Sunday, 30 November 2014

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 46, when you could see all the way across to Chorlton Brook

Looking south from Beech Road in 1907
The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Now I would like to have stood in our dining room on a warm summer’s day soon after Joe and Mary Ann moved in.

Back then they would have had an uninterrupted view south across to the Brook and the Ville and had they been on the same spot just a decade earlier that view would have stretched pretty much all the way to the Mersey given the odd set of trees.

Nor was that all because the plot of land they bought was sandwiched between two farms and overlooked the Rec.

All of which is a reminder that in 1915 this bit of Chorlton had yet to lose some of its rural character.

We still had a blacksmith at the bottom of Beech Road and children were still regularly sent to buy milk, butter and cheese from the local farms.

Looking south in 1934
But already if Joe and Mary Ann had looked a little to the east their view of Barlow Moor Road and Brook Bank farm had been obscured by the newly built houses on Claude and Reynard Road and off to the west the tall chimney of the laundry would be all too visible.

And it would be Joe Scott who added to the urbanisation by building many of the small houses on what are now Provis, Higson and Neal Roads, and then in the fullness of time completing the job with those on Beaumont and Belgrave.

So by the 1930s my view from the dining room had pretty much gone and with it a little bit of that once rural Chorlton.

Pictures; South of Beech Road in 1907 from the OS map of Manchester , 1907, and the same in 1934 from Geographia Street Plans, 1934 courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

*The story of house,
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20story%20of%20a%20house

Along the canal into town on a dismal day in November

Now I like this picture which pretty much captures perfectly the past and present on this stretch of the canal heading in to town.

It is another in a series taken by Andy Robertson on one of those dismal November days when wimps like me opt for the fireside and reach for the lap top.

Picture; along the canal into town, 2014, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Pubs I have yet to visit ......... the Inn at Keswick

Now I have never visited the Inn at Keswick but I am guessing it has a history.

And in time I rather think I will go looking for what there is to know about the place.

In the meantime it is one of those pubs/hotels which caught the eye of local artist Peter Topping and as I have featured many of his paintings I decided this one should be included.

Of course if there is anyone who can tell me more I shall be happy to include their stories.

And as soon as I wrote this, Peter came back with it was "originally an eighteenth century coaching house called the Keswick Lodge and gained a highly commended accolade in Britain's Best Pub Cooked Breakfast 2009"

And armed with that I am sure thre will be more.

Painting; the Inn at Keswick,  © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Specualting on the age of the ghost sign on Keppel Road

Now here is one of those little questions which I don’t readily have the answer to.

We are on Keppel Road with Andy Robertson’s picture and both of us have been wondering when it appeared.

Of course someone will know but it it just isn't me.

It may have been part of that last bit of promotion for Burts’ the outfitters who had a makeover a few years ago involving a television programme.

They had been on the corner of Wilbraham and Keppel Road for the sale of Gentleman’s clothes, including ties, suits and shirts by 1909 and owned another family business opposite selling stationary and postcards.

If the painting dates from that makeover we might just be able to call it a ghost sign.

Either way it is beginning to peel and I doubt that it will be with us for much longer.

Picture; the corner of Wilbraham and Keppel Road, 2014, Andy Robertson

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Films I wish I could have seen in 1914

Now I know I am not going to be able to get to Whaley Bridge on December 4th to see a wonderful collection of short films from 1914.

Charlie Chaplin, 1914
They were the stuff of the early cinema made more compelling by those that featured the world events which were bit by bit were drawing Britain into that long bitter war.

Today with instant wall to wall news it is sometimes difficult to appreciate that there was a time when pretty much the only means of finding out what was going on was the newspaper and that  entertainment was restricted to the musical hall the odd visit to the theatre and the occasional arrival of the circus.

So the picture houses or the “flicks” were both entirely new and exciting places to visit.*

In an age of multiplex cinemas and DVDs it is difficult to recapture the experiences of seeing images larger than life moving across the screen in the dark accompanied only by a piano.

                         Holmfirth Picturedrome, 2014
Most of those early cinemas have gone but a few survive like the one at Holmfirth.

All of which is enough from me and so I shall now just give you the fourteen short films with the accompanying notes as an entree in to that lost world.

Looping the Loop at Hendon (March 1914)

Pioneering British aviators Gustav Hamel and Bentfield Hucks perform stunts at the legendary Hendon airfield. Although not hard news, this was a topical story.

Palace Pandemonium (May 1914)

The leading campaigner for votes for women, Emmeline Pankhurst, goes to petition the King in person at Buckingham Palace. The campaign for votes for women was very high-profile and often featured in the news. The suffragettes would stage appearances at events for maximum impact.

Austrian Tragedy (July 1914)

Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, this newsreel shows footage of the Austro-Hungarian royal family, including the wedding of Archduke Karl who succeeded Franz Ferdinand as heir to the imperial throne.

Dogs for the Antarctic (August 1914)

Following the death of Captain Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton plans another expedition to Antarctica, taking plenty of dogs. This is typical of the ‘magazine’ style film shorts of the time.

Daisy Doodad’s Dial

American Vitagraph studio star Florence Turner ran her own film company at the Hepworth studios on the Thames. In this comedy ‘dial’ means ‘face’. The ebullient Daisy Doodad practises for a face-pulling competition and ends up getting herself arrested.

Postcard from Egypt, 1918
Egypt and Her Defenders

This travelogue of the famous sights of Egypt shows Lord Kitchener as British Consul General before he was made Secretary of State for War. In this film with colour tinting, he is seen reviewing the troops.

Lieutenant Pimple and the Stolen Submarine

Fred Evans was the most popular British comedian of the age, turning out hundreds of ‘Pimple’ films which made a virtue of their low budgets. Here Pimple foils the plans of dastardly foreign spies. If Monty Python had made comedies in 1914 they would look like this.

Scouts’ Valuable Aid (August 1914)

As the nation gears up for war even the young are mobilised to help the war effort … Here a pair of Sea Scouts are on the look-out on the cliff tops for an invading fleet.

German Occupation of Historic Louvain (September 1914)

When Germany invades neutral Belgium, the destruction of the historic town of Louvain and its ancient university library provokes worldwide outrage. This newsreel was presumably filmed by a cameraman from a neutral country.

Unknown unit, date unknown
General French’s Contemptible Little Army

General French, commander of the British army in France, gets the better of the Germans in this lightning sketch by pioneering animator Lancelot Speed. Animation was popular and commonly distributed as part of the newsreels. Cartoons allowed Speed to be splendidly irreverent.

Christmas at the Front (December 1914)

Troops celebrate Christmas at the Front. We’re not told where for reasons of national security. But it’s good to see the boys being well fed before they return to the trenches.

The Perils of Pauline

American imports were always popular and serials were the latest sensation in 1914. In this excerpt, Pearl White stars as Pauline, a feisty heroine pursued by villains eager to get their hands on her fortune and features both an accidental hot air balloon trip and a spectacularly daring rescue from a burning building.

The Rollicking Raja

Years before the arrival of the ‘talkies’, this Vivaphone song film (which wonderfully shows the ladies fashions and dance moves of the day) would have been accompanied by a synchronised sound disc, which is now lost. The song is recreated here from the surviving sheet music. The Vivaphone was a British sound on disc system pioneered by Cecil Hepworth.

A Film Johnnie

In 1914, Hollywood is born and British comedian Charles Chaplin is its greatest star. He explodes onto British screens in summer of that year. This is one of his very first films and is, appropriately, set in a cinema.

WHALEY BRIDGE FILM GROUP, A NIGHT AT THE CINEMA IN 1914 December 4 7.30, the Mechanics Institue, Whaley Bridge

Admission £4 (£3 concessions) Doors open 7pm for a 7.30pm start

Booking in advance required.

Tea, coffee, homemade cakes, beer and wine will be on sale.

Whaleyfilms@hotmail.co.uk Phone: 07531 982995
www.highpeakfilm.org.uk

Pictures; still from Charlie Chaplin courtesy of Whaley Bridge Film Group, Greetings from Egypt and troops embarking on a train from the collection of David Harrop

Painting; the Holmfirth Picturedrome © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

*Paintings from Pictures, www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

* Tom Mix, memories of cowboy films and the Holmfirth Picturedrome, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/tom-mix-memories-of-cowboy-films-and.html


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 45 ............ putting out the bin

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

It’s bin day and as ever I have no idea which wheelie bins to put out.

So rough rule of thumb is to look down Beaumont Road and work out what needs to be put ot by the line of coloured bins already waiting.

Now I know I could just go online and look it up but what challenge is there in that?

Of course it was so much easier when Joe had to put out the metal bin .  Back then it was just the one and pretty much everything went into it.

You have to be well into the middle years of your life to remember a dust cart like the one above or that rubbish was deposited in metal dustbins.

And I was reminded of all this when I came back across, Your City, Manchester 1838-1938, written by "the Manchester Municipal Officer’s Guild in co-operation with its Group for Research in Administration and Sociology in celebration of the Centenary of the City’s Charter of Incorporation, with special dedication to the Children of Manchester.” 

It was published as the story of what the council had achieved in the century we had had locally elected government.

So there were chapters on the improvements in sanitation, public health, education and housing, as well as leisure, and culture, town planning and the government of the city.

And it looked forward to the future, with clean and cheap electricity and gas, heating and lighting the homes across the city as well as fuelling the domestic appliances for cooking and washing.

My particular favourite is the Sludge Steamship Mancunium which took the treated sewage waste out to sea where it was “emptied into the ocean 22 miles beyond Liverpool or [that] portion broadcast,was broadcast on to the  land and ploughed in helping to make the land good for agricultural purposes.”

Not so different then from the practice of our own farmers who bought night soil from the privies of Manchester to spread across the township fields.

As for household rubbish the book makes much of the slogan on the side of dust carts of the period to “Burn your own rubbish.”

Now given the number of open fire this was a practical solution and by extension the Corporation did much the same in its destructors, which “are really big furnaces ..... where cart loads of rubbish are burned down to clinkers, the useful parts of the rubbish – old tins, bottles, etc- being saved and sold to firms who melt them down and use them for making new tins and new bottles.”

Less attractive today but at the time lauded as the new and scientific way was “'controlled tipping'.  Here the rubbish is dumped on low lying land and is spread carefully out and ‘sealed’ by covering with a thick layer of soil.

Then another layer of waste in put on top, ‘sealed’ and so the land is built up into what becomes in a year or two solid land.

Just as the clinker obtained from the incineration method is put to good use in road making, the controlled tipping method is usefully applied to filling up waste land, and as you will find on the Mersey Bank at Wythenshawe that a large area of waste land previously liable to floods has been built up by this method into high solid land, grass-grown and suitable for all sorts of purposes, such as playing fields and parks...”

And that I suppose is where I part company with the civic achievements because that neat new scientific solution ruined the meadows between our village and the Mersey.  What had been an area of carefully cultivated meadow land became a dumping ground which raised the level of the land and destroyed for ever a unique way of farming.

And before anyone claims that this has prevented flooding close to Chorlton I would just remind them that this was our flood plain which generations had quite happily accepted as the price paid for living close to the river.

But that is not quite the end.

That refuse deposited here 70 or so years ago is still there and may not have gone away.  Just a few years ago my old botanist friend came across a newspaper from 1938 in perfect condition out on the Stretford side of the river.

It appears to have been unearthed by people digging for old bottles or some other ancient treasure.

What was remarkable was that it was in perfect condition which begs the question of what else sits below the surface?

A question which the more sober, dispassionate and scientific readers will be able to answer.

I will just close with the thought that Joe just had the bin which went out each week on the same day, and wait to see if I have got the collection day right.

Pictures; from Your City, Manchester 1838-1938, the Manchester Municipal Officer’s Guild, 1938

*The story of house,
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20story%20of%20a%20house

Opening 1914, the story of our own library by the Edge Theatre Company .......... with four days left to see it

Now there is still time to get to see Opening 1914 by the Edge Theare and Arts Centre.

It is “a part-real, part imagined story of the folk who lived in Chorlton 100 years ago, celebrating the birthday of a long awaited library against the backdrop of a world at war.”*

So using the opening of our library as one of the focal points it explores the lives of three Chorlton people during the first months of the Great War.

It draws on material from the Archives and Local History Library in the Ref as well as contemporary newspapers and musical hall songs and at its centre is Miss Clara Atkinson who lived on Groby Road and worked as a librarian.

And that is all I am going to say about the story because with four days left till it finishes on November 29th I am not going to spoil the plot.

Suffice to say that when go you will not be disappointed by the acting, the script or the songs, all of which made it a memorable evening.

All tickets from: www.edgetheatre.co.uk . 0161 282-9776.

The production is supported by the Arts Council and Manchester City Council and is part of the Chorlton Book Festival


*from the Performance notes

Another bit of our recent industrial past about to disappear ........... down at Warwick Road South

Now we pretty much neglect our most recent industrial history.

Those solid textile mills with their tall chimneys, the giant iron and steel works along with the iconic pit head gear are all images which capture a moment in our past.

But the modern office and factories which were built often on the site of the older industrial past are at best ignored and at worst seen as modern blots on the landscape.

Many of these now seem in danger, not that I hasten to add I am calling for their preservation some seem ugly and brutal to me.  But then fifty years on I dare say they will be judged in the same way we regard those 19th century industrial buildings.

So here are two shots from Andy Robertson’s camera of Warwick Road South which is close to the Old Trafford tram stop.

With a degree of modesty which belies the work Andy does he commented that “with it being my day off and after various chores I was getting cheesed off with the weather but determined to go out.

At about 2.30 the rain had almost stopped hence these pictures. Perhaps they deserve the backdrop of miserable skies!

Boring pictures but who knows what might be developed there in the future. Given the proximity to the tram stop and the Cricket Ground it could become a car park?”

Now I disagree that they are boring and I suspect that not so long into the future hen the site is developed with a retail or office unit standing above a sprawling underground car park his pictures will provide a unique
record of when this bit of Old Trafford had its own industrial history.

Pictures; Warwick Road South, 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A little mystery down at the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads

There has been a petrol station on the corner of Wilbraham Road and Buckingham Road for a long time and now it’s gone, but in the fullness of time there will be one there again.*

The demolition of the old one will be followed by the erection of a new one with the addition of a little bit more.

The planning application was made in December of last year and granted in the March of this year and as ever Andy Robertson has been there to record the story of the site.**

And in the fullness of time I know Andy will be back to photograph what happens next.

But for me I am more intrigued by that old building which in turn replaced what had been our own variety hall and for a while Chorlton’s first cinema.

It is a place I have regularly written about and will do so again especially now that I know something about one of Variety acts who were performing there.***

These were the Whips who were performing there in June 1910 at about the time that the place was doubling as a cinema.

All of which takes me back to this picture of the demolition.  I had never really studied the side of the petrol station and I doubt few others have done so either, partly because it was not easy to see and also just because it was so familiar.

I had always just assumed that when the old theatre had been cleared away and the petrol station built the brick structure had formed part of that development.

But part at least of the old theatre became the sales room for the petrol station which was there by the 1962.

And that rather ugly replacement which has now just been demolished used that earlier building as a base.

So I wonder what the inside of the lower story contained.  The blocked up windows suggest there were rooms which may have been the changing rooms for the old theatre or possibly a restaurant and storage area.

And it does mean revising the earlier ideas that the theatre was just a temporary wooden building because behind the smaller structure was a much bigger one which I have totally ignored.

The theatre shows up on both the 1907 and 1934 OS maps and on the street directories up to 1911, and with a bit of digging we should be able to push that to the mid 1930s, when it closed.

Now that is how I like my history, a story which sets you off on fresh roads of discovery, all of which I will attempt to explore and in the meantime continue to feature Andy’s pictures of the developments down on the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads.

I can not think that there will be any one around who remembers the site as a cinema although my friend Ann has told me that her dad went there.

I suspect also that I would be hard pressed to get many memories of the petrol station as it appeared in 1962 but I travel in hope.

So I shall close with another from Andy when its successor had also been swept away.

Pictures, the changing site in 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson, The Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens, later the Pavilion 1910 from the Lloyd collection and the petrol station in 1962 by A Landers, m18047, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pas

*The old cinema by the metro stop and a closed petrol station, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-old-cinema-by-metro-stop-and-closed.html

**04424/FO/2013/S1 | Demolition of existing petrol filling station (PFS) and redevelopment to provide a new petrol filling station facility comprising of canopy/forecourt, ancillary sales building with ATM, underground storage tanks, associated parking and other ancillary works.  http://pa.manchester.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=externalDocuments&keyVal=MXKZLUBC6K000

***When Tom Mix played at the Pavilion, our first picture house, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/when-tom-mix-played-at-pavilion-our.html

Down behind Piccadilly Station waiting for the Northern Hub ....... part 4 workshops, new flats, and twisty roads

Now I am back with some of Andy Robertson’s pictures at the back of Piccadilly Railway Station.

For years it was just the home of small workshops, and open spaces with streets and roads that you used for parking up.

And so pretty much a place that the rest of the city had forgotten and passed by.

But no part of town has escaped the spread of those new blocks of flats and the return of inner city living.

It began with some new build down by Tonman Street carried on with warehouse conversions and then seemed to happen everywhere from the Northern Quarter across to Castlefield and all spots in between.

So not surprising then that the area around Store Street and Jarvis Street should also get its fair share, and judging by Andy’s pictures this stretch of Baring Street which runs from Fairfield Street over the Medlock to
Bond Street and the Mancunian Way is ripe for change.

Pictures; Baring Street, 2014, courtesy of Andy Roberston

Monday, 24 November 2014

Following the progress down at Darley Avenue

Down for everyone with fond memories of school days down at Darley Avenue, here is the continuing story of the redevelopment of the old secondary school site.

Andy Robertson was down there recently adding to his collection of images of how the place is changing.

As I have said many times before his will be a rare record of just how much Chorlton has changed in the last few decades.

Picture; Darley Avenue, 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Chorlton's corner shops number 16 ........those two shops on Crossland Road in 1972

Now I have been meaning to write about those two corner shops on Crossland Road because they were still doing the business when I washed up in Chorlton in the 1970s, and also because of the presence of the laundry just a little further up the road.

This  was the Pasley, later renamed the Queen and Pasley and opened in 1893, when this was still known as Crescent Road  and at one point employed 50 staff.

All the washing machines were belt driven by a huge steam engine and were the first to install the “float-iron system” which consisted of the multiple roller pressing machines. This was 15 feet wide and 15 feet long and
“was a mass production ironing machine, with delicately poised rollers. You could put a shirt with pearl buttons on it and it wouldn’t leave a mark.”

Vans from the laundry would collect the washing and deliver it to the sorting office where each item would be marked, and classified into bins, before the loads were emptied into the ten washing machines.

After being washed the clothes went through stages of being dried before being set out still slightly damp for the ironing and pressing and finally being re-sorted in the packing room and returned in the vans to the customers.

I suspect that many of the staff would at some time or other have called in at the two shops.

And I also know there will be plenty of others who will remember the two.

Pictures; Stanely Grove and Crossland Road, H Milligan, 1972, m18209 and m18207, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

Belmont House in Cheadle .......... a house with a history

Belmont House
This is Belmont House in Cheadle and as you would expect it has a history.

Now I don’t know much about its early history but it was there by 1875  just south of Cheadle and a little to the north of Bruntwood House.

In time I will go looking for that early period of its existence but for now I am content with its time as a children’s home run by the Together Trust.*

The house came up for sale in 1918 and according to the Trusts’ blog** “was bought for £5,700 and included the house and 22 ½ acres of land. A description of the house still resides within the Together Trust archive showing the extent of the house and grounds in 1918: 

The billiard room
'Belmont is a compact family home situated in nicely laid out grounds approached by a carriage drive and entrance lodge, from the main road, from Cheadle to Wilmslow.'

The house itself contained an entrance hall, morning room, drawing room, dining room, billiard room, kitchen, scullery, cellars, 11 bedrooms, 2 dressing rooms and two bathrooms. Heating was installed throughout.”

All of which makes the house an interesting place for anyone interested in how the charity cared for young people in their trust.

“The house, of course, was adapted in order to accommodate the 40 girls who transferred over to Cheadle from Manchester. Many of the outside features were removed although the kitchen garden was kept. The bailiffs' cottage was used to house the gardener who maintained the 22 1/2 acres of land the charity held until the 1980s.”

Belmont set in some of its grounds, 1910
Now at this point I must own up and declare that much of the information for the post comes from the charity’s own blog and so never one to steal another’s research I shall just point you towards, Belmont House from Getting Down and Dusty where there are heaps more about the house and the work undertaken by the charity.

Pictures; Belmont House, and the Billiard Room courtesy of the Together Trust and map showing Belmont House in 1900 from the OS Map of Cheshire 1900-1910, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

*The Together Trust, http://www.togethertrust.org.uk/

**Belmont House, http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The British Postal Museum and Archive

Now you don’t have to be mad keen on the history of the Postal Service to sign up to the newsletter of the British Postal Museum and Archive.

Both the online version and the hard copy are full of interesting stuff on a range of stories some of which are only loosely connected to letters postcards and telegrams.

And this month’s newsletter being a First World War Centenary edition covers everything from the Post Office at War, the role played by the Post Office Rifles as well information on their archives and an article by Alan Johnson MP.

And it is free.

Picture; cover from the November newsletter

* British Postal Museum and Archive, www.postalheritage.org.uk


Friday, 21 November 2014

A night at the cinema in 1914 .............. December 4 at Whaley Bridge

Now Whaley Bridge may seem a bit of a way to see a film but here for one night only are a selection of films from 1914.

The selection of 14 shorts set to a musical score includes comedy, drama and allied troops at the Front celebrating Christmas.

And there is much more, all at The Mechanics Institute Whaley Bridge for the small sum of £4 [£3concessions]

Doors open at 7 for 7.30.

Whaleyfilms@hotmail.co.uk

Phone; 07531 982995

www.highpeakfilm.org.uk

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Recapturing memories of the old Imperial at Brooks's Bar

Now I have written about the old Imperial Cinema at Brooks Bar a couple of times but I couldn’t resist this picture taken by Andy Roberston.

For anyone who has fond remembers going there  Andy’s picture should bring back memories.
And I have to say the exterior has fared better than many picture houses which long ago went dark.

Picture; the Imperial Cinema, 2014, Andy Robertson

*The Imperial Cinema, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20Imperial%20Cinema

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Opening 1914, the story of our own library by the Edge Theatre Company tonight until November 29

Now I first came across Miss Clara Atkinson while doing some research at Central Ref and I was drawn to her story.*

From 1901 and perhaps earlier she was living on Groby Road and was buried in Southern Cemetery on September 3rd 1942.

I came across her in one of the Corporation employment registers detailing those who worked for the library service in the years up to 1914.

So I know that Miss Clara Atkinson was born on May 29 1877, began work as a Library Assistant in the September of 1900 on a weekly wage of ten shillings and that by 1914 she was receiving £1.4 shillings.

She started at Chorlton Library on Rusholme Road. The Library and the road have long since gone but the road ran from Ardwick Green to Oxford Street and the library was on the corner where it crossed  Upper Brook Street.

And in the way of these things she will no doubt have visited our own library which opened in 1914.

I have no idea what she would have made of the changes to libraries in the century that has elapsed but if she were as forward thinking as the Lord Mayor who opened our Library in 1914 she would have been impressed with the computers, the e books and above all the friendly open atmosphere.

The Lord Mayor had expressed a hope that “every library would have a kineograph installed which would make learning more relevant to young people."

Either way I shall be thinking of her when I go to see Opening 1914 at the Library which  is the new production by the Edge Theatre Company and runs from November 19 till 29.

Janine Waters who co wrote the production writes

“Opening 1914 is the new show from the creative team at The Edge (Spinach, Dreaming Under a Different Moon).

A dip back in time, to the Chorlton of a hundred years ago when there was an ice rink on Oswald Road, too many picture houses and a brand new public library just about to open.

Clara, Fred, Lucy and Eddie are just some of the characters who take us on a countdown to the opening of a beloved library and to the start of a war that would change the world forever.”

 Now what I also like is that you have the chance to see the production at either the library or the Edge Theatre.

So those like me who want to sit in the very spot where the story unfolds the Library performances are on Wednesday the 19th  through to Saturday 22nd and then at the Edge Theatre from Tuesday November 25 till Saturday the 29.

Tickets according to Janine will cost “£5 for a special centenary price & site specific performances at Chorlton Library £8/£10 performances at Edge Theatre. All tickets from: www.edgetheatre.co.uk . 0161 282-9776."

The production is supported by the Arts Council and Manchester City Council and is part of the Chorlton Book Festival




Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Two families across two centuries

Now I never tire of listening to the stories of other people’s family history, it is after all pretty much what I do.

And so I was fascinated when Caroline called last week and invited me round to share some photographs and documents from the Great War.

But as ever that was just the start of what turned out to be one of those rare opportunities to explore the history of two families stretching back into the early decades of the 19th century.

I say rare but only in the sense that I seldom get to talk in such great detail about the history of two families.

Like most of us the story began in the countryside in the hard times following the long wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France and led to accounts of poaching and a flit from one county to another.

And in the course of the next hundred years the two sides of Caroline’s family played out their lives against the backdrop of rural depressions world wars and the hard bitter decades that followed the end of the Great War.

Here were stories of bright talented people who were forced to leave school early but still managed to gain university qualifications, of the continuing tragedy of high infant mortality rates and the terrible impact of the First World War.

Above all it was the history of the last century and a bit explored through people whose pictures I had in front of me and whose lives Caroline could describe, from the grinding poverty of the Depression and starting work in bomb blitzed Trafford Park to watching as the last farms closed across Chorlton and experiencing colonial Africa on the cusp of independence.

And this was also my history, for while I was born after the last world war there were still the stories from my parents of the Hunger Marches, the anger at the Means Test, and much else about that “low dishonest decade” which began with an economic crisis and ended with a world war.

We shared our memories of grey post war London which blossomed into the exciting years of the late 1950s and the 60s, decades which were filled as much with high politics and great issues as they were with the Bubble car, the Beatles, television Habitat.

So all in all a wonderful day and one that I hope we can replicate and more importantly to the that simple observation that everyone’s history is a story worth telling.

Pictures; courtesy of Caroline Smith

One for the diary ........ the Evacuated Schools in Wartime Stockport December 2 Furness Vale

Now I rather wish I could get to the talk on the Evacuated Schools in Wartime Stockport tomorrow at Furness Vale by Gillian Mawson.

It promises to be an interesting one.

Ms Mawson has written extensively about the impact of the Second World War on the North West  and as well as Guernesy.

As usual, we meet at Furness Vale Community Centre, Yeardsley Lane at 7.30pm. Admission is £1. 50 including refreshments.**

The Community centre is just a short walk from the railway station and past some interesting pubs.

So if like me you manage to get to Furness Vale early there are always places to pass the time till 7.30.

And the trains back to city run late.


* Gillian Mawson, http://guernseyevacuees.wordpress.com/about/ 


**Furness Vale Local History Society, http://furnesshistory.blogspot.co.uk/



Monday, 17 November 2014

Another 20 objects in the story of Chorlton ........ nu 4 one of our war memorials

Now I could have chosen a number of different memorials but this one is possibly the most accessible.

The ones in St Clement’s and St Ninians are inside the church and it may not always be possible to gain access, while those in Southern Cemetery are some distance away.

But the Methodist memorial on Manchester Road is three for all to see who turn off the road into the church grounds.

It is complimented by a Roll of Honour held by the church of all the men who enlisted and with a bit of research it has been possible to find out something about most of them.

In most cases this includes their regiment and for a few their attestation papers and details of their war service.

It is a very humbling feeling to stand in front of that memorial knowing just a little bit about the men listed there.

Men like Private Frederick Pontefract of the Royal Army Medical Corps who enlisted on May 11 1915.

He was just 19 years of age.  In the following year he was posted to Egypt and in 1917 was on the Western Front.

He was reported missing in March 1918 and died in POW hospital in the June of that year.

Pictures; the Memorial on Manchester Road, November 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tracking down the story behind a ghost sign.

Now this is not Manchester but then ghost signs know no geographical barriers and so here courtesy of Ron Stubley are two fine examples, from Bedford taken in 2012.

Boveril I grew up with and the product is still around today, but Grey’s cigarettes have long gone.

I went looking for their history and pretty much drew a blank.  They were around during the Great War and I think will probably stretch back into the 19th century, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Of course there will be someone who knows so I await them getting in touch.
And no sooner had the story been posted than I got an answer from
Furness Vale Local History Society,*

"Grey's cigarettes were manufactured by Major Drapkin & Co in London. 

This company founded in 1897 appears to be a subsidary of United Kingdom Tobacco Company. The Grace's Guide website shows adverts dated from1919 to 1953. 

The later packaging, in small slim tins showed a coat of arms of The Royal Scots Greys. 

The manufacturers at that time were Godfrey Philips Ltd of London, possibly under contract to the product owners. 

In 1916 Major Drapkin donated 30,000 cigarettes to soldiers taking part in the Lord Mayor's Procession." 

So thank you Furness Vale and of course Ron.

*Furness Vale Local History Society, http://furnesshistory.blogspot.co.uk/

Picture; Western Street Bedford, 2012, courtesy of Ron Stubley

Revisiting favourite places with a twist of history ............... nu 2 Paris

An occasional series which just aims to reflect old places and places with a story.



We were staying at the hotel opposite the Opera House

Picture; Paris, 1980, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A little of what Chorlton did in The Great War .... yesterday at the Post Box Cafe with Chorlton Book Festival

Now that’s a zippy title.

Usually we do a walk but ever one to do something different we decided on a talk on just what Chorlton did during the Great War and it was a lot.

Many of our young men went off to fight and some died on the battlefronts. Meanwhile their families got on with the business of everyday life set against shortages, rising prices and the constant shadow of a dreaded telegram from the War Office.

Some did more helping run our two voluntary Red Cross Hospitals and there were lots to talk about.

Added to this we had David Harrop with items from his collection of Great War memorabilia including a VC, pictures, letters and postcards.
So not just a talk but an interactive display of a little bit of Chorlton’s history.

All of which went down well as did the soup and mulled wine from Chris and the team at the Post Box Cafe.

Which just leaves me to say that David has a permanent exhibition at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery, the Post Box is open from 8 till 5 Monday to Saturday and from 9 till 3 on Sundays and the Chorlton Book Festival has a heap of things to see, and do until November 29.

Pictures; from the collection of David Harrop

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Down behind Piccadilly Station waiting for the Northern Hub ....... part 3 stories of of pubs and lost roads

The Star and Garter on Fairfield Street is one of those pubs that most people know even if they have never stepped inside.


The Star & Garter, 2014
Andy Robertson recorded it recently in a new set of photographs.*

It has been a listed building since June 1980 and a popular venue for music.

One source suggests that there was a Star and Garter as early as 1808 just about a hundred yards further along Fairfield Street and “moved brick by brick to its current location in 1877.”**

This earlier site was where today there is a little island on the corner of Baring Street and Travis Street.

The Star & Garter, 1844
The 1842 OS shows it as a substantial building bearing the name of the Star and Garter.

That said there are no references to it in the street directories for the 19th century and as late as 1877 there was only a beer shop close to the present pub continues run by George Clark.

And Mr Clark I found in the rate books for that year renting the property at number 14 Fairfield Street from a Mr Gibson who owned the adjoining two properties and charged an annual rent of £28.

The pub on the corner of Neild Street, 2014
Now I have been drawn into the history of the place, and will have to go off and look at the licensing records in the archives, especially as that date of 1877 is intriguing.

The following year there is no reference to either men on Fairfield Street so just possibly the beer shop closed when the Star and Garter was erected late in 1877.

Six years earlier number 14 had been home to Thomas Shawcross who gave his occupation as a shopkeeper.

Neild Street and Station Street, 1844
For now I shall have to await that research but as you do I wandered off down behind the pub along Neild Street which in its little way presents another small point of interest.

Today it runs for a short distance beside the old railway buildings before petering out in a dead end.

Back when the Star and Garter opened for business in 1877 it took a different route running directly south and is now buried underneath Mayfield Station.

That stretch that now comes to a dead end was before 1910 Station Street and it too came to an abrupt halt in front of the Boiler House and filtering ponds of the Mayfield Printing Works.

Now this may not be the most riveting of stories but it was one that took time in the making.

The site of number 14 Fairfield Street with Neild Street behind, 2014
I had just thought of showing Andy Robertson’s pictures of the pub which his son had suggested he should record as they were by Piccadilly Station.

As Andy said the area will soon be redeveloped with work on the Northern Hub and that of course led to looking up the story of the Star and Garter, and in turn exploring the directories, rate book and census returns along with maps of the area.

All of which revealed that this little bit of the city sandwiched between the two stations has undergone more change than most of us may have known.

Pictures; of the Star and Garter, 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson and maps of the area from the 1842-44 OS for Manchester & Salford, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

*Down behind Piccadilly Station waiting for the Northern Hub ....... part 1 pubs, warehouses and rivers, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/down-behind-piccadilly-station-waiting.html

**The Star & Garter, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Star_and_Garter