Saturday, 28 February 2015

Sending our 10 year olds out to work in 1911

It used to be fashionable amongst some writers to lament the passing of the Edwardian Age, that short period between the death of the old Queen and almost the start of the Great War.

It can still be paraded as an elegant and almost innocent time which would soon be shattered by the horrors of a continental war which accounted for the deaths of ten million people.

And of course it all makes good telly from costume dramas to high budget films, from those images of sophisticated Edwardian men and women gliding past us to the protests of the suffragettes and a wave of industrial unrest which saw troops dispatched to many of our major cities.

Rarely do the dramas go out of the fine houses and even when they descend to those who lived downstairs we are rarely confronted with the full range of social inequality where in the words of Robert Roberts, “poverty busied itself.”*

The life expectancy of a manual worker was just 50 while for women it was only a little better.
 Life could be an uncertain struggle where illness, unemployment or the death of a wage earner could push a family into poverty and the workhouse.

And even while in gainful employment that family found it increasingly hard to manage as prices rose steadily from the 1890s but wages failed to keep pace.

Manual earnings amounted to sixteen or seventeen shillings a week compared to that of someone in the middle classes who might earn £340 a year.

So some at least surrendered to the option of allowing their children to start work at 10 and while this might not have surprised their grandparents it was shocking enough.

A full 9% of our young people between the ages of 10 and 14 were at work in the middle of 1911 which in the case of boys rose from just 1% of those aged 10-12 to 30% of those who had reached their fourteenth birthday.**

Against this we should perhaps pitch that simple statistic that the richest one percent held 70 percent of the wealth of the country.

Now in time I am going to explore in detail just what these young Mancunians did for a living and draw not only on the official records but the words of the young people themselves.

*Robert Roberts, The Classic Slum page 18

 **Occupations, Manchester 1911 Census Vol 10 page 230

Watching that garage on Wilbraham Road move closer to completion

Now anyone who has been following the progress of that garage on the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads will like me be pleased that Andy Robertson has been including the work in his collection of photographs of changing Chorlton.

He has already documented the construction of the new school building at Oswald Road, keeps going back to the developments on Darley Avenue and had chronicled all that has gone on with the old Masonic Hall in Edge Lane.

But like him I have been fascinated by the garage.

It was once our variety theatre, and first cinema, and was transformed into a petrol station and shop, modernised in the 1970s and here is undergoing a new transformation.

When it and Andy have finished we will have a unique record of how a little bit of where we live was made over.

Pictures; the new petrol station and garage on Wilbraham Road courtesy of Andy Robertson

Friday, 27 February 2015

See better days and do better things ......... the Cross Keys on Radium Street from Lost images of our Commercial past ...... nu 2

It is a pretty forlorn looking building.

It was once in happier times the Cross Keys.

Back then the large numbers of mills, warehouses and terraced housing will have kept the place busy.

Not so now  as Andy’s pictures shows it has passed its best.

But in the best of all possible worlds anything is possible, and with the fast gentrification of those bits of the city which we all thought neglected and forgotten I reckon there is every chance that what was once the premises of “Elizabeth Louise Bergin ..... Licensed to sell by retail all Intoxicating Liquors to be consumed on or off the premises” will be open again for business.

And I am open to suggestions as to what it might be.  The sensible money will I guess be on a cafe/restaurant, with an option on a smart designer office, or retro clothes shop.

Now there is plenty of new residential property already just a little further up Radium Street, all of which might offer up customers.

A sneaky look at the Planning site hasn’t revealed any developments as yet but it abuts a set of derelict buildings and an open space, so if it fails to catch the eye of an innovative entrepreneur I guess its fate lies with a developer.

Well we shall see.

I shall just close with some more contrasting images of the place as it is and was and reflect that my first experience in a pub in the city was one with the same name, where the landlord turfed us out because we had long hair.

Now despite this being 1969  he may well have thought we some how brought the ambiance of the place down a notch, but none of us had hair which did much more than tickle our ears and we were on Minishull Street.

That said we returned three months later on one of those opportunistic forays having seen him leave.

By then we really had got long hair but the challenge was hollow.

He never returned that afternoon and the beer tasted bad.

It would be idle to speculate on what the landlord/lady of the Cross Keys on Radium Street would have made of us.

Given the time and place I guess we would have not
even got over the door step.

But things change which brings me back to the future of the Cross Keys.

I rather think there will again be pints across the counter mixed I suspect with some interesting New World wines.

Now that should be worth a visit.

Pictures; the Cross Keys, 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson and in 1962, T Brooks, m10189, and by L H Price, m49465, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

And just after I posted the story Neil came up with this interesting addition to the story, The Cross Keys Pub Radium Street, from A Manchester View,

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A ghost sign in Birmingham and a mystery revealed

Now, here is one of those ghost signs which has all but passed away.  

It was found by Ron Stubley “while out and about in the Midlands on Thursday.

 I came across this ghost sign on The Britannia (ex) pub in Aston, Birmingham. 

The pictures are taken from the platform of Aston railway station and, unfortunately, I didn't have time to make a closer investigation. Unfortunately, the script is (to me) indecipherable despite being able to pick out a few of the letters. 

If it's of any interest you're welcome to it - and good luck with unravelling the script.”

Well all ghost signs deserve to be given their time on the blog but like Ron this one has defeated me.

Still I am pretty confident someone will have a degree of local knowledge, and put that beside the sign to come up with a story and bring our faded Birmingham sign back.

According to that excellent 'CAMRA Heritage Pub, "the Britannia situtaed at 287 Lichfield Road, Aston, Birmingham is not a pub with an interior of any importance..

It in now closed having briefly opened as a snack bar.

"It was built in 1899-1900 for Mitchells & Butlers by architects Wood & Kendrick. 

It is an elegant three-and-a-half storey building with brown glazed brick to the ground floor and red brick and buff terracotta above. 

The style is free Classical. Inside tiles cover the passage, the public bar and staircase walls and are by Maw & Co. of Jackfield, Shropshire. The bar-back is original and has etched glass mirrors. 

Between the public bar and the corridor is an unusual screen, its special feature being the extensive amount of glazing. The 'Smoking Room' is announced in etched glass in the door to this room at the rear and Britannia appears too for good measure. 

This room has the usual fixed seats and bell-pushes. If you go upstairs to the function room, note the seat with arm-rests - this was for the chairman at meetings of the Royal Ancient Order of Buffaloes. 

The pub began as the Aston Hall Tavern in 1867, changed to its present name in 1872. Henry Mitchell bought a 99-year lease in 1896, covenanting to rebuild within ten years. 

It passed to M&B who then rebuilt it"*

And that is it.  But given its recent history and that of such large pubs across the country it might not be with us for long and that of course includes its sign, listed or not.

And just minutes after this was posted my facebook friend Angie came up with this, "I've had a rummage on the net Andrew and the sign is for Mitchells and Butlers a Brewery from Cape Hill Smethwick.

I found a site for Birmingham ghost sign hunters ( yep me neither lol but worth a look as they had some fabulous pictures from around the world), and the sign is for what we now call an own brand product and only distilled by them. It (the sign) says, Mitchells and Butlers Clanivor Scotch Whisky"

Now that is what I like, ...... Ron finds the picture I ponder on the mystery and Angie solves it.  Neat piece of team work, although I have to confess my contribution amounted to just sitting and playing with words.

Picture; the ghost sign by the Britannia in Aston, Birmingham. Courtesy of Ron Stubley

*'CAMRA Heritage Pub'

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Walking through Stalybridge with memories of 40 years ago part 4 ........ that church on Trinty Street

Now looking at Peter’s paintings and revisiting Stalybridge I realize just how much  of the place we missed including those gems like the Market Hall and the library.

But back in the 70s, we worked in Manchester, and really only got out into Ashton at weekends and trips out to Stalybridge were rare.

I suppose we could have done more excursions but the route into the town from Raynham Street took us past the Sycamore and the park and if the pub didn’t get us the hot house did.

So here is another of the buildings painted by Peter and unvisited by me.

It is Holy Trinity and Christ Church and if you live in Stalybridge you will know its history so I won’t go down that route.

Instead I shall ponder on how people felt when in 1778 the Old St George’s Church, Cocker Hill collapsed only two years after it was built, and I rather think I will go looking for a story.

Painting;  Stalybridge, Holy Trinity and Christ Church  © 2014

 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

OK everyone you can come in again ............ Victoria Station and the new roof

It has been a long time coming but Victoria Station is open again and has a new roof.

Now of course it didn’t really close but for sometime trams never stopped there and much of the main station resembled a building site.

But as Andy Robertson’s pictures show its back in business and it is that roof which is looking impressive.

For as long as I can remember Victoria always seemed a second relation to Piccadilly despite that fine entrance.

And it all seems down to the Northern Hub which will offer new opportunities for train travellers.*

There is even a video which reveals just how our mainline stations will be transformed.**

It was first announced in 2009,  and is a series of upgrades which would cut journey times between cities in Northern England by alleviating the rail bottleneck through Manchester.

“Central to the project will be resolving the rail bottleneck through Manchester city centre to allow more routes, more capacity and quicker journey times across the Northern cities. 

Two new through platforms at Piccadilly will allow 14 trains per hour (up from 10 currently) through Manchester city centre allowing more routes and trains. 

Manchester Victoria station will be modernised as the east-west rail interchange in Northern England. 

Trains from the north east to Manchester Airport will use a new section of railway, the £85 million Ordsall Chord, between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Oxford Road to reach Manchester Piccadilly and continue to the Airport without reversing at Piccadilly and without conflicting movements at the station throat."** 

So there you have it, and if you haven’t been down yet Andy’s pictures should just be the incentive.
Of course work is still going on down there but I know where I will be going tomorrow.

Pictures; Victoria Station, February 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*The Northern Hub,

**Watch: How Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations could look after £1bn redevelopment, Charlotte Cox, MEN, October 8 2014

The Drum, Peter's painting and an excellent story from Pubs of Manchester

This was the Drum in Stretford.

Although it is equally likely that many will remember it variously as the Drum or the Bass Drum and now  it has gone.

Peter painted the place just before Derek the demolition man got going on what had become a sad and forlorn looking building.

Now I have written about the pub before as well as the Angel which had stood on the same spot for centuries and I had wondered about doing a new story on its final demolition and the rise of that fast food place which now inhabits the site.*

But that has been done already by that wonderful Pubs of Manchester, so I shall just direct you to the link below which will smoothly and with less time than it took to order a pint bring transport you to what happened as Peter’s painting was drying.**

Painting; The Drum,© 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures
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*The Drum on Chester Road, soon to be a distant memory along with the Angel Hotel which stood on the same spot from 1780,

**Drum / Bass Drum, Chester Road,

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Looking beyond the obvious, a photograph and the story of a strike and of strikes yet to come ..... part one

Photographs are not always what they seem. 

We can stare at an image and on the face of it draw all sorts of conclusions.

Conclusions about when it was taken, who the people were and what purpose it served.

I had seen this photograph countless times and never really studied it.

There was a suggestion that the date was 1880 and clearly the presence of the police hinted at trouble.

But study the picture and it tells its own story.

A line of policeman are walking beside the horse and cart and alongside flanking them is a crowd, many of whom are keeping pace with the procession.

Usually at least one person would be caught smiling at the camera perhaps even fooling around but not today.

Look more closely and their faces suggest a collective sense of seriousness perhaps even anxiety.

To our right a young woman is running and the purposeful expression on her face hints that all is not well.

There are questions that need to be asked of the image. Why are the police escorting a cart? Perhaps it was stolen but would this bring so many people out on to the streets? And why is the young woman running to get ahead of the police?

The caption in the police archives reveals that the cart is heading from Piccadilly Gardens along Newton Street.

Now there was a police station on Newton Street, but it is also the direction you might take to get to the wholesale food market.

The clothes of the crowd are much later than the 1880s and put the photograph at the beginning of the twentieth century. This was a time of major industrial confrontation and the years around 1911 saw some of the bitterest clashes between employers and the Government on one side and organised labour on the other.

There were strikes in the south Wales coal fields, and trouble in Liverpool which began with a sailors strike and spread across the city involving other industries.

And while the miners lost the workers in Liverpool were mostly successful and pointed the way forward for other workers in other industries around the country.

There was a growing feeling that industrial action would deliver a better life for working people. And the agitation even spread to the schools. In over sixty cities and towns children came out as well.

The number of working days lost because of strikes climbed as did the number of trade union members, and

In Parliament Churchill, the Home Secretary was often preoccupied with questions on the industrial unrest.

All of this was against a backdrop of wage cuts, poor working conditions, and rapid inflation. Between 1889 and 1910 the cost of food rose by 10 per cent and the cost of coal by 18 per cent.

The life expectancy for working men was just 50 years of age and 54 for women, five per cent of children aged between 10 and 14 were already at work and the richest one percent held 70 percent of the wealth.

Tensions mounted and the army was sent into the striking areas with fatal consequences. A miner was killed in south Wales and two workers in Liverpool.

Here in the city the same awful poverty, dreadful housing conditions and bleak prospects were evident to anyone who cared to walk just a few minutes from the tall impressive headquarters of commerce.

Just a little east of the scene in our photograph were the crowded streets and courts of Ancoats and Ardwick, while in the direction the procession was taking could be found New Cross , Redbank and Strangeways, all of which commentators agreed should be raised to the ground.

The photograph also provides a clue to the time of year. Our young woman is in shirt sleeves and the men in the crowd are dressed in suits.

The summer of 1911 was particularly warm. June had been a mix of sun and showers but July was fine and hot and gave rise to fears of a prolonged drought and it is in early July that our picture was taken.

It may have been Tuesday July 4th but certainly during that week.

I can be fairly certain because it was during this week that the carters went on strike here in the city. Twelve thousand men were on strike and in pursuance of their claim were picketing the docks to prevent the movement of food to the wholesale market.

Picture; Greater Manchester Police Archive, July 1911 by kind permission of Greater Manchester Police Archive, July 1911,

Friday, 20 February 2015

A reminder of that time when we mended things ........ down on Church Street in Altrincham

Now given that I have the maps and directories for Altrincham in time I should be able to make a good stab at finding out about this building.

It sits beside another oldish building and one that might be relatively new.

Of course the research will do the bit but in the meantime I couldn’t resist posting these two pictures from Andy Robertson’s Altrincham collection.

We are on Church Street not far from the station and number 18 fascinates me.

It looks to be one of those properties that has been overlooked by developers and council planners and you wonder how it has survived.

But that is not all, what is equally intriguing is the business that operates from inside, because this is the Altrincham Shaver and Repair Centre, and here amongst other things you can get your Kenwood Mixer repaired and I guess much else.

Once upon a time shops like these were common, for who would want to go out and buy a new electrical product when it was possible to get that expensive and cherished item repaired?

And the chap in his brown overalls could pretty much be guaranteed to mend anything as long as the parts were available.

The one near us as I was growing up was magic.

Every corner of the shop was piled high with electrical goods and there was that dusty, musty smell which greeted you as you went through the door.

You offered up the broken thing, Mr Anson would scrutinise it, mumble a bit and if it was doable would retreat to the back room and work a bit of that magic.

Alternatively if parts were needed it was left in that back room until it was fixed at a fraction of what it would cost to buy new.

And that was how it was done.  Things were repaired when they broke and while they might not have looked as elegant at least they worked.

So I am pleased that Andy turned up this place and reminded me of how things used to be done.

Picture; Church Street, Altrincham, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson 

Darley Avenue update

Now there will be a lot of people with memories of the secondary schools that stood on Darley Avenue.

And Andy Robertson has been carefully recording the site from when the builders first turned the soil to the point this week when the first houses seem almost finished.

The collection will be one of those unique records of changing Chorlton.

Picture; Darley Avenue, February 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Remembering the Well Hall Odeon with a new painting

Now, there has been a lot of talk recently about the cinemas of Eltham.

And like pubs on the High Street people have started championing their favourite, whether it be the ABC by Passey Place or the Gaumont on the hill.

Of course you would have to be pretty old  to remember that there was another cinema in Eltham on the corner of Westmount Road.

I must have seen it countless times on my way to school at Crown Woods but even now it does not register with me.  It opened in 1913 and was demolished in 1968

Like so many of the early cinemas it proved “not fit for purpose” when the newer, plusher and more modern looking picture houses came along later in the century.

For me the best, and the most modern looking of all our cinemas was the Well Hall Odeon.

It was just minutes away from where I lived and was somewhere I visited a lot and some where all my sisters went on a Saturday morning.

So I was pleased when Peter offered to paint the place and here is his painting.

We have been working together for a number of years now on joint ventures which have included the 80 meter History Wall installation, as well as  exhibitions and a new book.*

Now Peter is a Preston lad always keen to tell me “that you can take the boy out of Preston, but never Preston out of the boy” which I guess is how many of us also feel about Eltham.

Work, marriage and just life may have scattered many of us across the country and beyond but this corner of south east London bounded by the river and Woolwich to the north and Kent over the county line will remain home.

So now that Peter has got a taste for Eltham we may have more of his paintings.

In the meantime just talking about Saturday morning pictures reminded him of the song he sang all those years ago.

It began with the refrain

We come along on Saturday morning
greeting everybody with a smile

We come along on Saturday morning
knowing it’s well worth while

And for those that want to return to those Saturdays mixing the noise, the talent contests and the old films here is a link to that lost world.  Saturday Morning Song **

Painting; The Well Hall Odeon © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
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*A new book for Didsbury,

**We come along on Saturday morning
greeting everybody with a smile

We come along on Saturday morning
knowing it’s well worth while

Members of The Odeon Club we all intend to be
good citizens when we grow up and carriers of the free

We come along on Saturday morning
greeting everybody with a smile, smile, smile,
greeting everybody with a smile.

And as Peter points out even the screen can get it wrong.

NB the words sung by WHO? say
Members of The GB Club we all intend to be
but the words on screen where
Members of The Odeon Club we all intend to be
Found this explanation on Tinterweb as explanation for GB instead of Odeon

This one has the audio for Rank's other cinema chain (Gaumont British) hence the singer singing "GB Club" instead of "OD-EON Club". But it was the same song otherwise.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Finding a ghost sign in Altrincham

Now I rather think there is no end to which Andy Robertson will go to record the history of our buildings.

Armed with his camera in one hand and his newly acquired concessionary travel pass in the other I have every confidence that his journies will take him to the far edges of Greater Manchester.

And long may they do so because he has been building up a wonderful record of the often swift changes into the twin cities and the neighbouring townships.

Earlier in the month he ventured out to Altrincham and here is the first in that series.

And where better to begin than with a ghost sign on Moss Lane.
It belonged to G.W. Bonson and at present I know nothing about them, but it is a fine example of its type.

What’s more you get a nice piece of industrial archaeology because at some stage the lower set of windows were bricked up and it would be interesting to know why.

That said there will be someone who know Altrincham well and may well be familiar with the building and its history.

For now I shall just add it to the growing collection of ghost signs and decide which of Andy’ Altrincham pictures to do next.

Picture; on Moss Lane, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Manchester Snowdrop City .......... the National Trust

I suppose if asked to associate a flower with the Great War most people would go for the poppy but the snowdrop also has a long association with that conflict.

They are “a symbol of hope and though out the First world War were planted s tar graves alongside other favourite flowers to remind soldiers of home.”*

So with that in mind the National Trust has planted 100,000 Snowdrops to mark the 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War.

They were planted in the September of last year across the city and the National Trust, supported by Manchester City Council, the cathedral, Manchester University and the City Art Gallery has produced a map of where those flowers can be seen and admired.

The eight venues stretch from St John’s Gardens up to Parsonage Gardens, and the Cathedral into the Northern Quarter and down via Sackville Gardens to the Museum.

And with a bit of flair and imagination the Art Gallery has been decked out with sandbags and snowdrops.

Picture; from Manchester Snowdrop City,

*Manchester Snowdrop City, the National Trust,

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn ............ so what's in a name?

I am never surprised at the way place names and in particular the names of pubs hold a fascinating history.

All too often you take them for granted and if you are really curious rely on one of the regulars propping up the bar to give you the story.

If you are lucky they will know what they are talking about otherwise you have go digging which was what I did when Peter presented me with his painting of the Riflemen or to give it its full name, the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn.

Now that is a long one, running to 55 letters and at various times this has qualified its appearance in the Guinness Book of Records as the pub with the longest name.

Its first entry was in 1955 which was short lived and a tad inaccurate as the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn only became a pub in 1956.  Before that it had been a beerhouse for a century and only gained a wine license in 1950.

Added to which it briefly lost its claim to be in the book when it lost one of the words in its name.

Such are the vagaries of record busters.

Putting that aside there is a real story here, linked with the establishment of the Volunteer Rifle Force in 1859 in response to one of our periodic invasion scares.

These were loosely based around rifle clubs and in turn owed their origins to earlier militia units raised in times of war.

At which point I will not steal someone else’s research and just point you in the direction of the Development of the Rifle Volunteer Movement in Manchester* and the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn.

Between them the full story of how our pub was transformed from the New Inn when it opened in 1855 to the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn via a drill hall and an enterprising landlord.

Paintings; the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn  © Peter Topping, 2015, Paintings from Pictures,
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*The Development of the Rifle Volunteer Movement in Manchester,

**the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn,

The bits of Victoria Baths which seldom get seen nu 2 ........... a roof and a chimney

Now like many people I have a soft spot for Victoria Baths and have followed the long campaign to restore the building.

And so here are a few of the bits of the Baths which I have never seen, and yes they are taken by Andy Robertson who continues to document so many different aspects of the history of the twin cities.

These are the working bits which all those generations of bathers and would be sportspeople have relied on.

Both images speak for themselves but are a reminder of that other side to all fine buildings.

In time I will revisit Andy’s pictures exploring a little more of the Baths you seldom see.

Pictures; Victoria Baths 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

150 years of that Methodist Church in Withington

Now I am not a great one for anniversaries but here is one I think it is worth taking note of because this year is the 150th birthday of the Methodist Church in Withington.

And to celebrate the event Peter Topping painted the church on one of those fine summer days earlier this year.

For me the building is only part of the story but an interesting one.

It was opened in 1865 and was the second chapel built by the Methodists in Withington and continued to serve them well until 1992 when after a survey of the premises, “the church members decided that rather than spend over £100,000 on repairs to the ageing building they would take the bold step of redeveloping the church. 

The redevelopment scheme involved the demolition of ancillary buildings at the rear of the church and the erection of a new floor within the main worship area, to create the space for exciting new projects.”*

And in this respect they were only reflecting the same flexible approach which had led earlier groups of Methodists across south Manchester to worship in cottages barns and even open fields while at the same time working hard to raise the funds to build their first chapels.

In Withington  it all began with “two twelve-year-old girls, Hannah Hesketh and Hannah Langford, who in the 1790s heard the gospel in neighbouring Burnage and asked that a bible class be run for them in 
Withington. From this class held originally in farmhouse kitchens a worshipping community developed who, in 1832, erected a small chapel in old Moat and subsequently built the present building in 1865.”*

A large part of the money for the new church was contributed by Mr Ralph Waller a wealthy industrialist with a factory and showrooms in Manchester. **

He lived at Groombridge House opposite the old green and according to the Manchester Guardian gave a third of the total cost to the building of the 1865 church, which brings us back to that birthday and Peter’s painting.

Painting; Withington Methodist Church, © Peter Topping, 2014, Paintings from Pictures,
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* Withington Methodist Church,

**Dale Street,

Crossing Hulme on a February morning

Now I know that there are some equally spectacular bridges in the city, but this will always be one of my favourites.

I can remember the first time I saw it and more importantly the first time I crossed it on one of those wet evenings when the street and traffic lights played patterns on the pools of water on the road.

Picture; Hulme 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Walking through Stalybridge with memories of 40 years ago part 3 ........ an old hall and a summer ramble

Now this is not a walk I could have done given that it was featured in the Manchester Guardian way back March 1889.

It was one of several “Summer Rambles round Manchester” which Mr Alfred Rimmer offered up but reading the opening paragraph would have made me join him on that March day.

“Stalybridge – or as it was spelled until recent times Staleybridge-lies on the borders of Cheshire and Lancashire, in the district of picturesque beauty and grandeuer.  

The spires of the Pennine Range envelop it, and this is the high ridge which has been called the Backbone of England.  It affords us in different places views of panoramic landscape which are not to be excelled by any scenery in any country.”

Well I don’t think any of us could better that claim and that was just the start.
Mr Rimmer went on to praise Stamford Park which I have often visited, and Staley Hall which I haven’t.

I doubt many will recognise his description of the Hall which “is a gabled building that dates back to the time of Elizabeth and is now occupied as a farmhouse.  Webb speaks of it as a ‘fine old manor’ and the incumbent of St Paul’s as a ‘house of five gables with three bands or course along the front making it three storey.  

The site was selected with excellent care and taste.  It stands on an eminence which rises abruptly from the plain, clothes of old with wide spreading oaks, while it was watered on one side by the bright Tame and on another by the sparkling rivulet Swineshaw Brook.  

In one direction it commanded an extensive view of the wood of Stayley, and in another it looked up into the romantic valley of the Brushes, a rural scene which taken together cannot be easily surpassed.’"

And that is all I have to say, other than we did our walks through the summers of 1974 to 1976, enjoyed the park along with some of the spectacular views, but never made it to the Hall, which I guess does not qualify us for a rambling badge or an entry into Guide Books of Stalybridge.

Picture; Brushes Valley,  from the series Stalybridge, produced by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,


Monday, 16 February 2015

A ghost building revealed ........... behind Victoria Baths in 1964

Yesterday I was at the back of Victoria Baths with one of Andy Robertson’s pictures, and as part of the story I pondered on those ghost buildings that show up in the photograph.

And as quick as flash Terence Hunt came back with one of his own pictures from 1964 which pretty much explains the ghost buildings.

And that is all I am going to say, except of course a thank you to Terence, and
of course Andy.

Pictures; Victoria Baths, 1964 from the collection of Terence Hunt and the baths in 2015 courtesy of Andy Robertson

Sunday, 15 February 2015

One cottage in Furness Vale ............ a story from David Easton

The story of the early years of Methodism is much the same whether it is about Chorlton, Didsbury or here in this case in Furness Vale from David Easton who is a memberof the successful Furness Vale History Society.*

John Wesley was a frequent visitor to towns such as New Mills, Chinley and Chapel-en-le-Frith. His journal records that between 1745 and 1788 he preached on a number of occasions, often having travelled over from Macclesfield.

It is known that Wesley preached a sermon at Waterside, the little hamlet by the River Goyt just across the water from Furness Vale. There is a stile by Waterside cottage where he is said to have stood to address his congregation.

Methodism was first established in Furness Vale in 1812 and without a chapel or mission, it is probable that worshippers met in peoples’ homes.

The row of three cottages at 30 to 34 Yeardsley Lane was built in 1822 and one was rented to the Methodists for £5 per annum to become the village's first mission hall.

In addition to worship, it provided a Sunday School, teaching not only scripture but also the "three R's."

On weekday evenings, adult literacy classes were held.

As the village population and attendance grew, there came a need for a purpose built chapel and this opened in 1840.

The centenary of Furness Vale Methodists was celebrated in 1912 and on that occasion, a commemorative cup was produced.

One of these has just been donated to the History Society by Beth Kucera, an antique dealer from Wisconsin, USA who came across it when on a buying trip some years ago.

The Methodists did not reach their bicentenary.

A reduced membership could not afford essential alterations to the chapel and it closed about ten years ago.

The building was converted to apartments which have never been popular.

The cottage on Yeardsley Lane became in 1840, a private house.

The row eventually came to be owned by Miss Webb who is seen at the door of number 32 and whose guests have arrived by car. Number 34, the original mission is now my home, the smallest dwelling in the village.

Furness Vale History Society meets regularly, and their newsletter can be obtained from the link below.

© David Easton

Pictures; from the collection of Furness Vale History Society


The bits of Victoria Baths which seldom get seen nu 1 ........... a ghost building and a window

Now like many people I have a soft spot for Victoria Baths and have followed the long campaign to restore the building.

And so here are a few of the bits of the Baths which I have never seen, and yes they are taken by Andy Robertson who continues to document so many different aspects of the history of the twin cities.

This first one intrigues me with its evidence of a ghost building.  I have no idea what it was but I guess it will be in the records of the Baths and also will be one that some people remember.

As these things go I bet it will have been nothing more romantic that an ancillary coal shed but I would like to know.

In time I will revisit Andy’s pictures exploring a little more of the Baths you seldom see.

Pictures; Victoria Baths 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Back in Moston nu 3 ........... Discovering the Adelphi Cinema

I remain surprised at how so many of our cinemas have survived, long after the last reel of film has been shown and the last choc ice eaten.

So it is with the Adelphi Cinema in Moston which Andy Robertson recorded on a trip out of the south of the city.

Now I knew nothing of this picture house and so turned to Cinema Treasures  which is a wonderful site packed with information from where I discovered it had been built “on the site of the Empress Picture House, which was basically a tin hut that had opened as a cinema in 1914 with seating provided for 700. The Adelphi Cinema was built and opened by the H.D. Moorhouse chain in November 1937 with Anton Walbrook in “Michael Strogoff”.

Seating was provided for 1,312 in a stadium plan, with a raised stepped section at the rear.

The Adelphi Cinema was closed in 1962 with a double bill programme “Winchester 73” and “Sword of Ali Baba”. It was converted into a bingo club. This was later closed and the empty building was partially damaged by a fire.

It was taken over by a family operated firm as a hardware store, which still operates from the building as Deanway Hardware in 2011.*

The research and description had been compiled by Ken Roe who I hope won’t mind me quoting from this piece.

As Andy’s pictures show it is still there although perhaps looking a tad tired but neevertheless reminds you of just how impressive these 1930s cinemas were.

And as ever there is a connection with the rest of the city and particularly Chorlton because H.D.Moorhouse lived on Wilbraham Road and owned both Pavilion and later the  Palais de Luxe cinema on Barlow Moor Road .

Pictures; the Adelphi Cinema, 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Looking for textile mills ................ nu 3 down at Quarry Bank

Now I have decided to carry on the series of textile mills with Peter’s painting of Quarry Bank.

If you live in Greater Manchester, or have children studying the Industrial Revolution, the betting is that you have been here.

It is now a museum and features on documentaries along with umpteen historical dramas.

So I shall leave it there.

Paintings; Quarry Bank, Styal © Peter Topping, 2013, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Friday, 13 February 2015

Forty-five years of helping the young homeless of Manchester .... 1870-1916

It was a chance find which came to light during research on the Great War but the Manchester Guardian article “The Passing of the City Arab” was bound to stop me in my tracks.*

Outside the Refuge, 1914
It was a report on a special service held in January 1916 commemorating the forty-sixth anniversary of the establishment of the Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges.

Like many who have a British Home Child in their family, the phrase City Arab or the more familiar Street Arab does not sit easy.

It is imbued with all sorts of loaded prejudice and says much about those who used the term to describe the destitute young people of our cities in the last quarter of the 19th century.

But the article is an interesting one which despite its unfortunate headline goes a long way to describe the work of one of the charities working with those young people.

Emma before admission
The Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges had been set up in 1870 to provide a bed and meal for homeless children but quickly expanded to provide much more.

This included long stay accommodation, training for work as well as campaigning against the use of young people as cheap labour and prosecuting neglectful parents.

And like all the charities dealing with children migrated some to Canada but maintained close links with the children carefully supervising their time there and was the first to stop sending young people.

It had in the words of words of its secretary during its fort-six years helped 10,831 children, and “besides these thousands of temporary cases have been helped [along with] poor delicate children sent to the seaside home, ........ poor boys sent to summer camps for a week’s holiday which have numbered no fewer than 55,891.” *

This was a record set against the desperate degree of poverty and hardship experienced by our homeless children back in the 1870s who were “getting their living by begging, selling papers and matches, or by blacking boots in the streets, and when they could not raise 3d. for a night in a common lodging house slept out.

Emma after admission
They were to be found lying under stalls in Shudehill Market, in the various alleys under the railway arches, and among bales of cotton in railway yards.”

Forty-six years on the secretary commented “I could have taken you to half a dozen places where you would have found young lads sleeping out; today I do not know of one.  Indeed I do not think boys and girls are to be found sleeping out, .... thanks to the work of our own agencies and of others in Manchester and Salford.”

All of which is a matter of proud record but the charity was also concerned for the future, because the cost of living during the war had put strains on its finances at a time when it was admitting more young people whose mothers were dead and whose fathers had been called up.

This is one of those aspects of the war and child care which is seldom written about, but which is well documented in the Trusts’ archives.

And those archives are a very important resource going back to the founding of the charity and covering many areas of its work, including registers, letters and pictures.

Asking for help, 1906
Some of these along with stories of the young people it helped feature on its blog site.**

All of which makes the archive  an important starting point for anyone wanting to know about a member of their own family who was helped by the Refuges  as well as those researching the subject.***

Pictures;, courtesy of the Together Trust

*The Passing of the City Arab Manchester Guardian January 3rd 1916

**Getting down and dusty,

***The Together Trust,

Chorlton in two World Wars

Celebrating peace on Halstead Avenue, 1945
“Tonight I will go to sleep knowing that everyone I love will be safe.”

Even now that one line entry in a diary has a profound effect on me.

It was written in the late evening of May 8th 1945, at the end of the first day of peace in Europe.*

For some it had been a riotous night of fun, dancing and abandonment, for others a time of quiet reflection on the cost of six years of a hard war.

I don’t know what my parents and grandparents did on that night.  Nana I expect spent some of it thinking of her son who was buried in a cemetery in Thailand and must also have wondered what her native Germany would be like.

She had been born in Cologne a city which like so many was now a desert of rubble, wrecked streets and shattered lives.

Granddad no doubt was in a pub while mum and dad would have been celebrating in their different ways.

It is of course an event fast fading from living memory and will soon join the experiences of those who lived through the Great War as a piece of history only now visited through the films, books, memorials and personal accounts of that earlier conflict.

And our Red Cross Hospitals have done just that but between 1914-18 there were two of them  here in Chorlton operating from the Baptist and the Methodist Sunday Schools and others in Whalley Range.

Silver cup presented by recovering wounded soldiers  1917
Many local people supported them and hundreds of wounded soldiers spent time recovering from battlefield wounds and diseases caught while in action.

We have the names of some who worked in the hospitals, letters written by the troops and this silver cup.

The inscription reads, Presented to the Wesleyan Church by the Wounded Soldiers of the Wesleyan School Hospital Xmas 1917.

Pictures; Victory street party, Halstead Avenue, courtesy of Tom Turner from the Lloyd collection, and the silver cup from a picture in the collection of Philip Lloyd

*Of course it would be another four months before Japan surrendered and the fighting was truly over.

**The Post Box Chorlton, Wilbraham Road,