But not so.  A trawl of the records drew a blank for both Mrs Shepphard who was buried in 1898 and her husband who was interred 40 years later in the same plot.

Now such searches are part of the daily routine and it is common to come up against some dead ends, but a variation in spelling or recourse to a named relative usually gets something.

So is its more than a little frustrating when despite all the tricks of the trade Mr and Mrs Shepphard remain completely elusive.

Of course I can guarantee that someone will strike lucky and let me know which will be a bonus.

If we could be a relative which would be fascinating but more likely it will be someone fired up to prove me wrong and demonstrate their skills at research.

Either way we will all be the winners.

I have to admit that sometimes you do draw a blank, and well remember idly searching for myself in the historical records and not finding me for months which was a bit of  a worry, but then I turned up which gives me confidence that Margaret Emily Shepphard and her husband Edwin Francis will do so too.

In the meantime I will content myself with the knowledge that they are buried in a prominent part of the cemetery and so must have cut something of a sway.

And I was right, within hours of posting Andy Roberston succeeded where I had failed,  Margaret Emily Shepphard, "nee Galloway, born Bowdon, Cheshire, daughter of a cotton goods merchant, arried 1885 Edwin Francis Sheppard, born 1849 in Blackburn.

In 1891 living at 3, The Beeches, off Barlow Moor Road, with daughter Rhoda aged 4. Edwin a sanitary inspector (sounds a fun job!)

In 1901 Edwin still at the Beeches but now a Bank Mager.

In 1911 Edwin at 'Lismore', 18 Darley Avenue, Didsbury, a modest little 16 room number and still a Bank manager.

In 1938 he left £61,761."

Enough said, and thank you Andy

Picture; the grave of Mr and Mrs Shepphard, Southern Cemetery, September 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Additional research Andy Robertson

Back with those Spanish Steps in the Birley Building

Now I am back with those sweeping stairs at the Birley Building which earlier in the month became the home of the old Didsbury College of Education.


There will be some who mourn its move but the new place has a lot to offer, and as I joked to Pierre may well be so high tech that it talks to the students and staff.

The stairs have already become a place to meet, sit and talk so there you have it, no more to be said.

Pictures; of the interior of Birley Buildings, September 2014 from the collection of Pierre Grace

Catching the last warm days

I was out on Market Street today and once again was captivated by the old Ryland’s Building and while waiting for a tram home caught the building and more importantly some of those on Market Street taking in what might yet have been the last warm day.

Of course the Rylands long ago became Pauldens and is now Debenhams and I never tire of looking at this solid building.

It was built in the1930s  as a show warehouse and stood out against the other buildings which were meaner older and to my mind drab and and a tad boring.

That said back then Market Street was a busy and heaving place with two lines of traffic, trams heavy vehicles and much else which I guess meant that most people spent less time admiring it and more on concentrating on cross the road.

Now the metro stop and procession of trams has detracted even more from this fine old building.

But then I travel in hope and have fond memories many hot days rolling into late September.

Well we shall see.

Pictures, Market Street, September 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

So what did you do to help Hough End Hall?

A campaign to buy the Hall, some exciting ideas for its future use as a community centre and a look back to its beginnings

Hough End Hall, 2014,
The Hall has stood for over four centuries and has pretty much been all things to all people.

It began as the home of a wealthy entrepreneur who walked with royalty and was rewarded for his service with a knighthood, became a farmhouse for almost half its existence and has briefly served as a restaurant, night club and even a suite of offices.

Along the way there were those who wanted to turn it into an art gallery and museum, a student hall of residence and even a motel.

And now there is an opportunity to give the Hall a new future.

After the closure of the last restaurant venture in 2011 the building has been empty, lacking a buyer or a purpose.

But a group of local people have come together to save the building by buying it and offering up for community use.*

Hough End Hall, mid 1960s
There is in their words a “lack of accessible and affordable space for community meetings, exhibitions, rehearsal and social events for small, community-orientated enterprises, particularly start-ups.”  

The Hall would offer just such accommodation and in doing so save what is an important and historic building becoming a “community hub, creating a vibrant and welcoming space for a wide range of people to meet, mix, work and play, serving the people of Chorlton and South Manchester.”

Now that is quite an attractive idea not only because it will provide an important use for this empty building but also because it puts the Hall back at the heart of the area.

As a start and part of a rolling programme the organisers are committed to a series of heritage activities which will promote the history of the Hall and engage local people by calling on their collective memories of the place.

These will build into a permanent exhibition and sit alongside a series of heritage walks through Chorlton and Withington explaining the evolution of the Hall and its place in the story of south Manchester.

And later in the year will see the publication of Hough End Hall the story which will be the first book devoted entirely to the history of the Hall.

A book on Hough End Hall
It will describe the building, and the people who lived, worked and played there over its 400 years will contain pictures and photographs along with paintings by Peter Topping.

In many ways this is the most fortuitous moment for such an exciting project.  There is a growing interest in our heritage and already the campaign has encouraged people to share their pictures, memories and stories of their Hough End Hall.

At the same time the arrival of the metro link will open up the hall and the immediate vicinity to a wide audience, some of whom are drawn here by the small and quirky independent shops along Beech Road and Burton Road others by the cafes, restaurants and bars of Chorlton and neighbouring Didsbury and many more by the rich cultural events ranging from Chorlton Book Fortnight, Chorlton Arts Festival, the Didsbury Show and the Edge Theatre Company.

A new vibrant community centre in the historic Hough End Hall will play its part in continuing to make this part of south Manchester a vibrant place to live and visit.

And in the fullness of time we might yet see the treasures of the old Hall including Sir Nicholas’s 400 year old bed and furniture return to its original home.

Now that would really be historic.

Pictures; the  Hall in 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, the Hall in the mid 1960s from the collection of Roger Shelley, https://www.flickr.com/photos/photoroger/ and cover for the book Hough End Hall to be published in late 2014

* Hough End Hall: lets make it ours! https://spacehive.com/HoughEndHall_lets_make_it_ours#Project promoter

**Hough End Hall the Story, Simpson Andrew, Topping, Peter to be published later this year

In Eltham Lodge that stately pile dating back to 1664 on National Heritage Week with my friend Jean

National Heritage Week is a pretty neat idea. 

This years just ended and so I decided ti revisit a story from last year,

During the week plenty of old places from stately homes to swimming baths and more than a few Victorian cemeteries are opened up for the curious, the historically minded and those who just want to gawp.

I could have chosen the Victorian Baths on Hathersage Road, Southern Cemetery or even the Chorlton Eco Showroom which “is a lovingly refurbished old Arts and Crafts semi detached home in Chorltonville.”

My friend Jean went for Eltham Palace and Eltham Lodge.  The latter is  a pretty impressive pile which now serves as the club house of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club.

It was built in 1664 by the banker Sir John Shaw and was regarded by many as a very stately mansion befitting someone who had assisted Charles II while he was in exile.

Sir John’s reward had been the lease of the manor of Eltham in 1663 which ran “from Southend to Horne park, Lee, embracing the old ‘ruinated Palace (Eltham Court), and all the rights of fishing, hawking, hunting, &c., for the sum of £9 per annum, with 20s. additional for the old House.”*

And there was still plenty there when Benjamin and Anna Wood occupied the place in 1838 for according to the tithe schedule the estate consisted of 144 acres which included the 48 acres of Front or North Park, the 74 acres of South Park along with three large ponds, “pleasure gardens, assorted out buildings, smaller gardens and part of the Park Icehouse."

So all in all not a place to miss when its doors were thrown open and because I doubt I will ever get back to visit the place Jean shared some of her pictures of this elegant house.


So next year when Heritage Week comes round I may just zip back to Eltham and parade myself through the grand rooms of Eltham Lodge and ponder on whether the walls will talk to me of Sir John and Benjamin and Anna Wood.

We shall see.

*Rev. T.N. Roswell, Eltham Golf Course, 1895, now out of print.  Quoted by R.R.C.Gregory, The Story of Royal Eltham


Pictures; Eltham Lodge in 1909, from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, http://www.gregory.elthamhistory.org.uk/bookpages/i001.htm and the Lodge in 2013 from the collection of Jean Gammons




Tuesday, 16 September 2014

In Southern Cemetery with Romeo and Ellen Foster

Now there is a whole story behind cemetery monuments which I don’t begin to know enough about.

I know that those broken pillars which appear in Victorian cemeteries are not the result of vandalism but designed to signify a life broken and ended before its time.

Likewise angels I understand but this stone figure which sits not far from the entrance to Southern Cemetery has set me thinking.

Of course there may be no more significance than that it has the power to stop you in your tracks and reflect on those who are buried below who were Ellen and Romeo Foster, and Fred and Lillian Pawson.

The internments stretch from 1919 to 1937 and the connection is that Lillian was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Foster.

The romantic in pondered on the name Romeo and the big book which is such a feature of the monument but a search of cemetery symbolism seems to suggest simpler explanations.

An open book might signify that the stone is a kind of biography, or closed in recognition of the fact that the story of the dead is over.

And as these things work I have every confidence that someone will put me straight.

In the meantime the story of Romeo and Ellen is an interesting one.  They were both born in 1856 and married in St James the Apostle in Rusholme in 1876.

They had a daughter who was baptised in 1880 in the same church but who had died by the April of the following year.

A second daughter was born in 1885 who they called Lillian and it is she who married Fred Pawson in 1910 and was buried in the family plot 27 years later.

Romeo began work as an office boy, later describing himself as salesmen and by 1901 as a”yarn merchant and employer.”

We can track the family from Rusholme , to Urmston and finally Withington where Mr Foster died in 1928.

His successful journey from office boy to merchant resulted in him leaving over £50,000 on his death.

The early tragedy of the death of their was repeated in 1919 when Ellen died.  As yet I have no cause of death but there is the possibility that she died of flu during the influenza epidemic on 1918-1919.


A report by James Niven, the Medical Officer of Heath for Manchester commented that “its incidence was most evident in South Manchester.”

Now the Foster’s may not have yet been in Withington when she died but I think it may be so.

But here is one of the small mysterious attached to the family because they do not appear on the census record for 1911, not for that matter can I find any reference to Romeo before 1871 when he was living with his aunt in Rusholme.

I am minded to call up the death certificate for Ellen which will give her cause of death and address, but a little of me thinks perhaps I have done enough prying into their lives.

Instead their grave can be found in O Consecrated and is grave nunber 18.

Picture; the monument to the Foster and Pawson families in Southern Cemetery, September 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

* Report on the Epidemic of Influenza in Manchester, 1918-19. By James Niven, M.A., M.B., LL.D., Medical Officer of Health. 1919

New beginnings, the day the Didsbury College of Education transferred to the Birley Building in Hulme

Now the entrance to the new MMU Birley Building which houses the Faculty of Education my not have the history of its former home in Didsbury.

The old building dated back to the 18th century and while it had undergone change over the centuries there were bits which were recognizably from the period when it was built.

I have to say I was saddened at the news of the relocation.
It has served as an educational institution of sorts since it became a boarding school around 1812.

Later it was turned into a theological college and later still into teacher training college.

And before that was a private residence dating back to about 1744.

The stone cladding to what was originally a brick building was added by the Wesleyans when they took it over in 1841.

They also added the wings at either side and that is what generations of people from Didsbury have seen as they pass by.

Now I am not sure what the future holds for the site I suspect the listed buildings will be converted in to residential use and the newer buildings dating from the 1960s will be demolished and replaced with more flats and houses.


The Birley Building will have a lot to offer and I suspect will be so high tech that it will all but talk to the staff and students.

And there is elegance about the interior which can be seen in Pierre’s picture of the Spanish Steps which is an open meeting place for students and staff and was attracting both during last week.

So I suspect three will be more stories about the new building.

After all during the last months of the College in Didsbury I posted a lot of stories about its history and so it seems fitting that the series should continue.

Pictures; of the interior of Birley Buildings, September 2014 and the Admin block of the old Didsbury College, 2013-4, from the collection of Pierre Grace