Saturday, 31 January 2015

“exercising a rigorous protest against extravagance” ......... The Chorlton Ratepayers Association 1877-?

For over a hundred years we had our own rate payer association.  It may still be going but I can't find an address or a link for it in Chorlton.

But in the 19th century into the 20th ours was pretty active.

They harried the local authorities on issues to do with Chorlton, expressed their opinions to the local newspapers and put up candidates in municipal elections into the 1960s.

And like snow in the winter sun they have vanished.

There will be people who remember the Association may well have been members and might also have the faded minutes of meetings but I have yet to find them.

It was formed in 1877 after the election of the first Local Government Board the year before.  This replaced the old Poor Law committee which had raised a rate and looked after the governance of Chorlton since the 1830s.

Now much of the work of the earlier interested ratepayers here in Chorlton can be read in the minutes of the Vestry or Ratepayers meetings which were held regularly in the school house on the green from 1838. It is fascinating account of the day to day workings of the new poor law system of government.

But the new Local Board of Health was something much bigger, covering the four townships of Chorlton, Burnage, Withington and Didsbury.

And befitting this larger municipal enterprise some of the resident set up a Vigilance committee which later changed its name to the “Chorlton-cum-Hardy Ratepayers Association, its object to watch over the interests of the township generally and to take such active measures for the protection and welfare of the ratepayers as may be deemed advisable.”

It met four times a year in the Lloyds Hotel and was open to all rate payers who were prepared to pay the annual subscription of 5s and stump up the entrance fee of 1s which included a copy of the rules.

There was also an executive committee consisting of president, vice president, honorary solicitor, auditor, and honorary secretary and ten members which met more often.

Like all such vigilance committees ours exercised its concerns across the board from the state of the highways, issues of public health and transport to the provision of education.

And of course in the great debate on whether we should vote for incorporation into the city in 1904 the Ratepayers Association had a view and indeed continued to do so after we had become part of Manchester.

In those early years after incorporation one of the main complaints was that as the rates had gone up the promised benefits of a public library and tram service had failed to materialise.

It was according to one correspondant to the Manchester Guardian in 1905  “With such high and increasing rates  after if not on account of amalgamation, we may expect the Council to pay early attention to such requirements for the district as tramway routes, baths, and library, as promised, and also much needed  educational facilities by the speedy errection of the proposed elementary school.”*

And I do have some sympathy with the compliant given that in that May of 1905 the tram service still stopped at West Point**and our first municipal library was not opened for another three years and only then in a converted house on Oswald Road.

Added to this according to Mr Shorrocks the rise in the rates had to be seen against the loss “of cheaper gas, which other districts enjoy, being partly [still]  lighted by Stretford gas which costs more than that of Manchester.”

It had been an issue in the first Manchester Municipal elections after incorporation with the Progressive Party arguing, the advance of “good government” involved “exercising a rigorous protest against extravagance” and “preserving as far as possible the residential character” of Chorlton.***

And like all ratepayer associations I guess those concerns never went away, which I suspect would make them an interesting area of study.

As it is there is little to go on.  In 1911 according to Kemp’s Almanack and Handbook the registered address for our ratepayers association was Albert Harris, Station Approach.

Now this turns out to be one of the many offices for coal merchants by Chorlton railway station, although Albert Harris described himself as “estate agent and coal merchant.”  He lived on Maple Avenue.

Picture; courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, Withington Town Hall, October 16th 1906 m52133,

*J.H.Shorrocks, The Hard Case of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester Guardian May 22, 1905

**where Seymour Grove joins Upper Chorlton Road and Manchester Road

***Election leaflet, the Progressive Party, October 10th 1904

Revisiting the Great War nu 1 ............ who spoke in favour?

That image of people cheering the news that we were at war in August 1914 and turning out on the streets pretty much sums up what we think was the mood of the country facing its first major continental war in a century.

Men flocked to the Colours, many wanting to do their bit before it was all over and Rupert Brook wrote

"Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping.*

And yet it can only have been one aspect of how collectively the country greeted the news.

After all Sir Edward Grey’s famous comment that "The lamps are going out all over Europe” was made by the man closely associated with the decisions which led to our ultimatum with Germany.**

And on that day the Manchester Guardian had been full of letters deploring Britain’s possible involvement while the editor C.P Scott had commented that

“If we rush into war will be both a crime and ruinous madness in which we risk everything of which we are proud and gain nothing.”***

Such feelings were mirrored by resolutions passed by churches and church bodies calling for neutrality, and large meetings held across Greater Manchester including one at the Milton Hall on Deansgate the day after war was declared reaffirming a belief that we should have remained neutral.

Uppermost were the fears for those who would be called to fight, the loss of treasure involved in paying for the conflict and the unease at lining up with countries like Russia and Serbia.

And amongst sections of the Labour Movement there was the a real concern that “wars are of no concern to Labour.  

The only purpose as far as we are concerned, would be to divert attention from social needs, and the only people who would benefit would be the armament firms. 

We never know what financial forces are behind movements which precipitate nations in to wars of this kind.”****

A sentiment which was matched by resolutions from trade unions like that from the Electrical Trades Union,

“strongly protesting against the present war in Europe as a ‘wanton and wilful waste of human life which will be the cause of unparallelled misery and hardship to the workers of all countries.’”*****

That opposition never really went away and as the war deepened it maintained a constant, but the majority of the country swung behind Britain’s involvement.

By September the Labour candidate in the Bolton by-election was unopposed by the other two parties because he “was a whole hearted supporter of the war policy.”******

And a little over a month later the Labour MP for Manchester East,  John Edward Sutton speaking to a meeting in his constituency commented that  “when our ultimatum was sent [the Labour Party was] practically unanimous in deciding to support the war through.  

Our policy as a party was to sink and fall with the Government, as the Opposition had done, and do their best to bring the war to a successful issue.” ******

Although it is interesting that he maintained that “German Socialists like the Socialists of this and other countries were against war... but were out numbered in the German Parliament by the militarist and aristocratic party” concluding that they now “had to do the best they could for their country just as we believed we must fight the war to the finish.”

His speech was met by frequent applause and that I guess brings us back to the image of the cheering crowds complimented by the recurring news of the numbers enlisting in Manchester Pals Battalions  and the report that of the 280 Manchester undergraduate on the Officer Training Corps over 200 had taken commissions in the two months since the war began.

Next, the treatment of enemy aliens, unemployment, distress and the growing role of women in the war effort.

Pictures; selection of picture postcards from the collection of David Harrop

*Peace Rupert Brooke, 1914

** "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

***To a group of Manchester businessmen and Liberals on August 3 1914

****Councillor W.T.Jackson, Secretary of the Manchester and Salford Labour Representation Committee, Labour Protest in Manchester, Manchester Guardian, August 3 1914

***** The Attitude of Labour, Manchester Evening News, August 3 1914

******Bolton By-election, Manchester Guardian, September 15 1914

******The Labour Party, Manchester Guardian, October 12 1914

Friday, 30 January 2015

That ghost sign on Beech Road, a painting and a plasterer

Now here is one of those ghost signs which have yet to pass out of living memory.

And if you have lived in Chorlton for as long as I have you will remember when it was called Sunflowers, was run by George and traded beside the launderette.

Back then we still had a greengrocer, a post office and two butchers while just two decades earlier you could call in at the grocers, buy paraffin and a candle from the shop next to Wilkinson’s and choose to get your fresh cakes from Richardson’s or the Oven Door.

So this is a ghost sign for a business which has been around while Beech Road moved from an ordinary little shopping centre serving the old village into the “quirky" hub of small traders offering everything from Victorian antique lace, reproduction wooden crates and original glassware.

Not that we have completely shaken off that older Beech Road.

Look just below the ghost sign and there is one for Gazelle Plasterers which have been trading from the side of the Wholefood shop since the 1980s.*

Leo who runs the business is an excellent craftsman.

We used him back in 1983 and again only earlier last year.

He specializes in fine plaster mouldings and was engaged in restoring some of the features in both Central Ref and Sunlight House on Quay Street.

All of which brings me back to Chorlton Wholefoods which sadly closed recently.

There will be those who remember this stretch of shops as the home of strippo and perhaps even a few when the entire block all the way round on to Stockton Road was the co-op.

But most will have fond memories of that corner business where you could get your organic veg, interesting qourn products and a vast range of food from good wholemeal bread to Tivall sausages.

So here when all that was still possible is Peter’s painting which captures the last period of Chorlton Wholefoods.

The interior had been redone, the frontage given that distinctive black and yellow appearance and the business gave this end of Beech Road a bit of class.

Picture; Beech Road ghost sign, 2015, from the collection of Peter Topping

Painting; Chorlton Wholefoods, Beech Road, 2013 © Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

*Gazelle Art Plaster, Beech Road, 07760 461259

Revisiting the Great War how we see that war and how it was perceived in the past

I have never doubted the sacrifice made during the Great War.

It reached into almost every home and for many the legacy was the loss of a loved one and in some cases more than one and that sacrifice is there in the memorials for the fallen across the country.

They range from small plaques in quiet village churches to large brass polished lists of the men who fought in office buildings along with the more public monuments like stone crosses and our own Cenotaph.

There is as they say a certainty in that national sacrifice but what I continue to revisit are the causes of that war and the numerous differing interpretations of whether Britain should have joined a continental conflict in the August of 1914.

Now I belong to that generation whose view of the war was coloured by Joan Littlewoods’s Oh What a Lovely War and the fact that I grew up in the 1960s which to a young mind pretty much challenged all the conventional wisdoms.

That said as I have grown older I realize that every decade does exactly the same thing and the critical analysis of why we fought and the value of the war were being hotly debated soon after it was all over.

Now there is nothing wrong with that.  History is not set in stone, fresh discoveries, new scholarship and changing ideas mean that every event is open to reinterpretation which is what makes the study of the past both fun and rewarding.

I was brought up with that premises that here was a war of rival imperialisms where the growing antagonisms of the European Great Powers and Japan led to a costly arms race, the creation of two armed camps and the possibility that one or two of these countries fearful that they would lose superiority would strike first.

It sat alongside that even more simple interpretation that in an age when the vast armies of Continental Europe were moved by trains, the train timetable imposed a logic to events.

So that once the decision to move an army up to the border had been made this would have to be matched by others and in the war rooms and Cabinet offices even the suggestion that this might be about to happen called for the issue of mobilization orders.

It was and for me still is an attractive interpretation and took on more validity during the Cold War when the two super powers contemplated a nuclear exchange of weapons even using them as bargaining gambits while at the same time carrying on their conflict using smaller countries to fight proxy wars.

So here and I don’t claim it will always be over original will be few short posts on the mood of Manchester on that August of 1914 and on how that war was seen at various times during the conflict and since.

Tomorrow, Revisiting the Great War nu 1 ............ who spoke in favour?

Pictures; A fag after a fight, 1916, Daily Mail Official War Pictures, and Mother, Why Doesnt Daddy Come Home? date unknown, Bamforth & Co, Holmfirth, the Patriot Series nu 1888, from the collection of David Harrop

Passionate about local history

Eltham in 1909
Now I collect local history groups, in fact I hoover them up, avidly signing up to their newsletters mentioning them on the blog and where practical going to the meetings.

And it is because I just don’t think you can get enough local history.

After all when it comes down to it for most of us where we live is important and making sense of what happened  in the past helps understand how the place has developed.

Of course there are  the sniffy historians who mumble on about parish pump events and the need to see the bigger picture, but the bigger picture always ends at the bottom of your road, whether it’s the closure of the local factory during a depression, or the very real and personal conflict of conscience when them at the top decide that it would be better if we followed a Protestant Prayer Book and attended a church devoid of holy pictures.

And it is the local and the family historians who often unearth the evidence that either confirms or rubbishes the great sweep of history theory.

North Cray, © J.D.Gammon
So all of this is to introduce two new ones, the Eltham Society and the North Cray Residents Association.*

Now I rather suspect the secretaries of both will rightly say “we have got on very well for the last x number of years without this Northern chap writing about us,” which is perfectly true but won’t stop me.

The Eltham Society was founded in1965 which was the year after we washed up in the place, although I have to confess with a hint of embarrassment that I only joined this year.  But in my defence I was 14 in 1964, left Eltham for Manchester five years later and only felt that I could start writing about its history recently.

North Cray beat it by 21 years having been set up in the March of 1944 which strikes me as a bit odd given the titanic sweep of history that was going on at the time.  But then the very idea that people could be thinking about the future at such a time appeals to the optimist in me.

The Tudor Barn, Well Hall © Scott MacDonald
And takes me back to that simple idea that if you like somewhere you will want to keep it nice, watch carefully the developments a foot and judge those changes by what has gone on before which fits with Eltham’s  “Preserving the Past, Conserving the Present, Protecting the Future.”

Often the history side grows out of what was a residents association or in our case a Civic Society.

All too often I chose to dismiss them, falling back on the ignorant prejudice that here were a group of penny pinching hard faced zealots unwilling to spend for the common good or wrapped up in arcane practises.

Nor is this so far from the mark in the late 19th century.  Our own Chorlton Residents Association was quick to scrutinise the profligate actions of local government, but then they also campaigned for the provision of better education, sanitation, public libraries and street lighting, all of which I approve of.**

So yet again history is messy, which just leaves me to suggest you explore the history sections of their web sites.

* The Eltham Society and the  North Cray Residents Association

** “exercising a rigorous protest against extravagance” ......... The Chorlton Ratepayers Association 1877-?

Picture; The Kings Arms from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, Footscray courtesy of J.D.Gammon, and the Tudor Barn, courtesy of Scott McDonald

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Bringing out the board from the glory hole.... another story from Sally Dervan

Sally is a regular contributor to the blog and also has a wonderful collection of images of Manchester from the past.*

This photo of my mum, in her ballet dress, aged about five, is one of a number of dance related photos of her that I used to enjoy looking at when I was a child.

This one, taken at Oxford Road Studios in Manchester, is the only photo from that group that I still have.

It was a nice collection; all related to ballet and tap dancing triumphs when she was a little girl. The collection included some newspaper clippings where my mum (sometimes alongside her sister Hazel) would be shown putting on a show or winning a prize.

The collection was proudly maintained by my Nana, who kept the memories safely in a shoe box and would bring them out at my request.

The newspaper clippings had been carefully glued to a cardboard backing to help them withstand the years of re reading and reminiscing.

As a talented seamstress with two daughters close in age, my Nana was kept busy producing outfits for her dancing girls and I remember the photos showed a whole range of clever and inventive costumes.

All of these produced at a time when resources were scarce and old clothes were not discarded but adapted and made into something new and a bit special.

When I was born in 1964, with her dancing days by then just a memory from childhood, my mum gave up her secretarial job and stayed at home to look after me.

In common with many young people of her generation, there was no question of my mum and dad immediately getting "a place of their own" so we lived for a few years at my Nana and Granddads house on Princess Parkway , close to the Mersey Hotel .

I was born in the back bedroom of that house, and some of my earliest childhood memories are from there.

Our house had just two rooms downstairs, the front living room and the big back kitchen with the downstairs toilet in a little passage by the back door.

There was also the "glory hole”, the cupboard under the stairs that housed a variety of weird and wonderful objects and was often visited because it was also home to the bucket of coal for the fire in the front room.

There was one Item that lived in the glory hole that always made me smile when I saw it.

A large board that had been kept in there for years, it was kept specifically for tap dancing on, so that my mum and her sister couldn't be blamed for damaging the kitchen linoleum when they were kids.

As an adult, my mum would sometimes bring this board out and attempt to show me a few steps. Her talents far outweighed mine; I was more interested in sticking my nose in a book.

Nevertheless, I loved to watch her feet as she danced and I think these experiences explain my lifelong love of dancers such as Syd Charisse, Rita Hayworth and The Andrews Sisters, (who, although much better known for their singing were also a mean trio of tappers !)

Although I could only watch my Mum and wonder, talent can sometimes skip a generation and my own daughter has studied Musical Theatre to Masters Degree level and includes ballet and tap in her range of skills.

In the early 1970s, I remember feeling a sense of pride when neighbours had house parties and the floor would be cleared for my mum and dad to jive.

On one occasion, I remember a neighbour’s mantelpiece also being cleared, of ornaments, as their living room was really a bit cramped, not much bigger than the board from the glory hole, and certainly too small for the enthusiasm of this jiving duo!

© Sally Dervan

Pictures; from the collection of Sally Dervan

*Sally Dervan,

Debates which never go away, ......... the story of our public library

Who could think that a gift of £5,000 in 1914 to help finance a library here in Chorlton could cause a stir and still have people debating the issue years later? Now the gift came from the steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie, and was only one of 660 which he funded in Britain, 1,689 in the United States, 125 in Canada and more elsewhere between 1883 and 1929.

From humble beginnings he had built up a huge steel business before selling out for an estimated $500 million in 1901 and devoting himself to philanthropist projects. Even before he retired he had been spending money on all sorts of projects of which the establishment of public libraries was just one.

But there are those who would argue the money was not his to give away having been made by the men who toiled in the steel plants and who were increasingly denied the right to organise collectively in his work places. But that is another story.

Here in Chorlton the charge against the Carnegie gift was led by Councillor Jane Redford, who “was not infatuated with the Carnegie gift” expressing “a feeling of disappointment that the Chorlton ratepayers were not to get a library through the ordinary means of municipal enterprise.”*

The issue of a free library for Chorlton had been bubbling below the surface since we had voted to be incorporated into the City of Manchester in 1904. In January 1908 the Ratepayers Association had written to the Town Clerk asking for the Corporation to honour the agreement which they did in November of the same year.

It was something of a temporary measure as the library was in a rented house on Oswald Road. But it began with the provision of a thousand books a reading room and a meetings room and was a runaway success. During the first two months the membership climbed to 1,100 and the number of books was doubled with a promise of another 1,000.

More than anything it proved the need for a library on a more permanent footing and by 1911 the negotiations with Carnegie were underway. These gifts from the steel magnate were hedged with conditions, and in our case that the site “should be made over free of cost to the Corporation” ** and the cost of the building shouldn’t exceed £5000.

There is a story that the original plans for the library crossed the Atlantic with the Titanic and were lost, but whether true or not the building was finished just a little later than scheduled and was opened on November 4th 1914. The Manchester Guardian reported “the style is Classical with Ionic columns in Portland stone and had 7,420 books, [which]if necessary can be increased to 10,500 volumes. There is a general reading room for adults and one for juveniles.”

In an age which has seen libraries add computers to the resources available to the user it is perhaps surprising that the Lord Mayor in opening the library nearly 100 years ago “hoped that someday there would be a kinematograph connected to our libraries for the special benefit of boys and girls, enabling them the better to understand the histories they were reading.”***

There was already a cinema of sorts just around the corner on Wilbraham Road, just over the bridge before the junction with Buckingham Road. It had been opened in the early years of the 20th century and would later be part of a chain of picture houses across the city. Alas no such venture was to enter the library.

And now the debate over the future of the library and the question of the degree to which the council should go into partnership with private enterprise is again a live issue. But like the story of the bioscope, and the Chorlton Pavilion on Wilbraham Road it is a topic for another day.

Picture; Chorlton Library from the collection of Andrew Simpson and picture of Mrs Jane Redford from her election address by kind permission of Lawrence Beadle 

* New Library for Chorlton, Manchester Guardian September 28 1911
**ibid Manchester Guardian September 28 1911
*** A New Library, Manchester Guardian November 5th 1914

All you ever wanted to know but never knew where to look ........... LANCASHIRE: MANCHESTER AND THE SOUTH EAST

Now there are some books which act as an essential guide and I couldn’t do without them.

One of these is LANCASHIRE: MANCHESTER AND THE SOUTH EAST, by Claire Hartwell, Matthew Hyde and Nikiolaus Pevsner and its companion which concentrates on specifically on Manchester.*

These two books are often a starting point when I want to follow something up and use an old fashioned book rather than the internet.

To try and pick any entry is a bit like choosing one favourite Italian dish over another to give to a friend, but the extract on Hough End Hall is fascinating for the intriguing plan of what the original Hall might have been like.

One to read.


* LANCASHIRE: MANCHESTER AND THE SOUTH EAST, by Claire Hartwell, Matthew Hyde and Nikiolaus Pevsner, Yale University Press, 2004

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

What was Mrs Lomax doing in Hough End Hall in 1931?

Now I wonder what Mrs Lomax was doing in Hough End Hall when this picture was taken in 1931?

By then she was 68, a widow, and had another nine full years ahead.

The Hall had been a farmhouse from the late 18th century and her family had run the farm and lived at Hough End Hall since the 1840s.

And she was still working although the farm had shrunk from 220 acres employing 13 labourers to just over 3 acres.

A decade or so before she had advertised for a young lad to live in and help with the milk round and after her death those 3 acres along with the Hall were rented out to the Bailey family who continued to work the land.

I like this picture which comes courtesy of my friend Sally from the City Council’s Annual Review which is a cornucopia of hidden treasures.

In the fullness of time I will ask Sally if there was a story attached to the picture, but for now I will leave you with the hall in 1932 at a moment when it still looked as it had done for a century.

Picture; Hough End Hall in 1931 from Manchester City Council’s Annual Review, 1932, courtesy of Sally Dervan

Lost images of our industrial past ........... no 5 the construction of the Petrograd Boot Company

Now I know there will be a story here and more over someone will come back with a full account of the history of the Petrograd Boot Company.

But for now all I have is this picture collected by my friend Sally from a book including many other pictures of Trafford Park from the first half of the last century.

The only other reference comes from the National Archive which took me to the Greater Manchester County Record Office, now with the Manchester Archives at Central Ref and lists  what I guess will be the same image, “Workers, or builders, or both, at the Petrograd Boot Company warehouse (Russian) in Trafford Park during World War I, reference 580/3, negative sheet number K1/29” with a date of 1914-18.

And I guess this may be the same image but of course this short description does not do justice to what will be a fascinating piece of history.

The starting point will have to be a directory for Trafford Park during the war and a visit to the Trafford Local History Centre.

But in the meantime I am full of questions, ranging from who owned the company, was it originally a Russian business and that obvious one did it survive the Revolution?

All of which will have to wait a tad bit longer.

Picture; the construction of the Petrograd Boot Company Trafford Park, during the Great War from the collection of Sally Dervan

Down at Parrs Wood, deciding on a film, a meal or a game of bowling just a tad different from a half century before

The Parrs Wood entertainment complex slipped in while I wasn’t looking.

The Parrs Wood complex, 2014
Now given its size and the fact that it has been there since 2001 that I agree is pretty staggering.

But in my defence I didn’t often travel down to east Didsbury or if I did it tended to be only as far as the old college opposite the two pubs.

So the first time I saw the huge complex was around 2004 on one of those buses taking the scenic route from Chorlton to Stockport.

Not that I am sniffy about the place, we use it a lot given that it is just down the road and offers free parking.

Parrs Wood Court, circa 1939
But it is big making me wonder what the people in the houses opposite think about the complex and the huge car park area directly in front of their homes.

And that got me reflecting on the reversals of entertainment history.

Originally the two Didsbury cinemas were in the centre of the village and off towards Burnage and both like so many other picture houses closed as fewer people wanted to sit in the dark with a shed load of strangers.

But the new cinema complexes offer more both in the variety of films they show and the degree of comfort.

That popular description of many old picture houses as flea pits was not so far off the mark.  Some of the very earliest might well have smelt of disinfectant and the one just behind Chorlton Road a little up from the old Imperial was indeed a home for fleas given that it was beside the old tramways horse stables.

All of which makes the modern cinemas a cut above their predecessors.

But I do miss the Odeon, the Regal and the Gaumont built in the 1930s and marking in their time a new era in cinema going.

Some like the one on Chester Road in Stretford was built with air conditioning and others could boast a bar and all were magical places with their lush carpet, grand hall ways and thick velvet curtains.

These were places a world away from the often cold and drab homes that many left to escape into a world of Busby Berkley, Fred Astaire and Gone with the Wind.

All of which I was reminded of when I was at the Plaza recently in Stockport.  This was the grand design of entertainment and maybe Peter will compliment his painting of Parrs Wood with one of the Plaza.

Painting; Parrs Wood Cinema complex, from the series East Didsbury, © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Downgrading to a Nokia 3310 and stepping back into history

Now I am minded to change my mobile but unlike most people I am down grading.

For years I have been happy with my old Nokia 6310.

It does the biz, allowing me to phone and text people, with a battery which doesn’t run out by dinner time and most importantly if you drop it just bounces.

I did try a smart version but discovered I was not smart enough to use it.

And now it is time to change so as Tina’s dad has just upgraded I am the proud owner of his Nokia 3310.

It was a model I once possessed and I rather think it will become my new phone,

It is even more robust than my current one and has two added bonuses which are that it is from Italy and it plays Snake.

At which point I could reflect on the massive changes in telephones and mobiles but that is for another time.

Picture; Nokia 3310 circa 2000 from the collection oof Andrew Simpson 

"See better days and do better things" ............ that ruin you see from the tram at Cornbrook

It’s the ruin you spot from the tram at Cornbrook.

Once it was the Railway Inn, pulling pints and offering a bit of cheer on a drab corner.

I have been interested in it for years, have written about it in the past and featured some of Andy Robertson’s pictures of the place.

It still clings on although now there is little left bar a few walls.

Andy has gone back and here are a few more of his photographs along with one in happier times.

It stands on the corner of Cornbrook Road and Dover Street and in 1911 Jonas Barraclough dispensed the beer and the cheer.

It was a densely packed area of terraced houses and industry.

So walking down Cornbrook Road from Chester Road to Dover Street the causal visitor would have encountered the homes of a chimney sweep, a postman and stevedore along with factories making tinplate, paint and cut glass in between the premises of
Joseph Bradley Herbalist, Arton Snowden, fried fish dealer and a printing works.

All very different from today.

Pictures of the Railway Inn today courtesy of Andy Robertson, and the Railway Inn in 1958, E Stanley, m 50339, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Looking down on Cornbrook and the ruins of the Railway Inn,

Monday, 26 January 2015

There is a lot happening down at Chorlton Central Church on Barlow Moor Road.

There is a lot happening down at Chorlton Central Church on Barlow Moor Road.

And the awful thing is that I have just pretty much ignored it,  I have written about the church in the past* and was a tad curious about the work being done but just assumed that it was a bit of twiddly work.

Of course there is much more as I saw when I went past on Saturday, but even then I did not go looking for an explanation.

But rest assured because Andy Robertson has done just that and here is one of pictures taken yesterday which with those I know he will take will provide more evidence for the way Chorlton is changing.

So as he has put me to shame all I can do is provide a much earlier picture from the collection and a link to one of those stories.

Picture;  Chorlton Central Church January 2015, courtesy of Andy Robertson

*A church on Barlow Moor Road and a missing hall in Greenfield,

Lost images of our industrial past ........... no 4 munitions workers at Westinghouse Works Trafford Park, during the Great Wa

Now this began as a one off showing pictures from a Derby foundry sometime in the 1930s but given my friend Sally’s wonderful collection of pictures from Trafford Park in the first half of the 20th century it has become a series.

This was featured recently by Sally on that excellent facebook site Greater Manchester History, Architecture, Faces and Place

More to follow.

Picture; munitions workers at Westinghouse Works Trafford Park, during the Great War from the collection of Sally Dervan

*Greater Manchester History, Architecture, Faces and Places,

Two ghost signs for one story ........ the Swan in Stockport and Vaux the brewery

Now there is more than a little irony in this picture of the ghost sign on the gable end of number 37 Shaw Heath in Stockport.

The Swan closed a long time ago but as if to add insult to injury  its sign is just above an advertising hoarding for another brewery boldy announcing “NEW YEAR, NEW START, BE YOUR OWN BOSS, RUN YOUR OWN ROBINSON’S PUB."

And given the large numbers of pubs that are closing every month across the country there may be something a ironic in that offer.

But I suppose the brewery couldn’t miss the opportunity to promote themselves along with their pub the Armoury which stands close by at number 31.

They may even reflect that not only have they seen off a rival pub but a brewery as well because like the Swan Vaux which supplied the beer has also vanished from the scene.

I have fond memories of Vaux which dominated Sunderland where I spent some happy summers a long time ago.

It was founded in 1837 and for 170 years was a major employer in the town.

In the 1990s the company expanded into hotels and in March 1999 closed their two breweries but continued to run the pubs until the firm was taken over by Whitbread in 2000.

And that I suspect was when the Swan closed, although I am not completely sure.

But someone will help me out.

Today the old pub is home to a pawnbrokers who themselves advertised on that hoarding below our ghost sign.

So two ghost signs for the price of one story, not bad I think.

Picture; ghost sign on Shaw Heath, 2015 from the collection of Graham Gill

*Vaux Breweries, 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Mr Bamforth’s amazing picture postcards and film company ......... with best wishes from Holmfirth

Bamforth postcard, date unknown
Now I had never bothered to check who made this picture postcard from the Great War which was a mistake given that it was produced by Bamforth & Co, Holmfirth, from their Patriot Series.

Holmfirth is that little gem of a place which I never tire of visiting.*

On our first trip having been up to the winery high above the town we sauntered down for a wander and there I found the Picturedrome.

It opened in 1912 and in its day offered both  films and variety.

Now it looks as if it has been much mucked about with over the last hundred years but something of its former grandeur is still there.

It is a big enough to seat a couple of hundred people, has a double set of doors, with a veranda above it and must have made you feel special each time you went to watch that magic of light and moving pictures played out in the dark.

The Picturedrome, © Peter Topping
It reminded me of many similar old picture houses I have known but tended to ignore because they had long since passed into other use, closed by the grander cinemas that opened in the 1920s and 30s.

I guess in its time there would not have been many other buildings of its size in the Holmfirth.

There was a blue plaque giving a few details but nothing about the enterprising individual or individuals who saw the potential those films as entertainment were going to have.

But then perhaps I should not have been surprised at the opening of a cinema in Holmfirth given that it was a centre of film making in the years either side of the 20th century.

It was the company of Bamforth Ltd capitalising on their magic lantern business which from 1898 made films in this tiny west Yorkshire town.

Detail from the reverse of the card
Between 1898-1900 they made 14 and in the two years 1913-1915 turned out 120 before switching production to London.

And by sheer chance having used this picture postcard from the Great War on a number of occasions I looked closely at found that here was one of Mr Bamforth’s postcards.

In time I shall go looking for a catalogue of their postcards and may be able to find a date for "Mother, Why Doesnt Daddy Come Home?"

All of which is both a lesson in looking more closely to what you have in the collection and of course to another of those amazing little facts about one of our small towns.

Pictures; Mother, Why Doesnt Daddy Come Home? date unknown, Bamforth & Co, Holmfirth, the Patriot Series nu 1888, from the collection of David Harrop

Painting; the Holmfirth Picturedrome © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures


** Holmfirth Vineyard and Restaurant,

A year in the story of Oswald Road School

Now anyone who missed that short series on Oswald Road School’s new building, this is for you.*

Just over a year and a bit ago Andy Robertson started recording the construction of that new bit of the school.

At the time I had mixed feelings wondering whether it would detract from the style and appearance of the old school but fully accepting that schools are about children and have to adapt to meet growing intake and changes in how they are taught.

I wasn’t alone in experiencing those thoughts but I suspect in a few years such considerations will have been forgotten.

So for those who have already forgotten the start of the build or for that matter its completion in September 2014, here are two that Andy took pretty much at the beginning and finish of the project.

And it highlights the important work Andy has done to record how where we live continues change.

Which just leaves me to make that simple appeal for more photographs from our past, be they picture postcards, snaps of granny in the back yard or stylized portraits from the studio of the professional photographer.

Pictures; Oswald Road School in the January and September of 2014, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Oswald Road,

A photograph, a lost stream and a bit of a detective story

It’s often the way it works.

You start off with a picture and in beginning to uncover its secrets discover a whole lot more.

So there I was with this 1950 photograph from the Lloyd collection.  The caption just said “The ‘Marsh Meadow’ [Marshe Brow] from the ‘The Tip’. 1950."

It is in itself a pretty historic picture marking as it does one of the last times this stretch of land will have been worked on a regular basis.  As such it will be part of a continuity that stretches way back into our rural the past.

So as you do I set out to locate the exact spot which was easy enough to do.  It is at the point on the modern meadows where Ivy Green Road suddenly twists north to join Cartwright Road and Hawthorn Lane.

Now I never quite understood the logic of this as the rest of Ivy Green carries on only to peter out as a dead end.  But look at the old Tithe map and the OS map and the original lane turns north and then east which today is Hawthorn Lane.

And our picture was taken I think just inside the entrance to the Meadows by the gate from Ivy Green.  This was Lloyd land and back in the 1840s was farmed by John Cookson of Dark Lane whose 59 acres were mostly on land along Buckingham Road where it joins Manchester Road.  It was a mix of mainly arable with some pasture and meadow land.  But like many of our farmers he also had land away from the farm on the meadows and this was Marsh Brow which was five acres of meadow.

But in trawling across the field names I also came across Row Leech and what I have looked at on all the maps but not seen.  For here is confirmation that the Rough Leech Gutter which ran from just north of Sandy Lane across the township and under Edge Lane by the parish church finished in a big pond on Turn Moss.

“Meadow land was not only a common enough feature here in the township but important to the way we farmed.    Meadowland is grassland that is kept damp by the use of ditches called carriers worked by sluice gates fed from the Mersey.

The skill is to keep the land fed with water up to an inch in depth through from October to January, for about fifteen to twenty days at a time before allowing the water to run off into the drainage ditches.  The land must then be left to dry out for 5-6 days so that the air can get to the grass.  The early watering took advantage of the autumnal floods which brought with them a mix of nutrients and silt which enriched the land.

All this requires constant vigilance and Higginbotham the farmer on the Green would expect to visit his fields once every three or four days to see that the water was evenly distributed, and that there was no accumulation of weeds. This was not a task that could be entrusted to an unskilled manager, as the weather and time of year dictated the level of water that needed to flow from the irrigation ditches.  And as the weather got colder it would be important to watch for a hard frost which if it were severe enough could turn the meadow into ‘one sheet of ice which will draw the grass into heaps which is very injurious to meadows.’

Not that this stopped Alfred Higginbotham annually flooding one of his fields in the early 20th century to provide a skating ring for the village.

The rewards for all this care and hard work were many.  During the winter the water protected the grass roots from frost allowing the grass to grow several weeks earlier while in hot summers it kept the grass lush and provided grazing for the cattle as well as hay.*

And just as I was finishing the story I came across an interesting post on Making a Meadow on Ivy Green from the site Friends of Chorlton Meadows,

*from THE STORY OF CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY by Andrew Simpson 2012 the History Press

Pictures; from the Lloyd collection and detail of Marsh Brow and Row Leech from the OS map of Lancashire 1841, courtsey of Digital Archives,

Lost images of our industrial past ........... no 3 engineers in Trafford Park in 1925

This is one of those pictures which I guess will never off up its full story.

I know that these were a group of men employed by Redpath and Brown Engineers in Trafford Park and the photograph was taken in 1925.

In time I will find out the exact location in Trafford Park and perhaps something of what the firm made here in Manchester.

But what I have found out so far is interesting enough and by one of those bits of historical coincidences links me to the company.

They started as ironmongers in Edinburgh in 1802, moved into structural ironwork and from 1896 having sold the ironmongery side of the business and later the firm's boiler business they became structural engineers.

A Glasgow office of the firm was opened in 1885 and in 1897 a new factory was built at Albion Road, with new bases established in London and Manchester during the 1900s.*

And that of course brings the link, with me because the London factory was built in East Greenwich not that far from where I grew up and where my father finished his working career.

Nor is that all for in 1911 “the Company had constructed, for a Manchester office building, a framework containing over 7,000 tons of steel, the first 2,000 tons of which was erected in 8 weeks! “**

And in time I think I might even be able to locate that building but for now I shall  just leave you with that photograph.

And one last thought which focuses on that man with the pipe and just what had caught his attention as the picture was snapped?

Picture; men employed by Redpath and Brown Engineers in Trafford Park, 1925, from the collection of Sally Dervan

*Source: Slaven, A and Checkland, S (eds.), Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography 1860-1960, vol 1, (1986, Aberdeen) quoted on the University of Glasgow Archives Hub,,

**Redpath Brown brochure text, taken from, Greenwich Peninsula History,

Tracking that ghost sign on Range Road in Stockport

Powhall and Hovis 2015
Well I went looking for Powhall the name on this ghost sign in Stockport and came up with a blank which confirms that simple conclusion that this ghost sign has passed into history.

It belongs to a house on Lowfield Road, and is unusual because it was painted on the back of the house and not on the gable end.

The property has undergone a fair bit of renovation.

Range Road &Lowfield Road, 1910
The entrance that once faced out on to Lowfield Road has been bricked up as has the shop window which ran along Range Road.

Now painting the sign on the back made sense given that Range Road was once a busy thoroughfare.

At the turn of the last century just a little further along the road there was both  an engineering and hat factory with another hat works almost opposite on Adswood Road.

So plenty of hungry people wanting a Hovis sandwich or the odd cake at dinner time.

And even today I think Range Road will gets a fair bit of traffic and I wonder how many people clock that faded sign.

I am rather glad Graham did and that he then posted it on to me.

I can't exactly be sure when the sign was painted or when Powhill was in business but I bet there will be someone who does.
Looking down Range Road, 2015

Well we shall see.

Picture; Powhall and Hovis, 2014, from the collection of Graham Gill and detail of Stockport in 1910 from the OS for Cheshire, 1900-1910, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,